When it's Confession Time at Dachau
Or: I Saw the Light While I Was Seeing Stars
Published: 1990-01-01

In war crimes trials, confessions are usually typewritten by the interrogator, often entirely in English. Paragraphs in the prisoner's handwriting have usually been dictated by the interrogator. The First Dachau Trial (Trial of Martin Gottfried Weiss and Thirty Nine Others), offers an insight into the manner in which these confessions were obtained.

TESTIMONY OF KICK, microfilm pages 000145-9:

Q: Are either of these two statements 96 or 97 in your handwriting?

A: The post-script on page 4 of 96 is in my handwriting.

Q: The rest of it is written in what manner?

A: The other part of it is typed.

Q: Did you dictate the typing?

A: No.

Q: Who did?

A: The interrogating officer.

Q: Who was the interrogating officer?

A: Lt. Guth.

Q: Is the language contained in either of those statements your language or the language of Lt. Guth?

A: Those are the expressions of Lt. Guth.

Q: And at the end of your statements you signed them, and swore to them as being the truth, did you not?

A: Yes.

Q: ... will you describe to the court the treatment that you received prior to your first interrogation anyplace?

(Prosecution objection as to whether beating received on the 6th of May could be relevant to confession signed on the 5th of November).

Q: ... Kick, did the treatment you received immediately following your arrest have any influence whatever on the statements that you made on the 5th of November?

A: ... The treatment at that time influenced this testimony to that extent, that I did not dare to refuse to sign, in spite of the fact that it did not contain the testimony which I gave.

Q: Now, Kick, for the court, will you describe the treatment which you received immediately following your arrest?

A: I ask to refuse to answer this question here in public.

President: The court desires to have the defendant answer the question.

A: I was here in Dachau from the 6th to the 15th of May, under arrest; during this time I was beaten all during the day and night... kicked... I had to stand to attention for hours; I had to kneel down on sharp objects or square objects; I had to stand under the lamp for hours and look into the light, at which time I was also beaten and kicked; as a result of this treatment my arm was paralysed for about 8 to 10 weeks; only beginning with my transfer to Augsberg, this treatment stopped.

Q: What were you beaten with?

A: With all kinds of objects.

Q: Describe them, please.

A: With whips, with lashing whips, with rifle butts, pistol butts, and pistol barrels, and with hands and fists.

Q: And that continued daily over a period of what time?

A: From the morning of the 7th of May until the morning of the 15th of May.

Q: Kick, why did you hesitate to give that testimony?

A: If the court hadn't decided I should talk about it, I wouldn't have said anything about it today.

Q: Would you describe the people who administered these beatings to you?

A: I can only say that they were persons who were wearing the United States uniform and I can't describe them any better.

Q: And as a result of those beatings when Lt. Guth called you in, what was your frame of mind?

A: I had to presume that if I were to refuse to sign I would be subjected to a similar treatment.

TESTIMONY OF KRAMER, microfilm pages 000298-9:

Q: Kramer, were you interrogated after your arrest anywhere except Dachau?

A: Yes, in Fuerstenfeldbruck.

Q: Did that interrogation have any effect on the statement that you made here?

Prosecution: I object to that question as being immaterial and irrelevant.

President: Explain exactly what happened.

Q: Will you explain exactly what happened at that interrogation?

A: I do not want to talk about it.

Q: The court desires you to explain what happened.

A: I was beaten by an interrogation officer. Several prisoners were also present. I was supposed to tell how many people I shot or hanged. I can say with a conscience that I never killed a person. Thereupon, I was beaten over the head with sticks and rubber hoses until I broke down.

Q: Anything else to say about that?

A: No ...

TESTIMONY OF DR. WITTELER, microfilm pages 000327-331:

A: During my interrogation I had to sit in front of the desk of Lt. Guth. A spotlight was turned on me which stood on the desk. Lt. Guth stood behind the spotlight and the interrogation started. "We know you, we have the necessary records about you..." I started to make an explanation. I was immediately stopped. I was yelled at. He called me a swine, criminal, liar, murderer, and that is the way the interrogation continued. I couldn't give any explanations. I was only told to answer "yes" or "no"... I was interrupted immediately and told that all I had to do was answer "yes" and "no". I couldn't even explain it. I was told to shut up and to answer "yes" or "no"... since it was not like he thought it was, I had to get up and stand. So I stood up until 1:30 in the morning - seven hours.

Q: ... at the conclusion of the drafting of this statement you signed it?

A: No, I answered that it is not correct... this statement was not written in my presence. It was written in another room. The reporter was with me in the room all the time, but the statement was written in another room. After I couldn't stand up any more this statement was put in front of me at 1:30. And then when I said that this testimony... is not by me, that is the testimony of Dr. Blaha — who was present for several hours that night... so that I didn't want to sign it. Lt. Guth said he would interrogate me until tomorrow morning, that he had other methods...

Note: Dr. Blaha was a Czech communist who claimed the Germans forced him to skin people and make slippers, saddles, purses, handbags, gloves, and trousers out of human skin. He also was the only witness at the Dachau trial who claimed there was a gas chamber at Dachau. His testimony was introduced into evidence at Nuremberg as "proven fact".

Q: How many people were present at the time you were interrogated?

A: Altogether, three: Lt. Guth, Dr. Leiss, and I, and, for a short time, Dr. Blaha.

Q: This writing in your own handwriting. Was that dictated or did you make it up?

A: When I found that the interrogation would end that way, I wrote down this last part and signed my name to it.

Q: Was it your own words or was it dictated to you?

A: Lt. Guth dictated those words...

Q: Prior to the time that you signed that statement, have you been served with any papers in this particular case?

A: No, I didn't know why I was in Dachau. I had no idea I was one of the accused. After the interrogation at 1:30 I was sent to the colonel and the colonel then read the charge to me. The first time I heard I was supposed to be a murderer, was then.

Q: You mean Col. Denson read the charges to you?

A: Yes.

Note: Col. Denson acted as prosecutor in this trial and delivered the prosecution summation. Lt. Guth appeared as a witness and denied all accusations of improper conduct. Guth was a Viennese who came to the United States in 1941.

TESTIMONY OF GRETSCH, microfilm pages 000701-3:

Q: Gretsch, is this statement in your handwriting?

A: No, that isn't my handwriting.

Q: What part of this paper is in your handwriting?

A: This is my handwriting here.

Q: And what is this? What part of the paper is this?

A: That is, "I have made the above statements without compulsion, and I have read and corrected it and understand it fully. I swear before God that it is the pure truth".

Q: That is the oath, is it not?

A: Yes, that is the oath.

Q: And is the oath the only part of this statement that is in your handwriting?

A: Yes...

Q: ... Gretsch, you signed each page... did you not?

A: Yes, I signed it on the bottom, but I didn't read it. It was in a hurry...

Q: ...Were you told to sign your name to each sheet of paper?

A: Yes...

PROSECUTION REBUTTAL - TESTIMONY OF COL. CHAVEZ, microfilm pages 000712-4:

Q: Kick testified that he was beaten daily from the 7th of May until the 15th of May... did you have occasion to examine Kick?

A: Yes.

Q: ... did you have occasion to observe his physical condition?

A: I did.

Q: Did he have any black eyes?

A: He did not.

Q: Did he show any evidence of violence having been used upon him?

A: He did not.

Q: Was any one or both of his arms paralysed?

A: Not that I observed. He was just as natural as he is now. In fact, he looked better at that time than he does now. I observed nothing. He was very cooperative, and the record will so indicate. He was sworn and he gave his testimony in a very gently manner.

Q: Did he at any time state to you, Colonel, that he had been beaten or in any manner mistreated?

A: He did not.

Q: ... how often did you see him?

A: Just during the time that he was interrogated.

Q: ... of course he was fully clothed?

A: Yes.

Q: But there is no question about it - at the time you talked with him he was quite cooperative?

A: He was...

Note: Col. Chavez was the author of the "Chavez Report", which was to have "proven" that a gas chamber existed at Dachau. The report was never introduced into evidence, and this accusation was dropped before trial. Col. Chavez appeared as an expert witness at Dachau on Nov. 15, 1945, but made no mention of a gas chamber. The Chavez Report was then re-written and introduced into evidence at Nuremberg as documents 2430 PS and 159 L, even though it was known to be untrue.

TESTIMONY OF LT. LAURENCE, microfilm pages 000714-5:

Q: Did you have occasion to examine Albin Gretsch?

A: Yes, Sir.

Q: ... and did he complain of any mis-statements?...

A: Not at all, sir... they are mostly his own words, sir. And I may add, sir, that I wasn't in a hurry at all. He took many hours and as he was rather slow in answering, I gave him all the time he wanted...

Q: The statement, with the exception of the oath, is in your handwriting, is it not, Lt. Laurence?

A: Yes.

(Of course, while German allegations of mistreatment are always dismissed as baseless, similar accusations from prosecution witnesses are accepted as "proven facts".Among the offenses for which KICK was hanged was knocking 15 teeth out of the lower jaw of Llewellyn Edwards of 12, Nora St. Cardiff, Wales, who claimed to have lost 15 upper teeth at some other time[!]):

Q: At the time you went in Kick's office, how many teeth did you have in your head?

A: Fifteen, sir. On the bottom, sir. Fifteen of my own, sir. On the top I had artificial teeth.

Microfilm page 000722.


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Author(s): Carlos Whitlock Porter
Title: When it's Confession Time at Dachau, Or: I Saw the Light While I Was Seeing Stars
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Published: 1990-01-01
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 1995, 7 p.m.
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