Files Say Nazi Victims’ Gold Teeth Yanked; Bodies Thrown into Bonfire
FRANKFURT, West Germany (AP) _ Accused Nazi war criminal Josef Schwammberger used pliers to rip out Jews’ gold teeth and forced concentration camp prisoners to strip before having them killed and cremated, witnesses said in accounts released Wednesday.
The Frankfurt-based VVN Bund der Antifaschisten (Anti-Fascist League), which keeps detailed records on victims of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, released the files to The Associated Press.
League spokesmen Rudolf Schneider and Helmut Stein told the AP the documents were obtained from Austrian police and from victims and their families.
The 75-year-old Schwammberger, arrested this month in Argentina, is awaiting possible extradition to West Germany to stand trial in Stuttgart. Prosecutors have accused the former commander of two concentration camps in east Poland of killing about 1,000 people, most of them Jews.
One account was from Siegfried Kellermann, who spoke to Innsbruck police in 1946 about the roundup three years earlier of Jews from the southeastern Polish town of Przemysl.
″There was a huge wood pile, which was set on fire and all people had to strip naked and give up any gold, money and jewelry,″ Kellermann said in describing Schwammberger’s treatment of the prisoners.
″Schwammberger and two or three other men killed the people, and their bodies were immediately thrown into the fire.″
Kellermann added that children’s heads ″were beaten against a wall, and then they were thrown into the fire.″ He said 900 people died in the roundup, which he watched from a hiding place.
Heinrich Kirschenbaum, a former inmate in the camp at Mielec near Krakow, told investigators Schwammberger checked to see if inmates had gold teeth and told those who did to report to him at night.
″After they showed up, Schwammberger personally ripped out their gold teeth with a pliers,″ according to the file report.
Schwammberger also whipped Kirschenbaum so hard he couldn’t sit down for two or three weeks, according to the files.
Loew Chiel, another camp inmate, told Austrian police: ″Schwammberger had a universally feared dog that he sicked on Jewish prisoners at every opportunity.″
The documents contain the statements of four eyewitnesses, and all are dated Aug. 12, 1946 in Innsbruck. Some contain stamps saying ″Bundespolizei direktion Innsbruck,″ or ″Federal Police Headquarters Innsbruck.″
The files also contain lengthy lists of jewels and other valuables that Schwammberger allegedly stole from prisoners.
They also contained a statement from Schwammberger, purportedly dictated to officials, in which he admits having shot to death 35 prisoners. A separate police report, dated July 7, 1945, also was filed on the shootings.
The police report said Schwammberger stood the victims up against a wall and shot them in the neck from less than a foot away.
″As long as the victim showed any signs of life, Schwammberger shot again and again into the temple,″ it said.
Schwammberger escaped and fled to Argentina after the war.
The Stuttgart prosecutor’s office, which issued the arrest warrant that forms the basis of West Germany’s extradition request, declined comment on the files. They were all written in German.
Alfred Streim, the nation’s chief Nazi prosecutor, told the AP earlier Wednesday: ″He allgedly killed about 1,000 people, most of them Jews.″
″He also allegedly took part in the deportation of several thousand Jews to an extermination camp east of Krakow.″