The Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp

The Mauthausen concentration camp was created in August 1938 after the Annexation of Austria into the German Reich. It was situated about 20 kilometres from Linz nearby the Wiener Garben granite quarry and organised on the pattern of the Dachau camp. In December 1939 the decision was made to create the Mauthausen-Gusen subcamp which was to be the extermination camp for Polish intelligentsia (Vernichtungslager für die polnische Intelligenz). The Gusen sub-camp was opened on 25th May 1940 not long after the mass wave of arrests connected with Intelligentsia action. The conditions in the camp were extreme: disastrous climate, devastating work in the quarry, diseases and hunger, and also inhuman treatment and medical experiments caused extremely high death rate.

Granite was extracted in Wiener Graben quarry and was then used to make the elements of many representative buildings created in the German Reich. Granite blocks were worked in the camp and then transported to the harbour and floated by the Danube river. Most prisoners were not able to carry the stones on their shoulders down the famous 186 stairs […] and then ran with them more or less one thousand two hundred metres. The way back, to “”load”, they had to dash in accordance with regulations, in addition “holendry”, not keeping on feet wooden clogs, especially made their life a misery. On the stairs the SS officers and kapos rushed them so much that when somebody stumbled and fell down in the first row it caused an avalanche of bodies falling down, gaining momentum and taking new victims. Such an experience was the last one for many. Those who had broken legs were finished off by the guards because a person with a broken leg had no value as a mean of transport. (…) in the years 1940 – 1942 most prisoners in the Gusen camp died because of hunger. In the quarry more than a half workers from 3000 died during two weeks. The prisoners just fell down while working and they did not have the strength to stand up. In a column of the prisoners returning from the quarry there were people so exhausted and staggered that they had to be supported and dragged to the camp. Many of them had to be carried by their companions. Emaciated bodies were left by the block because they had to be added to the number of people, the number had to tally. – Stefan Krukowski – a former camp prisoner recalled after years. It is estimated that 35 000 people died out of 71 000 prisoners kept there in 1940 – 1945, and 60% of them were Polish people.

Nowadays the remains of the Gusen camp are gradually degrading. Many of them were turned into usable buildings for example the camp gate is now a dwelling house. The efforts are made to preserve at least a small part of the former camp.