Stefan Szmura on
Summarized by Jan-Ruth Mills
A Polish national living in Lipstadt, Stefan Szmura was a prisoner in Gusen I from January 27, 1941, to May 4, 1945, where he worked in the Kastenhof and Gusen quarries (154), as a stone cutter from February 1941 to March 1944 (168), in a camp detail and finally in the Holzplatz Detail (154).
While working as a stonecutter, Szmura saw the capos lead
the work details to the quarry and saw the detail leaders take the guards
assigned to them (168). The labor-service officer “wrote the details’ cards,
that is to say how many people were to be on that detail and who would lead it
and the detail leader took that guard and went out to the detail with it; and
those who took details out for some distance to work had a guard detail
attached to them who read the cards and I don’t know how many guards he had
with him” (169). From his workplace inside the halls he could not see if
officers actually gave orders, but he reports that sometimes Himmler or other
top SS visi
Szmura could not see what route the guards took to the quarry in the morning because they were stationed before he arrived. But the evening was different. “After the evening roll call, they just went anywhere, wherever they pleased” (171). When they were relieved during the day, they would take the most expedient route, either around the quarry or over the rocks and through the quarry to pass by the buildings and bread store (171). On one such occasion, an SS slapped Szmura for failing to take off his cap (172).
In the winter, many prisoners lost their lives in the sleet and snow and were carried back to camp. It looked like “a review of invalids” (169). They would sometimes be carried back to camp by other prisoners, one prisoner taking the legs, and sometimes taken back on a cart. At roll call, the invalids would not be able to stand but would be put on the ground in front of their blocks “...you would see them lying there, their shirts went up, their bodies would touch the bare ground and they would be lying there for an hour or more. There would be ten such invalids at least ten for every block” (170). In the winter of 1942 Russian prisoners would carry 50 dead bodies back to camp on sleds, and Chmielewski would laugh (170).
Grill would only allow five lines to be written in letters
containing the words, “I am healthy. I am well off. I receive packages also
money. Regards to the parents and so on, your son” (155).
Szmura assumes this was Grill’s decision because he recalls being able to write
four pages every other week in Mauthausen, but says that they were limi
Packages were censored in the SS residential barracks on the
other side of the Jourhaus gate. Szmura was present on one occasion near
The packages were opened in Block 2 inside the protective custody camp. Prisoners Sunajek, Nogaj, and Krause worked there. Krause was clerk of Block 2, then Block 3 before working in the post office (161), and he was also room or block elder in Block 4 (172). Krause also had an affair with one of the women in the brothel which cost him his position as clerk (162). “He organized all sorts of articles from parcels which came in and carried them to his woman in the brothel” (172). Although Szmura did not see his package being opened, he says he knows the contents because his mother had written to him about them and because he saw Grill “take away a loaf of bread and part of a bologna” (162).
Szmura was not aware of any rule that prisoners should only
be allowed enough food for two days (162). First Sergeant Fuessel,
Master Sergeant Reichert and Block Fuehrer Iffert
were not involved in censoring the packages, according to Szmura, but only in
distributing them (162). Fuessel was known for taking
little from the packages (176). Chmielewski and Seidler also distribu
Szmura also testifies that he knew Grill was involved in bathing invalids to death (156). One Sunday evening (163) he was in the dispensary in Block 21 and on his way back to Block 17, which was near the crematorium (163). As one left the dispensary, there was a gate between Blocks 27 and 28. Going along the road toward Roll-Call Square, facing the square, there was a bathroom to the right and a washroom for either Blocks 21 or 22 on the left (177) There was a pit, perhaps for refuse, between Blocks 31 and 24 (178). He passed the wash house and paused for a few minutes (163). Several capos were outside washing (179) and he looked in before being beaten with a stick and told to leave (163). Chmielewski (156) was present wearing a leather coat and a bent hat with a rim (179). Also present was the “at that time the roll-call leader, Gross, and then Seidler” (156). The SS were wearing green coats with darker velvet collars (179). Also present were the eldest from Block 32, the invalid block (156).
meter wide double doors to the washroom were fixed at both sides to the ceiling
and the floor with bolts. On this occasion they were both open (181) Inside the
wash room water was standing to the depth of about one foot (179), red from the
blood of prisoners (180). He said some of them yelled “Jesus” and “Maria” in
Polish while others yelled out in Spanish. Grill, with an oxtail whip in hand,
would order the prisoners “to fall down into the water and to get up and then
to fall down” (156). Prisoners who tried to leave were beaten and forced to
stand under “the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th shower heads and nobody was allowed to stand between
the shower heads” (156). When asked what the cause of death was, Szmura says that
The following day, a Monday, as he was sweeping the street in front of the crematorium for a plate of food from the crematorium capo he recognized the corpses as those from the bathing episode the previous evening (163). He saw corpses with marks indicating they had been beaten (156). In addition to recognizing them the crematorium capo told him they were brought from the bathhouse (163)
While working as a
stone sculptor, Szmura had occasion to observe Tandler’s treatment of the young
Russians who worked first in Hall 3 and then Hall 2. One Sunday afternoon (157)
in May or June of 1944 a young Russian escapee was brought back to camp by
Ziereis. (156) Szmura was lined up outside of Block 3 for the evening roll call
and saw from a distance of perhaps three or four meters (174) as Tandler,
acting as an interpreter, struck the man on the face and asked him about the
escape. When the young man would not reply, a wooden horse was brought in and
Tandler, Ziereis, and Chmielewski “conduc
Szmura recalls Hartung as the work leader at Kastenhof Quarry as well as the leader of the firemen and driver of a truck within the camp (158).
winter of either 1943 or 1944 between Hall 1 and the blacksmith’s shop was a
machine used to dig up sand which had a belt three-quarter to one centimeter
thick all around it. One day the Capo Schimmel
(perhaps not his real name 159) and Engineer Wolfram yelled that a piece had
been cut out of this belt (158). Wolfram told Schimmel
that if the perpetrator were not found he would “take up the whole spare time
from and evening and
have you exercise” (158). That afternoon Seidler, Hartung and Schimmel indica
Seidler was responsible for the administration of the camp, Szmura reports that
“every SS man could kill a man and do whatever he wan
Szmura recalls Gaertner, who was on the fire brigade, sometimes gave him food (165), but also says that he was always present at “executions, shootings and the black market” (166). On one occasion in 1944, as Szmura looked along the street passed Blocks 21 and 22 and past the crematorium, he saw men waiting between Blocks 17 and 18. Although he could not see the place where they were shot, he saw Gaertner lead them to that place one by one and then heard the shots. Seidler arrived for the execution on a motorcycle (167).
Szmura recalls the hanging of a Russian man who had tried to escape which he says all prisoners and SS “on the other side” witnessed (166) [It is not clear, however, if he is speaking of the “other side” of the courtroom or of the camp] “More I cannot say. I was standing in the back” (167)]