Thursday, January 9, 2020

Mauthausen Concentration Camp

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Midway between Salzburg and Vienna in Austria are the remains of Mauthausen, a Nazi work camp. The Mauthausen Memorial lies on the outskirts of its namesake town and has all the barracks, barbed wire and gas chambers of more celebrated concentration camps. Mauthausen fed prisoners to over 100 smaller work camps in Austria and Southern Germany as well as forcing prisoners to excavate rock from its quarry. Estimates put deaths at between 100,000 and 300,000. The staff of the memorial asked us to take many pictures and post them everywhere.

The picture above is the front of Mauthausen taken from the memorial parking lot. Note the guard tower, stone wall and camp's entrance at the confluence of the paths. To your right, the wall with black streaks is one of many memorials on the grounds of the camp.

The front entrance to the camp opens onto a large courtyard where prisoners were processed.

The courtyard.

Prisoners were assigned a cloth winkle to wear on their prison uniforms. The form and color denoted the reason for persecution.

The stairs bring you from the courtyard up to the officer's quarters (left) or the prisoner's barracks (right).

The officer's quarters (looking over the courtyard) are protected from the elements by the rocks the prisoners mined in the quarry. This building now houses administration offices for the museum.

Prisoners enter their living grounds from the entrance at the far end of this photo. To your right are barracks; three of 25 survive. To your left are the kitchen, prison, gas chambers and crematorium. The metal box filled with rocks in the middle of the picture is a memorial.

Detail of outside of wood barrack.

The prisoners' sleeping area in a barrack. Lodovico Barbizon de Belgiojoso describes his experience.
Every evening, after the noise that a hundred people can make when cramming into bunk beds, swearing and cursing in twenty languages, the order for silence was given and the lights turned off. […] Later, when the people finally started falling asleep, the concert of wheezing and hissing, coughing fits, belching and farting, snoring in several pitches, soft moaning, sobbing and cursing began. […] These noises emerged from a hundred bodies and fused into a single, terrible sound, produced as if by a giant, monstrous being that had holder itself up in the dark.

Toilets. Stand to your right. Sit to your left.

Water ... for all your needs. Roman Foster describes his experience.

In Mauthausen I stopped washing myself […]. I simply could no longer find the strength to get up early […] and pour icy water over myself. […] The time had come to ask if there was still any purpose in continuing the hard struggle for this wretched existence.

Guard tower and electric fence.

These stone walls contained the barracks in which quarantined prisoners were kept. After United States troops liberated the prisoners in 1945, the land became a cemetery. Prisoners continued to die for weeks after the liberation.

The electrified wall.

A headstone.

Guard tower.

From the far end of the prisoners area with the cemetery on your right and the infirmary/museum on the left.

Behind the infirmary with memorial plaques on the stone wall. On the other side of this stone wall was the town of Mauthausen.

A page from the graphic training guide given to all Nazi guards.

Another page from the graphic training guide given to all Nazi guards.

Stone wall and electric fence.

Disinfectant shower room for new arrivals.

In 1941 the SS construct a gas chamber and other installations at Mauthausen for the systematic murder of large groups of people.

Gas chamber.

People leave messages of peace, hope and love on the window sills of the gas chamber.

The first oven in the camp.

Building a better oven.

The Nazis would shove as many bodies as they could into an oven. It's not like bodies were cremated with respect.

I left the prisoners quarters and walked deeper into the surrounding woods (which are, ironically, quite beautiful). I walk around the outside of the chain link fence and came upon Aschen Friedhof where the Nazis dumped the ashes of those who were cremated.

Makeshift chapel above Aschen Friedhof. (Ash Cemetery)

Aschen Friedhof. (Ash Cemetery)

Guard tower and barbed wire.

The rock quarry.

The Stairs of Death lead from the rock quarry floor up to the camp. Prisoners were forced to carry roughly-hewn blocks of stone – often weighing as much as 100 pounds - 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 stairs.

The Stairs of Death.

Guard tower above the quarry.

Memorial Park is visible from the quarry floor.

A grotto has emerged in the rock quarry.

Memorials have been constructed by different countries in Memorial Park, the area above the quarry. There is no memorial from the United States although...

... the United States army liberated Mauthausen on May 5, 1945 and this plaque commemorates it.

A map of Mauthausen. The red buildings still stand and the pictures here are from that area. The quarry with its circular Stairs of Death is on the your left. The area between the two is Memorial Park. To the left of the circle in the top right corner is the approximate location of Aschen Friedhof (Ash Cemetery).

A chapel has been built in the room above the disinfectant shower.

The back wall of the chapel is decorated with these paintings.

The room next to the chapel has flags of all the countries that helped in the liberation of Mauthausen.

On the side of the road that leads to (and from) the Mauthausen camp is Der Weg (The Way), a memorial art piece by Ewe Kaja. It consists of rows of stone skulls embedded in the dirt. The skulls are progressively buried deeper until the last row in which the skulls are buried to the top.

Opposite Der Weg (The Way), this lovely creek continues to flow despite the atrocities it has flowed past. It amazes that people could live in the town of Mauthausen while this was happening. I learned in the museum that there were people who hid escapees from the camp so maybe it's the mob mentality - when you can get one person away from the mob, you find humanity. Well, back then anyway but there's always hope for tomorrow.