Death Sentence: The Case of Willy Frey

Published: 2000-01-01

Willy Frey was 22 years old when he was placed on trial by the allies for his alleged participation in a 'common design' to murder or abuse inmates at Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. The Presiding Judge at the trial was A. H. Rosenfeld, whose rulings in nearly every instance favored the prosecution. The prosecuting attorney on behalf of the United States was the insufferable egotist William Denson, who, like George Bush, believed he was on a divine mission from God to personally rid the world of real or imaginary 'Nazis.' His assistant, a Jew named Paul Guth, served as Denson's chief interrogator and was commissioned to extract self-incriminating 'confessions' from the accused by any means necessary. Torture, deceit and beatings were all part of the process. Witnesses for the prosecution were offered inducements to testify by means of financial rewards and there was no end to those who were ready, willing and able to testify merely for the sake of extracting revenge against their erstwhile guards and overseers.

More often than not, the accusers bore distinctive Jewish surnames. All witnesses for the prosecution consulted at great length with the prosecution team before taking the stand. The accused were compelled to wear large placards around their necks bearing numbers in bold black print so that they could more easily be 'identified' by their accusers. Although the counsel for the defense persistently complained about this unsubtle, highly irregular and prejudicial procedure, the panel of judges comprising the 'tribunal,' always ruled against them.

It would seem that Willy was born under a bad sign. Both of his parents died while he was still young and, having no other relatives to provide for him, he was subsequently forced to try and support himself by working as a common laborer. Unable to continue with his scholastic studies, Willy had to drop out of school after having just completed the eighth grade.

At the age of seventeen, Willy was imprisoned by the Nazis and the SS and charged with 'sabotage to the State,' and was shifted from one concentration camp to another. Willy explained the circumstances of his arrest as follows:

"I had friends in the Socialist Democratic movement. A month before I was to be drafted into the SS, I tried to get away because my friends said that National Socialism was planning for war and that would throw Germany into the abyss. I cut open the vein in my left hand."

At his trial Willy explained that the mayor of the town in which he lived, tried to force him to join the SS because "the community had no money and could not support me."

Former Kapo [Hans] Schmeling testified against Willy and declared that the youngster had beaten prisoners to death in April 1945. Willy was asked to respond to these accusations by his defence attorney:

"Willy, do you remember the testimony of the witness Schmeling?"

"Schmeling said that in April 1945, I beat up prisoners to death in the tent camp."

"What do you have to say to that?"

"I wasn't in Mauthausen then. I don't know where that tent camp was."

"Do you remember the testimony of the witness Marsalek?"

"Marsalek said that I was room eldest in block twenty-four and that I quieted people down in the evening by beating them."

"What do you have to say about that?"

"It's true that I was in block twenty-four-but he wants to make me responsible for the things he did."

"What was your position in the camp?"

"A regular prisoner."

"Were you ever made a kapo or block leader?"

"No. Those were older people who had been in that camp longer."

"Did you ever beat any prisoner?"

"Well, if somebody stole my bread I beat him. And he beat me. I couldn't let them steal my bread. We beat each other. That was in every camp."

"How many camps have you been in, Willy?"

"Sachsenhausen, Auschwitz, and Mauthausen."

"Did the prisoners fight among themselves in those camps?"

"Yes. They stole food and clothing and shoes, anything they could get hold of."

"Do you remember the testimony of the witness Lefkowitz?"

"I remember. He said I made a head count in the forest camp and put people in groups of five, and a young girl wasn't standing properly so I beat her until the blood was running down her head and she fell down."

"What do you have to say to that?"

"Prisoners had nothing to do with the head count. That was a matter for the block leaders. And I'll tell you now that if I didn't have this number hanging around my neck, these witnesses wouldn't identify me because they have never seen me before. They were told my number before they came into court. They didn't look at my face. They only looked at my number. It's a funny thing, too, that when we first got our charge sheets, not a single one of the prosecution witnesses knew me. No one ever stopped me or called me over. But after Lieutenant GUTH put us together in the bunker, all of a sudden everyone calls me 'The Kapo'."

"Willy, I hand you prosecution's exhibit 133. Why did you put these things down if they were not true?"

"I was afraid that if I said no, I would be beaten again."

"Had you been beaten before?"

"Yes, in Mossburg. Severely. An American officer put a pistol on my chest and said he would shoot me."

At this point the chief prosecutor, Denson, jumps to his feet and protests:

"I object to any further testimony along this line unless it has some connection to this case."

The president of the tribunal, Rosenfeld, sustained the objection.

Denson rose to cross examine the witness:

"What is the name of the officer who interrogated you here in Dachau?"

"Lieutenant Conn," replied Frey, pointing to an officer seated in the courtroom.

"You received no mistreatment here at the hands of Lieutenant Conn, did you?"

"No, but the court really cannot have any impression of what spiritual condition I was in at that time."

Denson snapped back:

"We are not asking you at this time about your 'spiritual condition,' Willy. At the time you signed the statement, you knew the difference between true and not true, did you not?"

"I didn't know anything," replied Willy lethargically.

When asked about his subscription into the SS, Willy turned and asked the presiding judge to speak freely:

"I was imprisoned by the Nazis and the SS when I was seventeen for sabotage to the state. I don't understand how I can be accused of being one of them, [pointing to the other defendants] in any 'common design.' I wouldn't kill any prisoners. Witness Schmeling was a worse beater. He was the worst kapo in camp. And he wants to make prisoners who were in the camp only a few days responsible for the evil things he did. As soon as the Americans came in, Schmeling hid at once so the prisoners wouldn't catch him because they would have killed him, too. And the witness Marsalek? I hold him responsible for German prisoners who were killed after the liberation. He went through the barracks with the first camp clerk and picked out prisoners and kapos and block eldests who behaved badly toward the prisoners-and he had them killed either through shooting or beating to death. But he knew I wasn't bad and he told the Russians who wanted to pick me up, 'Leave Frey alone. He came from Auschwitz. He hasn't got anything to do with Mauthausen.' Those two Jews, Ziegelmann and Lefkowitz? I never saw them in my life, and they were probably in the same position as I was. And they probably had very little school too, because they couldn't even spell their names when the defense counsel asked them to. It's a funny thing when bums like that can say, 'Yes, this guy beat this other guy to death,' and they don't even know me. I will say again, if the court would have left out the numbers, I wouldn't have been recognized and I wouldn't have been identified. To make me out as if I was worse than the Gauleiter – it's not true. I never beat a prisoner, and I never beat a prisoner to death. I ran away from a dead body when I saw one. That is all."

Willy Frey never got an even break in his life. Orphaned at a young age, with little more than an elementary school education, driven to attempt suicide, arrested by the SS and incarcerated in some of the worst of the concentrations camps until he finally ended up in Mauthausen, where he is subsequently denounced by other inmates. Held in allied custody for four years, tortured and beaten into signing a false confession, he is placed on trial in a kangaroo court which charges him as 'participating in a common design' to commit murder against unspecified, unidentified persons. Accused of beating other prisoners, Willy's only option was to tell the truth as he experienced it, admitting that he only beat others when they tried to steal his food. In camps like Auschwitz and Mauthausen, to steal another inmate's food was considered by all inmates alike to be a crime akin to murder, and those who were caught stealing food were invariably killed by their fellow prisoners.

For the court that sat in judgment of Willy Frey, his sentence was a foregone conclusion: He was sentenced to death. Sentence was carried out on 28 May, 1947.

Witness Credibility Meter

Hans Marsalek, a former inmate and professional 'witness, who assisted the allies in obtaining the 'death bed confession' of former Mauthausen commander Franz Ziereis, who was shot in the back while 'attempting to escape." Prior to 1938 Marsalek undertook work on behalf of 'communist victims' of Nazi 'persecution,' whilst ignoring the victims who suffered as a result of communist terror. When ordered to report for duty in the Wehrmacht, Marsalek fled to Prague in 1938. Marsalek claims he was a pacifist opposed to all war, but rushed to join the Czechoslovakian army to fight against his countrymen. Whilst in Czechoslovakia, he expanded his contacts with the communist underground and served as a courier for a Soviet agent named Slanzl, "who was in Prague on a certain assignment."

Slanzl sent him to Vienna to recruit agents willing to carry out acts of subversion and sabotage on behalf of the Soviet Union.

He and Slanzl worked together and carried out 'various missions' which he declines to enumerate. Marsalek's job was to deliver various instructions to communist cells in Austria. He soon entered into Vienna illegally and set to work recruiting two men in the German Wehrmacht whom he knew to be communists.

Unable to establish contact, Marsalek was arrested by the Gestapo on 28 October 1941 and taken to the local prison where he was interrogated. On 9 September, 1942, he was transferred to Mauthausen in Southern Austria where he was given an easy desk job as camp secretary.

Marsalek's account of his activities during those years is remarkably polished, having been obviously well-rehearsed and memorized by rote.

Prior to liberation, when the SS staff fled, the entire camp was plunged into chaos, and all the inmates refused to lift a finger to help the disabled, sick or dying. According to Marsalek, "from this point on no inmate was ready to do anything more for the others....the sick weren't getting any more care. Of course they were still being treated by the physicians, but the orderlies weren't doing anything to help...Everything was filthy, infested with lice and bedbugs, soiled with excrement...and nobody wanted to cook anymore."

No longer under the supervision of the SS, the camp dissolved into anarchy.

Marsalek and the other camp secretaries, cognizant of the danger of epidemics such as typhus and cholera, went about "organizing the living conditions in Barracks 1-24" until the Americans arrived on 7 May, 1945.

On the 27 May a courier arrived at the doors of Mauthausen, dressed in full communist regalia, and approached Marsalek and ordered him to report to Vienna and work on behalf of the Communists. Marsalek enthusiastically accepted the commission. On his final day at Mauthausen, Marsalek reclaimed all his personal property which had been held in SS trust since his arrival at the camp in 1942!

On the very same day, the Communist Marsalek was promoted from former prisoner to police officer in Vienna. His unwavering commitment to Communism never faltered.

After some period of time, he was reassigned to the Ministry of the Interior to 'set up the Mauthausen Memorial' in 1964. Marsalek freely concedes that he falsified the numbers of prisoners on the plague which adorns the entrance to the camp.

He participated in the preparation of a Mauthausen 'guidebook' and organized public rallies for political purposes. He declines to comment in respect to his participation in the Mauthausen trial, where his sworn testimony led to numerous death sentences for the accused.

Marsalek has since been beatified and canonized by exterminationists. In a recent interview he continues to parrot the old communist themes, focusing on the alleged persecution of homosexuals and the heroism of feminists in resisting the Nazis. A sample of his testimony may be heard at:

http://www.mauthausen-memorial.at/

Hans Marsalek

Hans Marsalek.
Notable quote:

"For a long time I didn't notice that I had become a part of this death machinery."

Chronology of Hans Marsalek

  • 1914 born in Vienna (Austria) by parents of Czech descent; grows up in a modest social democratic milieu, attends the Czech school in Vienna, afterwards apprenticeship as type setter, member of the "Socialist Workers Youth"
  • 1936-1938 joins the resistance movement of the "Rote Hilfe" against the authoritarian corporative "Ständestaat"
  • 1938 after his conscription to the "Wehrmacht" escape to Prague, where he is actively working for the social democratic organisation of emigrants
  • from 1940 joins the communist-Czech resistance movement in Prague and Vienna
  • October 1941 arrested in Prague, imprisonment in several prisons in Vienna
  • September 1942 transferred to KZ Mauthausen; after a few weeks in several working commandos he becomes "Schreiber" (office clerk) in the "Lagerschreibstube"
  • from May 1944 "Lagerschreiber II" of the main camp Mauthausen
  • May 1945 after the liberation return to Vienna where he joins the police force (until 1963), entrusted primarily with the investigation concerning neo-Nazi activities
  • from 1946 takes an essential part in the founding and preservation of the Mauthausen Memorial; marries Anni Vavak (died 1959), a survivor of KZ Ravensbrück
  • from 1952 founding member of the International Mauthausen Committee
  • 1964-1976 head of the memorial and museum Mauthausen within the ministry of the Interior married with Hilda Zinsler, as of 2000 he was still living in Vienna (Austria)

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Author(s): Joseph P. Bellinger
Title: Death Sentence: The Case of Willy Frey
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Published: 2000-01-01
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 2000, 7 p.m.
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