US vs. Martin Gottfried Weiss, et al
At the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal which prosecuted the German war criminals in Novemer 1945, three members of the American prosecution team provided sworn affidavits, testifying to the existence of lethal gas chambers at the Dachau concentration camp, but these affidavits were not introduced into the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau, which also began in November 1945.
The affidavits were signed by James B. Donovan, Lt. Col. Calvin A. Behle of the Judge Advocate General's Department and Lt. Hugh C. Daly of the 42nd Rainbow Division of the US Seventh Army which liberated Dachau. The affidavits were included in Nuremberg Document 2430-PS which was read in court, but Donovan, Behle and Daly were not present and the defense had no opportunity to cross-examine them.
In all of the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau, only crimes committed against the Allies during World War II were included. The charges against all of the accused in all of the AMT proceedings were that they had participated in a "common plan" to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the Geneva Convention of 1929 and the Hague Convention of 1907.
Since the names and nationality of the prisoners who were gassed at Dachau were unknown, there was no testimony during the proceedings against Martin Weiss, et al, about any citizen of an Allied country, or an Allied soldier, who had been killed in the gas chamber at Dachau.
The gas chamber at Dachau, May 2001
The photo above, taken in May 2001, shows the west wall of the gas chamber with a sign in the corner which says in 5 languages that the gas chamber was never used or never put into operation. By 2003, the sign had been removed, and many of the tour guides tell visitors that people were gassed in this room.
After the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal against Martin Gottfried Weiss, and 39 others on the Dachau staff, ended in the conviction of all of the accused, 61 members of the staff at the Mauthausen concentration camp were charged with war crimes by the American Military Tribunal at Dachau on March 7, 1946 and proceedings against them began on March 29, 1946.
In the proceedings against the 61 members of the staff of the Mauthausen concentration camp, there was testimony that Soviet POWs had been killed in the gas chamber there and American Navy Lt. Jack Taylor testified that American soldiers had been gassed at Mauthausen.
Gas chamber at Mauthausen
Many of the accused at the Mauthausen proceedings signed sworn affidavits in which they confessed that they had been involved in the gassing of prisoners at Mauthausen.
There were no confessions by Dachau staff members regarding the Dachau gas chamber, although some of the Dachau accused did confess to making leather goods out of human skin and other atrocities. The lack of confessions about the Dachau gas chamber might have been because none of the accused were interrogated about the gassing of prisoners.
At both the Mauthausen and the Dachau proceedings, there were two counts of participating in a common plan to violate the Laws and Usages of War according to the Geneva Convention of 1929 and the Hague Convention of 1907:
Charge No. 1
.....acting in pursuance of a common design to commit the acts hereinafter alleged, and as members of the staff of Dachau Concentration Camp and camps subsidiary thereto, did, at, or in the vicinity of Dachau and Landsberg, Germany, between about 1 January 1942 and about 29 April 1945, willfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the subjection of civilian nationals of nations then at war with the then German Reich to cruelties and mistreatment, including killings, beatings, tortures, starvation, abuses and indignities, the exact names and numbers of such civilian nationals being unknown but aggregating many thousands who were then and there in the custody of the German Reich in exercise of belligerent control.
Charge No. 2
.... acting in pursuance of a common design to commit the acts hereinafter alleged, and as members of the staff of Dachau Concentration Camp, did, at or in the vicinity of Dachau, Germany, between about 1 January 1942 and about 29 April 1945, willfully,
deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the subjection of members of the armed forces then at war with the then German Reich, who were then and there surrendered and unarmed prisoners of war in the custody of the then German Reich, to cruelties and mistreatment, including killings, beatings, tortures, starvation, abuses and indignities, the exact names and numbers of such prisoners of war being unknown but aggregating many hundreds.
The Mauthausen proceedings included testimony about the gas chamber, although the Dachau proceedings did not. Lt. Jack Taylor testified that he himself had been scheduled to die in the gas chamber four times, but he was saved by the other prisoners who managed to change the gas chamber schedule.
Lt. Taylor's knowledge of the nationality of the victims at Mauthausen meant that a charge of operating a gas chamber could be included in the Mauthausen proceedings. This charge could not be included in the Dachau proceedings because there were no records that showed that any civilian nationals or members of the armed forces of any country at war with the German Reich were gassed at Dachau.
Lt. Jack Taylor on the witness stand during the Mauthausen case
Lt. Taylor also testified at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal about the gassing of prisoners at Mauthausen. In his Nuremberg testimony, Lt. Taylor said that he had the dog tags of the American victims of the gas chamber, which he offered as proof.
There was at least one American prisoner at Dachau when it was liberated: Lt. Rene Guiraud, a spy in the OSS, the US military intelligence organization. Guiraud was sent to Dachau, rather than to a POW camp because he was posing as a French citizen, wearing civilian clothing, when he was captured. Guiraud did not testify at the Nuremberg IMT, nor at the AMT at Dachau.
Unlike the Nuremberg IMT, the American Military Tribunal at Dachau did not include charges of Crimes against Humanity.
The definition of a Crime Against Humanity, according to the Nuremberg IMT, is as follows:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.
If the charges by the American Military Tribunal at Dachau had included Crimes against Humanity, then the Dachau gas chamber could have been put into evidence at the Dachau proceedings because Crimes Against Humanity were crimes against ANY CIVILIAN POPULATION, not necessarily against civilians in countries at war with the German Reich.
Although the American public had been told that there was a gas chamber at Dachau, none of the accused at the American Military Tribunal, held at Dachau, was specifically charged with any crimes involving the Dachau gas chamber. The prosecution did not mention the existence of the gas chamber in its opening statement, nor in its closing statement. Neither was the gas chamber mentioned in the judgment of the Tribunal. None of the accused was asked any questions about the gas chamber.
By the time that the Dachau proceedings began, a small museum had already been set up by Erich Preuss, a former prisoner, in Baracke X, the crematorium building, and on the orders of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, as many American soldiers as possible were being brought to view the gas chamber.
American soldiers at Barracke X where the gas chamber is located
After the Dachau camp was liberated on April 29, 1945, the American military compiled the Chavez Report which described the Dachau gas chamber.
On page 25, The Chavez Report stated the following:
The new building had a gas chamber for executions... the gas chamber was labeled "shower room" over the entrance and was a large room with airtight doors and double glassed lights, sealed and gas proof. The ceiling was studded with dummy shower heads. A small observation peephole, double glassed and hermetically sealed was used to observe the conditions of the victims. There were grates in the floor. Hydrogen cyanide was mixed in the room below, and rose into the gas chamber and out the top vents.
Col. Chavez testified as an expert witness on the first day of the trial of Martin Gottfried Weiss and 39 others, but he did not mention the gas chamber; the gas chamber exhibits which his investigative team had prepared were not shown in the courtroom.
The transcripts and exhibits from the proceedings against Martin Gottfried Weiss, et al are available on 6 reels of microfilm in the National Archives in Washington, DC. The transcripts, on reels 2 & 3, contain no mention of any gas chamber at Dachau except for a few sentences in the testimony of Dr Francizek Blaha, a Communist prisoner at Dachau. The pre-trial gas chamber exhibits, on reel 1 of the microfilm in the National Archives, were never introduced into evidence at the trial and are not included in the trial exhibits on reel 4.
At the American Military Tribunal proceedings against the Dachau staff, the only witness who mentioned the gas chamber was Dr. Francizek Blaha, a Communist inmate at Dachau, who also signed an affidavit containing information about the Dachau gas chamber which was entered at Nuremberg as Document 3249-PS. The Blaha affidavit, written on May 3, 1945, was read into the proceedings at Nuremberg. The Chavez report was rewritten and entered into the Nuremberg trial as Documents 159L and 2430-PS.
The defense team at the proceedings against Martin Gottfried Weiss and 39 others included a former prisoner at the Mauthausen camp, Baron Hans Karl von Posern, who was incarcerated at Dachau, awaiting trial himself in the Mauthausen case which was next on the schedule of the American Military Tribunal. Von Posern was never put on trial; instead, he was put on the prosecution team for the Mauthausen proceedings.
The gas chamber itself was only a few hundred yards away from the courtroom and could easily have been used as Exhibit A in the trial. If the gas chamber had been mentioned at the Dachau proceedings against Martin Gottfried Weiss, et al, it is conceivable that von Posern would have demanded a demonstration of the gas chamber. There were still rabbits in the hutches at the Dachau camp and a couple of them could have been put into the gas chamber to test it by introducing poison gas, using the method described in the film that was shown at the Nuremberg IMT on November 29, 1945.
The photo below shows the wheels and push buttons that were used to control the flow of gas into the Dachau gas chamber; this is the "engineer's room" behind the gas chamber that was shown in the film at Nuremberg.
"Engineer's room" with control wheels and peephole behind west wall of gas chamber Photo Credit: USHMM, courtesy of William and Dorothy McLaughlin
It is possible that the prosecution team at Dachau wanted to avoid any mention of the gas chamber at Dachau because Baron Hans Karl von Posern might have vigorously defended the charge. Today it is known that the shower heads in the Dachau gas chamber were not connected to the pipes and that these control wheels could not have been used to regulate the gas. In any case, the prosecution offered von Posern immunity in the Mauthausen case if he would join the prosecution team.
However, there was no chance that the defense would demand a demonstration of the gas chamber at Mauthausen because the "gassing apparatus" had been removed before the American liberators arrived. The Mauthausen gas chamber was a fully functioning shower room with shower heads hooked up to water pipes, as shown in the photo below. The gas was put into the shower room through a pipe near the floor which was removed by Commandant Franz Ziereis on April 29, 1945 the day that he turned the camp over to the Vienna police. A sign in the gas chamber confirms that the gassing apparatus was removed on April 29, 1945.
Water pipe coming through the wall of Mauthausen gas chamber
Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen was an SS officer and a judge, who was authorized by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler to investigate all the concentration camps and bring charges against the staff members for any corruption or cruelty in the camps. He investigated the Dachau camp for two months in May and June, 1944 and found no evidence of corruption or cruelty in the camp.
Dr. Morgen was being held as a prisoner in the Dachau bunker while the trials at Dachau were in progress, according to his own statement at Nuremberg, but he was not called as a witness for the defense at the proceedings against Martin Gottfried Weiss and 39 others. However, he was called as a witness for the defense at the Buchenwald trial.
At the Nuremberg IMT, Dr. Morgen testified for the defense for two days. Quoted below is his testimony at Nuremberg on 8 August 1946, regarding Dachau:
Q. Did you see the internal arrangements, the hospital, and so forth?
A. I examined all these facilities carefully, and I must say the hospital was in excellent order. I went through all the wards. There was no noticeable overcrowding, and remarkably enough the number of medical instruments which were at the service of the prisoners was astonishing. Prisoners with special professional abilities were there, too.
Q. Very well. You want to say that conditions were good. Then you contradict the testimony of the witness Doctor Blaha, which was made the subject of evidence here. Do you know his testimony?
A. I read the testimony of Doctor Blaha in the Press, and here I had the opportunity to look through the record of the trial. I must say that this testimony amazes me. I am of the opinion that Blaha, from his own knowledge, cannot make such statements. It is not true that prisoners in a concentration camp can move about freely and have access to the different sections and installations.
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks he can say that he disagrees with the evidence of Blaha, but not that Blaha was not telling the truth. He disagrees, he said it. We think you might get on. How much more time do you anticipate that you will take.
DR. PELCKMANN: Five minutes, your Lordship.
Q. You were just about to say, witness, why you did not agree with the testimony of Blaha?
THE PRESIDENT: He has given his own evidence about the matter, and he says he is in contradiction with Blaha. We do not want further details about it.
DR. PELCKMANN: Mr. President, if I understood correctly, it is for the witness to give credible testimony. If he does not say that to such and such points of the testimony of Blaha he has such and such an objection, the prosecution can say he did not comment on it. That is my point. Please instruct me, your Lordship, if I am mistaken.
THE PRESIDENT: He has given his account of the camp at Dachau. The Tribunal has before it the evidence and testimony of Blaha. The Tribunal can see for itself if the evidence is inconsistent. That is sufficient.
DR. PELCKMANN: I attempted to give the reasons, but if the Tribunal does not wish to go into it further, I will withdraw the question.
After the war, Lt. Hugh C. Daly wrote a book entitled "A Combat History of World War II" which was published in 1946 by the Army and Navy Publishing Company, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In his book, Lt. Daly wrote that Dachau prisoners were herded into the gas chamber to die and that "thousands of men, women and children died this way in Dachau."
Confessions about the use of lethal gas chambers to murder the Jews and Russian POWs were obtained by British, American or Russian interrogators from the Commandants of Mauthausen, Sachsenhausen, Natzweiler and Auschwitz, but Martin Gottfried Weiss, who was the Commandant of Dachau when the gas chamber was built there, never cracked under the interrogation of Lt. Paul Guth, an American Jew who had emigrated from Vienna. Weiss was one of the few staff members at Dachau who apparently made no incriminating confession.
It is conceivable that Weiss and the 39 others were never interrogated about the Dachau gas chamber since there were no charges related to the gas chamber during the proceedings against them which began on November 15, 1945. On the first day of the proceedings, the defense made a motion to dismiss all the charges because "Neither the names and nationalities of the victims nor whether the nations of the victims were at war with Germany at the material time have been disclosed."
Nerin E. Gun, a 20-year-old Turkish journalist in Berlin who was arrested by the Gestapo in 1940 for reporting on the extermination of the Jews, was a prisoner at both Mauthausen and Dachau. In his book entitled "The Day of the Americans," written in 1965, Gun mentioned that he was asked to be a witness at both Nuremberg and Dachau.
Gun wrote that his job was to take down the names and vital information from Hungarian Jewish women who were brought to Dachau to be gassed in 1944, since he was able to speak both Hungarian and German, as well as several other languages. Although he was not allowed into the Dachau crematorium where the gas chamber was located, he learned about the gassing from other prisoners who worked in the crematorium.
Hungary was not among the Allies, and according to Nerin E. Gun, there were Hungarian POWs still incarcerated at Dachau while the American Military Tribunal proceedings were in progress. Gun was never called to testify at Dachau because the Hungarian Jewish women that he observed on their way to the Dachau gas chamber were not Allied nationals.
Veronika Val Sors is on the left, looking at Pfc. Samuel Bobyns
In the photo above, Veronika Val Sors is shown in the courtroom in the Malmedy Massacre case. She is the woman on the left, wearing glasses. Veronika was among the Hungarian Jewish women who were brought to Dachau to be gassed in 1944, but she somehow survived. After war, she stayed on at Dachau, working as a translator during the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal.
Although there was testimony from eye-witnesses about the gas chamber at Dachau at the Nuremberg IMT, the gas chamber at Dachau was not mentioned in the judgment at Nuremberg. Nevertheless, the Dachau Memorial Site today acknowledges the claims of some of the survivors that the gas chamber at Dachau was used to kill prisoners in the camp.
One of the most famous inmates at Dachau, Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler who was a Catholic Bishop, wrote the following on page 17 of his book "What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?":
Also behind the wire fence was the camp crematorium. At first it was housed in a wooden barrack, later in a stone building built by Polish Catholic priests, to whom the building trade had been taught. This crematorium was located in a small forest on the west side quite close to the camp. The prevailing wind was from the west and consequently the smell of burning corpses filled the camp, reminding the prisoners of their approaching end and adding immeasurably to their despair.
With the new crematorium a gas chamber was also connected. The whole construction of the crematorium with its gas chamber was completed in 1943. It contained an "undressing room", a "shower bath", and a "mortuary". The "showers" were metal traps which had no pipelines for a supply of poisonous gas. This gas chamber was never set in action in Dachau. Only the dead were brought to the crematorium for "burning", no living for "gassing". And yet thousands of the inmates of Dachau were gassed. For this purpose they were brought as "Invalids-Transport" (from 1942 - 1944 alone, 3166 prisoners) to Hartheim near Linz (Austria).
This page was last updated on December 11, 2008