In the final months of the war, prisoner escapes – from camps and death marches – became ever more frequent. Local police and party officials led manhunts for the fugitives, agitated by Nazi propaganda, which had long described the inmates as murderers and rapists. Numerous German civilians joined in, shooting prisoners who hid in cellars and barns. The worst massacres came in February 1945, after over 400 Soviet prisoners escaped from Mauthausen. For days, Nazi forces and local volunteers hunted down the prisoners; most were executed on the spot. Among the killers were even boys from the Hitler Youth, as is illustrated by the 1946 testimony of Leopold Altzinger, former leader of the home guard in Pregarten municipality.
When we came to the street the [three] HJ boys referred to were standing there and the HJ member, Johann Praher, asked me whether they could shoot the two [captured] prisoners. I said they definitely couldn’t and that under no circumstances could such a thing be permitted. At this moment an SS man in the uniform of a sergeant major was standing nearby and Johann Praher asked him whether they could shoot the two KZ prisoners. The SS sergeant major replied that they could shoot the prisoners and that he was curious to see whether the boys would manage to hit these swine.
Source: N. Kaltenbrunner, Flucht aus dem Todesblock (Innsbruck, 2012), p. 145
Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes