Franz Ziereis, born 13 August 1905 in Munich, was the commandant of the Mauthausen concentration camp After attending commercial school in Munich, he signed up as a career military officer in Germany’s Reichswehr (army) on April 1, 1924, for 12 years. On September 30, 1936, he left the army with the rank of sergeant and joined the SS. He was appointed SS Obersturmführer (SS first lieutenant), and in 1937 took over the leadership of the 22nd Hundertschaft (hundred-man-unit) of the SS Death’s Head detachment “Brandenburg.”
In the spring of 1938 Ziereis participated with SS mobile units in the occupation of Austria. On July 1, 1938, he was transferred to the SS Death’s Head regiment “Thüringen” as a training instructor. Upon an order by the leader of the SS Death’s Head formations and by the inspector of the concentration camps, SS Obergruppenführer Theodor Eicke, Ziereis here with Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler and the Chief of the SS Obergruppenführer Ernst Kaltenbrunner , was sent from Buchenwald to Mauthausen on February 9, 1939, to take over the post of Commandant of Mauthausen, replacing SS Sturmbannführer Albert Sauer .Sauer died of wounds received at Falkensee on 3 May 1945, age 46..
On August 25, 1939, Ziereis was promoted to the post of SS-Sturmbannführer and, on April 20, 1944, due to “special achievements” as camp commandant, eventually to the rank of SS-Standartenführer.
After May 3, 1945, Ziereis fled together with his wife, but was discovered by American soldiers at his hunting lodge on the Phyrn mountain in Upper Austria on May 23. He tried to escape but was shot and seriously wounded. Ziereis confessed, in which he said that a gas chamber, disguised as a bathroom, was built at Mauthausen on the order of SS Sturmbannführer Dr. Eduard Krebsbach , nicknamed “Dr. Spritzbach“, the prisoners were gassed with Cyklon-B. Besides this, there was a special vehicle which traveled between the Mauthausen main camp and the Gusen sub-camp, in which prisoners were gassed along the way.
Dr Krebsbach was arrested and given the death penalty during the Dachau Trials conducted by the US military on 13 May 1946 and was executed by hanging on 28 May 1947, age 52 at Landsberg Prison.
An interrogation was effected in the night from 22 May to 23 May 1945. Franz Ziereis was seriously wounded — his body had been penetrated by three bullets — and knew that he would die shortly and told the following: I have personally killed about 4,000 (four thousand) prisoners by assigning them to the Penal Company. The formation of Penal Companies was done by order of Berlin to effect a more rapid extermination of prisoners through hard labor. I always took part personally in the executions. After his injury he was brought to a U.S. hospital in Gusen, where he died, age 39. The official version of the death of Ziereis is that he died in a hospital in Gusen and his body was hung on the fence at Gusen by the prisoners and left there for a couple of weeks. Donald Leake, a former prisoner, saw the body of Ziereis hanging on a fence in the Mauthausen main camp after his death.