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Former Auschwitz Aide Admits 250-300 Murders

Jan. 30, 1964 - A former medical aide of the Auschwitz concentration camp testified today that he had killed 250 to 300 inmates by injections of carbolic acid. Josef Klehr, a carpenter who once headed the Nazi death camp’s disinfection squad, said that because of the prisoners’ poor physical condition, the injections had to be administered to the heart. “The people were so emaciated that their veins were too hard to find,” he said. Using the jargon of the Nazis’ Elite Guard, Klehr, famed for his sadistic cruelty, said he had “squirted” prisoners with carbolic acid on specific orders from his superior. “Had I refused, I would have been shot myself,” the former corporal said.

Klehr, one of 22 defendants who have been on trial in Frankfurt for six weeks, testified without emotion that he had administered the injections about twice a week. “Every time, I squirted from 12 to 15 people.” Klehr, who joined the Auschwitz staff in October 1941, said the victims for death by injection were chosen among inmates who reported sick. He explained that the camp doctors divided the sick into three categories: those needing hospital treatment, those needing only a rest, and those to be “selected.” Describing his career at Auschwitz, Klehr said he was appalled on his arrival to see a “trusted inmate kill a prisoner with an injection.” “Why?” the judge asked. “I thought it was not right that prisoners should be entrusted with the squirting,” Klehr replied.

Though the indictment charges Klehr with participation in hundreds of gassings and picking arriving prisoners for crematories, he insisted that his expert knowledge of Zyklon B was applied only when inmates or barracks had to be disinfected with small doses. He said that conditions at Auschwitz were “dreadful” but that when he asked to be assigned to the fighting front he was rejected. The trial has been observed by packed galleries of mostly young Germans.


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