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Mauthausen Concentration Camp

Mauthausen Concentration Camp (also known as Mauthausen-Gusen) was a group of 49 Nazi concentration camps situated around the small town of Mauthausen in Upper Austria, about 20 km east of the city of Linz.

It is certainly not a conventional "sacred site," but Mauthausen is included on Sacred Destinations because of its significance for religious history (especially, but not only, Jewish history), because of the memories of the 119,000 who died here, and because of its spiritual significance as a place where faith and goodness ultimately triumphed over great evil.

History

Mauthausen Concentration Camp was established on August 8, 1938, and liberated on May 5, 1945 by the US Army.

Unlike many other concentration camp systems, Mauthausen was used mostly for extermination of the educated people and members of the higher classes in countries occupied by Germany during World War II.

Originally, the largest group of inmates consisted of German socialists, homosexuals and Roma. In early 1940, a large number of Poles were transferred to the Mauthausen-Gusen complex, composed mostly of artists, scientists, boy-scouts, teachers and university professors.

In late 1941 a large number of Soviet POWs arrived. This was the first group to be executed in the gas chambers, early in 1942. Previously, exhausted prisoners were transferred to Hartheim Castle, where gas chambers had operated since 1940.

In 1944 a large group of Hungarian and Dutch Jews was also transferred. Most of them either died as a result of the hard labor and poor conditions, or were thrown down the sides of the Mauthausen quarry.

A women's camp opened in Mauthausen in September 1944 with the first transport of female prisoners from Auschwitz. Eventually more women and children came to Mauthausen from Ravensbruck, Bergen Belsen, Gross Rosen, and Buchenwald. With them came some female matrons. Twenty are known to have served in the Mauthausen camp, sixty in the whole camp complex.

Several sub-camps of the KL Mauthausen included munitions factories, quarries, mines, arms factories and Me 262 assembly plants. Also, the inmates were used for slave labour at nearby farms. Those used at the quarries were working 12 hours a day until totally exhausted. Then the inmates were transferred to other concentration camps for extermination, or killed by lethal injection at the camp, and cremated in a local crematorium.

During the final months of the war, some 20,000 prisoners from other concentration camps were marched to the complex. Large groups of Spanish Republicans were also transferred to the camp and its sub-camps.

The estimated number of prisoners that passed through all of the sub-camps is 335,000; most of them were forced to do hard labor in a rock quarry. The rock quarry was at the base of the infamous "stairs of death." Prisoners were forced to carry blocks – often weighing as much as 50 kilograms – up the 186 stairs. Often exhausted prisoners would collapse in front of other prisoners in the line, creating a horrific domino effect all the way down the stairs.

In all, some 119,000 persons were murdered at Mauthausen, whether by execution, starvation, exhaustion, or disease. About 38,000 of these were Jews. Only approximately 80,000 survived the war. Before their escape on May 4, 1945, the SS tried to destroy the evidence and only 40,000 victims were identified.

What to See

The village of Mauthausen is very beautiful in its own right and is often visited for its medieval architecture. Overshadowing its attractiveness, however, is the concentration camp and extermination center located about 3km (2 miles) northwest of the village.

The camp was declared a national monument in 1949, and often schoolchildren are brought here and taught what went on in this notorious camp. Various countries that lost citizens here have erected memorials outside the camp to honor their dead.

You can visit the huts where the condemned, most of whom almost surely knew their fate, were kept. You are also led down the infamous "Stairway of Death," which the prisoners took on their last walk. To visit the ghastly site is a shattering experience, but still people come here to be reminded of a cruel and savage era, "lest we forget."


Quick Facts on Mauthausen Concentration Camp

Site Information
Names:KZ-Gedenkstätte Mauthausen; Mauthausen Concentration Camp; Mauthausen Memorial; Mauthausen-Gusen; KL Mauthausen
Country:Austria
Categories:Historical Sites
Dates:1938-45
Status:museum
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Austria
Coordinates:48.256924° N, 14.501417° E  (view on Google Maps)
Website:www.mauthausen-memorial.at
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Mauthausen Concentration Camp

Below is a location map and aerial view of Mauthausen Concentration Camp. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

References

  1. Wikipedia under GFDL.
  2. Frommer's Austria, 11th edition.
  3. Norbert Brockman, Encyclopedia of Sacred Places (Oxford University Press, 1997), viii, 110-13.

More Information

Article Info

Title:Mauthausen Concentration Camp
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:01/12/2010
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/austria/mauthausen-concentration-camp/austria/mauthausen-concentration-camp-photos
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