Testimony for the Judge Advocate War Crimes Investigation
Krebs; formerly: Staff Sergeant. ASN
, United States Army now residing at
entered the Army of the
Among the German officers and non‑commissioned officers at Stalag Luft 4 who mistreated American prisoners of war were Oberst Leutnant (Lieutenant Colonel). Aribert Bombach, the commandant of the camp; Hauptmann ‑ (Captain) Walther Pickhardt, the camp security officer; and Feldwebel (Sergeant) Reinhard Fahnert, who had direct charge of the prisoners.
Reinhard Fahnert had charge of the prison guard and supervised the distribution of food to the prisoners. Fahnert was a rough character, and was always after, anyone of Jewish extraction. He wanted to segregate all Jewish prisoners from the others in order to give them all the hard work and menial tasks. We had been previously searched at Stalag Luft 6, and were allowed to keep all of our personal belongings. However at Stalag Luft 4 we‑were all lined up outside the barracks by Fahnert and his assistant, a man by the name of Schmidt who we had nicknamed "Big Stoop They would go through the barracks Searching all our equipment and clothing, and would take any of. our personal belongings they desired. Watches, rings, and other objects were taken by Fahnert, American Kits, ~, Schmidt, and some of the other German NCI’s.
Many times were kicked, slapped, and hit with rifle butts on their backs and buttocks. One prisoner had from fifty to sixty punctures on his back and buttocks which had been made by German bayonets wielded by guards. For about six weeks, the only food we had to eat was a little dried sauerkraut and a little bread. When the Red Cross parcels for the prisoners arrived, they were taken by the Germans. The Germans ate the best of the food while we were on extremely short rations and almost allowed to starve.
Walther Pickhardt was personally responsible for these conditions as he allowed them to go on. His excuse was that these measures were taken to prevent any prisoners from escaping from Stalag Luft #4. When we left Stalag Luft #6 for Stalag Luft #4., Walther Pickhardt was in command with Reinhard Fahnert as his second in command. From the railroad station at Keifeide, to Stalag Luft #4 a distance of about four miles, we were forced to run the entire way with our packs on 'our backs. Walther Pickhardt was in command of this operation, and I heard him give such commands as,"Let these American airmen have it".. calling us “Pigs” and "schweinhundes" and other disagreeable names. He gave his subordinates orders to double‑time us and forced us to run the entire distance of four miles. When a man fell down exhausted, a German soldier would jab his bayonet into the man's body until he got up. Reinhard Fahnert was equally responsible for this outrage.
At Stalag Luft #4, it was the German policy to shoot immediately, any prisoner caught trying to escape. Aribert Bombach, the camp commandant, condoned the activities of Fahnert and Pickhardt and was fully aware of what was going on at the camp. His answer was that this was done to prevent any man from escaping. At Stalag Luft #4, I secured a German uniform from a German soldier named. I put this German uniform on and walked through the front gates. I showed my faked pass and requested my German Army soldbuch. I then walked right pass the guards, proving that we could escape from this camp, if we wanted to. I did this just a few days before Christmas in December 1944. Ariber Bombach was surprised to see me outside the camp and called to his security officer, Walther Pickhardt, and said, "This is proof that a man can get out”. He told Pickhardt that they would have to revise the security system of the camps. Pickhardt kept quiet and did not say anything at the time.