The Holocaust Historiography Project

Bernard Kneuper

[Bernard Kneuper was the seventh witness called by the defence. He testified on Tuesday, March 22, 1988.]

In 1945, Bernard Kneuper was a member of a prisoner of war interrogation team attached to the United States Army 42nd Rainbow Division. The team was War Department Overhead attached to the army division but not under its command. He and two other men were stationed to the rear at a collection point for all the prisoners being taken by his Division. (23-5632, 5640)

The concentration camp at Dachau was captured on Sunday, April 29, 1945. On that day, Kneuper was attempting to sort out the thousands of prisoners of war being captured during that period. Up to 3,000 prisoners a day were being brought in. Kneuper's job was to count and organize the prisoners, determine the units they were from and assess whether there were higher ranking officers or others who might be worth questioning. (23-5633)

Kneuper also examined soldiers to determine whether they were members of the SS. It was known that the Germans had tattooed the blood type of SS soldiers under their left armpit. The prisoners were required to remove their coats and shirts and the Americans looked under the prisoner's left armpit for the tattoo. (23-5634)

In the middle of the afternoon of April 29, 1945, Kneuper walked into one of the occupied houses where they had set up a work room. He was told that two prisoners had been captured who had "a most interesting" story to tell, and was asked to talk to them. Kneuper interviewed both men and examined their record books, which set out what German units they had belonged to. Kneuper determined they were not in the SS, but had been in the German army for years. (23- 5635, 5637)

At that time, the German army was collapsing. The German field police would collect stray German soldiers or small units and when they had a couple of hundred men, these men would be given a commanding officer and issued orders. These two prisoners of war were part of a group of about 200 men who were rounded up by the German field police and ordered to go to Dachau where they were needed as guards. At Dachau, they were ordered to take off their army uniforms and exchange them for guard uniforms. Then they were posted on guard. (23-5635, 5636)

When the Americans captured Dachau, the guards all surrendered. They were taken into a large group and lined up against a wall. Suddenly, shooting with machine guns started. The two prisoners were in a rear rank. When dead men behind them fell on them, they lay among the bodies and in that way survived. They later wandered off and were picked up by some unit of the American division and brought to the collection point. (23-5636, 5637)

Kneuper testified that there was nothing but pandemonium at that time. People were all suffering from privation, and everybody looted warehouses and stores. American attack bombers simply shot all German transportation to pieces. The Germans could only transport at night and even then, they often didn't make it. It could be seen where trains or truck convoys or even animal wagons were simply shot to pieces and the people dead. (23-5637, 5638)

The day after Dachau was taken, Kneuper and a friend drove a Jeep over to the camp. His friend's father had been incarcerated in Dachau for a week or two during the 1930s and he wanted to see it. (23-5640) Kneuper testified that he saw dead and emaciated bodies of camp inmates but also saw camp inmates who looked just as well off and husky and hardy as the German veterans. There were plenty of these latter inmates. Kneuper testified that they "certainly weren't starving; they certainly didn't act as though they were." Kneuper was shown the photograph of released Dachau inmates on page 25 of Did Six Million Really Die?. Kneuper stated that while definitely not all the inmates looked like that, the great majority of the inmates were like those in the photograph. (23-5638, 5639)

He never saw a gas chamber. They drove by the crematorium but did not make a detailed examination of the camp when they were there. (23-5640)

Kneuper testified that the Germans were treated very badly by the Allies at that time because of all the war propaganda; but it varied, some people were nasty, some friendly, some non-committal. (23-5639)

On cross-examination, Kneuper testified that the visit to Dachau lasted about two hours. He talked to the prisoners and looked them over generally. He agreed he had no medical training. Kneuper could not say whether the prisoners had yellow triangles or not; it was not something he was looking for. (23-5641, 5642)

Kneuper never spoke to the interrogators attached to the division which actually captured Dachau. He did not know any of them. He did not speak to the few guards he saw at Dachau during his visit. (23-5643)

Kneuper saw an open railway car containing what he thought were about seven bodies, but he had read since that there were more. They were naked, emaciated bodies, mostly men, who were supposed to have been sent to Dachau for cremation. Kneuper was sure they were concentration camp inmates, at least some of them. He thought they had come from Buchenwald but did not know. (23-5643, 5644)

Kneuper confirmed he could not say anything about Auschwitz, pointing out that they were not even allowed to go there. His personal experience did not extend to the other camps. (23-5644)

Kneuper testified that the German prisoners of war did not look like the dead bodies, but like the live inmates. (23-5645)

Kneuper did not interrogate prisoners for war crimes. That was done by a higher echelon. He was attached to an infantry division and it was his duty to find out what was happening on the enemy side. It was field intelligence for the purpose of an infantry division. (23-5645)

Kneuper did not know what follow-up was made concerning the story told by the two German prisoners. His superior officer made up the daily reports and Kneuper did not know what he wrote concerning the incident. He testified, however, that it had shocked all three interrogators because it was a massacre. (23-5646)


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