Friday, May 3, 2013


As soon as Dr. Orsós had announced his opinion concerning the transplanting of the conifers, the Germans were confounded – was his opinion correct?  Immediately they sent out orders to all units in Smolensk seeking any soldier who was a forester.

Dr. Zietz described it thus
Then one of the participants asked whether or not there was a forestry expert of the army group present. Professor Buhtz replied in the affirmative, and called up from the very same room that a forestry expert should report at once. He actually appeared within a few minutes, and he had no inkling as to what he was supposed to say. That was Mr. von Herff. Now, Mr. von Herff took one look at the microscope, and, I wish to emphasize, right on the spur of the moment, without having been told before what the subject of the discussion was, said, "This tree here has been standing in one place for 3 years, here is a notch, and it has been standing in another place 2 years prior to that."

Fritz von Herff, a forester, most probably a dendrologist, was stationed in Smolensk, where his responsibility was ensuring a supply of the type of wood needed by the Wehrmacht for its purposes. He stated that

I received a telephone call from the chief quartermaster telling me that I was supposed to proceed forthwith to a hospital in the eastern portion of Smolensk. There I was supposed to render an expert statement. The evening was approaching. I proceeded
there, and there I found an international committee, about a dozen gentlemen. Presiding was General Surgeon Holm. General Holm presented to me several fir saplings—as has been mentioned by a previous witness—about 30 or 40 centimeters, one foot and a half in height. There might have been 2 or 3 pieces.
In the first place, I determined the age. To the best of my recollection, it was from about 5 to 7 years. Then I was asked whether the growing process had been a normal one. To this end, a crosscut of the sapling was made and I took a look at the crosscut under a
microscope. There you could clearly see the year rings. Every wooden plants adds every year one ring of wood, which is clearly discernible. Now, it could be easily traced back that one of these yearly rings, 3 years ago, was of a very small size. This year, consequently, the growth of the plant must have been stunted.
Being foresters, we know that every plant, after being transplanted, does not grow normally the first year after the transplanting has been effected because the roots of the plant have to get accustomed to the new soil in which the plant grows. Therefore, I expressed my opinion that 3 years ago—that is, 3 years prior to 1943—something must have happened to the plant.

An opinion supporting Dr.  Orsós position was thus presented by a experienced forester.  

The members of the IMC had left Smolensk shortly afterward and the printed document was presented to them in Białystok, where the plane landed for refueling, and where they signed it.   They then flew on to Berlin where they spent the next several days, once again residing at the Hotel Adlon.

Dr. Zietz commented
Then we had photostatic copies made so that the signatures would also be pictorially visible, and gave one copy to every member.

In the photograph taken upon their return to Berlin, which shows the IMC presenting its protocol in the offices of the German Ministry of Health it is the distinguished professor who is shown presenting it to the Reichgesundheitsfuehrer Conte.

Part of the members of this delegation remained in Berlin for another week, and we further took care of their wishes. For instance, I made an appointment for a visit to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Berlin; they purchased medical textbooks; they went to look at this or that. Then they individually left Berlin.

But before they left a commemorative photograph of the group with Dr. Zietz and two women, described as being from the Ministry of Health, was taken in front of the Adlon

In the interim others of the Germans were in the midst of preparations for the English-speaking POW visit.

© Krystyna Piórkowska