Testimony of Joseph Kowalski
(June 13 & 16, 1947)
Summarized with Dahlia Flake
Pima Community College, Tucson, Arizona
Kowalski worked as a stone
cutter in the large hall (12) which was
Schuettauf was in charge
of a guard company outside the main compound
of Gusen. There was a total of three or
four guard companies of which Schuettauf
eventually became commander. He was called “General
Bauch” at this time (40) which means “Belly” (50).
No guards were allowed into the camp or
allowed to look in the camp except for
the roll-call leader, the block leaders,
and the men from the post office or guards
taking part in executions (40). The prisoners
would line up inside the camp on Roll-Call
Square in their different details and the
guards would take charge of the men as
they came out of “camp 1 or camp
2, those camps surrounded by guards” (41). “In
the case of larger details, for instance,
St. Georgen, where bricks were made, and
also the stone quarry outside the camp,
there was a detail leader, there were guards,
and there was also a guard commander” (41).
Once prisoners arrived on the worksite,
the guards were stationed around the detail
to guard them and the detail leader walked
among the men, showing them what to do
along with civilian workers. Prisoners
Although guards were also
From 1941 on Kowalski saw and heard Schuettauf order executions of prisoners (12) and order the detail leaders as to the treatment of prisoners (11). Most often, executions would be ordered in the afternoons, but Schuettauf stood in front of the Jourhaus in the mornings and afternoons when details were put together and guards were assigned (12). Kowalski also recalls Schuettauf giving orders to the guards standing in “front of the office between the barracks and the kitchen.” This happened most often in the afternoon (12). While Kowalski could not always hear Schuettauf’s exact words over the sound of the stonemasons’ hammers (13), he did see Schuettauf observing prisoners being kicked and beaten with rifle butts (14)
Kowalski recalls that the guards were not always given directions by Schuettauf, but when he did address the guards, the prisoners were beaten and some dead prisoners were brought back to camp from the work details, perhaps two or three out of 25 (14-16). In March or April of 1942, Kowalski saw Series [spelled Ziereis in connection with same incident on page 46] talk to Schuettauf near the kitchen between the “barracks with walls” (17) barracks 6 and 7 (46). He saw two men shot to death (17) behind the kitchen by six guards led by Schuettauf (46). Although the block leader chased Kowalski and other prisoners away, Kowalski heard Schuettauf give orders and then heard further shots. Kowalski also saw Schuettauf give orders when five Russian prisoners-of-war were shot in 1942 (17) and five young Poles under the age of 15, stone cutters, in 1944 (18). Nine times in Kowalski’s recollection prisoners were shot in this manner, sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon, after having to partially strip. Prisoners would be called out during morning roll call to either be shot or taken to Mauthausen (53). There were seven or eight executions near the crematorium in 1944. One involved the execution of seven young Poles (55).
Grill and the Mail
Kowalski testifies that
from the time he first saw him in 1941,
Grill also took inmates to the baths. In January of 1942 Kowalski saw the block leader of Block 32 [unnamed] lead invalid inmates to the showers. Brust, accompanied by roll-call leader Brust and Jetz [sic] who may have been the work-commitment leader” (19) made the prisoners take cold showers and ordered them to “stand and fall down and stand and fall down” in the cold water. All the SS present beat the inmates. Grill is said to have carried a whip made out of an oxtail or a stick. Perhaps 25 to 30 inmates died on this occasion. The corpses were taken to the washrooms of Blocks 22, 23, and 24, and then in the evening to the crematorium. Kowalski saw this happen three times, once in the winter of 1941 and twice in 1942 (19). Most of these victims were Polish or Spanish prisoners (20).
Corpses from Gusen Taken to Mauthausen
Kowalski also says that when new transports arrived and the Gusen crematorium could not handle the corpses, they were taken to the Mauthausen crematorium (20). “Our crematory was burning without interruption day and night. The rest was taken on a truck in the direction towards Mauthausen” (79).
Drying Tattoos on Human Skin
Kowalski also saw Grill removing human skins with tattoos from the hospital to dry in the window of Barracks 28, where the medical personnel used to congregate (21).
Guards returning or arriving
from the guard house often beat prisoners
with rifle butts or kicked them if they
did not work hard enough at their various
commands, or if they were seen eating bread
or a raw potato (74). Kowalski was twice
beaten by Hartung (81). Kowalski reports
that Willi Jungjohann was a work detail
leader in the upper quarry where mostly
Poles and Russians worked although the
capos were German. Kowalski is not sure
during what time frame Jungjohann held
this job (21). Kowalski’s job was
to transport the stones from the upper
quarries of Kasten Hoffen [sic] and above
In July or August 1944 (23), around on a sunny, pleasant day (87) Kowalski saw seven or eight American planes crash near Gusen and St. Georgen. The flyers descended with what looked to Kowalski like “balloons” (22). Two flyers landed in a field near him and he saw SS men take one of them into the Gusen guard house (22). Kowalski saw “Jung” shoot the flyer two or three times with a rifle. Although prisoners were ordered into the tunnels during the air raid, Kowalski and a few others stayed outside (23) because the guards beat prisoners in the tunnels and there were dead bodies there (86). The tunnel entrance was only 4-5 meters, and entering was often chaotic and Jung would beat men who could not go in quickly enough (23-24).
Kowalski stood on a hill in Gusen when he saw Jungjohann point his rifle toward the flyer, heard shots, and saw the flyer fall (86). Kowalski did not see the second flyer shot but heard about it later from the Czechs, Poles and Jehovah Witnesses who were shot for taking notes about the incident (87). They saw the corpse of the flyer as the SS who caught them outside the tunnel led them through the guard house. Kowalski and the other two men received 25 blows for not going into the tunnel (23).
Hartung, as Kowalski recalls, was a staff Sergeant and detail leader in the Kasten Hofen [sic] Quarry and detail leader of the stone masons (28). He once beat an American prisoner whom he thought had cut off a bolt in an act of sabotage. It is not clear what was done with the man. “The next day they brought him back to the stone quarry until up to the toilet” [sic] (29). The man was starved to death in front of the prisoners over the course of the next six days (29).
Kowalski remembers Tandler was a noncommissioned officer in 1941. Tandler was in charge of Blocks 13, 14, 15, and 16 where Russian POWs were kept. Block 16 was used as an invalid block. These prisoners were not allowed to go into the main camp. In March or April of 1942, 156 Russian prisoners were gassed to death under Tandler’s direction (24). Jetz, Zeidler [sic], Brust, and Slupescky (in a Tyrolean outfit) were also present during the gassings, which took place at approximately while half the camp was being de-loused. Camp Commandant Chmielewski was also there at . Guards made sure that stronger inmates could not escape the gassing inside the block. In the afternoon, Slupescky announced the prisoners were dead. The next day they were taken to the crematorium on carts (25).
In 1942 and 1943 Tandler
was present as an interpreter when Russian
POWs were hung for trying to escape (25-26).
Another time Tandler gave a Russian POW
25 blows in the middle of
Kowalski also recalls
up to 650 people being gassed in 1945 (30)
about eight weeks before the end of the
war at around nine pm in Block 31 which
was part of the
dispensary (32). Kowalski observed the
beginning of the gassings from between
Blocks 23 and 24 (32). At that time Kowalski
saw Heisig patrolling the exterior of the
barracks making sure that none of the stronger
prisoners was able to escape (36). Kowalski
was not able to see when the doors and
windows of the barracks were opened in
order to air it out because a “home
present all night helping the fire guard
control prisoners and keeping them from
leaving their barracks to do anything but
go to the bathroom (33). During this incident
two Poles were caught by Kirschner trying
to locate the position of the Allied armies
on a map. Kirschner insis
At the same time as the gassings, the block eldest and room eldest of Block 12, of which Hartung was block leader, also killed people (32). Heisig’s duties at the camp included deputy block leader, detail leader in the stone quarry, and finally a detail leader in the Messerschmidt factory (33). One afternoon before roll call in January of 1943 or February 1944 Kowalski saw Heisig, who was deputy detail leader of about 1500 to 2000 men in the stone quarry at Gusen (34), order cold water to be poured on 30-35 “already weakened” people and then ordered them loaded onto carts and thrown into the coal bunker at the guardhouse (33). These prisoners were still in civilian clothes, but a section of cloth had been cut out of the back and thigh and a piece of striped prisoner-uniform cloth was sewn in to identify them as inmates (34). Kowalski explains that Heisig ordered the dousing to be done in the “ordinary manner” (35), which is to say that water was poured on anyone who “had weakened so much that he would fall to the ground” (35). Few got up again. Sick or injured people stayed in one spot where the capos responsible for them could keep an eye on them. At roll call, they were taken on carts to the “stone bunker,” and from there they were taken in a larger cart into the camp (35).
Very few survived this sort of treatment, perhaps one in two hundred. “People at Gusen who were too weak to work or to run were brought into a block of invalids where they later on were gassed or killed or bathed-to-death” (36).
Breakfast was coffee. At mid-day prisoners received one liter to one and a half liters of soup. In the evening they were given one-third or one-quarter loaf of bread. Sometimes they received a small piece of sausage, a little margarine or a little piece of cheese. On Saturdays they were given a bit of jam and a spoonful of cottage cheese (80).
In 1940-41 prisoners dona
Source: KZ Gusen Memorial Committee Digital Archive Project