"The whole business was the most gruesome thing I have ever seen in my life," recalled one guard, Martin Diekmann. "I often saw that, after a salvo was fired, Jews were only wounded and were buried still more or less alive together with the corpses of other victims, without the wounded receiving a so-called coup de grace."
Diekmann added, "I myself did not shoot."
Aleksandr Kurisa, an SS officer from Ukraine, said: "You could hear the moans, crying, and screams of those doomed to death. All Jews in Trawniki were exterminated."
Kurisa added, "I did not directly participate."
Then there were the stories told by survivors.
Estera Rubinstein lay all day long among the dead. In interviews with a Jewish historical commission soon after the war, she said:
"We were taken to the pits and I only saw SS men standing with machine pistols and shooting the naked women in the head. The pits were already full of corpses. Since I did not want to watch them kill me, I hid my face in my hands and jumped into the depths with the call, 'Shema Israel!' "
She was not hit. But as bodies fell across her, she grew cold. "I was pressed between the corpses.... I wanted to call out a few times, but couldn't. It was as though I was being strangled."
An SS guard lifted her head, checking for signs of life. But she was smeared with blood, and he moved on. She heard others pulled out and "finished off." Amid all that, her ears filled with the waltzes. Then, when night fell and all was quiet, she said, she crawled over bodies and fled across the fields. Weeks later, she made it to Warsaw, more than 100 miles away.
As Rubinstein was leaving Trawniki, Chakin, then 14, was arriving.
She remembers seeing the dead bodies overflowing the trenches. A few days later, she said, a team of male prisoners was ordered to burn the dead. When they finished, the guards shot them.
Chakin and other female prisoners were ordered to clean the barracks, and they found a 4-year-old boy named Mark hiding in a pile of old bedding. Mark's mother and brother had been killed earlier in the war; his father had been shot to death after helping to burn the bodies. The Germans at first let the women keep the young boy. For five months they mothered him, encouraging him to hope. Then the SS took Mark away too.
"Because the children," she said, "they did not keep."
Chakin, her voice brittle with anger, added: "So you ask me how I feel I about him, this Josias Kumpf, and how he got to live to be 80 years old?"
At his deposition in the fifth-floor conference room at the U.S. attorney's office, Kumpf -- now boxed in, confronted by prosecutors with SS documents placing him at Trawniki -- maintained that he did not fire, either. He insisted that he merely served as a perimeter guard, standing a distance away from the killing trenches.
When he arrived by train that morning, he said, he and other SS guards ate breakfast. Then they heard the shouts and gunfire. "All the people were in the hole.... I [went] over there too and look. I turn around and I ... sorry, it's not for me, that's what I told my friends."
He finished his breakfast, coffee and rye bread with butter. He said he was ordered to watch, to make sure no one escaped.
"I was watching them shoot some people," he said. "Some people was shot and not good enough so they was still able to move, you know. That's what we have to watch so that they don't go no place."
Then, Kumpf said, "Everybody was excited because so many dead ones to see, you know. I was not excited. I feel sorry for the people."
On May 10, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee revoked Kumpf's citizenship. He ruled that Kumpf had misrepresented himself to immigration authorities. "American citizenship," the judge said, "is bestowed only upon those who meet fundamental standards imposed by law."
The judge further ruled that Kumpf's mere presence at Trawniki meant he "personally advocated or assisted" in the massacre, and as a result, was ineligible for a U.S. visa in the first place.
Kumpf's attorney, Peter Rogers, said he was appealing the ruling before the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Should his client be forced out, Rogers said, "it is murky territory on where he can go. A lot of countries won't take people with his circumstances."
While he waits, his fate all but out of his hands, Kumpf often is frightened awake by nightmares. For years he had hoped to keep his secret about Trawniki.
But now, he said, it is too late. "I'm in trouble, more in trouble" than ever, he said.