[back] Nazi shrunken heads Dachau trials
OBJECTS OF HUMAN SKIN feature prominently in war crimes trials. As a rule, no such objects were found; no forensic tests were performed. Prosecution testimony as to the existence of such objects is taken as "proven fact", while defence testimony is ignored.
At Dachau, the prosecution claimed that Jews were skinned; that the skins were hung in the sun to dry; then tanned and used to make slippers, saddles, purses, gloves, and trousers (!).
The following is defence testimony from the First Dachau Trial
(Trial of Martin Gottfried Weiss and Thirty Nine Other, Nov. 15 - Dec. 13, 1945, microfilm M1175, National Archives, Washington D.C.):
Q: Isn't it a fact that here in Dachau you had a room where you had a collection of human skin of all persons who had committed suicide?
A: No, I had no room where I had skin or healthy organs. Naturally, I had a room where I had pathological organs which you have in each hospital. They are taken out and set up in that room for that purpose. In order to teach medical knowledge to students.
Q: And in that room you also had human skin, did you not?
A: No, I don't know anything about human skin and I don't keep human skin unless I was concerned with cancerous human skin.
Q: Now, doctor, isn't it a fact that during your time here the skin was taken off the prisoners and tanned and used as hand bags?
(NOTE: NO HUMAN SKIN HAND BAGS WERE EVER INTRODUCED INTO EVIDENCE AND APPARENTLY NONE WERE EVER FOUND.)
Q: Isn't it also a fact that during that time you had on your desk the skull of a prisoner?
A: Yes, I had a skull on my desk. And I had this skull brought from the pathological station and it had already been prepared. I had that brought to my office so that each doctor had the opportunity to look at it.
Q: It was a shrunken head, was it not?
A: It was a skull, a bone can't be shrunken.
(Testimony of Dr. Wittler, microfilm pages 000341-2. Wittler was sentenced to death, with sentence commuted to life imprisonment. No shrunken head was introduced into evidence.)
A... I came to a construction hut, and saw that there was some skins there. I asked what the skins were doing there. The prisoner told me that the kapo, Knoll, had given him an order to catch the moles, to take their skins off, and to save the skins. Then I went to kapo Knoll, together with the prisoner, and I asked him who had given the order. He told me that Hauptstuermbahnfuehrer Zill gave the order, in order to make a fur jacket.
(Testimony of Hirner, microfilm page 000635)
A:...he caught mice and moles and I don't know what all he caught.
Q: Did you know that he had caught some moles, and that he later on sold the skins of the moles?
A: I know that he had some skins during my time and that he got cigarettes for them, but I don't know just how far this reached.
A: But you know that it is a fact that he did catch moles?
Q: If that was his business or not, I don't know.
(Testimony of Keller, microfilm pages 000637-8).
Q: The witness Kaltenbacher [Kaltenbacher was a Communist] said that at Christmas you bragged that you had killed ninety seven Jews, and you needed only three more, I forget the number it was, to get extra food from the commandant?...
A: ... I was kapo, head kapo... there were many moles in that plantation. The detail at the time was very great - 14, 15 or 18 hundred prisoners. They caught those, skinned them, and baked them. The Hauptstuermbahnfuehrer saw that and asked where the furs are. He gave me the orders to collect them and he would have a fur jacket made for his wife out of them. He needed at least 100-150. I had them stored at the construction site, and the gypsy brought dyes and things and had the hides prepared. I could not deliver the required number, because in the year 1939 the entire camp was evacuated. Besides, I myself did not catch any moles... now and again I received some mole skins and delivered the same to Zill...he said, "Knoll, how is it going?" I told them I still had to kill thirteen until I had the first hundred. I had that aloud and as clear as I am saying it in court today. The listeners didn't know what it was about. After that they talked about what I could kill. Naturally the question came: only Jews!
In the same moment the word was born that I was a killer of Jews. There was no talk of a Jew... I would have had to kill more than one Jew every day and I still would have not reached the named number of 87...
(Testimony of Knoll [a prisoner] microfilm pages 000623-4. No human skin was introduced into evidence. All 40 defendants were found guilty on all counts with 36 death sentences.)
In the above, note the sloppiness implied in assuming that a skull and a shrunken head are one and the same thing, as if the difference really did not matter -- all based on hearsay, in the absence of any forensic tests or physical evidence whatsoever. In war crimes trials, as in the witchcraft trials of the Middle Ages, truly anything will do, no matter how irrational, self-contradictory, or insane.
In the 1980s, on one of several occasions, I visited the Peace Palace of the Hague, in the Netherlands, where the "original documents" from the Nuremberg Trials are alleged to be kept, except that they are not there. As a rule, they have only copies.
One of the officials immediately said, "Oh, you want to see the human soap, of course? Everybody wants to see the human soap. It smells." His face wrinkled up in a sneer of disgust.
"Has it been forensically tested?" I inquired, innocently.
"Oh yes," he replied casually, with a breezy smile.
"Do you have a copy of the report?" I said.
The smile instantly disappeared. "No", he replied, in a much lower voice. He had never thought of that.
"If it hasn't been forensically tested, I don't want to see it", I said.
"Well, how about the human skin?" he replied. " With the human soap, I know there is nothing, but there might be a report with the human skin." (The "human soap" is Exhibit USSR-393, the "human skin" is Exhibit USSR 394. They are kept together).
He then pulled out a huge object wrapped in crude brown paper and tied up with crude twine, undid all the knots, and pulled out a huge piece of "human skin" (which looked like cow hide to me). There was nothing else in the package whatsoever: no report, no legal documents, nothing. I left him looking at it with a look of intense bewilderment. He couldn't figure out how it could be "known" that these exhibits are authentic, and yet not be accompanied by any forensic report.
Some time later, I wrote to the Peace Palace of the Hague asking what procedures would be required to subject the "human soap" to forensic testing by an independent laboratory. I never received an answer. The problem, of course, assuming that these exhibits are authentic, would lie in proving that the Germans made them, and not the Soviets. Perhaps those who believe in the authenticity of these objects will do us the favour of testing them and proving their origins.