Extract from the trial of Anton Kaindl, former commandant of Sachsenhausen Death Camp
Public Prosecutor: What kind of exterminations were committed in your camp?
Kaindl: Until mid of 1943, prisoners were killed by shooting or hanging. For the mass exterminations, we used a special room in the infirmary. There was a height gauge and a table with an eye scope. There were also some SS wearing doctor uniforms. There was a hole at the back of the height gauge. While a SS was measuring the height of a prisoner, another one placed his gun in the hole and killed him by shooting in his neck. Behind the height gauge there was another room where we played music in order to cover the noise of the shooting.
Public Prosecutor: Do you know if there was already an extermination procedure in Sachsenhausen when you became commandant of the camp?
Kaindl: Yes, there were several procedures. With the special room in the infirmary, there was also an execution place where prisoners were killed by shooting, a mobile gallows and a mechanical gallows which was used for hanging three or four prisoners at the same time.
Public Prosecutor: Did you change anything in these extermination procedures?
Kaindl: In march 1943, I introduced gas chambers for the mass exterminations.
Public Prosecutor: Was it your own decision?
Kaindl: Partially yes. Because the existing installations were too small and not sufficient for the exterminations, I decided to have a meeting with some SS officers, including the SS Chief Doctor Baumkotter. During this meeting, he told me that poisoning of prisoners by prussic acid in special chambers would cause an immediate death. After this meeting, I decided to install gas chambers in the camp for mass extermination because it was a more efficient and more humane way to exterminate prisoners.
Public Prosecutor: Who was responsible for the extermination?
Kaindl: The commandant of the camp.
Public Prosecutor: So, it was you?
Public Prosecutor: How many prisoners were exterminated in Sachsenhausen while you were commandant of the camp?
Kaindl: More than 42,000 prisoners were exterminated under my command, this number include 18.000 killed in the camp itself.
Public Prosecutor: And how many prisoners died by starvation during this same period?
Kaindl: I think 8,000 prisoners died by starvation during this period.
- Public Prosecutor: Accused Kaindl, did you receive the order to destroy any evidence of the murders committed in the camp?
Kaindl: Yes. On February 1st, 1945, I had a conversation with the chief of the Gestapo, Muller. He ordered me to destroy the camp with artillery bombing, aerial bombing or by spraying gas. But due to technical problems, this order coming directly from Himmler was impossible to fulfill.
Public Prosecutor: Suppose that there was no technical problem, would you have carried out this order?
Kaindl: Of course. But it was impossible. An artillery or an aerial bombing was impossible to hide from the local population. And spraying gas was too dangerous for the local population and the SS.
Public Prosecutor: What did you do then?
Kaindl: I had a meeting with Hohn and some others SS and I ordered to exterminate all the ill prisoners, those who were unable to work and, the most important, all the political prisoners.
Public Prosecutor: Was this order fulfilled?
Kaindl: Yes, partially. During the night of February 2th, the first prisoners were killed. There were plus or minus 150 prisoners. Until end of March 1945, we succeed in killing more than 5,000 prisoners.
Public Prosecutor: Who was in charge of this operation?
Kaindl: Accused Hohn was in charge of this operation.
Public Prosecutor: How many prisoners were in the camp at this time?
Kaindl: Approximately 45,000. On April 18th I was ordered to embark all the prisoners on barges and to conduct the barge on the Baltic sea where I had to sink it. But we had not enough time to find enough barges for so many prisoners because the Red Army was advancing too fast.
Public Prosecutor: What happened then?
Kaindl: I ordered the evacuation of all the prisoners able to walk, first in direction of Wittstock, then to Lubeck where they had to embark on ships and sunk.
Public Prosecutor: Did the prisoners received any care during this evacuation?
Kaindl: No. 7,000 prisoners received nothing because we had nothing to give them.
Public Prosecutor: Did these prisoners died by starvation during this Death March?
Sources: The Forgotten Camps