The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/09/05

THE WITNESS: I am speaking of both staffs, because the
moving of large staffs, such as that of an army group, could
not be undertaken in one day; usually a period of two to
three days was needed for that. The operations of the signal
corps had to be assured, and therefore the regiment had to
leave some of the staff behind until the entire staff had
been moved.


Q. Where was the advance unit accommodated?

A. At least part of the advance unit was accommodated in the
Dnieper Castle. Some of the others were in the neighbourhood
of those places where later on the companies were billeted.
The reason for that was to keep the billets ready for this
regiment, until the bulk of it had been moved.

Q. How about the Regimental Staff 537?

A. In the Dnieper Castle.

Q. Can you give us the names of the officers who belonged to
the regimental headquarters staff?

A. At that time there was Lieutenant-Colonel Bedenck, the
commanding officer; Lieutenant Rex, adjutant; Lieutenant
Hodt, orderly officer; and a Captain Schaefer, who was a
signal expert. It may be that one or two others were there
as well, but I can now no longer remember their names.

Q. The preceding witness has already told us about the tasks
of the regimental staff. How were the activities of the
regimental staff controlled?

A. The regiment, which consisted of ten to twelve companies,
had to give an exact report each evening as to what work had
been allotted to the various companies. This was necessary
as we had to know what forces were available in case of
emergency, or for undertaking any new tasks.

Q. How far away from the Dnieper Castle were you billeted?

A. Approximately four to five kilometres. I cannot give you
the exact distance, as I always made it by car, but it would
be about four to five kilometres.

Q. Did you frequently go to Dnieper Castle?

A. Very frequently, when I was off duty, as I had belonged
to this regiment, I knew most of the officers, and was on
friendly terms with them.

Q. Can you tell us about the kind and extent of the traffic
which came to the Dnieper Castle?

A. In order to judge this, you have to differentiate between
persons and things. So far as people were concerned, the
traffic was very heavy because the regiment had to be very
centrally organized in order to be equal to its tasks.
Therefore, many couriers came, and commanders of the various
companies frequently came to visit the regimental
headquarters staff.

On the other hand, there was a heavy traffic of lorries s
and passenger cars, because the regiment tried to improve
its billets there, and after we remained there for some
time, all sorts of constructional alterations were made in
the house.

Q. Did you hear anything about there being three Russian
camps with captured Polish officers, twenty-five to forty-
five kilometres west of Smolensk, which had allegedly fallen
into German hands?

A. I never heard anything about any kind of Polish officers'
camps or prisoner-of-war camps.

Q. Did your army group receive reports about the taking of
such Polish officers as prisoners?

                                                  [Page 343]

A. No. I would have noticed that, since the number of
prisoners, and especially the number of officers, was
constantly in the evening reports of the armies which took
these prisoners, and these reports were submitted to me. It
was our responsibility to receive these signal reports and
we therefore saw them every evening.

Q. You did not receive a report to that effect?

A. I neither saw such a report from an army, which would
have issued it, nor did I ever receive a report from an army
group which would have had to transmit this report in their
evening bulletin to the Armed Forces High Command (OKW).

Q. Could a report like that have been handed in from another
source or been sent to another office?

A. The official channel in the Army was very stringent, and
the staffs saw to it that official channels were strictly
adhered to. In any case, the army group always required the
reports, which they had to fill out according to forms, to
be completed with exactitude, and this especially included
the figures concerning prisoners. Therefore, it is quite out
of the question that if such a number of officers had fallen
into the hands of an army group, it would not have reported
the matter through the appropriate channel.

Q. You said, just a little while ago, that you were in
particularly close relationship with the officers of this
regiment. Did you ever hear anything about Polish officers
who were prisoners of war having been shot at some time or
other in the Katyn Forest at the instigation of Regiment 537
under Colonel Bedenek or under Colonel Ahrens?

A. I knew nearly all the officers of the regiment, as I
myself had been over a year with the regiment and I had such
a close relationship with most of the officers that they
told me everything that took place, even matters of an
unofficial nature. Therefore, it is quite out of the
question that such an important matter should not have come
to my knowledge. It is quite impossible that there was not
at least one who would have come to tell me about it

Q. Were all the operational orders for Regiment 537
officially known to you?

A. The operational orders for this army group signals
regiment were twofold; orders which applied to the wireless
company and those which applied to the nine telephone
companies. Since I was a telephone expert, it was quite
natural for me to draft these orders and submit them to my
superior, General Oberhauser. Therefore, each order which
was issued had either been drafted by me, or I had seen it

Q. Was there ever at any time an order given out by your
office to shoot Polish prisoners of war?

A. An order like that was neither given to the regiment by
our office nor by any other office. Neither did we have a
report to this effect, nor did we hear about things like
that through any other channel.

Q. If an order like that had arrived through official
channels, it could only have come through you?

A. This order would have necessitated a great many members
of the regiment being taken away from their own duties which
were to safeguard the system of communications; as we were
very short of signallers, we had to know what almost every
man in the regiment was doing. It would have been quite out
of the question for any member of the regiment to have been
taken away for such a duty without our knowledge.

DR. STAHMER: I have no further questions, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuehler, for whom are you appearing?

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: For Grand Admiral Donitz, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: There is no charge made against Grand Admiral
Donitz, in connection with this offence at all.

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: Mr. President, the exhumations and the
propaganda connected with them occurred during the period
when Grand Admiral Donitz, was

                                                  [Page 344]

Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. The prosecution alleges that
at that time Grand Admiral Donitz was a member of the
Cabinet and had participated in all acts taken by the
Government. Therefore, I must consider him as being
implicated in all the problems arising out of the Katyn

THE PRESIDENT: That would mean that we should have to hear
examination from everybody who was connected with the
Government. And the Tribunal has already pointed out, with
reference to Admiral Raeder, that his case was not connected
with this matter. It is only when a case is directly
connected with their clients that counsel for the individual
defendants are allowed to cross-examine, in addition to the
defendant's counsel who calls the witness. If there is any
suggestion that you want to make to the counsel who is
calling the witness, you make it to him, but you are not
entitled -

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: But I am asking your permission to put two
or three questions to this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: If you have any special questions to put, you
may suggest them to Dr. Stahmer, and Dr. Stahmer will put

Dr. Kranzbuehler, if you want to put any questions, you may
put them to Dr. Stahmer, and he will put them to the

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: Mr. President, I did not quite understand.
Shall I write those questions down for Dr. Stahmer?

THE PRESIDENT: If you cannot do it verbally, you may do it
in writing, and you may do it later on. But I really do not
think there can be any question which it is so difficult to
suggest to Dr. Stahmer as all that.

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: They can also be put through Dr. Stahmer.
I was only thinking that I would save some time by putting
the questions myself.

THE PRESIDENT: I told you, if you wish to ask any questions,
you must ask them through Dr. Stahmer.

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: In the meantime, the Tribunal will go on with
the cross-examination, and any questions which you wish to
put can be put in re-examination.

Does the prosecution wish to cross-examine?



Q. Witness, I am interested to know your exact function in
the Army? Were you in charge of teleprinter communications
at the headquarters of Army Group "Centre"?

A. No, Mr. Prosecutor, you are wrong. I was the telephone
expert of Army Group "Centre," not the wireless expert.

Q. That is exactly what I am asking you. The translation was
evidently incorrect. So you were in charge of telephone
communications, were you not?

A. Yes; you are right.

Q. Ordinary telegrams, or ciphered telegrams?

A. The task of a telephone expert connected with an army
group consisted in keeping open communications on the
telephone -

Q. No, I am not interested in the tasks in a general way. I
would like to know whether these were secret ciphered
telegrams or current army mail, army communications which
were not secret.

A. There were two kinds of telegrams, open and secret.

Q. Were you in charge of the secret telegrams, too?

A. Both passed through me.

Q. Consequently, all communications between the Wehrmacht,
between army units and the highest police authorities also
passed through you; is that correct?

                                                  [Page 345]

A. The telephone experts received the more important
telegrams, and especially the secret ones.

Q. Yes. Consequently, the communications between the police
authorities and the Wehrmacht units passed through you; is
that correct? I am asking you this question for a second

A. I must answer with this reservation that all messages did
not pass through the telephone specialist, but only the more
important secret teletype matters were submitted to him -
not all communications, because much was sent by mail
service as well as by couriers.

Q. That is clear. Do you know that, in September and
October, 1941, there were special detachments in Smolensk,
whose duty, in close co-operation with the Army, was to
carry out the so-called purge of the prisoner-of-war camps
and the extermination of prisoners of war?

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I must decisively object to
this questioning of the witness. This questioning can have
only the purpose of determining the relations between the
OKW, High Command of the Armed Forces, and possibly the
commandos of the Security Service. Therefore, they are
accusing the General Staff and the High Command of the Armed
Forces, and if I, Mr. President, as defence counsel for the
High Command of the Armed Forces am not permitted to put
questions then on the basis of equal treatment, the same
rules must apply to the prosecution as well.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: May I, Mr. President, make a short
statement -

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, the question is competent.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: I beg your pardon?

THE PRESIDENT: I said the question was competent. You may
ask the question.


Q. I would like to ask you the following question, witness.
Since all secret messages, that is to say, secret telephoned
messages, passed through you, did you ever come across among
these messages any from the so-called "Einsatzgruppe B."
That was the so-called First Task-Force. Did you also ever
come across amongst these telephoned messages, any from the
Special Task-Force, which at that time was located at
Smolensk and kept in reserve in anticipation of better
times; or from the Special Task-Force "Moscow," whose duty
it was to perpetrate mass murders in Moscow. Both commandos
were located at Smolensk at that time. Did you ever receive
any such communications?

A. No such reports came into my hands. I can fully explain
this to you, Mr. Prosecutor. Had any detachments of this
sort been established in the "Centre" Army Group area, these
detachments would have had their own wireless stations. It
was only later on, in the course of the Russian campaign,
that these posts had teletype communications as well, then
their activity was based on the army group network. However,
that only happened later.

Q. Consequently, the telegrams of those special units, which
in accordance with instructions of high police authorities
were assigned to carry out special actions in co-operation
with military units, did not pass through your hands in
September and October of 1941?

A. That is correct. At that time, there were no teletype
connections and offices for such special units, if ever they
were in that area at all.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Mr. President, this document has already
been presented to the Tribunal together with the
Extraordinary State Commission Report, No. USSR 3. If the
High Tribunal will permit it, I should like to present to
the Tribunal and to the defence photostatic copies of one of
the documents which was attached to the report of the
Extraordinary State Commission. If the Tribunal will look at
Page 2 of this document, it will see that the Special Task-

                                                  [Page 346]

"Moscow" and the Task-Force "B" were both located in
Smolensk. It says on the first page that these detachments,
together with the Wehrmacht units, were assigned to carry
out mass killings in the camps. If the Tribunal will permit
me, I shall submit this document now -

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, that is a matter of
argument. We shall take judicial notice of it, of course, of
everything which is in the Soviet Government's publication.
And I understand you to say that this document is a part of
the Soviet Government communication or Soviet Government

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Yes, Mr. President; but I would like to ask
permission to present an original German document, a secret
document, which states that in the Smolensk area there were
two large Special Task-Forces whose duties were to carry out
mass murders in the camps, and that these actions had to be
carried out together with Wehrmacht units, which had to co-
operate with them.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, is this document which you
have just handed up to us a part of the Report USSR 3?

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Yes, Mr. President, it is a part of the
Report USSR 3, called "Special Instructions of the Hitler
Government concerning the Annihilation of Prisoners of War."
I would like to ask the Tribunal to allow me to present one
of the original documents even if the Report USSR 3 has been
already submitted in full.

It says there that these special units were located in
Smolensk and were assigned together with Wehrmacht units to
carry out mass killings in the camps.

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