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British Prisoners of War as Witnesses in the Wollheim Suit

In the hearing of the lawsuit brought by Norbert Wollheim against I.G. Farben in Liquidation for payment of wages withheld for forced labor that was performed in I.G. Auschwitz, the witnesses appearing for the prosecution included two former British prisoners of war. Charles Joseph Coward and Robert William Ferris gave evidence in Frankfurt am Main on February 19, 1952; their testimonies were the last in the trial.


Robert William Ferris was interned in Auschwitz during the entire existence of camp E715 for British POWs, from September 1943 to January 21, 1945. Charles Joseph Coward was the British Man of Confidence for E715 from December 1943 to December 1944. While working at the construction site, both directly witnessed the way the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp prisoners were forced to work by I.G. Farben employees and the SS, using brutal methods, and were physically exploited. The abuse, the poor condition of the prisoners, the inadequate clothing, the poor and insufficient food rations, the heavy work to the point of fatal exhaustion, the prisoners’ fear of the gas chamber, which drove them to keep on working even when sick and injured: these facts were the focus of the statements given by Ferris and Coward. In addition, they told of the I.G. Farben employees’ hatred of the Jewish prisoners and the participation of the firm’s executives in selections. Coward testified to the negative attitude of the I.G. plant management, specifically of Walter Dürrfeld, when Coward complained to him about the treatment of the concentration camp prisoners.

(MN; transl. KL)


Charles Joseph Coward, hearing of witness, February 19, 1953. HHStAW, Sec. 460, No. 1424 (Wollheim v. I.G. Farben), Vol. II, pp. 278–284.

Robert Ferris, hearing of witness, February 19, 1953. HHStAW, Sec. 460, No. 1424 (Wollheim v. I.G. Farben), Vol. II, pp. 284–285.