Tuesday, November 13, 2012


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'
In the past hygiene played a significant and prominent part in camp life, and only towards the end of hostilities were the standards lowered. The floors of the prisoners' Blocks were always spotlessly clean. They were hosed down regularly all through the year, so that the wood was permanently wet. Random Block de-lousing took place whatever the weather and often occurred with hardly a moments notice. The prisoners would be hustled out, often in the middle of the night, while the Block was fumigated. Personal delousing might take place at the same time, or independently during Block fumigation. Sometimes it was done every two weeks, sometimes every six. The constant fear of typhus outbreaks made the camp administration particularly careful about louse control, something the Americans overlooked initially. Large notices, accompanied by drawings of a louse, were nailed on the walls at intersection of Stube (room) A and Stube B in every block. Over this illustration were the words 'Eine Laus dein Tod' (one louse, your death) [which was quickly removed upon the arrival of American troops, sic]
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'
The camp authorities preoccupation with physical and Block hygiene also had its effect on the food and the overall condition of prisoners. Their rations, especially during the last six months of the camp's existence, were reduced to starvation level,and this forced the prisoners into acts which in any circumstances would have been unthinkable. One man with dysentery, who ate some small cubes of carrot, passed them almost immediately, absolutely unmasticated and undigested. Another pounced on the filth, snatched it up, after running the pieces under water, quickly popped the treasure into his mouth. But even this was not the lowest depth man can be driven. In May 1945, a Polish doctor investigating a report there was cannibalism in Block 5 found corpses with pieces of flesh removed. [PS 2176 (203), JAD, 3rd Us Army, sic] The culprit, a Russian, was caught red-handed. He was splattered with blood and still had a piece of flesh in his mouth. In another Block containing sick prisoners a body had all the stomach ripped up and the kidneys removed. Again the culprit was a Russian. When SS doctor Wolter was notified and asked to provide food for the sick, he replied that Commandant Ziereis had ordered that no food be given that day.
Mauthausen - Photo of an inmate forced to use a makeshift latrine during the operation of the camp
Camp garbage was taken for disposal in the same wagon in which bread was delivered. These wagons were drawn by prisoners. This may seem to be a breakaway from the usual strict hygiene habits until one realises that the SS regarded its prisoners simply as animals. A high standard of hygiene was enforced in the buildings and their surroundings, but such standards did not apply to the prisoners food because they were expected to eat like animals.
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)
As soon as Ziereis handed over, the camp underground movement came out into the open. The more active prisoner were armed and went searching the countryside for the SS men hiding. But the sick, the weak, the starving and the dying all languished as before during the few twilight days that elapsed before the Americans took over the running of the camp. One camp resistance group. consisting of some stronger prisoners, seized the telegraph communications at Gusen, Narn and Perg, then they sought out the locations of SS Units in order to prevent them from returning to the offensive. The same group held a pitched battle with the SS at the railway bridge near Mauthausen and incurred losses, which included Badia, a man who had formerly been active in the Spanish resistance. The liberating Americans faced a formidable task when they took over Mauthausen, and looking back, it is clear that it was well and ably carried out. It is true that they did not welcome the idea of large-scale resistance activities, and this may have been responsible for some of the ill feeling which arose between them and the Russian prisoners. Perhaps they did not fully appreciate that the normal reaction of people at last freee from torment and suffering would be to seek revenge and extort retribution from their former persecutors. It is very likely that they feared that, in their renewed surge of life, the prisoners might start a mass lynching of the local inhabitants. With this idea in mind , the Americans rounded up the local people, and made them clean away the bodies and clean up the barracks.
The corpses are piled at Mauthausen"
Mr. Casimir Climent, the man who saved so many invaluable camp records from as far back as 1940, also listed the number of prisoners in Mauthausen as at 1st May 1945. All authorities agree on the authenticity of his records and the efficiency and conscientiousness with which he processed them. From the 1st January 1945, to the 4th May, a total of 28,080 deaths were recorded in the camp and its subsidiaries. The Mauthausen crematorium was out of action and the huge communal grave which had caused the break-out from Block 20 was filled to capacity with 10,000 bodies. The Americans supervised its filling in, as well as the burial of nearly 5,000 bodies in the former SS football field near the garage yard. Hundreds of others were they were found, on the road side or up in the hills. The United States medical teams were naturally aware of the grave danger of giving too much food to the camp inmates in their weakened condition. Obviously, a piece of steak would kill. To start with they were fed, little and often, with thick, wholesome gruel. In this way the near-dad were brought back to life and helped towards health, or some semblance of health. Many of the US troops became blood donors. The prisoners wounds were cleaned and dressed, sanitary arrangements were efficiently organised and a massive cleansing operations was put into action. Yet even these measures could not prevent the deaths of more than 3,000 after liberation. Many died from sheer joy. They had lived on hope, on fear and on their nerves for so long that the sudden relaxation of tension, when it came, was too much for them. Many people died because they left the camp before they were strong enough. The Americans warned them against doing so and encouraged them to stay on, but the pull of their homelands was too powerful. Trains were sent, particularly from the USSR, to repatriate nationals and anyone else who wished to return eastwards to his homeland. [This was by all means for Russian POW's not a happy event and many were sent to Siberia by Stalin into 'Re-education' labour camps, many of them in fact did commit suicide rather than face a communist reception committee, sic]
Arrival of US Army armoured Scout Vehicle at the Assembly Complex" this is a re-enacted scene at Mauthausen on the 7th May 1945
On 8th May, the following notice was posted up in Mauthausen by the Camp Resistance Committee:
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.
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
On 23rd May, Charles H. Hayes, Agent 511 of the US Intelligence Service, heard the rumour that Ziereis was hiding in the neighbourhood of Spital, Austria. He prepared to go there, but before he had a chance to leave, he was told that Ziereis was now in the hospital at Gusen. Hayes undertook the interrogations, which were difficult and had frequently to be broken off because of Ziereis' condition. During this time he was under the care of DR Toni Goscinski, an ex-Gusen inmate who had saved many lives by his courage and devotion. Despite his own feelings, Goscinski cared for the wounded Ziereis with superb efficiency and it was undoubtedly due to him that the ex-commandant lived as long as he did. For the most part the interrogation took place in German, with the ex-Mauthausen inmate Hans Marsalek acting as interpreter. It stopped at last at 7 p.m. on 24th May, when Ziereis was no longer able to answer the questions. He died at 7.30 that night. NOTE: THIS BRIEF COMMENT DIFFERS VASTLY AS WRITTEN UNDER PART 7 OF MY NARRATIVE.Accepting the fact that the sworn affidavit by Marsalek was written ten months after the event, whatever Ziereis may have said would have been rather rambling and erratic and not worth repeating, but is entered into the records of the IMT.
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'.
T/3, U.S. Army
Subscribed and sworn to before me at Linz, Dornbach, Austria, this 5th day of June 1945
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
Herbert Stolpmann.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.