Testimony of Gotthard Krause
(June 19, 1947)
Summarized by Eric Weigand
Pima Community College, Tucson, Arizona
Gotthard Krause, a forty-seven year old construction specialist working for Landrat, Neustadt Huardt was called as a witness for the defense (225). Before the war, he was convicted of high treason and served four years, from 1933 until 1937, in a penitentiary. After his release, he was taken in 1938 to Buchenwald, was transferred to Mauthausen in 1940 (226). He was at Gusen from late 1940 (225) to December 1943 (226) when he was transferred to Auschwitz. In January 1945, as the Russians advanced, he was again evacuated to Gusen II.
First placed on the “snow detail” at Gusen, he spent November and December 1940 and January 1941 “taking care of the transport of snow” (226) until he was made block clerk of Block 23, the “block of Spaniards” (227). He later moved to Block 2, where prisoners who had special duties in the camp, such as canteen duties or clerk duties, lived (231). In addition to being Block 2’s clerk, he was assigned to the mailroom. His assignment to the mailroom was unofficial, however. “The labor-service leader and the roll-call leader didn’t make any objections to this work of mine, but the camp commander wasn’t permitted to know about it because no prisoner was allowed to work in the mail room” (244). He remained there until summer 1943 when he went to work as a specialist on construction detail on sanitary installations outside the camp, work in which he had specialized as a civilian (231).
At the time he was clerk of Block 23, he says four thousand Spaniards arrived in Gusen I and they were “distributed over some of the blocks” (227). At the time, he estimates there were perhaps six or seven thousand prisoners in KZ Gusen I (227).
German Prisoners in Gusen I 1942
Krause estimates the number of German prisoners in Gusen in 1942 to be 600 to 800 out of a “total strength of 9000” (246).
Camp Hierarchy: Prisoners and SS
As block clerk, he kept up to date lists of prisoners, their religions, their work details and reported the causes of deaths as well as passed along slips about the food. “That means I had to take care of all clerical work which had to do with these prisoners in their relations to the camp commander” (227). “If a prisoner was lost, we filled out two slips which went to the camp office, and in our personal book which we kept in the block we entered behind the name, deceased, then and then” (269). Each prisoner contacted the block clerk about his rations, work detail, and need for hospitalization. If there were arguments or if a prisoner broke the rules or stole bread “we were a close community” (228) and “there were slaps handed out” (228). Krause affirms the defense council’s suggestion that “prisoners told the block clerks everything that came into their minds and hearts” (228).
As block clerk, Krause’s duties took him to the camp clerk’s office three times a day where he had “exclusive” (228) contact with the camp clerk and his assistants who were under the supervision of the roll-call leader (228-229). The Gusen death register was kept by Camp Clerk Nos. 1 and 2 (275).
Roll-call leaders were responsible to the first and second camp leaders. Krause agrees with the defense counsel that, in relationship to the camp commanders’ daily contacts, there was similarity between the roll-call leaders’ duties and the duties of the adjutant of a regimental colonel. Similarly, the second camp leaders could be considered the camp leaders’ adjutants along with the roll-call leaders, labor-service leaders and labor-commitment leaders (229).
SS Administration at KZ Gusen I
Ziereis was Camp Commander (240). Chmielewski was the Camp Leader until “around the change of 1941 and 1942” (230) when he was sent to Herzogen-Busch and replaced by Seidler who remained in command until Krause “returned in 1945. He was there until the end” (230). Krause reports that when he returned in January 1945, Chmielewski was there again “but not anymore as camp leader” (230). The Second Camp Leaders were Lowicz and Beck (230). Krause identifies SS Technical Sergeant Kiedermann, Damaschke [sic], Kluge, and Brust as the different Roll-call leaders and tentatively identifies Gross as one as well (229).
SS Guard Companies
There were four guard companies that were under the supervision of SS Lieutenant Colonel Obermayer, and the names of the officers in these guard companies are Schmutzler, Rismer, Vaessen, and Buler, although he also says they “changed in between” [object of preposition unclear] (234). In relation to furloughs given to guards, Krause is unsure who had the final decision. It might have been Obermayer or even Ziereis because he recalls several orders for furloughs or leaves arrived from Mauthausen (235).
Neither Obermayer or other guard leaders had much to do with prisoners in Krause’s memory (234).
“Real Camp,” “Large Camp,” Chain of Guards, and Work Details
Krause defines the “real camp” as the camp within the electric fence and the wall. He defines the “large camp” as including the SS barracks and the workshops. When prisoners were working in the quarry, a large “guardening detail” [sic] (236) or chain of guards was required. Thus, during the day, the SS barracks were surrounded by the chain of guards, but at night only the protective custody camp was surrounded by guards (236).
In the morning, prisoners would be on Roll-Call Square inside the protective custody camp. At the order “Work details fall out,” (236) the details would form and the labor service leader would be given a report of their “numerical strength” (237). After this, those who worked outside the guard chain left with a special guard detail (237). Those details working in the quarry, inside the “large guard chain” (237) left with only a detail leader and capo. The large guard chain would have formed “in front there” (237) and formed a column to march to their stations either along the “normal street” (237) through which a path had been made and to the right of which was a hilly area up which one could see them climb. After that, “the guard details moved in every direction, one to the right, one to the left, one to the back, and so on” sometimes through the quarry itself. (238). The guard companies alternated duties daily. One would take out prisoners to be watched by others stationed along the chain of guards and then remain on alert (239).
Krause reports that guards had little influence over prisoners. However, if a work detail “got a bad reputation through the camp commander and then special command details were organized with the dog detail, etc.” (238). This happened frequently and when it happened there were always a few dead bodies in the evenings (238).
Schuettauf and Prisoners
As Krause recalls, the prisoners never had any connection with the accused Schuettauf (238). Schuettauf had just one general reputation among the prisoners, that of General Belly. Krause testifies that Schuettauf did not have any influence on the work details as far as the carrying out of the work was concerned (239). He also goes on to say that he never heard the name Schuettauf in connection with any incidents of inmates getting worked to death (238) or in connection with the executions that took place in Gusen (242).
Krause does recall seeing Schuettauf within the protective custody camp in the morning when he would approach the desk of the labor-service leader to get instructions for the guard details.
Krause also recalls seeing Shuettauf within the protective custody camp when the entire administrative staff was present for executions. Krause witnessed six or seven such executions by shooting or hanging. On these occasions Ziereis would order the execution and the entire camp would be assembled (240) in the evenings and an announcement would be made about why the man was to be hanged (241). In regard to the hangings, these were carried out in the Roll-Call Place where an arm had been attached to one of the two electric light poles there. A rope was thrown over this arm (240). Krause gives the example of a Russian who had tried to escape. A table was carried by prisoners, a rope was placed on the table, and the man had to get on top of it. This was done in the presence of the entire camp and headquarters staff (241).
Krause witnessed two shootings and heard a few others. He states that six SS men carried out the shootings at Gusen between the two stone blocks, Nos. Six and Seven before which was a pile of gravel and bricks which were used to catch the bullets (241). He believes that it was probably the duty of the command leader to select the execution detail, and that this was an assignment of the guard company (242). Krause explains that the execution was witnessed by “the company leader, camp leaders and the command, the physician, and perhaps one or two people from headquarters staff which were interested in this business” (242). He recalls that SS Schmitt, Vaessen and Riemer were present at one time or the other. During the executions the neighboring barracks were evacuated and prisoners were not allowed to leave their blocks (242). Prisoners in the kitchen, the “so-called delousing institute” (243), and the quarry could still observe the executions and witnesses would discuss them with other prisoners for some days (243).
When an execution was going to take place, everyone in the camp knew about it. Such events were commonly discussed amongst the prisoners, along with the names of the SS men who participated, although Krause could not remember any of them. Krause says that the possibility to witness these shootings existed, first by personnel who had stayed behind in the kitchen, then by those in the delousing institute was quite close to the execution place. Furthermore, one could look into the execution place from the stone quarry Gusen (243).
Wilhelm Grill and the Mail Room
After getting moved from Block 23, the “Block of Spaniards,” to Block 2, Krause worked in the mailroom unofficially, in addition to being the block clerk. Krause was assigned to the mail room where he would work under SS Staff Sergeant Wilhelm Grill (244). Although Krause never became friendly with Grill (249), he does state that he got closer with him because of the close working area (244), but Krause does maintain that Grill was always the SS, and that he was always the prisoner (249).
Krause testifies that Grill was a member of the headquarters staff but was not close enough to the Camp Commander to be considered a member of the inner circle (244). He says on page 245 that Grill’s only duties involved the mailroom, but on page 277 he says that when Grill was “charge of quarters” he was “in the camp” and that he was “charge of quarters a few times” between 1941 and 1943.” Outside of the camp, Grill was working for the National Socialistic Welfare Organization (245) whose offices were opposite to the mailroom (278). Grill lived in the SS settlement, St. Georgen, about six kilometers from the camp (257). He was married and went home every evening (278).
Along with Krause and Grill in the mail room were the “so-called censors” (245). These were usually SS men who, on account of illness or some physical disability, were unable to go on duty in their companies. Prisoners were employed there as censors only when Krause was working: “I was a German, a Spaniard, Amadea Zinkervrell, a Pole, Marian Schiffzcyk, then the Pole, Edward Cynajek, then Stanislaw Nogaj, and then there was an Austrian employed, I don’t remember his name anymore (245).
Krause recalls that the camp’s postal guidelines and regulations for Gusen were established by SS Altfuldisch at Mauthausen (246). The instructions were brought to the knowledge of the prisoners by being “printed on each letterhead” (246). Also, block clerks and other block personnel gave this information to the new arrivals when they entered the camp (247).
Originally, the letters could be twelve lines long, the same number as lines on each page (247). But when the one or two censors (whom Grill assisted when he had time) had to censor 400 to 500 letters, the workload and accompanying “technical reasons” (247) necessitated Grill to order the “so-called short letter” (247) which Altfuldisch ordered at Mauthausen as well (251).
Prisoners were allowed to write two letters a month, and some prisoners tried to give hidden messages in their letters. These prisoners were punished directly with five to ten blows with a stick or just a few slaps to the face (248). If official reports were made of the violation of the general postal rules, the individual would receive twenty-five blows or would have been sent to the punishment company (248).
Krause himself testifies to being punished for handing out a letter to prisoner Rudi Meixner uncensored, a letter which Grill had seen already (249). Krause’s punishment for this was ten blows with a stick. This violation, in the understanding of the SS, might have involved the exchange of messages endangering the security of the camp would normally be punished by a transfer to a punishment detail after a report to the camp commander. However, Grill only reported him to Roll-Call Leader Brust. Grill, Brust and Reitloff decided that Krause would only receive ten blows with the stick (249) and that he could stay in the mail room after this event (250).
When asked how many packages the camp received, he states “I don’t know the exact number, but per month there were 1800 to 2000. Months around Christmas time, of course, we had more” (252).
Usually two SS men, SS Staff Sergeant Grill, or SS Corporal Reitloff, or SS Iffert and two inmates, handled the packages as soon as they arrived in camp (252). When packages arrived, if they were damaged prisoners entered the item in a special log in the presence of “of the woman who delivered the mail. The entries had to be made then because the Postal Office had to make good for insured packages” (275). Originally, the censoring was done in a room in the headquarters building, and then in a special room within the camp (253).
In 1942, the camp administration ordered that “a part of the contents of the packages had to be removed when the packages were censored and these contents were to be kept separately for special uses” (252). There was a limit as to quantity allowed per prisoner of certain items, but Krause says this rule was never adhered to (253). “The inmate would open the packages, the SS man checked the content of the package for forbidden articles, then the part to be removed was removed, and the other contents of the package returned to the package, and the package went to the mail room for distribution” (253) to the inmates after evening roll call by “either Grill, Reitloff, or Iffert from the mail room, and from the headquarters staff, either the camp leader himself, or the roll-call leader, or some person detailed for this duty” (253).
The items removed were distributed among prisoners who did not receive any packages or as “a premium for work” (254)) or for having been “especially industrious” (254). Krause states that the distribution of the removed items was done on order of Security Camp Leader SS Captain Chmielewski. This was done fairly without respect of the camp hierarchy, but allows that in some cases certain prisoners might have taken advantage of their position (253). He then states that Roll-Call Leader Killerman or Seidler might order the prominent people in the camp to receive extra food simply because they were favored, not because they did heavy labor (254). He himself received items from packages every evening because, the SS reasoned, it was better to give him and the other postal workers items than to have them steal them (278). Krause reports that it was possible prisoners saw packages of food being taken to the Jourhaus with mostly cigarettes and chocolates (274).
Krause recalls that there were cases of inmates believing Grill had ordered parts of their packages be removed and either kept, or given to other inmates, but these persons were then informed of their error (254). Along with articles getting removed to give to other inmates, there were some articles that were removed and were taken to the Jourhaus for the sole use of the SS (255). These were on some special order that had nothing to with Grill. These were incidents that just happened arbitrarily: a Block Leader would just come in and “organize” something (255). The block leaders had much more freedom of movement than Grill, who worked in the mail room all day, because block leaders could come as they pleased. In addition, block leaders could have punished the prisoners working in the mailroom if they had complained (272). On page 255, Krause says that Grill never enriched himself in that manner, but the inmates did complain to him about the removal of articles from their packages (255). On page 270, Krause says that he could not say if Grill did or did not take items for his personal use, but that if Grill did, it was not when Krause was present (270).
In Grill’s defense, Krause says that prisoners seeing packages of the deceased or packages that had been misaddressed and therefore were undeliverable carried from the mailroom assumed that these were packages intended for them (267). Red Cross packages were sent to the addressee, usually “Red Spaniards” (278).
Krause relates that he was a “prisoner buyer” when he was in the mailroom. In explaining how much power the block leaders had over prisoners, he says, “Another example of how I worked---for a time I was the camp buyer. If I had for example bought tobacco for the inmates and this tobacco wasn’t in my block, the block leader comes in and takes for himself two or three or even four packages, I couldn’t say anything about it though the packages would be missing because if he didn’t punish me immediately, the next day he would find fault with me and punish me for sure. I couldn’t possibly save myself” (272).
Chmielewski and Night Beatings
There were rumors of Chmielewski going through the prisoner billets between one and two o’clock at night. The name Grill was once mentioned in connection with these rumors. Krause states that it was possible that Grill might have had night duty in the Jourhaus, but if so, he would have then had to report to the mailroom the next morning as usual. He did not live in the SS barracks but in St. Georgen. Although he heard once from a block clerk that Grill had been involved in an episode with Chmielewski when prisoners’ barracks were entered at night, he could not remember which block clerk he had heard this from (257-58).
According to Krause, the first showers were constructed after the crematory in 1942. There is some misunderstanding as Krause seems to be saying at first that there were two “bath houses” (232), one uncovered “with only pipes installed, without a roof. The second one was constructed later on, and came then into a covered building” (232). Later, he clarifies this by saying “I am not talking about two adjacent barracks, but one was made out of the other. The picture is like that, the first bathroom was used as a foundation for the second. At first there was nothing but a cold water shower there, one large basin. Later it was made into a dressing room, a shower room, and a heating plant. Thereby being used as a foundation” (267-268). The water heater, installed in 1942, reduced the number of people who were murdered in the baths (279).
The open shower existed in 1941 and many prisoners met there deaths there (268). The bathhouse in 1942 began as a building without walls, then boards were put around it and still later it was covered (268). The covered bathhouse was a simple 15 or 16 meter-wide by 9 meter-long room without any of “the secret installations that perhaps existed in other camps” (233) by which he testifies that he meant “gassing installations” (233). People entered to undress through a double door and then went through a single door because “the people were always counted when they entered a room” (233). Looking in, one could only see the doors prisoners passed through in order to undress, not the inner room where they bathed (233). “Inside the bath house, there was a sort of basin formed with a depth of about sixty to eighty centimeters in the shower room. The drains could not drain the water as fast as the showers got the water in the room, and if a person fell down on the drain and stopped the drain, the water would rise quite high. If the persons were weak, they simply drowned in the water” (258).
Usually, when inmates in a block heard the orders “Fall out for bathing” (260), they would strip and then go to the bathhouse. No one led them to the bathhouse. “The healthy ones arrived there first, and the sick and weak ones stumbled behind and they were generally the ones who remained there.” If the SS personnel arrived to supervise, the inmates then knew what was going to happen because usually the inmates took the baths alone (260). The order to bath happened several times a week, and the number of “so-called baths” (261) happened so frequently that he could not give a number (261).
Krause tells that he learned of such events only hours afterwards because the inmates had to carry away the bodies and the block clerks had to go there to make the identification of the bodies (258). One evening in 1942 around nine or ten at night, Krause was in the dispensary and heard “quite a bit of hollering outside. To my question, what was going on there, I was told the SS are bathing inmates again” (258). At that time Krause was not a block clerk, as he was sick in the dispensary, but he maintains that all of the block clerks knew about these incidents because they had to identify and register the bodies that other inmates had taken from the showers. These incidents were generally talked about among the inmates (259).
Krause said he could not personally identify any of the defendants in this trial as having been involved in bathing-to-death and had never heard any of the defendants names mentioned in relation to bathing-to-death (261). Schmitt, Jungblut and Jentsch were mentioned as having participated, and Krause says he knew personally that Killerman was involved once (259). Krause also explains, “Jentsch was one of the persons in the camp who was a beater and liked to handle his ox tail whip” (260). He knew Damaschke was present, being the Roll-Call leader at the time (260).
Gassing of Russian POWs
Krause heard of gassings in Gusen but only remembered the time 132 Russians were gassed in Block 16. That night, Krause’s block was ordered to leave their clothes behind and go to sleep in another block (262), and then their block was gassed, something he recalls happening three times in all his experience in Gusen I. Later they heard that a physician had ordered Russian Block Number 16 to be “deloused” as well, by which he ironically meant gassed (262). That night, when he arrived at his temporary quarters, a “block in the twenties” (263), he heard that the Russians in Block 16, who were suffering from minor ailments, had been told they, too, would be deloused, but that they were to stay in place (263-264). “They were told that that if the gas would cause them to sneeze they should simply pull their blankets over their faces and that would stop” (264). The next morning at roll call 132 of them were announced to have died in Block 16. The only name Krause recalls connected to this was Dr. Kiesuwuetter (264), a Czech SS man whose last name had been Germanized who was camp doctor in 1942 (275).
Hartung, who lived with Schoenewolf in the SS non-commissioned officers home outside the camp, worked in the “telephone central” (265). He was not prohibited from entering the camp but, as far as Krause recalls, had no reason to enter it (265).
Jews at Gusen 1943
Krause testifies that there were Jews in Gusen in 1943 (265).
Americans at Gusen
Krause does not recall any Americans at Gusen I (266) and does not recall the name of Willi Tuttas (274)
Tandler and the Young Russians
Oscar Tandler was the block leader of the young Russians in Block 24. Krause recalls that Tandler was often called the Father of the Russians because “while he was very strict with the young Russians, he did try to educate them” (266). He would bring in the camp band to the block and teach the young Russians marching songs. Krause says, “It was surprising for us old persons who were never allowed to sing somewhat surprising to see these young Russians marching through the camp singing the German marching song, ‘Erika’” (266). Krause also reports that Tandler argued with Block Eldest Ernst Halle over Halle’s failure to properly carry out his duties and maybe even have reported Halle at one point (266). He does not recall hearing of an incident in which young Russians were shot, nor does he recall hearing an incident in which Hartung was said to have either beaten or drowned young Russians (266).
According to Krause, the first transport of Russians arrived in the end of 1941 and were put on stone quarry detail. Those that survived the stone quarry labor were later gassed by March or April of 1942. A sign was even placed on the barracks that read “Prisoners of War” (270-271). As a block clerk, Krause knew it was not out of the norm at Gusen to have six, seven, even ten deaths a night, but in Block 16, where Russians were held in the winter of 1941 and spring of 1942, 20, 25 or even 30 deaths a day was not unusual (270).
The delousings were an attempt to control fleas and insects in the barracks. Due to these fleas, spotted fever broke out in the camp in 1941, and Krause was infected himself in 1942. Altogether, 70 or 80 people died according to Krause, 8 of them Krause’s close friends (275). Once the heated water was available, deaths diminished because prisoners were more likely to wash. Before, they were “filthy and full of fleas and lice because nobody wanted to get under that cold water” (279).
Construction of Crematory 1942
According to Krause, there was no crematory at Gusen when he arrived there in 1940. Commander Ziereis ordered the construction of the crematory at Gusen (234) in 1942 (232) to burn the corpses of the people who had died on account of undernourishment because the crematory at Linz could no longer accommodate them (234).
Source: KZ Gusen Memorial Committee Digital Archive Project