I was born in Lyon, France, in 1929. My mother had left Vienna because there was this terrible unemployment at the time, around 1929, and she found work at the silk mills of Lyon, there I was born. But at the time it was like this, as soon as work was over, all migrant workers had to go back home. So I can really say, I was already a migrant worker’s child when there wasn’t yet a Mehmet or Fatima in Vienna. And now my mother had no choice but to return to the same destitution she had hastily escaped. To tell this in detail would take awfully long. There is so much, but I just want to say, actually I was just a street urchin. I lived on the street, nobody cared for me.
Now, in ’35 my mother was unable to pay the rent. Tell this today to a pupil at school. We paid eight schillings rent there, and my mother was unable to put these eight schillings a month aside.
We lived in Kaisermühlen. She couldn’t make ends meet. Well, where from? The little bit she got for doing the laundry and window cleaning, that was enough for a little bit to eat, what she would always buy and such. And now we were evicted. You know, my mother was somehow a really poor devil. She owned a shaky table and a shaky closet. Three old beds, where her brothers used to sleep, that was a fuss! And when they came… As a child I didn’t understand it, but I saw it happen. And years later, I also understood what had happened there. They threw these few belongings of this woman simply onto the street… And I am not really able to say anymore. I can’t remember that it would have been possible to say to my mother: “Good bye,” and I found myself at the Child Foster Care [KÜST]. And at the Child Foster Care, one wouldn’t believe this, I thought I was in paradise. Because, there, after a long time, I had again a completely clean bed, I could shower, I got something to eat. And a lady came to play with us, and simply everything.
Well, and after 14 days or three weeks, or four weeks, I can’t say it exactly, we had to go to a room, which was actually empty, only along the wall, around, there were benches, and us children had to stand on them. At the time, I didn’t understand this, only later on, when I reflected about all that. Those dear people came, stared at them as if they would chose a dog at the animal shelter. And they looked, and these…, and that way it happened to us…, Heilinger was this woman’s name, she was dressed quite well and all that, but I believe, a heart for children she didn’t have, because otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to do what she did.
Well, and since she wanted to have my brother by all means, she also took me, and now everybody can figure out how I fared at my foster parents. Because they couldn’t care less about me, I was just a source of income.
So in 1936, at the Heilingers’, I heard the name Adolf Hitler for the first time. And how they would argue. “The Messiah,” and Heaven knows what. They all were already looking forward because they believed, now the German military will probably bring the field kitchen to their backyard. And they were really into it, very pro-Hitler.
Then came the [German] entry. I think at the time I was already in first or second grade. Anyway, in our… I had started school still in the Schuschnigg era, and always when we got to class, we had a large crucifix hanging there, and they always prayed an “Our Father” before the start of the lesson and one after the lesson. And besides, that was strange, Mr. Bodoschek, quasi my foster grandfather, he would always tell me about Hitler, always, each time I sat with him on the bench in the garden. And, he only told me about Hitler: “And now things will improve anyway and everything, and now Hitler is coming, he will show it to them.”
And then I actually got in class my first shock, if you want, in the Third Reich. We were in the classroom, we prayed “Our Father,” the lesson started, and perhaps one hour later the janitor came with a ladder, climbed up to the crucifix, took it down, he didn’t put it down, he took it off the hook and threw it on the floor. And this…, above all Jesus Christ, I don’t know what this material was, it is much more…, how you call it…, Jesus Christ broke into many parts. So momentarily I thought about Mrs. Bodoschek, I thought now, like at the crucification, thousands of angles must come and avenge this. Nothing came, nothing came. And then I also saw, the janitor had such a cart, it was for garbage, he threw it in there and took it away. And from that day on, there was no more “Our Father,” they reduced the “Our Father” to two words: “Heil Hitler!”
And when Hitler came, I wasn’t for much longer with the Heilingers. And once I ran away from them, and her brother – I can say this under oath, I didn’t do it – he then said that I had taken from his bedside table 30 Reich marks. What would I have done with the Reich marks? I didn’t even know how to handle money. But in my stupidity, my stupidity at the time, I just ran away from the Heilingers and thought to myself, somewhere in Vienna I have to find my mother. Well, I mean, when I think about it today, although it was so sad, today I have to laugh. A little boy runs around in a city of millions and wants to find where his mother lives, and he doesn’t know a single street. I got to the Rennweg, then the police caught me, then they brought me back, and then they took me again to Lustkandlgasse to the Child Foster Care.
Well, and at the Foster Care, the procedure there..., and after the Foster Care, I got to the Central Children’s Home. And when one has experienced children’s homes once, the adults don’t even notice how that is, such a life in a group, already among children, nobody knows that. Because you have to imagine, there are 25 children in a group, and of the 25, 20 get visits every week. Either mom or dad is coming, something to nibble is brought along and such. And then you have five in there or, Heaven knows, six, nobody visits them anymore. And I’d like to see how adults would take such a treatment, that I’d like to see. They even didn’t get a card for Christmas.
I then got back home and went to school on Hörnesgasse. And at Hörnesgasse, all boys already came dressed in the Hitler Youth uniform, that is, Deutsches Jungvolk [German Youth], we were still too young for the Hitler Youth. Most of them had already joined the Deutsches Jungvolk. And those who didn’t wear a uniform yet had at least a badge, and I had nothing. Do you have any idea how they pestered me?
I endured everything. They could scream, they could shout, they cursed me “Jew.” “Perhaps the Jew isn’t allowed to join the Hitler Youth.” The other then shouted: “Well, he can’t be a Jew because then he’d already be in a concentration camp.” And afterward, after the war, I kept thinking about this. “Well, we didn’t know, well, we didn’t see it.” Well, they didn’t hear anything, nothing at all. “We didn’t even hear a rumor that there are concentration camps.” The adults. The children in my class knew it, they talked about concentration camps, it’s just that all adults at the time must have been deaf.
Well, and I didn’t go anymore to school from my parents’ home, for about… I led my mother to believe that I went to school. I walked around Vienna all day long, that way I actually saw a lot, in Vienna.
And yes, then they put me in a car, brought me again to the Child Foster Care, and from the Child Foster Care I came to Spiegelgrund.
The daily routine was, I think, at seven, no, at six o’clock, I think, wake-up. Then teeth brushing and washing, then back and bed-making. Already as a little boy, I had to make the bed by myself. Well, bedmaking and then, depending which nurse was on duty, one often would read something to us, then we had a nurse with whom you had to sing something during half the morning, this was such a Nazi missy, and she only ever wanted to hear: “Deutsch ist die Saar, deutsch immerdar [German is the Saar, German forever].”
And they also humiliated you. I don’t even want to say it, I don’t want…, I don’t know. I have to consider whether I should say this because adults did this to children, supposedly in a youth welfare home. You had to go there with your underpants, and she would look whether you had soiled them. Do you have any idea what that is like, when you once…, no, one must not talk about this because you are simply unable to understand this. And yes, when you were ready, there was dinner afterward. And then they would romp about a little bit, play tag, and what do I know what other games there were. Kicking and boxing, and I don’t remember anything from all that, and then it was time to go to sleep, and that was the same routine every day. But in sum, I was at Spiegelgrund, I believe, for nine months then.
Yes, and then I came from Spiegelgrund to Dreherstraße, and there all kids were gathered together whose fathers were either dangerous criminals or heavy alcoholics. To the members of the master race, these innocent children were actually “genetically highly defective and of inferior value to the people’s community,” as it was called at the time.
And then I came from Dreherstraße to Ybbs at the Danube. This is a psychiatric hospital, but still belongs to the City of Vienna. And why I got there, I don’t know.
I was placed with a group, there was the group, there was such a long corridor, there was our group, then there was a place for the staircase, and there was a place, like it was on one side, it was on the other side too, except that there it was secured with a huge fence. It had such bars, this fence. And there were these, I can’t even say it, “mentally ill,” I only say “ill.” And there were always those ill people inside, then one day they were gone, one day they came, and the first thing I saw was a hall, a person wouldn’t even have been able to fall. They had squeezed the people inside, they had squeezed them into the room. And only the faces or the individuals who stood at the fence, you could perceive the face. Otherwise nothing, you would only see a bald head or a hairy head or whatever. And I am convinced there could be no question of sitting, there could not have been any question of it because they had no space, they were herded together, much less lying down. And this was like a scene from a movie. Also a chain was hanging there. “Trespassing of this barrier is prohibited.” And I stood at this barrier and looked inside, I couldn’t grasp that there is such a thing. And there stood an actually younger person at the door, I don’t know, he actually had a beautiful appearance, on his face you didn’t notice that he would be somehow mentally challenged or Heaven knows, and he didn’t look crippled either. And he stood and kept looking at me, and I kept looking at him. And now he does this, for a long time I was unable to talk about it, he put his hands through the bars, folded them as if for a prayer and just looked. He didn’t talk. He just looked. And then I did something like this [inquiring gesture], I thought to myself: “What do you want, I don’t know.” So he then opened…, his hand fell down and then, you could already see, with real effort he brought it to his mouth. And now I knew, he wants something to eat. And in the youth department, if we had to go through everything, but we didn’t have to starve. And there were always leftovers of bread in the drawers, they became hard, and Heaven knows what else. Well, and now I went to the youth department, looked for some cloth and put the entire bread I could find inside. What did I care for the barrier there, I climbed over it and brought it to this person.
Today, with this knowledge, I wouldn’t do this anymore. At the time, I set off some screaming, one could safely say, nobody will be able to imitate it, this screaming. I have heard screaming at the stadium, and at the outdoors festival, and Heaven knows what else, and at the sports ground I have heard yelling, but never such a thing. Never the way they yelled. And then, only much later I knew, only people shout like this who are ill and who know or perhaps sense what is happening to them. And I went to him and squeezed it through the fence, a little bit… because it was a bit too much. And at that point, I set off this screaming. It was so ferocious, nobody can imagine how ferocious this fighting was. From the few bread lumps everybody would have liked something, that must have spread like a wildfire down there.
So, very soon I was, of course, caught as the culprit. And now, these were also two men…, because after 1945 everybody said: “We have only fulfilled our duty,” yes. And now two huge guys took me, I didn’t even reach to their waistlines. They hit me that I thought my last hour had arrived. They only fulfilled their duty. And then there was a door, there was a spiral staircase, and that led down to the cell wing. There was a special wing with cells…, which was anyway somehow… Today they have made living spaces out of these cells. But I took a look at it. And they took me down there. I bled from my nose, they kicked me into the legs, I don’t know. And then, this wasn’t enough for them, down there they threw me onto a table, then they took their truncheons and beat up my buttocks, I couldn’t sit. Then the door to such a cell was opened, made of stone, like a tombstone, and then a grille. And in this cell everything was concrete, even the bed, concrete, and the pillow support too. And up there, far up, was a small slot, a bit of air came in from there, not much light because too little got through. Well, and I sat in this cell and moaned and everything hurt so much. I had given bread to a person, and because of this misdeed – they called it misdeed – because of this misdeed, they treated me like this. And then, finally someone came, after… I don’t know how long I stayed in there, three days or five days, I could only lie on my stomach, I couldn’t sit, nothing. And at the time, I was 13 years old! And then one day the cell door opened and – I had to go to the doctor. They can say what they want… Sure, it’s true that Heinrich Groß came to Spiegelgrund in November ’40 or something, that is correct, but occasionally he was also at Ybbs since this department was, so to speak, a branch of Spiegelgrund. And he didn’t recognize me anymore when he saw me. And with me he wouldn’t talk a word, only with educator Supperer, who beat me the most. And he was of the opinion that I could return to the group, and then I said to him: “Doctor, could you please give me something. When I put on my underpants, I always tear this open, it always sticks and such.” – “No, this isn’t necessary, it should hurt a little bit, for a long time, then you will better remember that such a thing is prohibited what you have done.” I have given a few bread leftovers to a pleading person, a sick person, and this was a crime in the Third Reich. And then Supperer went back with me to this youth group, and I again passed this hall, but now I was really shaken. Now I saw how large this hall really was, except it was empty. And if someone asks me today what got to me more, if you want, the full or the empty hall, I will always say, the empty hall. Because those words from Spiegelgrund came back to my mind: “The Nazis kill all the retards.” That was a topic of conversation there. In any case, this Ybbs is among the saddest memories of my youth during National Socialism.
Then the German Wehrmacht requisitioned it [the Ybbs facility], and I got again to Mödling, to the reformatory.
And I don’t know why, but in Mödling I came to the admission office and from there straight to the correctional group. I don’t know why, and in this correctional group the two educators were called Gager and Storch, everything was locked there, you had to keep yourself busy, or he had us do some handicrafts at times, in any case, this was a horrible time, and really, really awful was this Storch.
And now you could be responsible for causing the “Raffeisiade.” And this was the invention of an educator, who also just fulfilled his duty, and his name was Ferdinand Raffeis. And when someone didn’t know something, they would ask only one, and if this one didn’t know it, the entire class was at fault, that is, the entire group. And – one had to strip down to the underpants and then do frog jumping, do you know what I mean, jumping like a frog past him, lifting the left foot, then lifting the right foot. Then he hit with a stick, so that it hurt quite a bit, and we called this Raffeisiade. And I never wanted to be the cause of a Raffeisiade, and therefore, I studied. I always repeated things to myself and once again before falling asleep, what had he said, and nevertheless, it happened also to me. Because they liked doing this. Either it was two in the morning or four in the morning or ten at night, that didn’t matter. One of them would come, either Glaubenkranz, Storch or Gager, pull away the blanket and would yell at the drowsy boy, for instance: “When was our Führer born?” And woe, if he didn’t say April 20, 1889. A hesitant answer, even a hesitant answer was considered not knowing. And the next day, the entire Raffeisiade was carried out on this group. And this made me determined, study, study, study. And listen to everything so that you won’t cause this. And it happened also to me, he pulls, I don’t know, I think it was two in the morning, he pulls my blanket away and yells at me: “What was the maiden name of the mother of the Führer?” “Klara,” that came to my mind at once. But instead of “Pölzl,” that would have been correct, I said “Pölzlinger.” And then it started the following day. And the next day, I could actually make it a memorial day. Then I decided, beat me to death, I don’t want anymore. And I turned away the food, that is, when they brought me something to eat, I wouldn’t take it or knock over the bowl. “Get up!” – I remained in bed. So they hit me, they beat me, everything they could do, and when they saw that all was in vain, they probably reported to the director, and I had to go to a psychiatrist. And I thought, no matter what they do with me, it can’t get worse than that. And I have erred rather often in my life, but this was also an error.
And the next day, Gager already packed me up, he gave me such a thing, a string with pieces of wood, he would hold me like this, and then we drove to Steinhof, up to Spiegelgrund.
Like a piece of cattle they pulled me to Pavilion 17, and when I was inside, in the pavilion, I got my first blow on the head, it was such a reverse from behind that I thought my head is torn off. And then I came to a department for youth, not one single person there was ill. They were mentally completely with it, also physically, they were trained athletes and Heaven knows what. But they were classified as difficult, and the young people – and I also came into this group – only came for observation, and then Doctor Illing would write a professional opinion. And when he would write: “This youth cannot be reformed,” then there was just one option left: from there to Moringen. And this Moringen, only very few survived. If one had been there for a couple of years, and nothing had occurred, then one could be released on condition, I only knew that when Dietrich told me, but most of them perished miserably in the...
So I thought, this was impetuous as well, today I wouldn’t do it anymore, “away, away, away.” And I saw, here are the same bars, and even if one didn’t have a bullet, one would carve three pieces of wood and put the three wood pieces inside, and then one could open it as well. And then I found one about whom I thought he was reasonable and confided in him. “Yes, yes, yes.” And probably he gave me away to the orderly Lasser, only not to get to Moringen, I can’t think of anything else because I had just confided in him when two orderlies came, that was a slap left and right, then they pulled me up to the first floor. The cell still exists today, but today this is a nice living room for patients.
And they pulled me upstairs, there I had to undress naked, then I received a hospital gown and slippers and nothing else. And then I got into a cell, and there was nothing. No chair, no table, no bed, only a chamber pot in the corner, that was my toilet. And the windows…, this they removed as well, today that doesn’t exist anymore either, they were with the old bars, and then they put new ones on the windows. Bars, this was such band iron, and you could close them with chubb locks, you could not open them anymore. But the cruelest thing was, they had such milk glass panes. You couldn’t even look outside. And at night, they gave me a mattress to lie down. I had to give it back in the morning, so then I went up and down. Like someone in jail. Window and door, window and door. No book, nothing. I just came out when they did some treatments. They have, wait... I don’t know what they were called... Supposedly it was part of the therapy. The first few days or 14 days, I got three, four, sometimes five pills, sometimes one. And I always would take them, I always got them at night. And I would always become so tired, often I was unable to stand, so tired I got from the medicine. And one day, I gathered all my courage and said to the orderly: “Why do I have to take the pills. I am not sick.” You see, and this was the most abominable. As a young person, I had so many negative encounters with adults. And he said: “If you don’t want, don’t take it.” You know, so abominably ugly, that a person would behave like that toward someone defenseless, that someone would behave like this. But all this only entered my brain much later. “So then simply don’t take it.” And when he closed the door, I said: “Fritzl, what kind of idiot you are. Why haven’t you said it already much earlier?” I hadn’t finished thinking this, the door opened, two orderlies came in, slap, slap it went, I was on my stomach, they twisted my hands up to my head, the legs twisted up to my head, the heaviest one lay on top of me, and Dvorcak tore my mouth open near my nostrils, poured the pills with water inside, I almost suffocated, I almost suffocated then. Also people who only fulfilled their duty. And then he ridiculed me, too. The next day, when he came with the medicine. I hadn’t said anything yet. “Oh, you don’t take it.” I say: “Oh yes, I take it again.” Because I was afraid… that the pouring in, the pinning down, as it was called at Spiegelgrund, they also did this with adults. And I said: “Well, I take it again.” He says: “Here’s how it works. From today, you will ask your orderly in upright posture for your medicine, so that you will be healthy soon.” Do you know how this is for a 13-year-old if you have to stand before such a cripple and must ask: “Please, Sir, please give me my medicine so that I will be healthy soon.”
And that went on for a while, then they discontinued the stuff, then they did a “wrapping treatment,” that was also cruel. Ambulance bed, two days, dry sheets, wet sheets, stark naked, and then the sheets were wrapped around like a mummy, all over you were…, only the head was left out, and you were tied down with belts all over, and then you were lying in the cell, they put me on the floor, and I only looked up to the sky, that is, to the ceiling. I was unable to turn left, I was unable to turn right, unable to stretch my legs, to draw in my legs. And one should try this once, how long you can endure in a bed without turning, right. And I said already often, I again…, for a time I had stopped praying because I thought nobody helps me anyway, but then I again started, and I even asked for forgiveness for not having done it for so long because I thought I will be helped, but I wasn’t helped. And when they let you out, the sheets were never dry because you were lying in your own urine. And especially atrocious it was when because of that it started itching, and you couldn’t scratch, and you had to endure until it faded by itself, this was brutish what they did. “Immersion cure,” the same, iron tub, ice cold water, down, up, down, up, down, up that you think you suffocate now. Why they did it, I don’t know, but they have fulfilled their duty. The Führer must have been happy. Well, and one thing I also knew, from 2 p.m., it was quiet as in a church in Pavilion 17. There was no medical examination anymore, no treatment – It was at the tip of my tongue – no medical treatment, and nothing took place anymore, it was completely quiet. And I knew exactly, when someone was designated for killing from Pavilion 17…, but mainly these were always the small children, I always, when I went to empty my chamber pot I would pass through their dormitories, and I could even count them. In the corner, in the bed, I know, was a small child, whether it was a boy or a girl, you couldn’t determine, but with blond hair, and two days later, there was one with black hair there. And there was no additional bed, they were all empty. Right, and they were always taken away at 2 p.m. to Pavilion 15, whether they killed also elsewhere, I don’t know, but for sure not at Pavilion 17. All were brought to Pavilion 15 at 2 p.m. And now you have to think how it was: At 2 p.m., the orderly came and said: “Get dressed.” At this moment I began to tremble. I hardly managed to get into my trousers, I got dressed, now hope arose: Well, perhaps he’ll go somewhere else. Left or then right, because he would have had two turns, or else in the direction of the pulmonary sanatorium he could have gone too. But we went down, and when he took the path to Pavilion 15, and we passed the last two side corridors, I knew we go to Pavilion 15. But one thing I know, there are experiences you cannot relate. It is so horrible, and one cannot find [words], one would like to express what one really felt, but you can search, search, search as much as you want, but you don’t find. Then we entered Pavilion 15, they locked me in a cell, and the orderly said: “Get undressed.” Now I undressed except for the underpants. Well, if I stood in a shower, I couldn’t get wetter, the way I was sweating then. And then I undressed completely naked, and then I broke into shivers when he said: “And the underpants down too.” You know, and anyway my life was kind of in a shambles, I wouldn’t have lost much at all, one couldn’t say that, but that they don’t even allow…, what do I know, the last…, they had refused my mother the permission to visit, that even now they didn’t say: “Well, visit him one more time.” Or something else, not even that they did, that so many people weren’t even that much of a human being. Well, and I stood naked in the cell, and the door opened, and Dr. Illing stood at the door: “Get out!” So I went out, he entered with me through a side door, the room was full of nursing students. And none of these girls was older than 18 years, possibly. And how they… I had to get up on a podium, and I sat up there, and perhaps in a distance of one meter, the first row of girls was sitting. I was 14 at the time. I only... And then I asked Him again, I thought: “Perhaps, He will hear.” I said: “Let’s finish with it because the life You have given me, I can no longer bear it.” And not even that He fulfilled, yes. Ever since, there might be a god, I don’t know, but I certainly am never going to ask him for anything again, as much as he might torture me. But apparently, he doesn’t want me, and neither does the devil, because otherwise I wouldn’t endure all those illnesses.
Well, and I had to stand up there, and now this Illing explained with a baton, what in my physical appearance indicates that I am genetically and sociologically inferior. The ears were too large for him, arm distance too large, and he pointed out everything, right. And I was so ashamed, I thought: “Please finish already.” So it took easily half an hour, then he said: “Turn around.” Now I turned around, so he pointed out on my back the other indications. And this was his habit: With the baton he hit me on my ass, if you want, and said: “Get dressed!” It hurt, this hit with the baton. But what…, I jumped down from the table. I wanted to run to the door, but I stopped right away. I didn’t understand. Almost 30 girls were laughing. For them it was like a circus performance. For them it was… One or the other of them might still be living today, it’s possible. I’d really like to ask why she was laughing at the time.
Then the orderly came and said: “The Head Physician is making his round, but he is not to be addressed.” Well, I mean, can there be something more stupid, a physician does the round, but he cannot be talked to. So much stupidity I haven’t encountered during my entire later life. But I had lost a certain fear of him because of what had happened in the lecture room. And he approaches me, and I say to him: “Doctor, I have a request to you.” He got a head red like a tomato. His veins up there swelled, and then he said: “You have no right to make a request. You only have the right to obey and nothing else.” I say: “Yes, Doctor, what am I asking of you. For months I have been walking to and… in this cell. What crime did I commit? Free me at least from these milk glass panes so that I can look out and see whether it’s blue or grey, or the birds in the tree which stands in front of my window, I hear it when the wind is blowing, but I don’t see it. What did I do that I’m treated like this?” And he became completely calm and [listened] to all that, and I said: “Please, Doctor, give my mother permission to visit me. I haven’t seen her already for a few years,” because this also includes Mödling and everything, right, she couldn’t always come there either. “I haven’t seen her in such a long time, the permission…,” and so on. And what else did I say to him? About the sky I talked to him, books…, “provide me with some occupation.” Yes, and when I said, “provide me with some occupation,” I also added: “Because if this continues like that for a long time, I’ll get crazy in this cell.” And he was a Saxon, he wasn’t Austrian, this Illing, from Leipzig I think. And this academically educated person was not ashamed to imitate my Viennese dialect. You know, so humiliating. Well, I am not…, quasi crazy, I’ll say it in my language because I can’t say it the way he did then: “Crazy you won’t get, because crazy you are already. And now get on your knees.” And then he became loud again. So I had to kneel down before this academically educated person, and with two insane slaps in the face he finished his visit. All that happened under the swastika.
And then, I was already half dazed anyway, as a grown-up, I probably would not have had the courage, because I might have thought clearly, but now I didn’t think clearly, because otherwise I would never have said: “When the Russians come, nobody will be hung, but you will.” He smashed the door shut, they summoned my mother, from where I could have gotten this and so on. And now I thought…, yes, well he came, I don’t know what the physician’s name was, she came and looked at all that, and because I was completely beaten, sore in my face through these two slaps, and then I got an injection, after which I had to vomit, and the staff only became a bit more cruel. Now, nurse Sikora spilled my food on the ground and said: “Lick it up.” And only because I had said: “When the Russians come…”
And then a nurse came, I only knew her first name. She was called Rosa. Because the nurses of the ward are addressed till today by their family names. Also in the hospitals. But not the other nurses: Nurse Herta, Nurse Maria, or Heaven knows what, Nurse Helga, and there it was also like this. And she came and said: “Now we go down to the bathroom. Your clothes are there.” That means, the private clothes I had. “Your clothes are there.” And: “Get dressed quickly. The door of the pavilion is open. You should be fetched by the police, but they are sitting with the nurses in the office drinking coffee.” I even thought about the “shot on the run.”
I went toward the city center and got in touch with my mother. And always after onset of the wartime blackout, we would meet at the Rochus market. And she’d always bring something to eat, a few pennies so that I could take the tram and such. And she came every day, and one thing I knew, I sensed it, she is terrified. And once I said to her: “Mom, what are you afraid of?” And she said: “I am so afraid that someone will follow me.” And I didn’t say…, because then my mother would have…, I wouldn’t have wanted to see what might have happened then. I didn’t say to her: “I won’t come anymore.” I only decided for myself, I won’t come anymore. And, in fact, I didn’t go there anymore. And now I was even worse off. I didn’t have any money anymore, I had no more bread stamps, I didn’t have anything. And one got so hungry; water you could drink in every house because they had the water basins outside. But nothing to eat. And so, one evening, I went to the Nordbahnhof [Northern railway station], directly, it doesn’t exist anymore, they already tore it down. And I went into the hall, and there were a whole lot of knapsacks, and a whole lot of packages were there and I thought, where do I get something to eat. Actually, I only fantasized, honestly, about bread. I didn’t even think about a sausage. Also, I didn’t wait for the blackout, no, I didn’t do that. And then I discovered such a small package, I thought there is certainly something to eat inside. I would never have thought that it might contain dirty underwear or dirty socks. And I took it down, put it under my arm and wanted to leave the station. And before I could leave the station, they arrested me. Two detectives, probably they had already observed me anyway, because I had behaved stupidly enough. And, well, in any case they recorded all this, then I came to Rüdengasse. On Rüdengasse it was custom when one is admitted, one is brought before the head of the institution. So I’m standing in front of this door, and on the door it was written: “If as a German you are entering, ‘Heil Hitler’ will be your greeting.” OK, I am called in, I enter. As in Mödling I had… – today I can no longer move my hand – the way I had heard it in Mödling, thumb pulled in, a little bit bent, eyebrow level, they had drilled us in all that, I yelled: “Heil Hitler!” He got up, crossed his hands [behind his back], and came to me. And that I actually cannot say exactly. I only know that he said: “What was that?” or something similar. And I thought, I didn’t do the greeting well, and I yelled again: “Hei,” – I didn’t get any further. One single blow, and I came round in a cell in the basement on Rüdengasse.
So these six days passed. And again I had to go there, and again I stand in front of this door: “If as a German you are entering, ‘Heil Hitler’ will be your greeting.” Well, and I got lucky. Then actually the lucky streak began. I stood in front of the door, and suddenly a… came, him I remember, he was called Deutschländer. He passed by and said in a very low voice: “Don’t greet again with Heil Hitler.” I thought, they ask you here, and he says you shouldn’t greet. Now I didn’t know whom to obey. But I thought, he had beaten me up because I had said “Heil Hitler.” I entered when I was called and stood still. He came again in this position of his, he had such a broad boxer head, he said: “Do you know why you were punished?” And I said: “No, I don’t know.” That was true. I didn’t know why I got that. And he explained it to me and said: “Do not ever again take the name of the Führer into your dirty antisocial gob.” After all, I didn’t know that I wasn’t allowed anymore to greet with “Heil Hitler.” Everywhere you were requested to. Well, and in 1945 this man was seamlessly taken over by the Austrian judiciary, he was in charge of the youth correctional department at Graz/Karlau [prison], was later promoted to head of the Leoben prison and then, decorated with all honors of the Republic of Austria, went into his well-deserved retirement. And when you hear things like that, you no longer know what to think at all.
And then the state prosecutor wrote: “exploiting the wartime blackout…, he stole a package of food, exploiting the wartime blackout.” And if I calculated it today, the content of the package, a bit of bread, a piece of sausage, cheese, it really was…, more than ten Euros it wouldn’t be worth today, and I got four years. And I was without any previous convictions. And I had only been in homes, just that. Yes, for adults this was capital punishment. They didn’t measure what one had done, but that one had exploited the wartime blackout. And then I got to Kaiserebersdorf. In Kaiserebersdorf I then served my sentence. I worked in the laundry room. And this Kaiserbersdorf, that was really, one could almost say, a concentration camp. But the most interesting for me was, there was no German judicial officer, these were all Austrians who did that. And now you have to imagine, they had rubber truncheons, and beating was permitted. If he half beat you to death, then he half beat you to death.
So then I went to my parents. My father continued drinking. At home, it was as bad as before. I wanted to look for an apprenticeship, didn’t get any, I then worked as unskilled laborer. They also refused me the driving license because of this previous conviction under Hitler. I said, I didn’t do anything to the Republic of Austria. And the official on Juchgasse [police station] said: “But never forget: We speak the same language.” How I am supposed to understand this, I don’t know, for this I’m lacking the brain. And then I got married. And only brief five years later we got divorced, and my life went up and down. And where did it end? At the criminal court, right.
I didn’t kick any old lady, I didn’t commit any sexual crime, I didn’t defraud anybody. Supermarkets, supermarkets, this was always our target. I wasn’t alone. There were several more. And I was sentenced three times in all for theft.
A clerk said: “Zawrel, you have to go see a psychiatrist.” I say: “Whom do I get?” He said: “Dr. Heinrich Groß.” And after 33 or 34 years, I sat again facing him, the way you are here now. And my first thought was – because he always was: high boots, Bridges pants, and Heaven knows what, well, the physician’s coat he wore already, but always such a strapping citizen of the Reich, right. And now he was sitting there, and my first thought was: Heinrich, you got fat.
Well and he talked. And I had promised my mother that I would never again talk about Spiegelgrund. Because I had gotten two little sisters, and they didn’t know anything about the Hitler period. And that nothing is written in the newspaper, and that they can go to school in peace. Because newspapers bring the names right away on the first page if they must. And I said: “No mom, I absolutely won’t talk about Spiegelgrund anymore.” And he talks: “What were you thinking?” And I thought to myself: Listen, he still hasn’t changed. He is exactly the same as at the time. I let him talk. And now I thought, you finish with him, perhaps he will understand you. I said: “Believe me, Doctor, I know people who have committed crimes hundred thousand times worse than mine. They are respected citizens, are in elevated positions, have awards from the Republic,” because he got the Körner Award and that for Science and Art, because he had kept digging around in the brains where he had signed the death certificate. And: “They committed a thousand times more crimes, but no state prosecutor shows up. But with me?! Police, state prosecutor, judge, psychiatrist, who else is going to come?” – “Well, you cannot believe that you can do whatever you want.” I say: “I know that, but the others at the time also knew it. They also knew that they can’t do this, but did it anyway.” So it went back and forth, and then it came like a thunderstorm. He said: “Have you already been in psychiatric treatment before?” And I said to him: “Doctor, for an academic, you have a pretty bad memory.” Says he: “What am I supposed to remember?” Now he still was quite short-tempered. And I said: “I hope you haven’t… Dr. Jekelius, Dr. Krenek, Dr. Illing, Ms. Hübsch, Ms. Türk, Ms. Jockl,” and I enumerated all of them, “that you have not already forgotten them. Perhaps it’s possible. But are you at all able to sleep peacefully, didn’t you hear the little children crying on the balcony outside, you never heard it?! Those who were murdered…” He recoiled big time. He turned white as the ceiling. Then he leaned forward, he looked as if he had aged by 50 years. “You were up there?” I say: “Where do you think I know you from?!” – “You never talked about it?” I say: “No, and I didn’t want to talk about it today either. I broke a promise to my mother, and this is not that simple.” – “Well, so…” And then he turned truly, how shall I put it, sleazy. “Well, this changes everything. Yes, this is a totally new…,” how do you say, “turn this whole issue takes.” And in any event, to cut it short, he promised me every expert help he can give. And Bettelheim was my lawyer at the time, and I told him this. To this he said: “In that case, you won’t need me anymore, if Groß takes it into his hands.” And I said: Dr. Bettelheim, please stay, I don’t trust him, the things he says.” And 14 days later, the judge gave me the expert opinion that Heinrich Groß had written. I started to read, I thought this can’t be the expert opinion on me. That’s impossible. I read, then I closed it, yes, Friedrich Zawrel is written on it. He wrote an expert opinion in which I was a thousand times worse than all those gas chamber operators in Auschwitz, and what do I know, what I’m supposed to say. And now I thought, you cannot tolerate this and... Yes, and this expert opinion, he dares writing this in ’75. Dr. Illing had been sentenced to death in ’46, he was executed in November ’46 at the criminal court. And in the year one thousand nine hundred seventy five, an expert appointed by the Republic of Austria is quoting the expert opinion of a convicted mass murder. Because he was convicted for 200 assassinations and for tormenting children. And the expert opinion starts: “The examined individual originates from a genetically-sociologically inferior kin.” The same sentence that Illing had written, and then I said to myself: “Now I won’t tolerate this anymore.” And I wrote all this to Doctor Christian Broda [Minister of Justice], and Christian Broda didn’t answer me.
And I wrote this to him, and I didn’t want any publicity. And something else, I also wrote him, I know that I committed indictable offenses, for which I was punished. This is not against that. It is only against that, whether such an expert opinion can be used, in which a murderer who assassinated 200 people has a part, whether it can be legally valid in the dear Republic of Austria. And he didn’t answer me. But I had sent all this by registered mail, and I have all these postal confirmations, and they are all in the film, and partially I have kept them. And he didn’t give me an answer. I wrote to him a second time, he didn’t give me an answer. I wrote to Dr. Müller, I can’t think of his first name at the moment, he was at the Supreme Court, that is, chief prosecutor, I wrote to him, no answer.
And then one of these days, I was transferred to the Stein penal institution. And then after a short time, Dr. Schiller arrives on behalf of the Vienna Criminal Court, one can read this, regarding a new psychiatric assessment, “I also have the instruction to refer to the Groß case.” What has that got to do with my psychiatry, he only has to investigate whether I’m crazy or healthy, but not what I have with Groß, this is none of his business, right. He wrote an even worse opinion than Groß.
But Dr. Otto Schiller has already passed away. And even the public prosecutor’s office [critized] this expert opinion... In any case, the public prosecutor’s office said approximately something like this: They don’t want to issue a rebuke yet, but in the future such things must not be repeated, such a thing cannot belong into an expert opinion. And they also mention the page, and where everything had happened. And he wrote an expert opinion that I was psychically highly abnormal, psychically highly abnormal. I am a repeat offender, and I will never be able to adapt socially, and what else he wrote. And the last sentence was: “So he is in a bad way with his psychological setup, but there is no viable path for him. He must be constantly guarded for the protection of society, he must be constantly protected and guarded, because there is always the danger of reoffense.” And he also was in favor of permanent institutionalization after the penalty. And today I would like to ask the two of them whether they didn’t see the path I took. Because in 1981, Dr. Kaiser from Linz wrote an expert opinion, Dr. Kaiser wrote a report, and he put it in a way so that the press wrote: “Where is the state prosecutor? This must be a case of abuse of position,” and so on. And that it wasn’t possible that I had changed that much in the brief time, in prison. So he said that everything they had written before was untrue. And that was in ’81, in September, I was released. So now is soon September, and then it will be 30 years that I haven’t entered a court room, that I haven’t entered a police station, that I was delivery driver at one and the same company for 15 years, until I got a heart attack, then they declared me incapacitated for work. And here you see how a psychiatrist can trample a human life without understanding anything.