Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Nazi Eugenics &
T- 4 Staff
T- 4 in Poland
T - 4 in Germany &
War Crimes Investigation - The Charles H. Dameron Report
When this team arrived in Hartheim, Austria and was directed to the address Hartheim 1, it found a large building which apparently, at least at one time, had been a castle.
It is referred to throughout the investigation as “Schloss Hartheim” and for the purposes of this report will, therefore, be designated as the “Castle.” The building is presently being used as an orphanage housing 70 young children and 10 Catholic nuns and has been so used since 12 January 1945. According to one witness the building is between 300 and 500 years old.
It was operated by the German Welfare Institute for the insane from 1903 to 1938.
In approximately May 1940 the building was taken over by the SS and a crematory was installed. The witness Ignaz Schuhmann, present Burgermeister in Hartheim, personally saw the materials brought in for such use.
At this time there was installed on the ground floor of the building a receiving room, photography room, a room in which to undress patients, a gas chamber, a mortuary, a room equipped with a cremating oven, and one room to be used for dissecting. This part of the building was concealed from view by the erection of a board wall around two sides of the courtyard in the centre of the building.
An electrical bone crushing machine was also part of the equipment and there is some evidence that there were two ovens instead of one in the crematory. The purpose of the renovation was to make the building suitable for disposing of weak-minded and insane people in the German Reich, in accordance with what was explained to the employees as a “Secret German Law which would be made public after the War.”
Prominently exhibited in a framed plaque hanging on the wall near the main entrance to the castle was the printed admonition: “Whoever is not healthy and worthy in body and soul, is not permitted to immortalise his ailments in the body of his child.”
Immediately adjacent thereto was to be found a plaque with the further admonition: “Respect for great men must be impregnated upon the German youth as a holy inheritance.”
Of the documents which were left behind and found by this team in the castle, books on Euthanasia predominated. In short, the purpose of the establishment was to put to death by gassing such mentally weak and insane persons of Germany, as were directed by higher authority and to then cremate their bodies.
One of the witnesses was reluctant to use the word death in this connection and preferred to use the word “redeem.” Even in the report on the number of persons executed the execution of these idiots is referred to as “disinfection.”
The entire institution was operated under the direction of what was known as the “Foundation for Asylum Care,” Headquarters Berlin 35 Tiergatenstrasse 4. Most of the employees arrived in Hartheim during April and May 1940 and were either from the SS or SA or were employed by the former.
All of the employees interviewed from the director’s secretary to the scrub woman were required to sign an oath to keep secret anything they might see or hear in the establishment under penalty of death or confinement in a concentration camp.
The exact date on which operations began is not definitely known, but it is known that some victims arrived as early as May 1940. This date coincides with that found in the unidentified statistical report recovered from the premises.
In the beginning they were brought from insane asylum such as Linz-Niedernhart, Baumgartenberg, Gallneukirchen, Wien-Steinhof, Graz- Feldhof, Wiesengrund and others.
The victims were brought to the castle in Hartheim in large busses, the capacity of which has been estimated at between 50 and 90. The number of such busses which arrived each day has been variously estimated at 2-3, six.
The witness Ignaz Schuhmann stated that he has seen as many as 7 or 8 busses arrive in one day. The victims were always accompanied by male or female nurses depending upon their sex.
The busses were driven to a slide door and unloaded within the confines of a wooden wall which entirely obscured the process from view. The victims were then led through an enclosed corridor into a room, a room in which their case histories were checked.
They were then taken into another room where they were undressed by the nurses and sent immediately into a photographic room, where most of them were photographed. The next step was the gas room into which the victims were herded in groups of about 60. Here they were subjected to gas which caused their death in from 10 to 15 minutes.
No definite evidence was obtained from employees at the castle with reference to the types of gas used but there is evidence that at least during the later years of operation, the type used was carbon-monoxide.
There is undisputed evidence that the gas was the immediate cause of death. The cremators then went into the gas room and removed the dead victims to the adjoining morgue, where they were held to await cremation. Those who were marked by the doctors were dissected for experimental purposes. The brains were preserved and sent to Vienna.
The final step in disposing of the bodies was accomplished by the cremators who threw the remains in an oven which used coke for fuel. One witness stated that between four and five hours elapsed between the time the victims first entered the castle and the time their bodies were cremated.
After the process of execution and cremation was completed the relatives of the victims were notified of the death provided they lived within the borders of Germany. No notices were sent to relatives living in foreign countries.
These notices were prepared from the information contained on the death certificates which had previously been prepared. The correct cause of death was never entered on the death certificate and the victim was usually recited as having died from diseases.
The time of death was generally post dated anywhere from 14 to 20 days and in many instances the victim was recited as having died at some other institution. The ashes of the victim were taken out of the ovens indiscriminately and sent to the relatives. In the words of one witness: “They never cared if they were the right ashes or not.”
There is a wide variance among the witnesses as to the number of mentally ill persons who were executed in Hartheim. One witness even estimates the number as high as one thousand per week.
A booklet reputedly compiled by one E.Brant was found in a steel file cabinet in the castle and purports to portray the number of idiots disinfected at Hartheim, as well as other institutions of similar nature.
It is true that E.Brant has not been identified nor has his work been otherwise connected with the case except its presence among the other books and records found in the castle. It is noteworthy, however, that this booklet correctly show the month when executions began at Hartheim, viz May 1940 and the month when executions of insane persons was terminated, viz August 1941.
During that period of sixteen months a figure of 18,269 is represented as the number of insane persons disinfected at Hartheim. In August 1941 Adolph Hitler ordered that no more insane persons were to be executed and, from that time forward, operations at the Hartheim Castle ceased insofar as the disposing of mentally ill persons was concerned.
In the meantime, however, viz: in July 1941 prisoners from Mauthausen Concentration Camp began to arrive at the castle and were there executed. Apparently the names and nationalities of the prisoners were at first recorded as one witness states that she personally saw photostatic copies of these records.
At this time the prisoners executed in Hartheim included Russians, Poles, Ukrainians, Spaniards and Germans, according to said records. The total number of concentration camp prisoners executed in July and August 1941 was estimated at between 10 and 15 bus loads of 60 persons each, or, between 600 and 900 prisoners. No notice of death was sent to the relatives of the prisoners as had been true in the case of insane persons.
In August 1941 as a result of Adolph Hitler’s order to cease the executions a question arose at Hartheim with reference to whether the order applied only to insane persons or whether it also applied to the Concentration Camp prisoners. After a telephone conversation with the Berlin office it was determined that the order applied to all persons. As a result the crematory ceased operation entirely between August 1941 and sometime during the year 1942.
During the year 1942 Concentration Camp prisoners from Mauthausen begin to arrive again at the castle to be executed. The exact date of this resumption of operations is not definitely known.
One witness describes the date as several months after January 1 1942. Another describes it as the latter part of 1942. Nevertheless, the fact that prisoners from Mauthausen were again transported to the castle is established without question. Many of the witnesses personally viewed transports arriving carrying persons dressed in stripped uniforms. These persons were always escorted by SS men in uniform.
These SS men were recognised as being from Mauthausen Concentration Camp. One former employee, after making a false statement, finally stated under oath that prisoners were executed at Hartheim in the same manner as the insane had formerly been “redeemed.”
All witnesses who saw the Concentration Camp prisoners brought into the castle agree that they were not see to leave. The nationalities of the prisoners brought in during this period have not been definitely established in as much as there is an indication that no records were kept at this time.
There is evidence of probative value that they were Russians, Poles, Ukrainians, Spaniards and Germans. There is no evidence that any American personnel was involved. (In this connection it should be mentioned that this investigating team discovered in the room formerly used as a crematory, a box of coins of many nations, including American, British, Canadian, French and others. These coins have not been connected with the case in any other manner, but are being preserved with the thought that some of the witnesses who have not been apprehended may be able to later identify them).
No evidence has been obtained as to whether or not Adolph Hitler personally gave the “green light” to these executions subsequent to his having prohibited them in August 1941. However, as will appear more fully hereafter, these executions were actually directed and supervised by the Berlin offices at Tiergartenstrasse 4.
It has been impossible to determine the actual number of Concentration Camp prisoners who were executed subsequent to August 1941 in the absence of any records on the subject. However, one witness definitely states that “most of the people were brought here in 1942 and 1943.” (after execution of the insane had ceased).
The only available record indicates that 18,269 insane persons were executed from May 1940 to August 1941. Hence, since most of the victims arrived in 1942 and 1943 a number of concentration camp prisoners far in excess of 18,269 arrived between 1942 and the latter part of 1944, especially considering the greater period of time involved.
There is some evidence that concentration camp prisoners from Dachau and Buchenwald were also brought to Hartheim for execution, but there is nothing in the record to definitely corroborate this statement.
The execution of prisoners continued until October 1944. On 13 December 1944, 20 prisoners from Mauthausen Concentration Camp were sent to Hartheim and worked for a period of 8 days to restore the castle to its former condition. One of these prisoners Adam Golebski states that, among other things, were found clothing of men, women and children, tin numbers of prisoners from Mauthausen, as well as the remains of human bones
The doors from the disrobing room to the gas chamber and from the gas chamber to the mortuary were plastered over. The crematory and the chimney used in connection therewith were torn down. Some records were sent to a paper mill to be destroyed and the others (with the exception of a few found by this team) were sent to Bad Schoenfliess near Berlin.
The last act in connection with the destruction of records was performed by Frederick W. Lorent, who returned at Easter time in 1945 and was seen burning films and a few remaining papers. On 12 January 1945 the castle was first used to house the Orphanage which presently occupies it.
In addition to the concentration camp prisoners mentioned above there were also other foreigners executed at Hartheim. During the middle of the year 1941 between 50 and 60 persons from the Lower Stiermark (both male and female) were brought to the castle and executed. About half of these were Yugoslavs who were taken over following the occupation of Yugoslavia by Germany.
Additionally, from July to September 1944 an undetermined number of slave labourers from Poland and Russia were brought to Hartheim and executed. This is, in a measure confirmed by the statement of Ignaz Schuhmann when he stated that he saw political prisoners dressed in civilian clothes brought to Hartheim.
No explanation is given for the execution of these persons except that “they were mentally ill and not able to work any more”. There is evidence that the orders for the execution of both the Yugoslavs and slave labourers mentioned above came directly from the office at Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin.
The evidence shows that the following named persons were implicated in the manner indicated in the operation of the crematory at Hartheim:
The names of the other known persons who were formerly employed at the castle in Hartheim, together with their last known addresses, where known, and the respective positions occupied, by each, are as follows:
Wanted Reports are being prepared on some of the more important witnesses listed above and will be forwarded upon completion.
1. Approximately 25 unknown Yugoslavs who were gassed to death and their bodies cremated in the middle of the year 1941.
2. Between 600 and 900 unknown Russians, Poles, Spaniards, Ukrainians and Germans from Mauthausen Concentration Camp who were gassed to death and their bodies cremated in July and August 1941.
3. More than 18,000 prisoners of various nationalities whose names are unknown who were brought from Mauthausen Concentration Camp, gassed to death and their bodies cremated between July and September 1944.
4. An undetermined number of unknown slave labourers from Poland and Russia gassed to death and their bodies cremated between July and September 1944.
No bodies have been found or identified in connection with this investigation inasmuch as the evidence shows that all bodies were cremated and even the ashes were removed.
No identification of the names of the victims has been possible in view of the fact that, as the evidence shows, no records were kept of the victims names after August 1941. The records which had been kept prior to August 1941 were destroyed six months before this investigation was initiated.
List of Enemy Individuals Accused:
The following analysis of the evidence is predicted on the premise that the execution of insane German nationals, indiscriminately and without regard to race or religion, however reprehensible, is not considered a war crime. In the event it is so considered by higher headquarters additional names should be added to the list of accused, including many of the nurses, both male and female, who were employed at Hartheim.
Reichsleiter Philip Bouhler, Oberiechleiter Victor Brack, Werner Blankenberg, Dr Rudolph Lonauer, Dr Georg Renno, Jochen Becker, Christian Wirth and Franz Reichleitner have all been named as war criminals in this report on the theory that the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that they, and each of them, had authority to and did issue orders and instructions resulting directly in the mass murder of thousands of persons from Mauthausen Concentration Camp.
Dr Lonauer and Dr Renno have also been named because there is convincing evidence that they, and each of them, were instrumental in actually administering gas, which was the immediate cause of death of these persons.
Otto Schmidtgen , Josef Vallaster, Kurt Bolender, Hubert Gomerski and Vinzenz Nohel have been named on the theory that, though all of them may not have actually administered the gas, which caused the death of said persons, they in their capacities as cremators, are shown by the evidence to have personally handled the disposition of the bodies of the murdered persons.
In this connection consideration has been given to the fact that ordinary cremation is a perfectly legal manner in which to dispose of a dead body. However, in spite of the fact that one witness, Hans Lenz stated that the bodies were cremated to prevent the spread of disease; the remainder of the evidence in the record does not lend support to this theory.
On the contrary, the evidence is convincing that the purpose of the cremations was to dispose of the evidence of crime. The record is replete with references to the secrecy with which operations at Hartheim were conducted.
In cases where any records at all were kept they were falsified as to cause and date of death. What few records were kept were destroyed but the complete destruction of the bodies by cremation was the most effective step taken to forever obliterate evidence of the crimes.
The record when read as a whole is convincing that this, and not sanitation, was the motive behind the cremations. The evidence on this theory, proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the cremators were accessories to the crime of murder and are indicted and should be tried as principals.
In addition there is evidence that Otto Schmidtgen personally administered gas to prisoners from Mauthausen Concentration Camp as a direct result of which said prisoners died. There is also evidence that he, himself, has admitted such facts to the witness Franz Wagner. That the other cremators also personally administered gas is indicated in the testimony of Heinrich Barbl.
By way of final summary, it is, of course correct that the record contains no testimony of an eye witness who actually saw any individuals executed. That is definitely shown by direct eye witness evidence is the fact that prisoners were sent by the Commanding Officer of Mauthausen, “to be executed,” that these prisoners actually arrived at Hartheim during a period when the crematory was still in operation (and no more insane German nationals were being executed); and they were never were seen to leave the castle alive.
The other evidence with reference to the actual murders, though not direct, is definitely of probative value and all of the evidence considered together excludes any reasonable hypothesis of innocence insofar as the persons named as accused are concerned.
It is recommended that the following named persons be apprehended, if alive, and tried as war criminals for the murder of the persons listed in paragraph v of this report.
The reason for the lack of testimony from witnesses to the actual process of gassing is obviously the fact that, considering the secrecy of this process, all persons who would have had an opportunity to witness this operation are included in the list of accused and are still at large (as are many of the other former employees of Hartheim Castle).
Wanted Reports have been filed on all of these persons. If, and when they are apprehended and interrogated, new leads are developed not covered by this investigation, it is recommended that the case be returned for further investigation and report.
Charles H. Dameron – Signed
Investigator – Examiner
WCIT No. 6824
The Holocaust Historical Society
US National Archives Colleg Park
Friedlander, Henry. The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1995.
*Special thanks to Carmelo Lisciotto for locating the report
Copyright 2009 Chris Webb and Rowland Hille H.E.A.R.T