Appendix A: The "Statement"
Document 1553-PS is a set of documents, typewritten in French (except for a short part in English), and said to have been authored by Kurt Gerstein. The English translation, as provided by the Nuremberg staff, is presented below with certain modifications that are explained. The original is reproduced by Roques. The first document is the lengthiest of the set and is what would normally be considered to be the "Gerstein statement".
"Graduate engineer for Mine surveying (Bergassessor Diplomingenieur)
Kurt Gerstein Rottweil, 26 April 1945
Personal particulars: Gerstein, Kurt, Mine Surveyor, expelled from State service in 1936 as an anti-Nazi; certified engineer. Born on 11 August 1905, at Muenster, Westphalia. Partner of the factory De Limon Fluhme & Company, automatic greasing of locomotives, brakes Westinghouse, Knorr, etc. Duesseldorf, Industriestrasse 1 - 17.
Father: Ludwig Gerstein, President of the District Court (Landgerichtspraesident) at Hagen, Westphalia, retired.
Mother: Clara Gerstein, nee Schmemann, died 1931.
Married since 2 May 1937 to Elfriede nee Bensch at Tuebingen, Gartenstrasse 24, 3 children: Arnulf, 5 years old Adelheid 3-1/2 years old Olaf 2 years old. Life: 1905 to 1911 Muenster, 1911 to 1919 Sarrebruck, 1919 to 1921 Halberstadt, 1921 to 1925 Neuruppin near Berlin, graduated in 1925. - Studies 1925 to 1931, Marburg on the Lahn, Aachen, Berlin-Charlottenburg Universities and technical colleges, 1931, certified engineer's examination. Since 1925, active member of the Protestant youth organization the Y.M.C.A., and above all, of the Higher Christian Youth, called the 'Bible Circle' (Bk, Bibelkreis). Political career: follower of Stresemann and Bruening, active on their behalf; since June 1933, persecuted by the Gestapo for Christian activities against the Nazi State. 2nd of May 1933, joined the NSDAP; 2 October 1936, expelled from the NSDAP because of activities against Party and State. 30 January 1935, public protest in the theater of the town of Hagen in Westphalia, against the anti-Christian drama 'Wittekind'. Beaten and wounded by the Nazis. 27 November 1935, mining surveyor's examination (Bergassessor). Then employed by the State at Sarrebruck. On 27 September 1936, imprisoned by the Gestapo for 'activities against the State' because of having sent 8,500 anti-Nazi pamphlets to high officials of the State. Imprisoned until the end of October 1936, released, was expelled from civil service. From December 1936 till the beginning of the war, medical studies at the Institute for the Protestant Medical Mission in the tropics, at Tuebingen. One-third - approximately - of income, that is one-third of 18,000 Reichsmarks per year, I donated since 1931 for my ideal religious goals. At my own expense, I had printed and mailed about 230,000 religious anti-Nazi pamphlets.
14 July to 28 August 1938, second imprisonment, in the Welzheim concentration camp. Hearing of the massacres of idiots and insane people at Grafeneck, Hadamar, etc., shocked and deeply wounded, having such a case in my family, I had but one desire, to see, to gain an insight of this whole machine and then to shout about it to the whole world! With the help of two references written by the two Gestapo employees who had dealt with my case, it was not difficult for me to enter the Waffen SS. 10 March to 2 June 1941, elementary instruction as a soldier at Hamburg-Langehorn, Arnhem and Oranienburg, together with forty doctors. Because of my twin studies - technology and medicine - I was ordered to enter the medical-technology branch of the SS-Fuehrungshauptamt (SS Operational Main Office) - Medical Branch of the Waffen SS - Amtsgruppe D (Division D), Hygiene Department. Within this branch, I chose for myself the job of immediately constructing disinfesting apparati and filters for drinking water for the troops, the prison camps and the concentration camps. My close knowledge of the industry caused me to succeed quickly where my predecessors had failed. Thus, it was possible to decrease considerably the death toll of prisoners. On account of my successes, I very soon became a Lieutenant. In December 1941, the tribunal which had decreed my exclusion from the NSDAP obtained knowledge of my having entered the Waffen SS. Considerable efforts were made in order to remove and persecute me. But due to my successes, I was declared sincere and indispensable. In January 1942, I was appointed Chief of the Technical Branch of Disinfestation, which also included the branch for strong poison gases for disinfestation. On 8 June 1942, the SS Sturmbannfuehrer Guenther of the ReichsSicherheitsHauptamt entered my office. He was in plain clothes and I did not know him. He ordered me to get a hundred kilograms of prussic acid and to accompany him to a place which was only known to the driver of the truck. We left for the potassium factory near Colling (Prague). Once the truck was loaded, we left for Lublin (Poland). We took with us Professor Pfannenstiel MD, Ordinary Professor for Hygiene at the University of Marburg on the Lahn. At Lublin, we were received by SS Gruppenfuehrer Globocnek. He told us: this is one of the most secret matters there are, even the most secret. Whoever talks of this shall be shot immediately. Yesterday, two talkative ones died. Then he explained to us: at the present moment - 17 August 1942 - there are three installations:
1. Belcec, on the Lublin-Lemberg road, in the sector of the Russian demarcation line. Maximum 15,000 persons a day. (Seen!)
2. Sobibor, I do not know exactly where it is located. Not seen. 20,000 persons per day.
3. Treblinka, 120 km NNE of Warsaw. 25,000 persons per day. Seen!
4. Maidanek, near Lublin. Seen in the state of preparation.
Globocnek then said: You will have to handle the sterilization of very huge quantities of clothes, 10 or 20 times the result of the clothes and textile collection (Spinnstoffsammlung) which is only arranged in order to conceal the source of these Jewish, Polish, Czech, and other clothes. Your other duties will be to change the method of our gas chambers (which are run at the present time with the exhaust gases of an old 'Diesel' engine), employing more poisonous material, having a quicker effect, prussic acid. But the Fuehrer and Himmler who were here on 15 August - the day before yesterday - ordered that I accompany personally all those who are to see the installations. Then Professor Pfannenstiel asked: 'What does the Fuehrer say?' Then Globocnek, now Chief of Police and SS for the Adriatic Riviera to Trieste, answered: 'Quicker, quicker, carry out the whole program!' he said. And then Dr. Herbert Lindner, director in the Ministry of the Interior said: 'But would it not be better to burn the bodies instead of burying them? A coming generation might think differently of these matters!' And then Globocnek replied: 'But, gentlemen, if ever, after us such a cowardly and rotten generation should arise that they do not understand our so good and necessary work, then, gentlemen, all National Socialism will have been for nothing. On the contrary, bronze plates should be buried with the inscription that it was we, who had the courage to achieve this gigantic task'. And Hitler said: 'Yes, my good Globocnek, that is the word, that is my opinion, too'.
The next day we left for Belcek. A small special station of two platforms leans against a hill of yellow sand, immediately to the north of the road and railways: Lublin-Lemberg. To the South, near the road, some service houses with a signboard: 'Belcec, service center of the Waffen SS'. Globocnec introduced me to SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Overmeyer from Pirmasens, who with great restraint showed me the installations. That day no dead were to be seen, but the smell of the whole region, even from the large road, was pestilential. Next to the small station there was a large barrack marked 'Cloakroom' and a door marked 'Valuables'. Next a chamber with a hundred 'barber' chairs. Then came a corridor, 150 meters long, in the open air and with barbed wire on both sides. There was a signboard: 'To the bath and inhalations'. Before us we saw a house like a bath house with concrete troughs to the right and left containing geraniums or other flowers. After climbing a small staircase, 3 garage-like rooms on each side, 4 x 5 meters large and 1.90 meters high. At the back, invisible wooden doors. On the roof a Star of David made out of copper. At the entrance to the building, the inscription: Heckenholt Foundation. That was all I noticed on that particular afternoon.
Next morning, a few minutes before 7, I was informed: In 10 minutes the first train will arrive. And instead, a few minutes later the first train came in from Lemberg. 45 cars, containing 6,700 persons, 1,450 of whom were already dead on their arrival. Behind the little barbed wire opening, children, yellow, scared half to death, women, men. The train arrives: 200 Ukrainians, forced to do this work, open the doors, and drive all of the people out of the coaches with leather whips. Then, through a huge loudspeaker instructions are given: to undress completely, also to give up false teeth and glasses - some in the barracks, others right in the open air, to tie one's shoes together with a little piece of string handed everyone by a small Jewish boy of 4 years of age, hand in all valuables and money at the window marked 'Valuables', without bond, without receipt. Then the women and girls go to the hairdresser, who cut off their hair in one or two strokes, after which it vanishes into huge potato bags 'to be used for special submarine equipment, door mats, etc.', as the SS Unterscharfuehrer on duty told me. Then the march begins: Right and left, barbed wire, behind, two dozen Ukrainians with guns. Led by a young girl of striking beauty they approach. With police Captain Wirth, I stand right before the death chambers. Completely naked they march by, men, women, girls, babies, even one-legged persons, all of them naked. In one corner a strong SS man tells the poor devils, in a strong deep voice: 'Nothing whatever will happen to you. All you have to do is to breathe deeply, it strengthens the lungs; this inhalation is a necessary measure against contagious diseases, it is a very good disinfestant!' Asked what was to become of them, he answered: 'Well, of course, the men will have to work, building streets and houses. But the women do not have to. If they wish to, they can help in house or kitchen'. Once more, a little bit of hope for some of these poor people, enough to make them march on without resistance to the death chambers. Most of them, though, know everything, the odor has given them a clear indication of their fate. And then they walk up the little staircase - and see the truth! Mothers, nurse-maids, with babies at their breasts, naked, lots of children of all ages, naked too; they hesitate, but they enter the gas chambers, most of them without a word, pushed by the others behind them, chased by the whips of the SS men. A Jewess of about 40 years of age, with eyes like torches, calls down the blood of her children on the heads of their murderers. Five lashes into her face, dealt by the whip of Police Captain Wirth himself, chase her into the gas chamber. Many of them say their prayers, others ask: 'Who will give us the water for our death?' (Jewish rite?). Within the chambers, the SS press the people closely together, Captain Wirth had ordered: 'Fill them up full'. Naked men stand on the feet of the others. 700-800 crushed together on 25 square meters, in 45 cubic meters! The doors are closed. Meanwhile the rest of the transport, all naked, wait. Somebody says to me: 'Naked also in winter! But they can die that way!' The answer was: 'Well, that's just what they are here for!' And at that moment I understood why it was called 'Heckenholt Foundation'. Heckenholt was the man in charge of the 'Diesel' engine, the exhaust gases of which were to kill these poor devils. SS Unterscharfuehrer Heckenholt tries to set the Diesel engine moving. But it does not start! Captain Wirth comes along. It is plain that he is afraid because I am a witness to this breakdown. Yes, indeed, I see everything and wait. Everything is registered by my stopwatch. 50 minutes, 70 minutes - the Diesel engine does not start! The people wait in their gas chambers. In vain. One can hear them cry. 'Same as in a synagogue', says SS Sturmbannführer Professor Dr. Pfannenstiel, Professor for Public Health at the University of Marburg/Lahn, holding his ear close to the wooden door. Captain Wirth, furious, deals the Ukrainian who is helping Heckenholt 11 or 12 lashes in the face with his whip. After 2 hours and 49 minutes, as registered by my stopwatch, the Diesel engine starts. Up to that moment the people in the four already filled chambers were alive, 4 times 750 persons in 4 times 45 cubic meters. Another 25 minutes go by. Many of the people, it is true, are dead at that point. One can see this through the little window through which the electric lamp reveals, for a moment, the inside of the chamber. After 28 minutes only a few are living. After 32 minutes, finally, all are dead! From the other side, Jewish workers open the wooden doors. In return for their terrible job, they have been promised their freedom and a small percentage of the valuables and the money found. Like stone statues, the dead are still standing, there having been no room to fall or bend over. Though dead, the families can still be recognized, their hands still clasped. It is difficult to separate them in order to clear the chamber for the next load. The bodies are thrown out, blue, wet with sweat and urine, the legs covered with excrement and menstrual blood. Everywhere among the others, the bodies of babies and children. But there is not time! Two dozen workers are engaged in checking the mouths, opening them by means of iron hooks: 'Gold to the left, without gold to the right!' Others check anus and genitals to look for money, diamonds, gold, etc. Dentists with chisels tear out the gold teeth, bridges or caps. In the center of everything, Captain Wirth. He is on familiar ground here. He hands me a large tin full of teeth and says: 'Estimate for yourself the weight of gold. This is only from yesterday and the day before yesterday! And you would not believe what we find here every day! Dollars, diamonds, gold! But look for yourself!' Then he led me to a jeweler who was in charge of all these valuables. After that they took me to one of the managers of the big store of the west, Kaufhaus des Westens, Berlin, and to a little man whom they made play the violin, both chiefs of the Jewish worker commands. 'He is a captain of the royal and imperial (K.u.K.) Austrian Army, who held the German Iron Cross 1st Class', I was told by Hauptsturmfuehrer Obermeyer. The bodies were then thrown into large ditches of about 100 x 20 x 12 meters, located near the gas chambers. After a few days the bodies would swell up and the whole contents of the ditch would rise 2-3 meters high because of the gases that developed in the bodies. After a few more days swelling would stop and the bodies would collapse. The next day the ditches were filled again, and covered with 10 centimeters of sand. A little later, I heard, they constructed grills out of rails and burned the bodies on them with Diesel oil and gasoline in order to make them disappear. At Belcek and Treblinka nobody bothered to take anything approaching an exact count of the persons killed. The figures announced by the BBC are inaccurate. Actually, about 25,000,000 persons were killed; not only Jews, however, but especially Poles and Czechoslovakians, too, who were, in the opinion of the Nazis, of bad stock. Most of them died anonymously. Commissions of so-called doctors, actually nothing but young SS men in white coats, rode in limousines through the towns and villages of Poland and Czechoslovakia to select the old, tubercular and sick people and to cause them to disappear, shortly afterwards, in the gas chambers. They were the Poles and Czechs of [category] No. III, who did not deserve to live because they were unable to work. The Police Captain Wirth asked me not to propose any other kind of gas chamber in Berlin, to leave everything the way it was. I lied - as I did in each case all the time - that the prussic acid had already deteriorated in shipping and had become very dangerous, that I was therefore obliged to bury it. This was done right away.
The next day, Captain Wirth's car took us to Treblinka, about 120 km NNE of Warsaw. The installations of this death center differed scarcely from those at Belcec but they were still larger. There were 8 gas chambers and whole mountains of clothes and underwear about 35 - 40 meters high. Then, in our 'Honor' a banquet was given, attended by all of the employees of the institution. The Obersturmbannfuehrer Professor Pfannenstiel MD, Professor of Hygiene at the University of Marburg/Lahn, made a speech: 'Your task is a great duty, a duty so useful and so necessary'. To me alone he talked of this institution in terms of 'beauty of the task, humane cause', and to all of them: 'Looking at the bodies of these Jews one understands the greatness of your good work!' The dinner in itself was rather simple, but by order of Himmler the employees of this branch received as much as they wanted as far as butter, meat, alcohol, etc. were concerned. When we left we were offered several kilograms of butter and a large number of bottles of liqueur. I made the effort of lying, saying that I had enough of everything from our own farm, so Pfannenstiel took my portion, too.
We left for Warsaw by car. While I waited in vain for a vacant bed, I met Baron von Otter, Secretary of the Swedish Legation. As all the beds were occupied, we spent the night in the corridor of the sleeper. There, with the facts still fresh in my memory, I told him everything, asking him to report it to his government and to all the Allies. As he asked for a reference with regard to myself, I gave him, as such, the address of the Superintendent General, D. Otto Dibelius, Berlin-Lichterfelde West, Bruederweg 2, a friend of Martin Niemoeller and chief of the Protestant resistance against Nazism. Some weeks later I met Baron von Otter twice again. He told me that he had sent a report to the Swedish Government, a report which, according to him, had a strong influence on the relations between Sweden and Germany. I was not very successful in my attempt to report everything to the chief of the Vatican Legation. I was asked whether I was a soldier, and then was refused an interview. I then sent a detailed report to Dr. Winter, secretary of the Berlin Episcopate, in order to have him pass it on to the bishop of Berlin and through him to the Vatican Legation. When I came out of the Vatican Legation in the Rauchstrasse in Berlin, I had a very dangerous encounter with a police agent who followed me. However, after some very unpleasant moments I succeeded in giving him the slip.
I have to add, furthermore, that in the beginning of 1944, SS Sturmbannfuehrer Guenther of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt asked me for very large supplies of prussic acid for obscure use. The acid was to be delivered to his business office in Berlin, Kurfuerstenstrasse. I succeeded in making him believe that this was impossible because there was too much danger involved. It was a question of several carloads of poisonous acid, enough to kill a large number of persons, actually millions! He had told me he was not sure whether, when, for what kind of persons, how and where this poison was needed. I do not know exactly what were the intentions of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt and the SD. But later on, I thought of the words of Goebbels of 'slamming the door behind them' should Nazism never succeed. Maybe they wanted to kill a large part of the German people, maybe the foreign workers, maybe the prisoners of war - I do not know! Anyhow, I caused the poison to disappear for disinfestation purposes, as soon as it came in. There was some danger for me in this, but if I had been asked where the poisonous acid was, I would have answered that it was already in a state of dangerous deterioration and that therefore I had to use it up as disinfestant! I am sure that Guenther, the son of the Guenther of the Racial Theory, had, according to his own words, orders to secure the acid for the - eventual - extermination of millions of human beings, perhaps also in concentration camps. I have here bills for 2,175 kgs, but, actually about 8,500 kgs are involved; enough to kill 8 million people. I had the bills sent to me in my name; I said this was for reasons of secrecy; however, I did this in order to be somewhat free in my decisions and to have a better possibility of making the poisonous acid disappear. I never paid for these shipments in order to avoid refunding, which would have reminded the SD of these stocks. The director of Degesch, who had made these shipments, told me that he had shipped prussic acid in ampoules for the purpose of killing human beings. On another occasion Guenther consulted me about the possibility of killing a large number of Jews in the open air in the fortification trenches of Maria-Theresienstadt. In order to prevent the execution of this diabolic proposal, I declared that this method was impracticable. Some time later I heard that the SD had secured, through other channels, the prussic acid to kill these unfortunate people at Theresienstadt. The most disgusting camps were not Oranienburg, Dachau, or Belsen, but Auschwitz (Oswice) and Mauthausen-Gusen near Linz/Danube. These are the places in which millions of people disappeared in gas chambers or gas chamber-like cars. The method of killing the children was to hold a tampon with prussic acid under their nose.
I myself witnessed experiments on living persons in concentration camps being continued until the victim died. Thus, in the concentration camp for women, Ravensbruck near Fuerstenberg-Mecklenburg, SS Hauptsturmführer Grundlach MD made such experiments. In my office, I read many reports of experiments made at Buchenwald, such as the administration of up to 100 tablets of Pervitine per day. Other experiments - every time on about 100-200 persons - were made with serums and lymph, etc., till the death of the person. Himmler personally had reserved for himself the granting of permission to conduct these experiments.
At Oranienburg, I saw how all the prisoners who were there for being perverts (homosexuals) disappeared in one single day.
I avoided frequent visits to the concentration camps because it was customary, especially at Mauthausen-Gusen near Linz-Danube, to hang one or two prisoners in honor of the visitors. At Mauthausen it was customary to make Jewish workers work in a quarry at great altitude. After a while the SS on duty would say: 'Pay attention, in a couple of minutes there will be an accident'. And, indeed, one or two minutes later, some Jews were thrown from the cliff and fell dead at our feet. 'Work accident' was written in the files of the dead. Dr. Fritz Krantz, an anti-Nazi SS Hauptsturmfuehrer, often told me of such events. He condemned them severely and often published facts about them. The crimes discovered at Belsen, Oranienburg, etc., are not considerable in comparison with the others committed at Auschwitz and Mauthausen.
I plan to write a book about my adventures with the Nazis.
I am ready to swear to the absolute truth of all my statements.
[signed by hand:] Kurt Gerstein"
It is difficult to believe that anybody intended that this "statement" be taken seriously. A few specific points are examined here, but on the whole, I leave the reader to marvel at it. The part printed in the NMT volumes starts at "Hearing of the massacres" and ends at "one understands the greatness of your good work!" However, the remark about the BBC and the 25 million gas chamber victims is deleted. The version used by Eichmann's Jerusalem tribunal was far more drastically edited.
The original version of this book presented a very faithful reproduction of the English translation provided by the Nuremberg staff, a shortcut that I came to regret. For example, where it says above "Naked also in winter!", the French was "aussi en hiver nus!" However, in my original version it read "Naked in winter!", because that is how the Nuremberg staff rendered it. This caused a misunderstanding on my part that I passed along to readers; the events were supposed to have happened in August, but the incorrect translation implied it was winter. Thus, I have attempted here to bring the English text into closer conformity with the French language original. I have also been able to use the subsequent work of Henri Roques, which was the basis for a 1985 Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Nantes.
In this book, it has been the practice not to give SS ranks since these would not be understood by most readers; an Oberscharführer sounds just as important as an Obergruppenführer. Approximate contemporaneous U.S. Army equivalents have been used instead (these correspondences are given in Appendix B). However, in presenting the Gerstein statement, this practice has not been adhered to on account of the document's lack of both descriptive and orthographic consistency. For example, Pfannenstiel is identified as both an "Obersturmbannfuehrer" (Lieutenant Colonel) and as a "Sturmbannführer" (Major). In the translation of the Nuremberg staff he became a "Sturmfuehrer". We see both the correct "Reichssicherheitshauptamt" and the incorrect "ReichsSicherheitsHauptamt" and, below, "Reichs-Sicherheitshauptamt". Below we also see both "Niemöller" and "Niemoeller". It is difficult to believe that a German could have followed such practices in a statement written out voluntarily.
No two people could possibly agree on how such deranged material should be presented in English. Do not assume that an obvious error is mine. As for the very long paragraphs, that is the way the document came. For the sake of the reader, I even inserted a couple paragraph breaks that were not there.
It may seem impossible to squeeze 700 or 800 people into a chamber 20 or 25 meters square and 1.9 meters high, but it is possible if one uses a scrap press, but in that case the victims would be literally, just as the document asserts, "crushed," and gassing would be quite superfluous.
It is of passing interest that in the original document "Warsaw" is not referred to via the German or French names for the city, but via the Polish "Warsawa."
As Rassinier has put it: if it is not true that Hitler made the said visit to Lublin-Majdanek, if it is not true that 700 to 800 people can be contained in a gas chamber of 25 square meters, if it is not true that the Germans gassed 25 million people, and since the document contains little else, then we should ask: what does it contain that is true?
The role of Baron von Otter, a young Swedish diplomat during the war, was scrutinized in the postwar period. No confirmation of the Gerstein-Otter meetings had come from any Swedish source during the war, i.e., before the document we have examined was created. Moreover, everybody knows that there was no friction in Sweden's relationship with Germany over the allegations attributed to Gerstein or anything similar.
In the immediate postwar period, the Allies were eager to organize support for their atrocity charges. Having the Gerstein document in hand but no Gerstein, they approached Baron Lagerfelt, a Swedish diplomat in London, to ask him to press von Otter to confirm the Gerstein story. Von Otter was then stationed in Helsinki, and Lagerfelt was a personal friend. These communications took place in July 1945, but Lagerfelt's success was only partial. He was able to compose an aide-mémoire for the Swedish Foreign Office, dated August 7, 1945, confirming the substance of what the Gerstein statement says about the meetings with von Otter, but he did not identify von Otter. The aide-mémoire identifies only "a foreign diplomat of a neutral country", and the country is not even named. In 1945, von Otter evidently refused to allow his name to be used to confirm the story in an official document. However, in submitting the document, Lagerfelt was covered by his private correspondence with von Otter.
Von Otter's wish for anonymity in a 1945 report to his own Foreign Office raises problems. First, there was a document, our 1553-PS, that named him, so the maneuver was futile. Perhaps at that early point von Otter did not grasp that a document naming him was to get into the public record. That view was understandable; the Nuremberg trials were months off, and 1553-PS had not yet become notorious.
The second problem in interpreting von Otter's wish for anonymity is that the Gerstein statement presents him as having told Gerstein, at a subsequent meeting in 1942, that he had reported the allegations to the Swedish Foreign Office. Why then the wish for anonymity in 1945? A more basic question: why was a 1945 report to the Foreign Office needed at all, if von Otter had reported the matter in 1942? We shall see.
The Gerstein matter followed von Otter around in the postwar period. The Swedish Foreign Ministry wrote to the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine in Paris on Nov. 10, 1949, attaching a copy of the aide-mémoire of August 7, 1945, apparently to a letter naming von Otter. On Nov. 22, 1952, Dibelius, as Lutheran Bishop of Berlin, wrote to the Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich, confirming that he not only heard the story of the gassings directly from Gerstein, but had also learned from von Otter, "a few days" after the August 1942 train ride from Warsaw, of the encounter with Gerstein and the contents of his story.
Von Otter does not seem to have confirmed the Gerstein story in a public forum until 1966, during an interview with Pierre Joffroy, author of a book on Gerstein. Von Otter then confirmed the meetings with Gerstein and the associated story, but was very vague on details. He also said that he never transmitted the Gerstein story to Dibelius, as Gerstein had supposedly asked, although he encountered Dibelius by chance in Berlin in the autumn of 1942. (We see that at least one distinguished citizen lied! I think the liar on this point was Dibelius.) On May 29, 1981, von Otter testified in a French trial similarly. In March 1983, von Otter stated in a television interview that his alleged 1942 report of the Gerstein encounter to the Swedish Foreign Office was only oral, not written. Moreover, he never made a personal memorandum of the encounter. That resolves the puzzle of the quest for anonymity in 1945, and the need for a report in 1945. There was no 1942 report to the Swedish Foreign Office. Add that to the 25 million etc., as a falsehood in the document.
As for Dibelius, although he had been a leading member of Hugenberg's Nazi linked DNVP before 1933, he became associated with the Niemöller led church opposition to the Nazis after 1933. Niemöller was incarcerated in 1935, but Dibelius was allowed to go free, and then he vanished into the obscurity of a minor post in a church welfare organization, being made Bishop after the war ended in 1945. It is not correct to characterize Dibelius as an active member of the wartime resistance, as the Gerstein statements do, thereby inflating his significance well beyond what the facts warrant.
In the relevant reports of Cesare Orsenigo, the Papal Nuncio in Berlin, that have been published by the Vatican, there is of course no reference to Gerstein. See Appendix E.
A German version of the "Gerstein statement", of essentially the same content, was produced about a year after Gerstein's disappearance. His wife said that Gerstein had, unknown to her at the time, deposited it among their belongings at the Hotel Mohren in Rottweil. Frau Gerstein's discovery of such a document in the dark days of 1946 naturally buttressed her status as the wife of Saint Gerstein rather than the wife of ordinary SS officer Gerstein, an enviable position for a German at the time. The German version of the "Gerstein statement" is typewritten and unsigned and reproduced by Roques.
What is presented above is what would normally be considered the "Gerstein statement," but the statements allegedly (according to document 1553-PS) deposited by Gerstein in various languages in the spring of 1945 actually continue:
"Kurt Gerstein, additional statement.
In my flat in Berlin W 35, Buelowstrasse 47, second floor, left, I was surrounded by a circle of anti-Nazis. Here are some of their names:
Major Lutz Reis, now at Hamburg, Glasurit-Works.
Dr. Felix Buss, chief legal counsel to Telefunken, Berlin, SW 11, Hallesches Ufer 30.
Director Alex Menne, Hamburg, Glasurit-Works.
Pastor Buchholz, chaplain of the Pleetzensee prison, who accompanied the officers of July 20,1944 to the scaffold. These officers as well as my good friend, Pastor Martin Niemöller, smoked the cigarettes and cigars I got into the prison for them.
Pastor Mochalski, who replaced Pastor Martin Niemöller at the Annon Church at Dahlem.
Dorothea Schulz, secretary of Pastor Niemöller.
Mrs. Arndt, secretary of Pastor Martin Niemoeller at Dachau.
Emil Nieuwenhuizen and his friend Hendrik, from Phillips-Eyndhoven, deportees whom I had met at Church and who, for a long time already were my guests twice or three times a week. They had meals at my place, and listened to the wireless.
Director Haueisen, Berlin NW 7, Mittelstrasse, Francke printing works.
Herbert Scharkowsky, editor, Scherl-Press.
Captain Nebelthau and his wife, now at Kirchentellinsfurt-Wurttemberg.
Dr. Hermann Ehlers, trustee of the Niemoeller anti-Nazi resistance Church.
Dr. Ebbe Elss, same as Dr. Ehlers.
Other references: General Superintendent D. Otto Dibelius, 'chief of the Church' resistance against Nazism.
Pastor Rehling, Hagen-Westphalia, active in the Westphalia Church anti-Nazi resistance movement.
Praeses Dr. Koch, Bad Oeynhausen, likewise.
Baron von Huene, anti-Nazi professor of the University of Tuebingen.
Bernhard J. Goedecker, Fabrikant, Munich, Tizianstrasse, anti-Nazi.
Director Franz Bäuerle, Munich, Siemensstrasse 17, anti-Nazi.
The Catholic Priest, Valpertz, Hagen-Westphalia.
Pastor Otto Wehr, Sarrebruck.
Pastors Schlaeger and Bittkau, Neuruppin near Berlin.
August Franz and his entire family, great anti-Nazi, Sarrebruck, now at Talheim-Wurttemberg.
Doctor Straub, Metzingen-Wurttemberg, and family.
With the exception of Niemöller and Dibelius, I recognize none of the names on the list of "anti-Nazis" in connection with any known wartime activities, anti-Nazi or otherwise. The only one I recognize in any connection is Dr. Hermann Ehlers, who became a leading CDU politician after the war and who died in 1954. It may be that the person identified as "Praeses Dr. Koch" is supposed to be Dr. Karl Koch, a Protestant theologian who was a member, along with Dibelius, of the DNVP in the Weimar days and who died in 1951.
The next part of document 1553-PS is a letter to Gerstein from DEGESCH regarding the preservability of the Zyklon and the possibilities for future shipments in the face of bombing attacks which had destroyed a plant. The letter would be worth reproducing here only if it, too, were in French (it is in German). The next part of the document is a short handwritten note:
"According to the annexed notes, the prussic acid was requested by the Reichs-Sicherheitshauptamt, Berlin W 35, Kurfürstendamm, by order of SS Sturmbannführer Guenther. I was in charge of this particular job and I performed my duties very faithfully, so that once the acid had arrived at Oranienburg and Auschwitz, I could have the boxes disappear into the disinfestation rooms. Thus it was possible to prevent a misuse of the acid. In order to avoid drawing the attention of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt to the presence - or, as I should say, to the absence - of these stocks, I never paid for these shipments, the bills for which went to the same address, that is, my own. In this manner, it was possible to have the acid disappear as soon as it had arrived. If the absence of the acid had been noticed I would have answered: It is a mistake made by the local disinfestation office which did not know, and should not have known, either, the real destination; or I would have said: The acid had become putrefied and it was impossible to keep it any longer.
The final part of the document is the note in English:
"Bergassessor a.D. Domicil permanent:
Kurt Gerstein Tuebingen/Neckar, Gartenstr. 24
Diplomingenieur 26 April 1945
My report is intressant for Secret Service. The Things, I have seen, no more than 4-5 others have seen, and these others were nazies. Many of responsables of Belsen, Buchenwald, Maidanek, Oswice, Mauthausen, Dachau, etc. were men of my service, daily I have seen them in my double position.
1) SS Fuehrungs-Hauptamt, D, Sanitary-service and
2) Reichsarzt SS and Polizei, Berlin
I am in a situation to say the names and crimes of in reality responsables of this things, and I am ready to give the material for this accusation in World-Tribunal.
My-self, cordial friend of reverend Martin Niemöller and his family (now at Leoni/Starnberger See/Bavaria!) I was after two prisons and concentration-camp agent of 'confessional-church,' SS-Obersturmführer and compartment-chief in SS-Führungshauptamt and of Reichsarzt SS and Polizei, a dangerous position!
The things I have seen nobody has seen. 1942 August, I have made my reports for Svenska legation in Berlin. I am ready and in situation to say all my observations to your Secret-Service.
The secretary of Svenska legation Berlin, now at Stockholm Baron von Otter is ready to be wittnes of my relation of 1942 of all this crueltys - I propose to demand me for this informations.
Reference: Msr. Niemoeller [reverend Martin Niemoeller's women]
Leoni/Starnberger See/München Bavaria)
Nota: Your army has not find
Mr. Stalin junior
They are deported, nobody now, who they are. Please do not publish my report bevore exactement now: Niemoeller is liberated or dead.
The remainder of document 1553-PS is the collection of Zyklon invoices. I have made no corrections in the above note in "English". Clearly, it was composed by a person who knew something of the French language. "Mr. Stalin junior" is no doubt a reference to Stalin's son, who was a POW in Germany. Schuschnigg was the Austrian Chancellor at the time of the Anschluss; he and Niemöller had been detained at Dachau for some time. Rassinier has provided an interesting discussion of Niemöller.
|||Rassinier (1964), 93-106.|
|||Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte (April 1953), 177-185, esp. note 39a.|
|||Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte (April 1953), 177-185, esp. p. 181 and note 10.|
|||Roques, 309-313. On the 1983 television interview Roques cites Alain Decaux, L'Histoire en Question - 2.|
|||Mosse, 245. New York Times (Feb. 1, 1967), 39.|
|||Rassinier (1964), 35-39.|
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