German Jew Describes ‘death March’ of Nazi Victims at Auschwitz Trial
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German Jew Describes ‘death March’ of Nazi Victims at Auschwitz Trial

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A young German Jew, testifying here at the trial of 21 former SS men and a trustee charged with the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death compound during World War II, identified two of the defendants in open court today as mass murderers.

The witness, Hans Frankenthal, told the court that 25 members of his family were sent to Auschwitz in 1943, and that only he and his young brother survived because they were used as slave laborers in the camp. During his two years at Auschwitz, Frankenthal said on the witness stand, he came often “within inches of death.”

Every four to six weeks, he said, SS officers would go through the plant where he worked, picking out for death those who were too ill to continue at the labor. Twice, he said, he had become “unproductive” due to bad feet, and was about to be sent to the gas ovens, when he was hidden by a political prisoner in the plant.

He also described the death march of the remaining Auschwitz prisoners who were moved from the camp by the Nazis when the Russian army advanced to positions near the camp. He said the prisoners were marched afoot or placed in roofless freight cars where many froze to death.

When Presiding Justice Hans Holmeyer asked Frankenthal whether he could identify any of the defendants as participants in atrocities he had personally witnessed, he hesitated at first, saying he was not sure he could spot the men now wearing civilian clothing instead of SS uniforms.

Finally, urged by the Judge, he walked slowly to the defendants’ section and identified two men. One was a medical corpsman, Gerhard Neubert, whom Frankenthal had previously mentioned by name. The other is co-defendant Karl Hoecker, camp adjutant. The witness said he had seen Neubert “select” victims for the death ovens, while Hoecker had beaten him.


An unusually detailed description of the Ahschwitz-Birkenau camp activities was given the court today by another witness, a non-Jewish attorney, Konrad Morgen, of Frankfurt. He testified that, as a judge advocate for the SS in 1943, he had been assigned to investigate the their of gold at Auschwitz, previously extracted from the teeth of dead victims.

During that probe, he said, camp officials showed him everything that was going on in the camp, from the incoming train platforms to the death ramps and the insides of the gas ovens. His guide on that tour, he testified, was the late Rudolph Hoess, the camp commandant.

“It was a most shattering experience,” he told the court. “Thousands were being cremated every day, but the machinery, ovens and pipes were antiseptic, constantly cleaned, everything polished. Cremation squads were always cleaning and polishing.” He described the methods used to make the victims believe they were being led only to disiafection chambers instead of into death ovens. “It was a nightmare,” he said.


At the opening of today’s session, one of the nine Judges read a pre-trial confession made by one of the defendants, Oswald Kaduk. In that statement, Kaduk had admitted participating in the selection of prisoners for death, and confessed also that he had beaten and otherwise mistreated some of the prisoners. Among those he had beaten, he had said, was Josef Cyrankiewicz, now Prime Minister of Poland.

Kaduk protested, however, that he was “only a little fish in those days,” insisting that he was “only carrying out orders.” He demanded to know why “the bigshots, those really guilty,” were not being prosecuted. He implicated several of the present co-defendants in his crimes. One of them, Robert Mulka, shouted in the court room: “That’s not true.” Kaduk yelled back that his charges against Mulka were true. After a loud exchange between the two co-defendants, Justice Holmeyer rang his bell to restore order in the court room.

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