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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 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.