and Local-International Platform ST. GEORGEN/GUSEN, Austria

KZ Mauthausen-GUSEN Info-Pages

Paintings of a KZ Gusen Inmate
Found in 1997 in Bavaria, Germany

by Siegi Witzany-Durda and

Antiquariat REDIVIVUS Alte Buecher
Reinhard Hanausch

Hemauerstrasse 27
D-93047 REGENSBURG, Germany
++49 941 51928 FAX

It was pure chance.

Me 109 fuselages being painted at KZ Gusen I barrack No.12 When Reinhard Hanausch, an antiquarian bookseller from Regensburg/Germany, obtained second-hand books from a private owner, there was nothing unusual until he came across an old, slightly yellowed album that seemed full of mystery. An inscription on the cover baffled him.

It reads: "Gusen 1944 - Where we used to quarry stones, we are now building the ME (Messerschmitt)".

The album contains 10 colored genre paintings that undoubtedly present scenes of life in a Nazi concentration camp, obviously made in 1944. They are signed with the initials "FZ" and dedicated to a certain "SK" . A Kapo smoking at the KZ Gusen I barracks - several inmates waiting for the rest.

As Mr. Hanausch had never heard of "Gusen" before, he made investigations that gradually unveiled the initial mystery. (I am pleased to note that this web-site proved helpful in his research!)

In the 40s the father of the former owner of the album (who prefers to remain anonymous), Mr. SK, was employed by the Bavarian Messerschmitt Company in Regensburg, which was among the leading armament factories of the Nazi era. After the first bombardments by the Allied Forces in August 1943, a considerable part of the Messerschmitt aircraft production was evacuated and decentralized. Apart from Flossenbuerg, Gusen was considered a safe and most important place. Production at first started in barracks and was continued in huge underground systems later on.

Especially the KZ Gusen II (BERGKRISTALL-ESCHE 2) underground complex of about 50,000 m2 (more than 25 km in length!) became one of the most perfect and modern underground factories in the German Reich due to this decentralization.

For the participants, this project turned out a "big deal" :
  • Messerschmitt AG Regensburg contributed the technical know-how
  • the SS firm DEST did the administrative work and had the tunnels built
  • the SS also offered ten thousands of prisoners as cheap workers
KZ Gusen inmates polishing Messerschmitt aircraft-parts for painting The prisoners, mainly so-called "political prisoners" from Germany, Austria, Poland, Italy, Spain and France, were manufacturing fighter planes, first the ME 109 and finally the first jet-fighter in the world, the ME 262.

For the regular readers of this Web-page one need not go into further detail as far as working and living conditions of the prisoners were concerned. What was the ideal "industrial center" for the Nazis, was a hell of exploitation and extermination for the camp inmates.

So, what about the paintings?

One KZ Gusen Kapo &quotorganizing&quote  paint to exchange for privileges on the black market in the camp Together with the evacuation of the production, Messerschmitt also sent their aircraft engineers, skilled workers and foremen to Gusen to supervise the slave-work. This job was obligatory and, above all, top secret. The company´s employees were not even allowed to inform their families about their place and kind of work. Although sympathy with prisoners was strictly forbidden and considered "collaboration" by the SS, many of the foremen showed compassion and treated the prisoners humanely. "Mr. SK" must have been among those.

This explains why one of the prisoners working under his privileged command in the painters´ workshop made the pictures for his master to express his gratitude.

We also know that survivors visited the family of Mr. SK after the war at his home in Regensburg to bring food to them out of personal gratitude. Like thousands of other civilian workers, Mr. SK had to leave Gusen in a hurry at the end of April 1945 to escape being blown up in the huge underground installations of KZ Gusen II together with the inmates of the camp and the local population, as the SS had originally planned. Dreaming about Regensburg when looking out the KZ Gusen barracks

Apart from his initials, the artist´s identity remains a mystery. It is not unlikely that both master and prisoner came from Bavaria, as one of the pictures, entitled "Well-disposed", depicts the skyline of Regensburg, Germany.

We might just have to wait for another chance.

St.Georgen/Gusen, Austria

[Meanwhile we found that the artists name was Franczisek Julian Znamirowski, who was a very talented Polish painter in KL Gusen]

Information credit:
  • The son of "Mr. SK"
  • Reinhard Hanausch, Antiquariat REDIVIVUS, Regensburg, Germany
  • Manfred Stuber, Farbige Blaetter aus dem Grauen, Mittelbayerische Zeitung, Regensburg, Germany, 980111
  • Siegi Witzany-Durda, St.Georgen/Gusen, Austria

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Most recent updates of this page were made on
2006-10-21 by Rudolf A. HAUNSCHMIED,
Jan-Ruth MILLS