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Mauthausen was a concentration camp built near Linz in Austria. Built in 1939 it housed Jews from Austria, Holland, Italy and Hungary. Although it was not an extermination camp an estimated 40,000 people died while at Mauthausen.
The concentration camp was established in 1938 when prisoners were ordered to move to Mauthausen from the Dachau camp. At the time, there was no real camp there, so these prisoners were put to use. They built everything. It had 32 barracks, a couple of buildings for the officers, and was surrounded by electric barbed wire. There was also a stone wall in place.
The camp was near a quarry, which was intentional. While the camp was technically in Germany’s control, it was originally started as a new business by the company that owned the quarry.
Two camps were built relatively close to each other, named Mauthausen and Gusen.
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Mauthausen, one of the most notorious Nazi concentration camps, located near the village of Mauthausen, on the Danube River, 12 miles (20 km) east of Linz, Austria. It was established in April 1938, shortly after Austria was annexed to Nazi Germany. Starting as a satellite of Dachau, in Germany, it became an independent camp in the spring of 1939, operated by the SS (the Nazi paramilitary corps) and acquiring satellite camps of its own throughout Austria, all collectively called Mauthausen.
The camp provided slave labour to work previously abandoned stone quarries nearby. During its first year, the camp received prisoners transferred from Dachau—mainly convicted criminals, but also so-called “asocial elements,” including political prisoners, homosexuals, and others. The camp later became a detention centre for anti-Nazis from all over Europe, including 10,000 Spanish Republicans. In November 1941, Soviet prisoners of war began arriving. The first Jews arrived in May 1941, but Jews were a small minority of the camp prisoners until 1944, when Jews from Poland (especially from Plaszow) and Hungary greatly increased the camp population. Still later, Mauthausen absorbed survivors of the infamous death marches from evacuated extermination camps.
All categories of prisoners carried the official instructions Rückkehr unerwünscht (“return not desired”), and the inmates were thus starved, beaten, used for medical experiments, and subjected to the most grueling work, especially in the local quarries. The Nazis delivered unruly prisoners and captured escapees from other camps to Mauthausen for punishment by beating, hard labour, shooting, or gassing.
About 200,000 prisoners passed through Mauthausen. Some 120,000 of them died, mainly from starvation, disease, and the hardships of labour. About 38,000 of the dead were Jews. Mauthausen also had a gas chamber and gas vans, and from April 1944 to January 1945 the gas chambers at nearby Hartheim Castle were also used to kill prisoners too weak to work or too “undesirable” to be kept alive. The SS fled Mauthausen shortly before American troops entered the camp on May 5, 1945.
Getting to the Mauthausen Memorial
The town of Linz is about a 25 minute drive from the memorial: there’s parking on site. If you’re coming using public transport, it’s easiest to get bus 360 from Linz to the Mauthausen OÖ Linzer Strasse/Hauptschule stop – the journey takes just under an hour. From there, it’s another 1.5km walk uphill to the memorial itself.
You can also get the train to Mauthausen (change in St Valentin – roughly 30 minutes), and then it’s a 4km walk (roughly an hour) to the camp – all clearly signed.
Warning: Gruesome adult content
A camp is liberated:Shocked GIs found piles of the dead
MAY 7, 2005 The New York Times
Sam Goldenberg was working at a surgical supply company in New York City when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1944. Sent to Texas for training, he joined the 575th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, and was made crew chief of an M-15 half-track, an armored vehicle with wheels in front and treads in back. His unit reached Cherbourg, on the French coast, in December 1944. The 575th, attached to the 11th Armored Division, saw its first major combat in Belgium, in the Battle of the Bulge, before moving into Luxembourg, Germany and Austria, where it arrived at the Nazi concentration camp of Mauthausen in early May 1945. Now 83, Goldenberg, a retired postal worker, lives in Southbury, Connecticut, with his wife, Fran. He told his story to Brian Knowlton.
I was a crew chief on one of the half-tracks, with a crew of six. We had a 37-millimeter armor-piercing gun and two .50-caliber machine guns, for anti-aircraft purposes. We had trained in Texas for desert warfare I was made a corporal. I was sure we were going to North Africa. But the Bulge broke out, so they sent us to Europe.
Our first combat casualty was in Luxembourg. We had to be very careful because we did a lot of driving at night. The roads were bad. This was a very, very cold part of the war. We saw fires ahead of us, and we started going slowly, and as we drove along we could see dead horses and equipment on the side, and fires — the only light we had was the light of fires — and the noise. There was shelling, and machine-gun fire, and I found out later that the gunner in my sergeant’s truck was shot, and that he was killed. We kept going.
In Germany, the first camp we came to was Dachau. You go in and you see dead bodies laying all over the place — propped up against the barracks. It was just a terrible thing, terrible thing, and it was so surprising — very surprising — because we had no knowledge of these camps. They gave me a five-ton truck with three helpers, and we carried some food around, and those who were still living we tried to give them a little — not too much, because they couldn’t handle it. They were so thin, they could barely walk.
Most of us were only 19, 20 years old I didn’t have any idea we’d be coming on something like this. We talked it over. Everyone was very disgusted with what they had seen. Before, I never had any special thoughts about the Germans I didn’t hate them, they were just my enemy. But after we visited two or three camps, and saw what was happening, our feelings changed. We told each other the Germans ought to have their heads cut off.
Later we stopped at Linz, and Mauthausen.
Linz was a very bad camp. But Mauthausen was the one that had the most open ditches. The first thing I saw there was a big ditch they had dug up to throw bodies in. The bodies were just one on top of the other. You didn’t know if anybody was still alive or not. This was not the only site that I saw that bodies were thrown into I think there were three or four of them. Bodies were just flung in there, and they would throw some white lime or something on top.
When we got there, there were no guards. There was no Red Cross. I think we were one of the first units there because there were still bodies on the floor. On the road, we had seen columns of prisoners walking, unguarded, wearing their striped uniforms and chewing burnt wood — charcoal. There was supposed to be some kind of nutrient in there they had nothing else to eat. Their lips were all black. We had to round them up and bring them back they were not doing themselves any good.
There was nothing in the barracks but bunks. Planks were missing where there should be pillows and blankets you didn’t see anything. From what I heard, they used to fight over these things. If somebody died, they’d run to grab his shoes or what he was wearing. They were badly crowded. One thing I never saw: I never saw a latrine. The smell was terrible, terrible. Some prisoners had shoes, and some did not. I didn’t see any sign of food.
I heard that some guards had taken the uniforms off some of the inmates — they tried to get away with impersonating a prisoner. That didn’t work because they were so well-fed, you could tell the difference right away. I had no way of knowing how many of the prisoners were Jewish, and how many were political prisoners. I couldn’t communicate with them. They were so emaciated that they couldn’t give you any signals. Hundreds died after we got there.
I don’t think I knew then that the war was almost over, or that Hitler was dead. Looking back, I’m mainly glad I got out of there alive. From the first thing we went into combat, about half the people got frozen feet, it was that cold. I appreciate that I survived the whole thing.
Although I’m Jewish I’m not that religious. But the experience did make me a little bit more religious. It took a long time to sink in. Mostly, I pushed it out of my mind. I mentioned it to my wife when we got married, but mostly, for all these years, I tried to keep it from her.
Then a few years ago, my granddaughter asked me if I would speak about it to her class. I’m not a speaker, and I thought maybe making a tape and letting her show the tape might be a better idea. Everybody was really grateful for having seen it. Otherwise, I hadn’t talked about this since I was discharged.
You know, men can do anything they set their minds to. It’s a wonder that they can do so much evil — and then so much good.
What do I think about war? I think it’s useless, it’s a waste of time. There has to be a better way — but nobody looks for it.
“It is not you who are in charge. God will judge you” the bravery of Fr.Józef Cebula.
The word ‘Hero’ is branded way too easily nowadays, Recently I heard someone on a current affairs program saying he saw the Kardashians as his role models and heroes, that actually scared me. If people whose only contribution to society is self indulgence and self promotion are seen as heroes, then real heroes like Father Józef Cebula will soon be forgotten.
Father Józef Cebula was born into a modest family of Polish origin on March 23, 1902, at Malnia in southern Poland. He suffered tuberculosis as a child,and was in fact declared incurable . After an unexpected recovery, he visited an Oblate shrine where he shared his story with an Oblate priest. The priest advised Józef to study with the Oblates at the newly-established Oblate minor seminary.
Jozef entered the Oblate Junior Seminary in 1920, and was ordained to the priesthood on June 25, 1927.While still in a seminary. Father Cebula became a superior at the Oblate seminaries in 1931, and became novice master at Markowice in 1937.
When the Germans invaded and occupied Poland in September 1939, they declared loyalty to the Church illegal. In October 1939 the 100 member community at Markowice was placed under house arrest, and set to work as farm laborers.
Later on that month, the Community was evicted and the novitiate was turned into a centre for the Hitler Youth.
Fr. Jozef was called before the authorities on several occasions for refusing to stop saying Mass and hearing confessions. Eventually he was arrested and sent to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria.
Known for his humility, Fr. Cebula was a man of quiet prayer with a deep spiritual life. He radiated peace in the very middle of the death camp, even when tormented by the Nazis.
In Mauthausen he was harassed and forced to work hard, to break rocks in the quarry, simply because he was a Roman Catholic priest. Father Cebula was forced to carry 60-pound rocks from the quarry to a camp two miles away. He had to climb a 144-step staircase called the Death Stairs, while being beaten and insulted by his tormentors. The guards humiliated and mocked him by ordering him to sing the texts of the Mass while he worked.
On May 9th 1941 , Fr. Cebula summoned up his strength and courage and said, “It is not you who are in charge. God will judge you.” The Nazis ordered him to run, with a rock on his back, towards the camp’s barbed wire fence, where a guard shot him with a sub-machine gun and declared that Fr. Cebula “was shot while trying to escape”. He died in this volley of bullets. His body was taken to a crematorium and burned.
It takes a Hero to stand up against evil knowing it will cost you your life. Lets never forget the real heroes.
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Mauthausen: Gusen I, II, and III Concentration Camps
The KZ Gusen I, II & III Concentration Camp complex was the biggest and most brutal within the Mauthausen system of camps.
Prisoners from Mauthausen were marched daily to the Gusen stone quarry three miles away beginning in 1938. An SS-owned firm, Deutsche Erd- und Steinwerke (DESt-German Earth and Stone Works), managed the site. Because the death of more than 150 prisoners during the winter fo 1938-39, the SS decided to build a sub-camp of Mauthausen at Gusen and used 400 German and Austrian prisoners from Mauthausen to construct it.
During construction, SS Sergeant Anton Streitwieser commanded the Gusen external detachment site. Afterward, both camps (Mauthausen and Gusen) were under the command of the SS-Standartenfuehrer Franz Ziereis. On July 1, 1940, SS-captain Karl Chmielewski came from Sachsenhausen to be commander of the Gusen Camp. He was replaced in late 1942 by SS First Lieutenant Fritz Seidler who commanded the camp until liberation.
The Gusen camp opened on May 25, 1940, with the surviving 212 prisoners from the construction detachment incarcerated as its first inmates. That same day, a transport of approximately 1,084 Poles, mostly political prisoners, intellectuals and priests, arrived in Gusen.
Over the next several weeks, the SS transferred some 8,000 Polish prisoners to Gusen from other concentration camps, including Dachau and Sachsenhausen. More than 1,522 of them died in 1940 due to the heavy work in the stone quarries of Gusen and the brick-production plant at Lungitz (which later became Gusen III). The first prisoners to be gassed were Soviet prisoners of war in 1942. Several Spanish republican prisoners were also sent also sent to Gusen and exterminated. More than 2,000 of them had to work in the stone-quarries and very few survived. In December 1940, the SS contracted with the German firm Topf and Sons to construct a crematorium inside Gusen to handle the disposal of the bodies of the dead.
More than half of Gusen's prisoners died from mistreatment, starvation, exposure, disease and murder. Atrocities were committed by the SS and the kapos at Gusen. One of the specialities of this camp was called Todebadeaktionen (death bath action). This method of murder was the idea of SS Sergeant Jentzsch. Inmates unable to work or ill were selected during roll call for the bath. They were then sent to the bath room and forced to stand naked under icy high pressure showers. As their body temperature dropped, the bathers suffered long, agonizing and painful deaths. Some died after only a half-hour. SS physicians also experimented on prisoners and provided cadavers for the SS Medical Academy in Graz. The chemical conglomerate I.G. Farben financed a program using prisoners to test vaccines for various diseases.
In late 1942, Heinrich Himmler ordered the establishment of a bordello in Gusen, in which the SS forced some eight to ten female prisoners from Ravensbrück to provide sexual services for privileged Gusen prisoners. In 1943, the Steyr-Daimler-Puch Aktengesellschaft relocated a rifle production plant to Gusen, where the DESt constructed eight factory barracks with the expectation that prisoners would produce 10,000 rifles a month. By the end of 1944, some 6,000 prisoners worked in 18 factory halls in Gusen producing rifles, machine pistols and aircraft motors. In August 1943, the aircraft industry giant Messerschmitt relocated its bombed out plant in Regensburg to Gusen, where prisoners produced parts for the Me-109 fighters. As Allied bombing intensified in 1944, armaments production moved underground in tunnels built by prisoners.
In 1942, the SS staff selected prisoners unfit for work and transported them to the so-called euthanasia killing center at Hartheim, near Linz. More than 1,100 Gusen prisoners were sent to the gas chambers during 1942 and several hundred in 1944.
During 1942 and 1943, the SS murdered several hundred more prisoners in gas wagons on route between Gusen and Mauthausen. Dozens more, primarily Soviet POWs, were killed in a makeshift gas chamber. In March 1943, more than 100 Soviet prisoners of war were murdered in retaliation for the German surrender at Stalingrad.
Thousands of prisoners, mostly Jews, were sent to Gusen from Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen, and Sachsenhausen. By 1944, the Gusen camps had more than twice as many inmates (25,000) as Mauthausen (12,000). More than 10,000 prisoners died in Gusen between January and May 1945, including 4,500 prisoners who were transferred to die in Mauthausen. During April 1945, kapos beat hundreds of prisoners to death and, at the end of that month, in one of the last gassing operations in the Third Reich, the SS murdered 650 sick prisoners.
The increase of inmates was also due to the creation of the Gusen II a few hundred meters west to house some 16,000 inmates who were deported there for the construction and operation of the huge underground plant at St. Georgen/Gusen (BERGKRISTALL) and Langenstein (KELLERBAU). Since the BERGKRISTALL Project had strategic importance (it was used for the serial final-assembly of the Me 262 jet-plane that was the first in world-history to be produced serially), working-conditions were so bad that death rates in those specific camps reached 70 to 90% (depending on the weather conditions). The inmates called Gusen II, The hell of the hells.
U.S. soldiers assigned to the 26th Infantry Division and the 11th Armored Division liberated some 20,000 prisoners from the three camps at Gusen on May 5, 1945. Some of the survivors seeking revenge for the murder of their fellow prisoners killed kapos and others who had collaborated with the Nazis.
More people died at the Gusen I, II & III camps than at Mauthausen. Nearly 80% of all the Germans and Austrians that were sent to Mauthausen actually died at Gusen. The 40,000 people who perished in the Gusen camps represent the largest group of victims within the Mauthausen system of more than 40 camps. These victims represent nearly one-third of all the concentration camp victims on Austrian territory.
Some of the SS personnel who served at Gusen were tried after the war. During his trial, SS captain Chmielewski declared that the life of ill inmates and Jews had absolutely no value for him. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1961.
Unlike Mauthausen, the Allies tore down Gusen. In 1965, former Italian prisoners were instrumental in erecting a memorial to the victims of Gusen. In 2005, Austrian authorities established a visitor and educational center adjacent to the memorial.
Confession of Franz Ziereis, commander of Mauthausen Concentration Camp
O n May 23,1945 SS Standartenfuehrer Ziereis, commander of the concentration camp Mauthausen, while trying to escape, was seriously wounded by shots from pursuing American soldiers. On May 24th, the dying, Ziereis was interrogated by the authorities. We have before us the record of the interrogation of Ziereis which is certified by the burgomaster Feichtinger and Edelbauer, commanding officer of the rural police in St. Valentin. In the fact of his imminent death Ziereis made a confession, the confession of the hangman.
" M y name is Franz Ziereis, born 1903 in Munich, where my mother and brothers and sisters are still living. I, myself, am not a wicked man and I have risen through work. I was a merchant by profession and, during the period of unemployment, I worked as a carpenter. In 1924 I joined the eleventh Bavarian Infantry Regiment. Later I was transferred to the training department and then to Mauthausen as commanding officer. The following posts and camps were under my command: Mauthausen, Gusen, Linz,
Ebensee, Passau, Ternberg, Gross-Raming, Melk, Eisenerz, Beppern, Klagenfurt, Laibach, Loibl, Loiblpass, Heinkel, W. Wiener-Neustadt, Mittelber and Floridsdorf with approximately 81.000 inmates. The garrison of the camp Mauthausen numbered 5.000 SS men. The highest number of inmates in Mauthausen was 19.800. On the order of SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Dr. Krebsbach a gas chamber was built in the form of a bathroom. The inmates were gassed in this gas chamber. All executions were carried out on the order of the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the German Police Himmler, the SS Obergruppenfuehrer Kaltenbrunner, or the SS Gruppenfuehrer Mueller. Finally 800 inmates were gassed in Gusen I Block 31. I do not know the whereabouts of SS Oberscharfuehrer Jenschk he murdered 700 inmates in Gusen.
J enschk carried out the murders in the following manner: At an outside temperature of minus 12 degrees (centigrades) he made the inmates bath in water and then stand in the open stark naked until they died. Dr. Kiesewetter killed the inmates through benzine injections. SS Untersturmfuehrer Dr. Richter, while operating, on inmates regardless whether they were ill or healthy extirpated a piece of the brain and thus caused their death. This happened to about 1000 inmates. SS Obergruppenfuehrer Pohl sent weak and sick inmates into the woods and let them starve to death. The sick tried to stay alive by eating grass and bark
but all died miserably of hunger. Pohl furthermore halved the food rations of the inmates and had all sick and weak inmates murdered through gas. This gas chamber was situated in Hartheim, ten kilometers distant from Linz. About 1.500.000 inmates were gassed in it. In Mauthausen all gassed inmates were reported as having died of natural causes.
(Note: The estimated number of inmates gassed in Hartheim is 30,000.)
P ohl sent me 6.000 women and children who, without any food and during very cold weather had been in transit in open freight cars for about ten days. I was ordered to send the children away. I believe that they all died. Thereupon I became very nervous. On orders from Berlin 2500 inmates from a transport from Auschwitz were bathed in hot water and during very cold
weather had to stand in the open until they perished. Gauleiter Eigruber did not send any food, but ordered that 50% of the food for the inmates was to be handed out to the civilian population. Gluecks ordered that the inmates, occupied in the crematory, were to be relieved at least every three weeks and to be killed through shots in the neck, because they know too much. Furthermore it was ordered that all physicians and the nursing personnel was to be sent to an alleged labour camp in order to be killed.
T he camp Lambrecht was liquidated. Pohl and several women gave large banquets and drinking parties in a villa. The inmates who worked in the villa were killed because they had seen too much, accused of theft and transported to Mauthausen with the order "destroy".
H immler gave the order to load a 45 kilo stone on an inmate's back and make him run around with it until he fell dead. Himmler ordered us to establish a penal labor company according to this system. The inmates had to haul stones until they collapsed, then they were shot and their record was annotated "Trying to escape". Others were driven into a fence made of charged high-tension wire. Others were literally torn to pieces by the dog named "Lord" belonging to the camp commander Bachmeyer who sicced it on the inmates. On 30 April 33, inmates of the camp office were ordered to assemble the court yard. There they were shot like wild animals by SS Oberscharfuehrer Niedermeyer and the Gestapoagent Polaska. Altogether, as far as I know, 65,000 inmates were murdered in Mauthausen. In most cases, I myself took part in the executions.
F requently I joined in the shooting with a small calibre weapon. SS men were trained on the rifle ranges where inmates were used targets. Reichsminister Himmler and SS Obergruppenfuehrer (Lt. General) Kaltenbrunner ordered me to kill all inmates if the frontlines approached Mauthausen. I had orders from Berlin to blow up Mauthausen and Gusen including all the inmates. All inmates were to be brought into the Gusen mine and blown up. The blasting was to be carried out by SS Obergruppenfuehrers Wolfram and Ackermann. Pohl issued the order "
Z iereis died shortly after the interrogation.
T he above copy is a correct excerpt from the Austrian court files in the trial of Dr. Guido Schmidt et al as published in the Wiener Arbeiterzeitung from September 20, 1945.
This week in Jewish history | Mauthausen concentration camp liberated
On 5 May 1945, American forces liberated the Mauthausen concentration camp. The liberation took place as World War II was coming to an end, as Nazi Germany would surrender to Allied forces in the coming days.
Chief of German Police Heinrich Himmler, General Oswald Pohl, and SS General Theodor Eicke, the Inspector of Concentration Camps, examined the site that would later be known as Mauthausen concentration camp following the Anschluss, Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria on 11-13 March 1938. The site would be used, as Upper Austrian Nazi Party district leader August Eigruber put it, for “traitors to the people from all over Austria.” In August, SS forces began transferring approximately 300 prisoners, mostly Austrians and other people classified as “asocial,” from Dachau concentration camp to the Mauthausen site in order to begin construction of the new camp. By the end of the year, Mauthausen held nearly 1,000 prisoners.
Between 1938 and the end of February 1944, around 2,760 Jews were deported to Mauthausen. The number would surge from March to December when at least 13,826 Jews, mostly from Hungary and Poland were deported. As a result, the camp became dangerously overcrowded, exacerbating the already dreadful conditions. Overall, thousands of prisoners died from starvation or disease, as the typhus epidemic ran rampant throughout the camp.
SS forces registered 25,271 Jews in the camp, though it is likely that the actual number, which includes arrivals during the last week of the war, may have been as high as 29,500.
When the American army arrived at the camp, they were horrified by what they saw: hundreds of dead bodies, and prisoners who looked like skeletons living in overcrowded, disease-ridden barracks that were covered in excrement. Thousands were so weak that, despite medical care provided by the U.S. Army medical units, they died in the weeks and months following liberation. Over 3,000 would be buried in ‘Camp Cemeteries’ next to the former concentration camps.
Arriving with the American soldiers was a war crimes investigation team, which collected evidence that would become the basis of the prosecution of SS officials who worked in the camp. It is estimated that at least 190,000 people were imprisoned at Mauthausen between 1940 and 1945 of those, at least 95,000 people, including at least 14,000 Jews, were murdered there.
Mauthausen – Ghosts
On receiving a large block of marble from the quarry at Cararra, Michelangelo remarked that the sculpture he planned already existed within. All he had to do was take away what wasn’t necessary. Here, near the stairs in the rock quarry known as the Wiener Graben in the punishment and death by labor camp, Mauthausen, near Linz, Austria, one finds the ghosts of the time of the Nazis willing to be liberated from the stones their living counterparts labored so tragically to hew.
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