This narrative is the full debriefing of Navy Lieutenant Jack H. Taylor who lead the Dupont Mission as a member of the OSS Secret Operations group. It is dated May 30, 1945. The mission was launched on October 13, 1944, and ended on the evening of May 5, 1945, when LT Taylor was liberated from the Mauthausen extermination camp. The original debrief was accompanied by photos and drawing, however, we do not have copies of publishable photographs from which to draw. No attempt was made to edit the story except for minor grammatical and commentary notes.
As there were no known Partisan groups or resistance movements in Austria with whom to ally ourselves and as information from the Vienna area was of first priority, this area was chosen for the first American mission. Three volunteer Austrian Corporal POW, who had homes or contacts in this area were selected and Operation DUPONT was planned utilizing their local knowledge. All were in their early twenties, single, in excellent physical and mental condition and eager to participate. There was no question of their integrity.
Note: OSS assigned all partisans American pseudonyms. Post-war pseudonyms were adopted to protect OSS operatives and cooperatives fearing reprisals.
Perkins' home was in St. Margarethen (50 kilos south of Vienna) where he assured us we could find haven in an emergency. It would serve as a base from which to obtain information in the Wiener Neustadt area. [Perkins' post-war pseudonym was Anton Graf. None of our documentation portrayed his complete American pseudonym.]
Fred Grant had previously worked for a butcher named Buchleitner, in Stixneusiedel (20 km south of Vienna) and was engaged to his daughter. The two grandmothers of this family, who lived alone in separate houses, were 'guaranteed' by Grant to furnish permanent headquarters and radio-location for the mission. Again, Buchleitner could be depended upon to help in an emergency. [Grant's post-war pseudonym was Felix Huppmann.]
Ed Underwood. Underwood's home was in Vienna, his father a Captain in the Signal Corps of the Luftwaffe, but it was considered too dangerous and unnecessary to send any of our party into Vienna proper. He had many contacts in Vienna for information and he spoke good English. [Note: 'Underwood's' post-war pseudonym was Ernst Ebbing.]
The fourth member, Lt. J.H. Taylor, USNR, had 15 months operational experience in the Balkans including 14 sorties into occupied territory (emphasis added) and was a qualified radio operator.
With large-scale maps, air-photos, flak overlays and excellent local knowledge, a very thorough plan was evolved allowing for all emergencies. The drop pinpoint was a flat-cultured strip about two miles long by one-half mile wide on the northeast fringe of the Neusiedler See (40 km south of Vienna near the Hungarian border). The area was sparsely settled and bordered on marshy land with tall reeds, which would serve as excellent cover.
Of necessity, it had to be a 'blind' drop, i.e. without ground reception committee or pattern lights and with absolutely no circling. Three containers, two containing duplicate radio equipment, were to be dropped in salvo followed immediately by the four bodies. The height requested was the very minimum of 400 feet so that the chutes would be exposed the minimum time to searchlight and flak batteries in the area. The dark of the moon was also a necessity. The four bodies would rendezvous by imitating the whistle of a marsh bird to guide each other to No. 1 body, and then in line with the direction of flight we would comb the area back and forth for the containers. This plan, which was entirely abnormal, due to extremely hazardous conditions, as compared with normal Partisan drops, was based on my previous personal experience as Operations Officer, Bari, and several months ground reception experience in the Balkans. In retrospect, I cannot see where the plan could be improved upon.
Due to bad weather, the operation was scrubbed throughout the September dark-of-the-moon period and while waiting, an attempt was made to see the Briefing Officer or pilot at Brindisi for a mutual understanding of the plan and to impress upon them the totally different nature of the plan. This was not made possible and the attempt was resented vehemently by the Operations Officer, Bari, and to a lesser extent by the Conducting Officer, Brindisi.
The first clear weather over the pinpoint in the new moon period was on Friday, the 13th of October. The four members of DUPONT plus Capt. John McCulloch (Chief, German-Austrian Desk), who wished to go as observer, departed from Bari for Brindisi in a broken-down truck, no other transport being made available.
After drawing our chutes and jump suits, we ate a hurried meal, the Austrians shifted into Wehrmacht uniform, and we arrived at the plane, a Liberator named 'R for Roger,' manned by a Polish crew. The pilot spoke English and I explained the plan to him hurriedly. He had, as I expected, only been given the pinpoint and time of drop. Three extra containers containing arms and ammunition for Partisans had to be removed from the bomb racks at the last moment. This was all due to the fact that no one had informed the crew who 'bomb-up' with container that it was a blind drop with no reception, or Partisans.
Take-off was on time, at 1915. During the flight, the plan was checked with the Dispatcher and to my amazement he was expecting a 'normal' drop, i.e., bodies first, followed by circling and containers then dropped on ground-signal from the bodies. This was finally straightened out over the interphone with the pilot and we more or less relaxed again. The tail was hit by light flak, causing no damage, as we crossed into occupied territory. Underwood remembered that he left his five gold pieces in his GI clothes in Brindisi. Capt. McCulloch was notified so that he could pick them up on his return.
At 2215 we were 'Running In' and being number one, I could see the lake and patches of fog beneath us while sitting on the edge of the hole. Soon patches of land were seen, then 'Action stations' at 22:30. I saw one container chute open, 'Go' was given off, I saw Perkins' chute open and as I pulled down on my risers to check a bad oscillation, I looked below and saw to my horror that I would land on a roof of a house not more than twenty feet below. As I was slipping in that direction, I released the risers in order to drop straight down and barely missed the eaves, landing instead a few feet away from the house in the front yard. In the last few seconds, I caught a glimpse of a radio mast and as I hit the ground, I remember that the air-photo showed a radio station at the upper end of our two-mile strip. This was it, I was sure, and expecting a burst of M.G. (machine gun) at any moment, I wrapped up my chute and slunk away.
In a few minutes, I heard our birdcall signal; we rendezvoused according to plan, cached our chutes and jump suits and spread out for searching. To our amazement and chagrin, our plane returned and flew directly overhead in line with our previous run. In half an hour, we had found the first container, thanks to the attached luminous discs, as the white chute was invisible until practically stepping on it. We cached the container and chute in the reeds and continued searching. To our utter horror, our plane returned again, passing low directly overhead. This was practically signing our death certificates, as the German radar was so very accurate that circling over any area by a lone plane at night was bound to create suspicion and investigation. The plane circled to the left and was picked up by a searchlight followed by flak but he escaped by evasive tactics and continued on. The 'All Clear' signal was heard from Neusiedel as our plane finally returned to Italy.
I stepped in a hole in the marsh wrenching my knee badly, which made walking on uneven ground very painful, but we continued searching throughout the night and in desperation even into the dawn. From a hillock, we ventured to look out over the lake and marsh but could find no trace of the other two containers.
As dawn came, we found we had been dropped over a mile south of our pinpoint, and that the 'radio station' which I almost hit turned out to be a boat-builder's shop. A recee [reconnaissance] plane flew over low soon after but we were well hidden in the reeds. On opening the one container, we found no radio equipment whatever, and our mission seemed doomed to failure from the start. We discussed, in whispers, all the possibilities and decided that the other two containers had not been dropped. In retrospect, Perkins, who was standing behind us in the plane at the 'Go' signal, saw one chute open and in the bomb bay saw one of the crew kicking the other two containers which appeared to be stuck. This explained the circling and two extra runs. We decided to split the party, sending Grant and Perkins on to Stixneusiedel to make arrangements while Underwood and I remained for the possibility of another drop, and to continue searching in the night; also my knee was not fit for walking any distance.
We stood guard all day but saw nothing but an old man at the boat-builder's shop. Cows and sheep grazed nearby. We searched a new area unsuccessfully during the night and upon awaking from my first sleep in 48 hours, I found a medium-sized marsh snake lying alongside my sleeping bag.
Early in the morning of the third day (16th) Grant returned from Stixneusiedel on a bicycle, which he had cached some distance away, and approached our hideout through the reeds. Perkins remaining behind with blistered feet. We departed at 1700 through the reeds, picked up the bicycle and set out for Stixneusiedel 35 km away. Underwood became very ill after a few minutes, but continued on for another mile at my request until he could not longer keep up. We left him with his rations and water to return and wait at the hideout and continued past Neusiedel, where thousands of foreign (slave) workers were being herded for work on the Southeast Wall, a line of defense utilizing, in this area, the natural barriers of Neusiedler See and the Leitha Gob. Continuing past Jeis, Windem, Kaisersteinbruck (a large Russian POW camp), and Wilfleinsdorf, we arrived at Buchlietner's house about 0230 on the 17th.
We ate and went to bed but were awakened in about an hour and asked to leave because German troops were arriving in the village. As it was nearly dawn and we had no place to go, we begged to stay and were allowed to hide in the hayloft. Headquarters at either of the grandmothers was impossible because one was dying and the other was so feeble minded and childish that her security could not be depended upon. We requested a cart and horse to pick up Underwood, but Buchleitner, because of his black-market activities, was being shadowed when he left the village with his wagon and it was not deemed safe under the circumstances.
I inquired about Slovakia and found that one of the daughters, Annie, had a schoolmate friend at the Ceramic Institute in Vienna, who went home every weekend to the very district where the Partisans were active. Annie, who commuted every day to Vienna, reported that the girl was willing to take a message to Lt. Holt Green's mission via the Partisans in her home area. The message was written reporting our safe landing without radio and requested that a radio be dropped to us at the specific point. Unfortunately, the 15th Air Force was bombing Vienna heavily and had switched to non-military targets at times. When Annie went to deliver the message, she found that her friend had been killed in her apartment when a whole civilian apartment district was wiped out. There was no military target within a mile of this area. We tried unsuccessfully to make other contacts.
Buchleitner and family were devout anti-Nazis, as were 80 percent of the people in this vicinity, but in spite of a token of a few gold pieces and several hundred marks, he wished us to be on our way. This was the first demonstration of fear growing into terror, which we were to see several times later.
In the meantime, Grant and Perkins had gone to St. Margarethen, returning via our hideout near Neusiedel to pick up Underwood, but they were unable to find him.
Perkins, Grant, and I departed the evening of 19 October for Hornstein (41 km) to contact a café owner friend of Buchleitner, named Lasacovitch, a Croat, who was known to be a strong anti-Nazi. Word was left for Underwood to proceed to St. Margarethen if he arrived. Due to the distance to be covered, we took a chance and used side roads instead of fields and forests, consequently passing through 'Kontrols,' which we bluffed by saying 'soldaten' and 'heil Hitler.' We knew the Kontrols to be very old villagers, and as the nights were absolutely black at this time, we were able to slip by although it was ticklish.
At dawn, after walking all night, I remained in the woods outside Hornstein while Perkins and Grant contacted Lasacovitch, who informed them that he had just returned from a prison sentence and had a Gestapo 'permanent guest' in his home. He could suggest no one else trustworthy enough for a permanent hideout. Perkins and Grant proceeded to Stinkenbrunn and another village contacting various references, but all were unwilling to keep us permanently, although they were entirely friendly and willing to be hospitable for one night. We rendezvoused in the woods at dusk and proceeded to Hornstein were we spent the night and next day at Herr Jais' home. His son, a discharged Wehrmacht man from the Russian front, was a guard at the huge Blumen ammunition works employing 40 thousand, the largest in the Reich. (During my briefing before I left Italy, the 15th Air Force assured me and 'proved' with air-photos that Blumen had been completely destroyed.) Other excellent targets although smaller were described and noted. By this time, such excellent intelligence material had been collected, including bomb damage and targets in and around Vienna, also political and economic data. Jais' sister, a middle-aged woman, wept and almost become hysterical when I was introduced to her as an American officer. She was unusually intelligent and vehemently denounced the Nazis. She begged me to send for American or British paratroops, stating that 90 percent of all Austrians would assist. Others repeated this plea many times later. Another family was sharing her home but she was eager to help us in any other way.
We departed the next evening (21st) for St. Margarethen through the Leitha Geb (hills) to avoid two severe Kontrols, one with Wehrmacht or Gestapo personnel, and arrived at Perkins' home about 0200. The house was situated across the street from an ex-theater, which housed several hundred foreign (slave) workers, mostly Ukrainians, but including Poles, Czechs, French, Italians, etc., approximately 25 percent were women. They had practically nothing to eat and were the worst specimens of humanity I had ever seen. Here I saw and photographed the first Nazis with large swastika armbands, also Organization Todt officers that were directing the work on the Southeast Wall.
As we could not remain permanently at the Perkins' home, Perkins and Grant contacted several people in various localities, endeavoring to find a permanent hideout. They returned again to Buchleitner's in Stixneusiedel during the course of their trip and found Underwood, who was awaiting his mother from Vienna. She arrived the same day and, as Perkins and Grant returned to St. Margarethen, they understood that Underwood intended to go to Vienna. He did not, however, but joined us at Perkins' house where we all hid in the hayloft.
We discussed the situation thoroughly and decided that the quality and quantity of information collected warranted taking extreme risks in getting it though to Italy. We agreed that two men would remain in the area while two would attempt to cross the border to Yugoslavia in the Maribor area and, with the aid of Partisans, would contact an Allied mission, evacuate by air to Italy where material would be turned over, followed immediately by our return to Austria with radio equipment.
We delayed the above plan until Underwood's mother
could try to get permission to go to Spittal near Villach for a short
vacation. While there, she would attempt to contact Lt. Milas Pavlovitch's
mission through the family of Steinwander, one of the members of the
mission. She would deliver a similar message to the one intended for
Lt. Green's mission in Slovakia, describing our predicament and requesting
a radio drop, also reporting the highest priority targets. After our
four days hiding in the hayloft, the Perkins family was terror-stricken
and the father was drinking heavily. They said that their homes were
to be searched by the SS for food for the foreign workers. We had no
place to go but in desperation went to Schutsen (8 km) on the 25th and
were hidden in the hayloft of a friend of Perkins, a Mathias Kaufmann
(masonry contractor), but without meeting our host. Just before dawn,
Frau Kaufmann woke us and requested that we leave before Kaufmann's
employees arrived. It then became clear that Perkins had told the Kaufmanns
that we were four soldiers that had missed our train and wished only
to sleep a few hours and be on our way. Frau Kaufmann was very perturbed
but her husband agreed that we could remain until night. That evening
I talked to Kaufmann and begged him to allow two of us to remain in
his hayloft for one week pending our departure to Yugoslavia if Underwood's
mother was unable to travel to Spittal. He agreed and hesitatingly accepted
a few gold pieces. Perkins and Grant contacted other references for
a hideout but were unsuccessful. Perkins returned to hide in his home
while Grant hid in the house of Perkins' aunt (Wilfinger). They were
to report to me in four days but were to remain hidden otherwise.
Underwood's mother wished to contact a friend in Vienna, Eddie Gerstenberger, an oilman, who had a summerhouse near Villach; from which direct Partisan contact could be made over the border. He was thought to have underground connections or at least to have information on the underground, which we were anxious to have for intelligence material. I was anxious to be away before the snow came as it was already freezing every night but the thirst for more information drove me to request Kaufmann for another week's delay. He assented, and in the meantime, completed data on fortified hills, anti-tank ditches, barbed wire, and mines fields, pillboxes, artillery sites, etc. At this time (1 Nov.) there were 50,000 foreign workers and several hundred Hitler Youth preparing this defense line under the direction of Organization Todt and E.A.D. It was expected to be finished by the middle of January.
Additional important targets were: a locomotive factory in Viener Neustadt, turning out one a day, a powder factory in Sinsendorf, employing 2000; a Nehrmacht lager in Vienna, containing all materials of war; an artillery school; flak school; numerous airfields and woods, where the German fighters were hidden when the American bombers came over; government food storage houses in Vienna, etc. Economic information included: wages for different types of work and additional food rations, complete ration data, black market, farmers food stocks, estimated coal and petroleum storage, true value of the mark in buying other than rationed merchandise, barter, etc.
Political information showed that approximately 2% to 5% of the farmers and villagers were devout Nazis, 10% to 15% were on the fence, and 80% anti-Nazi, with 50% rabid anti-Nazi. In Vienna, estimates were difficult because of the extreme Gestapo control, but it is safe to say that not more than 20% were strong Nazis and certainly 50% were rabid anti-Nazi. Later American bombing of non-military targets, particularly pure residential districts and the beautiful art gallery and opera house reduced the Anglo-Americanophiles to nil. It was very bad psychology and positively stiffened morale. The feeling among the Austrians, particularly the Viennese, was that the Allies were making no differentiation between the Austrians and the Germans, which did more to squelch budding resistance movements than the Gestapo. In the later months, coupled with the Russian atrocity stories, it actually united Austrians and Germans as never before and made possible a real Volksturn.
Later, in prison, I learned from other agent prisoners that their own homes and families had been bombed, including clandestine radio stations, in spite of requests for immunization for that particular block in a purely residential section.
The Viennese Communists made excellent anti-Anglo-American propaganda by calling attention to the fact that the Russians were fighting a 'clean' war on the battlefield against military personnel, while the Anglo-Americans concentrated on civilians (old men, women and children), their homes, and cultural and art institutions. 'The Russians are the only ones who do not bomb us.'
Underwood's mother returned to Schutsen, stating that Gerstenberger had agreed to help and, as he was leaving for Spittal anyway, he would make arrangements and explain everything on his return within a week.
About the first week in November, Perkins introduced an Austrian soldier, Alois Unger. Unger was on leave before going to an unknown front. He wished to desert and join us but I explained that it was impossible unless we could find Partisans with whom to ally ourselves. Unger stated he had two friends who would like to do the same. About a week later, he rushed through in the night with a note written by Grant, addressed to Maj. Chapin, HQ 2677th Regiment, Caserta, stating our predicament (no radio) and mentioning our intention of proceeding to Yugoslavia. Grant signed my name. His intention was to desert at the first opportunity to the Allies and deliver the message. I hesitated to send this but as the man already knew the contents of the note and could certainly report it verbally to the nearest Gestapo or Wehrmacht officer if I did destroy it, I felt that we could at least lose nothing more by it. As I had no papers and as he was already AWOL 12 hours and was anxious to be on his way, I signed my signature in ink over the pencil signature by Grant and told him to hide it in his Wehrmacht shoulder insignia and sew it back up.
The Wulka, a small stream passing immediately behind Kaufmann's property, was being widened into an anti-tank ditch by many hundreds of foreign workers and their Nazi overseers. We observed and photographed them at close range through a crack in the roof made by sliding a tile up. Early one morning I thought I heard swearing in English and, on sliding the tile up, we saw about 11 British POWs working on the railroad with no guard except the railroad inspector. We took turns watching all day, awaiting a chance for one of them to get near enough to speak to without the inspector, but the opportunity did not present itself.
A few days later, however, they were working on a stretch of the track immediately below our hayloft and when the inspector left momentarily we caught their attention. They were so surprised that it was difficult for them to conceal their excitement. We told them we were U.S. Air Force men who had bailed out and were on our way to Yugoslavia. They offered a map and good advice. They said they were not treated badly, extra food was issued for railroad work, their Red Cross packages were coming through regularly, and from what we saw they didn't strain themselves working. They were a work party from Eisenstadt where 200 similarly employed British POWs were housed.
Organization Todt officers came every day, and occasionally Wehrmacht officers, to drink Kaufmann's white wine and sometimes had to be carried out after drinking all day. In almost every village there was a group of French POWs assigned to farmers (one to a farmer) for day work, returning to their barracks under guard every night. One such French POW worked for Kaufmann, and we narrowly escaped being seen several times when he came to the loft for hay. All French POWs could not be trusted.
During this period, two trains of 26 cars each with approximately 6000 Hungarian Jews passed through on their way to lagers in Austria. They had had no food or water for three days and, when Kaufmann's daughter, who was a Red Cross nurse, took them a pail of drinking water, the guards (SS or SA) objected and told her that the Jews didn't deserve to be treated as human beings.
We listened to BBC and ABSIE on Kaufmann's radio almost every night and heard how Nazi Germany was crumbling, their communications were absolutely paralyzed, the Luftwaffe destroyed, of the critical gasoline and coal shortages, and how the people were on the verge of starvation. Actually, there was tremendous night traffic on the railroads and in the air, no coal shortage whatsoever, ample gasoline supply for all military, government, police and Party use. There was no gasoline for private civilian use, but some cars were fitted with acetylene cylinders and others with charcoal gas generators. Town and city folk were rationed on most staples, but not severely except meat and butter, while the farmers had plenty.
Gerstenberger sent word that all arrangements had been made but hoped that we would delay until his immediate return as he was anxious to meet us and explain more. About this time, an opportunity came for two of us to go with a shipment of machinery from a ball-bearing factory in Vienna, which was being transported, to Feldkirch near the Swiss border. Underwood would go as a civilian employee, and I would be encased in a box as machinery. A special train containing nothing else but personnel and machinery had been laid on for the trip, which was to take 36 hours. However, at this stage, Perkins particularly, and Grant to some extent, began to get jitters about remaining. They felt that if the Russians overran them before we could return to Austria, it would be impossible to explain their situation to their captors, and [that] there was a strong possibility they would be transported to Russia as POWs to work for years before returning. It was, therefore, decided that all would return to Italy, but in two separate parties and routes, i.e. Perkins and Grant, with proper papers, which we made out to suit the occasion, would go to the front in Italy via Udine and attempt to infiltrate through to the American lines, while Underwood and I would go as originally planned through Yugoslavia. This would afford two chances for the information to get through.
About the middle of November, Underwood's father, a captain in the Signal Corps of the Luftwaffe, returned to Vienna from upper Silensia, where he was stationed at a replacement depot awaiting reassignment. He came to Kaufmanns' to visit his son and immediately did all he could to help. He gave additional top priority targets in Obersilesia and begged for Allied bombers to strike at that district, which was the heart of the Reich's heavy industry and also had the largest percentage of fanatical Nazi civilians. He could not understand why such huge war industrial districts as Gleiwitz, Oppeln and Breslau were left untouched. I could only guess that it was out of range for Anglo-American fighter cover. He was a very intelligent and fine man as was his son and, I believe, a fanatical Nazi-hater. He was an attorney in civilian life and a member of the Christian Social Party. He wished to know why the Allies had not helped the Polish Partisans in Warsaw when they made their desperate but unsuccessful attempt to recapture their capitol in August. He was pleased to hear that the western Allies had sent 10 to 15 supply planes a night. I told him that any serious Austrian Partisan movement could expect the same assistance.
Gerstenberger phoned from Villach to Underwood's mother in Vienna telling her that he was returning immediately and begged us to wait a few more days. As the weather now was quite cold and snow had begun to fall in the mountains, we decided to take one extreme but short risk and go by freight train to Klagenfurt, which was on the main line to Italy. This, rather than walking over land which would require three weeks and entail numerous contacts with strange and untried people for food and shelter. Accordingly, I sent Grant to a former friend, Herr Baudisch, a train-dispatcher in Viener Neustadt, to make arrangements to hide us for a few hours until the proper train came along.
Grant returned the next night, reporting that Mrs. Baudisch and daughter, Erika, agreed, in the absence of her husband, to hide us temporarily. He gave us the address and a hazy description of the apartment house but intended to accompany us also. All due respect to Grant, he was terribly optimistic and inclined to over-estimate people's willingness to cooperate and, on occasion, told a few more or less harmless untruths to make our position look better. Consequently, when Underwood's father visited us a few days later and asked what he could do, I suggested he return to Vienna by way of Viener Neustadt to check the arrangements and if possible see Baudisch himself about the freight-train details. He wrote a note from Vienna, saying all arrange-ments were made but that Grant had positively not been to the Baudisch home. Grant's description of the dwelling was not accurate, and Mrs. Baudisch and Erika said they had not seen Grant since we passed through on the way to the Italian front almost a year before. I had not doubted that Grant had been to the home, but when confronted with this information the next evening, he did not deny it nor had anything to say in defense. As he had done a marvelous job otherwise, having done twice the work of anyone else, I did not press him. He had planned to leave in two more nights regardless of any further requests to delay from Gerstenberger.
We still had no permanent hideout to return to if we were fortunate enough to get through to Italy and come back with a radio, so I sent Grant and Perkins into the Hornstein area for one last search on the following day. They were to return on the following evening and we three (Grant, Underwood and me) were to walk all night the next night, arriving at Baudisch's home in Viener Neustadt just before dawn, intending to hide out during the day and catch the first freight out that evening. Grant and Perkins were to board the first passenger train for Udine and, with their Marsahbefehl for the Italian front, they were expecting no trouble.
On the day that Grant and Perkins went to Hornstein (30th Nov) I recovered my money-belt, camera, cipher pads, signal plan and crystals, which I had cached near the eaves and covered with hay some distance from our 'burrows' and packed them in a small kit bag. In retrospect, it is easy to blame myself for keeping the cipher pads, signal plan and crystals when no radio was dropped, but we were forever hopeful of receiving a drop or having one brought in by courier. By keeping these most secret appendages, the new radio, if captured in transit or on the drop, would be useless to the enemy.
The temperature was well below freezing every night and, as we had only one thin blanket, we slept in all the clothes we could find and burrowed deep in the hay. I had borrowed an old coat and trousers and wore them over my OD trousers and shirt with my field jacket over the coat; however, my collar insignia and black tie was plainly visible.
We climbed down from the loft about 1900 as usual for supper in a tiny room next to the manger. I had just finished shaving and unfortunately had shirt, tie and coat on, but not my field jacket. The watchdog barked; we snapped the light off as usual (Kaufmann had many visitors) and remained quiet. We heard the front gate open, followed by the door to the house. In a few minutes we heard someone come to our door, but as it was usual for one of the family to come and tell us when the 'coast was clear,' we thought nothing of it. Suddenly, the door was thrown open and eight plain-clothes men rushed in. We grappled for a few seconds, but I was forced back in the corner, beat over the head with a blackjack and while groggy had my arms pinioned behind my back. My left arm was then twisted backwards until the elbow joint was torn loose; such as you would the joint of a chicken leg. Four men were on each of us, and I realized the futility of further struggle. Blackjack taps on my head continued while my wrists were chained together behind my back, painfully tight, and locked with a padlock. The same had been done to Underwood who was held down under the table. He was bleeding profusely from several cuts on his head. Outside were two more men with Tommy-guns.
Capture, Gestapo, and Vienna Prison
As soon as we ceased to struggle and our captors had a good look at us, one of them said to me, 'Ah, ein offizier,' as he saw my collar insignia. As I mentioned, after shaving I did not have time to put on my field jacket before being captured and was unfortunately caught in the old coat and trousers although my OD's were underneath. It was with great difficulty that I was permitted to bring along my jacket.
We were lead to the Burgermeister's office in Schutzen and, with our arms still chained behind us, we were slapped and kicked while being questioned. Although in opposite corners of a large room with our backs turned to each other, we could hear what was happening to the other. Kriminalrat Sanitzer, who directed the raid, did the questioning and intimidation. He pointed to my collar insignia and inquired what it was. 'Hauptmann,' (Captain) I answered, and received a heavy slap in the face coincident with the word: 'falsch' (false). This was repeated several times including kicking but each time I was questioned, I repeated the same. As I learned later, they were trying to make me admit that I was a civilian in uniform as they said the British used frequently. When Underwood was asked his name, he replied 'Underwood,' but after the same treatment for some time he gave his true name, and the Kriminalrat immediately stopped, saying 'that's better' or words to that effect, apparently knowing both our names beforehand.
While being intimidated and cursorily questioned, I noticed Herr Josef Preiler standing in an adjacent room. He was Kaufmann's best friend and we had had many interesting discussions. He was a very intelligent man working on administrative duties for that area of Burgenland and, like Kaufmann, had lost one son in the war and had one remaining still in the service. Both were listed by NSDAP as 'politically unreliable.' Preiler was ashen and struck dumb by what he saw and I was afraid he would give himself away. I heard later that he had committed suicide.
We were driven in separate sedans to Eisenstadt jail a few miles away and, while still chained, I was questioned by a woman interpreter. I gave name, rank, and serial number, but they paid no attention whatever and refused to write down my serial number off my dog tags. They wanted to know where the radio was, and when told that we had no radio, the 'intimidation' started again. Finally, they apparently believed our story but asked for the cipher pads, and described them in detail down to the waterproof cover that I had them encased in. I stated that they had been destroyed, but they said I had them two nights before and that I might as well tell the truth as they had picked up one of my boys in Wiener-Neustadt that day. What he was doing in Wiener-Neustadt when he was supposed to be in Hornstein four kilometers away in another direction, I could only imagine. When asked how many were in the party I answered, 'three' hoping to cover the last man.
Soon, the Kaufmann family was brought in weeping except for Frau Kaufmann; also our kit, which they had picked up from our hayloft quarters. Our arms were shifted from back to front and re-chained while we waited for the questioning of the Kaufmann family. After an hour or so, we were taken still chained to Wiener-Neustadt Gestapo Headquarters in two sedans with a Gestapo man sitting on my lap.
At Gestapo Headquarters in Wiener-Neustadt, we were stripped and given a very minute examination. All of the gold coins that I had sewn in my trouser seams were found and of course my money belt. Our clothes were taken away and civilian clothes substituted, which I refused to put on, because I expected them to photograph me as evidence to show that I had been captured in them. My left arm was so swollen and painful at this time that I had very great difficulty in getting my coat off. They asked me if I wished a doctor and said one would be provided when I was taken to Vienna in a few hours, but none was.
They asked many questions through Underwood about America, and it was clear that they had swallowed Goebel's propaganda whole. They were particularly bitter about American bombings and asked 'why' as long as they (Germans) had not bombed us. I explained that it was only because we were out of range and reminded them of their destruction in England. They also asked why were at war with each other at all, and I reminded them again that they had declared war on us, but tactfully added that
of course it was only because they were abiding by their treaty with Japan. When asked how long I thought the war would last, I guessed six months and they agreed, but when asked which side would win they laughed and ridiculed my answer. 'Did I not know that the Americans were retreatingfrom Aachen due to V-2' The Wehrmacht would soon show who was in control in the west.'
In underwear only, because I would not put on the civilian clothes, and with clumsy wooden shoes I was taken to Mortzinplatz IV Gestapo Headquarters in Vienna and placed in cell No. 5 on the mezzanine at 0500 on the first of December, even my shoe strings being removed so that I could not hang myself. I was not allowed to lie down, not to sleep, nor was any food or water allowed. Very strict guard control was exercised.
Later in the day, I was brought to the 3rd floor to Kriminalrat Sanitizer's office for interrogation but I refused to answer any questions until they returned my uniform. They threatened to 'give me the works,' but aside from twisting my already painful left arm and slapping me around, no real torture was instigated. Sanitizer's assistants, none of whose names I ever heard, although I will positively remember their faces, did the intimidation. The only other man whose name I heard was the 'assistant Kriminalrat' Anderle, who took no active part. After about three hours, they returned me to the cell and I had a pan of watery beet-soup, the first 'food' in 24 hours. At this time, I never expected to live another day and consequently slept very little.
The next morning I was again brought to Sanitizer's office and after a few minute's verbal sparring, they brought me my uniform, dog tags and shoes, which were heel-less from searching for a secret cipher or poison. I put the uniform on immediately and their whole attitude changed. They inquired about my arm and said they would have a doctor see to it but they never did. They offered cigarettes and brandy, both of which I declined, and tried to be friendly. I asked to be reported to the International Red Cross but they said it would have to 'wait a little.'
The interrogation lasted most of the day with a few hours lost due to an American air raid during which time we were chained in our cells. They showed a remarkable knowledge of OSS including names and had a diagrammatic relationship of OSS Theater headquarters to Washington. They were particularly interested in northern Italy and told me several things about the organization, which I didn't know, such as the establishment of a detachment at Cannes. Communications questions were mainly on procedure as they were very familiar with one-time pads and I had destroyed my 99 D.T. They brought out a 99 D.T. and asked me how it worked but I denied all knowledge of it and questioned their claim that it was American. I noticed, however that it had 'HOUSEBOAT' (the name of the mission) printed at the top, and I remembered that we had such a mission but couldn't place it geographically. They then proceeded to correctly explain the principal of the 99 D.T. In fact, they seemed eager to show me how much they knew. During this interrogation, I suffered no intimidation or torture although threatened several times. I requested better food and told them I expected to be treated the same as a captured German officer. They promised better food.
Mortzinplatz IV Gestapo Headquarters was located in the old Hotel Metropole in the center of Vienna near the canal. On the mezzanine floor were twelve cells, six on each side of the building with their windows cemented up to within a foot of the top and with bars well embedded. These 'windows' opened on an inner court but one could not tell day from night because they were painted over and a light burned in the cell 24 hours a day. The cells were soundproof rooms about 12 feet long by 7 feet wide with typical cell and door about 4 feet in from the outer door, thus limiting the actual 'living space' to 8 by 7 feet. The outer door had a peephole so that occupants could be observed unknowingly. Neckties, shoestrings, belts, razors (even safety), cigarettes, etc. were forbidden as were all reading matter and writing materials. One could write a note (pencil and slip furnished on request) between 0700 and 0730 to your 'Referent,' who would then determine whether to bother your Kriminalrat about it.
Prisoners arose at 0500 and after washing and making one's 'bed,' waited until 0800 for breakfast, which consisted of hot water (very diluted unsweetened ersatz coffee) and a thin slice of black bread. One must then sit on a stool but not sleep and must jump to attention whenever the 'Kontrol' made the rounds, usually about four times daily. Lunch consisted of very weak erpsin (beet) soup (no meat-broth, bone or other vegetable), about four tablespoons of vegetable stew such as erpsin, carrots or potatoes, and one thin slice of bread. For supper, one had the same stew and similar slice of bread. For Saturday supper, a small cube of cheese was substituted for the stew and for Sunday a small slice of wurst the size of a silver dollar was substituted. One was permitted to go to the toilet only at three specified times daily when there were two guards on duty and no prisoner ever saw any of the others. One guard paced the hall on which the cells faced and 'observed' at least twice a minute. The hall itself was also closed off with bars and door. None of the guards spoke a word of English but most were sympathetic especially when no S.S. or Gestapo was around. They were old Vienna police and had to carry out their orders or be sentenced to a concentration camp. On the orders of the Gestapo, certain prisoners were chained backwards to the bars in the cell with their toes barely touching the floor, others were permitted no 'food' for several days while others had their wrists chained together at night, etc. During air raids, all cell prisoners had their wrists chained and remained in their cells while the Gestapo personnel went in the basement air raid shelter.
On the 2nd or 3rd of December while in the Kriminalrat's office, I saw Underwood and Perkins in an adjoining room and later through the open doors of several rooms I had a glimpse of Grant. This was the last time I saw any of them although I kept tract as best I could through one of the more friendly guards. I also saw Underwood's mother and father but we didn't 'recognize' each other.
During the interrogation, I was asked how honest Grant and Perkins were, and replied that I had never known them to lie. The Gestapo said that Grant and Perkins had pleaded that they joined the OSS only as a means of getting back to Austria and the Wehrmacht and asked if I believed that was true. In an effort to cover Grant and Perkins, I told them that it was entirely possible that they had had this idea at first but had become fond of me after our landing and hated to turn me in. The Gestapo replied that they did not believe it and that Underwood was the only honorable one when he stated frankly that he did not approve of the National Socialist Party. They asked me if I knew that Perkins was a former SS man.
After about three days in the cell, I was taken to the top floor (5th stock) to a room with bars over the windows, which was occupied by a Hungarian General Anton Wattay (Tabornok Wattay Anton). He was Regent Horthy's War Minister and had been snatched by the Gestapo with Horthy in Budapest. He was preparing to surrender Hungary to the Russians. We were mutually suspicious of each other but we gradually became staunch friends and I began to learn some German although he spoke no English. During air raids, like the other prisoners on the top floor, we were taken to the air raid shelter in the basement to avoid being chained up, but I had to give my word of honor that I wouldn't try to escape during an alarm. We were under heavy guard always anyway. Here I met several occupants of other rooms on the top floor including a Bavarian Count, Graf Halter Von Birach who had 'donated' his castle to Ribbentrop; an Austrian deserter-volunteer from ISLD named Paul Pomerl, and a German deserter-volunteer from the French. The ten prisoners from other rooms on this floor were kept separated from us in the air-raid shelter, but in time I met and talked with them clandestinely. During December we experienced an average of three raids a week, not all on Vienna proper. The food was definitely better both in quality and quantity to that in the cells but it was still poor and meager. We received a thin slice of some kind of meat once a week and the ersatz coffee usually had a little sugar in it. All except Wattay and I (the only foreigners) had extra weekly rations of wurst, margarine and bread. Most of these prisoners also had relatives or friends in Vienna, who were allowed to bring them extra food once a week. We were fortunate to get their old stale black bread that we wrapped in a damp cloth to soften it enough to cut and then toasted it on our heater.
I slept very little the first two weeks, expecting to be executed every day, and my unattended arm was still very painful. In spite of the fact that my arm was green and blue and terribly swollen, neither doctor nor X-ray ever came although promised innumerable times. It was five weeks before I could use it to button my pants or tie my tie. I finally became resigned to my death and with the aid of Wattay, who was very religious, I prayed twice a day for my comrades and myself.
Count Von Sirach was released the day before Christmas and left a small wreath with candles to us. On Christmas Eve we lit it and tried to be happy but Wattay was so worried and nervous about his family in Budapest during the siege that he couldn't control himself. In trying to comfort him, I broke down myself, which was the only time during all my captivity.
During the raids, I was chafed about being bombed by my own people and when bombs would strike nearby the Gestapo became very serious and said, 'And those are your own bombs,' as if I'd made them with my own hands. I was resigned to my fate but not so the Gestapo to theirs. We followed the course of the bombers by radio as broadcast from a special air-raid station, the regular Vienna station normally signing off when the squadron approached within 100 km. There was also the 'flak-sender' (anti-aircraft radio station), which directed the ack-ack.
A map covering the area within a radius of 200 km of Vienna was divided into concentric circles with radii of multiples of 35 KM up to 200 KM. These circles were then cut into sections by 8 equally spaced radii and each section numbered.
These Luftshutzkarte were printed in the newspaper and also distributed as cards. The listener could, by listening to the radio and referring to the map number tell exactly where the flight was at 30-second intervals.
A sample bombing as it appeared to one on the receiving end went about as follows: at 1030 the radio was interrupted with a Coo Coo (Cuck-Cuck alarm) followed by a announcement that enemy bombers were over Carinthia and Stier provinces; (the German radar functioned up to 400 km) in 15 minutes when the flight approached to within 200 km, sirens all over the city sounded the 'Before Alarm' (Voralarm) characterized by the top pitch being broken twice during a 15-second period, thus: (A wavy line was drawn to visually depict the tone.)
This was the signal to prepare to leave for the air raid shelter (Luftschutzraum) giving approximately 40 minutes until the bombers were overhead. In approximately 20 minutes the 'Air Alarm' (Fliegeralarm) announced the flights at the 100 km mark characterized by an undulating siren: thus: (A long line was drawn to visually depict the siren.)
This was the signal to leave immediately for the air raid shelter as bombers could be expected overhead in 20 minutes. Radio VIEN went off the air with the warning 'Acute air danger for Vienna,' and the air raid station took over as mentioned. The groups usually rendezvoused outside the ack-ack zone, the first groups circling until joined by later flights, sometimes as much as an hour, and then lined up for the bomb-run. On the run in over the periphery of Vienna, intense heavy ack-ack was thrown up and when overhead, the motors could be plainly heard. Bomb detonations in rapid succession were heard as dull thuds or terrific jarring blasts depending on the vicinity. (During the heavy 15 January 1945 raid, one bomb hit the foundation of our building and blew in the next room killing two and injuring many. We were all thrown to the floor and covered with plaster). Similar intense heavy flak was heard as the group passed over the periphery on the way out. This was repeated as group after group passed over, sometimes as many as 15 participating. Listeners were kept informed almost constantly as to the exact position of the groups. When the last group passed over the 100 km mark going home, the 'Before end of the warning' (Vorentwarnung) siren was sounded which was characterized by the same pattern as the 'Before alarm', thus: (A wavy line was drawn to visually depict the alarm.)
Approximately 20 minutes later as they passed over the 200-km periphery, the 'End of the warning' (Entwarnung) siren was sounded which was characterized by a continuous top pitch for 30 seconds, thus: (A line was drawn to show the siren.)
The Viennese were very disturbed and the Gestapo was so bitter about the Vienna bombings particularly the pure civilian districts, opera house, etc., that I felt we might capitalize on their fear and anxiety. I reasoned that the policy of residential district and non-military target bombing was not popular, particularly in Austria, with the US Air Force and if even a slight reason could be shown why it was detrimental, I felt they might cease. I do not refer to the civilian destruction due to near misses around a target area, but to the deliberate concentrated bombing in pure residential districts and cultural institutions such as the opera house, museum, etc.) Consequently, I made the Gestapo a proposition to spare the lives of my three Austrian comrades in trade for a guarantee from the 15th Air Force that they would limit themselves to military targets in the Vienna area. Near misses around such targets were agreed to be unavoidable. Inasmuch as they had proven to me during the interrogation that they were familiar with our one-time pads and procedure I saw no security violation in proposing to get in contact by radio with Bari explaining that we were captured and offering the proposition. The Gestapo turned it down as preposterous and said I only wanted to inform my people that we were captured so they could warn other groups.
About 17th of January, General Wattay was suddenly taken away from Vienna and another prisoner, Paul Pomerl (an Austrian ISLD agent captured in northern Slovenia) was moved in with me bringing his radio. The short-wave band did not function so we could only listen to local stations. All Allied stations were 'hashed' by German interference on this standard band but after a few days, I enjoyed Pomerl's confidence enough to work on the radio while he listened at the door. The changeover switch was fixed 'haywire' and with a small piece of magnet wire for an antenna, we tuned in on short waves.
The very first station had Vice-President Wallace giving the oath of office to Truman, and a moment later the President was heard being sworn in by a Chief Justice. It was a real thrill. For the next few days we took turns listening at the door while the other listened to news from BBC, ABSIE, Moscow, and several American stations. The best of the old police guards, Herr Meister Egger, came to the door several times while on duty to hear the program 'Americka sprecht mit Oesterreich' (America speaks with Austria) from New York. He would have come more often but he could not trust the other prisoners for reasons explained later. He and one other Meister were outspoken (to me) anti-Nazis and when no one was looking he would give me a 'regular' (non-Nazi) salute.
According to Egger, only three of the twenty police were regular Vienna police, most having 20 to 30 years service, and not S.S. or Wehrmacht. With the exception of the above-mentioned three, they were all kind and sympathetic when alone with us, however, very strict Gestapo control was exercised over them. Two of the Meisters had sons who were POWs in America and showed me letters from them saying they were well treated and had good food, etc. Pomerl spoke good English and I first learned about the other 'top-floor' prisoners from him. Unfortunately, he was taken away after about 10 days but I gradually collected bits of information about them over a period of three months.
They were all captured Russian agent radio operators except one who was British SOE. Most were Viennese Communists, one Stuttgart; two were Russian (man and wife) and the British agent from Graz. There were five women and four men and the longest captured was 28 months. They had all parachuted into various sections of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Austria, and had worked from one day to almost one year before being captured. To save their lives, they operated their radios in daily contact with Moscow; also ciphering and deciphering all messages.
A radio room on the top floor was in charge of a Gestapo operator who supervised and monitored each transmission. They used their own Russian or British 'field' sets. Mr. Lander, a Wehrmaht Feldwebel in civilian clothes, handled all double-agent correspondence, and attempted to lure couriers from Russia into his traps. He was a young, intelligent, well-educated, Viennese engineer who designed underground shelters, etc. before becoming associated with the Gestapo. His wife was a Parisian dentist and they had lived in Paris until just a few days before the American occupation. After the 15 January raid, when the basement was hit, all Gestapo and 'top-floor' prisoners except a few Meisters and me were taken to the regular air raid shelter on the catacombs under the city during the raids.
For the next two months I was in absolute solitary confinement, only seeing and speaking to other people during the air raids. I had severe dysentery and much loss of blood the last two weeks of January, and although medical attention or medicine was promised daily, neither was ever forthcoming.
One day during February, a very small man from Berlin with crooked teeth interrogated me, and accused me of being an Englishman by the name of Major Taylor, whom they believed to be the head of the Hungarian desk in some British organization. They had captured a Canadian agent, in Hungary presumably; who said that an American Captain Taylor had briefed him and later, they had apparently captured part of a Hungarian-British mission, but a Major Taylor had escaped. The fact that my name was the same, and I had jumped near the Hungarian border, led them to surmise that I was the same man. When asked how I could prove I was an American, I could only think of checking my name and serial number through the International Red Cross and my American accent.
By the middle of February I had lost so much weight and had long ago stopped exercising because it made me too hungry. About this time I succumbed to pneumonia with very high fever. At least twice a day for four days I asked for a doctor and medicine and was assured that one would come 'sofort,' but none ever came. Through a friendly guard I was able to get a package of sulphanilimide from one of the other prisoners, who had stolen it from my confiscated medical kit, and I have no doubt that this medicine helped to save my life.
One of the women prisoners Louisa Souchek, was allowed to come into my room at intervals and change the cold towels on my head. She was a wonderful nurse and made me feel much better. We became good friends and when she decided to trust me, I learned many interesting points about the Gestapo, Russian agents, Viennese moral, etc.
About the first of March, during one of the daily raids, a heavy bomb destroyed one side of our building including the Kriminalrats' offices. We were immediately moved out to a villa near Turkestein (sp) Park, as our undamaged rooms were the only ones available. This villa was formerly owned by Herr Messner, head of the Saperfit Rubber Co. (Austrian-American Rubber Co.) and had been confiscated from him while he was a Gestapo prisoner. I was to have been returned to the cells on the mezzanine, but because I was still quite sick, they allowed me to go with the 'special' prisoners.
The radio station was set up in the villa and everything proceeded as before. Here I was able to see the Russian field sets and learn a little about their cipher. Louisa informed me that she was sure that Moscow knew that five of the 'stations' including hers were operating under Gestapo supervision. At the direction of the Gestapo, she had sent me messages requesting a courier and Moscow had replied affirmatively giving the time and place of arrival. The Gestapo had set an elaborate trap but nothing happened and they were frantically trying to get an explanation from Moscow. It was very amusing and she kept me informed on the correspondence.
None of the other operators knew what was going on, and I have often wondered why she trusted me with such dangerous (for herself) information. She had been an active Viennese communist for 10 years before the war and her husband had last been heard of with the Russian Partisans. She believed all operators would be executed at the last moment before the Russians arrived and, when I tried to comfort her, she explained, 'I have no fear, I am a Communist.' She felt that I might have a chance because I was captured in uniform but the Gestapo had previously told me that it made no difference because I was a spy and the leader of a group of traitors. Our case was being tried in Berlin and the verdict was expected soon. I memorized her code name and sister's name and address so I could renew the contact after the war if we were fortunate enough to live. She would be an excellent source. Louisa stated that Kriminalrat Sanitzer had asked her to work with him underground after the new government was formed. 'After all,' he said, 'Communism is the practical application of the National Socialist ideological theory.' 'We will see,' she said.
We went under S.S. guard through the park to a private air raid shelter during the daily air raid but thousands of people used the railroad tunnel under the park. When well enough, I sawed and split firewood and pruned trees around the Messner villa under SS guard but they were entirely different from the old police at Mortzinplatz. It was the first time I'd seen the sun in five months and the 'special' prisoner food was far superior to anything previous, although meager.
On 15 March after one week at the villa, I was awakened in the night and told to get ready to leave. This was the end, I thought, but no one would tell me anything. I was returned to the cells in Mortinzplatz and assigned to cell No. 6 with two others. As usual, we were mutually suspicious and they were especially so when during the daily raids I was taken to the air raid shelter in the basement while they were chained up as I had been before. I was asked no questions and they gradually thawed. Erich Bitterman, 35 years, tall, dark and handsome, Rumanian, former 1st Lt., in the King's Guard, married to a Hungarian baroness, owner of a large estate outside Bucharest which supplied big shot Nazis in Berlin with the finest food. Erich, a Volksdeutsch SS Untersturmfuhrer was kept busy shuttling back and forth from Berlin by special transport plane, supplying food and luxuries.
He was later taken by the Gestapo during an anti-Nazi putsch and in an SS officers' prison near Kustrin where he was treated very well in comparison to Mortzinplatz. As the Russians neared, he understood that they were all to be executed and successfully escaped by lowering himself from a third story window with blankets tied together. Speaking perfect German, he had managed to get to his home in Vienna only to be picked up with false papers a few days later. His address was Wien IV, Argentinastrasse 29, Palais Toscana.
Otto Schmeisser, 30 years, medium height, light kinky hair, husky, part Jewish, former Customs official before the war and Oberfeldwechel in charge of searchlight crews in the Vienna area. In October 1944 he arranged with a sergeant friend of his to witness his 'drowning' in the Danube while he crawled out on the bank some distance below. Here he dressed in railway inspector's uniform and with proper papers disappeared into the underground unknown to his wife. He worked for several months on propaganda leaflets, small sabotage operations, etc. and was in the act of getting arms, ammunition, 3000 ration books, etc. distributed to an underground Partisan movement who in conjunction with volunteers from the Wehrmacht, Vienna police and Volksturm intended to carry out an anti-Nazi putsch which they had good reason to believe would be joined by the Wehrmacht. The Gestapo took several high-ranking Wehrmacht officer accomplices at the same time. As was the case in all Viennese resistance movements, Gestapo agents made themselves integral parts of these organizations and did excellent work for them sometimes for several months, as in Schmeisser's case, before turning them in. His movement was not a 'party' affair but a patriotic Austrian anti-Nazi interest. His home was in Bablitxbel Vien, No. 201.
I learned that a newly captured Wehrmacht lieutenant Russian agent and I had changed places, he going to the Villa to work Moscow and I coming to cell 6. In a few days, we were joined by a new prisoner, Engineer Wilhelm Modess, a naval architect, and one of the finest men I've ever known. He was married to a Jewess who escaped with her father to Buenos Aries just before the Nazis took over and both left large interests in Modess' name. In six years, the Nazis had systematically stripped him of every piece of property and business by keeping him in Gestapo custody at intervals, which were simultaneous with court actions confiscating his property. He was not allowed to appear in court or have representation because he was a Gestapo prisoner. At the conclusion of the 'legal' confiscation he was released and would be free to go about his normal business until another piece of his property was wanted. He was working against the Nazis but he was so careful, that they could never pin anything definite on him.
Toward the end of March, a woman doctor (M.D.) was brought into Cell 3 and as was the custom, every personal article including eyeglasses was withheld. After several days, another woman prisoner was placed in her cell that had better eyes and discovered that the doctor had lice. The doctor was horrified and begged for her glasses so that she could pick them from her garments, but her pleadings were unheeded. There was no opportunity to bathe or wash clothes. About the same time, another woman, Martha Russ, was brought in and had to have her wrists chained behind her back to the bars so high that she could barely touch the floor. In the night, through exhaustion, her feet slipped out from under and she was left hanging. Her screams were horrible. Later, I got possession of the order for the mistreatment of Martha Russ signed by her Kriminalrat (not Sanitzer). Toilet paper was non-existent and we were rationed to three small pieces of newspaper or scrap paper. I always read the scrap paper first and to my surprise found the above order torn in two. It had been written on the back of a useless mimeographed sheet to save paper and when the Meister handed it to me, he saw only the one original mimeographed side. The order directed the Meister to hang Martha Russ by her wrists every night, no food for three days, and not to bother the Referrent with any requests.
The Russians were 50 km away and moving fast and we had hopes of being overrun before we could be evacuated or executed. At 0300 on 31 March we were awakened and told to prepare to leave immediately. Thirty-eight of us were moved under heavy SS guard (10 guards with Tommy guns and rifles) from Vienna to Enns (Near Linz) by train. I was terribly surprised to see the West railroad station absolutely untouched by bombs and everything functioning normally, also the yards were full of coal cars. Farther out, in the yards there were evidence of heavy bombing but all tracks were intact and functioning.
The train was filled with refugees and we stopped twice enroute during air raids; once in a tunnel and once in a cut where all the passengers and train crew except us, fled into the woods. Schmeisser and I planned to jump out the window at night while two of the taller men stood up in the doorway of the compartment to conceal our movement. At the last moment Schmeisser backed out saying his wife and child would be murdered if he escaped. I had the window partially open and blamed myself a thousand times later for not going ahead alone, but due to American bombings, the entire civilian attitude towards Americans had changed so that it was questionable whether anyone would take one in alone. With an Austrian speaking that particular dialect it was a 50-50 chance. On the train I met Dr. Hans Becker, whom I had spoken to once in the cells but never seen before. As we talked, Becker had served a sentence in Mauthausen around 1941 and warned us of the conditions, saying it was definitely worse than Dachau, which he also attended. We arrived at Enns at 0400 and marched 8 km to Mauthausen, crossing the Danube by ferry just past dawn. We could see, on the hill, the lights of the most terrible Lager in all Germany, which was to become our last home until execution.
Concentration Camp Mauthausen
(Konzentrations' Lager Mauthausen)
At dawn on Easter Sunday, 1 April 1945, our 10 SS guards and we 36 prisoners crossed the Danube ferry at Mauthausen, and climbed the hill past the rock-quarry. Several prisoner work parties (Arbeit Kommandos) under heavy SS guard passed by on their way to the quarries. They were the most terrible looking half-dead creatures in filthy ragged stripes and heavy wooden shoes and as they clanked and shuffled along the cobblestones, they reminded of a group of Frankenstein's. We kidded ourselves saying we would look the same in a few days, but we were all struck with cold dread terror.
Above us we could see the high stone wall with electric fence on top and to our left below the regular camp were a group of low windowless buildings, which were originally barns for horses, later for Russian POWs and at this time serving as a 'hospital' (Krankenlager, Sanitateskager or Russian lager. We arrived at a group of buildings just outside the main entrance and were turned over to the Mauthausen SS who didn't waste any time intimidating us. SS Unterscharfuhrer Hans Prellberg was particularly brutal as he slapped, punched, kicked and beat most of us over the head with a cane belonging to a crippled Slovak in our group. Two young Russians and a Hungarian were unmercifully beaten because they did not understand German. All commands were given in German and I had to keep extremely alert to save myself similar beatings. We were told certain rules and regulations, the penalty being instant death on all except one, which was merely hanging the victim by his wrists chained behind his back. This slight penalty was for failure to stand at attention and remove one's cap whenever an SS man, regardless of rank, passed or when speaking to an SS man. When the next group of new prisoners, following us, were having the same rules and regulations announced to them, the speaker said: 'and if you attempt to escape and are recaptured, and you will be shot immediately, like this,' and simultaneously pulled his pistol and shot an old prisoner standing near, who had just been recaptured after an attempted escape.
We were marched through the main gate and lined up outside the shower room where we were individually questioned, slapped, slugged, and beaten with a stick by three SS men in relays for approximately three hours; in addition, some were spat upon. The worst to me was SS Unterscharfuhrer Hans Bruckner who screamed 'you American swine' every time he struck me. He also beat unmercifully a Lt. Glauber, an ISLD agent (Viennese-born, British citizen) mainly because he was a Jew. I had not seen Glauber since the night he was captured in February when I was called to Kriminalrat Sanitizer's office and introduced to him. We were told to talk to each other, which we did without saying 'anything'. Now, he had lost much weight and remarked the same about me.
We were marched to the bath, stripped, and all our belongings confiscated, except three wristwatches and a wedding ring which we were able to slip to a Polish Kapo. (Kapos were head prisoners of a work detail). All hair was shaved from our bodies, lice inspected, etc., and after a hot shower we were given only an old suit of ragged underwear. We never saw our clothes again and were led out into the cold barefooted where we stood at attention and shivered for over an hour before being marched to our barracks, Block 13. This S.O.P. was not changed even during the most severe part of the winter when men stood barefooted in the snow. LT. Glauber and three others, who were badly in need of medical treatment, went to the hospital. Glauber told me that when the Czech doctor found out that he was a British officer, he winked at him and said he would put him in the hospital for a couple of months where he would not have to work. Glauber was very happy and we said goodbye warmly. One of the other three was a small Sudetan German who was a mass of bruises from head to foot and also had several festering sores from Gestapo cigarette butt burns.
We received our first food in 48 hours and later were assigned our prison numbers, two of which were stamped on cloth with the appropriate colored triangle indicating political or criminal prisoner and citizenship and one stamped in metal for a wrist bracelet. The cloth numbers were sewn on the left breast of the coat and the outer side of the left trouser half way to the knee. All three numbers had to check before the food would be issued. In addition, if the prisoner was not wearing stripes, he had a rectangular hole cut in the middle of the back of his coat and also just below the number on his trouser leg; these spaces were filled in with a rectangular piece of 'stripes' so that if an escaped prisoner cut off his stripes, he still had the tell-tale rectangular holes.
Nationalities were not segregated and in Block 13 we had all nations in Europe and the Balkans represented except Albania and Turkey. Approximately one-fourth were Russian POWs. All non-German prisoners had a stripe (strasse) shaved down the center of their head leaving short bristles on each side.
After two days, we began by devious means to get wooden shoes and old trousers or shirts; until then we walked around in the cold and mud barefooted and clad only in ragged underwear. Within a week I had, though friends, collected a full compliment of assorted rags for clothes.
There were 25 prisoner barracks each normally designed for 220 men, i.e., 70 triple-decker single bunks plus 5 double-decker singles, but at this time holding nearly 400 each. This was increased to almost 600, which made it necessary for three to 'sleep' in each single bunk. Toilet and hygienic facilities were proportionately inadequate.
When the camp was first established, many German criminal prisoners were inmates and from these murderers, thieves, forgers, etc., the SS chose the barracks heads (Blockeldesters). It was their duty to rule with a ruthless and heavy hand all fellow prisoners in their barrack. Criminal pugs that used their fists, blackjacks, sticks, rubber hoses and razor straps to maintain 'order' assisted them. During the assembly for roll call twice a day, these degenerates demonstrated their professional ability to the SS and Deutsch Kultur to their fellow prisoners.
Stealing was practiced on a scale, which cannot be imagined, and one had to carry with him at all times his total belongings. The net result from all stealing 'organisiert' was food, as one could not support life on the regular prison 'food.' Stealing was therefore a matter of life and death for most and practiced almost unanimously.
We slept in our clothes not for warmth but to keep them from being stolen. Prisoners who could 'organize' a topcoat or raincoat and at night slept on it for a pillow would invariably wake to find it missing and rarely were able to recover it. I had two pair of 'shoes' stolen from under my mattress at different times while sleeping and recovered one pair. Modess, my bunkmate slept in his boots and actually caught a man trying to pull them off. On unusually cold nights, there was heavy nocturnal traffic in blankets. The blankets, incidentally, were collected each morning and redistributed at random each night, thereby spreading lice and fleas from a few to all.
Modess and I bunked together and were later joined by a Russian. Beneath us were two French lieutenants, Maurice and Albert (Poupee) and Vojtechkrajcovic, governor of National Bank Bratislava, head of the Economic Institute Bratislava and a continentally renowned economist. This trio was captured in Yugoslavia, enroute from Bratislava to the Allies in Italy, bearing important documents from the Slovakian Government. Above us were two Germans and one Russian. During the first week, I heard of a number of Americans in the camp but on running down the rumors found that most were Europeans who had spent some time in America and returned. There were however three other Americans:
Miss Isabella (or Carlotta) Dien or (Dean) captured in France, interned in Ravensbruck, and evacuated to Mauthausen in February 1945 on the approach of the Russians. Through friendly Czechs, she was assigned to the laundry where she was able to get some extra 'organisiert' food but her health broke and she was placed in the Viener Graben women's 'hospital' outside the camp. It was impossible to slip her any extra food and she grew steadily worse.
Sgt. Louis Biagioni, ASN 12185480, OSS SI agent captured in northern Italy in summer 1944 and held for some months by Gestapo in Italy, then transferred to Mauthausen. On December 26th, he was taken to Linz, tried, condemned to death and returned to Mauthausen. He split wood in the garage while awaiting his execution.
Lionel Romney, Negro fireman, U.S. Merchant Marine, 'S.S. Makis' sunk off Pantelleria 17 June 1940, captured by Italians and interned eventually in Mauthausen. He did lumberjack work in the forest for which he received extra food.
There were two British officers; Captain John Starr, SOE, captured in France 1943 and through a series of remarkable circumstances eventually arrived at Mauthausen. 1st Lt. Toni Speare, RAF fighter pilot, downed in France, spring 1944, and captured in civilian clothes while trying to escape through the French underground. He was suffering from boils and temporary loss of sight and voice. Neither was forced to work. Both were fine types.
Food consisted of flavored hot water (very dilute unsweetened ersatz coffee) at five for breakfast. Lunch was one liter of erpsin (beet) soup, much thicker but less palatable than in Vienna. Supper was 1/10 to 1/17 kilo of black bread. The bread was composed of wheat flour, ground potato peelings, sawdust and straw. On Sunday, in addition we received a slice of margarine or a tablespoon of cottage cheese.
Until 1945, a camp brothel was run for the convenience of the prisoners, who were rationed to one experience weekly. All the women were diseased. The SS had their own private brothel and the officers their 'kept' girl friends.
As mentioned before, during my four moths in Vienna, I had lost much weight and vitality (estimated weight 130 lbs.) and was therefore in much worse condition for manual labor than the other 37, who were comparatively new prisoners. In Mauthausen we were all forced to work as soon as we got something approaching shoes and many of our group were assigned to the Kommendo repairing the railroad and highway around Enns. This was heavy and continuous pick and shovel work for 12 hours with 1/2 hour off for lunch (1-liter arpsin soup) and included a 16-km round-trip march to end from work. Most of our groups were high-class professional men and the strain of misery of this type of work at first, can be imagined. All 'outside' Kommandos such as this one had a minimum of one guard for every four prisoners, three-quarters of the guards carrying machine pistols (Tommy guns) and one-quarter rifles.
I was not eligible for work outside the outer chain of guards because, as I learned later, of my execution sentence. I was assigned to work in the new crematorium where I carried sand, cement and water and mixed cement for the Spanish tile layers. The Spanish Kapo Jacinto was kind to me and we were protected from the rain and cold, consequently I tried to get my friends on with me. I succeeded in getting Modess (my bunk-mate) and Garaf (Count) Orsic with us for a few days but a Yugoslav partisan working with us took particular delight in hounding Orsic who was a Croat. This same animosity was demonstrated frequently between Yugoslav Partisans and Royal Yugoslav Army members and, towards the end, when a few former Spanish 'Blue Division' members were interned, the Spanish Loyalists (oldest prisoners in the camp) vehemently denounced them and did their best to taunt them into committing suicide on the electric fence.
We dawdled at our work to delay completion of the crematorium because we knew that the number of executions would double when cremation facilities were available (No gassed or shot bodies could be buried because of evidence) but one Saturday morning, Prellberg and S.S. Hauptscharfuhrer Martin Roth (head of the crematorium) belabored Kapo Jacinto for his failure to finish the work quickly and informed him that it must be finished and ready for operation on the following day or we (workers) would be the first occupants of the new ovens. Needless to say, we finished the job in the allotted time. The next day, Sunday April 10th, 367 new Czech prisoners, including 40 women, arrived from Czechoslovakia and were marched through the gate straight to the gas chamber and christened the new ovens. Black oily smoke and flames shot out the top of the stacks as healthy flesh and fat was burned as compared to the normal pale yellow smoke from old emaciated prisoners. This yellow smoke and heavy sickening smell of flesh and hair was blown over our barrack 24 hours a day and as hungry as we were, we could not always eat.
I had terrible dysentery and innumerable small sores on my legs and back but I continued to work as best I could to prevent being put on the sick-list and transferred to the 'hospital' (Sanitatslager) where, believe it or not, five sick people were assigned to each single bunk, rations were half 'normal' and infinitesimal amounts of medicine were supplied. Very few ever returned alive from this 'hospital' and the daily death toll at this time from pure starvation was 400 to 500.
These were dumped in a huge mass grave on the hill already containing 15,000.
My next job was carrying large soup kettles (110 lbs. each) about 1/2 mile to the neighboring Hungarian Jew Camp (Zeltlager) but still inside the outer cordon of guard posts and barbed wire. Each kettle was carried by its side handles by two men, and I received several bad beatings because I could not support the weight on my injured left arm. We were beaten severely and often with sticks by the SS and camp firemen while staggering along under the weight.
When afforded an opportunity, we dipped our ever-handy spoons under the lids and managed several mouthfuls of extra soup in this manner. These Jews were not regular prisoners as we; their only crime being that they were Jews. There were between 15 and 18,000 who managed to walk 8 days without food but after arriving none were strong enough to transport their own soup. (See enclosed list, 'Jews in the Tent Camp,' over 3,000 by name.) All those who dropped out enroute were disposed of immediately.
About the middle of April, I was transferred to Block 10, which was occupied mainly by Czechs and Poles with a few Russians, Germans and Austrians. We slept only two to a single bed and my job was changed to gardening just inside the electric fence. Most of the Block 10 prisoners were old-timers, and consequently had good positions through which by devious means they obtained extra food. Bread, margarine, potatoes and occasionally horsemeat, cereal and schnapps were obtainable through the black market. Czechs, Austrians and Hungarians were allowed a few packages from home until March. The two French Lieutenants (Maurice and Albert), Krajcovic and I had received bread and margarine for our watches and ring at the rate of two loaves of bread and 1/2 kilo margarine for each Swiss watch. Divided four ways, this food lasted a week. In Block 10, I collected and boiled potatoes peelings and scraps from the more fortunate prisoners but our bread ration was reduced daily.
I had, in the meantime, met many fine men: Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Yugoslavs, Hungarians, Austrians, French, Belgians, Dutch, Spaniards and even a few Germans. To get some idea of the caliber of some of the men, the situations may be likened to a hypothetical purge of the leading Republicans in the U.S. by the Democrats. Not only were there leading members of Congress, and the military but also of art, culture and science. Many of these men said to me, 'We're sorry you're here, but, IF you live, it will be a very fortunate thing; for you can tell Americans and they will believe you, but if we try to tell them, they will say it is propaganda.' Every nationality trusted me because I was an American where they couldn't trust their own people entirely due to stool-pigeons. Consequently, I was the recipient of hundreds of eyewitness atrocity accounts with first hand evidence in many cases. It was too dangerous to take notes, but I tried to keep mental account of the teller and enough of the story to remind him later when and if the opportunity came to set down the details and get them sworn to. I had seen only a small percentage of the torture, but brutality and murder that these men had seen and suffered, but on this basis I was prepared to believe their stories 100%, in mostcases. After all, the acts were themselves so terrible that anything worse could hardly be imagined.
The following examples taken from the enclosed sworn statements are in addition to the normal methods of execution, i.e., gassing, shooting, hanging, etc. Clubbing to death with wooden or/iron sticks, shovels, pick-axes, hammer, etc; tearing to pieces by dogs trained especially for this purpose; injection into the heart or veins of magnesium-chlorate, bezine, etc.; exposure naked in sub-zero weather after a hot shower; scalding-water shower followed by cow-tail whipping to break blisters and tear flesh away; mashing in a concrete mixer; drowning; beating men over a 150 foot cliff to the rocks below; beating and driving men into the electric fence or guarded limits where they are shot; forcing to drink a great quantity of water then jumping on the stomach while the prisoner is lying on his back; freezing half-naked in sub-zero, buried alive; eyes gouged out with a stick, teeth knocked out and kicked in the genitals red hot poker down the throat, etc., etc., etc.
According to Dr. Podlaha, the head prisoner doctor, prisoners were also executed for some unusual pathological lesion or specimen such as deformities, tattoo, etc. A hunchback and a dwarf, who had come to the notice of one of the SS doctors, were executed and their skeletons cleaned and mounted for specimens. Pathological lesions were collected as specimens, which involved the death of the patient in most cases. Tattoo marks were practically a death certificate as one of the SS doctors had a hobby of collecting, tanning, and binding them in book form while his wife made lampshades and book-covers from them.
Research was carried on in which healthy prisoners were used as guinea pigs. These experiences mainly concerned typhus and the minimum food requirements to sustain life. The former used infected lice with a celluloid cover taped over them to the patient's leg. The latter consisted of a strictly controlled diet in which the results were measured in the number of deaths.
Executions were carried out on orders from one of three sources:
1. Berlin Tribunal, which was the only official source.
2. Local Gestapo agency where the prisoner was interrogated.
3. Lager Commandant. Ziereis in this case was also the Chief of the Oberdonau (Upper Danube) Tribunal.
The normal methods of executions were gassing, shooting and hanging which were all carried out in the Death House. This block long structure had approximately 50 jail cells on the first floor known as Bunker or Arrest in charge of Hauptscharfuhrer Josef Niedermayer. Underneath was the gas chamber, hanging beam, shooting 'gallery' and crematorium in charge of Hauptscharfuhrer Martin Roth. The gas chamber was approximately 15 feet square and fitted as a shower room with tile wainscoting and overhead shower nozzles. The victims were told that they were going to take a shower; all were undressed in the back courtyard and led into the chamber; the heavy air-tight door was slammed and locked and the gas introduced through the shower nozzles. Normal operation was twice daily at 9 AM and 5 PM, 120 victims at each time. Once 220 were packed in and the SS fought each other to look through the small plate glass window in the door and watch them struggle in their agony.
They were thrilled with this mass spectacle. Frau Ziereis, the Commandant's wife, came once to see the sight.
The gas used was Cyclone B cyanide a granular powder, contained in pint-sized cans and the same used for infection of clothing. In a small room, adjacent to the gas chamber, was a steel box connected immediately to a blower, which was in turn connected to the shower system. While wearing a gas mask, the operator bashed in the ends of two cans of powder (one can will kill 100 people) with a hammer and after placing them in the box, clamped the lid on hermetically tight and started the blower. (In winter, when the gas would not evaporate fast enough from the powder, steam was introduced into the box from the other end.) After two hours, the intake blower was stopped and the larger exhaust blower was turned on for about two hours. Wearing gas masks, the prisoner operators removed the bodies to the cold room (capacity 500) where they were stacked like cordwood awaiting cremation. See enclosure 'Instructions for the service of Pourric Acid Delousing Chambers in K.L.M', by the Chief doctor. It is worded for delousing but the instructions were especially for gas chamber operators. The blowers and gas receptacle were removed by the SS and attempts made to destroy them. In March 1945, Ziereis and Bachmayer (see protocol) ordered all ventilation sealed in the police wagon and a small trap door installed. A group of 30 to 40 prisoners were told that they were being transported to Gusen, a subsidiary camp about 8 km away, were crammed into the wagon, the door locked and a bottle of poison gas dropped through the trap door on an angle iron specially placed to break the bottle. The 'police wagon' was immediately driven to Gusen and after parking for an hour the prisoners were delivered to the crematorium. The same numbers of Gusen prisoners were then loaded into the 'police wagon' for transport to Mauthausen with identical results. From March to October 1945 the car circulated 47 times with an average of 35 victims each way on the round trip, making a total of approximately 3,300. In October, ventilation was installed again, and the police-wagon resumed its original function.
Until 1943, daily executions by rifle or tommy-gun were done openly back of Block 15 where those waiting to be executed were forced to watch their comrades, three at a time, being mowed down. When gas and injection deaths practically replaced shooting, all shooting was done individually in another small room adjacent to the gas chamber. The victim was told that he was to have his picture taken and was led into their room where a camera was set up on a tripod. He was told to face the corner with his back to the camera and immediately he assumed this position, [when] he was shot in the back of the neck with a small carbine by a SS man standing to his left and slightly behind. Prisoner operators stood behind a door looking through a peephole as to know when to drag the body out. SS Standartenfuhrer Siereis, Commandant of Mauthausen, personally executed 300 to 400 men here in the above-mentioned manner during 10 shooting 'expeditions' over a period of four months.
In the same room as above, where a stairway led down from the street, an 'I' beam was stretched across about 10 feet high with ends embedded in the concrete on either side. From this beam, nooses were suspended which accommodated six strangling victims at a time. Before departing, the SS cut out the beam but the embedded ends are clearly seen.
The crematoriums were large brick structures containing a firebox for burning wood and coal and over this were the ovens fitted with rounded supports at intervals for the bodies. The bodies were carried into the ovens on steel stretchers and with a quarter turn were rolled out. The new crematorium with two ovens could handle twelve bodies at a time, 160 a day and with the old ovens a total of 250 a day. Insufficient cremating facilities held down the number of executions as all bodies showing signs of violent death could not be buried. Gassed bodies were often disfigured from clawing, biting, etc. and chemical analysis of the tissues would show cyanide. All 'violent-death' bodies had this stamp on their paper: 'Die leiche muss aus hygienischen grunden gefert verbreannt werden' (Sic) which says, 'The corpse must for hygienic reasons be cremated.'
Note: an exact imprint of this stamp was with the manuscript, but too faded to scan.
As mentioned, an electric fence surrounded the camp charged with a maximum of 380 volts AC, 3-phase and when any uninsulated object came in contact with one or more wires, current flowed and was registered at a central control panel by buzzer and red light. Complete constructional details, blueprints and operational data are enclosed. Also see enclosed protocols regarding prisoners being driven into the electric fence.
'Official' deaths were listed in Death Books giving cause of death, etc., from which death certificates were issued to: (1) The SS Police Court where the prisoner had been tried. (2) The political department at Mauthausen. (3) The head SS doctor at Mauthausen. (4) A Berlin agency from which reports were sent to next of kin and insurance agencies. From 1939 to April 1942, the causes of death as entered in the Death Book, from which the certificates were prepared, were all absolutely false as they were assigned to a body from a prepared list of 50 causes by a SS soldier, who was not even a medic. Not until 1942, when a few prisoners were allowed to work, were autopsies begun on a few. Enclosed are examples of original death certificates bearing false causes of death and signed by the SS doctors.
Tortures and brutalities as stated in the enclosed protocols usually terminated in death but a few remained alive to tell their stories. Enclosed are prison autobiographies of Dr. Ludwig Soswinski, Vienna Communist; Dr. Hans Von Becker, publicity minister for the Schussmig regime; Karl Dieth, lone survivor of the Wels-Linz Communists; Bernard Cechonski, Polish patriot, Ernst Martin, gas works director, Innsbruck; Josef Ulbrecht, bank director Prague; Georg Havelka, electrical and television engineer Prague. The last three named did a spectacular job of withholding valuable documents and obtaining evidence, which will surely hang some of our murderers.
Religious faiths also suffered the same atrocities as witness the report by three Jehovah's Witnesses of the Watch-Tower Bible and Tract Society, wherein they were pressed to renounce Jehovah. They were visited often by the SS for sport saying, 'Behold, I am Jehovah; I have come to you; am I not Jehovah'' They were then beaten and kicked unmercifully. They were made to scramble upon tables, then under, then sing, etc; all these indignities being in addition to their regular punitive company (strafkompanie) stone breaking and very heavy stone carrying. For months they were crowded into small cubicles only 3 feet wide, 6 feet long and 6 feet high for two men. Out of 150 Jehovah's Witnesses brought to Mauthausen from Dauchau in 1939, 19 have survived.
In some cases, the Gestapo and German criminal police authorized the release of certain prisoners but the Mauthausen Commandant (Ziereis) prevented most of the discharges on the grounds that the prisoner was guilty of misconduct, poor work, subversive political tendencies, etc., while in reality he was retained for his indispensable position in the camp. See enclosure 'Retention of prisoners officially released.'
Mauthausen was established in 1939 as a subsidiary extermination camp for Dauchau. Not long after, it outshone its parent in its grisly business to the extent that it became a full-fledged Class III Concentration Camp, i.e., extermination camp. For sheer numbers alone, it does not rank with Auschwitz (Obersilesia), where over 4 million Jews were exterminated, but for all other nationalities it was the worst for brutality, torture, sadism, and murder. The figures on Spanish prisoners are typical of those of the western nations: out of 7184 arriving in 1940, 2000 remain alive today in Mauthausen and its subsidiary Gusen. For Russians, Poles and Czechs, the percentage is even worse.
Mauthausen and its 26 subsidiary work camps, mostly war industries, had over 91,000 prisoners who were administered and guarded by specially selected Deaths Head (Totenkopf) SS totaling 45 officers headed by Strandartenfuhrer Franz Ziereis, 1069 NCOs and 5528 men. These subsidiary war industry slave camps were spread out as far as Klagenfurt and located in the following areas:
1. Gusen with 24,000 prisoners.
Eisenerz (300 prisoners transferred to Peggau in December 1944). See enclosure for type of product produced at each plant.
A list containing the names, ranks and positions held of 354 Mauthausen SS personnel is enclosed including approximately 100 Rogues Gallery pictures, 41 of which are identified. See list of equivalent ranks of SS, Wehrmacht and U.S. Army. Also included are the names and signatures of 13 Mauthausen women 'overseers' who were directly in charge of the women inmates.
Enclosed is a report, 'The Assignment of Prisoners to Forced Labor,' listing the various types of work and the administration of this slave labor. The prisoner received no pay until early 1944 when the maximum weekly sum was 50 pfenning, the balance going to the Mauthausen management for their own use. Other prisoners were assigned free of charge to firms and private persons in order to gain special concessions in food and supplies for the SS at Mauthausen. The Commandant (Ziereis) formed his own company at Gusen (Deutsche Erd-und Steinwerke) with prison labor to further increase his income. Profit exclusively from prison labor slave amounted to between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 R.M. per month.
As mentioned, new prisoners were stripped and never saw their clothes again; being issued ragged underwear instead. The best clothes went to the SS for black-market resale or for their own and families' use, in which case prisoner tailors did the refitting. See protocol stating that 5000 suits of clothes of average value of 1500 Czech crowns (pre-war) were turned over to the SS over a period of five years.
One of the remunerative of the rackets was the extraction of all gold from the mouths of the dead. All bodies were stamped 'Examined by dental surgeon' before cremation or burial. Large amounts of gold were thus accumulated supposedly for the SS in Berlin but actually large quantities were stolen and resold in the black-market by hospital and crematorium SS personnel. See reports 'The Removal of Dental Gold from Deceased Prisoners', and 'SS Dentists and dealings with gold teeth'. A list of degenerate SS dentists and doctors from Mauthausen and some of their infamous acts are enclosed. See also a protocol stating that a prisoner had his gold teeth knocked out with a brick by a guard, only to get the gold.
About the middle of April, a request was made to the prisoners for volunteers for the Waffen SS (Infantry). It was limited to Germans (Austrians included) and about 1000 volunteered, as they understood that the other alternative was execution (this was later disproved). Some also sought a chance to escape in this way. About 300 were selected from those volunteers, given regular SS rations, including cigarettes, outfitted in old Africa Corps light khaki, drilled and trained for combat and assigned to minor policing tasks inside the camp. It was a very clear demonstration of the inherent German love for authority and the ruthlessness with which they automatically operate. From fellow prisoners, they overnight became our masters and did not spare the rod.
Terribly optimistic rumors had been circulated regarding the position of the Russians and we had expected to be over-run by 20 April but, either the Russians turned north from Vienna to Czechoslovakia or they were stopped by superior German forces at the mouth of the Danube valley at St. Polten about 60 km away. About this time the first contact with the International Red Cross was made and all women from the western nations including the American Miss Dien were evacuated to Switzerland. These times became very dangerous as certain streets were walled off with barbed wire and we feared a mass execution. At certain unpredictable times, all prisoners were isolated in their blocks and a general tenseness gripped the whole camp, SS included. We heard rumors that the Commandant and other high ranking officers were discussing our futures as a mass wherein we would all be executed or transported to another area, or left in the lager which would be defended using us for hostages.
Our daily 'bread' was cut to practically nothing and men in prominent positions who had not eaten 'prisoner food' for two years were at this time forced to. In the Sanitatteslager (hospital) the starving were cannibalizing their own dead comrades, cutting out the heart, liver and muscles. Jews in the tent camp (Zelt lager) were paying a $20 gold piece for two loaves of bread and half kilo of margarine and two wagonloads of dead were hauled away each day to the mass grave on the hill. Gold, diamonds and jewelry were being accumulated by the SS from the Jews and our bread was being used for this purpose. One night a lone plane came over and dropped one bomb (some said up to 3 bombs) in the adjacent Jew tent camp. We all then expected a mass bombing of the whole lager but it never materialized. In the morning, I saw the upper half of a body, which had been blown from the Jew camp 200 yards and landed on the eaves of one of the bar barracks. About 15 were killed and 47 injured most of whom probably eventually died.
About 25 April, the International Red Cross returned and started the evacuation of Frenchmen, Dutch and Belgians. Representatives of the Red Cross were not allowed inside the guard limits and therefore saw nothing as SS drivers drove the busses in and out of the lager. The Frenchmen departed singing the Marsellaise and many were overcome with tears. Captain John Star, one of two British prisoners, spoke French so fluently that he was able, with some inside help, to pose as a Frenchman and was apparently successfully evacuated with the others. About this same time, the Jews in the Jew Camp were evacuated on foot to the vicinity of Wels.
We heard that Churchill or some other prominent British statesman, on viewing the conditions at Buchenwald had made the statement that if similar conditions were found in other lagers, the Germans would never forget it. Whether or not, there immediately began the gassing of those of the sick who might not die before the Allies arrived and would present evidence of starvation, mistreatment, etc.
American bombers made their last raid on Linz towards the end of April and we saw two bombers shot down. Seven parachutes opened and the fliers unfortunately landed within a few kilometers of Mauthausen. I saw SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Bachmayer ride out on his horse in their general direction and several hours later I heard that he had picked up two men, tied their wrists together, and attached them to the back of a car with a few feet of rope; the airmen then had to run behind the car while Bachmayer galloped alongside and whipped them. I was told that six American airmen were lined up inside the gate by the laundry and that they were being mistreated by the SS. It was extremely dangerous to be seen noticing such things particularly for an American but, by visiting the prisoner-secretary's office (Schreibstuber) on business and continuing on around the block, I was able to see Bachmayer and an NCO slapping and hitting them with a stick just as they had done to us in the same spot. Later the airmen were placed in the jail and three days later when I passed by whistling Yankee Doodle; two of them climbed up and stuck their heads against the bars. It was too dangerous to talk and I passed on quickly. Apparently, they were not executed and it is thought that they were transferred to a POW camp near Linz as others had been before.
I was so sick with dysentery and fever that I could hardly walk to the dispensary for 'cement' and weighed at this time 58 kilos (114 lbs.), my normal weight being 165 lbs. I was so weak that I could not stand at attention at the Apelplatz for roll call for any length of time without fainting. I was allowed to stay in bed by the Czech Blockeldester (chief of the barrack) of Block 10 and only arose and marched to the roll call. The Pole Kapo of the gardening detail was very sympathetic.
In six years existence, no Red Cross packages had ever been distributed but one day, SS troops were noticed eating bars of chocolate and smoking American cigarettes. Several empty cartons were picked up by prisoners and brought to me. This was our first evidence that Red Cross parcels had arrived and as we found later, all American Red Cross parcels had been stolen by the SS for themselves and their families. All French parcels had been opened and all cigarettes and all but one bar of chocolate removed; these were then distributed one to each Frenchman. I received a Hungarian package, which contained Ovaltine, cheese, and sugar, but my system was so deteriorated that I could not 'keep down' this real food. My Czech and Pole friends did everything they could to help me and with the aid of some opium, I was able to get started again on the cheese and later the Ovaltine and sugar.
American P-38's came over at about 100 feet and really gave us a thrill. Every M.G. [Machine Gun] in the camp opened up on them but nothing happened fortunately. We never dreamed that Americans would ever be near but we heard rumors that they were in Regensburg and coming fast. The SS departed about the first of May, were replaced with Vienna fire-police on the 4th when we could hear the American guns. No more executions or brutalities took place after the SS departed. On Saturday 5 May the guns were much louder but still some distance away, and I had not hoped that they would arrive before Sunday. Late in the afternoon, however, I heard rumors that an American jeep and half-track were at the entrance, and staggering through the frenzied crowd, I found Sgt. Albert Kosiek, Troop D, 41st Cav. RCN, Sqd. Macz. 11th Amd Div, 3rd U.S. Army. I could only say 'God Bless America' and hold out my dog tags with a quavering hand.
SSgt. Kosiek and the seven soldiers were entirely unaware of the two large concentration camps (Mauthausen and Gusen) in this area and were on routine reconnaissance for roadblocks, bridges out, etc. They disarmed over 2000 Vienna fire-police in Mauthausen and Gusen and sent them back towards Gallenkirchen. Sgt. Biagioni, Lionel Rommney, and I rode back with Sgt. Kosiek past Gusen where the released prisoners were murdering with fence-posts German prisoners, who had been brutal Blockeldesters or Kapos. Sgt Kosiek had given me a can of C-Rations at Mauthausen, but I decided to save it until it could be heated. For four hours I resisted temptation but finally gave in and ate it all cold. After a cold six-hour ride in the rain in low gear because of the roads clogged with German prisoners, we arrived at Gallenskirchen. Here I had real hot coffee but the C-Ration was like a chunk of lead and I could eat nothing else. After a sleepless night I could still eat nothing for breakfast except coffee. It took practically 24 hours to digest the C-Ration and after this I ate soup and crackers almost continuously.
In the morning, I met Colonel Yale, Lt. Colonel R.R. Seibel, Lt. Colonel Keach and other heads of the 11th Amd. Div., and requested notification to my family and OSS. They wanted to evacuate me immediately to Regensburg for hospitalization, but I explained that much valuable testimony, documents, etc, were available at Mauthausen, and I should return and collect it. I hated to go back, and it was one of the hardest decisions of my life to stick to, but it was an opportunity, which would not long be available.
We returned to Mauthausen and found the camp in charge of the Communist prisoners led by a Russian Major. They were having trials and dealing out death sentences and already about a dozen German Blockeldesters, Kapos, and others had been murdered. The next day, Colonel Seibel took command, disarmed the prisoners, and restored order. The Army doctors took over the tremendous job of trying to save thousands of lives most of which were too far-gone. After three weeks of good care and nourishing food, prisoners were still dying at the rate of over 50 a day.
I worked for three weeks collecting testimony, documents, liaison to Colonel Seibel and running down SS men hiding in the area. In the first two weeks I gained over 30 pounds.
One of the most important documents was a collection of 15 Death books (Totenbuch) giving names of 'official' deaths for 6 years. These books are labeled 'Mauthausen', 'Gusen' and 'Executions,' and were withheld at the risk of their lives by Ulbrecht and Martin, the prisoner secretaries assigned to this registration. These approximately 3,600 pages have been microfilmed and the books are in the custody of OSS, SALZBURG. Ulbrecht and Martin by means of tiny secret hieroglyphics were able to put down in many cases the true cause of death (gas, injection, etc.) at the same time as the official (false) death cause, i.e., in the '40 '42 book, all those from number 229 on with 'spr' means 'injection death' (injection of foreign material into the heart) and those with 'COIC' means violent exercise to death. In the '42-43 book, all numbers after 3725 with a dot after the place of birth were by injection. Other small notes in relation to the 'official' death cause can be deciphered by Martin and Ulbrecht. After 18 April 1945, all prisoners who have in the 4th column the remark 'Zellenbau' (prison bldg.) were gassed. On April 26 April 1945, 1157 prisoners died at Mauthausen through starvation, gas, shooting, and clubbing. Martin and Ulbrecht's addresses are as follows [Both addresses expunged by BLAST Staff.]:
After the Americans had liberated us, I discovered that I should have been executed on 28 April 1945, along with 27 other prisoners from Block 13. A friendly Czech, Mylos, who worked in the political department had, unknown to me, removed my paper and destroyed it so that I was not included with the 27. A statement explaining this in enclosed.
Taylor, Jack Hedryck, [Jack's middle name was Hedrick] born 9.10.1908 at Manhattan, USA, married, last domicile Hollywood, La Brea Terrace 2008, California, USA, Captain of American Secret Service.
At the order of Kommandeur der Sicherheitspolizei und des Hicherheitsdiestes in Wien from 30.4.1945 - FS 2005 taken to Concentration Camp Mauthausen as police-prisoner and under the same number was proposed his execution (Antrag zue Sonderbehandlung) to the Reichsicherheitshauptamt at Berlin.
Execution ordered by Kommandeur der Sicherheitspolizei und des Hicherheitsdiestes in Wien based on martial law for 27 police-prisoners, many of the transport from 1.4.1945 took place t 28.4.1945 at Mauthausen afternoon. The execution of the Captain Taylor has not been carried out, because 3 days before I burnt his documents.
I declare upon my word of honour that this my testimony is based on truth.
Written and witnessed by
On 11 March court-martial proceedings were held and Grant, Perkins, and Underwood were all sentenced to death. On 3 April they were taken from Wehrmachtgefaengnis, along with about 350 other prisoners, of whom about 125 had been condemned to death. They were marched to Mauerbach, where they were confined for the night in a bowling alley building. The same night Grant, Perkins, Underwood and two or three other prisoners dug their way out and made their escape. Grant and Underwood made it back to the American lines or stayed hidden until the German surrender. Nothing in our source documentation tells the fate of Perkins. Lieutenant Jack Taylor was later promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, and testified against his captors.
Our documentation also contains an extensive debriefing of Ed Underwood and Fred Grant. These are quite interesting, yet difficult to read and follow in context; thus, they will not be printed in the BLAST. The information in these debriefs confirm the detail in the exceptional narrative of LT Jack Taylor, and repeating the supporting narratives would simply be superfluous. There was no debrief of Perkins. By all accounts, a primary reason for capture of the four men was Perkin's womanizing.
Sources: UDT-SEAL Association's, "BLAST" magazine