Testimony of Eric Schuettauf
(June 19, 1947)
Summarized by Rocklyn Winchester with Orion Cowell
Pima Community College, Tucson, Arizona
Eric Schuettauf, a 60-year-old technician, native of Dresden, Germany, finished technical school in Vienna at 18. He was a non-commissioned officer in the World War I. Between 1918 and 1933 he worked in steel and heating plants, before “becoming interested in the manufacture of chocolate”(287) and after 1920 he worked as a technical leader in one. He states, “The last 25 years I worked as a technician in a chocolate factory” (287). He was drafted in 1939 within 24 hours of the start of World War II, despite protests from the chocolate factory and his own concerns about his health (287-288). Prior to this, he says he never took part in any military training but belonged to a “motor company of the General SS” (288). At the age of 54, he was sent to a guard company at the Concentration Camp Flossenbuerg as an SS Tech Sergeant, where he remained until December 1941 (288-289). He was promoted to Second Lieutenant in April or May of 1940 when “the Reich’s leader” [sic] (289) visited Flossenbuerg and promoted him on the spot without ever having gone to officer’s training school (289). As a result of his complaints about his poor health, he says he was transferred to Mauthausen and then to Gusen I in December 1941 where he stayed with the exception of June-August 1944 when he was sent to Vienna (289) on the order of Ziereis (290) to “install a camp for Afa” (289) at Floridsdorf (290). There he supervised prisoners transferred from Schwechat [sic]. He had complained again about his health was examined for two days and declared unfit for work, but the diagnoses was ignored and he was transferred anyway (290).
He was commander of First Guard Company at Gusen I (290), later named 19th Guard Company (313). In November of 1943 or January of 1944 he was promoted to First Lieutenant. He performed the duties of officer of the day for a week, which included checking SS quarters and the SS guard details (311).
Duties of Guard Companies at Gusen I
The four Gusen SS guard companies were under SS Major Obermeier [sic]or his deputy SS First Lieutenant Mueller. Mueller was chosen as deputy by Ziereis, who didn’t like Schuettauf (291). The guard companies rotated responsibilities thus: One day, guard duty, then supply the chain of guards, then take charge of “out details” (291) or prisoner details who worked outside the chain of guards (291). The fourth day was for “training, sport” (291).
Prisoners in the quarry details (294) were accompanied only by their block leaders and capos because these worked within the chain of guards (295). Detail leaders and block leaders were subordinate to the commandant of the protective custody camp (296).
Enlisted men in the guard companies requested furloughs and leave from guard commanders who then passed the requests to Obermeier. Ziereis had the final say. They were signed either by Ziereis or Obermeier. They were never given to guards for killing prisoners. Guards were never given rewards for performing their duties to his knowledge (291).
Every day, the headquarters of the protective custody camp would request the guard company on duty that day to furnish details. The company Sergeant would place the request for an out-detail, for instance, on the bulletin board to notify the men (292). Schuettauf says that guards were only instructed about “the general order and the special order of the camp” (296) in the guards quarters where a prisoner could only overhear if he had sneaked in (296). The guards would assemble in their details in close formation and march down to the camp and wait a few steps from the entrance. If Schuettauf was on duty, he would take the “guard mount” (292) there. The guards would have been instructed the day before about any special orders (292). Once the chain of guards was closed, they would report to Schuettauf through their commissioned and non-commissioned officers that the last man had taken his post. Schuettauf would be told as much and then he in turn would tell the protective custody camp commander that the guard chain was standing and the guards for the out details were ready. Then the prisoners would march out, beginning with the quarry details (294) accompanied only by their block leaders and capos because these would work within the chain of guards. Schuettauf says his duties pertained only to the guards, not to the prisoner details or their work. He says he never visited the quarry to observe the prisoners’ work even out of curiosity. He denies having said that the prisoners were lazy criminals and says that even if he had said such a thing, he had no power over the detail leader, who could simply have told him, That is known of your business” (295).
At no time did he witness a beating that left 25 men dead. He instructed his guards never to talk to prisoners outside the line of duty and to keep a distance of six meters from prisoners. He sometimes found these orders were violated and he reprimanded the guards and brought it to the attention of the company commander. He had no knowledge of the bunker in the Jourhaus. Any prisoner taken to the bunker was taken there on order of the custody camp leader (296).
SS Officers at KZ Gusen I
While Schuettauf was commander of First Guard Company, the three SS officers Jungjohann (308,316), Heisig (308), and Grill (308) were all members of headquarters staff and were not a part of his company (316). Jungjohann had served in the company but was later transferred to headquarters staff after which time he had nothing to do with the company (316).
Protective Custody Camp and Guard Companies
Schuettauf never entered the protective custody camp (311). He was not allowed under any circumstances to enter it (312), nor did he have any contact with what went on inside the camp (313). He was only permitted to go as far as the gate where he received his guard slips (311). Guard details and guard posts had to walk on a path inside the fence outside electrically charged wire (312). Guards in the chain took their posts half an hour before prisoners arrived, were relieved by the second shift of guards only once at noon, and remained in place until all prisoners were accounted for during evening roll call (312). Schuettauf claims that this made contact with prisoners impossible (313).
Even as officer of the day, he only checked the SS quarters and SS guard details (311). The protective custody camp had its own officer of the day, who performed these duties within the camp (312).
The Beatings and Shooting
Schuettauf acknowledges that he saw beatings, but never a “brutal beating” (303). He might have seen Grill, Heisig, and Jungjohann beat prisoners on one occasion or another, but he cannot swear to it (303-304). He heard Grill’s name in relation to an incident in which he once beat a prisoner to the ground and another in which Grill supposedly threw prisoners out of their billeting. On page 305, Grill says that he made an earlier statement (Prosecution Exhibit P-15) having “a nervous breakdown one day” (305) after being kept in solitary confinement and then interrogated, but that he now says that he never saw this personally. He again retracts these statements regarding Grill, and Heisig, Jungjohann on page 308. He says the crowd was too big and there was too much commotion to recognize who was doing the beating (308). He denied giving orders to guards in front of “block house” (309). All orders were given in SS quarters (309). He never gave any instructions to the guard details during the day and never ordered guards to beat or mistreat prisoners in any way (309). He ordered them to stay away from the prisoners (310).
He said that guard posts around stone quarries could not have had time to beat prisoners. They arrived at their guard posts half hour before work details moved out of the camp and returned when all prisoners were accounted for at evening roll call in the protective custody camp (312). These guard posts were relieved once at noontime, while prisoners ate lunch, and once at forenoon (313). When the guards returned, the head of the detail reported to him (314).
He never received a report of brutality or shooting from a man in charge of guards (315). All out-details received their prisoners at the Jourhaus with a receipt for the number of prisoners (314). Details never returned with an injured or dead prisoner (314), and he never received a report of brutality or shooting from out-details (314). If these incidents occurred, it would have been reported to him. If shots were fired at a prisoner trying to escape, it had to be reported right away (315). Unusual events that affected work were only required to be reported to him if they occurred with guards (315).
While at Gusen I, he never saw Kowalski in camp. “His testimony is hair raising and absolutely impossible” (311).
Prisoners in Quarry and Chain of Guards
Schuettauf never had contact with prisoners in the quarries so he did not know about their working conditions. Generally, he could not see into the quarries from the areas where his duties took him. “The main worksite was in Hallam. And one couldn’t really look into the quarry. One quarry in Gusen one couldn’t watch from the big semi-circle in the road. It was covered. And the upper quarry, one couldn’t see it at all. And in the general quarry there was a big mix up. There were a lot of lorries there and a lot of stone cutting mills. One really couldn’t make out anything there. I could only see that from quite a distance when I inspected the guards” (302). He knew little about what happened inside the camp and only a little about the out-details because once they left the camp, they were in charge of the detail leaders (one to every ten prisoners) and capos (303).
Schuettauf never heard of large numbers of deaths in the camps because he did not have, nor could have, contact with what was going on in the camp (313). He could only go to the Jourhaus where the work lists were given out for the guards. Walking by the camp inspecting guards, he only saw prisoners loading [sic] or playing football (302). He only learned about the ways people were killed at Gusen when he was a prisoner at Dachau where the only charges made against him after three line-ups were that he had cursed prisoners, called them criminals, and prevented them from escaping by instructing the guards (297). He never saw bodies lying around the camp (314). He didn’t know why these people would be dying. Perhaps it was from undernourishment or sickness (313). He admits that some new comers and other prisoners looked undernourished, but others looked very well (313). Although guards on the chain of guards had to report to him if a prisoner tried to escape or was harmed, he never received such a report while he was at Gusen I (315).
As far as prisoner deaths on out-details, he says that out-detail guards were given a receipt for the number of prisoners they took to work and had to return the same number. In the years he was at Gusen, he never saw a prisoner returned beaten or dead. The guards would return the prisoners and say, “Guard Detail St. Georgen has returned.” If there was an accident or attempted escape, a report would have to be made to him, but he never received a report that a prisoner was shot or killed or harmed (314).
Schuettauf denied going into camp and carrying out executions (310). He knew nothing about executions unless he heard about them later from Riemer or Vaessen (297). His guard company never furnished men for this duty. He did hear about two or three executions by shooting and one hanging and thinks this might have been in 1943, but he cannot be sure (300). He says on page 301 that he cannot remember who told him of such things and says he might have heard about it in the officers’ club. He did not give the orders to shoot four or five Russians in June or July or the orders to execute seven young Poles in 1944. He was not in Gusen I at that time: he was in Vienna for a camp installation (310).
Deaths from Bathing and Gassing
Schuettauf knew nothing about bathing-to-death or gassing (310).
Shooting of American Flyers
The murder of parachuting American flyers was not reported to Schuettauf. He learned of it on his charge sheet the next day or in his interrogation in prison after the war (297). He was in Vienna (316) from June to August 1944, living at No. 16 Elizabeth Street, and was registered with the Viennese Police (297). When he was interrogated about the flyers, he still had his “Army paybook” [sic] (299) which would have given the exact dates, but it was taken from him. He was nevertheless sure he did not leave Vienna before August 1944 because he received his ration tickets there for all three months (299). He does recognize the interrogation sheet he filled out at Dachau on which he said that he was in Vienna from June to July 30th, 1944, but he notes that he put “approximately” because he was not sure of the actual dates. The interrogation is entered as Exhibit 14 and the translation as Exhibit 14A (300). If he had been there, it would have been reported to him. In fact, he probably would have seen it because an alarm would have gone off (316). He says that other prisoners have said that he was present when enemy planes landed (316).
SS Colonel Ziereis instructed that prisoners could only receive as much food as they could eat for one or two meals from their parcels, and the rest of the food was to be handed out to prisoners who worked very hard, had not received a package, or to juveniles (333).
Source: KZ Gusen Memorial Committee Digital Archive Project