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Major Cranfield’s Closing Address on Behalf of Irma Grese

The following is excerpts from The Belsen Trial transcript regarding the closing argument of Major Cranfield on behalf of Irma Grese:

Major Cranfield Closing Argument

The evidence of Diament against Grese regarding the latter’s responsibility for selecting victims for the gas chamber was vague. Regarding Lobowitz’s allegation against Grese, Counsel asked whether, however conscientious the accused was, it was not absolute nonsense to suggest that roll-calls went on from six to eight hours each day? He also threw doubt on the credibility of Neiger’s words.

As against Triszinska’s allegation concerning Grese’s dog, the Court had heard the accused deny that she ever had a dog, and that has been corroborated by others of the accused and by other witnesses from Auschwitz.

Regarding Kopper’s story of the punishment Kommando, Counsel referred to Grese’s evidence that she was in charge of the punishment Kommando for two days only, and in charge of the Strassenbaukommando, which was a type of punishment Kommando, for two weeks. The allegation of Kopper in her affidavit was that she was in charge of the punishment Kommando in Auschwitz from 1942 to 1944, but in the box she said that the accused was in charge of the punishment company working outside the camp for seven months. In the box she failed to reconcile those two statements. Was it probable that Grese would be in charge, the only Overseer, of a Kommando 800 strong, with an S.S. man, Herschel, to assist her? If 30 prisoners were killed each day, should there not have been some corroboration of this story?

Counsel asked the Court to disbelieve Szafran’s story about the shooting of the two girls, in view of Hoessler’s statement that the windows of the block in question were fixed windows. The story was told neither in Szafran’s affidavit nor even during her examination; she produced it on re-examination.

Commenting on the allegation of Ilona Stein, Counsel asked whether the Court believed, in view of the evidence, that an Overseer had any power to give an order to an S.S. guard? He pointed out that the witness, in her affidavit, said: “I did not hear the order”. He doubted also whether Grese could have beaten anyone with a belt as flimsy as that worn by an Overseer at Auschwitz, one of which was produced as an exhibit.

Eleven witnesses had recognized Grese in Court. Of these eleven five made no allegation of any kind against her. This fact threw doubt on the evidence of those witnesses who said that she was notorious, a ferocious savage and the worst S.S. woman.

Source

Law-Reports of Trials of War Criminals, The United Nations War Crimes Commission, Volume II, London, HMSO, 1947.

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