Work Camp 1757 L
Type of work: Farm work
Man of Confidence: Sgt T.H. McNee (1942), Cpl J. Law (1943)
Number of Men: 9 or 10
|Oswald Henry||Brown||Sgt||AA Post. Serv.||7082||Australia; died 7 March 1942|
|A.P.||Flynn||Pte||H.Q. 6 Div. AASC||7439||Australia|
|Raymond Mason||Henry||Sgt||6 Div. AASC||4300||Australia; wounded 7 March 1942|
|Maxwell Kenneth||Kearney||Pte||H.Q. 17 Bde.||7403||Victoria, Australia; died 7 March 1942|
|Charles||McLachan||L/Cpl||RE||5976||East Lothian, Scotland|
|Duncan||McLachan||Spr||RE||5977||East Lothian, Scotland|
|Thomas Hamilton||McNee||Sgt||RASC||3489||MOC 1942|
|Kenneth Edward||Paget||Pte||2/2 Inf. Bn.||7123||Australia|
The following extracts are taken from witness statements for a War Crimes investigation in 1946.
On 27th April, 1941, I was captured at Kalamata, Greece. My brother Duncan was captured along with me. I was in several camps in Greece and eventually I reached the Prisoner of War Camp at Marburg, on the Austrian-Jugoslavian frontier. After passing through various POW camps I eventually landed at Tanzelsdorf. This camp was near to the town of Gross St. Florian and while there I was engaged in farm work.
In my working party were three soldiers: Private Maxwell Kearney, Sergeant Oswald Brown and Sergeant Ray Henry. I had been with Kearney and Brown for over a year but Henry only joined us about a week before he was shot. Our party had a permanent guard. He was L/Cpl Johann Moser. He was about 27 years of age, about six feet tall, clean shaven.
Our camp at Tanzelsdorf was a two-storied house with a wine and potato cellar in the basement.We went up a staircase to our room and on the same level was a room occupied by our guard.
The cause of all the trouble was that we were each paid 18 marks, 20 pfennigs per month, our guard Moser kept all our money. We were not allowed to purchase and Moser did all out buying. Our interpreter Kearney kept a close check on all purchases made. About one week before the shooting we ought to have had a balance of 60 marks and all that the guard could account for was 12 marks. Over and above this we knew that Moser was pilfering our Red Cross parcels. Kearney told Moser that we wanted to see a German officer to lodge a complaint against him for stealing our money and our parcels. Moser said that German officers had no time for prisoners of war.
On Wednesday 4th March 1942, about 7 p.m., after our working party had assembled at our Stammlager, Kearney and an Australian soldier named Provate Flynn told me that the guard Moser had called at their farm that day to arrest them. They had demanded to know on what charge they were going to be arrested and that Moser would not tell them. Flynn told me that Moser was going to shoot him there and then and that he raised his rifle to his shoulder but did not fire.
On Thursday 5th March 1942, I was working at a farm called 'Stella'. During the afternoon the farmer's wife called Private Norris and myself into her kitchen and she told us that the guard Moser had gone to Stainz. She had looked at Moser's book and discovered that Kearney and Flynn were to be removed the next day. That night, within our Stammlager, I told the rest of my mates what I had learned and we decided to stick together the next morning as we had a feeling that Moser was going to shoot Flynn and Kearney.
I was Burgermeister of Tanzelsdorf when the shooting took place. I didn't know that the shooting would take place and moreover my relations with Moser were very infrequent. I only heard the following the day before.
A Sergeant and Moser came to fetch the Ration Cards for the two British POWs when the Sergeant said in my presence. 'Tomorrow you will take the two men to Stainz.' Moser replied, 'I don't think that they will obey me, send me another guard, please.'
I now come to the morning of the shooting, that is, Friday, 6th March, 1942. When the door was opened, I saw Moser and another guard. I did not know him then but afterwards I learned that he was L/Cpl Weissman of the German army. Moser spoke to Weissman in German, 'The grosse (tall one) und the kleine (small one)'. He pointed to Flynn, who was tall, and Brown, who was small, when he said this.I was standing at the table by the window and at the other end of the table was Sergeant Brown. Sergeant Kearney was standing about the middle of the floor packing his kit and Private Flynn was also packing his kit at his bed. The guard Weissman said 'Arbeit (work)' and Sergeant Brown asked Kearney what the guard said. Kearney informed us that the guard wanted us to go to work. Sgt Brown then instructed Kearney to tell the guard that if we could get to see a German officer, we would gladly go to work, otherwise no, until we got to know why Kearney and Flynn were being arrested. Kearney told the guards what Sgt Brown said. Moser said 'Nix' and the shooting started.
I saw Moser raise his rifle to his shoulder, take aim, and deliberately kill Kearney outright. Weissman aimed at Sgt Brown and shot him in the arm. Sgt Brown dropped to the floor and I went over to render him assistance. I bent over Sgt Brown but Weissman ordered me away. Whether or not he meant to kill me I cannot say but he fired again. The bullet just missed me and it hit Brown in the stomach. Another shot was fired and Sgt Henry was hit in the arm. I cannot say which of the guards fired at Henry. The guards by this time were raving or shooting mad and I think they intended shooting all of us if it had not been for Sgt Henry. He raised his wounded arm above his head and said we would go to work. The shooting then stopped. The guards ordered us out of the room at the point of the bayonet. We were marched to our farms with our hands above our heads.
I was at a cupboard and stood up to see what had happened at the first shot. Kearney fell at my feet. He had been standing about ten feet from the guard. 'Aus' Brown, who had been sweeping, was shot twice and I was shot in the arm. The remainder of the men were out of sight and were not shot at. The guard took the remainder of the men to work. I remained with Brown. Kearney was dead and his body was left where it fell. About 1000 hours the Gestapo arrived. Two came in the room and a number were outside. One who came inside said to me that we now had a souvenir from a German soldier.
Brown and I remained there all day. That evening we were put on a bullock sledge and taken about four miles to an ambulance which took us to 3B Lazarette at Graz. Brown was immediately operated on by Professor Pheab who, in my opinion, tried very hard to save him. He died shortly after the operation and was buried in the Graz Civilian Cemetery.
I remained in the hospital. In June I received an order to report for Court Martial on charges unspecified. Professor Pheab refused to allow my removal from the hospital. I heard nothing further about the incident and was repatriated to Australia leaving Germany in October 1943.
I have not so far been able to discover the outcome of the trial. These witness statements were made in 1946. Moser was arrested in Austria in 1948 and then seems to have been transferred to Germany. The Soviet authorities seemed to have been unwilling to release him for this trial and, in addition, Moser claimed that he had already stood trial for this offence before a German Court Martial.