[Emil Lachout was the seventeenth witness called by the defence. He testified on April 11 and 12, 1988.]
Emil Lachout was a lieutenant in the Military Police Service in Austria in 1948. His job was to accompany the Military Police and members of the Allied War Crimes Commission during the arrests of alleged war criminals to ensure that the suspects were not tortured or abused. Lachout was also involved in the investigation of the Austrian camps, including Mauthausen. (29-7890 to 7895) In 1944, Lachout had been a member of the German Military Police. (29-7948)
The Allied War Crimes Commission was composed of two military police investigators from each country and two Austrian observers, himself and Major Müller. It had been formed as a result of Allied mistreatment of alleged war criminals in such trials as Malmédy where it had been proved that false statements were extracted by torture. The Allies wanted to prevent such things from happening again. (29-7895 to 7897) The Commission was disbanded in 1949, and was reconstituted thereafter only for individual cases. (7901)
Lachout personally saw instances of tortured Allied prisoners. He talked to them privately and had to “break the ice” in order to get statements from them. Sometimes the men didn’t dare to speak because they suspected an Allied officer was there as well. On the basis of his observations, Lachout had instructed that the men be examined by doctors; it was clear that the men had been tortured. (29-7960)
The Commission conducted an investigation, in which Lachout was involved, into the allegation that a gas chamber had been used in Mauthausen. It concluded that there were no gas chambers in the camp. In the investigations he was involved in, they found that many of the accusations made, particularly by former concentration camp inmates, were false. (29-7897, 7898)
Although Lachout was not personally involved in the investigations of camps in Germany, his office received documentation from the War Crime Commissions located there, pursuant to which he freed prisoners who had been wrongly accused and imprisoned. (29-7951)
Christie produced a copy of a Circular Letter of the Military Police Service dated October 1, 1948 which Lachout read to the court:
Military Police Service Copy
Circular Letter No. 31/48 Vienna, 1 Oct. 1948 10th dispatch
1. The Allied Commissions of Inquiry have so far established that no people were killed by poison gas in the following concentration camps: Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Flossenbürg, Gross-Rosen, Mauthausen and its satellite camps, Natzweiler, Neuengamme, Niederhagen (Wewelsburg), Ravensbrück, Sachsenhausen, Stutthof, Theresienstadt.
In those cases, it has been possible to prove that confessions had been extracted by tortures and that testimonies were false.
This must be taken into account when conducting investigations and interrogations with respect to war crimes.
The result of this investigation should be brought to the cognizance of former concentration camp inmates who at the time of the hearings testified on the murder of people, especially Jews, with poison gas in those concentration camps. Should they insist on their statements, charges are to be brought against them for making false statements.
2. In the C.L. (Circular Letter) 15/48, item 1 is to be deleted.
The Head of the MPS Müller, Major” Certified true copy: Lachout, Second Lieutenant
Lachout testified that he had drafted this letter for Major Müller’s signature and had watched him sign it. He had then had copies made in the office which he certified, signed and stamped. The letter was translated into three languages and confirmed by the controlling officer. Only then was it allowed to be issued. (29-7954, 7957) The letter was circulated to every military Kommando in the Russian zone to keep personnel aware of the state of investigations. No one was ever charged with making false statements because they withdrew their statements as soon as they heard about the letter. (29-7900, 7901)
In September 1987, Lachout was approached by representatives of the President of Austria, shown the original Müller document, and asked if he was the person who signed it. Lachout checked his own records and certified in District Court, Vienna, on October 27, 1987, that the signature on the document was his. (29-7946; Müller letter entered as Exh. 120)