Coordinates: 48°15′25″N 14°30′04″E / 48.25694°N
14.50111°E / 48.25694; 14.50111
Gate to the garage yard in the
Mauthausen concentration camp
Location of Mauthausen–Gusen in Austria
in and around
Mauthausen and Gusen, Upper Austria
DEST cartel and the Nazi
Red Army (after World War II)
August 1938 – May 1945
Number of inmates
mainly Soviet and Polish citizens
between 122,766 and 320,000 (estimated)
US Army, May 1945
Mauthausen–Gusen concentration camp was the hub of a large group of
German concentration camps
German concentration camps that was built around the villages of
Sankt Georgen an der Gusen
Sankt Georgen an der Gusen (Gusen) in Upper Austria,
roughly 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of the city of Linz. The camp
operated from the time of the Anschluss, when
Austria was annexed into
Third Reich in 8 August 1938, to 5 May 1945, at the end of
the Second World War. Starting with a single camp at Mauthausen, the
complex expanded over time and by the summer of 1940
become one of the largest labour camp complexes in the
German-controlled part of Europe, with four main subcamps at
Mauthausen and nearby Gusen, and nearly 100 other subcamps located
Austria and southern Germany, directed from a central
office at Mauthausen.
As at other Nazi concentration camps, the inmates at
Mauthausen–Gusen were forced to work as slave labour, under
conditions that caused many deaths. The subcamps of the Mauthausen
complex included quarries, munitions factories, mines, arms factories
and plants assembling
Me 262 fighter aircraft. In January 1945,
the camps 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 Mauthausen–Gusen camp was one of the first massive concentration
camp complexes in Nazi Germany, and the last to be liberated by the
Allies. The two main camps,
Mauthausen and Gusen I, were labelled as
"Grade III" (Stufe III) camps, which meant that they were intended to
be the toughest camps for the "Incorrigible political enemies of the
Mauthausen never lost this Stufe III classification. In
the offices of the
Reich Main Security Office
(Reichssicherheitshauptamt; RSHA) it was referred to by the nickname
Knochenmühle – the bone-grinder (literally bone-mill).
Unlike many other concentration camps, which were intended for all
categories of prisoners,
Mauthausen was mostly used for extermination
through labour of the intelligentsia – educated people and
members of the higher social classes in countries subjugated by the
Nazi regime during World War II. The main camp of the complex in
Mauthausen is now a museum.
1.1 KL Mauthausen
1.2 KL Gusen
1.3 Camp system
1.4 Business enterprise
1.5 Weapons research
1.6 Extermination through labour
2.1 Women and children in Mauthausen
2.2 Treatment of inmates and methodology of crime
2.3 Death toll
4 Liberation and post-war heritage
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Heinrich Himmler visiting
Mauthausen in April 1941. Himmler is talking
to Franz Ziereis, camp commandant, with
Karl Wolff on the left and
August Eigruber on the right.
On 9 August 1938, prisoners from
Dachau concentration camp
Dachau concentration camp near Munich
were sent to the town of
Mauthausen in Austria, to begin the
construction of a new slave labour camp. The site was chosen
because of the nearby granite quarry, and its proximity to
Linz. Although the camp was controlled by the German state from
the beginning, it was founded by a private company as an economic
enterprise. The owner of the Wiener-Graben quarry (the
Marbacher-Bruch and Bettelberg quarries) was a
DEST Company: an
acronym for Deutsche Erd– und Steinwerke GmbH. The company was
led by Oswald Pohl, who was a high-ranking official of the
Schutzstaffel (SS). It rented the quarries from the City of Vienna
in 1938 and started the construction of the
Mauthausen camp. A year
later, the company ordered the construction of the first camp at
Gusen. The granite 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
Albert Speer and other proponents of Nazi architecture, for
which large quantities of granite were needed. The money to fund
the construction of the
Mauthausen camp was gathered from a variety of
sources, including commercial loans from
Dresdner Bank and
Prague-based Escompte Bank; the so-called
Reinhardt's fund (meaning
money stolen from the inmates of the concentration camps themselves);
and from the German Red Cross.[note 1]
Mauthausen initially served as a strictly-run prison camp for common
criminals, prostitutes and other categories of "Incorrigible Law
Offenders".[note 2] On 8 May 1939 it was converted to a labour camp
which was mainly used for the incarceration of political
Aerial view of the Gusen I and II camps
"(...) In March 1940 I was brought to
Mauthausen to build the Gusen
camp. The building tempo had to be accelerated, because the "Aktion
gegen die polnische Intelligenz" was designated for the month of
April. What no one knew in the home country, we knew – the
SS-men who were beating us, told us that we build a camp for our
rotten brothers from Poland, who today can still spend Easter
uneventfully, without an inkling what awaits them. They called the
camp under construction Gusen "Vernichtungslager fur die polnische
Intelligenz"". — Stefan Józefowicz, bank headmaster, no. 1129 in
Mauthausen, 43069 Gusen.
DEST began purchasing land at Gusen in May 1938. During 1938 and 1939,
inmates of the nearby
Mauthausen makeshift camp marched daily to the
granite quarries at Gusen, which were more productive and more
DEST than the Wienergraben Quarry. After Germany
invaded Poland in September 1939, the as-yet unfinished Mauthausen
camp was already overcrowded with prisoners. The numbers of inmates
rose from 1,080 in late 1938 to over 3,000 a year later. At
about that time, the construction of a new camp "for the Poles" began
in Gusen (48°15′26″N 14°27′48″E / 48.25722°N
14.46333°E / 48.25722; 14.46333 (Gusen concentration camp)),
about 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) away. The new camp (later named
Gusen I) became operational in May 1940. 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 – arrived just over a month later, on 25 May.
Franz Ziereis, Commandant of Mauthausen, 1939–1945
Like nearby Mauthausen, the Gusen camp also rented inmates out to
various local businesses as slave labour. In October 1941, several
huts were separated from the Gusen subcamp by barbed wire and turned
into a separate Prisoner of War Labour Camp (German:
Kriegsgefangenenarbeitslager). This camp had many prisoners of
war, mostly Soviet officers. By 1942 the production capacity
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
In March 1944, the former SS depot was converted to a new subcamp,
named Gusen II, which served as an improvised concentration camp until
the end of the war. Gusen II 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. Here, parts
of a factory infrastructure were converted into the third subcamp of
Gusen – Gusen III. The rise in the number of subcamps could
not catch up with the rising number of inmates, which led to
overcrowding of the huts in all of the subcamps of Mauthausen–Gusen.
From late 1940 to 1944, the number of inmates per bed rose from two to
See also: List of subcamps of Mauthausen
Map showing location of some of the most notable subcamps of
As the production in all of the subcamps of Mauthausen–Gusen complex
was constantly increasing, so were the numbers of detainees and
subcamps themselves. Although initially the camps of Gusen and
Mauthausen mostly served the local quarries, from 1942 onwards they
began to be included in the German war machine. To accommodate the
ever-growing number of slave workers, additional subcamps (German:
Mauthausen were built. By the end of the war, the list
included 101 camps (including 49 major subcamps) which covered
most of modern Austria, from
Mittersill south of
Salzburg to Schwechat
Vienna and from
Passau on the pre-war Austro-German border to
Loibl Pass on the border with Yugoslavia. The subcamps 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.
Eigruber (far left), Ziereis (left), Himmler (front), Wolff (right)
Franz Kutschera (far right) (April 1941)
The production output of Mauthausen–Gusen exceeded that of each of
the five other large slave labour centres: Auschwitz-Birkenau,
Marburg and Natzweiler-Struthof, 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
machine pistol assembly plant. In 1943, an underground factory for the
Steyr-Daimler-Puch company was built in Gusen. Altogether, 45 larger
companies took part in making Mauthausen–Gusen one of the most
profitable concentration camps of Nazi Germany, with more than
11,000,000 Reichsmark[note 3] in profits in 1944 alone (EUR
144 million in 2018). The companies using slave laborers from
DEST cartel (producing bricks and quarrying stone for German state
Accumulatoren-Fabrik AFA (the main producer of batteries for German
Bayer (the main German producer of medicines and medications)
Deutsche Bergwerks- und Hüttenbau (constructing mines and quarries)
Eisenwerke Oberdonau (the largest
World War II
World War II steel
supplier for the German
Flugmotorenwerke Ostmark (aeroplane engine manufacturer)
Otto Eberhard Patronenfabrik (munitions works)
Messerschmitt (Heinkel-Sud facilities in Floridsdorf,
Schwechat and Zwölfaxing, and other aeroplane factories, also
V-2 rocket factory)
Österreichische Sauerwerks (arms producer)
Rax-Werke (machinery and V-2 rockets)
Steyr-Daimler-Puch (arms and vehicles)
Universale Hoch und Tiefbau (construction of tunnels in the Loibl
Prisoners were also rented out as slave labour to work on local farms,
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
The Bergkristall tunnel system at Gusen was built to protect Me 262
production from air raids.
When the Allied strategic bombing campaign 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 the prisoners had dug 29,400
square metres (316,000 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 subcamp (code-named
Bergkristall). They dug roughly 50,000 square metres
(540,000 sq ft) so the
Messerschmitt company could build an
assembly plant to produce the
Messerschmitt Me 262
Messerschmitt Me 262 and V-2
rockets. In addition to planes, some 7,000 square metres
(75,000 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.[note 4]
This was the second largest plane factory in Germany after the
Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, which was also underground.
In January 2015, a "panel of archaeologists, historians and other
experts" ruled out the earlier claims of an Austrian filmmaker that a
bunker underneath the camp was connected to the German nuclear weapon
project. The panel indicated that stairs uncovered during an
excavation prompted by the allegations led to an SS shooting
Extermination through labour
Soviet POWs standing before one of the huts in Mauthausen
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 the Nazi's political and ideological enemies, real and
imagined. The camp served the needs of the German war machine
and also carried out extermination through labour. When inmates became
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
transferred to the
Revier ("Krankenrevier", sick barrack) or other
places for extermination. Initially, the camp did not have a gas
chamber 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 Hartheim Euthanasia Centre, which was
40.7 kilometres or 25.3 miles away), or killed by lethal injection and
cremated in the local crematorium. The growing number of prisoners
made this 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 – a van with
the exhaust pipe connected to the inside – shuttled between
Mauthausen and Gusen. It was capable of killing about 120
prisoners at a time when it was completed.
See also: List of
Mauthausen and Gusen inmates
New prisoners awaiting disinfection in the garage yard of Mauthausen
Until early 1940, the largest group of inmates consisted of German,
Austrian and Czechoslovak socialists, communists, homosexuals,
anarchists and people of Romani 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, or as they are
called today, Jehovah's Witnesses. The reason for their imprisonment
was their rejection of giving the loyalty oath to Hitler and their
refusal to participate in any kind of military service.
Late 1944 – early 1945[note 5]
Gusen (I, II and III combined)
In early 1940, many Poles were transferred to the Mauthausen–Gusen
complex. The first groups were mostly composed of artists, scientists,
Boy Scouts, teachers, and university professors, who were
Intelligenzaktion and the course of the AB Action.
Camp Gusen II was called by Germans Vernichtungslager für die
polnische Intelligenz ("
Extermination camp for Polish
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, large groups of Spanish Republicans were also
Mauthausen and its subcamps. Most of them were former
Republican soldiers or activists who had fled to France after Franco's
victory and then were captured by German forces after the defeat of
France in 1940 or handed over to the Germans by the Vichy 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
Mauthausen to Gusen. Following the outbreak of
the Soviet-German War in 1941, the camps started to receive a large
number of Soviet 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 and Dutch Jews, about 8,000
people altogether, 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.[citation
Gruelling and pointless physical exercise was one of the methods of
"wearing the inmates down". Here a group of prisoners are forced
to play "leap frog".
After the Nazi invasion of
Yugoslavia in April 1941 and the outbreak
of the partisan resistance in summer of the same year, many people
suspected of aiding the Yugoslav resistance were sent to the
Mauthausen camp, mostly from areas under direct German occupation,
Slovenia and Serbia. An estimated 1,500
Throughout the years of World War II, the camps of Mauthausen–Gusen
received new prisoners in smaller transports daily, mostly from other
concentration camps in German-occupied Europe. Most of the prisoners
at the subcamps of
Mauthausen had been kept in a number of different
detention sites before they arrived. The most notable of such centres
for Mauthausen–Gusen were the camps at Dachau and Auschwitz. 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 visited
Mauthausen in May
of that year, Mauthausen–Gusen received the first group of roughly
Hungarian Jews from Auschwitz; the first group to be evacuated
from that camp before the Soviet advance. Initially, the groups
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.
Camp file of a Polish political prisoner No. 382, Jerzy Kaźmirkiewicz
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, 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 from exhaustion during death marches,
or in railway wagons, where the prisoners were confined at sub-zero
temperatures for several days before their arrival, without adequate
food or water. Prisoner transports were considered less important than
other important services, and could be kept on sidings for days as
other trains passed.
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 (German: Zeltlager) just outside
Mauthausen subcamp, where roughly 2,000 people were forced into
tents intended for not more than 800 inmates, and then starved to
Survivors of Ebensee subcamp shortly after their liberation
As in all other German concentration camps, not all the prisoners were
equal. Their treatment depended largely on the category assigned to
each inmate, 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. On Himmler's order of June 1941, a brothel
was opened in the
Mauthausen and Gusen I camps in 1942. The
Kapos formed the main part of the so-called Prominents (German:
Prominenz), or prisoners who were given a much better treatment than
the average inmate.
Women and children in Mauthausen
Mauthausen 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. Along with the female
prisoners came some female guards; twenty are known to have served in
Mauthausen camp, and sixty in the whole camp complex. Female
guards also staffed the
Mauthausen subcamps at Hirtenberg, Lenzing
(the main women's subcamp in Austria), and Sankt Lambrecht. The Chief
Mauthausen were firstly Margarete Freinberger, and then
Jane Bernigau. Almost all the female Overseers who served in
Mauthausen were recruited from Austrian cities and towns between
September and November 1944. In early April 1945, at least 2,500 more
female prisoners came from the female subcamps at Amstetten, St.
Lambrecht, Hirtenberg, and the Flossenbürg subcamp at Freiberg.
According to Daniel Patrick Brown,
Hildegard Lächert also served at
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 Romani children, 20 so-called
"anti-social elements", six Spaniards, and three Jehovah's
Treatment of inmates and methodology of crime
Hans Bonarewitz being taken to his execution after escaping and being
recaptured 7 July 1942
Mauthausen was not the only concentration camp where the German
authorities implemented their extermination through labour
(Vernichtung durch Arbeit) programme, but the regime at
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, 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 (−22 °F) – led to
exceptionally high mortality rates.[note 6] The food rations were
limited, and during the 1940–1942 period, an average inmate weighed
40 kilograms (88 lb). It is estimated that the average energy
content of food rations dropped from about 1,750 calories
(7,300 kJ) a day during the 1940–1942 period, to between 1,150
and 1,460 calories (4,800 and 6,100 kJ) a day during the next
period. In 1945 the energy content was even lower and did not exceed
600 to 1,000 calories (2,500 to 4,200 kJ) a day – less than a
third of the energy needed by an average worker in heavy industry.
The reduced rations led to the starvation of thousands of
"Stairs of Death": prisoners forced to carry a granite block up 186
steps to the top of the quarry
The inmates of Mauthausen, Gusen I, and Gusen II had access to a
separate part of the 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
The rock quarry in
Mauthausen was at the base of the "Stairs of
Death". Prisoners were forced to carry roughly-hewn blocks of stone
– often weighing as much as 50 kilograms (110 lb) – up the
186 stairs, one prisoner 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 domino effect; the
first prisoner falling onto the next, and so on, all the way down the
SS officers including General
Paul Hausser (far right, in overcoat)
climbing the "Stairs of Death", April 1941
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" (German:
Fallschirmspringerwand). 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 beating the prisoners
to death by the SS guards and Kapos, starving to death in bunkers,
hangings and mass shootings. At times the guards or Kapos
would either deliberately throw the prisoners on the 380 volt electric
barbed wire fence, or force them outside the boundaries of the
camp and then shoot them on the pretence that they were attempting to
escape. Another method of extermination were icy showers – some
3,000 inmates died of hypothermia after having been forced to take an
icy cold shower and then left outside in cold weather. A large
number of inmates were drowned in barrels of water at Gusen
The Nazis also performed pseudo-scientific experiments on the
prisoners. Among the doctors to organise them were Sigbert Ramsauer,
Eduard Krebsbach and Aribert Heim. Heim was dubbed "Doctor
Death" by the inmates; he was in Gusen for seven weeks, which was
enough to carry out his experiments. Ramsauer also declared
some 2,000 prisoners who applied to be transferred to a sanatorium
mentally sick, and murdered them with injections of phenol in the
course of the H-13 action.
After the war one of the survivors, Dr.
Antoni Gościński reported 62
ways of murdering people in the camps of Gusen I and Mauthausen.
Hans Maršálek estimated that an average life expectancy of newly
arrived prisoners in Gusen varied from six months between 1940 and
1942, to less than three months in early 1945. Paradoxically, with
the growth of forced labour industry in various subcamps of
Mauthausen, 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. Inmates were also beaten to death, like Viennese
Jew Adolf Fruchthändler.
In February 1945, the camp was the site of Nazi war crime
Mühlviertler Hasenjagd ("hare hunt") where around 500 escaped
prisoners (mostly Soviet officers) were mercilessly hunted down and
murdered by SS, local law enforcement and civilians.
Estimated death toll, by nationality
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, so 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 were 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. Before their escape from the camps on 4 May 1945,
the SS tried to destroy the evidence, allowing only approximately
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; they secured it against the
wishes of other inmates who wanted to burn it. After the war, the
archives of the main chancellery was brought by one of the survivors
to Poland, then passed to the
Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in
Oświęcim. 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
International Tracing Service.
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 subcamps of Mauthausen, the
main documents used for an estimation of the death toll of the camp
A report by Józef Żmij, 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.
Original death register for the subcamp of Gusen held by the
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
chancellery for the subcamps of Gusen (similar records for the
Mauthausen subcamp itself were destroyed)
As a result of these factors, 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[note 8]
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.[note 9] In addition,
during the first month after the liberation additional 1,042 prisoners
died in American field hospitals.
Death Toll Statistics Gusen I, II and III[note 10]
Out of approximately 320,000 prisoners who were incarcerated in
various subcamps of Mauthausen–Gusen throughout the war, only
approximately 80,000 survived, including between 20,487 and
21,386[note 11] in Gusen I, II and III.
Bodies being removed by German civilians for burial, after the
liberation of Gusen concentration camp
Crematorium ovens at Mauthausen, modern view
Zyklon B, the gas used for the gas chambers
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (April
Several Norwegian Waffen SS volunteers worked as guards or as
instructors for prisoners from Nordic countries, according to senior
researcher Terje Emberland at the Center for Studies of Holocaust and
Liberation and post-war heritage
M8 Greyhound armored car of the US Army's 11th Armored Division
Mauthausen concentration camp, with the banner in the
background being roughly translated (from Spanish) as "Anti-fascist
Spaniards salute the forces of liberation". This photograph was taken
on 6 May 1945.
Survivors of Gusen shortly after their liberation
Temporary identity papers produced for
Mauthausen detainee after camp
During the final months before liberation, the camp's commander Franz
Ziereis 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. 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 subcamps of Mauthausen–Gusen
located in eastern Austria. In the final months of the war, the main
source of dietary energy, 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
Subcamp" 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 to
murder them and prevent the use of their workforce by the Allies.
 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 28 April, 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 25 May 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, and 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
Volkssturm 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,
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 subcamps of
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 subcamp, but were repelled by the
prisoners who took over the camp. Of the main subcamps of
Mauthausen–Gusen, only Gusen III was to be evacuated. On 1 May the
inmates were rushed on a death march towards Sankt Georgen, 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 5 May 1945 the camp at
Mauthausen was approached by a squad of US
Army Soldiers of the 41st Reconnaissance Squadron of the US 11th
Armored Division, 3rd US Army. The reconnaissance squad was led by
Staff Sergeant Albert J. Kosiek. His troop disarmed the policemen
and left the camp. By the time of its liberation, most of the SS-men
Mauthausen had already fled; around 30 who were remained were
killed by the prisoners, and a similar number were killed in Gusen
II. By 6 May all the remaining subcamps of the Mauthausen–Gusen
camp complex, with the exception of the two camps in the Loibl Pass,
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. He had managed
to survive with the help of several prisoners and was later a key
witness at the Mauthausen–Gusen camp trials carried out by the
Dachau International Military Tribunal. Another of the camp's
survivors was Simon Wiesenthal, an engineer who spent the rest of his
life hunting Nazi war criminals. Future
Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor recipient Tibor
"Ted" Rubin was imprisoned there as a young teenager; a Hungarian Jew,
he vowed to join the
US 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. Initially, the
Soviet authorities used parts of the
Mauthausen and Gusen I camps as
barracks for the Red Army. 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 up the tunnels and were then withdrawn from the area,
while the camp was turned over to Austrian civilian
Mauthausen was declared a national memorial site in 1949. Bruno
Kreisky, the Chancellor of Austria, officially opened the Mauthausen
Museum on 3 May 1975, 30 years after the camp's liberation. A
visitor centre was inaugurated in 2003, designed by the architects
Herwig Mayer, Christoph Schwarz, and Karl Peyrer-Heimstätt, covering
an area of 2,845 square metres (30,620 sq ft).
Mauthausen site remains largely intact, but much of what
constituted the subcamps of Gusen I, II and III is now covered by
residential areas built after the war. In 2016, a number of
prominent Poles including
Shevah Weiss and the Chief Rabbi of Poland
Michael Schudrich, sent a letter of protest to Ministry of Internal
Affairs of Austria.  
Mauthausen–Gusen: La memòria (2009) (in Valencian) by Rosa Brines.
An 18-minute documentary about the republican Spaniards deported to
Mauthausen and Gusen. It includes testimonies from survivors.
Amicale de Mauthausen
List of Nazi-German concentration camps
Nazi Germany portal
World War II
World War II portal
^ Oswald Pohl, apart from being a high-ranking SS member, owner of
DEST and several other companies, and chief of administration and
treasurer of various Nazi organizations, was also the managing
director of the German Red Cross. In 1938, he transferred 8,000,000
Reichsmark from member fees to one of the accounts of the SS
(SS-Spargemeinschaft e. V.), which in turn donated all the money to
DEST in 1939.
^ As stated in Reinhard Heydrich's memo of January 1, 1941.
Reichsmark was equivalent to roughly 4,403,000 US dollars
or almost one million UK pounds by 1939 exchange rates; In turn,
4,403,000 1939 dollars are roughly equivalent to 560,370,000 modern US
dollars using the relative share of
GDP as the main factor of
comparison, or 77.5 million using the consumer price index.
^ In reality the actual production never reached such levels.
^ The subcamp inmate counts refer to the situation in late 1944 and
early 1945, before the major reorganization of the camp's system and
before the arrival of a large number of evacuation trains and death
^ It is often mentioned that the mortality rate reached 58% in 1941,
as compared with 36% at Dachau, and 19% at Buchenwald over the same
period. Dobosiewicz – who made the most extensive study – compared
various factors: his estimations were based on the number of prisoners
to arrive in a year as compared to the number of that were murdered
during a year.
Stanisław Grzesiuk recalls that in 1941, and 1942, all Kapos in
charge of every Block in Gusen had to drown two prisoners a day.
^ As evidenced by one of the stone tablets commemorating the victims,
erected after the war by Austrian authorities.
^ According to Martin Gilbert, there were 30,000 deaths in Mauthausen
and its subcamps in the first four months of 1945. According to him,
this was approximately half of the deaths in the whole history of the
^ Compiled from a larger table published in Stanisław Dobosiewicz's
monograph; the numbers are fragmentary and only include the
numbers for Gusen I, II and III, without the numbers for other
subcamps or the main camp in Mauthausen. Summary by Stanisław
Dobosiewicz includes categories omitted by some of the sources,
including roughly 2,744 former inmates who died immediately after
liberation, both in the camp and in American field hospitals, as well
as an approximate number of Jewish children (420) and prisoners in the
Sick Camp (1900) who were not registered in the official camp
^ The difference in numbers given is most probably the result of the
fact that Dobosiewicz included roughly 700 inmates who were held in
Revier at the time of liberation.
^ a b c d e Dobosiewicz (2000), pp. 191–202.
^ a b c Bischof & Pelinka, pp. 185–190.
^ a b c d e f Haunschmied (2008), pp. 172–175.
^ Walden, p. 1.
^ a b c d e f g h Dobosiewicz (1977), pp. 449.
^ a b c Pike, p. 14.
^ Gębik, p. 332.
^ Dobosiewicz (1977), pp. 5, 401.
^ Dobosiewicz (1977), p. 13.
^ a b c Haunschmied (2008), pp. 45–48.
^ Pike, p. 89.
^ Pike, p. 18.
^ Speer, pp. 367–368.
^ a b Żeromski, pp. 6–12.
^ Dobosiewicz (1977), p. 12.
^ a b c Maršálek (1995), p. 69.
^ Kunert, p. 30.
^ Dobosiewicz (1977), pp. 13, 47.
^ Dobosiewicz (2000), p. 15.
^ Dobosiewicz (1977), p. 14.
^ Dobosiewicz (1977), pp. 198.
^ Dobosiewicz (1977), pp. 25, 196–197.
^ a b c Dobosiewicz (2000), p. 193.
^ Dobosiewicz (1977), p. 25.
^ Dobosiewicz (2000), p. 26.
^ Dobosiewicz (1977), p. 240.
^ a b Waller, pp. 3–5.
^ a b "Memoriales históricos", ¶ Historia de los campos de
^ Derela, p. 1.
^ Williamson, p. 1.
^ M.S., ¶ Geschichte.
^ Pike, p. 98.
^ Dobosiewicz (1980), pp. 37–38.
^ Haunschmied (1997), p. 1325.
^ a b Dobosiewicz (2000), p. 194.
^ a b c d e f Grzesiuk, p. 392.
^ a b "Nazi secret weapons site claims refuted". The Local. 27 January
2015. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
^ Richardson, pp. 162–164.
^ Terrance, p. 142.
^ Dobosiewicz (1977), p. 343.
^ a b c d Abzug, pp. 106–110.
^ Shermer & Grobman, pp. 168–175.
^ Nogaj, p. 64.
^ Piotrowski, p. 25.
^ Kunert, p. 104.
^ Wnuk (1972), pp. 100–105.
^ STA & mm, "Že pred današnjo…".
^ Filipkowski, p. 1.
^ Kirchmayer, p. 576.
^ a b c Dobosiewicz (2000), pp. 365–367.
^ Freund & Greifeneder, "Die Zelte waren für höchstens 800
^ Dobosiewicz (2000), p. 204.
^ Nizkor, KZ Gusen
Memorial Committee, "KZ Gusen I Concentration Camp
at Langenstein", "KZ Gusen Brothel".
^ Dobosiewicz (2000), p. 205.
^ Dobosiewicz (2000), p. 108.
^ Brown, p. 288.
^ a b Friedlander, pp. 33–69.
^ Myczkowski, p. 31.
Simon Wiesenthal Center, "Mauthausen".
^ Bloxham, p. 210.
^ a b Burleigh, pp. 210–211.
^ Pike, p. 97.
^ a b Krukowski, pp. 292–297.
^ Weissman, pp. 2–3.
^ KZ-Gedenkstaette Mauthausen, "Parachute Jump".
^ a b c d e Wnuk (1961), pp. 20–22.
^ a b Maida, "The systematic and deliberate extermination by
^ Schmidt, pp. 146–148.
^ Dobosiewicz (2000), p. 12.
^ Dobosiewicz (1977), pp. 102, 276.
^ Fuchs, p. 1.
^ Schmidt & Loehrer, p. 146.
^ Maršálek (1968), p. 32; as cited in: Dobosiewicz (2000), pp.
^ Grzesiuk, pp. 252–255.
^ a b Dobosiewicz (1977), pp. 418–426.
^ Dobosiewicz (1980), p. 486.
^ sm, "Dokumentacja z
Mauthausen trafiła do muzeum…".
^ Cyra, "For unknown reasons, the documents…".
^ Wlazłowski, pp. 7–12.
^ Pike, p. XII.
^ Filip, Łomacki et al., p. 56.
^ a b Gilbert, p. 976.
^ a b Wlazłowski, pp. 175–176.
^ a b Dobosiewicz (1977), p. 421.
^ Hlaváček, "4. května Mezinárodní výbor…".
^ a b Dobosiewicz (1977), p. 397.
^ "Verdens Gang", p. 1.
^ Pike, p. 256.
^ Dobosiewicz (1977), p. 323.
^ a b c Dobosiewicz (1977), pp. 374–375.
^ Haunschmied (2008), pp. 219–220.
^ Haunschmied (2008), pp. 220.
^ a b Dobosiewicz (1980), pp. 446, 451–452.
^ a b Dobosiewicz (1980), p. 450–452.
^ a b c d Dobosiewicz (1977), pp. 382–388.
^ Pike, pp. 233–234.
^ a b Dobosiewicz (1977), pp. 395–397.
^ UDT-SEAL Association, "Lt. Jack Taylor of the OSS…".
^ Pike, p. 237.
^ Taylor 2003.
Medal of Honor
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States Army Center of Military History. Retrieved 2014-12-05.
^ van Uffelen, pp. 150–153.
^ Terrance, pp. 138–139.
^ "Miejsce kaźni Polaków dewastowane. Jest protest".
^ "Protest against Devastation of the Concentration Camp Site".
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concentration camps: the national-socialist concentration camp system
1933–1945; European model]. Memoriales históricos, 1933–1945
[Historical memorials, 1933–1945].
Verdens Gang (corporate author) (2010-11-15). "Norske
vakter jobbet i Hitlers konsentrasjonsleire" [Norwegian guards worked
in Hitler's concentration camps].
Verdens Gang (15–11–2010).
ISSN 0805-5203. Retrieved 2014-04-22.
Evelyn Le Chêne (1971). Mauthausen, The History of a Death Camp.
London: Methuen. p. 296. ISBN 0-416-07780-3.
Snyder, Timothy D. (2015). Black Earth.
The Holocaust As History and
Warning. ISBN 978-1-101-90346-9.
Austrian Ministry of the Interior
Austrian Ministry of the Interior (corporate author) (2005). Das
sichtbare Unfassbare / The Visible Part – Fotografien aus dem
Konzentrationslager Mauthausen/ Photographs of Mauthausen
Concentration Camp. Vienna: Mandelbaum Verlag. p. 220.
USHMM United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum contains more than 500
pictures of Mauthausen–Gusen
Interviews with American servicemen imprisoned at Mauthausen
Remnants of KZ Gusen I Twin Camp declared "Monument of the Month" in
Online exhibition of the Polish History Museum on the former KZ Gusen
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