The Protective Police War Criminals of Stryj
tried by the people's court

(Ukraine)

49°15' / 23°51'

Schupo-Kriegsverbrecher von Stryj vor dem
Wiener Volksgericht

Published in Haifa, June 1957


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Acknowledgments

Our sincere appreciation to Uriel Zur Schützer z”l z”l
for the Organization of former inhabitants of Stryj in Israel,
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Schupo-Kriegsverbrecher von Stryj vor dem Wiener Volksgericht;
Introduction to a Collection of documents regarding Protective policemen in Stryj,
“The Protective Police War Criminals of Stryj tried by the people's court”, Vienna,
published in Haifa, June 1957


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THE PROTECTIVE POLICE WAR CRIMINALS OF STRYJ
TRIED BY THE PEOPLE'S COURT, VIENNA

Translated by Stefan Gunther

Collection of Documents


PREFACE

The purpose of this collection of documents is to prove the extent to which the arrested former Protective Policemen participated between 1941 and 1944 in the liquidation of 30,000 Jews in Stryj. This collection of documents neither mentions nor portrays the hunger the Jews in the Stryj ghetto suffered;

how Jewish men and women were pressed into forced labor, treated like slaves, and how the SS was paid 5 Zloty per work day for every day (as evinced by a report written by the head of the SS and police for Galicia, SS-General Katzmann);

how the Jews were robbed of their valuables and all their property, which was then sent to the German Reich (according to a report by SS-team leader Frank, dated September 26, 1942, “Re: Utilization of Property occasioned by the settlement and resettlement of the Jews”);

how the gassing of the Jews was carried out by the Nazis in the extermination camp of Belzec outside of Lviv.


Although the orders to wipe out Jewry and to bring about the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe originated from Himmler and Heydrich, as well as from Kaltenbrunner and Adolf Eichmann, both Nazis from Linz, there does not exist a single case in which a German from any organization was killed by firing squad on the grounds of refusing to participate in the execution of Jews.

All of them claimed for themselves a pretext of extricating themselves from front-line service, in order to escape being exposed to danger. However, they did possess the “courage” to fire their bullets at thousands of unarmed women and children. 


All documents published in this edition are located in the archive of Yad Vashem, Israel.

Nazis from Vienna in East Galicia and the arrest of the Protective Policemen from Stryj

When Poland was occupied by German troops in September 1939, the Nazis created the so-called Generalgouvernement. It was divided into the following four districts: Krakow, Warsaw, Radom, and Lublin. The Governor-General, Frank, was located in Krakow. Lodz and the [erstwhile Polish] areas of Silesia were incorporated into the German Reich.

When war broke out between Germany and Russia in 1941, the German troops conquered, among other areas, East Galicia, and occupied it with the help of the Wehrmacht, SS, SD, Gendarmerie, Protective Police, etc. Governor Dr. Lasch and the [local] Head of SS and Police, SS-General Katzmann, who had, up to 1941, been active in the Radom district, were transferred to Lviv in the summer of 1941. Their orders covered East Galicia in its entirety.

At the same time, Protective Police units were sent to East Galicia from Vienna to maintain law and order. The Police Commissioner in Lviv was Dr. Ulrich from Graz; the Deputy Commander was Lieutenant Colonel Heitzinger of the Protective Police Lviv (both were arrested in Vienna in 1947).

In the fall of 1941, the systematic extermination of the Jewish population was begun in every town of East Galicia that was part of the Generalgouvernement. A report on the solution of the Jewish question in East Galicia, sent by General Katzmann to Head of SS and Police Krüger on June 30, 1943, mentions that a census in 1931 counted 502,000 Jews in Galicia. Lviv alone had 160,000 Jews. “As Jews made up 90% of skilled manual workers in Galicia, the task could be solved incrementally only, because an immediate removal [of those workers] would not have been in the interest of the wartime economy. Despite all measures to coordinate work details for Jews, the evacuation of Jews from the Galicia district had been ongoing since April 1942. By June 27, 1943, a total of 434,329 had been evacuated, and all Jewish quarters had been abolished.”

In the other districts of the Generalgouvernement the extermination of Jews was begun, following the model of East Galicia. There were special SD and Gestapo offices in Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Kolomyya and Drogobych that were active in the cities themselves and the environs. For instance, the activities of the Gestapo office in Drogobych also included the towns of Borislav and Stryj, where the Gestapo assisted with every liquidation of Jews. The Gestapo officers who participated in the liquidation of Jews in Stryj were Ebenrecht, Dengg, Landau, and Gabriel. The three individual mentioned last were arrested in Vienna in 1946.

Between 1941 and 1944, a few thousand Viennese and Austrian individuals were active in the towns of East Galicia; they served in the Protective Police, the SD and Gestapo offices, the Criminal Investigation Police, Gendarmerie, the Local Commander's office, and as trustees of Jewish property. Of those thousands of collaborators, who shot to death more than 100,000 men, women, and children on the spot; sent the rest of them to the extermination camp of Belzec outside of Lviv; and proclaimed Galicia “Jew-free” on June 27, 1943; only 65 war criminals were arrested in Vienna between 1945 and 1948. Amongst those individuals were the 13 Protective Policemen who were active in Stryj.

According to their own accounts of the assassination of thousands of Jews, these 65 war criminals were extradited to the Soviet Union in 1948. However, in November 1955 they returned to Vienna. The Austrian and foreign press demanded of the Austrian government that these criminals be arrested anew to try them in the People's Court of Vienna. Thus, the first people's trial against a group of former Protective Policemen from Borislav was instituted in June 1956. The entire public could now find out details about the mass murders committed by the Nazis. Only two of the defendants, Mitas and Pöll, were sentenced, to life in prison and 20 years incarceration, respectively. The remaining six were released on the grounds of them having been in prison for 10 years in Vienna and Russia and having thus served their time.

The next people's trial in Vienna was scheduled for April and May 1957 against the 15 Protective Policemen who had participated in the murder of 60,000 Jews from Kolomyya. To this end, a collection of documents, comprising 80 pages, was sent to Vienna to prove the complicity of the 15 defendants. Upon intervention by the World Jewish Congress, the leadership of the Jewish Religious Community (I.K.G.) [1], and the Kolomyya Organization, the Austrian Department of Justice petitioned the Israeli judges to hear witnesses from Israel. When the witnesses' testimonies and the collection of documents were at the court in Vienna, we were, surprisingly, informed that the Kolomyya trial had been postponed, and that the Austrian court had decided to open the Stryj trial.

The arrest of the Protective Policemen from Stryj occurred as follows:

A Vienna State Police inspector was convinced that a list of those policemen who were sent from Vienna to serve in the East between 1940 and 1944 still existed. It turned out that a list of 7,000 Protective Policemen who were on duty in Europe was indeed discovered in the Human Resources Division of the Secretary General's Office of Police Headquarters in Vienna. Three shorthand typists were dispatched to the Human Resources Division and transcribed the entire Protective Police list over two days. The list contained the following information: personal data, Viennese home address, war-time location and residence, duration of duty, rank, etc. The lists we prepared were organized by the different towns in which groups of Protective Policemen were present during the war.

It was decided to collect evidence against the Protective Policemen from Stryj and to prepare for their arrest.

It was our task to find witnesses from Stryj, to collect testimony implicating the ignored Protective Policemen, who were still on duty with the Vienna Police Department. We had in our possession lists that contained thousands of war criminals' names. Instead of arranging for witnesses giving us the names of the war criminals, our task consisted of locating surviving witnesses from each town.

On the basis of a list of Vienna's Jewish population between 1945 and 1948, which we owned, we were familiar with every Jewish refugee, as well as with the ghetto in which he [/she] lived during the war. After a few days we succeeded in presenting several Jewish witnesses, who had survived the Stryj ghetto and now resided in Vienna, to the inspectors and examiners of the Vienna State Police.

Following are the names of the witnesses who were present at Vienna Police Headquarters in October 1947:

Bernhard Wien, Arthur Sobol, Wilhelm Taub, Moses Süssholz, Henryk Rosen, as well as a Christian witness from Vienna, Eduard Janca, who worked as a master builder in Stryj and gave very interesting testimony.
A few days after the witnesses' depositions, the arrest of the war criminals was begun. In mid-October 1947, 13 former Protective Policemen from Stryj were already under arrest:
The deputy of the Protective Police Commander in Stryj, First Lieutenant Kranzler; First Lieutenant Pflamitzer; Policeman Garber; Policeman Christament; Hauptwachtmeister Alois Bidmon; Hauptwachtmeister Alois Klein; Policeman Max Preuer; Hauptwachtmeister Rudolf Rohrhofer; Policeman Johann Schaffner; First Lieutenant Franz Schöpf; Policeman Franz Venhoda.
Coincidentally, we possess evidence against the 13 war criminals from Stryj. Although witnesses from Stryj, now in Israel, have already contacted us to testify against the 13 defendants, there is no urgent need for such testimony, given that 5 of the defendants, namely Garber, Christament, Rohrhofer, Schaffner, and Venhoda, have already admitted that they personally shot and killed hundreds of Jews. At the same time, they also implicated all their other fellow policemen.

As the people's trial is to occur shortly in Vienna, this collection of documents is intended to prove the complicity of the arrested. The material primarily consists of transcripts of the testimony given in the Police Headquarters of Vienna, Div. 1, in October and November 1947, by the Protective Policemen active in Stryj. At that point, 13 Protective Policemen were arrested; however, we possess 46 xeroxes of the transcripts made of the testimony of 11 arrested individuals.

This document collection was issued upon the initiative of the World Jewish Executive to serve a dual purpose:

a.) to give those criminals the punishment they deserve, based on the evidence.
b.) to prove to the world to what bestial consequences Nazi rule led.

The Jews of Stryj and Environs

Of the 33,000 inhabitants of Stryj (1938), 13,000 were Jews. When German troops invaded Poland in September 1939 and occupied city after city, thousands of Jewish citizens left their home towns to avoid being captured by the Germans. They fled to the towns in the eastern part of Poland. Thus, many refugees arrived in Stryj. As is known, the eastern part of Poland was occupied by the Red Army from September 1939 through June 1941. When war erupted between Germany and Russia on June 22, 1941, Stryj was occupied by German troops on July 1, 1941.

Pursuant to the corrected order of SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich, the Head of SD Headquarters in Berlin, all Jews living in villages and small towns were to be concentrated in district towns. Around Stryj, there were 52 villages with Jewish families, who were evacuated to Stryj as early as the fall of 1941. In addition, more Jewish families from the smallish towns around Stryj arrived there as well. By the end of 1941, the Jewish population of Stryj had grown to 30,000. According to Policeman Garber, 2,000 Jews were shot and killed in the Holobutov grove; 1,500 were shot and killed in the Jewish cemetery. Every operation in the ghetto, as well as evacuation operations, provoked shoot-and-kill actions against Jews on the spot.

According to surviving witnesses, 10,000 Jews out of that number were shot and killed. The other 20,000 were taken by train to the extermination camp of Belzec outside of Lviv. It is clear from their own police transcripts to what degree the Protective Policemen participated in the extermination of the Jews of Stryj. The Protective Police force of Stryj was led by Police Commander Klarmann from Cologne, who had previously been a church painter.

The Protective Policemen from Stryj are also responsible for the annihilation of Jews in the environs of Stryj, viz. from the small towns of Skole, Bolekhov, Dolina, Zhidachiv, Zhuravno, Bibrka Chodoriw, Mikolajov, Lavoczne, Synevidsko, Sokolov, Rozdol, and others, where 25,000 Jews lived, who were liquidated by the Protective Police, together with the Gestapo.

Account by the Protective Policemen of their Activity in Stryj

One of the cruelest war criminals, who personally shot and killed hundreds of men, women and children in Stryj, was Policeman Garber. Garber testifies as follows in this transcript from October 16, 1947:

“On October 7, 1941, I was detailed to Stryj, together with about 20 fellow policemen from Vienna. Initially we, i.e., our entire office, were used in cordoning off operations of certain Jewish city blocks. The Jews were herded into the cordoned-off area and then, under guard of the Protective Police, Gendarmerie, and Ukrainian militia, brought to the Stryj train station, were they were crowded into waiting railroad cars, ready for departure.

The first liquidation in Holobutov was carried out around April 1942. I, as well as Beilner, Hick, Scheiflinger, Venhoda, Heinrich, and Zeman, stood at the edge of the pit. Besides us, there were also a few SD people. The Jews, who had been ordered to disrobe, were now led, in groups of 20, to the opposite side of the pit and ordered to line at the pit's edge, with their backs towards us. Then I and the mentioned individuals shot those who had lined up in the head, from a distance of about 6m (we used Russian machine pistols; some of us used Russian carbines). Upon seeing that one of the Jews who fell into the pit was not dead yet, I gave him the coup de grâce.

In this manner, we liquidated about 300 women, men and children during this operation. The entire office, to my knowledge, served guard duty, with the exception of one individual, who was on emergency service. I actively participated in three liquidation operations in Holobutov.

I can state with certainty that the following individuals fired during each of the three mentioned operations: Klarmann, Bischinger, Beilinger, Christament, Hartmann, Hick, Rohrhofer, Scheiflinger, Venhoda, Zeman.

It occurred occasionally that our office was notified of Jews who were in hiding. We were ordered to hunt them down and liquidate them on the spot. This operation was carried out by groups from our office. The members of my group were Hick, Thibes, Peter, Scheiflinger, Heinrich, and several Ukrainian policemen. Individuals were dragged by us out of their hiding places, so-called bunkers, herded together in front of a wall in the ghetto, and blindly shot to death by us. The Judenrat, despite our orders to the contrary, buried the corpses in the Jewish cemetery. The other group, which had the same order to hunt Jews out of their hiding places, consisted of Beilner, Klein, Scheiflinger, Heinrich, Thibes, Zeman, and several Ukrainians.

Later we also carried out liquidations in the Jewish cemetery.

The Jews were rounded up in the ghetto, brought to the prison, and transported to the Jewish cemetery once a large-enough number had accumulated. There the same procedure [as above] was carried out, and all members of the department fired. Typically one individual remained in the office to take care of business there; we took turns doing this.


About 2,000 Jews were liquidated in Holobutov, about 1,500 in the Jewish cemetery

At the end of 1943 a Jew raid occurred in the area around the glass factory. The entire department participated in this operation. It was planned to hand over the arrested Jews, about 140, to the court jail. During the operation a young lad jumped me and attempted to stab me with a long knife. As a result, he was shot by First Lieutenant Klarmann. At this point, all other Jews attempted to flee into all directions, and I saw that a First Lieutenant of the Ukrainian police named Wachtchuk was injured by Jews. This was the signal for opening fire on the crowd from everywhere, and I myself blindly fired into the crowd with my machine pistol.”



First Lieutenant Pflamitzer, Deputy of the Protective Police Commander in Stryj from 1941 to 1942, testified as follows in his police transcript, dated October 3, 1947:

“On October 6, 1941, I was transferred from Vienna to Stryj, Galicia, where a Protective Police Department was being established. Together with me, 19 of my fellow policemen went to Stryj as well: Division Head Albin Hauptmann, Bischinger, Christament, Garber, Venhoda, Klein, Pabisch, Heinrich [,] Tibes, Zeman, Schöpf, Hick, Johann Kranzler, Schaffner, Scheiflinger, Rohrhofer, Bidmon. We left Vienna on October 6, 1941, and arrived in Stryj approximately six days later. First Lieutenant Hauptmann was the Division Head, I was his deputy. Our order was to maintain law and order in the town of Stryj. Our division reported to the Commander of the Protective Police in Lviv, Colonel Stach, a Reichs German. Prior to our arrival in Stryj, the unit on duty was the Gendarmerie, headed by Second Lieutenant Richtsfeld from Saxony. There existed no Gestapo office in Stryj. Gestapo duties were carried out by a Hauptscharführer from the Drogobych office. First Lieutenant Hauptmann was charged from Lviv to deploy a certain number of Ukrainian militia.

“On this matter, Hauptmann had several talks with the Local Commander of Stryj, Dr. von Dorwitz. As it turned out, about 70 Ukrainian policemen were available to the Protective Police division. They were commanded by Nykolin, who was a Captain in the old Austrian army.

After my arrival in Stryj in October 1941, I noticed that Jews were marked with blue-and-white armbands. I knew that during my stay in Stryj a Judenrat existed. Furthermore I was aware of the fact that a Jewish Order Enforcement Division reported to the Judenrat. We used the Judenrat when we furnished our offices. The individual items were then delivered by the Judenrat. Before my departure from Stryj in April 1942 I heard that Lviv ordered the Local Commander to establish a ghetto in Stryj.”



First Lieutenant Kranzler's account, dated October 18, 1947

On June 3, 1941, I was ordered to report to the Protective Police in Stryj, in the stead of Second Lieutenant Pflamitzer. My area of responsibility was office duty of the division, viz. processing of files, secret orders, and reports to higher authorities. In October 1942, First Lieutenant Hauptmann was transferred and replaced in Stryj by First Lieutenant Klarmann, the Commander of the Protective Police. I recall that immediately after Klarmann's arrival the Gestapo officers Gabriel and Bock put in an appearance in Klarmann's office and suggested to him that he and his staff participate in liquidation operations. At the end of October, the first large-scale operation against the Jews occurred.

At that time Klarmann ordered me to repair early in the morning to the main square, together with some Protective Policemen and Ukrainian militia men, to receive the Jews who were apprehended there by other Protective Policemen and to guard them. After about 200 to 300 Jews had accumulated there, Klarmann and I brought them to the synagogue. We crowded more than 1,000 individuals into the synagogue who had to stand squeezed together due to lack of space. At the end of the operation, the synagogue was closed and the Jews remained in this inhumane condition for three days. To my knowledge, these individuals were then trucked to the Holobutov grove. It was our task to load the Jews onto the trucks which arrived in rotation. To my knowledge, the entire Stryj division was used for this operation.

“Klarmann decided on me to go to Holobutov and carry out the next liquidation operation, which occurred roughly 8 weeks later. This liquidation operation involved 800 individuals--men, women, and children. The liquidation unit comprised me and Bischinger, Zeman, Schaffner, Christament, Venhoda, Garber, Rohrhofer, Tibes, Peter, Heinrich, and about 10 to 15 Ukrainian policemen.

The liquidation operation was carried out as follows: we drove our trucks on the road from Stryj to Drogobych. Roughly 6km outside of Stryj a gravel path split off from the main road on the left. We turned onto the gravel path and drove for about 140m. The Jews now had to alight from the trucks and disrobe in groups of about 10-15. They were accompanied by Ukrainian militia, which was positioned in a semi-circle and secured the site. At the edge of the grove a Protective Policeman was positioned with two Ukrainian militia soldiers; he took over the group. On top of the knoll there was a pit which was 7m deep. The Jews now had to line up on the side of the pit opposite to the liquidation unit, with their backs turned on those individuals, and were then shot and killed by shots in the head from a distance of about 6m. The unit used Russian machine pistols and guns. I was positioned at the edge of the woods, with the second sentry, and wanted to go up to witness the liquidation, when a group of naked Jews was led uphill. An elderly woman at that point asked me to save her daughter who was about 18 or 19 years old. I demurred, turned around, and returned to the collecting point.”



Policeman Josef Christament states in his transcript, dated October 17, 1947.


“I admit having participated twice in liquidation operations in Holobutov. The Jews were loaded onto trucks in Stryj, picked up at the prison, and then brought out to Holobutov. I admit that Klarmann assigned me twice to the execution unit and that I fired a German carbine.”


Continuation of Christament's testimony, dated October 23, 1947.

“At the beginning of 1943 I also participated in an operation in the Jewish hospital. As I recall, Klarmann, Garber, Hick, Schaffner, Bischinger participated as well. It was our order to transfer Jews who were moveable to the Stryj prison. As I recall, the Jews fled from their beds and we caught up with them and shot them up in the hospital's courtyard. Individuals who could not flee due to their illnesses were shot and killed in their beds by Klarmann.


Excerpt from Rudolf Rohrhofer's transcript, dated October 18, 1947.

“During the first liquidation of Jews I was ordered to lead the Jews up to the pit, where they were shot and killed by members of the Gestapo. Later we Protective Policemen were ordered by First Lieutenant Klarmann to carry out the shootings ourselves. I admit that I once participated in a liquidation operation. First Lieutenant Klarmann ordered me to fire with a ten-rounds automatic rifle. After this rifle malfunctioned, I used my carbine. Christament, Garber, Beiler, Venhoda, Garber and Venhoda [sic] used machine pistols. As I recall, the Judenrat of Stryj was liquidated in the courtyard of the building it worked in, after the ghetto had been liquidated. Around the same time, the Jewish Order Enforcement Division was liquidated in another part of the building.”



Excerpt from Johann Schaffner's transcript, dated November 11, 1947

“In 1943, I believe in the spring, our division was ordered to carry out the liquidation of the Stryj Judenrat. I recall that First Lieutenant Klarmann set off with Venhoda, Christament, Garber, and a Bavarian (from the Protective Railroad Police) to carry out that order. After carrying out this liquidation the mentioned individuals returned to the office and related that they carried out the shooting of members of the Judenrat (about 10 to 12 individuals).

Regarding the slaughter at the “Asa” glass factory, the events were as follows: the entire division, excepting Schöpf and the guard, were to lead the Jewish workers of the glass factory to the prison. When the Jews were led from the factory, the Ukrainian militia colonel Waczuck was positioned across from the factory gate. A Jewish worker injured his face by throwing a rock. The restlessness caused by this event amongst the Jewish workers had already begun to die down when G a r b e r suddenly yelled “Down!” and began to fire his machine pistol at the Jews. Garber acted as if he was possessed and was shooting until all Jews were lying on the ground. To facilitate understanding of the local topography, I enclose a sketch of Garber's location. Garber seemed to derive special pleasure from the executions. Hick was especially rough and brutal, too.”




Excerpt from Franz Venhoda's transcript, dated October 16, 1947

“Regarding the repeated accusation that I participated in the liquidations in the Holobutov forest, and after having been confronted with prisoner Garber, who confirmed that I fired [my gun] there, I admit that I was ordered twice to be part of the liquidation unit there, and the second time actually participated in the shootings. I used a machine pistol then. The other member of the liquidation unit who was at the pit was Rohrdorfer. It was always two men who fired. The others led the disrobed Jews to the pit. Amongst those were all members of the division, except for those individuals who remained in the office. Those were three individuals. The individuals to be liquidated, amongst whom were also women and children, had to lie down in the pit and were killed by me by a machine pistol shot to the back of the head. I had set the machine pistol on single-shot mode and aimed at the Jews. I cannot state how many human beings were killed in that manner. I remember that several truckloads worth [of individuals] were brought to the liquidation site.”


Ten xerox copies of police transcripts of Policeman Garber, Policeman Christament, Hauptwachtmeister Rohrhofer, Policeman Schaffner, Policeman Venhoda, and First Lieutenant Kranzler are enclosed.


Translator's Notes
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