Scrapbookpages Blog

December 12, 2011

the sad case of Martin Bartesch, the infamous Mauthausen war criminal

On March 7, 1946, charges of participating in a “common design” to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the 1929 Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention of 1907 were brought by an American Military Tribunal against 61 men, who had been on the staff at the infamous Mauthausen concentration camp near Linz, Austria.  Although Mauthausen was in the Soviet zone of occupation in Austria, America had jurisdiction over the war criminals in the Mauthausen camp by virtue of being the liberators of the camp on May 5, 1945.

Mauthausen war criminals listen as the indictment is read

Martin Bartesch, a vicious “Nazi war criminal” who had served as an SS guard at Mauthausen for three whole weeks, was not among the 61 men in the dock.  In October 1955, Bartesch emigrated to America, where he managed to escape justice until April 9, 1986 when his evil past was finally exposed by the Office of Special Investigations of the U.S. Justice Department.

This Associated Press news story from May 29, 1987 gives the details of this infamous case:

Chicagoan Stripped of Citizenship–Hid Past as Nazi Guard

May 29, 1987 | Associated Press

A 60-year-old janitor from Chicago who hid his past as a Nazi SS concentration camp guard during World War II flew to Austria and was stripped of his U.S. citizenship, the Justice Department announced today. Martin Bartesch, a native of Romania, was listed in a “death book” compiled by the operators of the Mauthausen camp as having shot to death a French Jew in 1943, said Neal Sher, head of the Office of Special Investigations, the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting unit.

Remember The Reader, a movie which was based on a book written by German writer Bernard Schink?  The book is about a fictional character named Hanna Schmidt, who was an ethnic German girl from Romania.  Hanna had moved to Berlin at the age of 16 to get a job; she eventually wound up as an SS guard in a labor camp at the age of 17.

Martin Bartesch was also an ethnic German from Romania who left the family farm at the age of 16, and went to Germany, where he volunteered to join the SS.

After the war, the fictional Hanna was put on trial as a war criminal because she had refused to allow Jewish prisoners to escape from a barn where they had been locked inside for the night on a death march out of Auschwitz.  She was accused of killing the women because she allowed them to burn to death after the church caught fire; her excuse was that she was just doing her job which was to prevent the women from escaping.

Martin Bartesch was a war criminal because he shot and killed a Jewish prisoner at Mauthausen who was trying to escape.  “Trying to escape?” Oh sure, that’s what they all say.  The photo below shows two Czech prisoners who were shot by guards at Mauthausen while trying to escape.

Two Czech prisoners who were shot at Mauthausen while attempting to escape

In the photo above, note the position of the bodies near a barbed wire fence. According to Holocaust survivors, this was a favorite way for the guards in the camps to kill the prisoners. Survivors of Mauthausen said that sometimes the guards would entice the prisoners to leave the work site by telling them to pick strawberries and then shoot them when they got near the fence. Or a guard would throw a prisoner’s cap near the fence and when the prisoner tried to retrieve it, he would be shot.   (more…)