The second day of the trial, 12 March 1947.

Witness Tadeusz Kahl enters the courtroom: 38 years old, attorney, married, Roman Catholic, no relationship to the parties.

Presiding judge: What are the parties’ motions regarding the mode of hearing the witness?

Prosecutor Siewierski: The prosecution asks for the witness to be exempted from taking the oath.

Attorney Umbreit: We exempt the witness from taking the oath.

Presiding judge: The Tribunal has decided to hear the witness without an oath, as requested by the parties.

Under what circumstances did the witness arrive at Auschwitz?

Witness Kahl: On the night of 30 October 1941, when even in Kraków arrests were relatively less common, I heard a loud banging on the door. I asked, “Who is there?” It was police, so I let them in and they immediately started searching. They asked me if my name was Tadeusz Kahl and if I was alone, and they told me to go with them. At that point, they only asked if I knew Judge Rogowski. I said yes and there were no more questions. They told my wife that I would be back in two or three days. I was taken to the Gestapo at Pomorska Street, but I was not interrogated. I was let into a room where I saw Rogowski. The police went to a different room, where they talked to the person who had reported us. They came back after a few moments, ordering us to get dressed, and they took us separately by two different cars to the Montelupich prison. I spent 11 months there. For four months, they did not want to see me at all – apart from certain formalities related to the deposit and taking photographs, no one even asked about me. It was only after four months that the first interrogation took place. I did not find out anything; they just asked me how I knew Judge Rogowski and several other people. Nobody charged me with anything. This may be relevant as far as my further testimony is concerned because it marked the end of the investigation into the case against Judge Rogowski and me. We spent seven more months there, still hoping to be released. We suspected what they were accusing us of. The charges were actually dropped by the policeman, but despite our optimism of the previous September, we heard the key scraping and an SS man entered the cell. We saw a white piece of paper in his hands and he read out my name. We knew what the white piece of paper meant. When we left the cell, we saw a crowd in the corridor. About 70 people, including 20 women from the so-called women’s unit, left the Montelupich prison that day. I would also like to point out that right before I was transported to Auschwitz, I was part of a prison work unit for a few weeks, and one day we worked in the city, carrying coal. I hurt my leg very badly. The wound was not dressed, so it got infected and I lay in bed unable to move. In this condition, I was deported to Auschwitz. I would like to add that once your name was read out and you were destined for transport, you lost all contact with people and were treated in prison as a person who was no longer part of society. You were no longer human; you were a Häftling [prisoner]. We were transported to Auschwitz by bus. I will say only that, at that time, what was fundamentally different was that the camp was properly organized, that is, it seemed luxurious and really neat. If someone from the outside had a look at the block, especially when the prisoners were at work and were not present, they would have seen everything shining, every bed and table covered with cloths. At that time, newly arrived prisoners did not undergo any quarantine. The formalities related to the registration of prisoners and taking photographs for prisoners’ files were dealt with only by other prisoners, because the SS and the camp authorities got involved in prisoners’ matters relatively rarely. Following these preparations, we were supposed to go to work right away on the third day. That was when the baptism by fire began.

Immediately after the roll call, the groups of Auschwitz Zugangs [new arrivals], several of which had arrived in the previous few days, were asked if they spoke German. A dozen or so people came forward. They were told to separate. Then, we marched off to work. It was a beautiful roll call, the orchestra played wonderfully, we were excited and pleasantly surprised that it looked so nice, especially that the faces of some prisoners looked good, most of them did not give you an unpleasant feeling. Later on, it became obvious where that mood came from. Our task was to prepare potatoes for winter storage. It was autumn – September – and huge quantities of potatoes were being brought to the camp by train cars from the Lublin region to be stored for winter. Of course, the job was done by prisoners. Depending on how many cars arrived, the number of people selected for work varied from 300 to 1000. If I remember correctly, there were 27 train cars. If you take into account that the cars had to be unloaded, the potatoes had to be carried on litters, in wooden boxes, and then arranged in heaps or loaded onto wagons, the job was beyond the capabilities of such a number of people. The people were divided into two groups. One group was ordered to take off their jackets so that they would not be mistaken for members of the other group, while the other one was supposed to work in jackets. One of the groups was to carry the litters and the other – to put potatoes aside and arrange them in heaps. By chance, arranging potatoes in heaps was a slightly lighter job. If the day was hot, carrying potatoes was a terrible job for people who had frequently experienced harsh treatment in prison or in the camp. The litters sometimes weighed 150 to 200 kg. We had to do the job swiftly. Those who spoke German were given sticks, lined up in rows of six to eight and told to rush those who carried the litters. As a result, after a few hours blood gushed out like a fountain from those poor people’s hands, because of blisters forming and bursting. The terrain was uneven so the people would trip and be brutally beaten. There was absolutely no excuse for showing any sign of weakness, on the contrary – weakness was understood as sabotage, a desire to hide. The German kapos, assisted by various SS-Scharfführers, would drag such a man out and finish him off. I could describe many such incidents.

I was so shocked on the first day because I had never seen so much cruelty until then. Some people were trying to hide from the horrible work and they found shelter at a wooden ramp. On the other side of it there were small holes, maybe two-meters, where they hid, thinking they would not be found. One of them was spotted and a violent search began. No one came back from work from the group that was there that day. The execution was performed in the following manner – perhaps the Tribunal have seen it because the Germans quite often left such things – stools, quite low, with protruding thick beech legs. The convict was ordered to bend over such a stool and was violently beaten on the neck. Most of them collapsed on the spot. I do not know if they died immediately or were just stunned, but nobody remained conscious after receiving such a blow. The corpses were thrown aside. Some prisoners, who had become depraved due to their camp experiences, would leap at the corpses, ripping off their clothes, and, after a while, the naked bodies were thrown into a ditch. Sometimes, the bodies were twitching. It meant that not all of them were dead. Some people would go mad. Sometimes they even ditched their job and, to avoid the beating, ran towards the guard cordons, which without fail led to their death. Everyone knew that if you crossed the Postenkette, you were immediately shot.

I do not know for sure because I did not have access to such confidential information, but back then people were saying that the camp authorities rewarded SS men who killed a prisoner who had crossed the cordon with three days of leave. Therefore, such behavior was of course desired and no opportunity was ever missed. If no one rushed in that direction for 10 or 15 minutes, they were helped to do so. A young prisoner, who had been wearing a uniform the previous day, did not know what Postenkette meant and that you were not supposed to go there even if ordered to do so. He was told to go straight ahead and he went, without realizing anything. He looked around, they said, „Weiter, weiter” [go on]. He went on, passed by two guards, went 30 meters or 20 steps more, then two guns were aimed at him and he collapsed dead. It was done just for fun and it was a common practice.

I would like to add one more thing. I was inadvertently part of the group that was given sticks. I had never hit anyone in my life and I did not want to do the job, so I just stood there, sometimes I yelled a bit, but I did not lift the stick I had chosen for myself (it was the lightest stick possible). Oberscharführer Scheffler saw it – I remember his name because I had to deal with him later on – leaped at me and beat me with a whip, intended for lions, so badly that my back was covered in purple stripes. When he left, I threw the stick away, but I could not just stand there and do nothing, so I grabbed a pitchfork lying by a train car and started loading, so that the man would not recognize me. When the job was done, they blew the whistle to let us know we had to gather. A führer screamed, „Fleischwagen” [meat car]. Cars covered with a cloth stinking of old corpses approached and the unloading of the corpses began. I counted 27 bodies, three of which were still moving. I will never forget a Jew, with glasses on his nose, who was so emaciated that he consisted of nothing but skin and bones. He was still trembling and breathing. That corpse and the sight of that man, with a pointed, extremely Jewish nose, will remain in my memory for the rest of my life.

It was my first day in the camp. I survived several such days. After a few days, I realized that my friends who had arrived at Auschwitz before me were assigned better positions and were able to help their colleagues, not only in terms of tangible goods, but also mentally. It was important to find support in someone who had already spent some time in the camp. There was Judge Zacharski from Kraków, Głowa, a man who helped prisoners immensely, and our current prime minister, who offered me a slice of bread and a few cigarettes.

I was transferred from that kommando, and I was supposed to get into the hospital and work as a nurse. There was only one way to do this: I had to pretend I was sick. I was summoned to the hospital without my knowledge and there I found out I was sick. The doctor already knew that I had typhus fever and he left me in the hospital in the ward for patients with suspected disease. As a man who had never had contact with such things before and who cares for hygiene, I was afraid of getting infected. I did get a separate bed, but a transport of really sick people arrived that afternoon and those patients were placed in already occupied beds. I ended up in one bed with a person with typhus fever. Others tried to comfort me, saying that typhus is not contagious without lice, and there were no lice, so I calmed down a bit.

I was a completely healthy man, only my legs hurt a bit, but I was not bedridden. I was summoned immediately after the roll call, and all activities related to my admission and that of the other patients lasted until the late afternoon hours. I was so tired that when I was assigned to that room, I collapsed on the bed and rested. And yet I was a healthy man. The admission procedures, medical examination, and disinfection were so tiring that it was difficult for a healthy person to endure them, so I cannot imagine how people suffering from typhus or pneumonia, or the elderly, must have felt. Not many of them made it to the hospital.

This is how I spent the first days. Then, I worked in various small kommandos, almost every day in a different one. I managed to get assigned to the potato kommando. The group consisted of a hundred people who were sent to the location where they had to unload potatoes from several train cars and place them in warehouses.

When I left the hospital, I had no other shoes than leather moccasins with covered heels that fell off my feet. I could not keep them on my feet at work. At that time, my task was to carry a litter, but the distance was not too great, so since I was not an old prisoner, the job was not very tiring. What exhausted me the most was going to the barrack, which was situated on the other side of the track. You had to walk on the pebbles – I do not know what they are technically called – that were scattered over the track. It was impossible to walk on those pebbles in the moccasins, so I took them off and, of course, walked a little slower. An SS man noticed it and set a dog on me. The dog bit my legs from feet to thighs. At such a moment, you do not feel pain anymore; you only want to run away as quickly as possible. It was only in the evening that I noticed that both my legs were covered in blood due to the dog biting.

Merciful God saved me from my distress, and thanks to the help and protection of my friends, I was assigned to a better kommando, where the work was more bearable. I worked in the prison potato room, and then I got to the SS potato room. It was a dream job – you could feed yourself there because it was possible to steal. There was a saying – I did not hear it myself, but reportedly Oberführer Aumeier once said it to prisoners – that an honest prisoner could survive three months at the most; if he lived longer, it meant he stole or did nothing. Whenever it was possible to steal something, I did so. Taking into consideration the treasures accumulated in Auschwitz by the Germans, not a single potato came from Germany – everything was Polish, even potatoes were imported from Lublin. So as for satisfying our needs, what we did was completely legitimate.

I stayed six months in Auschwitz. Then, I was transferred to another camp.

As for Auschwitz, my colleagues from other camps would say, “in Auschwitz, life is more comfortable and easier than in other camps, but it is much easier to die there.” Regardless of the methods used there – the gassing and liquidation of patients, the shooting, or special methods of exterminating prisoners – the Auschwitz camp was perhaps tougher compared to others, but in other camps it was more difficult to get assigned to a job which could make your life easier. I’ve known 8 [?] camps, but in none of them were so many people killed at work for disobedience and in none of them was there that yellow smoke from the crematorium above us, that smoke that hovered not only over Auschwitz, but also over the whole area.

What can I say from my own observations?

I was never sent to Birkenau. I am supposed to speak about some of my own experiences. One day, the roll call lasted longer than usual, the Lagerführer did not come to take the roll call, because something else came up. Our block was situated in such a way that you could see the buildings of the Krankenstube, that is, the hospital. Three cars arrived at the block. After a while, people in underwear – although it was winter – started to get off down a ramp. They were getting off very clumsily. You could see their silhouettes from a distance and it began to grow dark. Those people, who were pushed but kept on their feet, were finally loaded onto trucks, and then the trucks left. It was obvious where for. They left for Birkenau, headed to the gas chambers for sure. They certainly did not know that no one would ever hear of them again. But even if those people were to be executed, was it absolutely necessary for them to freeze before death? After all, they could not have avoided being killed, but why did they have to get so terribly cold outside for an hour or an hour and a half?

They would not have taken their clothes with them to their grave, and yet even underwear was taken off their bodies.

That was just an example.

As for selections in the hospital, they were carried out during work hours and we were afraid to be present in the hospital on such a day.

Another example. Once, we came to work to load potatoes. We saw a crowd of women and children standing in a narrow row. Next to them on the right, there was a whole heap of bundles and quite elegant luggage. After a while, trucks arrived and those women and their children were loaded right onto the trucks – the trucks disappeared. Of course, this is just one example.

There was a ramp, where potatoes and transports were brought. It was about two kilometers from the Auschwitz camp and three kilometers from Birkenau. There, in the middle, transports of Jews from around the world were brought. Until then, those people were convinced they were going to settle there. They had lots of luggage, were perfectly well stocked with food and clothes, and carried heavy packages. They had everything. It was just a moment – they had to say goodbye to their luggage, put the luggage aside. They left and no one ever saw them again. There was only the yellow smoke coming out of the four or five furnaces in Birkenau. Such transports arrived every day. The valuables were supposed to enrich the German treasury. It was really full of everything. Those who worked in sewing and shoemaking units, and unraveled clothes and shoes left by prisoners, found incredible treasures, such as precious stones, foreign currencies, or gold in various forms. Those prisoners often tried to hide something, although if they were caught, they were inevitably punished with death. Anyway, it was just a fraction, and the wealth accumulated there immensely enriched the German treasury.

That was just an illustration of what I saw in those six months. I will not talk about other things, maybe less characteristic ones, because they are widely known. These are glimpses that can give you a certain idea of what happened in the camp.

Presiding judge: The witness has mentioned that he was in the hospital. Were people treated there?

Witness: Yes, they received intensive treatment if there was a diligent and honest doctor around. Those doctors were our folks, Poles, and they really sacrificed themselves. They would do anything to help the prisoners. Of course, this happened without the knowledge of the camp authorities, who took little interest in people’s health.

Presiding judge: The witness is talking about prisoner doctors. I meant German camp doctors.

Witness: I never met them during my stay. It was up to a German doctor whether you were admitted to the hospital. He just stood there with folded arms and accepted what a prisoner doctor told him. If it had been different, I would not have been admitted. In fact, the German doctor did not deal with those matters.

Presiding judge: Was it easy to get to the hospital or were there any special difficulties?

Witness: If someone was really sick, they tried to avoid ending up there. Those who came to the hospital were usually young prisoners who had been brought to the camp and, having seen the hard work, were trying to hide from it in the hospital. The hospital was a place of the greatest misery. Old prisoners tried to avoid it like the plague. Even seriously sick people went to work, dragging their feet, where they somehow tried to hide with the help of their colleagues. To make matters worse, a sudden selection could be carried out in the hospital and prisoners could not avoid it. My friends realized that there was going to be a selection and they threw me out of the hospital two hours before it took place. Later on, they told me, “It would have ended badly if they had found out you’re healthy.” I would have been lost.

Presiding judge: Did the witness ever see such a selection?

Witness: I was never present. I heard stories. There were no special tests, only visual examination. I heard of a funny incident. It concerned Dr. Makowski, an attorney from Krzeszowice. A hunchback, a very infirm old man. I met him at the Montelupich prison, where he was sent to the Krankenstube [infirmary]. And in Auschwitz, he was placed in the hospital. There was a selection. The prison doctors knew who was most at risk of being selected; they knew that the old and crippled would be subject to selection. A doctor realized this and told him to hide under the bed.

Presiding judge: Were prisoners allowed to stay in the hospital only for some time?

Witness: I do not know that. But I would like to say more about that incident.

That man would have been saved if not for some kind of stupor. He jumped forward and said, “Moch ich.” He immediately joined the group and no one ever saw him again.

Presiding judge: The witness has mentioned that he was assigned better work, that he was transferred to another kommando. Was it easy to get a lighter job?

Witness: As for wild kommandos, they changed overnight. People were replaced because they were no longer needed. It was not difficult to get out of such work units. The idea was to get assigned to a better one. In my case, the kapo came from Kraków, so he was simply informed that I would not return to work.

Presiding judge: How was it arranged?

Witness: Only between prisoners. Each kommando consisted of a certain number of people and there were also the so-called wild kommandos, where only prisoners who could handle a shovel were needed. The idea was to make a suitable list.

Presiding judge: But was there a labor office?

Witness: It was not like that.

Presiding judge: The witness assessed his work and stay in the camp simply from the perspective of better living conditions?

Witness: Of course, only from the perspective of survival. As I have mentioned, sometimes it was possible to live a better life in Auschwitz, because it was a rich camp, because so many goods were being brought there, but on the other hand, it was easy to get killed and many more prisoners were killed there than in any other camp.

Attorney Umbreit: As for the statement the witness has just made, that that camp was rich and it was much easier to live there – how exactly was it easier to live in Auschwitz compared to other camps that the witness stayed in later on?

Witness: For example, the issue of clothes played a big role. When we received lots of clothes of various sorts from Jewish transports, it was easier to get some of them for ourselves.

Underwear was the hardest to get, but other clothes were very cheap. For example, for a slice of bread you could get shoes, and so forth. It was available in Auschwitz, while in other camps we wore rags.

Presiding judge: When were the clothes available?

Witness: I was in Auschwitz from 1943.

Presiding judge: Please be specific.

Witness: I said that you could get yourself clothes at that time. And another thing – Auschwitz was a Polish camp. Seventy percent of the prisoners were Poles and they helped each other. Since they had worked in their camp positions for a long time, they were promoted to better positions and had some influence over, for example, labor assignment, or could help someone in the hospital – this was very important.

Presiding judge: Did you receive packages in that period?

Witness: Packages started arriving only in the fourth month of my stay.

Presiding judge: How many? How many packages could a prisoner receive?

Witness: The first regulation was unclear to us. We were told to write to our families that packages could not exceed a prisoner’s daily food ration. To this day, I do not understand what that meant. Packages started arriving and there was no issue with that. However, after about a month an order was issued that packages could weigh 250 grams at the most. It was a small amount because a big slice of bread weighs more, but the provision was not observed and if larger packages arrived, they were delivered.

Presiding judge: Did the packages arrive intact?

Witness: When those packages started arriving, plundering began immediately. But later on there were some investigations, as a result of which several prisoners, and reportedly even some SS men, were severely punished. So afterwards the packages were delivered intact.

Presiding judge: Were prisoners allowed to share their packages with others?

Witness: They were, it was not an issue.

Presiding judge: The witness has mentioned that some prisoners were employed to steal food, that there was some kind of “organization.” Was it that easy and available? Could any prisoner employed in that unit steal the goods?

Witness: It depended on if he was clever. Of course, they were not allowed to do it and were punished for it, sometimes horribly, namely they were immediately assigned to the SK, that is Strafkommando [penal unit]. But you could always organize something if you were clever. The hardest part was to smuggle it through the gate. When it came to clothing, a prisoner who wanted to steal something would not take, for example, a sweater, but would return to the camp in that sweater. As for food, for example, small potatoes were delivered to the camp once a week in carts pulled by prisoners. They came to a spot outside the camp and took those things from there. They were not inspected. Whenever potatoes were delivered in sacks, some food was taken to the camp.

Presiding judge: How could the witness explain that despite those difficulties, but also certain possibilities, such a large number of prisoners suffered from hunger and died for this reason?

Witness: I am talking about a certain period of time and people who had contacts or those who knew people who could do it. Because if someone worked in the kommando dealing with earthworks, that is a tough work unit, they could do nothing. Of course, if prisoners who “organized” something had more than enough to eat, they shared their soup with others. And in this way, the situation improved a bit. But we cannot forget that I was in the main part of Auschwitz – the Stammlager. It was the headquarters and sometimes there were 18 or 14 thousand people, while in Birkenau, there were 70,000. It was the same with other branches, and there were a dozen or so small branches. So it was different in different conditions. I can only say what I personally saw. Another thing is that many people risked their life helping themselves or others because if they were caught, they were ruthlessly punished. On the other hand, if someone who was in Auschwitz knew they were doomed to die, that they had no chance to survive in Auschwitz, they preferred to have a full stomach and risk certain things that would happen to them anyway. It was a common approach. I would like to say one more thing about the first days, when I saw an old Vorarbeiter [foreman] from Silesia, who spoke Polish, abusing Jews. I told him – he treated me well – “Hey, man, these are people,” and he replied, “They came here to die anyway.” Sometimes weak prisoners, people who had been promised a spoonful of food, would get so obsessed about it that they tormented others. That system made it seem that only those who trampled over others could survive and there were people who believed it. The camp was organized a bit in the spirit of Machiavellianism. Kapos and block leaders were chosen from among people of various nationalities, mostly Poles, but above all from among those with the most murderous instincts. We cannot blame any specific nation, because in every nation there are individuals with a criminal attitude or weak willpower leading to such weakness. Only in that system was it possible to single out the greatest villains and make them a tool of torture against gentle people, those who did not want to save their lives at the expense of others.

Attorney Ostaszewski: The witness has stated that initially, when packages did not arrive, there was an investigation. Was the investigation ordered by the camp authorities? Does the witness know who gave that order?

Witness: I do not know anything about the course of the investigations, but they were ordered by the camp authorities for sure.

Attorney Ostaszewski: Does the witness know if any SS men or kapos were punished?

Witness: I heard that they were. I am saying that I heard it because I had nothing to do with it.

Attorney Ostaszewski: The witness went through a number of concentration camps – were the regulations, the system employed in Auschwitz shocking in comparison to other camps? Were the same regulations applied in other camps and did SS men and kapos behave roughly in the same way?

Witness: It was different in every camp. The regulations were the same, but the modus vivendi, which, as I have mentioned, always depended on the situation, was different, better or worse.

Attorney Ostaszewski: Was it worse or better in Auschwitz?

Witness: Only Gusen was worse than Auschwitz, as far as the everyday treatment of prisoners is concerned, except that there were no gas chambers in Gusen and there were no mass executions.

Attorney Umbreit: When the witness was in the camp, did he ever meet or see defendant Höß on duty? When the defendant came to the camp, did he interfere or show any interest in the everyday life and in what the SS men did?

Witness: No, I did not see him directly. I caught a glimpse of his face when, for example, “the highest dignitary passed by.” That is everything I know.

Attorney Umbreit: Does the witness think it was possible that, since Höß only passed by, he could have been not fully aware of the various abuses and atrocities?

Witness: That’s impossible. It was blatantly obvious. He must have seen, standing there when kommandos were returning from work, that every day a dozen or so dead people were carried back to the camp. Other prisoners carried them to the rhythm of the orchestra: two prisoners took the corpse by the arms, and another two by the legs. Those cheerful funeral processions, in groups of four, went at the back. This was impossible to hide. He must have noticed it.

Presiding judge: The witness is excused.