Nevertheless, even as our own units were guilty of roughness here and there. I once saw a soldier beat a frail old Jew over the head with a rubber club. I spoke to the soldier, reported him to his commander and demanded he be punished and demoted. Himmler would not stand for that kind of thing. That is sadism.
I would like to add here that when millions of Germans were deported by the Allies after the war from Eastern Europe to Germany, the operation was not carried out the way we did it with Prussian exactness about provisions and transportation. Although we had the greatest difficulty in obtaining trains, the Jews were always shipped in covered, not open cars, and always by the quickest possible routes.
In Hungary it sometimes happened that there were too few slop buckets on the trains, too little drinking water or no drinking water at all, or that the provisions were bad or stolen during the loading. The Gendarmes sometimes overloaded the cars to empty the debarkation camp as quickly as possible. You can imagine how it was when the Hungarians peremptorily ordered "Everybody in, in, in. The border comes in 240 kilometers, and then Germany. Let the Germans finish things up."
Matters were different on Reich territory where we had full powers. The lieutenant of the guard, for example, could hold the train up until fresh water was provided and the slop buckets emptied and cleaned out, if only to avoid epidemics. After all, we were supposed to bring the material to the concentration camp ready to start work, not sickly and exhausted.
In spite of all our efforts Commandant Hoess at Auschwitz often complained about the condition of the Jews who arrived from Hungary. This proves that Auschwitz was not primarily a death camp. If Hoess simply sent the Jews into the oven, it would not have made any difference to him. He would not have complained to General Pohl, his chief, when a few corpses were lying around in the cars because people had given them too little to eat or drink. And Pohl would certainly not have asked to see me, making the complaints known to me in rather blunt terms. I replied of course that I was not really responsible because the Hungarian government had arranged the details of the loading.
As the transport trains rolled into Auschwitz, sometimes bringing as many as 10,000 units a day, the camp staff had to work day and night. I was on close, comradely terms with Hoess and he told me he could not understand why I showed absolutely no consideration for him and his staff. But how could I? I was just as limited a specialist in my own sector as he was in his. Yet I liked to visit him. He lived with his wife and children in a five-room house on the camp grounds. It was a homey place, clean and simple and furnished in SS-style natural wood.
June 16, 1998