Karl Emil Franz Fiebinger

By Jan-Ruth Mills*

Karl Emil Franz Fiebinger was born in Vienna, Austria, January 20th 1913. He attended the Technische.Hochschule Wien (Vienna College for Advanced Technology) where he received an engineering degree specializing in underground engineering, cable car lines, railway and tunnel construction, statics, mechanics, geodesy, and hydrography.[1] Before the Anschluss, he was an assistant to Prof. Sallinger in the Technische.Hochschule Wien, working as a skilled structural engineer and expert in steel-reinforced concrete. In April 1939, Fiebinger opened the “Buero fur Bauwesen, Dipl. Engineer Karl Fiebinger,” in Vienna, an office for industrial construction employing from 30 to 40 highly qualified civil engineers who specialized in transport and sewage.[2]

Prior to the Anschluss, according to Fiebinger, he was a member of the Vaterländische Front[3] (the only political party legal in Austria after 1933). After the Nazi takeover in 1938, Fiebinger applied for membership in the NSDAP but was not accepted.[4] He was, however, admitted into the NSBDT (Nazi Engineering Association) in 1939 and the NSV (Nazi Lecturers Society) in 1941.[5] The US War Department, in a 1948 recommendation of Fiebinger, reports that he was forced to join the “SS Construction” in December 1944 “in order to perform consulting engineering for Hitler.”[6]

In fact, Fiebinger wanted to be known for his direct supervision of the construction of underground tunnel systems. In post-war interrogations, Fiebinger claimed he was recognized both as a designer and “supervisor of construction”[7] for the underground tunnel systems at Ebensee, St. Georgen and der Gusen, Melk, and Redl-Zipf. These claims were also confirmed by his colleagues.[8] His assistant, Dr. Dipl. Engineer Hermann Verrette explained in a post-war recommendation of Fiebinger to the US War Department:

Fiebinger’s engineering office has perhaps been the only one which from the first sketch till the last and perfect plan, carried out not only the architectural construction of the edifices but also the light, water, and gas-supply and the railroad tracts. When in the course of the war, in consequence of the air attacks, the most important industries were subterraneous installed, Fiebinger did not only design these plants of which no prototype were as yet existing, but he also charged himself with the direction of these constructions, which direction, in a time of direct want of material and workers, demanded a particular energy and particular organizational abilities.[9]

Fiebinger himself, in a recommendation for his assistant, Dipl. Ing. Wilhelm Hasslinger, claimed, “Besides the biggest surface plants in Germany, five large underground plants have been constructed and completely finished under assistance of this engineer.”[10]

A 10 May 1945 report by Wolfgang Sanner on the use of forced labor at camps linked to Mauthausen listed Fiebinger's firm in association with SS-Obergruppenführer Dr. Ing. [General and PhD. Engineer] Hans Kammler and  the SS Führungsstab B9 at Melk and SS Führungsstab B9 [sic] at St. Georgen. [11a] After the war, Fiebinger was arrested as a security threat on March 6, 1946, because he allegedly “supervised important SS building matters, including a V-2 factory and a crematory for a concentration camp both at Ebensee.” (Fiebinger never stated an association with the crematory.)  A year later, on April 29th, 1947, the United States Forces in Austria recommended he be released and placed in “Town Arrest” in Salzburg, Austria, where his movements were restricted, and he was kept under surveillance.[11]

Fiebinger’s expertise was sought by the US Army Engineering Corps,[12] and by November 5, 1947, plans were made to ship him to the Engineer Research and Development Lab in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, as part of Project Paperclip,[13] the program to find and exploit German scientists and engineers. By December 29, 1947, he was under contract to the War Department.[14] Although a Notification of Personnel Action form dated May 12, 1948, indicated he was still in Austria,[15] Fiebinger eventually resided in New York City[16] and worked as a consultant for Guy B. Panero, a Corps of Engineers contractor, until November 18, 1948.[17]

Fiebinger held at least two contracts with the War Department, numbered W49-129-eng-130 and W49-129-eng-59.[18] In a letter dated September 22, 1948, Merrit W. Mathews, Assistant Engineer in the Intelligence Division of Military Operations acknowledged Fiebinger had provided “data concerning underground installations in Austria and Germany by interrogation. The data provided has been incorporated in the final report on foreign underground installations.”[19] Mathews further recommended Fiebinger to other agencies, noting the engineer’s experience constructing underground factories at “Schlier, Ebensee, St. Gerogen [sic] a/d Gusen, and Melk.”[20]

Although Fiebinger resided in the United States and continued as a consultant for the War Department for several years,[21] according to Austrian historians Freund and Perz. After assisting the US in constructing underground launch pads for intercontinental nuclear ballistic missiles, Fiebinger participated in lucrative building projects in Mexico in the 1960s and 1970s, which were partly financed by Austrian foreign aid credits.[22] Fiebinger currently resides in Vienna, Austria.

Special thanks to Dr. Larry McDonald at the National Archives for his assistance.

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[2] Florian Freund, and Bertrand Perz, Das KZ in der Serbenhalle: Zur Kriegsindustrie in Wiener Neustadt. Industrie, Zwangsarbeit und Konzentrationslager in Österreich. Vol. 1. (Vienna: Verlag für Gesellschaftskritik, 1987), 43;



[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[20] Ibid

[22] Florian Freund, and Bertrand Perz, Das KZ in der Serbenhalle: Zur Kriegsindustrie in Wiener Neustadt. Industrie, Zwangsarbeit und Konzentrationslager in Österreich. Vol. 1. (Vienna: Verlag für Gesellschaftskritik, 1987), 43


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* (Jan-Ruth Mills takes full responsibility for the information imparted here-in separate from the Gusen Memorial Committee)