Oświęcim, 9 August 1946. Regional Investigative Judge Jan Sehn, acting in accordance with the Decree of 10 November 1945 (Journal of Laws of the Republic of Poland No. 51, item 293) on the Main Commission and Regional Commissions for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, as a member of the Main Commission, pursuant to Article 255, in connection with Articles 107 and 115 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, interviewed the person specified below, who testified as follows:

Name and surname Wilibald Pająk
Date and place of birth 15 December 1922, Katowice
Parents’ names Karol and Maria Fidora
Religious affiliation Roman Catholic
Citizenship and nationality Polish
Place of residence Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

I was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Katowice Gestapo for belonging to an illegal organization. I was there as [prisoner] no. 26790 until 18 January 1945. After I had worked in a sand mine for several days, I was assigned, on 29 March 1942, to work in the Political Department office, where I was employed until 8 April 1944. I worked in the department of the deceased (Totenabteilung). I remember that on the day I started working in the department of the deceased, that is, on 29 March 1942, there were 11,025 deceased prisoners who had numbers. On the day I left the office, that is on 8 April 1944, that number exceeded 70,000. I would like to point out that those numbers referred only to deceased prisoners who had been given numbers, and they did not include prisoners who had numbers but were marked with the letters SB (Sonderbehandlung) [special treatment] or GU (Gesondert untergebracht) [special accommodation].

Every day, the Political Department received prisoners’ death reports (Totenmeldung), which were accompanied by a brief and schematic report by a camp doctor on the history of the prisoner’s illness and the cause of their death. I arranged those reports according to the reported times of death (the time was marked in the death reports), I numbered the dead (Totennummer) and I gave the reports to female prisoners working in the same office. They searched for personal files of the deceased prisoners and their camp files. Death reports and medical certificates were attached to prisoners’ personal files, while their camp files were supplemented by the dates of their death and their numbers. Such camp files were placed among other files of the deceased, which were arranged in alphabetical order. Based on personal files of the deceased prisoners, the female prisoners prepared reports for the Gestapo office that had sent the given prisoner to the camp, and to the RSHA [Reichssicherheitshauptamt – The Reich Main Security Office]. Until the end of 1942, they also sent a telegram to the prisoner’s family, and, in the case of deceased Germans, also a condolence letter from the camp commandant to the family of the deceased. From 1943, families were not notified – their local Gestapo were supposed to notify them. The condolence letter by the commandant to German families was sent up till the end. In such a letter, the commandant notified a given family that the prisoner had died in the camp despite high- quality medical assistance, and expressed his regret. Such letter was called Beileidschreiben. The commandant also declared that the deceased had not expressed any wishes.

When this work was done, the Totenabteilung handed the files over to the Civil Registry Office (Standesamt). This was a special office within the Political Department. A separate file of the deceased was prepared there and the deceased was entered into the register. Then, the Civil Registry Office notified some authorities in Bielsko that the corpse had been burned in the crematorium. Permits for burning the bodies were signed by Grabner. It often took place after the corpse was burned. One copy of such a permit was attached to the personal files of the deceased prisoner and the other was sent to the local registry office. In the case of mass operations directed at prisoners marked with the letters SB and GU, that is Gypsies, who stayed in the camp for a short time, and some Jews who had been brought to the camp as part of an RSHA operation, the Political Department received only a list of the SB or GU prisoners marked on a given day. In that case, it always meant that the prisoners would be gassed.

The Totenabteilung searched for the files of the listed prisoners, tied the files together, marked the bundle with the letters SB or GU from the given day and put them away. The SB list was kept separately. The files of prisoners killed in SB operations were sorted and put into a separate cabinet. Thus, in the Political Department, there was an alphabetical register of the living and alphabetical registers of the deceased, SB and GU, and an alphabetical register of the released and transferred. There was also a separate alphabetical register (yellow) for correctional prisoners (Erziehungshäftling) who were alive. Men were separated from women in all the above-mentioned registers. The files of prisoners who were alive were arranged according to prisoners’ numbers. The files of the deceased – according to the numbers of the deceased. When an Aryan prisoner was shot or gassed, their death report was marked with a red cross. The same applied to Jews who were in the camp, but not as a result of an RSHA operation. In all those cases, although the prisoners had been executed by shooting or gassed, the death report was accompanied by a description of a disease, which showed that the prisoner had died of natural causes, due to an illness. The Political Department marked prisoners as executed by shooting only if they had been executed based on a verdict by an ad hoc court (Standgericht) which issued its verdicts in block 11.

I remember that only 139 prisoners were registered as Exekutiert, although significantly more people were shot in the camp. Grabner, the head of the Political Department, prepared lists of prisoners to be executed by shooting or gassing, while Höß signed them. The prisoners who had been brought to the camp marked as Standgericht were executed first. If there were no such prisoners, those who were in the camp for illegal possession of weapons were selected. The files of prisoners sent to the camp by the Gestapo sometimes included the words Rückkehr unerwünscht [return undesired] or the abbreviation “Ru,” and in some cases the words Nicht überstellen [do not transfer]. Both categories meant that the prisoners were constantly at risk of being executed and, indeed, many of them were shot dead.

For the sake of clarity, I would like to emphasize that only the prisoners who had not been brought to the camp marked as SB or GU were included in the registers of the deceased in the Totenabteilung. These two groups were not given numbers, so it was only possible to count them using the lists used to remove their personal and camp files from among the files of prisoners who were alive. The files of the deceased marked with SB and GU and their lists were transferred from the offices of the Political Department in March 1944 to Birkenau, where they were burned. The two groups included only a small part of the prisoners who had been brought to the camp as part of an RSHA operation. The rest were not registered or numbered and went straight to the gas chambers. The only evidence of how many people were brought to Auschwitz as part of that operation were transport lists, which were placed and stored in the Aufnahme [admissions office] of the Political Department. Those lists were also destroyed. I remember that two transports of Polish Aryans were brought to Auschwitz marked as RSHA. I know that in one of them – I do not remember if it was so in the other one as well – there were prisoners from the Zamość region. They were usually simple people from the countryside. Many of them died shortly after the arrival. The Political Department notified some displaced persons office in Łódź about the death of prisoners from that group.

Commandant Höß gave Grabner, as the head of the Political Department, a lot of leeway. He approved all Grabner’s projects and ideas regarding executions and other operations by the Political Department. For example, the idea of tattooing the prisoners. Grabner came up with the idea after the unsuccessful escape of two Russian prisoners. They were shot dead during the escape. Since they no longer had numbers on their clothes, it was impossible to tell which one was which. To avoid such situations, Grabner suggested that prisoners should be tattooed and Höß approved his project. It was in the middle of 1943. The two fugitives I have just mentioned worked in a detail that cut grass. Two other prisoners escaped from that detail when the SS guards fell asleep. When they woke up and noticed that two prisoners were missing, the SS men shot five other prisoners. When they returned to the camp, they reported that the detail had rebelled and they had managed to shoot five prisoners, but two others had escaped. In this way, the SS men saved their own skins at the expense of those people’s lives. The corpses of those shot were placed on tables near the entrance gate to the camp, and the details leaving for work in the morning had to look at them on their way out.

The report was read out. At this point, the interview and the present report were concluded.