Josef Muller Testimony

krakau 2 jews811

Krakau - Two Jews (Chris Webb Private Archive)

In the months between January and February 1942, I have performed normal office duties in the head office of the SS und Polizeifuhrer in Krakow. Nothing special happened during that period. First in March 1942, the exact date I cannot quote, I had to accompany and take part, as a personal bodyguard, the Oberfuhrer Scherner, on a so called Jewish Action. Altogether, I have participated as an escort, in five such Jewish Actions with various SS Fuhrers. All these incidents happened during the period between March and June 1942.

 At the end of June 1942, I have taken over command of the Jewish camps “Judenlager” of Plaszow – Bierzanow – and Prokocim. Following the taking command of these camps, I have no longer been called upon, to escort duties for Jewish Actions.

 The Actions mentioned by me happened in the following order:

 1) The ghetto in Krakow

2) The ghetto in Tarnow

3) Miechow

4) The ghetto in Tarnow

5) Myslenice – if this place really is so called, I am not quite certain

These Actions happened in the following manner:

1) The Action in the ghetto of Krakow

On a day in March 1942, the exact date I can no longer remember, in the morning, I have been called from my duty office, to the office of the Oberfuhrer Scherner. He immediately informed me that the same day, I am to accompany him as a bodyguard on a journey. He explained to me, that as a SS- Unterscharfuhrer, I had to know, how to fulfil my assignment. Where we were going, and what assignment was referred to, was not explained to me. I have just received the order, to get ready immediately. This I did.

I entered the car, in front of the duty building, with Scherner. The driver of the car was not known to me then, or now. Besides the driver Scherner and myself there were no other persons in the car. The journey ended fairly quickly, in fact in the Krakow ghetto, there we left the car. Scherner approached various Gestapo and police officers, and greeted them with a salute. I myself looked around and have noticed that the ghetto was surrounded by police units and was closed. The names of the Gestapo and police Fuhrers, that Scherner greeted, were not then, and are not now, known to me. These gentlemen were not known to me at all. In the vicinity of those waiting for Scherner, Gestapo and SS officers, stood three Jews. One was in uniform. The uniformed Jew, whom I have later learned to know, as the commander of the Jewish ghetto police. His name was Spierer. Whilst Scherner was still speaking with those officers, an additional company unit of police arrived, this unit marched straight into the ghetto. The commander of this unit reported to Scherner. Following, of which, certain orders were issued, which were not understood by me.

 I have kept my distance from Scherner. Up to that point, it has not been explained to me, what was about to happen in the ghetto of Krakow. As a result of the issued orders, the police unit that has just arrived dispersed. The SS police officers in company of Jewish ghetto police went into the buildings. From there, suddenly, were heard loud screams, windows were being smashed. After a few minutes the first Jews began to emerge from the houses. They were chased by the SS and Jewish police onto the square, where Scherner was standing. This square was surrounded, divided by the police, and used as a assembly point for the Jews.

Chased there, were men, women and children together with the old. This chasing onto that square lasted about two hours. Scherner urged everyone to hurry all the time. In the course of this chase into that square, shots were fired as well. I cannot however state if these shots were fired from within or from outside of the houses.

I have, however, seen dead people, from where I have been standing inside the surrounding area on the square. Scherner himself did not shoot, nor the officers of the Gestapo or the police. As to the exact place of the events, I can add as follows: the ghetto was not known to me as at that time. The ghetto lay on both sides of a main street, which went from Krakow in the direction of Wieliczka. The entrance and the exit, were distinguished by large gate arches.

 During the action I have described, only Jews living in the left sector of the main Wieliczka road were chased out. That was the only part of the ghetto that was surrounded. The square, that I arrived onto with Scherner, and onto which the Jews were chased into, also lay on the Krakow – Wieliczka road. After the Jews were chased and assembled there, they were marched off under police escort, in the direction of the railway station of Plaszow. Scherner and myself returned to our duty offices in Krakow. We did not go to Plaszow. On our journey back, I asked Scherner, what is going to happen to these Jews. He explained to me, somewhat casually, that these Jews will be exchanged for German injured servicemen. He rubbed his hands, and declared, “well something has been achieved again.” During the whole action, apart from Scherner, I have not seen anyone known to me. I have not been required to make any written report about that action. That duty lasted, from departure to our return in our offices about 3 hours.

2) The First Action in Tarnow

 About 5-10 days following the above mentioned action, I received again an order, to accompany Scherner as a bodyguard escort. I do not know, when the order was given to me. It is possible that I received the instructions the evening before, to be ready for departure on time the following morning. Again, I have not been told anything further, as to what was the purpose of our journey. Nor have I been told, where we were heading for. On the day of the Action, we started, that is Scherner, myself and the driver, quite early, I believe around 8.00 am from our offices in Krakow. The name of the driver is unknown to me. Besides the driver, Scherner and myself, there were no other persons there.

 This time the journey lasted longer, maybe 1and a half hour’s, we were driving very fast.  Finally we arrived into a town, which I was told to be Tarnow. The position of the ghetto in Tarnow, I can no longer recollect. In the ghetto there was once again a large square. We drove to this square, Scherner alighted there, the driver and myself remained in the car. On the square there were several police officers, I believe that a Fuhrer of the SD, was there as well.

 The ghetto itself, was visibly, surrounded by police units. On the square were parked a large number of military lorries. A police officer, in a brown uniform, cap and brown riding boots, clearly the rank of a Major, reported to Scherner. Scherner immediately issued several orders, and inspected documents, which were handed to him by Jews. I assume that this Jew belonged to the Jewish council. Before anything happened, that is before the Police officers went off to their ordered tasks, Scherner entered the car again, and ordered the driver, to head for the SD building in Tarnow. When the car reached the SD building, Scherner stepped out, and entered the building. The driver and myself remained waiting outside, in the car. That SD building was in a nearby street. Whilst we were waiting, we noticed, that in the main road, the police lorries, which we have seen standing on the ghetto square, were being driven, fully loaded with Jews, out of the town, in fact, in the direction from where we came from, that is, in the direction of Krakow. After a short while, we noticed, these lorries returning empty. It was simply so that the lorries loaded with Jews, were being driven outwards, and the returning empty vehicles were driven back into the town. It was a continuous round trip.

Having waited there a while, Scherner returned in company of a higher ranking SD Fuhrer than him, from the SD building. Scherner ordered the driver and myself to drive to the German House in Tarnow in order to have our lunch there, and wait there for him. He himself went into the car of the SD Fuhrer and drove away. Where to I do not know. The driver of Scherner and myself proceeded to the German House. That house was also located, on the earlier mentioned main street. Whilst we were sitting in that German House, we could continue to observe the lorries on their round journeys. We deliberately found a seat next to a window, in order to keep an eye on our vehicle. Having finished my meal, I have been curious to go into the street, I wanted to know what was happening to these Jews. After a few moments, I stopped a lorry loaded with Jews that was going out of town, and asked the driver if he knew where the SS and Police Leader Scherner could be found. The driver answered in the negative. I then told him, that I wanted to drive with him for a short distance. We drove a short distance out of town, in the direction of Krakow. A short distance from the end of town, there is a bridge.  We drove over that bridge, and immediately behind that bridge, there is a field lane, leading off the road to the right. This lane led into a forest.

We drove into the forest. After about 100 meters the vehicle was stopped. I went out. The tailboard of the lorry was opened. The Jews descended. The entire forest was surrounded by Police. As one entered the forest a little deeper, one came across a large opened grave. The grave was quite deep. The Jews, men, women, the old (no children) had to undress. In that manner they were led into that grave. They had to jump into that grave and lay down there. Down there in that grave there were two men with revolvers (probably c-8 guns).

I assume that these men belonged to the SD. They wore however no uniform jackets. The sleeves of their uniform shirts were rolled up. The Jews were made to lay down in the grave. They were then killed with a shot into the back of the neck, from the pistols of the two armed men there. Above that grave, there was, as I believe to remember, an ammunition box containing filled ready to use ammunition magazines. I cannot say if these magazines were refilled there on the spot. I do not know either, in what manner the full magazines were passed to the men who were firing them in that grave. Also over the grave, which I can well recollect, there were barrels of lime. A little further away there were several Jews working who were clearing up the clothing of their tragic comrades and throwing them onto one spot. This clothing was then taken back into town in those lorries. The lime had then to be thrown over the bodies of their comrades, by these Jews working there.

 I watched these proceedings only for a short while, I became faint, I then immediately returned on the next vehicle back to Tarnow. Back in Tarnow, I had a drink of alcohol in a small pub. And after that I returned to the German House. There I met the driver again - he sat in the car and slept. After a while, how long that was, I do not know, Scherner returned. We drove with him back to Krakow. During the journey no conversation took place, at least not about the liquidation of Jews. At the place of execution of the Jews in the forest, I did not see Scherner there. At the whole Action, I did not meet anyone or see anyone that was either known to me then, or in the past.

3) The Action in Miechow

 For a while, following the two mentioned events, I had a considerable period of peace from such actions. In the middle of May was the next such escort duty I have been ordered to attend, which was again a Jewish Action.As from March 1942 these Actions were taking place regularly. I personally, have been, as mentioned, saved from these actions for a considerable period. Scherner, who during that period supervised these Action’s always himself, had found another person to use as an escort. Who that other person was, or were, I cannot say. I believe that he took at one time, a police officer as an escort for himself.  

 Fellenz as far as I know, did not take part in those duties. He was sitting mostly in the office of the headquarters and dealt with the general day to day business of the SS and police Fuhrer. As far as I have heard, the Actions supervised by Scherner, covered the whole area from the German border all the way to Przemysl on the Russian border. I mean that the Action in Miechow, which I am now about to describe, was the first Action conducted by Fellenz.

The Miechow Action developed as follows:

I arrived to my duty office one day in May, the exact date I cannot establish, in the morning. As usual, at the beginning of the days duties, I stood with my comrades gossiping. Whilst we were standing there like this talking, Fellenz came to me and said casually, “Sepp today you are going with me, Scherner’s orders.” Fellenz was very familiar with me. I made myself ready for departure. In front of the building we entered into a private vehicle. Besides of myself and Fellenz, with us was the criminal secretary Kunde.

Kunde wore a uniform of a Gestapo official. I already knew Kunde, as he sat in the same office building as myself. Fellenz drove the car himself. Kunde sat in the front on the right of him. I sat in the back of the car. I do not remember the make of the car we were using, I did not take any notice of this, as I have no interest in cars. I am far more interested in dogs and horses. The journey took us in a northerly direction from Krakow. Where we were going and what undertaking we were about to do, has not been disclosed to me. What I can still remember Fellenz and Kunde entertained themselves discussing all sorts of things during the journey, above all, about music and horses. Fellenz was very musical, I mean, his wife was a singer. Besides Fellenz was also an excellent horse rider. He has won prizes in competitions on many occasions. Regarding the Action we were going to, and regarding any other Jewish matters, has not been discussed at all, during that journey. The journey also took somewhat longer this time.

How long the journey lasted, I cannot any longer say. But it was at least one hour. I have been shown a map of the then Generalgouvernement and have been asked if the place of Mirchow, is the same as the north of Krakow situated town of Miechow. Both these places must be identically next to one another.

 As we approached Miechow which was a sort of a village, we could see the place, from higher ground from the cars window, in the distance the railway line, and finally also on the railway line, a very large lawn. On this lawn there were assembled an unbelievable large number of people. Fellenz noticed this as well, and said to us, “Oh they have assembled them already.” Because of this we did not drive into the village itself any more, but direct onto the earlier mentioned lawn. There we stopped and we came out of the car. Fellenz ordered me with the words, “Sepp you are to remain here,” that is next to the car. He himself went away with Kunde. As I stood next to the car, I noticed that on that lawn there were about 1,000 – 1,500 Jewish people there, women, men, old and the young, but no children, all of them chased and assembled there. They were guarded by mixed units of Gendarmarie, SD and other assembled special units. There were also groups of Gestapo and SD people there. Who had the command there, I could not establish. It was very hot that day. As I stood next to our car, I have been begged by the Jews for water. It was above all a woman who was begging me. I called one of the Jewish policemen, who were on duty there as well, and ordered him to fetch some water.

This he refused to do, on the ground that the commanding officer there, has specifically forbidden this. I enquired who was in command there. The answer I received was that it was a man called Bauerlein. Bauerlein was a criminal secretary he I believe was hanged in Poland after the war. I explained to the Jewish policeman, that on my orders he is to bring the water, as I come from a higher service office. The Jew refused to obey the order again, at that I went with the Jew to Bauerlein. He was together with Fellenz, in the vicinity of the lawn, in a building used by the Jewish council. I explained the matter to Fellenz. Fellenz ordered that water was to be brought there. This was done as ordered. As a person I must add that Fellenz was always very correct in his behaviour. Whenever, he was present, the Jews were not beaten. When such attempts were made, he would step in immediately.

The Jews sat on that lawn until the approach of darkness. They had with them some luggage, and some food. As it became dark a train arrived. The lawn as mentioned, bordered onto a railway line. The train stopped level with the lawn and the Jews were loaded into the goods wagons. The loading proceeded without any incidents, and was supervised mainly by the Jewish policemen on duty there. Any incidents, either of beating or shooting did not occur. This was the quietest resettlement action, which I attended. The whole time, until the loading and departure of these people. I have been on that lawn, I have not gone away, even once, not even to eat. I have spoken to those Jews. The Jews asked me most of all where they are going. I explained to them, that I did not know this. I really did not know where this transport of Jews, was being taken to in that train.