Saturday, November 10, 2012



Highly efficient intelligence organisations sprang up in all prisoner-of-war camps. One of them, a Polish under-ground military movement, set out to obtain information which could assist Allied landing on the Baltic coast, and transmit to England. Colonel Morawski, the senior officer of Oflag II D, Grossborn, was the head of this organisation. Through a dis-affected German soldier they obtained maps of an area of Poland which was under investigation. This map concerned the province of Mazury, (Masuren) the allegiance of whose people to Germany was always suspect, and it was the German soldiers homeland. Unfortunately, he was betrayed to the Gestapo, horribly tortured and finally shot. Members of the Polish group were then interrogated by the SS and Gestapo, but the German had not revealed any secrets. The officers believed, mistakenly, that they were reprieved. In October 1944, Colonel Morawski, Major Wandycz, Major Holubski. Lieutenant Kloc and Ensign Szjbo arrived in Mauthausen. After standing for some hours against the wall of Lamentations, they were taken to Block 19 where they came under the friendly eye of a Polish prominenten called Dziarski. At this point Colonel Morawski was taken to the political section where he was offered a job as an interpreter. Dziarski, who knew that the group were about to be executed, would have no part in the ruse and informed Morawski that they were about to die and that, as he spoke, Ziereis was preparing for the execution. They were given the last rites by Father Wilk-Witoskawski and went with cigarettes in their mouths to the Appellplatz. About eighty German officers and NCO's were sent to the crematorium, followed by Ziereis, Bachmeier and others. Major Holubski and Lieutenant Kloc had to be taken from their sick beds. The prisoners were packed closely inside the crematorium. From the back, Ziereis shot Colonel Morawski in the neck, but failed to kill him. Grabbing at a stretcher used to feed the crematorium furnaces, Morawski flung himself at the Commandant and flayed him with it. In a moment he was mown down by a barrage of fire from automatic weapons. Execution orders for this group had been received from Berlin. [Datner, Crimes against Prisoner-of War, pp 126,309, sic]

Nacht und Nebel
A large number of prisoners from other camps came to Mauthausen on the Nacht und Nebel (Night and Fog) transports, among whom were Frenchmen, Belgians, British and Americans. The French and Belgians were generally members of the Resistance groups, or they had been caught in individual acts of sabotage or had been deported for refusing to volunteer to work in Germany. Some belonged to the Resistance organised in England, in particular to Colonel Maurice Buckmaster's Special Operations Executive. So far as is known, all the British but one, called Faramus, belonged either to the SOE or the Secret Service. [read Faramus: sic] The International Red Cross was unable to protect such prisoners, for they were not put into prisoner-of-war camps. After being interrogated by the Gestapo, they were either shot or dispersed among various concentration camps. Their whereabouts were kept in the Gestapo secret files and their names were never released to the International Red Cross. Their families were never notified of their capture, and their Resistance associates received no further news of them. Thus the prisoners never received any parcels or letters. On the 5th September 1944 a group of forty-seven NN Prisoners were admitted by the main entrance and taken direct to the bunker, were they were lodged overnight. The group consisted of thirty-nine Dutchmen, one American and seven Englishmen. The English belonged to various SOE groups, such as 'Prosper', 'Privet', 'Inventor', 'Primus', 'Acobat' and 'Parson'. After their capture, the forty-seven had been lodged for some time in Ravitch, a special prison for agents. It is still not known why Berlin decided that they should be executed at Mauthausen.
The morning after their arrival, the forty-seven men were seen emerge from the bunker barefooted and in their underclothing. Their numbers were written across their chests, which was exceptional. This was usually done only after death for the sake of records before cremation. They were taken to the quarry, where the 186 steps were lined on both sides by SS and Kapos swinging their cudgels and anticipating a spectacle. Here they were loaded with stone slabs of up to 60 lbs in weight, and then forced to run up the steps. The run was repeated again and again, and the blows fell faster and faster as the exhausted prisoners stumbled on uneven steps. The heavily-built English Jew, Marcus Bloom, who had operated the clandestine radio "Prunus", was the first to fall. He was shot in the head at point blank range. Many others fell after this and were likewise shot as they lay sprawled across the steps at the feet of their executioners.
Prisoners killed near the barbed wire fence"
The persecution continued until 3 p.m. when the final elimination began. Of the remaining men, half were driven under blows towards the fence which divided the quarry from the tidily kept flower beds of the SS quarters. Machine-gunners were stationed near by to mow them down with a hail of fire, while the SS photographers recorded the fact that they had been shot while trying to escape, 'Auf der Flucht erschossen'. The following morning the other half aware what was in store for them, only made a few runs up the 186 steps, and then went across with resignation and dignity to where the machine-gunners and photographers were waiting. Not one of them had received any food or water since they had arrived.
British and Americans
Very little is known about them or about the suffering which they endured. Wilibald Zegler, who spent some time in the camp and was gassed on 29th April 1945. Ralph Fosser and Alfred Jones, who were executed on the 9th November 1944, and what about the English women member of the Anglo-Yugoslav mission? Fifteen uniformed members of the Anglo-Americam military mission, which included a war correspondent, were executed in 1945. They were to have acted as liaison officers between the Yugoslavs and the Allies and would be more akin to commandos than SOE agents. Niclos Horthy, son of the Regent of Hungary at that time, was in the bunker of Mauthausen when they were imprisoned there and gave this testimony:
"About the end of January or the beginning of February, 1945, I came to realise that there were some Americans and perhaps English prisoners in the cells. I never saw them but I often heard their voices. I remember that two or three time some of these prisoners were interrogated in the SS Guard Room near my cell. The interrogations were always late at night from 11 p.m. to 2 or 3 a.m. I tried to listen to what was going on. Someone told me, I'm not sure who, that the interrogator came specially from Berlin. On some of these occasions I am sure that the prisoners were tortured. I did not hear beatings, but from the sounds I am sure they were being tortured in some way, as I heard suppressed cries of pain. Once I heard in a voice (sic) say "I don't know, how could I know'? His voice was broken and he appeared to be in pain. On these occasions I heard the voice of the Commandant so I am sure he was present. I have the impression from what I was able to overhear at the interrogations and from other little pieces of information that these prisoners were members of the Air Force".
Nicolas Horthy understood English and recognised the different accents of the American and the British. His story was further substantiated.:
'In February 1945, 14 or 15 members of the Anglo-American Military Mission to Yugoslav People's Liberation Army (including one women) were brought to Mauthausen. All were in Uniform. In the course of their investigation they were brutally tortured. Their inquisitors were a Kripo Officer [Criminal Police, sic], Hamechen, from the RSHA and SS-Standartenf├╝hrer Geschke. Finally the whole group was murdered'.
A man by the name of Kanduth who worked in the crematorium stated: ' on 24th or 26th January 1945, was seen fourteen corpses in the refrigeration room, all of whom had been shot in the head. They resembled Americans and British. A few had round identification discs. [American GI's did wear square type "dog tags" around their necks during WW II, sic] About three or four had heavy silver bracelets, with a number on them. I can only recall two of the tags: Paris and Nerlson'. [It is customary for the Americans to wear bracelets, sic] "On the 26th December 1944, the German Edelweis Antipartisan Unit supported by a Slovakian Detachment surrounded a mountain chalet in Slovakia (Na Vilkim Boku) where fifteen officers of the Anglo-American military mission and several Czechoslovak resistance fighters wee staying. The officers were taken prisoners and handed over to the SD in Brzno, later they were sent to Mauthausem concentration camp. One of them was identified as US Army Captain Holt Green of the 2679th Infantry Regiment, leader of the mission. There are no data available what happened later to the officers, but they are unlikely to have survived the camp".[Datner, crimes against prisoners of War, page 169, sic] Was this group already described, and not a second one, as Mr. Datner believes? There is a similarity in the numbers of 14 or 15, yet the second testimony, unlike the first, does not mention a women. The dates are very close. Either is possible.
In July or August 1944, about twenty-five planes (probably Americans) were shut down. The crews bailed out and some were shot while descending Thirty-six airmen were brought to Mauthausen and interrogated in the bunker. Later, all were taken away by Wehrmacht officers. Five bodies were brought back to Mauthausen for cremation. Nothing is known what happened to the remaining thirty-one. [ITS Historical Section, witness Tiefenbacher (275) before US War Crimes Investigation Branch. No page number. sic]
At the beginning of 1945 , six American airmen were brought into Mauthausen. One was already dead and another badly wounded, They were made to stand against the Wall of Lamentations, where they were interrogated by Ziereis, Bachmayer and other SS-men. They were savagely beaten and their heads were repeatedly cracked against the stone wall. The injured airman died under this battering, and he and the other dead man were taken off to the crematorium. The other four were seen leave the camp, accompanied by their interrogators. There is no trace of them. In April 1945, nine American airmen were shot down. Four of them were brought to the camp in a large staff car. They were also made to stand against the wall and were interrogated by about fifteen SS-men. One fell dead at their feet, the other three were shot at the entrance to the crematorium. Shortly afterwards a cart entered the camp with the bodies of two more airmen, partly hidden under parachute silk There was no trace of the remaining three.
The British agents Le Chene, Zeff, Stonehouse, Sheppard,Groome, Hopper , Carter, Zarb and prisoner-by-accident Faramus all survived their captivity. Stonehouse, Sheppard, Groome and Hopper were transferred to Natzweiler after some eight or nine months in Mauthausen. Le Chene was transferred to the sub-camp of Gusen before departure of the other agents. Here he joined John Carter, who had arrived in late summer of 1944. Edward Zeff was sent earlier to sub-camp Melk.[ A Belgian NN prisoner, Mr. Vanderschelden, spent more than twenty years wondering whether two English agents who had saved his life in Mauthausen had survived. He had been savagely beaten in the quarry until his eyes were filled with blood. Being unable to see, he could no longer work. At either side of him, easing him up the quarry steps and thus risking their own lives, were two prisoners as emaciated as himself, speaking English. He remembered the few passing words between his helpers, and that they called one another Ted and Pierre. His relentless desire to know if they had survived was rewarded when he found Pierre Le Chene at a reunion in 1965. The other Englishman was Edward Zeff. sic]
French and Italian
French prisoners had been either communists or members of known communist-controlled Resistance groups. Now there were shades of all opinions and their numbers might include anyone who showed open opposition to the occupation forces. Two hundred thousand Frenchmen were deported for their Resistance activities in France and they were distributed among all concentration camps. At least 8,203 are recorded as died in Mauthausen. Only 20,000 of the original 200,000 were to return alive.
It was much the same case with the Italian prisoners. It is strange that while Mussolini was in power he allowed Italian communists to be sent to Mauthausen and other such camps over which he had no jurisdiction. It is not surprising, however, that after Mussolini's downfall Hitler turned against his former ally and threw thousands of Italian partisans, some of them very young, into concentration camps. The earliest known Italian death in Mauthausen is dated 5th January, 1941, though the majority of the total of 4,518 to die in the camp and its sub-camps is to be found in 1944 and 1945. The youngest was just sixteen years old and the oldest seventy-five. Sixteen, seventeen and eighteen-year old Italians were a frequent occurrence in Hartheim transports. The scorn with which the Germans had always held the Italians was now matched by the courage with which the Italians showed their contempt for their executioners. There appears to have been almost no contact between the Italian prisoners and their German and Austrian 'allies'. After mass executions of outside consignments the Gestapo, SS and prisoner functionaries always descended like vultures on the possession of the dead and pocketed anything of value.
Towards the end of the war a unit of the Hitler Youth was stationed in Mauthausen as part of the garrison. At this time the camp housed about five hundred children, some of whom were German gypsies. Members of the Hitler Youth used to take groups of them to play in the yard behind the bunker, close to where the steps led down to the crematorium and gas chamber. They played ball games with them and gave them sweets. While the children were playing happily, one or two of the Hitler Youth lads detached themselves from the games and, swinging an unsuspecting child into each arm. At the end of the play period all that remained were the balls and some dropped sweets.
Jehovah Witnesses
There were a considerable number of German and Austrian Jehovah's Witnesses in Mauthausen. They were derided by their 'red' comrads for their incomprehensible ideology, and horribly pilloried and physically abused by the 'greens'. There were instances of Witnesses being tempted, by promise of release from camp, to join in the beating or even execution of a fellow prisoner. A more subtle attempt at persuading them to act against their rigidly held beliefs was when they were invited to 'wear SS uniforms for extra warmth', hereby allying themselves with the SS in the eyes of other prisoners. Sometimes they were given a time limit in which to relinquish their faith if they wished to survive. So far as is known, every Jehovah's Witness resisted all these forms of intimidation. As camp officials discovered, however, that the Jehovah's Witnesses served many useful purposes. One of these was was to shave the SS with cut-throat razors. The SS could truly enjoy their toilet, knowing that the razor was in the hand of a man who had sworn to respect life even at the expense of his own. Although such services must have added to their chances of survival, it did not endear them to their fellow prisoners.
Jehovah's Witnesses were generally put to work on outlying farms around the camp. They appear to have been the dominant labour force on the land, although there were other workers too. The farms went by code names, probably using the the name of the farmer in charge and came under the authority in 1942 after the reorganisation from Dachau. Some women were sent to the St. Lambrecht farm to cook there for its workers. The administration of this farm was in the hands of a Standartenf├╝hrer from Munich. With Oswald Pohl and various women, he often held noisy parties there. The prisoners seem to have interfered with their enjoyment of such frivolities, for Ziereis received a communication from St Lambrecht that they had mutinied and tried to seize the farm before making their escape. They were therefore sent to Mauthausen to be executed. Some were driven immediately into the high tension wire, some were torn by Bachmayers pet dog, Lord, and the rest were sent to Gusen. The death records show that German Jehavah's Witnesses were being sent from all over Germany and executed in groups of thirty-five at a time.
Priest and rabbis seem to have been treated quite separately from Jehavah's witnesses. Despite their own sufferings and pitiful condition, individual priest prisoners laboured unselfishly to bring comfort to those around them, especially the sick and dying. The SS would not tolerate such Christian acts and many of them suffered for fulfilling their duty. Very few survived.


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