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Franz Ziereis

Franz Ziereis
Franz Ziereis: Mauthausen-Gusen - Camp Commandant

Franz Ziereis (1905-1945) was the commandant of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp at the time it was liberated.

Early life

He was born on August 13, 1905 in Munich, Germany. His father drove a horsedrawn cart and was killed in the war. Ziereis spent 8 years in elementary school and then began as an apprentice and messenger boy in a department store. In the evenings he studied commerce. In 1922 he went to work as a labourer in a carpentry shop.

From time to time he was unemployed. For this reason, he decided in 1924 to enlist in the army and signed on for 12 years. Joined the Reichswehr (German army) on April 1, 1924. On September 30, 1936 sergeant Franz Ziereis was discharged from the army.

SS career

He was offered a job by the Totenkopf, with the rank of SS-Obersturmführer (first lieutenant) and opportunities for advancement and accepted. He joined the SS and NSDAP and left the Church.

He was at first given assignments of a military nature and his superiors, including Eicke, praised him for his abilities as a training instructor. In 1937 he became leader of the 22nd "Hundertschaft" (hundred-man-unit) of the SS Death's Head (SS Division Totenkopf) detachment Brandenburg. In 1937 he was seriously wounded in his knee during training and needed lengthy hospitalisation.

In 1938 Ziereis was transferred to Austria, where he trained young SS soldiers in the SS Death's Head regiment Thuringia.


Upon an order by the leader of the SS Death's Head formation he took over the post of commandant of Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp on February 9, 1939, replacing Albert Sauer. In Mauthausen Ziereis allowed his eleven year old son to shoot prisoners with a rifle from their front porch.

On August 25, 1939 he was promoted to the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer (major) and on April 20, 1944, due to "special achievements" as camp commandant to the rank of SS-Standartenführer (colonel).

After the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp he fled together with his wife and son. U.S. soldiers found them at his hunting lodge on the Phyrn mountain in Upper Austria on May 23 of the same year. He tried to escape them, but was shot and seriously wounded. After his capture he was brought to a US hospital in Gusen, where he died on May 24, 1945. His corpse was hanged by former prisoners on a camp fence in Gusen I.

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