RUSSELL TRIBUNAL on Human Rights in Psychiatry – June/July 2001 in Berlin
G – Witness Friedrich Zawrel
Friedrich Zawrel (Translation from German):
As a child I came from a poor background and the real turning-point in my life was when Austria was turned into the "Ost-Mark". Up to this time I had almost no contact with my father but only with my mother and I only met my father in 1939 when I was at home very briefly. Before that I was with foster parents and then I left them and went to a children's residential home. I went from the home to my parents.
I have to say something that happened to me that turned out to be of great importance for my later life. My father was a serious alcoholic. I went for a walk with him in Vienna. I had no idea of politics, I didn't know any names of poiliticians. I was ten. Two German officers were walking ahead of us and my father turned to me and said: "I will beat you with my hands if you ever join this crew!. But when Stalin comes, I'll take you back." I didn't know what he was talking about but it was only in my later life that I understood it.
In 1939 my father was deemed unfit for service. He received a letter from the local armed services that said that he was not worthy of wearing the uniform of the "Fuehrer" and that he did not even deserve to die for the "Fuehrer". I got a letter from the "Hitler Youth", their local branch in Vienna and I was told – my mother read it to me (although I think I understood it a little bit) – that I was excluded from the "Deutsche Jugend Volk" or the "Hitler Youth" and that I couldn't go to the forerunners of this group or the "Hitlere Youth" itself and at no point in my life could I be a member of any organization that was under the auspices of the National Socialist Party.
I went to school after this and my classmates, if they didn't have a brown shirt already, they had the "Hitler Youth" crest that they wore and it didn't take very long until I was asked why I never went along to the evening meetings. The class prefect knew why not and he sat me on the dunce seat and during the lesson I was never addressed and never asked a question. I was completely ignored.
The reason why I never came to these evenings became clearer and clearer and whenever I hear this phrase: "We knew nothing about it!", I go mad. I was with ten and twelve-year-olds in the school and in the classroom I was abused with statements like: "He probably can't go to the Hitler Youth because he is a 32nd fraction Jew." So even my classmates were aware of this so-called "unworthyness", "inferiority" of the Jewish people.
I didn't know what to do, so I stopped going to school. Whenever school was over, I came home at the right time, so she didn't know that I wasn't going to school but it didn't take too long before the director of the school invited her and me for a discussion saying "He is a truant" and later I had to hear a statement from a psychiatric hospital which said that this young boy doesn't take part in lessons, doesn't make friends, he doesn't talk to anyone and he prefers to hang around on street corners and markets. One fine day the police came and took me, my brother and my sister into the so-called "children's assembly point".
At that time I thought that staying away from school was the reason that I experiencined these things but now I wondered why my brother and my sister had the same fate. I was admitted into the youth welfare residential care in the Spielgrund area. As a child I didn't ask too many questions as to why this was the case.
And then for the first time in my life there I encountered a doctor, Dr. Heimlich Gross. We were measured in terms of our skulls. This Dr. Gross didn't speak to us at all – he only spoke to a nurse and dictated things to her and he put us into the ward. In the ward we were supervised by nurses, male and female, who had been transferred there. They had normally looked after sick grown-ups who had been transported away, so the personell were available and so were the rooms. These nurses inflicted all possible crimes and abuses on the children in the way they had on the adults.
I had to take powders. We were told that these were "vitamin tablets" and I kept getting more and more tired from these "vitamin tablets". I didn't even notice my surroundings anymore until I finally thought: "I'm not going to take this medication anymore." My nurse said: "Take it voluntarily or else you'll be pleased to take it voluntarily!" and he then proceeded to demonstrate what happens if you refuse to take medication. He pulled my head straight back like this, opened up my mouth and jammed all this powder into my mouth and threw this water down me. The abuse that I encountered under this procedure meant that I couldn't even get up for a while.
It took several months, not to myself, but to other people that were there with me – experienced injections. Dr. Gross in 1999 was addressed by a judge ............... and he explained to her: yes, there were injections in Spielgrund, there were administered but these were disciplinary measures against cheeky children and when the judge said: "Weren't you a bit worried about doing this torture to children?", because these injections caused them to vomit and to vomit until there was nothing left in their stomachs at all but they still had to vomit – they were gagging again until their stomach muscles had cramps and they actually had strained muscles from it.
Dr. Gross didn't know anything else to say but "Yes, but they were disciplinary measures against cheeky children and after that they weren't so cheeky." And even after 1999 no-one from the medical body in Austria has said anything against this treatment. They were aware of the fact that Nazi doctors tormented children through medical means.
My history continued: I stayed at Spielgrund for a while and then I went to the National Socialist juvenile home and there we were abused with political education. And I was supposed to repeat that I was excluded from the Hitler Youth because I was unwothy. I had to take part in political training and the treatment at Oedling was even worse that what we experienced at Spielgrund because from 6 in the morning till 8 in the evening we had political training and if the instructors wanted to, they would go through whether it was 3 in the morning or in the middle of the night and would just pull some inmate out, take their blanket off and scream at them: "When was Adolf Hitler born?" And if this boy couldn't say it was the 20th of April, 1898, then he would have been beaten badly.
We had to learn all different aspects of the Nazi party. I thought it was pretty stupid because I
wasn't even allowed to go to any political party. I still really don't understand why that was the case – until today. But in any case, it was "one for all" and "all for one", so everyone was punished if one person had not done something, whether it was penal gymnastics that we did or whether we were just exhausted, or whatever it was. If we weren't in a position to do the gymnastics, then we were beaten, the soles of our feet were beaten and at the end, Huber was told not to forget when Hitler was born. That was the whole point of these punishments. But this led to the inmates suffering unbelievable atrocities. The ones who were to blame for the punishment that we got, the one who was to blame was tormented. They peed in their beds and things like that.
In Oedlingen we had one instructor who approached young boys in a homosexual way. I went along with it, because it meant that there were certain priviliges and I bought these priviliges by tolerating these advances. I didn't go to school very much but in Oedlingen I did go to school. I once fell asleep in class and the teacher asked me why not and I said why not. And I said what had happened and I went to another penal group.
Could you please summarize the remainder of your testimony, we are a bit pressed, I am sorry to say. I'll be finished in a minute. During this phase a psychiatrist came, Dr. Winkelmeier and he ascertained that if that young boy allowed this to be done and didn't complain about it, or it wouldn't be normal. At Spielgrund there was a department of the "Reichsauschuss" led by Dr. ......., a man from Leipzig and here again I met Dr. Gross. In this "infirmary" I thought about escaping and tried to and as a result, I was locked in a cell. I was 13 at the time and for over a year I had only a night-shirt and running shoes and I walked back and forth the whole time. I wasn't allowed to go school anymore. I had no visitors and I had injections, ........ secures and various other things done to me.
There was a very humiliating experience as well: I was introduced into a nurses school – Pavillon 5 – it was the one where children were murdered and I was used as a demonstration of what unworthyness and inferiority is, physically and genetically etc. and this statement can be found in a report by Prof. .........
I am sure that even if we had much more time, you could not completely describe the horrible experience you had, but let me see if there are some questions about your testimony to this point, if you will permit. Are there any questions? Dr. Leifer...