Testimony of Alfons Hugo Heisig
(June 24, 1947)
Summarized by Amaris Diaz and Crystal Allen
Pima Community College, Tucson, Arizona
Alfons Hugo Heisig, a 40 year old German man, a chimney sweeper from Neesen, Westphalia, said that he was drafted on November 5, 1939, “by written order” (466) into the Waffen SS and sent to Brunn, Czechoslovakia with the 7th SS Regiment for training until December 20, 1939. He was sent to Ebelsberg, near Linz, Austria, still with the 7th SS Regiment (466). A private, he stayed there until mid January 1940, when he was sent to the 13th SS Regiment in Vienna. In May, he was then assigned to the 3rd SS Guard Company, attached to the Guard Company Gusen. He worked there as a guard from May 15, 1940, until August 1943 (467). He was promoted to Private First Class in November 1940, to Corporal in November 1941, and Sergeant in January 1944 (470).
While serving with the guard company, he only entered the protective custody camp once when he was ordered to be present at an execution by Commander Ziereis. A prisoner was hung on Roll-Call Square (467).
In August 1943 after Waffen SS men from the headquarters staff were transferred to active duty, he and six other men were assigned the duty of block leader and detail leader. He reported to the roll-call leader who was “you might say the acting first Sergeant of the headquarters staff” (468). He also met SS Tech Sergeant Schmidt (468) (clerk of the protective custody camp), First Lieutenant Beck (2nd protective custody camp leader) and Labor Service Leader Fissel. He was assigned to be auxiliary detail leader at the Stone Quarry Gusen. When asked how long, he answers “In a chain of command” (469). He alternated this detail with being detail leader of the Steyr armament factory (469).
Duties of Detail Leader
In the morning, the entire headquarters staff would “fall out in front of the protective custody camp” (470). “And the roll-call leader would report the strength to the protective-custody leader” (470) who was in charge of roll call. At this time, special duties might be assigned, which was the only time Heisig had further contact with the headquarters staff (470). Detail leaders were on duty from seven am when prisoners marched out of the camp until five pm when they returned (477). He was a leader of one to two thousand men. His duties included bringing the men to their places of work. “There we were assigned to the details through the various civilian foremen and master mechanics” (469). Along with the guards, discipline was handled by capos and assistant capos and masters in the work halls (469).
Evenings for Non-Commissioned Officers at Gusen
Two or three men shared a single room. Their evening meal was served in the non-commissioned officer’s club where they all ate around a single table. After dinner “everybody went after his own hobbies or interests” (471). Heisig could not testify about the group that gathered around the commandant because he left immediately after the meal. He says that usually only the roll-call leader and the leaders of the guard companies, all officers, stayed with the commandant (471).
Heisig only saw Chmielewski when he was a guard. Chmielewski had already left when he joined the headquarters staff and became a non-commissioned officer (472). While still at Gusen, Heisig heard that Chmielewski returned to Gusen in 1945 for two short stays, although not as camp leader (472).
Grill and the Mail
[Quoted directly here because of a possible mistranslation]
Defense Attorney Kluge: What was the position of the post office there in camp and what kind of relationship existed between the post office and the headquarters staff if you are able to make any observations? (469)
Heisig: In fact, the post office [headquarters is probably meant] had nothing to do with selection of the post office staff. Only when packages came directly from Mauthausen, these packages were handed out to prisoners directly in camp. (470)
Heisig had no contact with Grill at the post office. When he had reason to go to the post office, a corporal or a Sergeant was on duty behind the window. Heisig did not see Grill in the con-commissioned officer’s club at night. Married men were fed in St. Georgen, about four kilometers away (472).
Freezing Prisoners with Water or Bathing-to-Death
Defense Attorney Kluge asks Heisig if Kowalski was correct when saying that water was poured over weakened prisoners to kill them. Heisig says no. Then Kluge asks if it might be true that water was poured over prisoners in the summer heat to revive them. Heisig says he never heard or saw of such a thing (473). He says that “all the water trenches” (473) that came from the mountains were covered. There was no access to water in the stone quarry, “the closest water trench was alongside the fence that surrounded the non-commissioned officers club” (473).
Heisig heard of bathing-to-death but says this only happened under Chmielewski when he, Heisig, was still in the Third Guard Company. During this time, Heisig only entered the camp once (473). Heisig has no memory of any of the witnesses and says they have no reason to remember him. He passed by the bath house several times, but never entered it (473)
Quoted directly because of non-sequitur:
Defense Attorney Kluge: Furthermore, you are supposed to have participated in those bathings by standing outside and preventing prisoners from leaving. (474)
Heisig’s answer: I heard about gassings for the first time here during my interrogations. Before I didn’t hear about it. (474)
Heisig then says that at the time the bathing-to-death was supposed to have taken place, he had no duties in the protective custody camp at all but was still a member of the guard company. Accompanying prisoners to the bath was the duty of the block eldest (477) .
He heard about bathing-to-death from prisoners in his detail but never heard screaming coming from the bathhouse (478).
Gassing of Prisoners in Barracks
When asked if he ever heard about gassings in order to delouse barracks, Heisig says that his barracks was gassed as well, sometime in 1941 and 1942 (474) while he was stationed in the guard barracks outside the camp (475). He knew about the preparations for gassing barracks from the time he was on guard duty, but never saw these preparations inside the camp (478). He heard about gassing of barracks for the purpose of delousing inside the camp in 1943 or 1944, but not 1945, and never heard of gassing prisoners (478). When he was on guard duty inside the camp after 1943, he remembers gassing of barracks “for the purpose of delousing” (475) after the block eldest reported the conditions regarding lice and vermin within the barracks. The talk in the camp about the source of the vermin problem was that “There were many prisoners who didn’t feel it was necessary to wash every day. For this purpose some of the block eldest handed out food stamps every morning and these food stamps the prisoners received only after they washed themselves and only then could they get breakfast. Heisig admits he is referring only to regular prisoners, and not Russian POWs. (475) Asked to continue with the “normal procedure which took place when barracks were gassed” (476), Heisig says that all the prisoners had to go to another barracks, leaving their clothes behind, then “all the openings in the block were covered and then the men who take care of the gassing job went inside there” (476). Civilians who carried out the gassings wore gas masks. (476).
Asked by Defense Attorney Kluge if it is possible that that “such a gassing of barracks was misunderstood and some people saw not only the barracks were gassed but the people in there,” (476), Heisig says he believes it is possible. Asked if he has “any indication, any statement, any remark” as an evidence of this confusion (476), Heisig says, “The same way as it is now during our imprisonment that latrine rumors are coming up, it was the same at that time in the camp” (476).
Heisig admits to having beaten prisoners, but never to death and only when they committed a crime. “That jackets were stolen from the civilian foremen, tools were stolen, rubber hoses were stolen. Potatoes were stolen” (477). Asked what proportion of prisoners were actually criminals, Heisig says he cannot respond (477). He beat prisoners with his hands and with a rubber hose, but with a stick “very seldom” (477). He denies beating a prisoner until blood came from his head for stealing a potato because the witness said this happened on a Sunday and potatoes were never brought into the camp on Sunday (480).
In response to Gomez’ testimony that he was the most feared in the camp (480), he says that some prisoners were always trying to avoid work and therefore called attention to themselves. They would leave work, making things worse for their co-prisoners, and spend all their time trying to “organize” (481) food, thus drawing attention to themselves (481).
In his time as detail leader in the quarry, Heisig never saw a prisoner die in the quarry (478) and never saw a prisoner collapse (478-479). “Accidents happened and they were brought back to camp right away” (479). He did see dead bodies (479).
Three hundred prisoners lived in one barracks. As far as living conditions, Heisig says, “In my time, it was not so bad anymore, not as bad as in the time of Chmielewski” (479). Prisoners told him things were worse under Chmielewski (479).
He never saw a prisoner shot but heard of prisoners being shot for attempting to escape (479). He never saw execution squads and was only told about them by prisoners who did not tell him who was on the execution squads. The execution squads were drawn from the various guard companies (480).
Source: KZ Gusen Memorial Committee Digital Archive Project