Testimony of Herbert Hartung
(June 23-24, 1947)
Summarized by Amaris Diaz and Crystal Allen
Pima Community College, Tucson, Arizona
Born on June 7, 1906, Hartung was a merchant and a resident national of Neukirchen, Germany. He owned his own business in 1939 at the start of the war. He says he had nothing to do with the military before the war but joined the “motorized SS” in 1933. On March 27, 1940, he was drafted into the 13th SS Regiment in Vienna (435). He was assigned “on account of my driver’s license” to the motorized detachment of the regiment and resided in Vienna until May 1940 when a guard company was organized out of the regiment (435). On May 14, 1940, 170 men in the guard company “moved toward Gusen” (436). SS Captain Habben was in charge of the battalion [the process of formation is unclear in the transcript] and SS First Lieutenant Konradi was in charge of Hartung’s guard company, the Third Guard Company. After a few days, Hartung was sent to the SS hospital at Dachau for heart trouble. After four weeks, he was sent back to the Third Guard Company at Gusen where he worked as a telephone operator in the central office outside the protective security camp from August 3, 1940, until June 1941 (436). He worked 24 hours on and 24 hours off until a corporal was given the job. Then he became an orderly in the SS officers’ quarters until March 1942 (437). Two or three orderlies were on duty from six am until midnight or two in the morning (438).
Hartung testifies that SS Captain Chmielewski treated the SS and prisoners alike. “When he was drunk he wasn’t afraid of anything” (438). One summer Chmielewski put Hartung in the refrigerator where he remained until a comrade let him out twenty minutes later after hearing Hartung’s knocking. Hartung was sick for three days with a bad cold as a result. “Otherwise I haven’t any injury” (438).
Chmielewski’s group consisted of five or six men, including non-commissioned Officers Jentsch, Brust, and Kluge and the ones he mentioned before [presumably Konradi and Habben 436]. This group was always together, during the day and night. When the others left, these “really got rough” (438). When asked what these men did when they left the officers’ club drunk, Hartung says he remembers hearing they once went into the camp with a dog and that they broke all the furniture in the officers’ club (439). Grill was never present with these men although he sometimes came in for a beer “during the general meal for non-commissioned officers” (440), but then “he disappeared” (440). Hartung believes Grill ate at home (440).
Hartung as Detail and Block Leader in the Quarries
Hartung did not enter the protective custody camp until March 1943 when he was assigned as block leader and assistant detail leader in the stone quarries (440), the Kastenhof quarries, until September 1943, where he was in charge of between 400 and 500 prisoners. In the morning prisoners would move through “the second so-called Peek-door” after the large guard detail was at its posts. These work details were never accompanied by guards because the guard chain was already in place and the prisoners knew their work places and automatically went to them (441).
From September 1943, at the time when Kowalski testified about the murder of American prisoner [Willie Tuttas] for sabotage, Hartung says that he was actually in the Gusen Quarry and detail leader of the prisoners’ fire department (441). When asked if it was true that, as Kowalski said, Hartung was responsible for Tuttas’ death because Hartung had “led him away” (463) to the bunker, Hartung says he had “nothing to do with his death or his life” (463).
Hartung and the Prisoners’ Fire Brigade
He was in charge of the fire brigade beginning in March 1943, before the motorized equipment arrived in fall of 1943 (450). As detail leader for the prisoners’ fire brigade, Hartung was responsible for any fires in the entire camp. He was responsible for personnel and their training and “sports, gymnastics, as well as, in September 1943 we received motorized fire equipment” (442). These duties took up “all forenoon, nearly until noon. At noon I went to the stone quarry and took care of the noon roll call. And I wasn’t alone there either. Others were led to the stone quarries” (442). In 1944 two SS master Sergeants arrived to work as detail leaders (442). While he was working with the fire brigade, he says that either no one or a block leader took care of the quarry (442).
At the sound of an air raid, Hartung would go to the garage as quickly as possible and would be met there by ten prisoners. They would go out without an SS guard as escort and drive about two or two and a half kilometers to an unused stone quarry where (442) they would take cover (443). In 1944 the “neighborhood” [Defense Attorney Dr. Kluge’s term] experienced one to three air raids a day “without exception” (442). After September 1944 “or really already the summer of 1942” (446), Hartung testifies that he was nearly always on the fire brigade (446).
As leader of the brigade, he had access to all parts of the camp and was responsible for water mains and pipes inside the camp as well as the equipment in the garage. He was also responsible for finding fire hazards and making sure that every barracks had a bucket of water and a sandbox. He made these inspections “every two or three months” (464) throughout the camp (465).
The Bunker and Willie Tuttas
In answer to the question, “Was a key to the bunker ever in your possession and if so, in what capacity,” Hartung answers, “The block leader in charge had the key to the bunker in his office” (444). But Hartung denies ever hearing or seeing an American prisoner in the bunker who was starved to death over the course of nine or ten days (444-5). In his experience, prisoners were only kept in the bunker for “one or two days at the most” (445). He says he only had responsibility in the bunker when “two, three, or four prisoners were brought to the bunker for interrogation. Then the other prisoners were locked up in cells” (444).
He denies participating in gassing prisoners in 1945, saying that he was transferred to the newly organized SS Tank Regiment No. 1 in March 1945 (445). He did not actually leave the camp until April 15, 1945. As telephone operator for SS Tank Regiment No. I, his duties, to “make the telephone connections from the regiment to the headquarters of the various companies,” (451) allowed him to return to Gusen I every night to eat and sleep (451). He never stood outside the barracks while prisoners were being gassed to make sure that none escaped. He could not have been there because as head of the fire brigade he was always in the barracks (445). He left the camp “completely” on April 15, 1945 (451). When he returned from the SS Tank Regiment No. 1 in the evenings, he never heard about any gassing of prisoners, only about delousing. He recalls that his barracks was deloused in 1941 or 1942. Otherwise he only recalls the delousing station near the kitchen (452).
Aside from his duties with the fire brigade and those assigned by Chmielewski, he was also assigned to work with the women telephone operators in the central office, and to transport prisoners to Mauthausen, or to accompany prisoners outside the camp, or to work in the officers’ mess. “I had a variety of duties” (446). In addition, he was sent to Berlin in 194-[exact year unreadable in the copy] for special training about fires and fire brigades (446).
Murder on the Electric Wire
He denies having thrown ten prisoners onto the electric wire on Chmielewski’s orders (445). Hartung says that Chmielewski did not return in 1945 and that Seidler was in charge after Chmielewski left in 1942 (446).
Beating of Russian Prisoners-of-War
Hartung denies beating Russian prisoners on Roll-Call Square in August 1944, an incident reported by Jaroszewicz which left 40 dead (446). He says he has no recollection of any such incident, and that the only time he saw dead bodies was after an accident in the stone quarry that left three dead (447) in the Unterbruch (453). He never saw any beatings of any prisoners in the quarry. “But I wasn’t there every day. I had other duties also” (453). He does remember seeing beatings when the prisoners returned from work in the evenings and when food was given out at noontime in the quarries (454). When asked about the contradiction, he says, “Beatings, yes, beatings, that is always a big word” (454) and explains that he did not see any “large scale beatings” (454) but agrees that he did see many small scale beatings (454).
He admits to having beaten a prisoner once himself because the prisoner forged his name to receive a second extra ration from the post office. This beating took place in front of the stone-cutter’s hall in 1944 (453).
Causes of Death at Gusen
Hartung says he never saw any dead bodies brought back by the work details in the evenings (453) and denies seeing any killings in the quarry (454). He says that guilt for the deaths at Gusen should be placed on the “higher headquarters starting with the Reich’s Economic Administration Office, over the various administrative leaders. And as for Gusen itself, the managers Walter, and Wolfram, they always requested large numbers of prisoners and more prisoners” (447) to work in the quarries and construct large halls, but they failed to provide adequate food and clothing. At the time the crematorium at Gusen was built in 1942 (447), Hartung did not discuss this with other SS. “I had nothing to do with it. I was only a telephone operator at that time” (448).
He says that the large number of deaths at the time the crematory was built were due to poor food and the fog coming from the Danube in June, July, and August 1942. “It was a very unhealthy climate, and we also had to suffer from it” (449). He cannot identify any causes of death other than this (449).
Hartung admitted to shooting at prisoner Josef Leitzinger (461) around ten o’clock am on January 16, 1945, (460) but says that the prisoner was already dead from a bullet from SS Sergeant Polweit (455). Leitzinger was “A German, I mean an Austrian green man, that means a professional criminal” (456) whom Hartung and Polwieit were ordered to take to Mauthausen. Leitzinger had gotten into a drunken fight with another prisoner at Gusen II and stabbed him. Leitzinger’s victim “died the same night” (456). An unnamed SS technical sergeant [unnamed] in the political department told the Hartung and Polweit that one of them should make a report about the shooting. Hartung wrote the report (456)
Hartung says that he was in the garage [presumably at Gusen I] when he received the order to escort the prisoner with Poweleit. “Poweleit and I grabbed a rifle [sic], as it was customary when prisoners were transferred and went to Gusen II. That is approximately 600 meters from Gusen I. At the Jourhaus of Gusen II the prisoner was handed over to us and that was when I saw the prisoner for the first time” (457). “When one leaves Gusen II one is outside the chain of guards. After one has marched about two-thirds of the way, one returns automatically into the guard chain of Gusen I” (457). After going one-third of the way, about fifteen meters from the Gusen I guard chain, Leitzinger “jumped to the right to the area which leads to the Danube River” (457). Poweleit and Tandler started after him and shouted for him to halt. Then Poweleit shot him. After that, after having unsecured his rifle, Hartung also shot him. When he shot, the prisoner was already falling to the ground (457). In an earlier interrogation, Hartung had stated that he shot Joseph Leitzinger to death (461). Hartung explains that he meant that both he and Poweleit had received the order together (462).
Source: KZ Gusen Memorial Committee Digital Archive Project