Report on the hearing of a witness, drafted on 9 October 1945, in Wiesbaden, pursuant to the decree of the President of the Republic of Poland of 29 April 1940 (Journal of Laws No. 9, item 23) and with authorization granted on the basis of art. 1 of the above-mentioned decree.
Judge: major audytor [Military Judge] W. Szuldrzyński
Court clerk: Sergeant J. Kulczycki.
The witness takes the stand: Zygfryd Halbreich who, having been warned about the criminal liability for false testimony, states:
|Name and surname||Zygfryd Halbreich|
|Date and place of birth||13 December 1909, Dziedzice, Bielski County, Silesian voivodeship|
|Parents’ names||Leopold and Emilia née Markowicz|
|Qualification||MA in pharmacy|
|Place of residence in Poland||Katowice|
|Current place of residence||Wiesbaden|
He testifies without hindrance
The witness testifies under legal oath:
I left the concentration camp in Groß-Rosen, along with all the other Jews, making up a total of 36, to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Even the Jews who were in the hospital were included in the transport—two of them had broken legs. The prisoners who were in better physical condition were shackled in twos. On 19 October 1942, after a day’s transport, we arrived at the Auschwitz concentration camp, where we were placed in quarantine in the famous block No. 11. This block was known for the fact that there were bunkers in the basement, it was fenced off, you couldn’t see what was happening in its courtyard from the neighboring blocks, and there was a wall where executions were carried out. We were all placed on the first floor, in the hall, whose windows faced the wall where the executions were done. When an execution took place, we had to leave the room and wait in the corridor. During our ten-day stay there were executions on three separate occasions, and after returning from the corridor we could see traces of blood clearly visible on the yellow sand near the wall. Immediately after the arrival of the transport—it could have been 6.00 p.m.— we were led to block 11, where we were ordered to undress, and our things were sent for disinfection, and we were taken naked in the cold October air to the baths, which could have been about 400 m away. After a half an hour stay in the baths, where there was only cold water, we were led back naked to block 11. Here we were allowed to go to bed. We didn’t get our disinfected items until the next morning.
The following SS men were involved in our transport: SS-Oberscharführer Pallitsch [Palitzsch], who was an Arbeitdienstführer. He was about 35 years old, tall (1.82 m), with blond hair, a healthy, ruddy complexion, and he was athletic, with broad shoulders. SS-Oberscharführer Schiling [Schillinger], who was a Rapportführer, was about 32 years old, about 1.70 m tall, with black hair, a dark complexion, a long bony face, and he was thin. At the beginning of 1944 he was shot by an Italian Jewess. When Schillinger wanted to rip off her bra and pants, she snatched his revolver and shot him along with two other guards, wounding the others. This incident occurred just after the arrival of the transport, when everyone was ordered to undress directly before being sent to the gas chambers. I heard that as punishment the above-mentioned Italian Jewess was thrown alive into the crematorium. SS-Hauptscharführer Schurz was the Leiterem der Politischen Abteilung. He was about 35 years old, short (1.65 m), with blond hair, a full round face, corpulent, with a fresh red complexion. I am aware that for the arbitrary execution of prisoners in Auschwitz, he was brought before the court in Weimar and sentenced to two years in prison. That could have been in the first half of 1944. When I came to KL [Konzentrationslager] Mittelbau [near] Nordhausen in January 1945, I saw documents from the political department in the Schreibstub signed by Schurz, who in the meantime had been promoted to Untersturmführer.
At the end of 1942, at the same time when our transport arrived in Auschwitz, transports of Jews from all the concentration camps in the German Reich were arriving. Approximately 800 people arrived from Buchenwald, as well as transports from Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Flossenbürg, Natzweiler, Neugemen [Neuengamme?]. On 30 October 1942, all the Jews who had been brought in from Germany were taken to the roll call square, where Arbeitsdienstführer Palitzsch carried out the selection. The weaker ones were set aside and then sent to Birkenau, while we, those in good physical condition, were sent to the Monowitz concentration camp, which was a branch of the Auschwitz camp and was located six kilometers from Trzebinia. Here I would like to point out that on the fourth day of my stay in Auschwitz, in block 11, I received the number 68,233, which was tattooed on my left forearm. This number does not have a triangle, even though I was registered as a Jew. I came to Monowitz with a transport of about 800 people. The camp was under construction, and there were only 12 barracks. There could have been 600 prisoners at most in the camp, who had arrived the day before I did. After my arrival, regular transports came in as fast as we managed to build more blocks for their accommodation. At the beginning of 1944, the camp had already been finished and contained about 50 blocks with a capacity of 10,000 to 12,000 prisoners, of whom 80 percent were Jews from different countries. Monowitz was initially a branch of KZ Auschwitz III. At that time, they had 28 branches located all over Silesia. They were of various sizes and were labor camps. The prisoners worked in the coal mines of Jawiszowice, Jaworzno, the ironworks in Siemianowice, Wielkie Hajdukach, Świętochłowice and Gliwice, where there were four branches. In addition, the prisoners were employed in various factories that produced materials for the war effort, as well as in brickyards—for example in Golaszów. One of the largest branches, numbering approximately 6,000 prisoners, was located in Blechhammer in German Silesia, where there was the Buna factory [owned by] IG Farbenidustrie, which produced artificial rubber with by-products. I have indicated these branches only as an example. The concentration camp in Birkenau, in which there was a large women’s section, and which was at the same time a gathering point for Jews from all over Europe, where there were gas chambers and a crematorium connected to the main railway line by a railway siding, was initially a branch of Auschwitz, and later became an independent concentration camp under the official name of Auschwitz II. It also had many branches, but I’m not aware of their location.
In Auschwitz itself and in the immediate vicinity there were three independent concentration camps, namely: KZ Auschwitz I, the former barracks of a Polish infantry regiment, which were later expanded; KZ Auschwitz II in Birkenau, consisting of seven or eight large camps, which were called ‘Abschnitte’, A, B, C, D, etc. – KZ Auschwitz II bordered KZ Auschwitz and so one chain of guard posts during the daytime could cover the entire area of both camps; the next camp was KZ Auschwitz III Monowitz (in Manowice), which was economically subordinated to IG Farbenindustrie, for whom we worked. All the smaller towns belonged organizationally to one of these three camps. At the end of 1942 in Monowitz, as it was only a branch of Auschwitz, there was no camp commandant, there was only Lagerführer SS-Obersturmführer Schötte [Schöttl], who held this position until the camp was evacuated in January 1945. The Rapportführer position was held by: SS-Oberscharführer Schilling, SS-Hauptsharführer Gehring (1943-1944), SS-Hauptscharführer Rakers (1944). The Arbeitsdienstführer was always SS-Oberscharführer Stolten. The head of the Politische Abteilun g was SS-Hauptscharführer Taute, his deputy— SS-Oberscharführer Joseph Wieczorek, who came from Mała Dąbrówka near Chorzów. He fought on the German side in 1919-1920, and then he was a bakery apprentice in Tarnowskie Góry; he also served in the French Foreign Legion, and was a Silesian who spoke Polish.
From the spring of 1944, when Monowitz became an independent concentration camp of KZ Auschwitz III, the commandant of the camp was SS-Hauptsturmführer Schwarz.
SS-Obersturmführer Schöttl, approx. 30 years old, about 1.80 m in height, with blond hair, a fresh ruddy complexion, round face, burly, well-built, he was very decent toward the prisoners and tried to improve their conditions of health and hygiene, he also took care to improve the prisoners’ food.
SS-Hauptscharführer Gehring, approx. 38 years old, about 1.70 m in height, with dark hair, a long face, average build, he was very strict, a stickler for the rules but also very fair. SS-Hauptscharführer Rakers, approx. 35 years old, approx. 1.75 m in height, with black hair, a dark complexion, round face, average build. He was known for abuse, he was a drunkard and liked to play cards for money.
SS-Oberscharführer Stolten, approx. 33 years old, tall, about 1.80 m in height, with dark hair, a rectangular face, broad-shouldered, bow-legged.
SS-Hauptscharführer Taute, approx. 30 years old, approx. 1.78 m in height, with blond hair, pale complexion, long bony face, blue eyes.
SS-Oberscharführer Josef Wieczorek, approx. 42 years old, 1.68 m in height, with dark hair, a dark complexion, a rectangular face, skinny, low-legged, he had a good reputation. SS-Hauptscharführer Schwarz, approx. 35 years old, 1.72 m in height, with black hair, a ruddy complexion, full face, round eyes, black eyes, corpulent, broad-shouldered, very brutal, treated prisoners harshly, he beat and abused them.
In 1943, the average number of prisoners in the camp was 7,000-8,000. Around 80 percent of them were Jews, most of whom were Jews from Poland. The Poles were the largest group besides the Jews. In 1944, the Jews also made up 80 percent of the prisoners. However, the number of Jews from Poland relative to the number of Jews from other countries decreased as a result of the arrival of transports from Hungary.
The task of the camp wasn’t to destroy its human element by mistreating it, but rather to use the prisoners’ working strength. Therefore, the conditions gradually improved, in order to be able to make use of the prisoners’ work for longer. The morning roll call was at 7.00 in winter (wake-up an hour earlier); in the summer season it was at 6.00, and wake-up at 5.00. The roll call was short and we went straight off to work. At noon there was an hour lunch break. The evening roll call in the summer was at 6.00, and in the winter around 4.30. The evening roll call lasted, on average, about 20 minutes, after which the people went off to their blocks, where, depending on the block senior’s disposition, they ate dinner straight away or after allowing a certain amount of time for washing and cleaning. In the morning, we were given coffee and 350 g of bread (three times a week 700 g of bread was handed out), 25 g of margarine and additional cheese, marmalade or sausage. There was 40-50 g of sausage, 80-100 g of marmalade, about 50 g of cheese. For lunch we received a liter of thin soup. There was around one liter of thick soup for dinner. The quantity of food didn’t diminish, although the nutritional value of the food we received underwent a major change. Basically, new transports came through KZ Auschwitz I and II, but it also happened that they were directed straight from the station to Monowitz. Here, the [deportees] underwent disinfection, received prison uniforms, and were tattooed with numbers issued from the Auschwitz I headquarters.
In the spring of 1944, when Monowitz became the independent Auschwitz III camp, the prisoner numbers were also issued by the headquarters of KZ Auschwitz I. At the beginning of 1944, the morning roll calls were abandoned. The prisoners went out into the square and the immediately off to work, with the counting only taking place at the gate. In May 1944, the evening roll calls were also abandoned. Only once every two weeks was there a roll call, on Sunday at lunchtime. Exceptionally, an evening call only happened when someone had escaped or someone was missing. We worked six days a week and before noon on Sunday. Every other week there was no work on Saturday afternoon and the whole of Sunday was free. From June 1943, I was the Lagerältester in the so-called Erziehungelager. The prisoners only came to this camp for a short time, from four weeks to six months, or exceptionally for a year, and the reason for their detention was that they had been avoiding work, or had enjoyed an arbitrarily prolonged period of leave. They were Germans, Czechs, Poles and representatives of all nationalities who were sent to Germany to work. The kapos treated these prisoners well—beating was officially banned. There were occasions when the kapos did beat and mistreat prisoners but when they were reported to the SS, they were transferred to a new camp as punishment. The SS men behaved relatively well. The Jews who were in the camp were treated on equal terms with the other prisoners. All the prisoners first worked on the construction of the Buna factory [belonging to] IG Farbenindustrie, then on its extension and later in the factory itself. The work was varied and involved construction, laboratory and office work.
The working conditions were difficult. As a result of insufficient food, and in the winter because of insufficient clothing and the poor state of their shoes, prisoners lost their strength and fell ill. The weak and sick were sent to the camp hospital, where every two or three weeks the camp doctor carried out selections and those in worse physical condition were sent to KZ Auschwitz II - Birkenau, where most underwent re-selection and ended up in the gas chambers. The longest serving doctor in the camp was SS-Hauptsturmführer Dr. Fischer. He was about 28 years old, 1.82 m in height, with blond hair, a long face, a dark complexion, blue eyes, wore glasses, and was of average build. I can’t give a description of Obersturmführer Dr. Thilo. Mortality in the winter of 1942/1943 was high—about 30 prisoners died per day. The reasons for this were frostbite, emaciation and dysentery. In the middle of November 1942, I went to the hospital as a paramedic, and at the beginning of January 1943 I became block senior in a special block for patients with frostbite. Since the frostbite wounds healed very badly, in March 1943 Dr. Thilo carried out a selection and about one hundred prisoners with second and third degree frostbite were sent to KZ Auschwitz II - Birkenau. In this way, the station with frostbite patients was liquidated, and I became a block senior in the quarantine for the Erziehungshäftlinge, which lasted four weeks. In the summer of 1943, mortality decreased, but increased again in the winter season of 1943/1944. During my stay in Monowitz, 4,000 prisoners were sent to Birkenau following a selection. The selection was always carried out by the camp physicians. Conditions in the hospital were fairly reasonable, although there was a shortage of medication at times. The patients received milk soup and white bread to eat.
The Lagerführer meted out the punishments in the camp. They were as follows: Sunday work, flogging, transfer to a branch with more heavy-duty work, for example down the mine. The pole wasn’t used on us, and initially there was no bunker: during this time the bunker punishments were conducted in KZ Auschwitz I, and only at the beginning of 1944 was a bunker built. During my stay about 15 public executions took place. The reasons for these punishments were escapes or attempted escapes. The corpses of the deceased prisoners were taken to the crematorium in Birkenau. Those who had been placed in the camp for reeducation for a specific period of time were released from the camp. These releases took place twice a week. In addition, at the end of 1944, German criminals bearing the green triangle began to be released, were incorporated into the Waffen SS and were used for the most difficult tasks. In 1943, there was such a large influx of prisoners that the new arrivals were placed in two large tents. In each of these tents, 800 people were housed and kept there until November, and it was the same in the autumn of 1944 also, until November, when about 1,600 people lived in the tents.
On 17 January 1945, the whole camp was evacuated, with the exception of 950 people who were ill and stayed in the hospital. From our camp, around 10,000 people were evacuated to Mikołów (60 km). We walked all night during storms until 12.00 noon the next day. During the march, the SS guards killed any prisoners who couldn’t go on. I can’t say how many died, but I heard a lot of shots. We had a two-hour rest in Mikołów. Before the march from Mikołów, about 50 prisoners who couldn’t march were gathered together in a shed, and were shot there. I was involved in carrying those prisoners who couldn’t walk on their own to the shed. At around 3.00 p.m. we went on foot to Gliwice. During this march, the guards also shot many prisoners who weren’t able to march on. We arrived in Gliwice, which is more or less 20 km away, at approx.7.00 p.m.. In my opinion, about 200 prisoners were shot during this march. This took place under the command of Hauptscharführer Moll. In Mikołów, along with other paramedics, I carried sick prisoners to the shed on the order of the camp doctor SS-Untersturmführer Dr. König. He was about 26 years old, 1.78 m tall, with fair hair, a pale complexion, a long face, he wore glasses and was thin. König had been a camp doctor in Monowitz over the previous four months. He demanded frequent selections, he was very strict and sent more of the emaciated and sick prisoners to Birkenau than the previous doctors, although he knew full well that the gas chambers awaited them there. KZ Auschwitz II - Birkenau was known as a Vernichtungslager.
After arriving in Gliwice, the prisoners from our transport were separated and placed in the Gliwice I and Gliwice II camps, where we remained under the command of Hauptsturmführer Schwarz and Obersturmführer Schöttl. About 7,000-8,000 people were staying in that camp. Apart from the prisoners from Monowitz, there were also prisoners from various branches of this camp, and about 700 women as well. These women came partly from the Hindenburg camp (Zabrze), which was a branch of Monowitz, and from the Bobrek camp, which was a branch of KZ Auschwitz I, and was located six kilometers from Auschwitz in the direction of Chrzanów. Our camp was in Gliwice for three days.
On the evening of 21 January 21 1945, we were divided into two transports, one directed to KZ Buchenwald under the leadership of Hauptscharführer Moll and Oberscharführer Stolten. The second transport, in which I found myself, was directed to Mauthausen, near Linz (Austria), and from there, because of overcrowding in the camp, we were directed to KZ Mittelbau (near Nordhausen) in Thuringia. The leader of this transport was an SS officer whose name I don’t know. The transport to Buchenwald left at about 10.00 a.m., and in the meantime the second one started loading up. The loading took about three to four hours. We were traveling in open freight wagons, in which there were 80-120 people. Shortly before the trip, the SS men searched the camp to find any prisoners hiding there. When I was in the wagon, I heard a lot of shots and from eyewitnesses I know that many people died there. Emile Worgul witnessed this—a former camp kapo from Auschwitz III and from Boelcke- Kaserne in Nordhausen, who, as I know, was arrested by the American authorities as a war crimes suspect. He is a German national and was a political prisoner, [as I know] because he wore a red triangle.
We left Gliwice on 22 January 1945, at about 2.00 a.m. We drove through Rybnik, Moravská Ostrava towards Vienna, from Vienna to Linz—that is, to KZ Mauthausen, where we arrived on 25 January 1945 in the morning hours. In Gliwice, we had received normal food, but we didn’t receive any food for the journey. We were only promised that we would receive food during the trip. Before we arrived in Mauthausen, we only got one portion of 700 g of bread per person and a one-kilogram tin of canned meat for ten people. Under these conditions, due to insufficient nutrition and temperatures that dropped to -18 degrees Celsius, many prisoners died during the first part of the journey. Their fellow prisoners threw their corpses out, because the overcrowded wagon couldn’t transport them any further. During stopovers at larger stations, the transport leader ordered the corpses to be gathered and put into one wagon. After an hour’s stop at the train station in Mauthausen, we were sent on further because of overcrowding in this camp. We traveled through Passau [Passau], Regensburg [Regensburg], Hof-Plauen, Reichenbach, Merseburg, Halle to Nordhausen-Salza. We arrived on 28 January 1945, in the morning. I know that at one larger station a wagon loaded with corpses was detached and assigned to the care of the local police. At the station in Nordhausen-Salza we were unloaded, and after a ten-minute march we arrived at KZ Mittelbau-Dora camp. From the transport of 4,000 people in Gliwice, approximately 3,500 prisoners arrived. In the second part of the trip we didn’t receive any meals, so many prisoners died during the journey. The prisoners who arrived there were in such poor physical condition that another 600 people died in the first two days. From the entire transport at most 3,000 people survived, including the transport leaders who were with us, such as SS-Oberscharführer Miebert [Mirbeth], who was a Blockführer in Auschwitz III, and shortly before the evacuation was a Lagerführer at Althammer—a branch of Monowitz. He was present during our entire transport and I know that he killed several prisoners during this time. After a short stay in KL Mittelbau-Dora, he was later a Lagerführer.
SS-Oberscharführer Mirbeth, approx. 35 years old, 1.72 m tall, light blond hair, blue eyes, bony straight face, damaged right leg after a motorcycle accident, as a result of which he walked with a slight limp, wrinkled complexion, average build.
The report was read out before signing.