II.2.3 Activity at Sobibor: Acquittal Cases
a) Case no. 15
In case no. 15 of the indictment, Frenzel was accused of having mistreated and then shot a Jewess some time between May 1942 and October 1943. The Jewess is supposed to have refused to separate from her three-year-old child, whereupon Frenzel allegedly tore the child away from her, beat her and then shot her with his pistol.
This charge was based upon the witness Ler.’s statements during the investigation procedure, Frenzel having denied this case there and in the main proceedings and claimed it was impossible that Ler. could have seen such an occurrence.
During his detailed interrogation before the jury court, the witness Ler. no longer described this occurrence, and despite questioning by the court and the prosecution and remonstrance of his earlier statements he was not able to clearly remember this incident. His statements in the main proceedings were unclear and rather uncertain as concerns this case. While they clearly showed that the witness endeavored to tell only what he was certain to remember, Ler.’s statements were not sufficient to disprove Frenzel’s allegations in this case. As demanded by both the prosecution and the defense, Frenzel was thus acquitted of this charge for lack of proof.
b) Case no. 18:
In case no. 18 of the indictment, Frenzel was charged with having shot a woman from the same transport as in case no. 17 (see part 3 of this article), who was lying on a car of the lorry rail still alive and moving.
This charge was based on the depositions of the witnesses He. and Philip Bia. during the investigation procedure. Frenzel denied it there and in the main proceedings, where he claimed that the witnesses had possibly read a book about Sobibor where such a case was described and were now attributing it to him. There had been transports with several dead and many who were too debilitated to walk; for this the lorry rail had been built, after all. A transport with more dead than living he did not remember, however.
Despite detailed questioning of all witnesses the jury court did not manage to precisely identify a transport that would match the alleged occurrence. Whereas in the conviction case no. 17 it was proved that it had been a particular transport from Majdanek in the summer of 1942, before mid-August 1942 at the latest, all that could be found out in case no. 18 was that this had been another transport which had arrived from Majdanek or Lemberg, presumably in the spring or summer of 1943. The witness He., who for some time had been part of the station detachment, described such a transport (to which the women shot supposedly belonged) as having arrived "in great cold". According to the witness Philip Bia., however, the transport in question had arrived at Sobibor in the summer of 1943. This already was a gap in evidence that allowed for no sure identification of the charged incident. To be sure, the defendant himself stated that several transports with dead and debilitated people had arrived at Sobibor and the lorry rail had been built to take away the latter; furthermore several such transports in the spring or summer of 1943 became apparent from the depositions of several other witnesses
(Tho., Rot., Fel., Mar., Biz.). What mattered, however, was that in this case the underlying testimonies of the witnesses He. and Philip Bia. did not match. They possibly referred to two different transports, one in the winter, the other in the summer heat. It could not be excluded, however, that both witnesses meant the same transport, but on of them was mistaken about the circumstances of this occurrence. For this reason already none of these testimonies was sufficient to disprove Frenzel in this case. Additionally, the personality of both He. and Philip Bia. left a certain suspicion that their memory might be partially distorted. Furthermore the other witnesses mentioning this transport had said nothing about the killing of this woman. Thus, in this case, despite enduring founded suspicion and as demanded by the prosecution and the defense, Frenzel had to be acquitted for lack of certain proof.
c) Case no. 19:
In case no. 19 of the indictment Frenzel was charged with having, some time between June 1942 and October 1943, grabbed a baby by the legs during the unloading of a transport and torn its body apart.
This charge was based on the witness Biz.’s deposition during the investigation procedure. Frenzel always denied this incident. In the main proceedings he stated that he had never done a thing like that and no such thing had ever happened at all in Sobibor.
In the main proceedings the witness Biz. provided a description of the event that differed in essential aspects from his description during the investigation procedure. He stated that during the arrival of a transport a couple had refused to let go their baby, whereupon Frenzel had torn the child away from the mother, grabbed it by one leg and thrown it 4 to 5 meters away onto the lorry rail, where other children were lying already. The witness didn’t know whether the child had fallen onto the other bodies or against the lorry car’s iron wall. In his opinion the child had been dead. Its legs had been "at odd angles" (the witness demonstrated this, with visible inner commotion, by leaning back on the witness chair and spreading his legs apart).
Apart from Biz. having earlier stated that Frenzel had torn the child "into 2 halves", whereas in the main proceedings be only testified that Frenzel had grabbed the child by one leg and thrown it and that the child’s legs had been "at odd angles" (maybe broken), the deposition in the main proceedings was not sufficient to disprove Frenzel’s allegations already because it didn't show the child’s death. If it had fallen upon the bodies of other children, or of adults, it need not have been killed thereby, but may have been killed only at "Lazarett", where it was to be taken anyway, independently of Frenzel’s act. Frenzel's allegations were thus not disproved in this case, and despite enduring founded suspicion he had to be acquitted from this charge for lack of certain proof, as also demanded by prosecution and defense.
d) Case no. 23:
In case no. 23 of the indictment, Frenzel was charged with having provided for the shooting of several Jews, some time between May 1942 and October 1943, upon having discovered that members of detachments working outside the camp had obtained food and tried to hide it in the camp.
The charge was based on the statements of witness He. in the investigation procedure. Frenzel’s defense in the investigation procedure, in the preliminary examination and in the main proceedings was that he had not committed this deed. He had never controlled work detachments other than his own during works outside the camp. With his own work detachments he had often been outside the camp, but no such case had occurred, and neither could it have occurred because he had strictly prevented contacts with the local population. He also had never sent a Jew to Camp III.
Frenzel’s defense allegations could not be disproved in the main proceedings. To be sure, He. essentially described the case in the same way as he had before. However, He.’s deposition alone was not sufficient to disprove Frenzel’s allegations. While the court had a good impression of this witness, in the sense that he was visibly intent on providing an accurate testimony, he suffered from significant memory failures regarding the defendants Dub., Lac. and Wol., so that also in this case a confusion of persons could no longer be excluded. This was due not only to the long time gone by since the events, but possibly also to the severe head injuries he had suffered in the camp. Further witnesses confirming the incident described by He. did not exist. Whereas several witnesses stated that such cases had occurred, none of them specifically incriminated Frenzel. Therefore, despite enduring founded suspicion, Frenzel had to be acquitted in this case for lack of certain proof, as also demanded by prosecution and defense.
e) Case no. 31:
In case no. 31 of the indictment, Frenzel was charged with having forced a Jew working as a carpenter in the camp to hang his son by the feet, whereupon Frenzel shot the father.
This charge was based on the depositions of witnesses Bac. and Hon. In the investigation procedure, Frenzel denied this deed. To be sure, he stated, there had been a father with his son working at the carpentry. The son had fled during the revolt, whereas the father had been shot on the day after the revolt at Sporrenberg’s order.
Frenzel’s allegations could not be disproved in this case. The testimonies of witnesses Bac., Hon. and Biz. provided no final clarification. It was possible that this incident had occurred on occasion of the killing of the transport from Biala-Podlaska, i.e. on 10.6.1942 (see case no. 34, described in part 2 of this article). However, Hon. no longer remembered a hanging during his interrogation before the jury court. He stated that Itzig Moishe from Izbica had first been beaten by Frenzel, then Frenzel had ordered the father to beat the son, then that the son beat the father, and then he had left. The father had probably been shot, but on a later day; the son had survived. Despite all questioning it could not be clarified if this was the same case that had been described during the pre-trial procedures, or another case. Furthermore Hon. only arrived at Sobibor at the end of 1942 and could therefore not have witnessed the Biala-Podlaska incident. Biz. also described an incident in which someone had been hanged. However, he also mentioned the defendant Wol. in this context; as Wol. had come to Sobibor only in March 1943, the case must have been another, or the witness watched the Biala-Podlaska case but had a wrong recollection of the participants. The witness Bac.’s deposition was also insufficient, either alone or in connection with that of Biz., to disprove Frenzel’s allegations. Essential aspects of the case remained unclear, for instance whether the hanging had occurred on a tree (the location of which could not be established), on a purpose-built gallows or on the draw well’s bar, who was present, who ordered it, whether the hanging had been done by the neck or by that feet and whether and what (marmelade, sand, salt, antiseptic alcohol) had been fed to those hanging. It was not possible to clarify what exactly had happened, how it had happened and whether Frenzel had ordered it. Therefore, despite enduring founded suspicion resulting from the possible connection of this charge with case 34, and as also demanded by prosecution and defense, Frenzel had to be acquitted from this charge.
f) Case no. 36:
In case no. 36 of the indictment, Frenzel was accused of having, at some time between December 1942 and October 1943, taken a Jew by the name of Bunio to Camp III for allegedly bad work performance and caused him to be shot there.
This charge was based on the deposition of the witness Mrs. Kel. in the investigation procedure. Frenzel denied this deed both in the pre-trial and in the main proceedings, where his allegations could not be disproved.
During her interrogation for the main proceedings by the German consul in Philadelphia/USA, the protocol of which was read out in the main proceedings, Kel. only partially confirmed her previous account. While she had earlier stated that on one day two kapos, Moishe and Rajwitzer, and on another day the kapo Bunio had been taken away for killing, she now stated that all three had been taken away on the same day. She was insecure in this, however, also considered her previous deposition as possibly correct, and finally said she couldn’t really tell after this long time. It couldn’t be excluded that Mrs. Kel.’s recollection was mistaken in this respect. For several Jewish witnesses, especially the witness Fr., stated that Bunio had still been alive on the day of the revolt and walked across the camp yard shortly before the revolt broke out. The court checked whether there had been several Bunios in the camp (like there had been several Prositzkis and several Pod.s), but there was no indication in this sense. It could therefore not be excluded, but was to a certain degree even probable, that Bunio was still alive on the day of the revolt. Frenzel therefore had to be acquitted of this charge for lack of proof, as also demanded by prosecution and defense.
g) Case no. 37:
In case no. 37 of the indictment, Frenzel was charged with having, at some time between December 1942 and 14 Octorber 1943, taken the Jewish "kapo Moische" and another Jew to Camp III and provided for his shooting there, on grounds of alleged bad work performance.
Like in the previous case, the charge was based on the statements of Mrs. Kel. As mentioned in connection with case 36, Kel. described both cases as one single deed during her interrogation by the German consul in Philadelphia, without being certain about her recollection. Frenzel disputed this case as well, which he considered identical with case no. 27 – killing of one kapo and 6 working Jews – regarding which the procedure had been provisionally terminated in accordance with Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code. His allegations were the following: He knew only of one case in which a kapo and 3 other Jewish camp inmates had been tortured, because it had been discovered that they had smuggled in the camp. The torture and later killing in Camp III had been ordered by the camp command (Stangl, Reichleitner, Niemann or Wagner), not by him. He had been ordered to make a house search among the inhabitants of the village of Sobibor suspect of involvement in smuggling, which he had done.
Frenzel’s participation in the killing of kapo Moishe and two other working Jews could not be established with certainty. It was proved by many witness testimonies that the "head kapo" Moishe (called the "governor" or the "general" after the uniform he was required to wear), and with him other Jews, possibly also kapos, had been killed. After the extensive taking of evidence regarding this issue it could also be considered very probable that Moishe and the others had been tortured for "corruption" (in order to obtain confessions) before they were killed. They were said to have smuggled food inside the camp and from outside into the camp, and also traded and mediated trading with and through the Ukrainians over valuables, money and gold against sausage and conserves. Several witnesses blamed Frenzel with having discovered the smuggling and ordered the punishment of the responsible on his own initiative. The witness Mar., however, insisted that on this day he had been outside the camp with Frenzel and other working Jews. In the morning Moishe and the others had still been alive, and nothing had been said about smuggling during the roll-call. When they had returned to the camp with Frenzel in the evening, Moishe and the others had already been dead. Frenzel had been outside the camp all day and therefore not involved in the killing of Moishe. The witness stuck to this despite remonstrance of the testimonies of other Jewish witnesses, who claimed to have seen Frenzel at the torture session and when taking away Moishe and his comrades.
The court was not able to remove these contradictions and neither found a reason why Mar.’s testimony should have been incorrect. To be sure, Frenzel’s defense attorney had in another context (in connection with Frenzel’s incrimination by Mar.) stated that Mar.’s testimony was "incomprehensible, he invented excess deeds of Frenzel’s and consciously lied; what this witness imposed on the court and the trial’s participants was an infamy". The court checked these allegations and the supposed contradictions and untruths pointed out, but found nothing that would have justified the view held by Frenzel’s defense. Thus it was also not possible to dismiss Mar. as completely unreliable and thereby overrule his deposition in the case of Bunio [Moishe], which exonerated Frenzel. The court therefore assumed in dubio pro reo that Mar.’s testimony was accurate and acquitted Frenzel for lack of proof, as also demanded by the prosecution and the defense.
h) Case no. 39:
In case no. 39 of the indictment, Frenzel was charged with having, some time between December 1942 and 14.10.1943, shot without apparent reason the Jewish kapo known as the "rag master" (Lumpenmeister).
This charge was based on the depositions of witnesses Mrs. Ra. and Mrs. Kel. in the investigation procedure. Frenzel denied the case both in the investigation procedure and in the main proceedings. He further stated that the "rag master" had not been a kapo. The prosecution considered this case proven according to the result of the main proceedings and demanded conviction. The defense demanded acquittal. The jury court, while considering the suspicion against Frenzel in this case to be very strong, couldn’t establish with the certainty necessary for a conviction that he had been the perpetrator.
Although the witnesses Ra. and Kel. were working together during the rag master incident, so close together that Mrs. Ra., out of nervousness or fright over the observed occurrence, even injured Mrs. Kel. on the eyelid with a pair of scissors she was working with in sorting clothes, their testimonies were not sufficiently coincident. Whereas Mrs. Ra. stated that she had seen how the rag master had been shot right next to her, Mrs. Kel.’s account was that the rag master had been taken away; she had heard no shot and also not seen how the rag master had been killed. She had been afraid because of the injury that Mrs. Ra. had unintentionally caused her, for she had bled strongly and feared that she would be taken to Camp III and killed there, so she had only been concerned with herself. It was possible that what she saw and what she heard from others had become mixed-up in this witness’s memory. Also the witness Ra. indicated that Zelda (meaning Mrs. Kel.) had feared to be taken to Camp III; it couldn’t be excluded that Mrs. Ra.’s attention had been too distracted out of concern for her friend Zelda to accurately record events outside the sorting barrack. Additionally Mrs. Ra.’s testimony regarding this case differed in several aspects from her earlier statements during the investigation procedure. Thus at her early interrogation by the German public prosecutor in the US she had stated that she had witnessed the shooting from a distance of "1 block", i.e. – as she explained in the main proceedings – at least 50 meters, whereas in the main proceedings she claimed to have witnessed the shooting from "close up", from a distance of just a few meters. These contradictions could have a harmless and simple explanation, but also mean that the recollection of one of the witnesses was wrong. It could especially not be excluded that (as becomes apparent from Mrs. Kel’s testimony) the "rag master" was only taken away and not shot on the spot by Frenzel. Where, when and by whom the "rag master" was then killed could not be established with certainty. Although much indicated that Mrs. Ra’s account was accurate, the court could not overcome remaining doubt and therefore acquitted Frenzel for lack of certain proof.
i) Case no. 43:
In case no. 43 of the indictment, Frenzel was charged with having, about January 1943, taken a Jewish boy on whom he had found a piece of bread to Camp III and caused him to be shot there.
This charge was based on the testimonies of witnesses Ler. and Philip Bia. during the investigation procedure. Frenzel always denied this deed, his allegations being the following: as the "working Jews" in the camp had had enough to eat, there had been no need for them to secretly obtain bread. Had they nevertheless done it, he would not even have used the whip, let alone shot the person, for a piece of bread or even half a bread.
Frenzel’s allegation could not be disproved with the required certainty. It was incorrect insofar as he claimed that the working inmates had had enough to eat and therefore not been punished for stealing food. The taking of evidence revealed the opposite: The inmates received only so much food that they, using all their willpower because inability to work meant death in Camp III, remained barely able to work. Whenever they could the working inmates tried to obtain additional food (sardines in oil, conserves, sausage, bread), hide it in their clothing and eat it at night in their barracks in Camp I. As was also established during the taking of evidence, it happened on several occasions that inmates caught with food were "liquidated as a deterrent". In this specific case, however, Frenzel’s allegations could not be disproved. The witness Ler. didn’t repeat his earlier statements in the main proceedings; he now remembered differently and linked the case to "little Max", an inmate employed in the collecting of valuables. This, however, was another case than the one charged, as resulted from the circumstances of both cases and especially from the time of the deed. Philip Bia., to be sure, described the incident in essentially the same manner as during the investigation procedure, but he described several important details differently. Additionally this witness gave the court the impression of having a rather fragile psyche; he had been very young in the camp and, according to his own statements, suffered considerable psychological damage there, from which he visibly still suffered at the time of the trial. It was possible that his memory got blurred by his suffering in the camp and thereafter. Therefore his testimony alone was not a sufficient basis for a conviction. Other witnesses did not confirm this incident.
Despite enduring founded suspicion, Frenzel therefore had to be acquitted of this charge for lack of sufficient proof, as was also demanded by prosecution and defense.
j) Case no. 47:
In case no. 47 of the indictment Frenzel was charged with having, some time between April 1943 and 14 October of that year, beaten and shot an elder Jew. The man is supposed to have run towards the fence surrounding the camp, assuming that it was under high voltage, in order to commit suicide.
This charge was based on the statements of Mrs. Saf. during the investigation procedure. Frenzel always disputed the deed and stated the following: everyone in the camp had known that the fence was not electrified. Furthermore flight from Camp I would have been impossible because it was secured by a water-filled ditch and a guard.
Mrs. Saf. did not repeat her previous account about this case in the main proceedings, but stated that she had suffered from a memory failure. While she had always known that someone who had tried to commit suicide had been killed by Frenzel, she now remembered the case correctly in that the victim had slit his wrists (case no. 22, described in part 3 of this article).
As also demanded by prosecution and defense, Frenzel therefore had to be acquitted of this charge, as the case charged under no. 47 had not occurred, whereas the actual occurrence had been charged under no. 22.
II.2.4 Activity at Sobibor: Sentence
In the indictment admitted by the court, Frenzel had been accused of the following:
a) Joint accessoriness to the murder of at least 250,000 people (case 13 of the indictment);
b) Joint accessoriness to the murder of at least 30 people (case 56 of the indictment);
c) Murder of respectively at least one person in 22 cases (cases 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 28, 32, 33, 35, 36, 38, 39, 41, 43, 44, 47, and 49 of the indictment);
d) Murder of respectively two persons in four cases (cases 31, 37, 40 and 45 of the indictment);
e) Murder of respectively several persons in three cases (cases 23, 29 and 30 of the indictment);
f) Murder of respectively an undetermined multitude of persons in five cases (cases 16, 46, 53, 54, 55 of the indictment);
g) Murder of four persons (case 42 of the indictment);
h) Murder assisted by others of seven persons (case 27 of the indictment);
i) Murder assisted by others of at least 10 persons (case 48 of the indictment);
j) Joint murder of respectively about 15 persons in two cases (cases 24 and 51 of the indictment);
k) Murder assisted by others of about 70 persons (case 50 of the indictment);
l) Joint murder of about 200 persons (case 34 of the indictment);
m) Joint murder of at least 300 persons (case 52 of the indictment).
In the main proceedings the procedure was provisionally terminated in accordance with section 154, 2nd paragraph of the Criminal Procedure Code, upon the prosecution’s application and partially with the defense’s and the defendant’s consent, in regard to the following cases of the indictment: 14, 16, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 33, 38, 40, 41, 44, 45, 46, 49, 50, 52, 53, 55 und 56. These cases were thus no longer subject to a finding of judgment. The prosecution further applied for provisional termination regarding cases 19, 36 and 37, but this application was denied by the jury court. Thus the following cases were subject to the finding of judgment: cases 13, 15, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 31, 32, 34, 35, 36, 37, 39, 42, 43, 47, 48, 51 and 54 of the indictment.
As a result of the main proceedings, Frenzel was acquitted in cases nos. 15, 18, 19, 23, 31, 36, 37, 39, 43 and 47 of the indictment. In cases nos. 13, 34, 48, 51 und 54 of the indictment, which factually constituted one single deed under case no. 13 (see part 2 of this article), and in cases nos. 17, 21, 22, 32, 35 and 42 of the indictment (see part 3 of this article), Frenzel’s defense allegations were disproved in the sense of the respective charge. In the indictment items covered by case no. 13, Frenzel was found guilty of having, within the scope of the general and specific orders he was subject to, taken part in the systematic extermination of the Jews throughout his time at Sobibor extermination camp, also carrying out the ordered systematic extermination of the Jews on racial grounds as a deed of his own. In cases nos. 17, 21, 22, 32 and 35 he killed respectively at least one person, in case no. 42 at least four persons, so that in total he was found guilty of having killed at least 9 persons with his own hands, based on his own initiative, due to the motivations established and beyond the scope of the ordered systematic extermination.
For the joint murder of an undetermined multitude of at least 150,000 persons and the murder of another 9 persons Karl Frenzel was sentenced to lifetime penitentiary imprisonment.
Karl Frenzel had been indicted on a total of 56 charges of murder. Only 20 of these were made the subject of the trial's main proceedings, and of these, half resulted in acquittals, whereas of the other half cases 13, 34, 48, 51 and 54 were considered to be one single charge, so that Karl Frenzel was eventually convicted on 6 counts of murder. In most of the acquittal cases, the prosecution itself – as is possible under German procedural law, which also contain a provision whereby the public prosecution office "shall ascertain not only incriminating but also exonerating circumstances" – had applied for acquittal because it did not consider the evidence sufficient to sustain a conviction.
This alone shows the absurdity of "Revisionist" claims or insinuations in the sense that West German criminal justice authorities were hell-bent on convicting NS-criminals of as many crimes as possible and therefore uncritically relied on evidence of dubious value, rather than carefully examining and where possible cross-checking every testimony or other incriminating evidence to determine its reliability and convicting only where the evidence left no room for reasonable doubt.
As further becomes apparent from what is stated in the judgment about the interrogation of incriminating eyewitnesses, this interrogation was everything other than placid, but consisted of exhaustive cross-examination, sometimes lasting a whole day or two, with all participants "grilling" the witnesses in such a way that dubious or false testimony was bound to become entangled in major contradictions. In regard to the witness Symcha Bia., for instance, it was pointed out that, according to his whole personality as it had become apparent during intensive cross-examination by all sides in the main proceedings, he could impossibly have carried through a complot to falsely incriminate Frenzel without getting caught in major contradictions (see part 3 of this article, case no. 32).
The judgment also suggests a defense that was very active in trying to either discredit a witness’s specific testimony or cast doubt upon a witness’s overall credibility, quite in line with what becomes apparent from the witness Blatt’s recollections of his experience at the trial:
The method of the defense was primarily to discredit the testimony of the witnesses by asking them idiotic questions. In my case for example, "How tall was the tree near the barrack?" or " Was the club with which Frenzel beat your father round or not? How many centimeters?" A stranger in the courtroom would immediately have thought I was the defendant and not the victim.
The latter tactic, of calling in question a witness’s overall credibility by pointing to allegedly false statements made by that witness, becomes apparent from the defense’s stance and motions in case no. 34 (see part 2 of this article) and in cases nos. 17, 21, 22, 32, 35 and 42 (see part 3 of this article). It didn’t have much if any influence on the jury court’s findings of fact in these cases because the court focused on the credibility of each witness’s testimony in regard to the particular case under assessment, the criteria for determining this credibility being
a) the consistency of the witness’s rendering of his or her account throughout various depositions and especially the deposition and cross-examination in the main proceedings;
b) corroboration of the witness’s account by evidence other than this witness;
c) indications against an incrimination agenda on the part of the witness, such as the witness’s having exonerated the defendant regarding other circumstances, the absence of false incrimination precedents on the part of a witness who had extensively testified or written about events at Sobibor, or the witness’s testimony being less incriminating than it could be reasonably expected to have been if the witness had pursued an incrimination agenda.
Criterion a) can be assumed to have been fulfilled in all accounts of the key witnesses mentioned in the judgment in connection with the respective conviction case. Especially the considerations regarding the corroboration witness Symcha Bia. in case no. 32 suggest that highly inquisitive cross-examination was standard procedure at this trial, and that testimonies failing this test were considered suitable for corroboration of other testimonies at most, but not as key incriminating evidence. The "grilling" of witness is highlighted in regard to the witness Fr.’s testimony in case no. 17 and the witness Mar.’s testimony in case no. 21; each of these witness was on the stand for two days, during which he was subject to "criss-cross" – questioning by all participants.
Criterion b) was also present to some extent in all accounts of named witnesses underlying the respective conviction, in the form of other testimonies to exactly the event described, to circumstances surrounding that event or to events of a similar nature, or at the very least, in case no. 42, in the form of evidence allowing for precise identification of the transport from Izbica from which Frenzel clubbed to death at least four deportees.
Criterion c) was highlighted in regard to the witnesses Fr. and Mar., who not only incriminated Frenzel regarding several acts of which he was found guilty (cases 34, 17, 21 and 22), but also expressly and insistently exonerated Frenzel in respectively one case, Fr. regarding the killing of Bunio in case no. 36 and Mar. regarding the killing of Moishe in case no. 37, both of them acquittal cases. Criterion c) was also the key criterion that led the court to conclude on the credibility of the witness Bl.’s account in case no. 42. Bl. was none other than Thomas Toivi Blatt, denierbud’s black beast. The utter irrelevance of denierbud’s ramblings against what Blatt wrote about the period following his escape from Sobibor in a 1977 newspaper article is shown by the court’s considerations regarding case no. 42, which are rendered in part 3 of this article. Blatt had written several versions of a novel-style report and of a film script about Sobibor, which sometimes did not fully coincide with each other, yet he not only acknowledged this openly but also credibly explained that said discrepancies been related to the filmic purpose pursued with each version. However, this didn’t change the essential fact that, despite these writings and his activity for a historical institute in Poland in connection with Sobibor extermination camp, no case had ever become known in which Blatt had incriminated a German against better knowledge. An additional factor speaking for the credibility of Blatt’s testimony in case no. 42 was the impressive differentiation in his account: Blatt could easily have blamed Frenzel for the death of his father but didn’t do so, instead making clear that, unlike at least four other men beaten to death by Frenzel, his father may not have been beaten to death by the defendant. The fact that Blatt refrained from making the strongest accusation he could have made against Frenzel, that of having killed Blatt’s father, was taken by the court to belie any suspicion of an incrimination agenda on the part of this witness.
The criteria applied by the Hagen jury court to sift the wheat from the chaff regarding eyewitness testimonies incriminating Frenzel are in line not only with common-sense probability considerations, but also with the teachings of forensic psychology as rendered, for instance, in the book Tatsachenfeststellung vor Gericht. Band I Glaubwürdigkeits – und Beweislehre, a treatise about credibility criteria in forensic practice published in 1995 by two experienced German judges, Rolf Bender and Armin Nack. The following excerpts were translated from this treatise:
A person’s "general credibility", honest character, good reputation and high social standing allow for no general conclusion about the credibility of the one specific deposition that matters in a trial. The same thing applies the other way round: persons of dubious character can also speak the truth.
The more an informing person mentions significant exonerating circumstances for someone that person incriminates with other parts of the testimony, the more speaks for that person subjectively telling the truth.
Who wishes to unrightfully incriminate the suspect is more prone to exaggerations and incriminating misinterpretations than to attenuations. The witness willing to tell the truth, on the other hand, will also describe exonerating circumstances with the same eagerness and with the same persuasiveness as the incriminating circumstances (equilibrium criterion, see marginal note 279). He will do without additional incriminations that are obvious or even suggested to him.
The more the information person has the same quality of memory in regard to both the parts of the testimony that are favorable and unfavorable to the same party, describes them with the same degree of detail and shows the same emotional involvement, the more speaks for this person subjectively telling the truth.
If the information person does not get caught in contradictions although the testimony was extensive and the interrogation was thorough, this speaks for the rendering of a real experience, especially if the testimony was unguided or even spontaneous.
Constancy in the core of the action that the information person experienced as central, as well as changes in certain parts of a deposition (insofar as expectable according to the findings of the error doctrine) speak for an experience founded in reality.
Explanation: from the error doctrine you know that nobody can at any given moment completely call up all information that he has stored in his memory. Thus it is only natural that in a later deposition there appear additional details that were missing in the first deposition, while on the other hand details from the first deposition may be missing in the second deposition and be brought back to memory only by remonstrance.
It is not difficult to match one or more of the above-quoted guidelines with the court’s rendering of the eyewitness testimonies underlying the conviction cases, mentioned in part 2 and part 3 of this article.
Furthermore, the equilibrium criterion mentioned by Bender and Nack shows not only in Fr.’s and Mar.’s exonerating Frenzel of, respectively, the killing of Bunio (case no. 36) and Moishe (case no. 37) and Blatt’s giving Frenzel the benefit of doubt that he had not killed Blatt's father, but also in how Sobibor witnesses in general seem to have been willing and able to differentiate when describing the personality and actions of the various members of the Sobibor SS-staff, to the point of acknowledging that the cruel top-kick Wagner had also been an intelligent and occasionally understanding man, that others had done nothing beyond what they were ordered to do, that the overseer Kli. (acquitted at a previous trial) had suffered himself from the camp operations, been friendly to the Jews, helped them on occasion and in the end warned them of the camp’s liquidation, and that the overseer Steffl had once saved the witness He.’s life (see part 4 of this article). None of these eyewitnesses, however, saw Frenzel as anything other than an unintelligent, primitive brute, who eagerly carried out his orders and took pleasure both in the ordered mass killings and in additional excess murders on his own initiative. This uniform impression was confirmed by the way Frenzel’s co-defendants described the man, by his own defense stance and by the personal impression he conveyed throughout the main proceedings.
Last but not least, it should be pointed out that, although he denied or at least tried to play down every charge brought against him that was the subject of the trial’s main proceedings, at no time did Frenzel question that Sobibor was an extermination camp and he had been perfectly aware thereof. On the contrary, he provided particulars of the extermination process even in his defense against the various charges. The baseless "Revisionist" claims that defendants like Frenzel may by such "compliance" have tried to accommodate corrupt West German criminal justice authorities have been discussed in another article. Such claims are especially absurd in the case of defendants who, like Frenzel, were also convicted on several counts of murder besides their participation in the mass killings, and sentenced to the highest penalty provided for in the German Criminal Code, lifetime imprisonment. There is no advantage that Frenzel could have gained from describing Sobibor as something it had not actually been, and no defense attorney in his right mind could possibly have recommended so pointless a defense strategy.
The idea to write the present article came up when reading denierbud’s feature about Blatt, but although this article contains the exposure of yet another of denierbud’s showpieces of idiocy, this is not its main purpose.
The main purpose of this article is to show that the Hagen County Court did a proper job at the trial against Frenzel et al in reconstructing the essential features of Sobibor extermination camp and the crimes of Karl Frenzel, and to thereby exemplify the wide gap between "Revisionist" fantasies about West German trials of NS criminals and what these very fair and thorough trials were actually like, and the equally wide gap between the "Revisionist" image of the defendants at such trials and what these gentlemen were really all about.
I therefore thank denierbud for having, albeit unwillingly, "inspired" the writing of this article.