Wisliceny’s account of Merten’s role in Salonika

Testimony of Dieter Wisliceny at Nuremberg on January 3, 1946

 

 

 The Nuremberg Trials were the trials of officials involved in World War II and the Holocaust during the Nazi regime. The trials were held in the city of Nuremberg, Germany, from 1945 to 1949, at the Nuremberg Palace of Justice.

  

 

Dieter Wisliceny (? 1911 - February 1948) was a member of the German Schutzstaffel ("protective squadron") or SS, and a key executioner of the German Final Solution




 

 

 

 

 

 

Otto Adolf Eichmann (known as Adolf Eichmann; March 19, 1906 – June 1, 1962) SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lt. Colonel). Due to his unique organisational talents and ideological reliability, he was tasked by Obergruppenführer ("Senior Group Leader") Reinhard Heydrich to facilitate and manage the logistics of mass deportation to ghettos and death camps in occupied Eastern Europe.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

Max Merten (right)

Max Merten was Kriegverwaltungsrat (military administration counselor) of the Nazi occupation forces in Thessaloniki. He was convicted in Greece as a war criminal in 1959, but was granted amnesty and released to the Federal Republic of Germany shortly thereafter.

( see : The Merten affair )

 

LT.  COL.  Smith W. Brookhart, Jr. : Assistant Trial Counsel for the United States

 

Hauptsturmführer was a Nazi rank of the SS which was used between the years of 1934 and 1945. The rank of Hauptsturmführer was a mid-grade company level officer and was the equivalent of a Hauptmann in the German Wehrmacht. Hauptsturmführer was the most commonly held SS officer rank during the Second World War.


Sturmbannführer was a paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party which was used by both the Sturmabteilung (SA) and the Schutzstaffel (SS). Translated as “Storm Unit Leader”, the rank originated from German Shock Troop units of the First World War where the title of Sturmbannführer would occasionally be held by the Battalion Commander.



 

A Jewish woman from Greece on the Birkenau platform known as the "ramp" 

 







Transport trains on Birkenau arrival ramp (#77220)
Date: May 1944
Photo Credit: Yad Vashem Photo Archives, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives
Photographer: Bernhard Walter

Photo description

Members of the SS "ramp" team take their stations in front of each boxcar of the newly arrived train on the right. On command, they will unbolt all the doors. Due to the unprecedented number of transports destined for the ramp in late spring of 1944, two trains were often alongside simultaneously, with others backed up and waiting for a day or longer.

The trains and SS officials in this photograph represent the systematic and bureaucratic aspects of the Holocaust.  The annihilation of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and their collaborators was a central act of state during World War II.  The Reichsbahn (German state railroad) employed 1.4 million workers, 500,000 of whom were civil servants who allocated personnel, coordinated train schedules, and kept the tracks operating (Berenbaum 112).  When the railroad system was strained by bombing and shortages toward the end of the war, trains carrying Jews continued to run.







Selection of Jews at the Birkenau Ramp, 1944

 

 

 Hungarian Jewish women and children await selection on the ramp of Birkenau.

 Women and children on the Birkenau arrival platform known as the “ramp.” The Jews were removed from the deportation trains onto the ramp where they faced a selection process- some were sent immediately to their deaths, while others were sent to slave labor.






 Auschwitz II (Birkenau). Arrival at the Ramp

People were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau by trains, from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. They were generally sent in freight cars or cattle trucks. Often they travelled for days without toilet facilities and with nothing to eat or drink.
Originally, the railway cars arrived at the old ramp of Birkenau, 1 km southeast or the entrance gate. From May 1944 they continued into Auschwitz II (Birkenau / Brzezinka) itself, along a specially constructed spur.








The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials brought 22 Nazi officials to court in 1945-46.

The defendants at Nuremberg. Front row, from left to right: Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Julius Streicher, Walther Funk, Hjalmar Schacht. Back row from left to right: Karl Dönitz, Erich Raeder, Baldur von Schirach, Fritz Sauckel, Alfred Jodl, Franz von Papen, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Albert Speer, Konstantin van Neurath, Hans Fritzsche.
Courtesy of the National Archives.







International Military Tribunal, Palace of Justice,Nuremberg, Germany

Twenty-Sixth Day, Thursday, 1/3/1946


COL. AMEN: The next witness to be called by the Prosecution is Dieter Wisliceny. That witness will be examined by Lieutenant Colonel Smith W. Brookhart, Jr.

[The witness, Wisliceny, took the stand.]

THE PRESIDENT: What is your name?

DIETER WISLICENY (Witness): Dieter Wisliceny.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you repeat this oath: "I swear by Godthe Almighty and Omniscientthat I will speak the pure truthand will withhold and add nothing."

[The witness repeated the oath.]

THE PRESIDENT: Please speak slowly and pause between questions and answers.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL SMITH W. BROOKHART, JR. (Assistant Trial Counsel for the United States): How old are you?

WISLICENY: I am 34 years old.

.../...

LT. COL. BROOKHART: Considering now actions in Greece about which you have personal knowledge, will you tell the Tribunal of the actions there in chronological sequence?

WISLICENY: In 1/1943 Eichmann ordered me to come to Berlin and told me that I was to proceed to Salonika to solve the Jewish problem there in co-operation with the German Military Administration in Macedonia. Eichmann's permanent representative, Sturmbannfuehrer Rolf Guenther, had previously been to Salonika. My departure had been scheduled for 2/1942. At the end of 1/1942 I was told by Eichmann that Hauptsturmfuehrer Brunner had been nominated by him for the technical execution of all operations in Greece and that he was to accompany me to Salonika. Brunner was not subordinate to me; he worked independently. In 2/1942 we went to Salonika and there contacted the Military Administration. As first action...

LT. COL. BROOKHART: Whom in the Military Administration did you deal with?

WISLICENY: War Administration Counsellor (Kriegsverwaltungsrat) Dr. Merten, Chief of the Military Administration with the Commander of the Armed Forces in the Salonika-Aegean Theater.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: I believe you used 1942 once or more in reference; did you at all times refer to 1943 in dealing with Greece?

WISLICENY: That is an error. These events occurred in 1943.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: What arrangements were made through Dr. Merten and what actions were taken?

WISLICENY: In Salonika the Jews were first of all concentrated in certain quarters of the city. There were in Salonika about 50000 Jews of Spanish descent. At the beginning of March, after this concentration had taken place, a teletype message from Eichmann to Brunner ordered the immediate evacuation of all Jews from Salonika and Macedonia to Auschwitz. Armed with this order, Brunner and I went to the Military Administration; no objections were raised by the Military Administration, and measures were prepared and executed. Brunner directed the entire action in Salonika in person The trains necessary for the evacuation were requisitioned from the Transport Command of the Armed Forces. All Brunner had to do was to indicate the number of railway cars needed and the exact time at which they were required.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: Were any of the Jewish workers retained at the request of Dr. Merten or the Military Administration?

WISLICENY: The Military Administration had made a demand for about 3000 Jews for construction work on the railroad, which number was duly delivered. Once the work was ended, these Jews were returned to Brunner and were, like all the others, dispatched to Auschwitz. The work in question came under the program of the Todt Organization.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: What was the number of Jewish workers retained for the Organization Todt?

WISLICENY: Three to four thousand.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: Was there any illness among the Jews that were concentrated for transport?

WISLICENY: In the camp proper, that is, the concentration camp, there were no special cases of illness; but in certain quarters of the city inhabited by the Jews typhus was prevalent and other contagious diseases, especially tuberculosis of the lungs.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: What, if any, communication did you have with Eichmann concerning this typhus?

WISLICENY: On receipt of the teletype concerning the evacuation from Salonika, I got in touch with Eichmann on the telephone and informed him of the prevalence of typhus. He ignored my objections and gave orders for the evacuation to proceed immediately.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: Altogether, how many Jews were collected and deported from Greece?

WISLICENY: There were over 50000 Jews. I believe that about 54000 were evacuated from Salonika and Macedonia.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: What is the basis for your figure?

WISLICENY: I myself read a comprehensive report from Brunner to Eichmann on completion of the evacuation. Brunner left Salonika at the end of 51943. I personally was not in Salonika from the beginning of April until the end of May, so that the action was carried out by Brunner alone.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: How many transports were used for shipping Jews from Salonika?

WISLICENY: From 20-25 transport trains.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: And how many were shipped in each train?

WISLICENY: There were at least 2000, and in many cases 2500.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: What kind of railway equipment was used for these shipments?

WISLICENY: Closed freight cars were used. The evacuees were given sufficient food to last them for about 10 days, consisting mostly of bread, olives, and other dry food. They were also given water and various other sanitary facilities.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: Who furnished transportation?

WISLICENY: Transport was supplied by the Transport Command of the Armed Forces, that is, the cars and locomotives. The food was furnished by the Military Administration.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: What did the Subsection IVA4 have to do with obtaining this transportation, and who in that subsection dealt with transportation?

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Brookhart, you need not go into this in such great detail.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: If Your Honor pleases, this particular question, I believe, will have a bearing on the implications involving the military; I can cut down on the other details.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you spent some considerable time in describing how many of them were concentrated. Whether it was 60000 or how many were kept for the Todt Organizationall those details are really unnecessary.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: Very well, Sir.

THE PRESIDENT: I mean, you must use your own discretion about how you cut down. I don't know what details or what facts you are going to prove.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: If Your Honor pleases, this witness, as ,he has testified, is competent to cover practically all details in these Balkan countries. It is not our wish to add cumulative evidence, but his testimony does furnish a complete story from the Head Office of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt through the field operations to the final solution.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, what is he going to prove about these 50000 Jews?

LT. COL. BROOKHART: Their ultimate disposition at Auschwitz, as far as he knows.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you can go on to what ultimately happened to them then.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: Yes, Sir.

[Turning to the witness.] What was the destination of these transports of Jews from Greece?

WISLICENY: In every case Auschwitz.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: And what was the ultimate disposition of the Jews sent to Auschwitz from Greece?

WISLICENY: They were without exception destined for the so-called final solution.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: During the collection period were these Jews called upon to furnish their own subsistence?

WISLICENY: I did not quite understand the question.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Brookhart, does it matter, if they were "brought to the final solution" which I suppose means death?

LT. COL. BROOKHART: Your Honor, this witness will testify that 280 million drachmas were deposited in the Greek National Bank for the subsistence of these people and that this amount was later appropriated by the German Military Administration. That is all I have hoped to prove by this question.

[Turning to the witness.] Is that a correct statement of your testimony? .

WISLICENY: Yes. The cash which the Jews possessed was taken away and put into a common account at the Bank of Greece. After the Jews had been evacuated from Salonika this account was taken over by the German Military Administration. About 280 million drachmas were involved.

LT. COL. BROOKHART: When you say the Jews taken to Auschwitz were submitted to the final solution, what do you mean by that?

WISLICENY: By that I mean what Eichmann had explained to me under the term "final solution," that is, they were annihilated biologically. As far as I could gather from my conversations with him, this annihilation took place in the gas chambers and the bodies were subsequently destroyed in the crematories.






Title: "Twenty-Sixth Day, Thursday, 1/3/1946, Part 30", in Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal. Volume IV. Proceedings: 12/17/1945-1/8/1946. [Official text in the English language.] Nuremberg: IMT, 1947. p. 355.






http://www.fpp.co.uk/Auschwitz/Wisliceny/atIMT030146.html