Dachau Trials

US vs. Martin Gottfried Weiss, et al

Commandant Johann Baptist Eichelsdorfer at Kaufering IV sub-camp

The charges against Martin Gottfried Weiss and 39 other staff members also included crimes committed at all of the sub-camps of Dachau, but specifically at the 11 Kaufering sub-camps which were established at Landsberg am Lech in the last year of the war. The sub-camps were named Kaufering I - XI. Kaufering was the name of the railroad station where the prisoners arrived.

Johann Baptist Eichelsdorfer, shown in the photo above, was the last Commandant of the Kaufering IV sub-camp of Dachau. After this camp was liberated on April 27, 1945 by the 12th Armored Division of the US Seventh Army, Col. Edward Seiller ordered the German civilians in the nearby town of Hurlach to bury the bodies found in the camp. On that day, Eichelsdorfer, who had been captured and brought back to the camp, was forced to pose in the middle of the corpses which had been laid out in the camp prior to burial.

Johann Baptist Eichelsdorfer was convicted at Dachau and sentenced to death; he was hanged at Landsberg prison, only a few miles from the Kaufering camp, on May 29, 1946.

Landsberg am Lech is a small town in Germany that is famous for its prison where Hitler was incarcerated in 1923 following his failed Putsch. The first prisoners to arrive at the Dachau concentration camp on opening day, Mar. 22, 1933, were Communists who had previously been held in the Landsberg prison.

The 11 Kaufering sub-camps were set up specifically to build three huge underground factories for a project called Ringeltaube. In these subterranean factories, the German jet fighter plane Messerschmitt Me 262 was to be built. Allied bombing raids had made it necessary for the Nazis to build their factories underground; this had caused great suffering for the prisoners who were forced to do the work of constructing them.

One of the survivors of the Kaufering camps was Bill Kugelman, a Poliish Jew who was sent to Auschwitz in 1943, and was selected to be sent to a labor camp.

Many of the Kaufering prisoners were Jews, including thousands who had been brought from other camps; on June 18, 1944, the first transport of 1,000 Hungarian Jews arrived at Kaufering from the infamous death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. By March 9, 1945, the 11 Kaufering sub-camps had registered 28,838 prisoners. These prisoners had first been brought to the Dachau main camp where they were given a shower and their body hair was shaved, but they were not registered.

After Dachau was liberated, the US Army published a report entitled, "Dachau Liberated, The Official Report by The U.S. Seventh Army," in which it was stated that there were a total of 29,138 Jews brought to Dachau from other camps between June 20, 1944 and November 23, 1944. This report says that these Jews were brought to Dachau to be executed and that they were gassed in the gas chamber disguised as a shower room and also in the four smaller gas chambers.

The 29,138 Jews mentioned in the Army Report were probably transferred from the Dachau main camp to the 11 Kaufering camps to work in the munitions factories, where about half of them died from disease, overwork and starvation. There were no charges brought at the Dachau trials related to the gassing of the Jews, and today the Dachau Museum says that the Dachau gas chamber was only "used a few times."

There were around 15,000 Kaufering survivors who were evacuated to the main Dachau camp in April 1945. Some of them arrived on April 27, 1945, only two days before Dachau was liberated by American troops. Approximately 14,500 Kaufering prisoners had died of hunger, cold weather, overwork and typhus. Conditions were far more severe at the Kaufering camps where the barracks buildings had been built partially underground in an attempt to hide the camp from Allied planes.

The liberation of the Kaufering IV camp was shown in one of the episodes of the HBO series called "Band of Brothers." By that time, Kaufering IV had been designated a Krankenlager, or sick camp, where prisoners who could no longer work were sent, although this was not explained in the movie. The barracks at Kaufering IV were built partially underground in order to disguise the camp so that Allied bombers could not locate it; this was also not explained in the movie.

Barracks at Kaufering IV were partially underground

Willy Tempel was a Kapo at the Kaufering IV sub-camp before it became a Krankenlager or sick camp. One of the witnesses against him at the Dachau trial was 18-year-old Schmul Kuczinsky, a Jewish inmate at Kaufering IV who had been transferred to the camp from Auschwitz in 1944, along with his father and three uncles.

Lt. Col. William Denson, the prosecutor at Dachau, conceded that Kuczinsky got the date wrong when he testified that his father was beaten to death at the Kaufering IV camp. In his summation, Denson said, "You can't expect that boy to remember the date on which this occurred, but he would never forget the name of Willy Tempel as it came from the lips of his dying father."

Regarding conditions in the Kaufering IV camp, Denson said in his closing statement, "It is only logical that these persons would confuse dates, living in holes in the ground amid indescribable filth and without access to any kind of calendar."

In his defense of Tempel, his attorney, Capt. Dalwin J. Niles, had conceded that Tempel admitted to beating prisoners on some occasions with a cable or a rubber hose, but he argued that there was no proof that Tempel had killed anyone. However, two of the former inmates at Kaufering testified that Tempel had shot prisoners for very little reason.

Abraham Rosenfeld testified as follows:

My friend and I left the block and went to the corner of the roll call area that is near the women' s camp. A little distance away, we saw a piece of bread lying on the ground. My friend bent down to pick up the bread. Temple pulled out a pistol and shot and killed him.

Moses Berger also testified that Tempel shot prisoners:

I remember four men who had hidden in the women' s block. Tempel caught them and drove them out with a pistol in his hand. In the roll call area, where I was lying, he shot two of these people. They remained lying dead in the roll call area.

Wilhelm Tempel was convicted at Dachau and sentenced to death; he was hanged on May 29, 1946.

Otto Förschner testifies on the witness stand at Dachau

Otto Förschner, shown on the witness stand in the photo above, was one of the 28 accused men at the first Dachau trial who were sentenced to death and executed; he was hanged at Landsberg prison on May 28, 1945.

Born in 1902, Förschner was an officer in the Waffen-SS who was transferred to concentration camp duty after he was wounded in battle; in some photos, he is shown wearing a patch over one eye. From August 1943 to February 1945, Förschner was the Commandant of KZ Mittlebau-Dora near the town of Nordhausen, where V-2 rockets were being manufactured in underground tunnels. Mittlebau-Dora was a sub-camp of Buchenwald. In the Buchenwald Report, a book that was written after the war by the prisoners, Förschner was praised by some of the inmates for improving conditions in the Mittlebau-Dora camp and for showing understanding of the prisoners' situation.

In the last months of the war, Förschner was given the job of Commandant of the Kaufering I camp. Under the "common design" charge, Förschner was automatically guilty of a war crime because he was responsible for everything that had happened at the Kaufering I camp under his command.

Dr. Selmond Greenberg, a Kaufering prisoner, testified as follows regarding Förschner:

It happened in the vicinity of the roll call area. I was just passing by. Camp commander Förschner held something in his hand which looked like an iron bar, and he beat a prisoner with it with full force. He hit him in every part of his body. The man suffered inner bleeding, severe bruises, and one of his eyes was enormously swollen. ... The name of the prisoner was Bernstein; he came from Lithuania and died after a short time.

Otto Moll

One of the most notorious war criminals on trial at Dachau was Otto Moll; he was executed on May 28, 1946 after being convicted of participating in a "common design" to violate the Laws and Usages of War by virtue of leading the evacuation of the Kaufering II sub-camp to the Dachau main camp in the last days of the war. Moll had personally led a death march of 450 prisoners, starting from the Kaufering II camp on April 25, 1945 and arriving in the Dachau main camp on April 28, 1945. Moll escaped from Dachau that evening, along with Martin Weiss and most of the regular guards, but he was captured and arrested in May 1945.

It was not a war crime to evacuate prisoners from a concentration camp, but it was a war crime to prevent the prisoners from escaping from a death march, according to the prosecution at the American Military Tribunal at Dachau. Albin Gretsch and Johann Schoepp were guards who were also found guilty of preventing prisoners from escaping from transports to Dachau.

Moll had joined the SS in 1936 and had previously served at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where Rudolf Hoess was a staff member, from 1938 to 1941. In May 1941, Moll was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau where he supervised the digging of mass graves near the gas chambers in the two old farmhouses, known as Bunker 1 and Bunker 2, at Birkenau. Moll was later put in charge of digging up the bodies in the mass graves and burning them in pits.

Robert E. Conot, the author of "Justice at Nuremberg" described Otto Moll as "a drunken, one-eyed, twenty-seven-year-old trumpeter, gardener, and pig farmer." Conot wrote that "Moll was placed in charge of 150 inmates set to exhuming and incinerating the bodies on open pyres." This work took several months to complete, according to Conot, who also wrote that "In June and August of 1942, typhus epidemics devastated Auschwitz." Moll himself contracted typhus before the excavation was completed.

Several survivors of Auschwitz accused Moll of throwing live babies into the flaming pits. Alter Feinsilber, a member of the Sonderkommando at Birkenau who worked under Moll's supervision, mentioned Moll in his testimony for the prosecution in a Krakow court: "It happened that some prisoners offered resistance when about to be shot at the pit or that children would cry and then SS Quartermaster Sergeant Moll would throw them alive into the flames of the pit." Moll was not put on trial in Poland, but any and all testimony was allowed in the Allied war crimes trials, whether or not it pertained to the case.

One of the many war crimes committed by Moll, according to Conot's book, occurred during the shooting of thousands of Jews who were brought to Majdanek from several labor camps that had been closed following the uprisings at Treblinka and Sobibor in 1943. Moll headed a group of SS men who were brought from Auschwitz to do the shooting.

Regarding the massacre at Majdanek, Conot wrote in his book "Justice at Nuremberg":

The Jews were herded together and machine-gunned by the tens of thousands. The bodies were burned on huge pyres, the smoke from which darkened the sky day after day and filled the streets of the city with ash as if from a volcanic explosion.

While he was a prisoner at Landsberg, awaiting his execution after being convicted at Dachau, Moll requested that he be allowed to confront his former boss, Rudolf Hoess, the Commandant of Auschwitz, who was undergoing interrogation for the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, where he was a defense witness for Ernst Kaltenbrunner, one of the men on trial. The prosecution had finished its case at Nuremberg by this time, so it was too late for Moll to be a prosecution witness who could potentially testify that Hoess was lying.

The following is a quote from the transcript of the joint interrogation of Hoess and Moll on April 16, 1946 at Nuremberg, in which Moll denies being responsible for gassing Jews in the two farmhouses known as Bunker 1 and Bunker 2 at Birkenau:

Questions directed to Rudolf Hoess

Q. What did this Otto Moll do at Sachsenhausen and later at Auschwitz?
A. In Sachsenhausen he was a gardener and later at Auschwitz he was used as a leader of a work detail and later on he was used as a supervisor during the various actions.
Q. You mean the actions whereby people were executed and later cremated?
A. Yes.
Q. You told us this morning about his first assignment in 1941 when farm buildings were converted into an extermination plant. Will you restate what you said about that?
A. At first he worked on the farm and then I later moved him into the farm house, which was used as a professional extermination plant.

Questions directed to Otto Moll

Q. Otto Moll, is what the witness has just said true?
A. First, I was used in work in connection with the excavation of the mass graves. Hoess must know that. He is in error if he said that I worked in the buildings where the gassing was carried out. At first I was used for the excavation of the mass graves and he must remember that. Hoess, do you remember Swosten, Blank, Omen, Hatford and Garduck? Those are the people who worked in the building at the time when you alleged I worked there and I was working on excavations. Surely Hoess remembers that.

Riva Levy, a Lithuanian Jewess, identifies Johann Victor Kirsch

In the photograph above, prosecution witness Riva Levy, identifies Johann Victor Kirsch after testifying that she had seen him slap a prisoner who died two days later in the hospital. Kirsch was a guard at Kaufering I, one of the eleven Kaufering sub-camps of Dachau where Levy was a prisoner. In the photo, Kirsch is hanging his head in shame.

Number 17 in the photo above is Dr. Fridolin Karl Puhl and Number 14 is Dr. Hans Kurt Eisele. Martin Weiss is on the extreme right, just above Dr. Eisele.

The following testimony, regarding Kirsch, was given by Riva Levy (also known as Reba Levy):

One time, when we returned from work, Kirsch asked every prisoner if he was sick or not. We were afraid to answer because we foresaw what would happen to us if we stayed in the camp because of sickness. He then beat the prisoners terribly. He kicked them with his feet and beat them with an iron bar.

Another former Kaufering I prisoner, Dr. Jacob Kaufman, testified as follows, regarding Kirsch:

Kirsch not only beat and kicked the prisoners with his fists and feet, he also used sticks and rubber hoses. I saw him beat many prisoners. He beat them so hard that many of the prisoners collapsed.

Dr. Selmond Greenberg testified as follows, regarding Kirsch:

He beat the old ones, the sick ones, and the weak ones with sadistic pleasure. ... During the first two months, I saw Kirsch every day. I worked in the vicinity of the camp. 18 older people worked here whom Kirsch abused several times each day. After approximately four weeks, 75% of these people were no longer alive because of this abuse. Kirsch beat people with such beastly obsession that he caused them to sustain concussions, severe inner bleeding, and broken bones.

Although his defense attorney maintained that the charge against Kirsch had not been proved, Kirsch was sentenced to death and hanged on May 28, 1946.

Alfred Kramer was also convicted after Riva Levy testified that he slapped a prisoner who died days later. He was executed on May 29, 1945.

The following testimony was given by Riva Levy:

Whenever a work detail returned from night shift, Kramer sorted out the sick people. They had to get completely undressed . . . When he found that a prisoner was wearing two shirts, he beat him horribly.

Dr. Selmond Greenberg corroborated Levy's testimony:

Without any reason whatsoever, Kramer beat up some prisoners during roll call. He beat them in a cynical and sarcastic manner. One prisoner collapsed, but that wasn't enough for Kramer. He kicked him in the abdomen with his jackboots. One prisoner who had been mistreated in this manner spent a few days in the block for sick people, then he died.

Prosecution Summation

Dachau gas chamber

Opening of the Trial

Martin Gottfried Weiss

Friedrich Wilhelm Ruppert

Medical Experiments

Other Defendants

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This page was last updated on April 6, 2008