Testimony of Johann Joseph Foerster
(June 19, 1947)
Summarized by Jan-Ruth Mills
Pima Community College, Tucson, Arizona
Johann Joseph Foerster, 50 years old, a shoemaker from Offenbach an der Main, Germany, was in Dachau and Mauthausen until the liberation for being a “functionary of the Fascist Opposition Group in Frankfurt an der Main” (280). He knew Schuettauf from the Vienna-Florisdsorf sub-camp of Mauthausen (280) in the summer of 1944 (281) where he worked from seven am until 10 pm to the right of the camp entrance in a shoe shop with very high windows (282).
Vienna-Florisdsorf and Schuettauf
Foerster only knew Schuettauf for three months and was never in Gusen I (285).There were both Navy men and SS as guards at Vienna-Florisdorf, and there was tension between these two groups. The five SS men were hated by the Navy guards (281) Among the SS, Schuettauf had a reputation for strictness. The Navy guards disliked him for requiring “too much duty from them” (282).
The camp was opened after an air attack on Vienna. Schuettauf was camp commander when the camp opened and remained there for three months. Foerster recalls Schuettauf as “very correct” (281), distributing food fairly among all nationalities, mistreating no-one. At night, prisoners discussed amongst themselves how Schuettauf treated them well and respected their rights. (282). Foerster recalls seeing out of his workshop windows one day an escapee, a Pole, being returned to camp. The roll-call leader slapped the man for failing to respond to a question about the escape. Schuettauf stopped the beating, told the roll-call leader that he had no right to beat prisoners, and had the prisoner transferred back to Mauthausen as he might escape again (283).
Schuettauf also arranged to have left over food from the plant cafeteria delivered to prisoners (283). Schuettauf went to the kitchen three times a day to inspect the food, and although no prisoners were allowed in the kitchen, Foerster testifies that he believes Schuettauf was very concerned that the extra food from the plant kitchen be mixed with the prisoners’ food (284).
Prisoners nicknamed Schuettauf the “chief capo” because he was always walking through the plant making sure that prisoners were not being mistreated by guards and ensuring during air raids that prisoners were not driven by guards. Twenty prisoners were detailed to make sure the “air raid protective tools” were in shape. Prisoners had to go out into the fields for a half an hour to make sure no one was hurt during an air raid (284). There were no deaths in the plant while Schuettauf was in charge. Foerster believes Schuettauf was transferred as a result of his behavior toward the prisoners. “As a former prisoner I can say only one thing that is known to me. Whenever there was an SS member who was decent to the prisoners he would never keep his job very long. He would always be released quickly” (284).
Source: KZ Gusen Memorial Committee Digital Archive Project