Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp
Overview
Mauthausen Concentration Camp (known from the summer of 1940 as Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp) grew to become a large group of Nazi
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 concentration camps
Nazi concentration camps
Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps throughout the territories it controlled. The first Nazi concentration camps set up in Germany were greatly expanded after the Reichstag fire of 1933, and were intended to hold political prisoners and opponents of the regime...

 that was built around the village
Village
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand , Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the West Village in Manhattan, New...

s of Mauthausen
Mauthausen
Mauthausen is a small market town in Upper Austria, Austria. It is located at about 20 kilometers east of the city of Linz, and has a population of 4,850 .During World War II, it became the site of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp complex....

 and Gusen
Sankt Georgen an der Gusen
Sankt Georgen an der Gusen is a small market town in Upper Austria, Austria, between the municipalities of Luftenberg and Langenstein...

 in Upper Austria
Upper Austria
Upper Austria is one of the nine states or Bundesländer of Austria. Its capital is Linz. Upper Austria borders on Germany and the Czech Republic, as well as on the other Austrian states of Lower Austria, Styria, and Salzburg...

, roughly 20 kilometres (12.4 mi) east of the city of Linz
Linz
Linz is the third-largest city of Austria and capital of the state of Upper Austria . It is located in the north centre of Austria, approximately south of the Czech border, on both sides of the river Danube. The population of the city is , and that of the Greater Linz conurbation is about...

.

Initially a single camp at Mauthausen, it expanded over time and by the summer of 1940, the Mauthausen-Gusen had become one of the largest labour camp complexes in German-controlled Europe.
Encyclopedia
Mauthausen Concentration Camp (known from the summer of 1940 as Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp) grew to become a large group of Nazi
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 concentration camps
Nazi concentration camps
Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps throughout the territories it controlled. The first Nazi concentration camps set up in Germany were greatly expanded after the Reichstag fire of 1933, and were intended to hold political prisoners and opponents of the regime...

 that was built around the village
Village
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand , Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the West Village in Manhattan, New...

s of Mauthausen
Mauthausen
Mauthausen is a small market town in Upper Austria, Austria. It is located at about 20 kilometers east of the city of Linz, and has a population of 4,850 .During World War II, it became the site of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp complex....

 and Gusen
Sankt Georgen an der Gusen
Sankt Georgen an der Gusen is a small market town in Upper Austria, Austria, between the municipalities of Luftenberg and Langenstein...

 in Upper Austria
Upper Austria
Upper Austria is one of the nine states or Bundesländer of Austria. Its capital is Linz. Upper Austria borders on Germany and the Czech Republic, as well as on the other Austrian states of Lower Austria, Styria, and Salzburg...

, roughly 20 kilometres (12.4 mi) east of the city of Linz
Linz
Linz is the third-largest city of Austria and capital of the state of Upper Austria . It is located in the north centre of Austria, approximately south of the Czech border, on both sides of the river Danube. The population of the city is , and that of the Greater Linz conurbation is about...

.

Initially a single camp at Mauthausen, it expanded over time and by the summer of 1940, the Mauthausen-Gusen had become one of the largest labour camp complexes in German-controlled Europe. Apart from the four main sub-camps at Mauthausen and nearby Gusen
Sankt Georgen an der Gusen
Sankt Georgen an der Gusen is a small market town in Upper Austria, Austria, between the municipalities of Luftenberg and Langenstein...

, more than 50 sub-camps, located throughout Austria and southern Germany, used the inmates as slave labour. Several subordinate camps of the KZ Mauthausen complex included quarries, munitions factories, mines, arms factories and Me 262
Messerschmitt Me 262
The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe was the world's first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. Design work started before World War II began, but engine problems prevented the aircraft from attaining operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944...

 fighter-plane assembly plants.

In January 1945, the camps, directed from the central office in Mauthausen, contained roughly 85,000 inmates. The death toll remains unknown, although most sources place it between 122,766 and 320,000 for the entire complex. The camps formed one of the first massive concentration camp complexes in Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

, and were the last ones to be liberated by the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

. The two main camps, Mauthausen and Gusen I, were also the only two camps in the whole of Europe to be labelled as "Grade III" camps, which meant that they were intended to be the toughest camps for the "Incorrigible Political Enemies of the Reich
Reich
Reich is a German word cognate with the English rich, but also used to designate an empire, realm, or nation. The qualitative connotation from the German is " sovereign state." It is the word traditionally used for a variety of sovereign entities, including Germany in many periods of its history...

". Unlike many other concentration camps, intended for all categories of prisoners, Mauthausen was mostly used for extermination through labour
Extermination through labour
Extermination through labor is a principle that guided the operation of the Nazi concentration camp system, defined as the willful or accepted killing of forced laborers or prisoners through excessive heavy labor, malnutrition and inadequate care....

 of the intelligentsia
Intelligentsia
The intelligentsia is a social class of people engaged in complex, mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them...

,
who were educated people and members of the higher social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

es in countries subjugated by the Nazi regime during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

KZ Mauthausen

On 7 August 1938 prisoners from Dachau concentration camp were sent to the town of Mauthausen near Linz
Linz
Linz is the third-largest city of Austria and capital of the state of Upper Austria . It is located in the north centre of Austria, approximately south of the Czech border, on both sides of the river Danube. The population of the city is , and that of the Greater Linz conurbation is about...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, to begin the construction of a new camp. The site was chosen as a site for a slave labour camp because of the nearby granite quarry, and due to its proximity to Linz. Although the camp was, from the beginning of its existence, controlled by the German state, it was founded by a private company as an economic enterprise. The owner of the Wiener-Graben quarry (the Marbacher-Bruch and Bettelberg quarries), which was located in and around Mauthausen, was a DEST
DEST
The D. E. S. T. , was an SS owned company originally created to procure and manufacture building materials for state construction projects in Nazi Germany DEST was a subsidiary company of Amtsgruppe W of SS-Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt...

 Company: an acronym for Deutsche Erd- und Steinwerke GmbH. The company, led by Oswald Pohl
Oswald Pohl
Oswald Pohl was a Nazi official and member of the SS , involved in the mass murders of Jews in concentration camps, the so-called Final Solution.-Early years:...

, who was also a high-ranking official of the SS
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

, rented the quarries from the City of Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 and started the construction of the Mauthausen camp. While DEST rented the quarries at Mauthausen from the city of Vienna in 1938, the company bought its first lots of land at nearby Gusen already on 25 May 1938. A year later, the company ordered the construction of the first camp at Gusen. The granite
Granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

 mined in the quarries had previously been used to pave the streets of Vienna, but the Nazi authorities envisioned a complete reconstruction of major German towns in accordance with plans of Albert Speer
Albert Speer
Albert Speer, born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office...

 and other architects of Nazi architecture
Nazi architecture
Nazi architecture was an architectural plan which played a role in the Nazi party's plans to create a cultural and spiritual rebirth in Germany as part of the Third Reich....

, for which large quantities of granite were needed.
The money needed for the construction of the Mauthausen camp was gathered from a variety of sources, including commercial loans from Dresdner Bank
Dresdner Bank
Dresdner Bank AG was one of Germany's largest banking corporations and was based in Frankfurt. It was acquired by competitor Commerzbank in December 2009.- 19th century :...

 and Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

-based Escompte Bank, the so-called Reinhardt's fund
Reinhardt's fund
Reinhardt's fund was a set of Nazi German bank accounts where the money and valuables stolen from concentration and death camp victims were kept. The money was used to finance a number of important German construction projects - including the construction of new concentration camps.-References:...

 (meaning money stolen from the inmates of the concentration camps themselves); and from the German Red Cross
German Red Cross
The German Red Cross , or the DRK, is the national Red Cross Society in Germany.With over 4.5 million members, it is the third largest Red Cross society in the world. The German Red Cross offers a wide range of services within and outside Germany...

.

Mauthausen initially served as a strictly-run prison camp
Internment
Internment is the imprisonment or confinement of people, commonly in large groups, without trial. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the meaning as: "The action of 'interning'; confinement within the limits of a country or place." Most modern usage is about individuals, and there is a distinction...

 for common criminals, prostitutes and other categories of "Incorrigible Law Offenders". On 8 May 1939 it was converted to a labour camp which was mainly used for the incarceration of political prisoners.

KL Gusen


DEST started to purchase a lot of land at Gusen in May 1938 in order to establish a twin concentration camp at Mauthausen and Gusen from the beginning, although construction of Concentration Camp Gusen was not started until autumn 1939. In the years 1938 and 1939, inmates of the nearby Mauthausen makeshift camp marched daily to the stone-quarries at Gusen which were more productive and more important for DEST than the Wienergraben Quarry. In late 1939, the not yet finished Mauthausen camp, with its Wiener-Graben granite
Granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

 quarry, was already overcrowded with prisoners since Germany started the war against Poland in September 1939. Their numbers rose from 1,080 in late 1938 to over 3,000 a year later. About that time the construction of a new camp "for the Poles" began in Gusen
Sankt Georgen an der Gusen
Sankt Georgen an der Gusen is a small market town in Upper Austria, Austria, between the municipalities of Luftenberg and Langenstein...

, about 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) away. The new camp (later named Gusen I) became operational in May 1940 while the Kastenhof- and Gusen-Quarries in the vicinity of that new concentration camp were operated with concentration camp inmates from Mauthausen before. The first inmates were put in the first two huts (No. 7 and 8) on 17 April 1940, while the first transport of prisoners - mostly from the camps in Dachau and Sachsenhausen
Sachsenhausen concentration camp
Sachsenhausen or Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May, 1945. After World War II, when Oranienburg was in the Soviet Occupation Zone, the structure was used as an NKVD...

 - arrived on 25 May of the same year. The new camp at Gusen saved the inmates of Mauthausen the daily march between both locations.

Like nearby Mauthausen, the Gusen camp also used its inmates as slave labour in the granite quarries, but they also rented them out to various local businesses. In October 1941, several huts were separated from the Gusen sub-camp by barbed wire
Barbed wire
Barbed wire, also known as barb wire , is a type of fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strand. It is used to construct inexpensive fences and is used atop walls surrounding secured property...

 and turned into a separate Prisoner of War Labour Camp . This camp had a large number of prisoners of war incarcerated, mostly Soviet officers. By 1942, the production capacity of both Mauthausen and Gusen had reached its peak. Gusen was expanded to include the central depot of the SS, where various goods, which had been seized from occupied territories, were sorted and then dispatched to Germany. Local quarries and businesses were in constant need of a new source of labour as more and more Austrians were drafted into the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

.

In March 1944, the former SS depot was converted to a new sub-camp, and was named Gusen II. Until the end of the war the depot served as an improvised concentration camp. The camp contained about 12,000 to 17,000 inmates, who were deprived of even the most basic facilities. In December 1944, another part of Gusen was opened in nearby Lungitz
Lungitz
Lungitz is a village in the community of Katsdorf, Perg district of Upper Austria, Austria.During World War II it was the site of slave labour and the "Gusen III" sub-camp of the Mauthausen-Gusen system later on. Although camp Gusen III was not opened earlier than December 1944, inmtes of camp...

. Here, parts of a factory infrastructure were converted into the third sub-camp of Gusen — Gusen III. The rise in the number of sub-camps could not catch up with the rising number of inmates, which led to overcrowding of the huts in all of the sub-camps of Mauthausen-Gusen. From late 1940 to 1944, the number of inmates per bed rose from 2 to 4.

Mauthausen-Gusen camp system


As the production in all of the sub-camps of Mauthausen-Gusen complex was constantly rising, so was the number of detainees and the number of the sub-camps themselves. Although initially the camps of Gusen and Mauthausen mostly served the local quarries, from 1942, and onwards, they began to be included in the German war machine. To accommodate the ever-increasing number of slave workers, additional sub-camps of Mauthausen began construction in all parts of Austria. At the end of the war the list included 101 camps (including 49 major sub-camps) which covered most of modern Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, from Mittersill
Mittersill
Mittersill is a city in the federal state of Salzburg, Austria, in the Pinzgau region of the Alps. It is located on the Salzach River. It had a population of 5,464 in 2005.- Geography :...

 south of Salzburg
Salzburg
-Population development:In 1935, the population significantly increased when Salzburg absorbed adjacent municipalities. After World War II, numerous refugees found a new home in the city. New residential space was created for American soldiers of the postwar Occupation, and could be used for...

 to Schwechat
Schwechat
Schwechat is a city south-east of Vienna known for the Vienna International Airport and Schwechater beer. It is also home to the refineries belonging to the Austrian national oil company OMV.- Geography :...

 east of Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 and from Passau
Passau
Passau is a town in Lower Bavaria, Germany. It is also known as the Dreiflüssestadt or "City of Three Rivers," because the Danube is joined at Passau by the Inn from the south and the Ilz from the north....

 on the pre-war Austro-German border to the Loibl Pass
Loibl Pass
The Loibl Pass or Ljubelj Pass is a high mountain pass in the Karavanke chain of the Southern Limestone Alps, linking Austria with Slovenia...

 on the border with Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

. The sub-camps were divided into several categories, depending on their main function: Produktionslager for factory workers, Baulager for construction, Aufräumlager for cleaning the rubble in Allied-bombed towns, and Kleinlager (small camps) where the inmates were working specifically for the SS.

Mauthausen-Gusen as a business enterprise

The production output of Mauthausen-Gusen exceeded that of each of the five other large slave labour centres, including: Auschwitz-Birkenau
Auschwitz concentration camp
Concentration camp Auschwitz was a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II...

, Flossenbürg
Flossenbürg concentration camp
Konzentrationslager Flossenbürg was a Nazi concentration camp built in May 1938 by the Schutzstaffel Economic-Administrative Main Office at Flossenbürg, in the Oberpfalz region of Bavaria, Germany, near the border with Czechoslovakia. Until its liberation in April 1945, more than 96,000 prisoners...

, Gross-Rosen
Gross-Rosen concentration camp
KL Gross-Rosen was a German concentration camp, located in Gross-Rosen, Lower Silesia . It was located directly on the rail line between Jauer and Striegau .-The camp:...

, Marburg
Marburg
Marburg is a city in the state of Hesse, Germany, on the River Lahn. It is the main town of the Marburg-Biedenkopf district and its population, as of March 2010, was 79,911.- Founding and early history :...

 and Natzweiler-Struthof
Natzweiler-Struthof
Natzweiler-Struthof was a German concentration camp located in the Vosges Mountains close to the Alsatian village of Natzwiller in France, and the town of Schirmeck, about 50 km south west from the city of Strasbourg....

, in terms of both production quota and profits. The list of companies using slave labour from the Mauthausen-Gusen camp system was long, and included both national corporations and small, local firms and communities. Some parts of the quarries were converted into a Mauser
Mauser
Mauser was a German arms manufacturer of a line of bolt-action rifles and pistols from the 1870s to 1995. Mauser designs were built for the German armed forces...

 machine pistol
Machine pistol
A machine pistol is a handgun-style, often magazine-fed and self-loading firearm, capable of fully automatic or burst fire, and normally chambered for pistol cartridges. The term is a literal translation of Maschinenpistole, the German term for a hand-held automatic weapon...

 assembly plant. In 1943, an underground factory for the Steyr-Daimler-Puch
Steyr-Daimler-Puch
Steyr-Daimler-Puch was a large manufacturing conglomerate based in Steyr, Austria, which was broken up in stages between 1987 and 2001. The component parts and operations continued to exist under separate ownership and new names.-History:...

 company was built in Gusen. Altogether, 45 larger companies took part in making KZ Mauthausen-Gusen one of the most profitable concentration camps of Nazi Germany, with more than 11,000,000 Reichsmark
German reichsmark
The Reichsmark was the currency in Germany from 1924 until June 20, 1948. The Reichsmark was subdivided into 100 Reichspfennig.-History:...

of the profits in 1944 alone (EUR as of ). Among them were:

Prisoners were also 'rented out' as slave labour, and were exploited in various ways, such as working for local farms, for road construction, reinforcing and repairing the banks of the Danube, and the construction of large residential areas in Sankt Georgen as well as being forced to excavate archaeological sites in Spielberg.

When the Allied strategic bombing campaign
Strategic bombing during World War II
Strategic bombing during World War II is a term which refers to all aerial bombardment of a strategic nature between 1939 and 1945 involving any nations engaged in World War II...

 started to target the German war industry, German planners decided to move production to underground facilities that were impenetrable to enemy aerial bombardment. In Gusen I, the prisoners were ordered to build several large tunnels beneath the hills surrounding the camp (code-named Kellerbau). By the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 the prisoners had dug 29400 square metres (316,459 sq ft) to house a small arms factory. In January 1944, similar tunnels were also built beneath the village of Sankt Georgen by the inmates of Gusen II sub-camp (code-named Bergkristall). They dug roughly 50000 square metres (538,195.5 sq ft) so the Messerschmitt company could build an assembly plant to produce the Messerschmitt Me 262
Messerschmitt Me 262
The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe was the world's first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. Design work started before World War II began, but engine problems prevented the aircraft from attaining operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944...

 and V-2 rocket
V-2 rocket
The V-2 rocket , technical name Aggregat-4 , was a ballistic missile that was developed at the beginning of the Second World War in Germany, specifically targeted at London and later Antwerp. The liquid-propellant rocket was the world's first long-range combat-ballistic missile and first known...

s. In addition to planes, some 7000 square metres (75,347.4 sq ft) of Gusen II tunnels served as factories for various war materials. In late 1944, roughly 11,000 of the Gusen I and II inmates were working in underground facilities. An additional 6,500 worked on expanding the underground network of tunnels and halls. In 1945, the Me 262 works was already finished and the Germans were able to assemble 1,250 planes a month. This was the second largest plane factory in Germany after the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, which was also underground.

Extermination through labour

The political function of the camp continued in parallel with its economic role. Until at least 1942, it was used for the imprisonment and murder of Germany's political and ideological enemies, both real and imagined. The camp served the needs of the German war machine and also carried out extermination through labour
Extermination through labour
Extermination through labor is a principle that guided the operation of the Nazi concentration camp system, defined as the willful or accepted killing of forced laborers or prisoners through excessive heavy labor, malnutrition and inadequate care....

. When the inmates were totally exhausted after having worked in the quarries for 12 hours a day, or if they were too ill or too weak to work, they were then transferred to the Revier
Revier
A revier in the language of Nazi camps was a barrack for sick concentration camp inmates. Most of the medical personnel were inmates themselves. The conditions in reviers varied drastically depending on the type of the camp.The German word Revier literally translates as a defined area or territory...

 ("Krankenrevier", sick barrack) or other places for extermination. Initially, the camp did not have a gas chamber
Gas chamber
A gas chamber is an apparatus for killing humans or animals with gas, consisting of a sealed chamber into which a poisonous or asphyxiant gas is introduced. The most commonly used poisonous agent is hydrogen cyanide; carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide have also been used...

 of its own and the so-called Muselmänner, or prisoners who were too sick to work, after being maltreated, under-nourished or exhausted, were then transferred to other concentration camps for extermination (mostly to the infamous Hartheim Castle, which was 40.7 kilometres (25.3 mi) away), or killed by lethal injection and cremated in the local crematorium. The growing number of prisoners made the system too expensive and from 1940, Mauthausen was one of the few camps in the West to use a gas chamber on a regular basis. In the beginning, an improvised mobile gas chamber
Gas van
The gas van or gas wagon was an extermination method devised by Nazi Germany to kill victims of the regime. It was also rumored that analog of such device was used by the Soviet Union on an experimental basis during the Great Purge-Nazi Germany:...

 – a van with the exhaust pipe connected to the inside – shuttled between Mauthausen
Mauthausen
Mauthausen is a small market town in Upper Austria, Austria. It is located at about 20 kilometers east of the city of Linz, and has a population of 4,850 .During World War II, it became the site of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp complex....

 and Gusen
Sankt Georgen an der Gusen
Sankt Georgen an der Gusen is a small market town in Upper Austria, Austria, between the municipalities of Luftenberg and Langenstein...

. By December 1941, a permanent gas chamber that could kill about 120 prisoners at a time was completed.

Inmates


Until early 1940, the largest group of inmates consisted of German, Austrian and Czechoslovak socialists, communists, anarchists, homosexuals, and people of Roma origin. Other groups of people to be persecuted solely on religious grounds were the Sectarians, as they were dubbed by the Nazi regime, meaning Bible Students
Bible Student movement
The Bible Student movement is the name adopted by a Millennialist Restorationist Christian movement that emerged from the teachings and ministry of Charles Taze Russell, also known as Pastor Russell...

 and Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The religion reports worldwide membership of over 7 million adherents involved in evangelism, convention attendance of over 12 million, and annual...

. The reason for their imprisonment was their total rejection of giving the loyalty oath to Hitler and their absolute refusal to participate in any kind of military service.
Sub-camp
inmate counts
Late 1944 – Early 1945
Gusen (I, II and III combined) 26,311
Ebensee
Ebensee concentration camp
The Ebensee concentration camp was established by the SS to build tunnels for armaments storage near the town of Ebensee, Austria in 1943. It was part of the Mauthausen network....

18,437
Gunskirchen 15,000
Melk 10,314
Linz 6,690
Amstetten 2,966
Wiener-Neudorf 2,954
Schwechat 2,568
Steyr-Münichholz 1,971
Schlier-Redl-Zipf 1,488


In early 1940, a large number of Poles were transferred to the Mauthausen-Gusen complex. The first groups were mostly composed of artists, scientists, Boy Scouts
Zwiazek Harcerstwa Polskiego
Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego is the coeducational Polish Scouting organization recognized by the World Organization of the Scout Movement and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. It was founded in 1918 and currently is the largest Scouting organization in Poland...

, teachers, and university professors, who were arrested during Intelligenzaktion
Intelligenzaktion
Intelligenzaktion was a genocidal action of Nazi Germany targeting Polish elites as part of elimination of potentially dangerous elements. It was an early measure of the Generalplan Ost. About 60,000 people were killed as the result of this operation...

 and the course of the AB Action. Camp Gusen II was called by Germans "Vernichtungslager fur die polnische Intelligenz" ("Extermination camp for Polish inteligentsia").

Later in the war, new arrivals were from every category of the "unwanted", but educated people and so-called political prisoners constituted the largest part of all inmates until the end of the war. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, large groups of Spanish Republicans
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 were also transferred to Mauthausen and its sub-camps. Most of them were former Republican soldiers or activists who had fled to France after Franco
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

's victory and then were captured by German forces after the French defeat
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

 in 1940 or handed over to the Germans by the Vichy
Vichy France
Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

 authorities. The largest of these groups arrived at Gusen in January 1941. In early 1941, almost all the Poles and Spaniards, except for a small group of specialists working in the quarry's stone mill, were transferred from Mauthausen to Gusen. Following the outbreak of the Soviet-German War
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 in 1941 the camps started to receive a large number of Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 POWs. Most of them were kept in huts separated from the rest of the camp. The Soviet prisoners of war were a major part of the first groups to be gassed in the newly-built gas chamber in early 1942. In 1944, a large group of Hungarian
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 and Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 Jews was also transferred to the camp. Much like all the other large groups of prisoners that were transferred to Mauthausen-Gusen, most of them either died as a result of the hard labour and poor conditions, or were deliberately killed by throwing them down the sides of the Mauthausen quarry, nicknamed the Parachutists' Wall by the SS
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

 guards and Kapos
Kapo (concentration camp)
A kapo was a prisoner who worked inside German Nazi concentration camps during World War II in any of certain lower administrative positions. The official Nazi word was Funktionshäftling, or "prisoner functionary", but the Nazis commonly referred to them as kapos.- Etymology :The origin of "kapo"...

. The nickname was a cruel joke which mocked the doomed prisoners by calling them "Parachutists without a parachute".
Throughout the years of World War II, the camps of Mauthausen-Gusen received new prisoners in smaller transports on a daily basis; mostly from other concentration camps in German-occupied Europe. Most of the prisoners in the sub-camps of Mauthausen were kept in various detention sites prior to transportation to their final destination. The most notable of such centres for Mauthausen-Gusen were the infamous camps at Dachau and Auschwitz
Auschwitz concentration camp
Concentration camp Auschwitz was a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II...

. The first transports from Auschwitz arrived in February 1942. The second transport in June of that year was much larger and numbered some 1,200 prisoners. Similar groups were sent from Auschwitz to Gusen and Mauthausen in April and November 1943, and then in January and February 1944. Finally, after Adolf Eichmann
Adolf Eichmann
Adolf Otto Eichmann was a German Nazi and SS-Obersturmbannführer and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust...

 visited Mauthausen in May of that year, KZ Mauthausen-Gusen received the first group of roughly 8,000 Hungarian Jews from Auschwitz; the first group to be evacuated from that camp before the Soviet advance. Initially, the groups evacuated from Auschwitz consisted of qualified workers for the ever-growing industry of the Mauthausen-Gusen camp complex, but as the evacuation proceeded other categories of people were also transported to Mauthausen, Gusen, Vienna or Melk
Melk
Melk is a city of Austria, in the federal state of Lower Austria, next to the Wachau valley along the Danube. Melk has a population of 5,222 ....

.
Over time, Auschwitz had to almost stop accepting new prisoners and most were directed to Mauthausen instead. The last group— roughly 10,000 prisoners—was evacuated in the last wave in January 1945, only a few weeks before the Soviet liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. Among them was a large group of civilians arrested by the Germans after the failure of the Warsaw Uprising
Warsaw Uprising
The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II operation by the Polish resistance Home Army , to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany. The rebellion was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union's Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces...

, but by the liberation not more than 500 of them were still alive. Altogether, during the final months of the war, 23,364 prisoners from other concentration camps arrived at the camp complex. Many more perished during death marches
Death marches (Holocaust)
The death marches refer to the forcible movement between Autumn 1944 and late April 1945 by Nazi Germany of thousands of prisoners from German concentration camps near the war front to camps inside Germany.-General:...

, where they dropped dead because of pure exhaustion, or in railway wagons, where the prisoners were confined at sub-zero temperatures—without adequate food or water—for several days prior to their arrival. Prisoner transports were considered to be less important than other important services.

Many of those who survived the journey died before they could be registered, whilst others were given the camp numbers of prisoners who had already been killed. Most were then accommodated in the camps or in the newly-established tent camp just outside the Mauthausen sub-camp, where roughly 2,000 people were forced into tents intended for not more than 800 inmates, and then starved to death.

As in all other German concentration camps, not all the prisoners were equal. Their treatment depended largely on the category assigned to each inmate
Nazi concentration camp badges
Nazi concentration camp badges, primarily triangles, were part of the system of identification in Nazi camps. They were used in the concentration camps in the Nazi-occupied countries to identify the reason the prisoners had been placed there. The triangles were made of fabric and were sewn on...

, as well as their nationality and rank within the system. The so-called kapos, or prisoners who had been recruited by their captors to police their fellow prisoners, were given more food and higher pay in the form of concentration camp coupons which could be exchanged for cigarettes in the canteen, as well as a separate room inside most barracks. In addition, following Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

's order in June, 1941, a brothel
Brothel
Brothels are business establishments where patrons can engage in sexual activities with prostitutes. Brothels are known under a variety of names, including bordello, cathouse, knocking shop, whorehouse, strumpet house, sporting house, house of ill repute, house of prostitution, and bawdy house...

 was opened for them in 1942, in the Mauthausen and Gusen I camps. The Kapos formed the main part of the so-called Prominents , or prisoners who were given a much better treatment than the average inmate.

Women and children in Mauthausen-Gusen

Although the Mauthausen-Gusen camp complex was mostly a labour camp for men, a women's camp was opened in Mauthausen, in September 1944, with the first transport of female prisoners from Auschwitz. Eventually, more women and children came to Mauthausen from Ravensbrück, Bergen Belsen, Gross Rosen, and Buchenwald. With them came some female guards. Twenty are known to have served in the Mauthausen camp, and sixty in the whole camp complex. Female guards also staffed the Mauthausen sub-camps at Hirtenberg
Hirtenberg
Hirtenberg is a town of approx. 2,500 inhabitants near Baden bei Wien in Lower Austria, Austria. The river Triesting is located at the south border of the town...

, Lenzing
Lenzing
Lenzing is a small town of approximately 5000 residents, three kilometers north of Lake Attersee in Austria, It is located in the Upper Austrian part of the Salzkammergut....

 (the main women's sub-camp in Austria), and St. Lambrecht. The Chief Overseers at Mauthausen were firstly Margarete Freinberger, and then Jane Bernigau
Jane Bernigau
Gerda "Jane" Bernigau was an SS Oberaufseherin in Nazi concentration camps before and during World War II.-Camp work:...

. Of all the female Overseers who served in Mauthausen, almost all of them were recruited between September and November 1944, from Austrian cities and towns. In early April 1945, at least 2,500 more female prisoners came from the female sub-camps at Amstetten, St. Lambrecht, Hirtenberg, and the Flossenbürg
Flossenbürg concentration camp
Konzentrationslager Flossenbürg was a Nazi concentration camp built in May 1938 by the Schutzstaffel Economic-Administrative Main Office at Flossenbürg, in the Oberpfalz region of Bavaria, Germany, near the border with Czechoslovakia. Until its liberation in April 1945, more than 96,000 prisoners...

 sub-camp at Freiberg
Freiberg, Saxony
Freiberg is a city in the Free State of Saxony, Germany, administrative center of the Mittelsachsen district.-History:The city was founded in 1186, and has been a center of the mining industry in the Ore Mountains for centuries...

. It is rumoured that Hildegard Lächert
Hildegard Lachert
Hildegard Martha Lächert was a notorious female guard, Aufseherin, at several German World War II concentration camps. She became publicly known for her service at Ravensbrück, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau...

 also served at Mauthausen.

The available Mauthausen inmate statistics from the spring of 1943, shows that there were 2,400 prisoners below the age of 20, which was 12.8% of the 18,655 population. By late March 1945, the number of juvenile prisoners in Mauthausen increased to 15,048, which was 19.1% of the 78,547 Mauthausen inmates. The number of imprisoned children increased 6.2 times, whereas the total number of adult prisoners during the same period multiplied by a factor of only four. These numbers reflected the increasing use of Polish, Czech, Russian, and Balkan teenagers as slave labour as the war continued. Statistics showing the composition of juvenile inmates shortly before their liberation reveal the following major child/prisoner sub-groups: 5,809 foreign civilian labourers, 5,055 political prisoners, 3,654 Jews, and 330 Russian POWs. There were also 23 Roma children, 20 so-called "anti-social elements", 6 Spaniards, and 3 Jehovah's Witnesses.

The treatment of inmates and methodology of crime

Although not the only concentration camp where the German authorities implemented their extermination through labour
Extermination through labour
Extermination through labor is a principle that guided the operation of the Nazi concentration camp system, defined as the willful or accepted killing of forced laborers or prisoners through excessive heavy labor, malnutrition and inadequate care....

 (Vernichtung durch Arbeit), Mauthausen-Gusen was one of the most brutal and severe. The conditions within the camp were considered exceptionally hard to bear, even by concentration camp standards. The inmates suffered not only from malnutrition
Malnutrition
Malnutrition is the condition that results from taking an unbalanced diet in which certain nutrients are lacking, in excess , or in the wrong proportions....

, overcrowded huts and constant abuse and beatings by the guards and kapos, but also from exceptionally hard labour. As there were too many prisoners in Mauthausen to have all of them work in its quarry at the same time, many were put to work in workshops, or had to do other manual work, whilst the unfortunate ones who were selected to work in the quarry were only there because of their so-called "crimes" in the camp. The reasons for sending them to work in the "Punishment-Detail" were trivial, and included such "crimes" as not saluting a German passing by.

The work in the quarries — often in unbearable heat or in temperatures as low as -30 C — led to exceptionally high mortality rates. The food rations were limited, and during the 1940–1942 period, an average inmate weighed 40 kilograms, roughly 88 pounds. It is estimated that the average energy content of food rations dropped from about 1,750 calories a day during the 1940–1942 period, to between 1,150 and 1,460 during the next period. In 1945, the energy content was even lower and did not exceed 600 to 1,000 calories a day; that is less than a third of the energy needed by an average worker in heavy industry
Heavy industry
Heavy industry does not have a single fixed meaning as compared to light industry. It can mean production of products which are either heavy in weight or in the processes leading to their production. In general, it is a popular term used within the name of many Japanese and Korean firms, meaning...

. This led to the starvation of thousands of inmates.

The inmates of Mauthausen, Gusen I, and Gusen II had access to a separate sub-camp for the sick — the so-called Krankenlager. Despite the fact that (roughly) 100 medics from among the inmates were working there, they were not given any medication and could offer only basic first aid. Thus the hospital camp – as it was called by the German authorities – was, in fact, the last stop before death for thousands of inmates, and very few had a chance to recover.
The rock-quarry in Mauthausen was at the base of the infamous "Stairs of Death". Prisoners were forced to carry roughly-hewn blocks of stone — often weighing as much as 50 kilograms (110.2 lb) — up the 186 stairs - one behind the other. As a result, many exhausted prisoners collapsed in front of the other prisoners in the line, and then fell on top of the other prisoners, creating a horrific domino effect; the first prisoner falling onto the next, and so on, all the way down the stairs.

Such brutality was not accidental. The SS guards would often force prisoners — exhausted from hours of hard labour without sufficient food and water — to race up the stairs carrying blocks of stone. Those who survived the ordeal would often be placed in a line-up at the edge of a cliff known as "The Parachutists Wall" . At gun-point each prisoner would have the option of being shot or pushing the prisoner in front of him off the cliff. Other common methods of extermination of prisoners who were either sick, unfit for further labour or as a means of collective responsibility or after escape attempts included:
  • Being beaten to death (by the SS and Kapos)
  • Icy showers - some 3,000 inmates died of hypothermia
    Hypothermia
    Hypothermia is a condition in which core temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions which is defined as . Body temperature is usually maintained near a constant level of through biologic homeostasis or thermoregulation...

     - after having being forced to take an icy cold shower - and who were then left outside in cold weather.
  • Mass-shootings
  • Medical experiments
    • Aribert Heim
      Aribert Heim
      Aribert Ferdinand Heim was an Austrian doctor, also known as Dr. Death. As an SS doctor in a Nazi concentration camp in Mauthausen, he is accused of killing and torturing many inmates by various methods, such as direct injections of toxic compounds into the hearts of his victims...

      , dubbed "Doctor Death" by the inmates, was there for seven weeks, which was enough to carry out his experiments
    • Another of the Nazi scientists to perform experiments on the inmates was Karl Gross, who purposely infected hundreds of prisoners with cholera
      Cholera
      Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

       and typhus
      Typhus
      Epidemic typhus is a form of typhus so named because the disease often causes epidemics following wars and natural disasters...

       in order to test his experimental vaccines on them. Between February 5, 1942, and mid-April 1944, more than 1,500 prisoners were killed as a result of his experiments
  • Hanging
  • Starvation
  • Injections of phenol
    Phenol
    Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, phenic acid, is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5OH. It is a white crystalline solid. The molecule consists of a phenyl , bonded to a hydroxyl group. It is produced on a large scale as a precursor to many materials and useful compounds...

    . (A group of 2,000 prisoners who applied to be transferred to the sanatorium were declared mentally sick and were killed by Dr. Ramsauer in the course of the H-13 action)
  • Drowning in large barrels of water (Gusen II)
  • Beating to death or starving to death in bunkers
  • Throwing the prisoners on the 380 volt
    Volt
    The volt is the SI derived unit for electric potential, electric potential difference, and electromotive force. The volt is named in honor of the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta , who invented the voltaic pile, possibly the first chemical battery.- Definition :A single volt is defined as the...

     electric barbed wire fence
  • Forcing prisoners outside the boundaries of the camp and then shooting them on the pretense that they were attempting to escape


After the war one of the survivors, Dr. Antoni Gościński
Antoni Goscinski
Antoni Gościński was a Polish doctor. During World War II he was arrested by the Germans in the course of the AB Action and imprisoned in Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp...

 reported 62 ways of murdering people in the camps of Gusen I and Mauthausen. Hans Maršálek estimated that an average life expectancy
Life expectancy
Life expectancy is the expected number of years of life remaining at a given age. It is denoted by ex, which means the average number of subsequent years of life for someone now aged x, according to a particular mortality experience...

 of newly-arrived prisoners in Gusen varied from 6 months between 1940 and 1942, to less than 3 months in early 1945.

Paradoxically, with the growth of forced labour industry in various sub-camps of Mauthausen-Gusen, the situation of some of the prisoners improved significantly. While the food rations were increasingly limited every month, the heavy industry necessitated skilled specialists rather than unqualified workers and the brutality of the camp's SS and Kapos was limited. While the prisoners were still beaten on a daily basis and the Muselmänner were still exterminated, from early 1943 on some of the factory workers were allowed to receive food parcels from their families (mostly Poles and Frenchmen). This allowed many of them not only to evade the risk of starvation, but also to help other prisoners who had no relatives outside the camps — or who were not allowed to receive parcels.

Death toll

Because the Germans destroyed much of the camp's files and evidence and often gave newly-arrived prisoners the camp numbers of those who had already been killed, the exact death toll of the Mauthausen-Gusen complex is impossible to calculate. The matter is further complicated due to some of the inmates of Gusen being murdered in Mauthausen, and at least 3,423 sent to Hartheim Castle, 40.7 km (25.3 mi) away. Also, several thousands were killed in mobile gas chambers, without any mention of the exact number of victims in the remaining files. The SS, before their escape from the camps on 4 May 1945, tried to destroy the evidence, allowing approximately only 40,000 victims to be identified. During the first days after the liberation, the camp's main chancellery was seized by the members of a Polish inmate resistance organization; secured against the wishes of other inmates, who wanted to burn it. After the war, the main chancellery was brought by one of the survivors to Poland, then passed to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in Oświęcim
Oswiecim
Oświęcim is a town in the Lesser Poland province of southern Poland, situated west of Kraków, near the confluence of the rivers Vistula and Soła.- History :...

. Parts of the death register of Gusen I camp were secured by the Polish inmates, who took it to Australia after the war. In 1969 the files were given to the International Red Cross Tracing Bureau.
The surviving camp archives include personal files of 37,411 murdered prisoners, including 22,092 Poles, 5,024 Spaniards, 2,843 Soviet prisoners of war and 7,452 inmates of 24 other nationalities. The surviving parts of the death register of KZ Gusen list an additional 30,536 names.

Apart from the surviving camp files of the sub-camps of Mauthausen, the main documents used for an estimation of the death toll of the camp complexes are:
  1. A report by Józef Żmij
    Józef Zmij
    Józef Żmij was a Polish soldier and politician in the period before the World War II. During the Silesian Uprisings he took part in the fights around the village of Wisła Wielka in the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. After the war, in 1930s, he became the mayor of the town of Pszczyna, where he married...

    , a survivor who had been working in the Gusen I camp's chancellery. His report is based on personally-made copies of yearly reports from the period between 1940 and 1944, and the camps commander's daily reports for the period between 1 January 1945 and the day of the liberation.

International Red Cross
  • Personal notes of Stanisław Nogaj, another inmate who had been working in the chancellery of Gusen
  • Death register prepared by the SS chief medic of the Mauthausen main chancellery for the sub-camps of Gusen (similar records for the Mauthausen sub-camp itself were destroyed)


  • Because of that the exact death toll of the entire Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp system varies considerably from source to source. Various scholars place it at between 122,766 and 320,000, with other numbers also frequently quoted being 200,000 and "over 150,000".
    Various historians place the total death toll in the four main camps of Mauthausen, Gusen I, Gusen II and Gusen III at between 55,000 and 60,000. In addition, during the first month after the liberation additional 1042 prisoners died in American field hospitals.

    Out of approximately 320,000 prisoners who were incarcerated in various sub-camps of KZ Mauthausen-Gusen throughout the war, only approximately 80,000 survived, including between 20,487 and 21,386 in Gusen I, II and III.

    Liberation and post-war heritage

    During the final months before liberation, the camp's commander Franz Ziereis
    Franz Ziereis
    Franz Xaver Ziereis was the commandant of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp from 1939 until the camp was captured by the Allied powers in 1945.-Early life :...

     prepared for its defence against a possible Soviet offensive. Most of the inmates of German and Austrian nationality "volunteered" for the SS-Freiwillige Häftlingsdivision, an SS unit composed mostly of former concentration camp inmates and headed by Oskar Dirlewanger
    Oskar Dirlewanger
    Oskar Paul Dirlewanger was a World War II officer of the SS who commanded the SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger, a penal battalion composed of German criminals...

    . The remaining prisoners were rushed to build a line of granite anti-tank obstacles to the east of Mauthausen. The inmates unable to cope with the hard labour and malnutrition were exterminated in large numbers to free space for newly-arrived evacuation transports from other camps, including most of the sub-camps of Mauthausen-Gusen located in eastern Austria. In the final months of the war, the main source of calories, that is the parcels of food sent through the International Red Cross, stopped and food rations became catastrophically low. The prisoners transferred to the "Hospital Sub-camp" received one piece of bread per 20 inmates and roughly half a litre of weed soup a day. This made some of the prisoners, previously engaged in various types of resistance activity, begin to prepare plans to defend the camp in case of an SS attempt to exterminate all the remaining inmates. It is not known why the prisoners of Gusen I and II were not exterminated en-masse, despite direct orders from Heinrich Himmler
    Heinrich Himmler
    Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

    ; Ziereis' plan assumed rushing all the prisoners into the tunnels of the underground factories of Kellerbau and blowing up the entrances. The plan was known to one of the Polish resistance organizations which started an ambitious plan of gathering tools necessary to dig air vents in the entrances.
    On April 28, under cover of a fictional air-raid alarm, some 22,000 prisoners of Gusen were rushed into the tunnels. However, after several hours in the tunnels all of the prisoners were allowed to return to the camp. Stanisław Dobosiewicz, the author of a monumental monograph of the Mauthausen-Gusen complex, explains that one of the possible causes of the failure of the German plan was that the Polish prisoners managed to cut the fuse wires. Ziereis himself stated in his testimony written on May 25 that it was his wife who convinced him not to follow the order from above. Although the plan was abandoned, the prisoners feared that the SS might want to massacre the prisoners by other means. Because of that the Polish, Soviet and French prisoners prepared a plan for an assault on the barracks of the SS guards in order to seize the arms necessary to put up a fight. A similar plan was also devised by the Spanish inmates.

    On 3 May the SS and other guards started to prepare for evacuation of the camp. The following day, the guards of Mauthausen were replaced with unarmed Volkssturm
    Volkssturm
    The Volkssturm was a German national militia of the last months of World War II. It was founded on Adolf Hitler's orders on October 18, 1944 and conscripted males between the ages of 16 to 60 years who were not already serving in some military unit as part of a German Home Guard.-Origins and...

     soldiers and an improvised unit formed of elderly police officers and fire fighters evacuated from Vienna. The police officer in charge of the unit accepted the "inmate self-government" as the camp's highest authority and Martin Gerken
    Martin Gerken
    Martin Gerken was a German communist and one of the highest-ranking Kapos in the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. Between April 1, 1945 and the liberation on May 5 of the same year he served as the camp's elder of the sub-camp of Gusen....

    , until then the highest-ranking kapo prisoner in the Gusen's administration (in the rank of Lagerälteste, or the Camp's Elder), became the new de facto commander. He attempted to create an International Prisoner Committee that would become a provisional governing body of the camp until it was liberated by one of the approaching armies, but he was openly accused of co-operation with the SS and the plan failed. All work in the sub-camps of Mauthausen stopped and the inmates focused on preparations for their liberation - or defence of the camps against a possible assault by the SS divisions concentrated in the area. The remnants of several German divisions indeed assaulted the Mauthausen sub-camp, but were repelled by the prisoners who took over the camp. Out of all the main sub-camps of Mauthausen-Gusen only Gusen III was to be evacuated. On May 1, the inmates were rushed on a death march
    Death march
    A death march is a forced march of prisoners of war or other captives or deportees. Those marching must walk over long distances for an extremely long period of time and are not supplied with food or water...

     towards Sankt Georgen
    Sankt Georgen an der Gusen
    Sankt Georgen an der Gusen is a small market town in Upper Austria, Austria, between the municipalities of Luftenberg and Langenstein...

    , but were ordered to return to the camp after several hours. The operation was repeated the following day, but called off soon afterwards. The following day, the SS guards deserted the camp, leaving the prisoners to their fate.

    On May 5, 1945 the camp at Mauthausen was approached by soldiers of the 41st Recon Squad of the US 11th Armored Division, 3rd US Army. The reconnaissance squad was led by S/SGT Albert J. Kosiek. His troop disarmed the policemen and left the camp. By the time of its liberation, most of the SS-men of Mauthausen had already fled; however, some 30 who were left were killed by the prisoners; a similar number were killed in Gusen II. By 6 May all the remaining sub-camps of the Mauthausen-Gusen camp complex, with the exception of the two camps in the Loibl Pass
    Loibl Pass
    The Loibl Pass or Ljubelj Pass is a high mountain pass in the Karavanke chain of the Southern Limestone Alps, linking Austria with Slovenia...

    , were also liberated by American forces.

    Among the inmates liberated from the camp was Lieutenant Jack Taylor, an officer of the Office of Strategic Services
    Office of Strategic Services
    The Office of Strategic Services was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency...

    . He had managed to survive with the help of several prisoners and was later a key witness at the Mauthausen-Gusen camp trials
    Mauthausen-Gusen camp trials
    The Mauthausen-Gusen camp trials were a set of two consecutive trials of the German World War II criminals, carried over by the Dachau International Military Tribunal. Between March 29 and May 13, 1946, and then from August 6 to August 21, 1947, a total of 69 former Nazi officials were tried...

     carried out by the Dachau International Military Tribunal
    Dachau International Military Tribunal
    The Dachau Trials were held for all war criminals caught in the United States zones in occupied Germany and Austria, as well as for those individuals accused of committing war crimes against American citizens and its military personnel...

    . Another of the camp's survivors was Simon Wiesenthal
    Simon Wiesenthal
    Simon Wiesenthal KBE was an Austrian Holocaust survivor who became famous after World War II for his work as a Nazi hunter....

    , an engineer who spent the rest of his life hunting Nazi war criminals. Future Medal of Honor winner Tibor "Ted" Rubin
    Tibor Rubin
    Tibor "Ted" Rubin is a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the United States in 1948 and received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Korean War by President George W. Bush on September 23, 2005...

     was imprisoned there as a young teenager; a Hungarian Jew, he vowed to join the U.S. Army upon his liberation and later did just that, distinguishing himself in the Korean War as a corporal in the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.

    Following the capitulation of Germany, the Mauthausen-Gusen complex fell within the Soviet sector of occupation of Austria
    Allied-administered Austria
    The Allied occupation of Austria lasted from 1945 to 1955. Austria had been regarded by Nazi Germany as a constituent part of the German state, but in 1943 the Allied powers agreed in the Declaration of Moscow that it would be regarded as the first victim of Nazi aggression, and treated as a...

    . Initially, the Soviet authorities used parts of the Mauthausen and Gusen I camps as barracks
    Barracks
    Barracks are specialised buildings for permanent military accommodation; the word may apply to separate housing blocks or to complete complexes. Their main object is to separate soldiers from the civilian population and reinforce discipline, training and esprit de corps. They were sometimes called...

     for the Red Army
    Red Army
    The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

    . At the same time, the underground factories were being dismantled and sent to the USSR as a war booty. After that, between 1946 and 1947, the camps were unguarded and many furnishings and facilities of the camp were dismantled, both by the Red Army and by the local population. In the early summer of 1947, the Soviet forces had blown the tunnels up and were then withdrawn from the area, while the camp was turned over to Austrian civilian authorities.

    Memorials

    It was not until 1949 that it was declared a national memorial
    Memorial
    A memorial is an object which serves as a focus for memory of something, usually a person or an event. Popular forms of memorials include landmark objects or art objects such as sculptures, statues or fountains, and even entire parks....

     site. Finally, 30 years after the camp's liberation, on 3 May 1975, Chancellor Bruno Kreisky
    Bruno Kreisky
    Bruno Kreisky was an Austrian politician who served as Foreign Minister from 1959 to 1966 and as Chancellor from 1970 to 1983. Aged 72 at the end of his chancellorship, he was the oldest acting Chancellor after World War II....

     officially opened the Mauthausen Museum.
    Unlike Mauthausen, much of what constituted the sub-camps of Gusen I, II and III is now covered by residential areas built after the war.

    See also

    • Dachau International Military Tribunal
      Dachau International Military Tribunal
      The Dachau Trials were held for all war criminals caught in the United States zones in occupied Germany and Austria, as well as for those individuals accused of committing war crimes against American citizens and its military personnel...

    • List of Nazi-German concentration camps
    • List of subcamps of Mauthausen
    • Mauthausen-Gusen camp trials
      Mauthausen-Gusen camp trials
      The Mauthausen-Gusen camp trials were a set of two consecutive trials of the German World War II criminals, carried over by the Dachau International Military Tribunal. Between March 29 and May 13, 1946, and then from August 6 to August 21, 1947, a total of 69 former Nazi officials were tried...

    • Steyr-Münichholz subcamp
      Steyr-Münichholz subcamp
      The Steyr-Münichholz concentration camp was one in a number of subcamps of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in Upper Austria. Inmates were drawn from the main camp, in order to exploit their labor for producing arms in Steyr-Daimler-Puch corporation factories, and to build air-raid bunkers...


    Further reading



    External links

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