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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.

11 Comments

  1. I believe the American soldier who took a rough draft home with him was my grandfather. I currently have the rough draft mention right now

    Comment by Brett B. — January 22, 2016 @ 8:40 pm

  2. As we can see the first picture there is a white shirt with stripped tie in that upper left corner.And in the following picture we can see who that white shirt and tie belongs to,in the third picture below we can see clearly that he is laying to his right trying to write something else or continuing with the script.

    Comment by Luis Duenas — May 6, 2015 @ 4:40 pm

  3. You can see more people in this picture around Zieris that do not show up in the others posted here, maybe they are the missing links in the chain?
    http://collections.yadvashem.org/photosarchive/en-us/72512.html

    Comment by Ranny — February 18, 2014 @ 10:47 am

    • What are those marks on his face? Did he cut himself shaving and put toilet paper on the cuts to stop the bleeding? Or was he shot in the face, as he tried to escape? What is that in his mouth? Is it a tube into his stomach? Some sources say that he was shot in the stomach as he was running away, when he tried to escape.

      Comment by furtherglory — February 18, 2014 @ 11:28 am

      • They are not marks on his face or a tube or whatever, it’s damage to the negative film. If you zoom in on some of them you can actually see that one side is darker where the emulsion has ‘piled up’.

        Comment by Thomas — December 6, 2015 @ 6:53 pm

        • I started developing film in a darkroom, way back in 1952, and I have never heard of emulsion piling up. I started taking photos, with a box camera, in 1943. I never had any damage to a negative. The photo that you showed is very sharp; it was obviously taken with a good camera, not a box camera. I think that you are completely wrong.

          Comment by furtherglory — December 7, 2015 @ 7:32 am

  4. I have a copy of this letter & original pictures of zieres’s dead body hanging in fence.

    Comment by Susan — January 17, 2014 @ 10:27 am

  5. SS-Stanardenführer Franz Ziereis
    When I searched the net for actual facts as to he final hour of Ziereis and his alleged confession I came a cross a number of different version, on: http://de.metapedia.org/wiki/Ziereis,_Franz, a poorly translated version reads.> In a photo album of Dr. Oscar Roth , which was bequeathed to Yale University, is found a second, shorter version of this confession, agrees that in essential points, but with the declaration Maršáleks. However, a handwritten note is in the same album, the circumstances of his arrest a little different again. Then Ziereis was not shot in the capture, but “taken prisoner and shot”. [3]
    The event of the death of the commander Franz Ziereis present VS-Americans, U.S. Col. Richard Seibel and Professor Premsyl J. Dobias, but deny that the dying of had made ​​such a confession. On 1 June 1989 and on 1 August 1990 is the country’s Criminal Court, Vienna, states that it is in the confession to a later forgery<. Another website, although a communist News Paper states that he did even write a letter to his wife after the interrogation, the text is in German :http://www.kommunisten-online.de/historie/mathausen.htm. It implies that he went to retrieve his pistol hidden about 40 meters from the lodge at a tree, as they both had decided to commit suicide to give their children a better future [his wife apparently was out shopping] and was then shot. To what extent one can give credence to a communist paper, I hazard to guess.

    Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — August 23, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

    • Thanks for these links. I learned about Dr. Oscar Roth when I was doing my research on the subject of the Ziereis confession. Dr. Roth is one of several people who claimed to be taking notes as Ziereis gave his confession. He turned his notes over to Yale University. Dr. Roth allegedly took notes in German while Ziereis was speaking and then translated them into English himself.

      Meanwhile, there was allegedly a translator (Charles Heinz Pilarski) who was translating the confession of Ziereis as he talked for 6 to 8 hours after being shot. An American soldier was allegedly taking notes in English as Pilarski translated. In all of the versions of Ziereis’s confession, there is no mention of what questions he was asked. Did Ziereis just take it upon himself to say everything that the Americans wanted to hear — without being prompted by questions?

      Comment by furtherglory — August 24, 2012 @ 7:59 am

  6. The “cap sleeve” that looks like a woman’s blouse which concerns you is the necktie of the man in the white shirt with the cigarette in his hand turning away from Zieries in the photo where he is looking at someone on the left out of one eye. His closed eye may have been swollen shut from a beating. The conflicting stories of who found (inmates) and then shot Zieries (U.S. Army) is interesting. The British Jewish Brigade boasted of killing captured Nazis, but I don’t know if they participated in the liberation of any camps. If they did they would have been cited as simply British soldiers, not British Brigade soldiers.

    Comment by who dares wings — August 23, 2012 @ 12:42 pm

    • By George, I believe you are correct!

      I had not seen the photo with the man in the white shirt and striped tie when I went to the Mauthausen Memorial Site Museum in 2003 and saw this photo which they have on display. However, that makes me think, more than ever, that this is two photos put together.

      I learned from a recent e-mail that an American soldier was allegedly writing down the translation given by former prisoner Charles Heinz Pilarski as Ziereis was speaking. Apparently no one was taking notes in German as Ziereis was speaking.

      Strangely, no effort was made to have the confession of Ziereis properly authenticated for the coming Nuremberg IMT. Pilarski did not testify at the IMT. The man who allegedly wrote down what Pilarski said in translation was not called as a witness at the Nuremberg IMT.

      Apparently, the body of Ziereis was turned over to the prisoners and no autopsy was done. Nothing was done to preserve important evidence from the alleged confession of Ziereis. Yet, his alleged confession was used against Ernst Kaltenbrunner who was not allowed to confront the witnesses against him at Nuremberg.

      Comment by furtherglory — August 23, 2012 @ 1:19 pm


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