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Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp
Unlike many other concentration camp systems, Mauthausen was used mostly for extermination through labour of the intelligentsia, educated people and members of the higher classes in countries subjugated by Germany during World War II. Until early 1940, 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 gassed 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 labour and poor conditions, or were thrown down the sides of the Mauthausen quarry (nick-named the Parachute Wall by the SS guards). During the final months of the war, some 20 000 prisoners from other concentration camps were marched to the complex. Before and during World War II 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 labour in a rock quarry. Some 122 000 were murdered. The living conditions were extremely squalid; all were undernourished, and diseases without proper medical attention caused many deaths.
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. We know of all the female SS guards by name today; Jane Bernigau, Margarete Freinberger, Marie Herold, Anna Kern, Maria Kunik (served also in Lenzing), Hildegard Lachert, Marianne Paegel, Albine Pallaoro, Amalie Payrleitner, Therese Pichler, Eleonore Poelsleitner, Antonia Rachbauer, Elsa Rascher, Anna Reischer, Hildegard Reiterer, Anna Schbesta, Edda Scheer , Aloisia Schekolin, Hermine Schmied and Rosa Seyringer.*** Female guards also staffed the Mauthausen subcamps at Hirtenberg, Lenzing (the main women's subcamp in Austria), and St. Lamprecht.
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.
All of the information on the SS women who served at Mauthuasen was found in Daniel Patrick Brown's book, "THE CAMP WOMEN The SS Auxiliaries Who Assisted the SS in Running the Concentration Camp System."
- For a full list of KL Mauthausen sub-camps see: List of subcamps of Mauthausen.
Methodology of crime
The methods of extermination included:
- Slave labour in the quarries
- Gas chambers
- Mobile gas chambers - a lorry with the exhaust tube directed to the inside, shuttling between Mauthausen and Gusen
- Icy showers - some 3 000 inmates died of hypothermia due to being forced to stay under a stream of icy water for several hours
- Mass shootings
- Medical experiments
- Bleeding - several hundred inmates were bled to death and the blood collected was sent to the Eastern Front
- Starvation - at Mauthausen camp itself some 2 000 prisoners a week were starved to death
Also, the food rations were limited and in the 1940-1942 period an average inmate weighed 42 kilograms. Medical treatment was close to non-existent due to official German policy.
Altogether, some 122 000 people were murdered during the war in the Mauthausen-Gusen system of concentration camps. Only approximately 80 000 survived the war. The SS before their escape on May 4,1945 tried to destroy the evidence and only approximately 40 000 victims were identified.
- Józef Cyrankiewicz, Polish prime minister (1947-1952 and 1956-1970)
- Stanisław Grzesiuk , Polish poet
- Gilbert Norman, SOE agent
- Antonin Novotny, president of Czechoslovakia
- Kazimierz Proszynski, Polish inventor
- Ota Sik, Czech economist and politician
- Stanisław Staszewski , Polish poet and writer
- Simon Wiesenthal, hunter of Nazi war criminals and author, in 1946 published a book "KZ Mauthausen, Bild und Wort" (Concentration Camp Mauthausen - pictures and words)
- Mauthausen-Gusen Memorial
- Brief history of the Mauthausen-Gusen complex
- KZ Gusen Memorial Committee
- Photos of the Mauthausen-Gusen camps
- Literary research project on texts by survivers
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