Source: Nuernberg Transcript of Proceedings, USA v. Karl Brandt, et all., pp 708-718. December 18, 1946
Comment: The eyewitness who claims to have prepared the skeletons of Hirt's collection
BY MR. McHANEY:
Q. Witness -
Q. Your name is Henri Henripierre?
A. Yes sir.
Q. You are a citizen of France?
A. Yes, I am a French citizen.
Q. When and where were you born?
A. I was born in Lievres on the 23rd of August 1905
Q. What was the year in which you were born again, please?
Q. What is your present address? That is your home address?
A. My present address is 14 Rude De Lail, Strassbourg.
Q. Will you tell the Tribunal just a bit about your personal history, what you have done and been doing up to the time you came to be a Clerk in the Anatomical Institute at Strasbourg?
A. I should like fist of all to make it clear that I did not come here with any feelings of hatred or vengeance. I came here solely owing to a sentiment of having to do my duty and out of justice. I owe this to the 86 doctor victims whom we received in the month of August, 1943, I would, therefore, say before having to proceed with the preservation of the 86 victims that I made at least 250 preservations of Russian and Polish prisoners who died under the ill treatment at Mutzig. That is enough to show that I know how to appreciate the difference between a violent death and a natural death.
Q. Witness, let's find out just a little bit about you before you tell the Court about what happened at the Anatomical Institute in Strassbourg under Dr. Hirt. Now, were you ever arrested by the Germans?
A. I was arrested by the Germans in Paris.
Q. In Paris?
A. I was arrested by the Germans in paris and was taken to the concentration camp at Compiegne, and it was after the intervention of Dr. Chezwolle, my principal officer, that I was transferred to the concentration camp at Compiegne, and before being liberated from the camp I passed before a Commission of High SS Officers, who told that I would have to return to my country if I wished to have my relatives spared, and it was on the 6th of June, 1942, which was the date i would have to leave Paris. It was as a result of that I was at Strassbourg.
THE PRESIDENT: Will the witness speak more slowly?
WITNESS: It was when i arrived there I tried to find employment at the hospital which might make use of my knowledge as a chemist's assistant at the chemist shop and there was no further employment there, and at the hospital they telephoned to Dr. Hirt and asked him if still required an employee and he answered "yes" and at that moment.
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal is not receiving the translation.
THE WITNESS: AT that moment I was taken on in Professor Hirt's Department, and naturally it was a principal anatomist who taught me to prepare bodies for preservation.
BY MR. McHANEY:
Q. Witness, just a minute. When was that when you took this job at Strassbourg under Dr. Hirt, what was the date?
A. The date of my entrance was around about the 20th of June, 1942.
Q. All right, who was your immediate superior on this job that you took?
A. My immediate chief was under Professor Hirt, then the principal preparator Otto Bong, who taught me how to prepare bodies for preservation.
Q. And who was that?
A. He was a German subject, Mr Otto Bong, who came with the Professor to Strassbourg.
Q. And how do you spell that name B O N G?
A. B O N G.
Q. all right, now let's go back just a minute. You stated you were arrested in 1942 in Paris by the Gestapo?
A. Yes, that is right.
Q. Why were you arrested?
A. I do not know yet.
Q. They did not tell you why you were arrested?
A. They did not tell me why, no sir.
Q. And then you went to the concentration camp at Compiegne?
A. Yes, when I left the concentration camp at Compiegne I remained a month in Paris and on the 6th of June I had to leave Paris.
Q. Now you went to Strassbourg then on the 6th of June, 1942
A. Yes sir.
Q. And you took this job in Hirt's institution?
A. On the 20th of June I took the job.
Q. And your task there was the conservation of corpses under the supervision -
A. My employment was to proceed with the preservation of corpses, and to prepare for their lectures to students in the auditorium and I also looked after the central heating and I also had to go with the car that belonged to the section to fetch the corpses of the victims.
Q. And I believe you stated that you had received about 250-300 corpses of Russian prisoners-of-war, is that right?
A. Russians and Poles, yes sir.
Q. How do you know were prisoners-of-war?
A. Because every corpse was accompanied by a death certificate and for the 86 victims which we received in August there were not papers at all
Q. Now, we will come to the eighty-six victims in just a moment; let's find out a little bit more about your job before then.
A. My employment was principally to preserve the corpses, to fetch these corpses at Mutzig, and also to prepare for the lectures which were given to the students.
Q. all right. Now, did there come a time in the middle of 1943 when you received some other corpses? I think you have been trying to tell us about that. Will you now relate the circumstances of that?
A. What circumstances do you mean, sir?
Q. You had mentioned the receipt of some eighty or eighty-six corpses. Will you tell us about that; when it happened, what you saw, and what you did?
A. In the month of July, 1943, Professor Hirt received a visit from the senior officer of the SS. I thought that he was a senior officer because he came in his own car, accompanied by his own driver. Now, to have a driver and a car, you would need to be a senior officer.
This officer came three times in the month of July. Professor Hirt took him and showed him the cellars of the laboratory. A few days later, Mr. Bong told me that he would have to prepare the tanks to receive a hundred and twenty corpses. We prepared the tanks. In these tanks there were synthetic spirits of 55 degrees.
The first convoy which we received was a convoy of thirty women. It was supposed to arrive at five o'clock in the morning, but it only arrived at seven. After having interrogated the driver about the delay, the driver gave answer, "They gave us a lot of trouble." These thirty corpses of women were unloaded by the driver and two assistants, also helped by Mr. Bong and myself.
The preservation of these corpses started straight away. The corpses arrived when they were still warm. The eyes were wide open and brilliant; they seemed congested and red, and they were popping out of the orbits. There were traces of blood at the nose and at the mouth, and there was evidence of fecal matter coming out. There was no rigor morits apparent. At that moment I judged for myself that it was a case of victims who, in my opinion, had been poisoned or asphyxiated, because in the case of no victim of any previous preservation were there presented the symptoms and signs that these victims showed when they arrived. That is why I made a note of the serial numbers that the women had tattooed in their left forearm. I made a note of them on a piece of paper, and I kept them in secret in my house. The serial numbers consisted of five digits.
A few days later we received a second convoy of thirty men. These arrived exactly in the same state as the first, that is, still warm, with wide open eyes, congested, eyes brilliant, bleeding at the mouth and bleeding at the nose, and also losing their fecal matter.
The preservation of these thirty men was also proceeded with immediately, with one slight difference. The left testicle in each case was removed, which was sent tot he Laboratory for Anatomy Number 2. That was a private laboratory run by Professor Hirt.
Some time later, thereupon, we received a third and last convoy, namely, of twenty-six men. They also arrived in the same state as the two previous ones.
I should like to make it clear once more - and I say this knowing it to be true - after the first convoy of women's bodies that we received, Professor Hirt, having met me at the door of an Anatomical Department, told me leterally [sic] "Peter, if you don't hold your mouth, you won't get out of this." That is word for word what Professor Hirt told me.
Another peculiarity, Professor Hirt, some time before he received those bodies, said, in the basement of an Anatomical Department, talking to Mr Bong, "They are going to drop like flies."
All this was a sign for me that it was literally a case of murder, I therefore was right in believing that those eighty-six victims which we had received had not died a natural death.
Q. Witness, why do you assume that?
A. I beg your pardon?
Q. Why do you assume that these people were murdered? Did you get any death certificates with them, for example, with the bodies?
A. What I mean is that having made the preservation of the first lots of corpses from Mutzig Camp, there was always a sheet with each body, whereas in the case of these eighty-six victims, there were no sheets at all; besides which, you should know as well as I that a person who dies a natural death does not leave a corpse with shiny, glistening eyes like those that I had seen nor in a state of complete congestion, nor with blood blowing out of eyes and mouth and nose. Also, these bodies were still warm. Therefore, it cannot be a case of natural death, so far as I can judge.
Q. I see. Now, I am not sure that you told the Tribunal when the first shipment of bodies was received. Will you tell us that now, please?
A. The first lot of women's corpses was received around about the 10th of August. I cannot state the date exactly, but what I do remember precisely is that it was at the beginning of August, the 10th of August, I believe.
Q. And you saw these bodies with your own eyes when they were delivered?
A. I was present myself; I myself helped unload them, and therefore I cannot be mistaken.
Q. And then you received a second shipment of thirty bodies two weeks later?
A. Yes, I received a second lot of thirty bodies, and a third lot of twenty-six bodies.
Q. And what did you do with these bodies after you had received them?
A. Once they were preserved, the corpses were placed in the tanks, about fifteen to each tank. These bodies were all superb. The bodies of prisoners which I had previously seen were all emaciated, whereas these eighty-six corpses that I am talking of were magnificent; finely muscled, and did not show any signs of neglect. The only thing that was remarkable was that there were a certain number of peculiar wrinkles in the back.
Q. Do you know, witness, whether or not the people who were killed and delivered to you were Jews?
A. At the time that I saw these bodies I did not know whether they were Jews or not. I merely questioned Mr. Bong and I asked him what he thought those people were. It was Mr. Bong who said, "Das sind alles Juden," "They are all Jews."
Q. Now witness, will you tell the Tribunal just what happened to these bodies after they had been delivered to you and has been stored in the basement or in the cellar?
A. Once the bodies had been preserved, they were put into the tanks. they remained in the tanks an entire year without anybody touching them. In the month of September, 1944, the Allies were advancing and therefore, at that time, Professor Hirt ordered Mr Bong and Mr Meier, the laboratory assistants to cut up these eighty-six bodies and to have them cremated in the Strasbourg City Crematorium. The work having been accomplished by Mr. Bong and Mr Meier in the actual room where these tanks were, I asked Mr. bong the following morning if he had cut up all of the bodies. He replied, "We couldn't cut them all up, it was far too much work. We left some of the bodies at the bottom of the tanks." I then asked Bong, "Were all the corpses burned with their gold teeth?" At that moment Bong replied, "The gold teeth that were already found on the Jews were handed over to Professor Hirt by Mr. Meier"
The remaining corpses that were not put into coffins - because there weren't any coffins left - were tossed back into the tanks with the remainder of the others, so as to make people who would see them believe that they were the remains of anatomical defections.
Q. Were you in Strassbourg when it was captured by the Allies?
A. I beg your pardon.
Q. I say, did you remain in Strassbourg, and were you there when it was captured by the Allies in 1944?
A. When Strassbourg was liberated by the Allies I was still in that Anatomical Department. It is I who should have conveyed, in the car belonging to the Department, Mr and Mrs bong, and as Secretary of that Department I should also have evacuated them to the other bank of the Rhine. However, I was not anxious to do that.
The day before the Allies arrived they were at that moment at Sauvergne. I knew it from the Allied wires. Therefore, the day before, I went around to the garage and I sabotaged the car so it would not be able to run. The next morning the Allies arrived, and of course when we wanted to use the car we couldn't. I considered it my duty to do that.
Q. Now, these bodies which you say were not successfully dissected and burned, were they found in the Institute at Strassbourg University?
Q. Do you know whether pictures were taken of those bodies?
A I beg your pardon?
Q. Do you know whether pictures were taken of these bodies?
A. Yes, photographs were taken of those bodies in several instances, and I know it well because I had to help. I emptied the tanks each time there were photographs so as to find those bodies that had not been dissected at the bottom. The corpses and the numbers which were on their arms corresponded exactly to the numbers that I had noted myself. Those corpses were subjected to post mortem examination by Professor Simona in my presence. I assisted him.
Q. All right. Now, witness, I want to have handed to you a booklet of pictures. And this, if the Tribunal please, is document NO-483.
A. I did not hear very well.
Q. I say that I am going to have handed to you a book of pictures, and I want you to tell the Tribunal if these are pictures of the corpses which were left in Strassbourg.
A. Yes, certainly, the photographs were taken at Strassbourg. Professor Simona made up an album with all the photographs, as well Commissar Commandant Jardin.
Q. Will you look at this book of pictures, which is document number NO-483, and will you tell the Tribunal if these are pictures of the corpses which were delivered to the Institute at the Strassbourg University in August of 1943?
A. Yes, sir.
(Documents were submitted to the witness.)
A (continuing) Yes, that is correct. Yes, very exact. I can therefore say that these photographs are authentically true. I was present myself when these photographs were taken. They are exact. It is true. There is no doubt whatever about it.
Q. Now, then, witness, I will ask that you be shown another booklet of pictures. This is Document Number NO-807 and I will ask you to ell the Tribunal if that booklet, that document, contains pictures of these corpses at the Institute at Strassbourg University?
A. (Witness commenting as he looks at the pictures): [..] these corpses ere in the Anatomical Department of Strassbourg. I remember that corpse, for instance, I remember that face. I laid out the bodies myself so that the photographs could be taken. I remember the remains of legs and arms were laying in that tank - arms on which traces of serial numbers remained that had been cut off so that serial numbers could be removed. Yes, this is exact; this is correct. This one here is a body on which we made a post mortem. Here are photographs which were taken during the post mortem. For instance, this one is a photograph that I described.
Q. I think that will be sufficient, witness. I take it that you have been interrogated many times about this incident at Strassbourg, is that correct?
A. Yes sir.
Mr McHANEY: If Your Honor please, I do not think I have any further questions to direct to the witness. I have had him identify these two books of pictures which, unfortunately, we have not duplicate in your document book. However, I have not offered them at this time as Exhibits because we also intend to offer them under certifications made by the French War Crimes Commission which appear upon these documents and which, irrespective of the identification by this witness, would make them admissible under Ordinance No. 7.
JUDGE SEBRING: Do you intend to duplicate them Mr Mchaney?
Mr. McHANEY: We are trying to duplicate them now. There are just a delay in it. I would like to go ahead, though, and off them as exhibits, as soon as this witness has been excused, based first upon his identification and secondly upon the certification attached to each.
JUDGE SEBRING: With the proviso that they will be duplicated.
JUDGE SEBRING: Any cross examination of this witness by defence counsel?
DR. WEISGERBER (Counsel for the Defendant Sievers): I am also speaking in the name of my colleague, Dr. Kaufmann. I should like to have the opportunity to view the album which has just been submitted and it is only after that that I can state whether cross examination will be necessary or not.
THE PRESIDENT: Counsel for the Prosecution will exhibit these two albums to the defense counsel. Counsel, do you desire a few moments to examine these exhibits? The Tribunal will take a short recess if you desire some time to look them over.
DR WEISGERBER: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will be in recess for 10 minutes.