In 1944 agreement had been reached among the Allies as to each power's sphere of occupation once Nazi Germany had been defeated. Later, their rapid advances into German territory caused certain amount of dissension between them. Austria was one of the bones of contention and it was accordingly divided between the four powers. But at the time of division, when the Allied armies were still a long way away, no allowance was made for the fluidity of modern warfare. It was understood that if an agreed occupation line was overrun by one of the Allied armies during the campaign, a withdrawal would take place later. Although Mauthausen came into the agreed Russian sphere of influence, it was, in fact, liberated by forward detachments of the United States Army. Many thousand of lives were saved by this turn of events because the United States was very much better provided than the Russians with medical supplies and clothes. They gave then out freely when they entered the camp. Yet during the liberation and freeing of prisoners, the Americans had initially no control over them, order and discipline had broken down, typhus carriers mixed with other inmates that had previously been isolated and spread the disease.
|Survivors of the Mauthausen quarantine section'|
Hygiene was used as a pretext for tormenting the prisoners in a variety of ways. After running down to the showers, they might have to wait outside the laundry for several hours, or even all night, before the de-lousing of the previous group was finished. When their turn finally came, they hung their clothes on hooks in a small room at the bottom of the steps near the entrance to the showers. They were given small pieces of soap but no towels. So without drying themselves after shower, they had to put on the the same clothes again. A change of clothes was very much a matter of chance, there being no regular day when clean shirts or shorts were issued. They were never given out to those in quarantine.
|Mauthausen - latrine overflowing with human waste, condition after liberation'|
|Mauthausen - Photo of an inmate forced to use a makeshift latrine during the operation of the camp|
Towards the end of April, Zierreis formerly handed Mauthausen over to Captain Kern of the civilian police in Vienna. Kern was now faced with the terrible task of controlling the huge death pyre which Mauthausen had become, and also finding guards to police it, since Ziereis had joined the general rush to escape and hide. By the time an advance party of the 11th Armoured Division reached the camp on 5th May, most of its former guards had disappeared. Some went to the mountains where a last stand was being made, others fled to the cities to hide amongst the civilian population. Ziereis' decision seems to to have been prompted by the low-level flight over the camp of an Allied plane with British markings. This was surprising, because there were no RAF units in the area until some days later. The plane is, however, accurately described having 'twin booms' or, 'twin fuselages', and was therefore a Lightning. It was seen by a Polish prisoner named Dr Turzanski, who had recently arrived from Auschwitz.
|Polish and Russian survivors in front of a tank of the 11th Armoured Division of the 3rd Army (this is a re-enactment picture taken)|
|The corpses are piled at Mauthausen"|
|Arrival of US Army armoured Scout Vehicle at the Assembly Complex" this is a re-enacted scene at Mauthausen on the 7th May 1945|
The crimes of Hitler's Nazism are horrible and dreadful. This concentration camp happens to be one of them in which the greatest portion of these atrocities took place. Many of our comrades were slaughtered as an offer of death to Fascism, many suffered damage to their health of which they can never recover. The International court of investigation of War Criminals has sent here its representatives. It is our duty and our right to assist this work by disclosing these crimes. Everyone of you who knows anything at all about the following matters should make his name known to his block secretary so he can be called in as a witness. The matters are as follows:
1. Murder of comrades, which you yourself experienced.
2.Shooting while trying to escape, which you yourselves saw.
3.Knowledge of prisoner of war.
4. Sadistic tortures which you experienced and saw yourself.
Report at once because the work must go forward and also that relations may be notified.
sgd. A. SOSWINSKI
This was one of the rare occasions when the communists co-operated with their American liberators. The Americans were in fact very active in keeping records and providing evidence for the Wra Crimes Tribunal. Among the prisoners they took were two ex-Polish soldiers wearing German uniforms. They were arrested by the OSS and interrogated. it transpired that the men. Wita and Dutzi, were innocent of any crimes and they were released on 27th April. The date is the interesting point about their arrest documents, for they show that Ziereis and Bachmayer were already marked men. On 11th May the camp still held 15, 211 men and 2,079 women. By June, th French, Belgians, Luxembourgian and Dutch had been repatriated. There remained 5,200 prisoners of whom 850 were women. 1,621 of them were still under medical treatment.
|Freed inmates removing the hated insignia of the Germans above the Entrance of Mauthausen May 5th 1945|
And now to Georg Bachmayer: Transcription of sworn statement of TEC 3 Gerard Oppenheimer, Linz-Dornbach, Austria.
'My name is T/3 Gerard Oppenheimer, Agent attached to Counter-intelligence Corps (MII), at present of the 11th Armoured Division now stationed at Linz, Austria. I have been working on the Mauthausen Chain of Concentration camps under Lt. Galbraith of the C.I.C. 11th Armoured Division. On the 23rd May 1945, I was present at the disinterment of Georg Bachmayer, Assistant Commandant of Mauthausen and Branches, and of his small daughter. This took place in Altenburg, Austria, near Perg and was done by a few local Nazis under the supervision of a former prisoner of Mauthausen, now a tailor in the town, named Rueckert.
'Around 19th May 1945, we heard that Bachmayer had committed suicide after killing his family. We had no transportation immediately and a few days later we got orders to exhume the body and verify Bachmayer's identity. Lt. Galbraith and I were in charge of the detail and after identification we had him re-buried in the same spot. The corpse was in a bad state of disintegration. I myself photographed Bachmayer's corpse. From other photographs of this man which I had seen previously, I am positive beyond any doubt that this was his body. I say this because of his protruding teeth, receding thin, dark hair with receding hair-line, and the exact description I had of his crippled hand, middle finger being continually bent and first phalanx of index finger missing. Perg is about 12 km from Mauthausen. I have given the photographs to the Examiner and have initialled each as to identity. I swear before God this is entirely true'.
sgd. GERARD OPPENHEIMER
T/3, U.S. Army
Subscribed and sworn to before me at Linz, Dornbach, Austria, this 5th day of June 1945
sgd. GILBERT M. ALLEN, JNR.
Lt. Col., Infantry
Investigator-Examiner. [ITS Historical Archives, file No. 276 (S) 157. sic]
As early as June 1945, the War Crimes Branch of the US Investigating team had drawn up all their documents and were ready for trials to begin. This team was one of the many set up in agreement with the Allies to investigate crimes uncovered by the advancing forces. The trials of former SS personnel in Mauthausen took place in Dachau in 1946 and were brilliantly conducted. The main Prosecutor, Jack Taylor of the OSS, was himself a former inmate of the camp. The official code-number given to the documents used in these trials was PS 2176. The jury were presented with facts concerning killings, particularly of prisoner-of-war, by means of shooting, beating, using of poison gas, drowning, starving, injections, stoning, exposure etc. Section IV of this remarkable series of documents states:
(IV) a. Summary of facts. Between 1,500,000 and 2,000,000 political prisoners are known to have been incarcerated and labelled for extermination at the Mauthausen system of concentration camps from available records...
Other exhibits during the trials were death registers, a specimen of poisonous gas, a rubber hose used by SS guards, a heavy whip, a cat-o'nine tails and various documents and affidavits relating to crimes committed. In all there were 818 persons against whom warrants were issued in connection with investigations into the crimes committed in Mauthausen and its sub-camps. The culmination of the struggle now achieved over the Nazis could have been the beginning of a new era of understanding between nations. The fault lies with both East and West that it was otherwise. The Americans should have understood the terrible sufferings endured by the Russians at the hands of the Nazis and shown compassion in this respect in the months that followed. The Russians for their part, should have given the Americans credit for their devotion to humanity and for the compassion and generosity shown by US forces to all in need.
Numerous members of the camp administrative staff and the guard units were prosecuted after the war. In a proceeding on the site of the Dachau concentration camp, a US Military Tribunal prosecuted deputy preventative detention camp commandant Hans Altfuldisch and 60 other defendants associated with Mauthausen in the spring of 1946. The tribunal convicted all 61 defendants, sentenced 58 to death and three to life imprisonment on May 13, 1946. On appeal, nine of the death sentences were commuted to prison sentences. US authorities executed 49 of the defendants and released the remaining twelve convicts in 1950 and 1951.
A young Frailty of collaboration with the enemy is executed by firing squad in Grenoble. He was one of six of the town's citizens shot that day. Photo: Hulton Getty Images
US military tribunals tried approximately 224 other persons associated with Mauthausen (officials, guards, prisoner functionaries, prisoners, and implicated civilians) in about 60 further proceedings at Dachau in 1947 Military judges convicted more than 90% of the defendants.
Austrian authorities prosecuted and convicted several defendants associated with Mauthausen in several trials after the war. The Federal Republic of Germany also conducted numerous proceedings against persons accused of Nazi crimes at Mauthausen and its sub-camps. Perhaps the most extensive German investigation involved the proceedings against Karl Schulz and Anton Streitwieser, respectively, the chief of the political department in the main camp and the commandant of several Mauthausen sub-camps. US Federal civil courts stripped four former Mauthausen guards of their US citizenship during the 1980s, after the Department of Justice's Office of Special Investigations brought suits against them for participation in Nazi-sponsored persecution. An estimated 197,464 prisoners passed through the Mauthausen camp system between August 1938 and May 1945. At least 95,000 died there. More than 14,000 were Jewish.
Literature sources: Black book. The Black Book Committee, New York, 1946.;BULLOCK, ALAN, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, London 1954.: Tracing Service, Germany 1950: DATNER, SIMON, Crimes Against Prisoner-of war: DELARUE, JACQUES, Historire de la Gestapo, Paris, 1962: DYER, LT. COL. GEORGE, 12th Corps, Spearhead of Pattons' Third Army, Germany 1947: FOOT, M.R.D., SOE in France, London 1966: GRUBER, KARL, Between Liberation and Liberty, New York 1955: HILBERG, PAUL, The Destruction of European Jews, Chicago, 1961.: JANI, EMILIO, My Voice Saved Me, Milan 1961.: KOGON, EUGEN, The Theory and Practice of Hell, London 1951.: KRUKOWSKI, STEFAN, Bylon Kapo, Warsaw 1963.: MITSCHERLICH, A. Death Doctors, London, !962.: JUREK OSUCHOWSKI, Gusen, Entry to Hell, Warsaw 1961.:PAPPALETTERA, VINCENZO, Tu Passerai per il camino, Milan, 1965.: REITLINGER, GERALD, The Final Solution, London 1953.: REITLINGER, GERALD, The SS: Alibi of a Nation, 1922-45, London 1956.: SADZEWICZ,MAREK, Oflag, Warsaw 1958.: SEMMES, HARRY H. Portrait of Patton, New York, 1955.: SHIRER, WILLIAM, The rise and Fall of the Third Reich, London 1966.:SMOLEN, KAZIMIERZ, Auschwitz 1940-1945, Auschwitz, 1961.: SNYDER, LOUIS L, Hitler and Nazism, New York 1961.: TENNENBAUM, JOSEPH, In Search Of a Lost People, New York 1948.: WIGHTON, CHARLES, Eichmann, His Career and Crimes, London 1961.: WORMSER, OLGA and MICHEL, HENRI, La tragedie de la deportation 1940-1945, Paris 1955.BENZ, WOLGANG, Der Ort des Terrors, Band 4, München 2006 which I translated from German
Blog: fold3,bgill,16 Oct 2011
Any references of documents with serial numbers preceded by letters 'PS' and 'D' indicates evidence used at the trials before the International Military Tribunal (IMT), Nürnberg, 1945-46. Both letters 'PS and 'D' refer to Mauthausen, not every reference has been quoted. I also have avoided where-ever I could the expression "Nazis" as this is derogative, to the extent that it is almost obscene to German readers for which I apologise, yet it is so entrenched in literatures in most languages that I had to use it. The correct expression "Nationalsozialismus" would be meaningless to others
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