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August 23, 2012

The deathbed confession of Mauthausen Commandant Franz Ziereis — who was taking notes?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:59 am

At the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, where the German war criminals were put on trial, there was evidence given in an affidavit made by Hans Marsalek, a former prisoner in the Mauthausen Camp. Marsalek was allegedly present when Franz Ziereis, the Commandant of Mauthausen, gave his deathbed confession.  Several photos of Ziereis, on his deathbed, were taken.  One of these photos, which now hangs in the Mauthausen Memorial Site Museum, shows the arm and hand of someone who was taking notes.  Does anyone know the name of the person who took notes as Ziereis was speaking?

Someone had to be taking notes, as Ziereis gave his 6-8 hour confession in German while Charles Heinz Pilarski translated his words into English.  I have recently learned the name of an American soldier who was allegedly taking notes in English while Pilarski was translating, but I am not at liberty to divulge his name. He was allowed to bring his rough draft of the Ziereis confession home with him.

This photo of Ziereis on his deathbed hangs in the Mauthausen Museum

Franz Ziereis was allegedly alive when the photo above was taken on May 24, 1945, the day that he died.  This photo was NOT taken by an American Army Signal Corp photographer because it does not have the identification number that is characteristic of all Signal Corp photos.

Note the arm and hand in the upper left hand corner of the photo.  The developing and printing of the arm looks different than the rest of the photo.  The developing and printing of the main part of the photo looks a bit “muddy” meaning that it does not have enough contrast, while the portion of the photo that shows the arm and the sleeve has been developed and printed correctly.  This indicates to me that two different photos might have been pasted together.

Note the man in the foreground of the photo above; he is wearing an American Army cap and glasses.  He is also in the photo below, which appears to have been taken around the same time.

Franz Ziereis on his deathbed

Where is Hans Marsalek in the photo above?  Where is the man who was taking notes?  Where is the former prisoner who was translating the words of Ziereis into English?  Anyone who can identify the men in the photo, please write a comment.

Franz Ziereis on his deathbed, as witnesses watch

By my calculation, there are seven men in the photo above, gathered around the deathbed of Franz Ziereis.  But where is the guy who is taking notes?  Where is the American soldier who allegedly took notes while Charles Heinz Pilarski was translating?

The following quote is from this page of the Gusen Memorial website:

EXCURSUS: The capture and interrogation of Ziereis:

On the morning of 3 May, Franz Ziereis, commander of the concentration camp Mauthausen and in this capacity also commander of the camp Gusen, left Mauthausen to hide from the allied troops in his hunting lodge in Spital am Phyrn together with his wife Ida and their three children. Almost three weeks later, on 23 May, he was apprehended by a patrol unit of the US army accompanied by former prisoners and shot when attempting to escape. Ziereis was seriously wounded and taken to the American 131st Evacuation Hospital in the former SS barracks at Gusen, where he was interrogated for several hours by members of the US army, including commander Richard R. Seibel who was responsible for camp Mauthausen, and several former prisoners.
On the evening of the 24 May 1945, Ziereis died from his injuries in the military hospital in Gusen. The original interrogation document was handed over to Colonel Seibel and served as evidence in the forthcoming war crimes trials. Further records were drawn up by former prisoners who had attended the interrogation session. As a result, several versions were in circulation, which were, however, largely identical in content.

The plans to hold a trial of the German war criminals, associated with Mauthausen,  had already been made, even before the Mauthausen camp was liberated.  Col. Richard R. Seibel, who was one of the men present at the death bed of Ziereis, had already taken over the Mauthausen camp in April 1945; he was at the camp for 35 days which included the day that Ziereis allegedly gave his confession.  So why didn’t Col. Seibel testify at Nuremberg?  Why didn’t he sign the alleged confession of Ziereis which was submitted in an affidavit by Hans Marsalek?

I have written about the trial of the Mauthausen SS men at the American Military Tribunal here.  I also wrote about the death statistics for Mauthausen and Gusen on my website here.