The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/09/05

CROSS-EXAMINATION of the witness Ahrens.


Q. Please tell me, witness, since when, exactly, were you in
the Smolensk district?

A. I have already answered that question, since the second
half of November, 1941.

Q. Please answer me further, where were you until the second
part of November, 1941? Did you in any way have any
connection with Katyn or Smolensk as a district? Were you
there personally in September and October, 1941?

A. No, I was not there.

Q. That is to say that you did not know, either in September
or in October, 1941, what events occurred at that time in
the Katyn forest?

A. I was not there during that period, but I mentioned
earlier on that -

Q. No. I am actually only interested in a short question.
Were you there personally or not? Were you able to see for
yourself what was happening there or not?

THE PRESIDENT: He says he was not there.

THE WITNESS: No, I was not there.

THE PRESIDENT: He said he was not there in September or
October, 1941.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Thank you, Mr. President.


Q. Maybe you recall the family names of the Russian woman
workers who were employed at the country house in the woods?

A. Those female workers were not working in several
different houses. They merely worked as auxiliary kitchen
personnel in our Dnieper Castle. I never knew their names.

Q. That means that the Russian woman workers were only
employed in the villa situated in Katyn Forest where the
staff headquarters were located?

A. I believe that question was not translated too well. I
did not understand it.

Q. I asked you whether the Russian woman workers were
employed exclusively in the villa in the Koziy Hills where
the staff headquarters were located? Is that right?

A. The woman workers worked for the regimental headquarters
as kitchen help, and as kitchen helpers they worked on our
premises, and by our premises I mean this particular house
with the adjoining buildings; for instance, the stables, the
garage, the cellars, the central heating plants; that is
where they worked.

Q. I will give you a few names -

                                                  [Page 335]

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. The translation was coming
through very faintly then. I do not know whether -

Now, go on.


Q. I will mention a few names of German military employees.
Will you please tell me whether they belonged to your unit?

First-Lt. Rex.

A. First-Lt. Rex was my regimental adjutant.

Q. Please tell me, was he already assigned to that unit
before your arrival in Katyn?

A. Yes, he was there before I came.

Q. He was your adjutant, was he not?

A. Yes, he was my adjutant.

Q. Lt. Hodt? Hodt or Hoth?

A. Lt. Hodt is right; but what question are you putting
about Lt. Hodt?

Q. I am only questioning you about whether he belonged to
your unit or not.

A. Lt. Hodt was a member of the regiment. Whether -

Q. Yes, that is what I was asking. He belonged to the
regiment which you commanded, to your army unit?

A. I did not mean by that that he belonged to the regimental
staff, but that he belonged to the regiment. The regiment
consisted of three units.

Q. But he lived in the same villa, did he not?

A. That I do not know. When I arrived he was not there. I
ordered him to report to me there for the first time.

Q. I will enumerate a few other names. Corporal Rose,
Private Giesecke, Staff-Sergeant Lummert, a cook named
Gustav. Were these members of the Wehrmacht who were
billeted in the villa?

A. May I ask you to mention the names individually once
again, and I will answer you individually.

Q. Sergeant Lummert?

A. Yes.

Q. Corporal Rose?

A. Yes.

Q. And I believe, if my memory serves me correctly,
Storekeeper Giesecke.

A. That man's name was Giesecken.

Q. Yes, that is right. I did not pronounce this name quite
correctly. These were all your people or at least they
belonged to your unit, did they not?

A. Yes.

Q. And you assert that you did not know what these people
were doing in September and October, 1941?

A. As I was not there, I cannot tell you for certain.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now.

(A recess was taken.)

COLONEL SMIRNOV: May I continue, Mr. President, since the
witness has stated that he cannot give any testimony
concerning the period of October-November, 1941, I will
limit myself to very short questions.

Q. Witness, would you please point out the location of the
villa and the forest with respect to the Smolensk-Vitebsk
highway. Was the villa very far front the Smolensk-Vitebsk

A. My sketch is on a scale of 1 to 100,000 and is drawn from
memory. I estimate, therefore, that the graves were situated
200 to 300 metres directly west, on the road to our Dnieper
Castle, therefore 200 to 300 metres south of the Smolensk-
Vitebsk road. An additional 600 metres away you would find
Dnieper Castle.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you repeat that?

                                                  [Page 336]

A. South of the Smolensk-Vitebsk highway, approximately 15
kilometres west of Smolensk, according to the scale, 1 to
100,000 (1:100,000) as far as one is able to draw such a
sketch accurately from memory, the site of these graves was
200 to 300 metres to the south, and an additional 600 metres
to the south, directly on the northern bend of the Dnieper,
you would find our regimental staff quarters, the Dnieper

Q. Consequently, the villa was approximately 600 metres away
from the Smolensk-Vitebsk highway.

A. No, that is not correct. What I said -

Q. Please give a more or less exact figure. What was the
distance between the highway and the villa, please?

A. I just mentioned it in my testimony, namely, the graves
were about 200 to 300 metres away, and there were a further
600 metres to the castle; therefore, it was approximately
900 to 1,000 metres. It might have been 800 metres, but that
is the approximate distance as indicated on this sketch.

THE PRESIDENT: I am not following this. Your question,
Colonel Smirnov, was: "How far was it from the road to what
you called the country house?" was it not?

COLONEL SMIRNOV: No, Mr. President, I asked how far was the
villa from the Smolensk-Vitebsk highway.

THE PRESIDENT: What do you mean by the "villa"?

COLONEL SMIRNOV: The headquarters of the unit commanded by
the witness in 1941 was located in a villa, and this villa
was located not far from the Dnieper River, at a distance of
about 900 metres from the highway. The graves were located
nearer to the highway. I would like to know how far away
were the headquarters located from the highway, and how far
away from the highway were the graves in Katyn Forest.

THE PRESIDENT: What you want to know is: How far was the
house in which the headquarters was situated from the
highway? Is that right?

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Yes, that is exactly what I wanted to know,
Mr. President.

THE WITNESS: You put two questions to me; first of all, how
far were the graves from the highway; and secondly, how far
was the house from the highway. I will repeat the answer
once more, the house was 800 to 1,000 metres south of the
Smolensk-Vitebsk highway.


Q. One minute, please. I asked you primarily only about the
house. Your answer concerning the graves was given on your
own initiative. Now I will ask you about the graves, how far
were these mass graves from the Smolensk-Vitebsk highway?

A. From 200 to 300 metres. It might have been 350 metres.

Q. The graves 200 or 300 metres from the main road, a road
connecting two important centres and carrying relatively
heavy traffic?

A. Yes, indeed. They were at a distance of 200 to 300 metres
south of this - and I may say that during the time I was in
Russia, this was the most frequented road I ever saw.

Q. That was just what I was asking you. Now, please tell me:
Was the Katyn wood a real forest, or was it, rather, a park
or a grove?

A. Up to now I have only spoken about the little forest of
Katyn. This little forest of Katyn is the fenced-in wooded
terrain of about one square kilometre, which I drew in my
sketch. This forest is of mixed growth, of older and younger
trees. There were many birch trees in this little wood.
However, there were clearings in this wood, and I should say
that from thirty to forty per cent was cleared.

                                                  [Page 337]

Under no circumstances could you describe this wood as a
park; anyhow, there was no reason to call it so. Fighting
had taken place in this wood, and there were trenches.

Q. Yes, but anyway, you would not call Katyn wood a real
forest since it was a relatively small grove in the
immediate vicinity of the Smolensk-Vitebsk highway. Is that

A. No, that is not right. It was a forest. The entire Katyn
forest was a forest which began near our groves and extended
far beyond that. This entire Katyn forest was a mixed
forest. Part of it had been fenced in, and this part,
extending over one square kilometre, was what we called the
little Katyn forest, but it did belong to this entire wooded
region south of the highway. The forest began with our
little wood and continued to the west.

Q. I am not interested in the general characteristics of the
wood. I would like you to answer the following short
question: Were the mass graves located in this grove?

A. The mass graves were situated directly west of our
entrance drive in a clearing in the wood, where there was a
growth of young trees.

Q. Yes, but this clearing, this growth of young trees, was
located inside this small grove, near the Smolensk-Vitebsk
highway, is that correct?

A. It was 200 to 300 metres south of the Smolensk-Vitebsk
highway, and directly west of the entrance drive leading
from this road to the Dnieper Castle. I have marked this
spot on my sketch with a fairly thick white dot.

Q. One more question. As far as you know, did the Smolensk-
Vitebsk highway exist before the German occupation of
Smolensk, or was it constructed after the beginning of the

A. When I arrived in Russia at the end of November, 1941,
everything was covered with snow. Later I got the impression
that this was an old road, but that the narrow-gauge railway
Minsk-Moscow was a more recent construction. That was my

Q. I understand. Now tell me, under what conditions, or I
should say, when did you first discover the cross in the

A. I cannot fix the exact date. My soldiers told me about
it, and on one occasion when I was going past there, about
the beginning of January, 1942, it could also have been at
the end of December, 1941, I saw this cross above the snow.

Q. This means you saw it already in 1941, or at the very
beginning of 1942?

A. That is what I have just testified.

Q Yes, certainly. Now, please be more specific concerning
the period when a wolf brought you to this cross. Was it in
winter or summer and in what year?

A. It was at the beginning of 1943.

Q. In 1943? And around the cross you saw bones, did you not?

A. No.

Q. No?

A. No, at first I did not see them. In order to find out
whether I had not been mistaken about seeing a wolf - for it
seemed rather impossible that a wolf should be no [sic] near
to Smolensk - I examined the tracks together with a
gamekeeper, and found traces of scratching on the ground.
However, the ground was frozen hard, there was snow on the
ground, and I did not see anything further there. Only later
on, after it had been thawing, men found various bones.
However, this was months later, and then, at a suitable
opportunity, I showed these bones to a doctor, and he said
that these were human bones. Thereupon I said, "Then most
likely it is a question of a grave, left as a result of the
fighting which has taken place here, and that the war graves
registration officer would have to take care of the graves
in the same way we were taking care of other graves of
fallen soldiers." That was the reason why I spoke to this
gentleman, but only after the snow had melted.

Q. By the way, did you personally see the Katyn graves?

A. Open or before they were opened?

                                                  [Page 338]

Q. Open, yes.

A. When they were open I had constantly to drive past these
graves, as most of them were approximately thirty metres
away from the entrance drive. Therefore, I could hardly go
past without taking any notice of them.

Q. I am interested in the following. Do you remember what
the depth of the layer of earth was which covered the mass
of human bodies in these graves?

A. That I do not know. I have already said that I was so
revolted by the stench which we had to put up with for
several weeks that when I drove past I closed the windows of
my car and rushed through as fast as I could.

Q. However, even if you only casually glanced at those
graves, perhaps you noticed whether the layer of earth
covering the corpses was thick or shallow? Was it several
centimetres or several metres thick? Maybe Professor Butz
told you something about it?

A. As commander of a regiment, I was concerned with a region
which was almost half as large as Greater Germany, and I was
on the road a great deal. My work was not entirely carried
out at the regimental battle headquarters. Therefore, in
general, from Monday or Tuesday until Saturday, I was with
my unit. For that reason, when I drove through, I did cast a
glance at these graves, but I was not especially interested
in the details, and I did not speak to Professor Butz about
such matters. That is why I do riot remember anything about
this matter with particular exactitude.

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