Charles-Heinz Pilarski was a German citizen, who volunteered to serve in the German military in November 1937. By his own account, Pilarski was court-maritaled on February 20, 1940; he was accused of “anti-fascistic agitation among the ranks of soldiers.” After a trial, that lasted nearly four hours, he was sentenced to three years in military prison. His prison term was to start after Germany had won the war. Until that time, he was to be a prisoner in a concentration camp. Shortly before the Mauthausen concentration camp was liberated in May 1945, he was brought there as a prisoner.
Franz Ziereis was the last Commandant of the Mauthausen Concentration camp. This quote, concerning Ziereis, is from Wikipedia:
Ziereis fled [from the Mauthausen camp] with his wife on May 3, 1945. He attempted to hide out in his hunting lodge on the Phyrn mountain in Upper Austria. He was discovered and arrested on May 23, 1945, by an American army unit. He was shot while trying to escape and brought to a U.S. military hospital set up in Gusen I where he eventually died. His corpse was later hung on the fence of Gusen I by former prisoners of Gusen.
1. Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich – Wer war was vor und nach 1945, Frankfurt am Main, 2. Auflage, Juni 2007, ISBN 978-3-596-16048-8
In my opinion, the first photo above shows the Mauthausen main camp, not the Gusen camp, but what do I know?
I previously blogged about the liberation of the Mauthausen camp here. I previously blogged about the confession of Ziereis here. The reason that I am blogging about all this again is because I have just finished reading a book entitled Atrocities at Camp Mauthausen, which you can order online here or at several other book stores.
The book contains a lengthy version of the confession of Franz Ziereis, which I have not been able to find anywhere else, and a statement by Charles-Heinz Pilarski about his experience in several concentration camps before he was sent to Mauthausen. Pilarski was bitter about his imprisonment, and he was very grateful to the Americans for liberating him, so he was the perfect person to translate the alleged confession of Franz Ziereis while Ziereis was speaking.
My question is “Who wrote down the alleged confession of Ziereis as he was speaking and Pilarski was translating?” Ziereis was on his death bed after he had been shot three times in the stomach while trying to escape. Yes, you read that right. Ziereis was walking backward, trying to flee, when he was shot three times in the stomach. Who said that Ziereis was shot in the stomach? Ernst Kaltenbrunner said this in his testimony at Nuremberg. I previously blogged about the testimony of Kaltenbrunner here.
According to a sign in the Museum at the Mauthausen Memorial Site, Ziereis was shot on 23.5.1945 and he died several days later in a U.S. Field Hospital in Gusen. However, according to Hans Marsalek, who claimed to have interrogated him for 6 to 8 hours, Ziereis was shot on May 22, 1945. You can see a photo of Ziereis on his deathbed and read the sworn affidavit of Hans Marsalek, which was entered into the Nuremberg IMT, on this page of my website.
A photo of Charles-Heinz Pilarski is shown in the book Atrocities at Camp Mauthausen. The photo shows a nice looking young man, who is standing beside a wooden door. The text under the photo is this:
“Entrance to the Gas-Chamber: The door is about 4 inches thick to prevent the people from breaking out. As when overcome from the gas they gain much strength. This illustrater (sic) is the author Charles Pilarski.”
When I visited the Mauthausen Memorial Site in 2003, I took photos of the gas chamber door which you can see on my website here. The doors of the gas chamber are not made of wood, as shown in the photo of Charles Pilaski beside the alleged gas chamber door.
There are several other photos in the book Atrocities at Camp Mauthausen, which are purported to be photos taken at Mauthausen, but they are easily recognizable as photos taken at Dachau. This makes me question the alleged confession of Ziereis, as printed in the book. Did Pilarski really translate the words of Franz Ziereis as he was speaking? Who wrote down what Pilarski translated?
The book Atrocities at Camp Mauthausen shows photographs of the typewritten statements of Ziereis, so someone was apparently typing as Pilarski translated. This must have been very slow. Why didn’t someone type the words in German as Ziereis spoke? Then someone could have translated it into English later.
According to the book Atrocities at Camp Mauthausen, Ziereis began his confession by telling about how he was shot in the back and the bullets hit his ventral. Why didn’t Pilarski translate the word “ventral” into English? I looked this word up on Google Translate and there is no English word for ventral. The German word for stomach is Magen.
In the opening words of his confession, as translated by Pilarski and published in the book Atrocities at Camp Mauthausen, Ziereis said this in the 5th sentence of his confession:
I was delivered to the 131st evacuation hospital, (American) at Gusen.
Ziereis was allegedly making this confession in the hospital at Gusen, so why does he say that he was delivered to the (American) hospital at Gusen? That goes without saying. Then he launches into the next part of his confession which has the heading “METHODS TO KILL PRISONERS.” The following quote is from the so-called confession of Ziereis:
By the order of Reichminister Himmler, I was to kill all the prisoners by orders of the Obergruppenführer, Dr. Kaltenbrunner. The prisoners were to be crowded into a long like cave in one of the quarry walls. The opening to be walled up with large rocks. Then I was to dynamite at the entrance and blow it up. I refused these orders. This was for the prisoners of Camp Gusen I and II.
Did Ziereis really say “Reichminister Himmler?” Did he really make a mistake in calling Himmler the “Reichminister” which was not his title? As the person who translated the confession from German to English, did Pilarski make a mistake in the translation? In fact, the whole translation is not very good. There must have been hundreds of people available who could have done a better translation, so why was this job given to Charles-Heinz Pilarski?
The next section of the Ziereis confession is about the gas chamber at Mauthausen, which Ziereis allegedly said was built on the “secret orders” of Dr. Krebsbach. Only a person who knew nothing about the hierarchy of the Nazi government would have said something like that.
Ziereis goes on to confess:
“I cannot tell you where Dr. Kaltenbrunner sought refuge. He killed some 700 prisoners by injecting 40 cc near the veins of their heart. Dr. Richter did his type of killing by operating the prisoners in the brain. Also by doing same to the stomach of the sick. Or if slightly sick, he would take out the kidney and liver. I sent him into the “InternalCamp” (sic) of Gunskirchen. He was to take charge of the inmates there. I also did not know that the Unterscharführer, Miroff, of Peggau Camp killed 15 prisoners because they were sick. Orders from Berlin were to flog the slaves to death. I did that often myself, getting enjoyment in hearing them cry out when I struck them on their “asses.”
Dr. Kaltenbrunner was not a medical doctor. He had a PhD in law, not a degree in medicine.
A few pages later in his fake confession, Ziereis allegedly said
“I should like to meet up with the Reichführer SS Himmler and Obergruppenführer Glucks and Pohl. [...] The gas chambers in camp Mauthausen were built by orders of Glucks.”
Did Ziereis contradict himself in his alleged confession, or was this fake confession made up by two different people? All of a sudden, Ziereis knows the correct title for Heinrich Himmler, but Ziereis now says that the gas chamber was ordered by Glücks, not by Dr. Krebsbach, as he first claimed. The person who typed up this document, put the umlaut in the titles of Himmler and Glücks, but omitted it from the name of Glücks.
My photo above shows the spot where condemned prisoners were allegedly executed by a shot in the neck at Mauthausen. An old black and white photo of this spot is shown in the book Atrocities at Camp Mauthausen. The old photo in the book shows a man standing in the corner while another man, who is probably a Kapo in the camp, points a stick at the head of the man in the corner. The caption under the photo says “In this corner they told the prisoners that they would photograph them for some purpose, but instead they shot them. A fake camera was placed where this picture was taken.”
When I visited the Mauthausen Memorial Site, a sign on the wall, near this corner, said that prisoners had to stand in front of a fake measuring device and they were shot from behind after they were fooled into thinking that their height was being measured.
On the left in my color photo above is the door to the outside stairs which lead to the area between the bunker and the hospital building. To the right is the doorway to the hall leading to a door on the west wall of the gas chamber. Why did the staff at Mauthausen go to great lengths to secretly execute condemned prisoners? Why not just take them to the gas chamber which was very near the spot shown in the photo above?
But I digress. Back to the confession of Franz Ziereis. He had been shot three times and was dying, yet he rambled on at great length. Strangely, the questions that Ziereis was asked are not included in his confession. Did he just rattle on, without being asked any questions?
Eventually, Ziereis got to the part of his confession that was headlined “RUSSIAN OFFICERS GOT NECK SHOTS.”
As translated by Pilarski, this is what Ziereis said:
“About other camps, I can give you a little detail. In 1941, all Atrocity commanders of Germany were assembled in Berlin, being advised the best method liquidating Politrucks (sic) and Russians. The leaders decided to demonstrate in Camp Sachsenhausen. Here, they called the prisoners with a loud speaker and lead them into a long barrack in the far end of the camp. As each one would enter the dark gangway, they received a shot in the neck by an SS who was drunk and disorderly. Each SS man took turns in the shooting. These men were Gluck’s staff. After shooting the prisoners some SS men would pile the corpses in two big heaps. Near the corpses were two big incinerators that burned day and night. They burned 1500 to 2000 daily. This proceeded for five weeks. In Gross-Rosen Camp, poison was injected into the hearts of the victims. They were told that this was to help them regain their health.”
The next section of the Ziereis confession, that was translated by Charles-Heinz Pilarski, was the section with the heading: “PLUNDERING JEWS AT BUCHENWALD.” Buchenwald? Yes, Ziereis had worked at Buchenwald before he was transferred to Mauthausen.
The confession of Ziereiss rambles on, as he tries to get in all the war crimes committed at all the camps, before he dies. Near the end of the confession, there is a section with the headline: “SUPERIORS OF BERLIN DEMANDED MORE PEOPLE KILLED.” In this section, Ziereis allegedly said:
“Three months later (3 months after Himmler inspected the Mauthausen camp on May 31, 1943), a transport of 7,000 Czechoslovakian Jews arrived at Camp Mauthausen. The death rate amongst the transport was only 3% and was very suspiciously objected by the Berlin superiors. I was questioned about this situation and I replied that I needed people to work and could not kill them all. In spite of all these reproaches, I was appointed “Standartenführer.”
The confession of Ziereis ends with this sentence:
“At last in concluding my confession and examination, I state that within the area of Warsaw, Kovno, Riga, and Libau about 16,000000 people were killed.”
So there you have it. The last dying words of Franz Ziereis: 16 million killed in four cities.
I had to look up Libau. According to Wikipedia, Libau is the the German name for Liepāja.
The book Atrocities at Camp Mauthausen includes the photo shown below. The caption on the photo in the book is “Slain Russian prisoners of war.” The implication is that these were Russian POWs who were killed at Mauthausen. The same photo is claimed to be SS soldiers who were shot at Dachau.
No one asked me, but my personal opinion is that Franz Ziereis did not make a confession. I don’t believe that he ever regained consciousness after he was shot. I believe that Hans Marsalek and some of the other prisoners, with the help of Charles-Heinz Pilarski, wrote his confession for him.
Note that his confession is all about the crimes committed by others, who might be put on trial at Nuremberg, and not about the crimes that he personally committed. He was dying and he knew that he would not be put on trial himself, so he incriminated others. What would have motivated him to do that?