The hunt for the escapees also called for the assistance of the civilian population. And the people came and willingly obliged. According to the documents and the testimonies given by witnesses there was no immediate threat to anyone nor was anyone forced to participate. They did it all the same.
If it's true, you could simply refuse to cooperate with the SS and nothing bad would happen to you.
Is there any hard evidence/support for this claim (apart from statements by eyewitnesses)?
Why, exactly, couldn't a SS officer shoot down some Austrian peasant who didn't want to chase the Soviets?