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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.

August 17, 2012

Charles-Heinz Pilarski, the man who translated the confession of Franz Ziereis into English

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]

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

The naked body of Ziereis hanging on a fence with the face of  Nazi-hunter  Simon Wiesenthal on the right

My photo of the stone walls of the Mauthausen main camp

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.

The execution spot at Mauthausen where prisoners were executed with a shot into the neck

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 shown on other websites, including mine, and claimed to be SS soldiers who were shot at Dachau.

Photo taken at Dachau when the camp was liberated

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?

August 7, 2010

The confession of Franz Ziereis, commandant of Mauthausen

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:00 pm

Body of Franz Ziereis on the left, Simon Wiesenthal on the right

I was very excited when I found the photo above on the Internet today.  The photo, which shows the dead body of Franz Ziereis, Commandant of Mauthausen, confirms the eye witness testimony of an American soldier who was there when Ziereis died. The photo appears to have been taken at the main Mauthausen camp and it shows the scene the way the eye-witness described it.

The official version of the story of the death of Ziereis is that he was “shot while attempting to escape” and then taken to a hospital in the Gusen sub-camp of Mauthausen where he gave a confession to Hans Marsalek, a prominent Communist prisoner at Mauthausen. After Ziereis died, his body was allegedly put on a fence at Gusen and smeared with swastikas.

The web site where I found the photo above has this about the death of Ziereis:

The “Holocaust” liar-baron Wiesenthal had the bestially murdered commandant of Mauthausen Camp, Franz Ziereis, hanged naked on the fence and smeared with slogans. In his book KZ MAUTHAUSEN (Linz, 1946), Wiesenthal claims that, as he lay dying, the martyred commandant confessed to him that four million people had been gassed at Mauthausen.

Actually, it was Hans Marsalek who allegedly heard the confession of Ziereis as he lay dying. Simon Wiesenthal, who was also a prisoner at Mauthausen, originally said that there was no gas chamber there.

Display board in Mauthausen Museum shows Franz Ziereis on his death bed

The caption on the photo above says that the photo on display was taken on May 24, 1945 at the Gusen camp. The soldier in the photo is not identified, but allegedly Col. Richard R. Seibel, the commander of the 11th Armored Division, was present when Commandant Franz Ziereis was questioned by Hans Marsalek. Col. Seibel did not testify at the Nuremberg IMT, nor did he sign his name as a witness to the confession of Ziereis.

The confession allegedly given by Ziereis was written up from memory, ten months later, by Hans Marsalek and entered into the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal as proof that Jews were killed in gas chambers at Mauthausen and at Hartheim Castle. You can read the alleged confession of Ziereis here.

Note that Ziereis was propped up for the photo. A harness around his chest, with straps over his shoulders, appears to be holding his body upright. An unidentified man wearing an American Army cap is sitting very close to Ziereis while the arm and hand of another man can be seen in the upper left hand corner. Everything has been carefully posed to show Ziereis as he allegedly makes his death-bed confession. Was Ziereis really still alive when this photo was taken?

The photo looks fake to me.  I think Ziereis was already dead when he allegedly gave his confession to Hans Marsalek.

Display board in Mauthausen Museum shows the confession of Ziereis

The photo above shows a display board right next to the photo of Franz Ziereis. The first paragraph on the sign in the photo states that Ziereis was shot on 23.5.1945 and that he died several days later in a U.S. Field Hospital in Gusen.  (Not according to the eye-witness whom I will quote a bit later in this post.)

The second paragraph on the display board is a quote from the alleged confession of Franz Ziereis in which he said that a gas chamber, disguised as a bathroom, was built at Mauthausen on the order of Dr. Krebsbach; the prisoners were gassed with Cyklon-B. Besides this, there was a special vehicle which traveled between the Mauthausen main camp and the Gusen sub-camp, in which prisoners were gassed along the way.  Did a doctor really have the authority to order the construction of a gas chamber in a Nazi concentration camp?

In a sworn affidavit, dated April 8, 1946, which was entered into the Nuremberg IMT as document 3870-PS, Hans Marsalek, wrote the following:

On 22 May 1945, the Commandant of the Concentration Camp Mauthausen, Franz Ziereis, was shot while escaping by American soldiers and was taken to the branch camp of Gusen. Franz Ziereis was interrogated by me in the presence of the Commander of the 11th Armored Division Seibel; the former prisoner and physician Dr. Koszeinski; and in the presence of another Polish citizen, name unknown, for a period of six to eight hours. The interrogation was effected in the night from 22 May to 23 May 1945.

Marsalek gave the date of Ziereis’s death as May 23, the morning after his interrogation. According to Marsalek, Ziereis freely confessed because he knew he was dying.

U.S. Associate Trial Counsel Col. John Harlen Amen read parts of the Marsalek affidavit on April 12, 1946 at the Nuremberg IMT, including the part pertaining to an order allegedly given by Ernst Kaltenbrunner to blow up all the prisoners at the Gusen camp. Ernst Kaltenbrunner was on trial at Nuremberg, charged with Crimes against Humanity.

Kaltenbrunner objected to the reading of the affidavit:

This Hans Marsalek whom, of course, I have never seen in my life, had been an internee in Mauthausen as were the two other witnesses. I have briefly expressed my views as to the value of a statement concerning me from a former concentration camp internee and my inability to speak face to face with this witness who now confronts me, and my application will be made through my counsel. I must ask here to be confronted with Marsalek. Marsalek cannot know of any such order. In spite of that he states that he did.

The “order,” to which Kaltenbrunner referred, was the alleged order to kill all the Mauthausen prisoners, just before the Americans arrived. Kaltenbrunner’s request to be confronted with Marsalek was denied and Marsalek never took the witness stand at Nuremberg.

Now for the eye witness account of the last days of Commandant Franz Ziereis:

Cpl. Donald Leake was a 21-year-old soldier with the 11th Armored Division, 21AIB, of General Patton’s Third Army; he was among the first soldiers that liberated Mauthausen on May 5, 1945. Along with a few other U.S. soldiers, Leake had been assigned to live inside the Mauthausen concentration camp. His orders were to guard the prisoners in order to prevent them from killing each other and to keep them inside the barracks until the typhus epidemic could be brought under control.

In an e-mail to me on July 6, 2008, 84-year-old Donald Leake described his first day at Mauthausen, the day that he saw the dead bodies of three guards before rigor mortis had set in:

When we arrived at the camp we found a guardhouse with 3 bodies. Apparently they thought suicide was better than the prisoners getting hold of them. They had tried glass to cut their arms and when that didn’t work they wrapped their belts around their necks and fastened them to a heater radiator and slumped down so they would choke to death.

Leake was first assigned to guard a pit where potatoes were being stored. The sick prisoners at Mauthausen were being fed a thin potato soup by the Americans and Leake’s job was to prevent the prisoners from stealing the potatoes and killing themselves by over eating.

After the Mauthausen camp was liberated, 3000 prisoners allegedly died from disease or from eating too much of the rich food that the Americans gave them. Leake told how he had to fire a few shots into the potato pit to ward off three starving prisoners who were trying to steal potatoes.

In one of a series of e-mails, Donald Leake wrote the following, regarding what happened to the guards at the camp:

The only one I saw had a rope around his neck and was being led around the camp by prisoners, and appeared to have his tongue cut out. He was asking for help, but could not speak well. I told an officer and he said “tough, let it be.” It is difficult not to help anyone being tortured.

Donald Leake wrote in another e-mail to me that, on May 23, 1945, the U.S. soldiers at Mauthausen were alerted that there was a “disturbance” going on at a nearby village. According to Leake, several soldiers were sent to the village to take care of the problem. At that time, Ziereis was shot 3 times in the back with a 30 cal. rifle by an American soldier with the rank of private.

Leake did not witness the shooting, but he wrote that the death of Ziereis

…was of such interest to me that I asked around and found the soldier who shot him encamped with his company nearby, and asked him the circumstances of the shooting. His squad was walking toward a house where there was a disturbance and he (Ziereis) came running out, and that was when he was told to halt 3 times, then he (the soldier) fired.

Leake saw Ziereis when he was brought into the Mauthausen main camp, and put into the room where the SS guards spent time when they were not on duty.
Donald Leake wrote the following regarding the last days of Ziereis’s life:

I was told to stay in his room to guard him from the prisoners who would like to get hold of him. I heard no confession or any threats to him while I was on duty. About 2 or 3 days later the Doctor said to me “he is dying but I have many other patients to take care of. Call me if you see any change in him.” After about 20 minutes he (Ziereis) began gasping and breathing heavy, so I sent a soldier to get the Dr. He came and said “since he’s dying this is a last resort” and he gave him a shot directly into his heart [adrenaline?] but he died soon after.

According to Leake, the Doctor who took care of Ziereis was an American wearing civilian clothes who had only recently arrived; he was not a prisoner in the camp.

Donald Leake wrote that Commandant Franz Ziereis was unconscious when he was brought to Mauthausen and that he never recovered consciousness while Leake was on duty. Leake’s job was to guard Ziereis to keep the prisoners from getting to him to exact revenge.

In answer to my question about whether Hans Marsalek could have heard a confession from Ziereis, Donald Leake wrote the following in an e-mail on July 6, 2008:

He (Ziereis) was in a room the guards of the camp used for down time. No one questioned him while I was on duty. I would have seen anyone had they come into the room. I never saw him conscious or speak on my guard time. Anything could have happened on my off time but I doubt he could have conversed with anyone. My orders were “shoot to kill if any prisoner tried to get to him.” I thought they just wanted to patch him up for a war trial. No one seemed excited that they had the commandant there. I thought it was very important. I also thought that 2 or 3 30 cal shots were excessive to bring a man down. One of the holes seemed to go into his armpit and possibly lodge in his lung. I certainly would have seen Marsalek if he had entered while I was on duty.

According to Donald Leake, Ziereis did not die immediately after he was shot, but lingered in an unconscious state for a couple of days before he died. Ziereis was never taken to a hospital, according to Leake. Leake believes that the photo of Franz Ziereis on his death bed was taken after he was already dead.

The official version of the death of Ziereis is that he died in a hospital in Gusen and his body was hung on the fence at Gusen by the prisoners and left there for a couple of weeks. However, Donald Leake said that he saw the body of Ziereis hanging on a fence in the Mauthausen main camp after his death.

Regarding what happened after the death of Ziereis, Donald Leake wrote the following to me in an e-mail:

The Doctor said I could leave, and someone would take care of the body. I wasn’t comfortable with this so I sent someone to my squad leader and he said to leave for other duties. I don’t know how, but I later saw his body hanging on the fence with swastikas painted all over him. What else the prisoners did, I didn’t see, but after a few days the odor was bad. I told an officer it was growing rank and he said he would take care of it which he did.

Personally, I believe the eye-witness account of Donald Leake, which proves that Ziereis never confessed anything to anyone.  Hans Marsalek was a member of the committee that ran the Mauthausen camp when he was a prisoner there.  He was heavily involved in setting up the Museum at Mauthausen, which was in the Soviet zone of Austria after World War II ended.

May 2, 2010

Who were the Nazi gas chamber engineers?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 10:53 am

The Germans are noted for having the best engineers in the world.  The products that they designed are usually named after the engineer, for example, the Porsche car which is named after Herr Ferdinand Porsche.  But who were the engineers who designed the gas chambers that killed millions of Jews in the Holocaust?  And why weren’t the various designs of these homicidal gas chambers named after them?

I started thinking about this today when I got an e-mail from someone who directed me to an article by Nele Abels on this page of the Nizkor web site. The article describes the design of the Mauthausen gas chamber in great detail.

The gas chamber in the Mauthausen camp

Here is a quote about the Mauthausen gas chamber from the article on the Nizkor web site:

In fall 1941 a gassing chamber was built in the main camp Mauthausen.  This was a room in the basement of the sick bay, without windows, 3.80 m. long and 3.5m. wide, which was disguised as a shower-bath.  It was tiled, equipped with a ventilation device and air-tight doors.  All switches for the electrical illumination, for the ventilation, for the water and for the heating were outside the gassing chamber. The tube was installed parallel to the wall in the gassing chamber and had an estimately (sic) 1 m. long slit on the wall side.

When the camp was freed in May 1945 the American troops got hold of the device which was used to introduce the gas into the gassing chamber.  A photograph of this device can be found in the National Archives in Washington.  The main part of the device is a sturdy metal box which measures roughly  75 x 40 cm. The removable insulated lid of the metal box can be shut airtight with heavy wing bolts.  Inside the box several open cans of Zyklon B can be stored safely as well as a hot brick used for accelerating the evaporation of the prussic acid. To both sides of the box valves are welded.  On one side an electric ventilator can be attached, on the other side a hose leading to the enamel tube described above.

Wow!   This is truly an example of German engineering!  The Mauthausen gas chamber used a hot brick to accelerate the evaporation of the prussic acid in the Zyklon-B pellets which were used to gas the prisoners. Some of the Nazi gas chambers lacked a way to heat the Zyklon-B pellets, meaning that the gassing procedure would have taken a long time and would have resulted in psychological torture of the victims.  The beauty of the Mauthausen design was that the gassing apparatus was in a separate room behind a wall of a fully functioning shower room.  The gas chamber room could be used for both showering and killing.

The gassing apparatus was in a small room next to the Mauthausen gas chamber

The gassing apparatus was in a small room next to the Mauthausen gas chamber

The photo above shows the door on the south wall into the Mauthausen gas chamber on the left and the small gassing apparatus room next to it on the right. There is a wide doorway into the gassing apparatus room which has no door. Note the tile on the walls of the apparatus room which is the same kind of tile that is on the wall of the gas chamber.

Zyklon-B pellets shown in the Mauthausen Museum

Pipes on wall of gas chamber with vent hole on the left

The photo above shows a view of the north wall of the Mauthausen gas chamber. The photo shows what appears to be heating or cooling pipes and what looks like a vent hole in the ceiling in the northwest corner of the room. The gas chamber is underground and above it is the open space between the hospital building and the bunker.

I was shocked to learn that there is a photo of the Mauthausen gassing apparatus in the National Archives in Washington, DC.  It would be worth a trip to Washington just to see that photo.  I wonder where the iron box that held the brick is now.  As far as I know, it was not shown in the courtroom at Nuremberg,  nor at Dachau, when staff members of the Mauthausen camp were prosecuted by an American Military Tribunal in 1946.  You can read about the trial of the Mauthausen SS men on this page of my website:

When I visited the Mauthausen Memorial site in May 2003, I saw a sign in the gas chamber which said that the gassing apparatus had been removed on April 29, 1945, which was a few days before the American liberators arrived.  Did the stupid Nazis actually remove the evidence and then leave a photo of the gassing apparatus behind?

Sign in Mauthausen gas chamber describes gassing device

In April 1989, there was a different sign in the Mauthausen gas chamber with slightly different wording.

The English version of the sign in 1989 was as follows:

The gas chamber was camouflaged as a bathroom by sham showers and waterpipes. Cyclone B gas was sucked in and exchanged through a shaft (situated in the corner on the right) from the operating room into the gas chamber. The gas-conduit was removed shortly before liberation on April 4th, 1945.

Note that, in 1989, the date given for the removal of the gassing apparatus was April 4, 1945. In May 2003, the sign in the gas chamber gave the date of removal as April 29, 1945.  I don’t know when the photo, that is in the National Archives, was taken.

You can read about the trial of the Mauthausen SS men in 1946, on my website at

The Nizkor web site includes information about the trial of Martin Roth, one the Mauthausen SS men in a later court proceeding.

This quote, about the trial of Martin Roth, is from the Nizkor web site:

In the sixties a trial before the district court Hagen/Westphalia took place against the former SS-Huaupscharfuehrer Martin Roth.  Since Roth was Kommandofuehrer of the crematorium from the beginning of May 1940 till the liberation of the camp, the functioning of the gassing device was discussed extensively in the trial and documented verdict:

When a gassing was to be carried through [….] Roth ordered one of the inmates under his command in the Krematoriumskommando — in most cases the witness Kanduth — to heat up a brick in the oven of the crematorium. Roth carried the hot brick with a shovel into the gassing cell and put it there into the gassing device.  This consisted of an iron box with a removable lid, which could be sealed airtight with wing bolts and insulation.  The hot brick put inside served the purpose to accelerate the evaporation of the poisonous gas by the rising heat.  The gas was introduced later and was bound to bits of paper.

In the meantime the victims [….] were led to the changing room of the gassing facility where they had to remove their clothes.

After that they had to step into the next room where several SS-ranks stood, wearing white doctors’ coats.  […] They put a wooden spatula into the mouth of the victims to see whether there were any golden teeth.  If this was the case, the inmate was marked with a colour cross on the breast or on the back.  Then the victims […] were led into the gassing chamber which was tiles and equipped with showers. […]

Roughly 15 minutes after the gas had been introduced into the gassing chamber, the defendant Roth convinced himself by looking through the peep-hole of the door that no victim in the gassing chamber was stirring any longer, and then switched on the ventilator […] which sucked the gas out of the gassing chamber through a chimney.  […] After that Roth carefully opened both doors of the gassing chamber, into which he first carefully held a specially prepared slip of paper to check whether the room was free of gas.  Then he ordered the inmates under his command to carry the corpses into the cold store of the crematorium.  […]

Door into Mauthausen gas chamber

The photo above shows a short hallway with a door into the Mauthausen gas chamber.  On the right, one can see the water pipes entering the room.  Note the electrical wiring and a light switch on the left.  The door has a peep hole so that the gas chamber operator could check to see when all the prisoners were dead.

South wall of the gas chamber is on the right

A close-up of the wall where four tiles have been removed

A close-up of the wall where four tiles have been removed

The first photo above shows the south wall of the gas chamber on the right side.  This is where the sign, in six languages, about the gas chamber operation is located.  Just below the sign, four of the ceramic tiles have been removed, possibly to test them for Zyklon-B residue.

The gassing device, which has been removed, was located in a “separate room” behind the south wall.  All the tiles have been replaced after the removal of the device and no evidence can be seen today.

Sign in Museum shows confession of Franz Ziereis

Before he died, after being shot “while attempting to escape,” Commandant Franz Ziereis confessed to the gassing of prisoners at Mauthausen.

The photo below shows the chimney for the crematorium ovens; the gas chamber was located underground to the left of the chimney. The green building on the right is the bunker, which was the camp prison. Across the street, in the foreground, is the gate into the Quarantine camp where incoming prisoners were held for a couple of weeks in an attempt to prevent the typhus epidemics which devastated all the concentration camps. There was no chimney to vent the gas from the gas chamber, as described in the court testimony.

Chimney for the cremation ovens at Mauthausen

There is a wealth of eye-witness testimony about the Mauthausen gas chamber, which I have collected and put on this page of my scrapbookpages web site, and on this page where Martin Roth and Kanduth, a Kapo at Mauthausen, are mentioned.