First Jewish Witness Testifies at Auschwitz Trial; Describes Horrors
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First Jewish Witness Testifies at Auschwitz Trial; Describes Horrors

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The first Jewish survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau to testify at the trial here of the 22 death factory guards and medical personnel took the witness stand today, as the proceedings entered its third month. Before the trial is over, 200 witnesses, most of them Jewish, some from Israel and the United States, are expected to take the stand.

Today, that group of survivors was led off by Dr. Otto Wolken, 60, of Vienna, a Jew who had been an inmate at the Birkenau camp, whence Jews and others were fed into the gas ovens. Dr. Wolken told the court he had kept written records of his Birkenau experiences, burying his documents and recovering his papers after the war.

The Jewish physician told the court that, very often, the members of the Gestapo in charge of the camp “could not sleep until they had beaten a few victims to death.” Conditions varied in accordance with the “mood” of the guards and with the ebb and flow of the success or failure of the Nazi armies on the various war fronts,” he said. “They acted like animals in the Stone Age,” he testified, “like animals who had tasted blood.”

As a doctor, he said, he had to make out formal reports about deaths. But he had been given orders. A victim who starved to death had to be listed as having died of a heart attack. Persons shot by the Nazi had to be listed as having been killed “while trying to escape.”

Into a space designed for 300 persons, he testified, the Nazis squeezed 1,200 victims. “There was no water,” he said, “no food, nothing to eat–and, for the sick, no medicine.” At one time, he said, he had one aspirin tablet. Prisoners with a temperature of 100 degrees were allowed to lick the tablet once; those with higher temperatures were given “two licks.”


As Dr. Wolken went on to describe the horrors of the camp, speaking in a low, calm, matter-of-fact voice, one of the nine judges, Werner Hummerich, clutched at his heart and seemed about to collapse. Presiding Justice Hans Hofmeyer suspended the trial, after only 90 minutes of Dr. Wolken’s testimony, saying that Judge Hummerich “was Just overcome by what we have been hearing.”

One of the 22 defendants, Robert Mulka, sat today among those of his group who are under detention. Friday, he had been re-arrested in court on new charges of murder. Until now, he had been free in $12,500 bail on charges of “complicity in murder.” The new charges allege that he had, personally, shot three Auschwitz prisoners with his pistol.

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