Saturday, November 24, 2012


The commandant was suddenly and inexplicably transferred from the command of Ebensee. He was succeeded by Obersturmführer Otto Riemer, under whom the conditions of the camp deteriorated even further. He himself personally beat, shot and tortured prisoners. He openly offered extra cigarettes and leave to those sentries who could account for the largest number of deaths-deaths were listed as 'shot while trying to escape'. [PS 2176 (31), JAD, 3rd US Army, sic] The response, was a startling increase in shootings, in which sentries competed with each other. If a sentry had not sufficient numbers to his credit, he would knock off the cap of a passing prisoner and throw it into the forbidden zone. When he went to retrieve it, he would be shot dead. Riemer, like Bachmayer, was a great lover of wine and women, and he would often go to wild drinking parties in the company of some of the younger SS. On one occasion, on 18th May 1944, he returned to camp after an all-night drinking session with twelve of his SS command. They entered the camp precincts, shooting wildly with their pistols and roaring with delight as panic-stricken prisoners scurried out of their way. Fifteen prisoners died as a result of this display. On 23rd May, Riemer was drunk again when, accompanied by his favourite SS friend, he returned to the camp at 9 p.m. Unfortunately it was just at this moment that a work commando came trudging back to their Blocks. As they passed, Riemer and his comrade began to shoot them from the back [PS 2176 (31) JAD, 3rd US Army, sic] Four Russians, one German, one Spaniard, one Pole and one Italian, with ages ranging from twenty to forty-one, were killed outright. Others were severely injured and died during the night or the following morning. The names and numbers of the dead were listed and sent to Mauthausen with explanatory note of 'died by suicide','died by hanging', died by electrocution and, died from complete exhaustion. Riemer, amongst his accomplishments, was also something of a wit.[Otto Riemer, Ebensee Obersturmführer – managed to escape. born 19 May 1897 , date of death unknown. After the cancellation of the post of commandant of Ebensee, sent to the main camp of Mauthausen, where he served as head of the mail. Of his post-war fate nothing is known. sic]
It was possible for particular zealous Kapos or Block Leaders to be promoted out of the ranks of the prisoners from which they originally came. An example of this was the Kapo in charge of Block 19. He would wait for his prisoners to return from the day's toil and then compel them to perform exhausting physical exercises far into the night. The following morning after a sleepless night, the men would be forced out to another full day's work. Nearly all the members of this Block who performed such exercises died from exhaustion within ten days. By this system of elimination he had succeed in killing in a most economical manner and he was suitably rewarded. When the camp at Wels was constructed, he became Camp Leader. Block I was in charge of a Kapo who indulged in a method of torture which can only be described as that of a latent homosexual. [PS 2176 (16) JAD, 3rd US Army, sic] The slightest infringement of the stringent regulation, such as a pair of clogs protruding too far from the bunks, would result in the offender being made to stand on a stool without his trousers. He would be whipped until his buttocks bled and then made to return to work. The Kapo also took delight in various subtle, painful and even macabre forms of torture. On the morning of 1st January 1945, when the ground was covered with snow, he sent his men completely naked to the shower room at the other end of the camp. He kicked and lashed out at them with his whip as they made their way there and compelled them to sing "Happy New Year".
Another notorious Kapo, who was in charge of some 700 prisoners, was the illiterate German gypsy Hartmann. No day went by when he not returned to camp with at least three dead bodies, and this excluded any prisoners who died from natural causes. When the camp was liberated, he was set upon and killed by his fellow countrymen.
As has already been stated, Mauthausen and its dependencies held the highest percentage of 'green' or criminal prisoners in the entire concentration system, and this was maintained until the end of the war. All principal functions were generally assigned to criminal prisoners, but from early 1943 a gradual change took place and the 'red' or political prisoners began to hold authoritative positions. The ordinary prisoner at Ebensee, as at all other concentration camps, were of all types of nationalities. They ranged from bandits, pimps and assassins to political prisoners and patriotic resistance fighters.
The last commandant of Ebensee was a notorious SS man, who had once been a bouncer at a night club. As the sound of the American guns was heard in the distance, more and more prisoner tried to escape. He had his own idea of how to deal with this. Anyone caught attempting to get away was sentenced to death by hanging and the execution was timed to coincide with the evening roll call. The entire population of the camp assembled in front of the gibbet. The front ranks sat on the ground, second group knelt and the third stood. In this way everyone was afforded a good view of the proceedings. The punishment was not administered by the SS or by a Kapo, but by the condemned man's closest associate. Under the threat of his own execution, this man was ordered to act as executioner and pull the noose. The ceremony would end with the prisoners marching with military precision in groups of five past the dead man. Between September 1944 and April 1945, this particular execution took place no fewer than fourteen times. On another occasion a prisoner who had been killed by guards was brought into he camp on a makeshift stretcher. In front of the assembly of 7,000 prisoners the Commandant kicked the body off the stretcher and thumped and jumped upon it.
When a prisoner fell sick he would think twice before submitting to a medical inspection at the infirmary. If possible, he generally preferred to carry on in the hope that his condition would improve - which it seldom did. If he eventually decided to report sick, he was obliged to wait in the open outside the infirmary door, in all weathers and often barefoot. If he had bronchitis or pneumonia, the wait in such conditions might kill him before he even saw the doctor. The bodies of dead patients were removed immediately because they blocked the doorway. Those who survived the wait and got inside the infirmary were met at the entrance by Polish or German criminal Kapos armed with whips and sticks. The medical inspection was conducted by prisoner doctors who, with the most meagre medical supplies at their disposal, did all in their power to mend the shattered bones and alleviate the sufferings of the sick. The prisoners doctor's diagnosis would be wholly disregarded by the SS corporal and the non-commissioned medical orderlies. Seven times out of ten, sick prisoners would return to work feeling rather weaker than before. The doctor in charge of the infirmary at Ebensee was Dr Willi Jobst, and his assistant were Dr Krindel and Dr. Schulling. All three men spent most of their time signing death certificates
[Former SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Doctor Willi Jobst, a defendant at the trial of 61 former camp personnel and prisoners from Mauthausen, Dr. Jobst was camp physician of the Ebensee concentration camp. Jobst was convicted and sentenced to death on May 13, 1946. sic] It was camp rule that Jews must stay in their own Block and were not permitted to enter the infirmary. Fever patients were usually turned away too. Too relieve the monotony of the infirmary rounds or to speed up the death rate inside it, the SS suddenly admitted one fever case. the result was catastrophic.
Block 23 at Ebensee corresponded to the Bahnhof (Railway-Endstation) at Gusen or the Russenlager (Russian Camp) at Mauthausen. When the camp was at full strength, as many as 600 dying and dead prisoners lay side by side on the bare floor of the Block. The running of the infirmary was closely linked with the always haphazard hygiene routine of the SS. There was no laundry, only a vapour room to which the garments were sent on very rare occasions for steam treatment. During this process the prisoners remained naked. In their Blocks they slept three to four to a bunk, the sick alongside the healthy. Any prisoner who tried to do anything to improve his lot was put to death. One Russian prisoner was hanged a few days before the liberation because he had knitted gloves of odd pieces of material in order to save his hands from frostbite. Another was hanged because he brought back some oil from his workshop to rub into his deeply cracked legs.
The SS were at pains always to keep the figures and the Blocks balanced. It did not matter to them how many prisoners died in one day so long as the dead and the living were accounted for. One day, the body of a prisoner who had been registered as dead could not be found for cremation. The camp was searched and the corpse finally found in another Block in a sleeping condition next to a live, but very sick, prisoner. This man had taken the corpse to his quarters in the hope of obtaining the dead man's rations. Food was always uppermost in the minds of the prisoners, and they would overlook nothing and stop at nothing in order to get it.
There were even cannibalism at Ebensee. On one occasion in April 1945, when the crematorium staff were removing a pile of bodies from one corner of a Block, they noticed that a part of the body was missing [PS 2176 (188) LAD, 3rd US Army, sic] When the SS was notified, they showed a characteristic fear, for they realised that they had deliberately instigated something which now deteriorating beyond even their standards of depravity. Cannibalism itself did not worry them, it was the natural result of their policy of degrading human beings. But it did show the lengths to which prisoner's desperation could take him, it was a turning point beyond which the SS might no longer have control. They responded to the threat by doubling the cremation staff and by having the bodies removed from the blocks as often as twice a day. [This is were the the expression for Russian Prisoners as "UNTERMENSCHEN' (Sub-Humann) was applied in POW Camps, that reverted to a high degree of cannibalism, eating human flesh in a raw state, due to hunger, sic]
As the camps in the line of the Allied advances had to be evacuated, prisoners poured into Ebensee. Others returned from sub-commando work outside the camp, with the result that the Blocks became fantastically overcrowded. With dead bodies piling up both inside and outside the huts, the SS became exasperated by the increasing number of sick prisoners, and their inability to move. In SS eyes, they were occupying valuable space and the remedy was easy enough. There is evidence to show that on one occasion at least four sick prisoners were thrown into the communal grave and buried alive by other bodies piling on top of them.
The dead were immediately robbed of their clothing by other sick prisoners, as well as Kapos. Their mouths would be forced open so that any gold fillings could be removed and kept by the Kapos in charge. The crematorium furnaces were often unable to keep pace with the deaths, so that for days, naked bodies lay stacked up in wagons outside the Blocks, the infirmary or the crematorium itself. To reduce the congestion, a ditch was dug outside the camp and the bodies were flung into the quicklime. On one day in April 1945, a record number of eighty bodies was removed from Block 23. Amongst the pile, feet were seen to be twitching.
The mass evacuations from other concentration camps put tremendous pressure on Mauthausen as the last remaining camp in the area of German power. Ebensee and the other dependency camps had to take their share of the surplus prisoners. One of the largest single consignment of prisoners consisted of 2,000 Jews from Auschwitz. Ganz inquired whether the crematorium could cope with such an influx, for it was his intention to reduce the number of Jews by half within two weeks. This was no empty threat. Within fourteen days, Blocks 25 and 26 had despatched hundreds of corpses. Other transports from Auschwitz followed. Of 4,000 Hungarian Jews who were transported to Mauthausen from Auschwitz late 1944, a large proportion went to Ebensee. Only 300 of the original 4,000 were alive when the camps were liberated. Earlier, in September 1944, 1,000 civilian Polish workers arrived unexpectedly direct from Warsaw. By the end of the year only 100 of them were still alive. [The camp commandant Anton Ganz, until 1945, was sentenced by a German Court to life imprisonment.Ganz died, 1973.]
After February 1945, the evacuation became still bigger and more frequent. One of the largest transport arrived at Ebensee on 3rd March from Wolfsberg (Gross Rosen). The privation suffered on the journey from Mauthausen to Ebensee were so terrible that forty-nine died on the way, 2,059 managed to survive. When they arrived, they wee made to stand throughout the night in snow, outside the crematorium, where piles of corpses lay awaiting incineration. In the morning they were taken away for disinfection, during which 182 died. By this time 90% of all the prisoners were going to work in the snow without shoes, sweaters or gloves, and many of them braved the savagery of the SS by wrapping their feet and ankles in newspaper or in rags. After this, Ebensee received a stream of prisoners from Wels, Melk, Leibnitz, St Valentin, Redyl-Zipf, the camp inmate strength becoming a new high of 18,000 prisoners, 6,000 of these were so sick that they lay down in the streets of the camp, in bunks, in the infirmary, or wherever they could. By March the food allocation was hopelessly inadequate for such large numbers. In the morning the ration was a half litre of unsweetened warm ersatz coffee. At noon it was three-quarters of a litre of so-called soup - in other words hot water containing potato peelings and a few pieces of assorted vegetables. In the evening there was one loaf of bread (1,350 grams) for six working prisoners or nine sick prisoners. They were all so hungry that they would conceal a dead prisoner in order to collect his food ration. Others would eat leaves, grass or coal. On 26th April, in Block 26, the body of a Hungarian Jew was found with his buttocks cut off.
The only revolt known in the history of Mauthausen and its sub-camps took place in Ebensee a few days before the liberation when a transport from Nordhausen, Amstetten, Schlier and Neuengamme had inmate strength to more than 30,000. At roll call, the Commandant ordered them to file into one of the tunnels, in which an old locomotive packed with explosives had been lodged. The prisoners, to a man, blankly refused. The SS guards were paralysed with indecision. The hordes of humans swayed and murmured. For the first time since their arrest, the prisoners who were not already dying saw the possibility that they might just survive the war. Understandably, they neither wished to be blown up in the tunnel, nor mown down by SS machine-guns for refusing. But they knew that in these last days, many of the SS had left and had been replaced by Volksdeutsche. A quick consultation with some of his command made it clear to the Commandant that they too were reluctant either force the men into the tunnel, or to shoot them down. With the war all but over, they were thinking of the future, and the punishment they would receive for the slaughter of so many human beings was something they still wished - even with their already stained hands - to avoid. And so the prisoners won the day.
When US forward troops entered the camp Ebensee on 8th May 1945, they found bodies all over the place. The administration had completely broken down. Prisoners roaming around with vacant look, talking to themselves, more dead than alive. Others were attacking their fellow-prisoners, breaking into Blocks and magnifying the hell that was Ebensee.
As the US Army approached Gusen, the SS command fled from the camp to hide in the surrounding country or farther afield. Only the local Volksdeutsche (Etnic Germans) were left in charge. On 6th May 1945, the day after the Americans had made a cursory visit to the camp, a resistance committee led a popular uprising, numbering some hundred prisoners. After disconnecting the electric fencing, they formed a human battering ram which burst out of the prison confines into the neighbouring villages and countryside. They effectively sought and found a great many of their persecutors, who were summarily killed. The Gusen resistance group, physically fortified by the heady joy of freedom, then joined a similar Mauthausen group to help check the SS rearguard actions. If the SS rearguard actions had been successful, it would have been catastrophic to the prisoners.
I have avoided to quote death figures, as Gusen death statistics , if anything, are harder to define than those of Mauthausen, furthermore there is the tendency to manipulate figures to make them look "good". A total death of 38,453 are given by Jurek Osuchowski in 'Gusen, Entry to Hell, published by the National War Ministry, Warsaw, 1961. This figure, colossal though it may be, do not take into account the unknown number of lost children. The total number of deaths in the Mauthausen chain of camps for the years 1940-43 inclusive is increased by 18,575, as these were the years in which deaths of Gusen were not registered in Mauthausen and those executed direct from Warsaw. The statistics for Mauthausen alone are given as the very minimum, there being no accurate way of recording the thousands who died and were erased from the registers, or those who were never in the register at all. In an historical account this is something which should not be overlooked. The figures given here, taken from the existing death register, record those who remained registered. Guesses have been made at the number of deaths in Mauthausen and Gusen which include 'Kugel Aktion', various secret executions, those erased from the records, and the thousands who died unheeded in the days of the liberation. But it is not possible to prove these guesses with facts, for the facts were not at the disposal of the victors: 120,000 to 200,000 dead may be a fairly accurate assessment. One must therefore accept the figures as only minimum, adding a rider that the numbers 'lost' will never be known.
The barracks of the camp were destroyed soon after the liberation. Visiting the former area of the camp you can only see the former entrance gate of the camp. The victims’ cemetery is also located in this area, at the place where one of the mass graves secretly, created by the SS shortly before the liberation of the camp was found. The gallery systems still exist and in one of the huge tunnels a bilingual exhibition (German/English) gives a detailed description of the camp’s history. The remains of a staircase (called “Löwengang”) can also be visited. Moreover, during the 1960s a former SS officer for some time became mayor of Ebensee, without his Nazi past arousing much attention.
Victims from other concentration camps: 235 victims (above all from the camp at Gunskirchen) who had died in Hörsching after the liberation were buried in the mass grave and at the burial sites left and right of it. 3 victims from the subsidiary camp in St. Valentin were transferred to Ebensee. 190 urns were relocated from Steyr. These include victims from the concentration camps Gusen and Mauthausen, who were cremated largely in 1941 and 1942 in the municipal crematorium in Steyr. 52 victims from the Mauthausen concentration camp, who lost their lives after the camp’s liberation in a hospital in Schönau, were exhumed in December 1953 and buried in Ebensee. All victims, 51 Hungarian Jews and a Russian, could be identified. Furthermore, 19 victims (4 urns), thereof 5 could be identified, were transferred from the cemetery in Linz-St. Martin to the cemetery of the Ebensee concentration camp. Finally, in October 1960, 10 victims were relocated from the cemetery in Altaussee and 6 from Gallspach to Ebensee.
2 victims were exhumed again at the end of the 1950s and transferred to Salzburg, 1 victim was repatriated to Israel.
All in all, 1343 victims were buried in individual graves as well as about 2341 victims in the two mass graves at this cemetery. The location of any ash pits has not been clarified up to the current date. These are said to have been created - according to the memories of surviving camp inmates - as a result of the cremation of thousands of victims in the camp crematorium.
Two days later, after the liberation, the advance units of the US liberating forces prepared to move out of Ebensee. They handed over the camp to the more organised and experienced units on the 17th May 1945, once again, the example of generosity, compassion and humanity on the part of the US forces received small thanks and even less recognition.
When one looks at the map of Europe, indicating the network of concentration camps, it is difficult to realise that each little black dot or square represents a camp or sub-camp where human beings were confined, without help and without hope. Each one of these camps helped to further the aims of Germaan superiority and strength, while at the same time increasing the subjugation of the so-called Untermenschen. The excellence with which so many of the war installations were built and equipped by the slave labour of the camps is a constant reminder of how nearly the German Nation, under control of it's Führer, succeed in its avowed aim. Surviving prisoners tend to think only of Mauthausen, Gusen, Ebensee and Melk when they talk of the Mauthausen group. But there were other sub-camps and sub-sub-camps where living condition were equally grim, and where the life of a prisoner was equally of little account.
It is not known who was responsible for the setting up of sub-sub-camps. It might have been at the instigation of one particular firm, or the order might have come from Commandant Ziereis, or it might have been a combination of both these. Again, the responsibility might have lain with the WVHHA, so that Ziereis would have been little more than a warehouseman who parcelled out numbers, and those numbers just happened to be human beings. What is certain is, that Ziereis was responsible for allowing the death rates at Mauthausen and its dependencies to become second only to Auschwitz. He also saw to it that it held first place for the sheer barbarity of killing methods. The booklet Auschwitz 1940-1945 by Kazimirz Smolen states on pages 69 and 70: 'Other forms of punishing prisoners...sending to other camps (e.g. to quarries in the Mauthausen concentration camp'). Coming from the camp of camps, this was certainly a condemnation. As we have seen, the concentration camps served a dual purpose as a reservoir of slave labour and as places of extermination. The Nazis maintained their policy of elimination of the Jews until the end, and by that time the camps had absorbed and killed even more non-Jews than Jews. One wonders, fearfully, what use these vast buildings projects would have been put to if all the slave labour had been killed and if Hitler had won the war. The concentration camps would then have moved on to a new phase which would have touched us all in every country, of every age of every profession. We would all have found our places in them the vast network was only the beginning.
Any references of documents with serial numbers preceded by letters 'PS' and 'D' indicates evidence used at the trials before the International Military Tribunal (IMT), Nürnberg, 1945-46. Both letters 'PS and 'D' refer to Mauthausen, not every reference has been quoted. Other links are:
Misc. others



The sub-camp Ebensee was begun in late 1943. By this time it had already become apparent that the war was to be a long one and that more underground armaments factories would be needed. Ebensee, situated in the mountainous, well wooded region in the Salzkammergut, and therefore relatively free from observation and attack, was an ideal location. The main purpose of the camp was to provide labour for the construction of enormous underground tunnels in which armaments works were to be housed. There were to be twelve factories, each 1,400 feet long and each linked to one connecting tunnel. The site was to be given the official code name "Zement". The prisoners were to work under the supervision of civilian engineers employed by German Construction Firms. Among the more important firms working on the project were Siemens-Bau-Union, Siemens-Schuckert, Grossdeutscher Schachtbau, Hinteregger und Fischer, Hozhamm, Polensky, Deutscher Bergbau, Hermann Göring-Niblungen-Werke and Solvay-Werke. The first arrivals at the camp on 18th November, 1943, were sixty-three men, mostly professional workers, who came form another sub-sub-camp, Redyl-Zipf. The following day 418 prisoners arrived from Mauthausen, and a little later other prisoners, mostly Poles, Russians and Yugoslavs that came from Mauthausen, Wiener-Neustadt and Schlier. Soon there were more than 1,000 prisoners at Ebensee. Two SS construction experts, Kammler and Engelhart, assisted by German civilian workers, who supervised the construction.

SS Obergruppenführer" and "General der Waffen-SS" Hans Kammler-Since it had been decided that the Peenemünde rocket research centre was to be relocated into a protected underground area, it became clear that the necessary work would have to be done by concentration camp prisoners. On October 1943, this project called "Cement" was approved by Hans Kammler who was the responsible building official of the SS.
[Anybody familiar with Nazi Germany will be familiar with Himmler, Speer, Bormann and such but few have ever heard of Hans Kammler. Kammler was a General in the SS, rather an accomplishment any way you look at it. Kammler "was regarded by many in the Nazi hierarchy as the most powerful man in Germany outside the Cabinet." (Blunder! How the U.S. Gave Away Nazi Supersecrets to Russia, by Tom Agoston, Dodd, Mead & Co.)
Kammler, whose position of authority was directly under Himmler, was in charge of Hitler's most secret projects, specifically projects such as the world's first jet engines and rockets. He had over 14 million people working for him, mostly building UNDERGROUND factories. Agoston said his projects were equivalent to being in charge of building the Great Pyramids or the Coliseum in Rome. Speer said that he believed that Kammler was being considered to take his (Speer's) position. Albert Speer, in his book Spandau, The Secret Diaries brags that it was he who ordered Werner Heisenberg to stop building an atomic bomb and concentrate on a "uranium motor" for aircraft. Towards the end of the war, Hitler even made Göring and Speer subordinate to Kammler. Eisenhower admits in Crusade In Europe that the Nazis were within 6 months of developing advanced weapons that would have changed the outcome of the war. sic]

Concentration Camp Ebensee
In this region of Austria, winters are long and hard. Snow often falls profusely in early November, and November 1943 was no exception. The only accommodation provided for the first batch of prisoners was an old storage hut, a small barracks doubling as wash-room and a wooden latrine. In the area in front of the hut the prisoners assembled for roll call, at which time selections were made for the work commandos. After rising at 4.30 a.m., they began work at 6 a.m. and finished at 6 p.m. One of the first buildings to be erected was a small infirmary in which there were only five double bunk beds. Most prisoners were already in a poor state of health when they arrived at Ebensee and so the beds were quickly filled, with a number of men to each bunk. There were a great many cases of phlegmon and highly infectious erysipelas (acute inflammation of skin). The only medical attention was provided by a single prisoner doctor who had acted as nurse and pall-bearer. He treated phlegmon by the primitive method of jabbing a knife into the swollen part to let the puss escape. A hole the size of a human fist was left when the wound finally healed. The only sanitary provision in the infirmary was a bucket placed in the middle of the room. The smell of this, combined with the smell of the undressed and untended sick was almost unbearable. During the first few weeks twenty prisoners died. The bodies were piled in a corner and removed every three to four days. They were taken to Mauthausen because Ebensee had no crematorium at the time.

Survivors look out from the upper tier of a bunk in the infirmary barracks for Jewish prisoners in the Ebensee concentration camp
The site chosen for the barracks was a heavily wooded place where snow lay about five feet deep. During the basic work of building the foundations, the snow or rain fell relentlessly. The prisoners worked their 12 hour day relentlessly, in hopelessly inadequate clothing. On their feet they wore wooden clogs, or claquettes, with canvas uppers. The snow stuck to them every step so that walking became almost impossible. They were a permanent torture to the prisoners who wore them. The wood would crack and split deeper and deeper until it was held together only by the canvas at the top. When the clogs fell apart completely, the prisoner had to walk barefoot. Their feet were badly lacerated as they stumbled over rough ground, and very often abscesses and infection would set in. There were no facilities for washing the few clothes they had, however wet they were. As a result, the sickness rate rose rapidly. Lice soon infested the camp, which the SS, with their terror of vermin would not tolerate. There was one isolated occasion in December 1944, when the prisoners were given a minute piece of soap, a warm bath and a change of shirt and shorts.

Brutal Kapos and SS man saw to it that the construction work progressed fast, and by middle of January 1944 there were eight prisoners' barracks, three SS barracks and a kitchen all ready for occupation. The camp was surrounded by a barbed wire fence, and small towers with machine-guns as well as shacks for the SS were set up few yards apart all around the perimeter. soon as all the prisoners were installed in the newly-built concentration camp, they started preparing the terrain for the tunnels. Long hours were spent carrying stones away, cutting down trees, loading and unloading machinery and materials. The internal administration and supervision of Ebensee followed the same pattern as Mauthausen and Gusen. One SS man and prisoner leader were assigned to each commando of five to ten prisoners. The larger commandos had a proportionately higher number of SS. Ebensee had two camp leaders and a camp recorder, otherwise known as camp secretary. Commandant Zireis sent his most capable and vicious man to head the camp, Georg Bachmayer. He was to enforce the same ferocious pace of work on the prisoners as he had maintained at Mauthausen. The two men, Ziereis and Bachmayer, were not very intimate and vied with one another in the cruelty which they had inflicted on prisoners. Bachmayer was, however, indisputable the King of Hounds. His favourite dog was a huge Alsatian called Lord, which was his permanent companion. The other dogs seemed to have belonged to the camp and their ferocity was not due to any lack of food. In fact, they were better fed and stronger than most of the prisoners. Even after his return to Mauthausen, Bachmayer often revisited the camp with Lord. On one occasion, on 12th May, 1944, an eighteen-year-old Italian prisoner escaped. Three days later he was caught three miles away and brought back to camp. After he had been interrogated and badly beaten, Bachmayer emerged with his dog. Lord was unleashed on the exhausted boy, who cried desperately to defend himself against the savage animal. His cries of 'Pieta, Commandante' filled the air. Bachmayer and an SS audience watched the poor youth being ripped to pieces. The Death Certificate registered. 'Suicide by electrocution'.

Dogs were killed by prisoners and eaten after liberation
Both Bachnayer and Ziereis showed extreme sadistic traits, but Bachmayer favoured a more riotous way of life. He drank heavily and often. Although he was married, he had mistresses. He often accompanied others to wild orgies on the Mauthausen farms. Once, after one of these nights out, he returned to camp with his SS companions just as a commando of hungry, sick and exhausted men was coming back from a work shift. In his drunken state he grabbed a machine-gun from its post and let off burst after burst at the prisoners. The commando of thirty men was riddled with bullets, and not one remained alive. Bachmayer was commandant of Ebensee for only a few weeks. After establishing his rule there, he returned to Mauthausen, leaving the camp under the command of an Obersturmführer who appears to have been totally deranged. He subscribed to all the most extreme methods of the SS, the civilian employees and the criminal Kapos. He would readily comply with requests from the civilian building department for more prisoners for their building programme. If the commando for such task were under strength, he would have the sick dragged out of the pitiful shelter of the infirmary to swell the ranks. Naturally, a few hours later the dead and dying would be brought back on hand trucks from the building sites and the quarry workings. Bachmayer chose a German political prisoner to be chief camp leader. It was a job which was generally given to a prisoner of the criminal class and thus to some extent his choice was unusual. This man was of higher intelligence than the average prisoner and he preferred to delegate the more sordid activities to the second camp leader, who was notorious for beating men to death. The combination of these two became a reign of terror.

Living and dying and dead people are in one room together
One of their methods of toture-plus-murder was to tie a prisoners arms behind him, the hands side by side and thumb to thumb, and then suspended him from a tree about eighteen inches off the ground. Bachmayer would then let his dogs loose. Sometimes the prisoner would faint immediately, at other times he would left in this unspeakable torture to die a slow and agonising death. One of the camp leader's was trafficking gold and precious stones. Prisoners arriving from other camps via Auschwitz in late December 1944, and early January 1945, brought in valuables which he did not hesitate to extract from them. He made deals with the SS, who were always on the look-out for a quick profit, and exchanged the jewels for food, clothing, cigarettes, alcohol and out-of-camp visits. As has already been said, it was officially forbidden for the SS to take part in such activities, and the RSHA were usually most vigilant. Many notorious murderers, including the infamous Globocnik of Treblinka, were court-marshalled for trafficking offences. The two camp leaders demanded favours of the men whom they chose for the privileged positions of block leaders, sectaries and so on. They in their turn often used their lucrative positions to secure young prisoners as Stubendienst, or cleaners. The all-male life of the concentration camp naturally gave rise to a certain amount of homosexuality, and a few prisoners, who in the normal way would never have given it a thought, fell into perverted ways. Wether or not homosexuality was always the motive, it was noticeable in Ebensee that the block leader' auxiliaries were usually about eighteen years old, well fed and reasonably clothed. In their newly found authority, they would not hesitate to beat without mercy , men who were old enough their fathers.
The prisoners' food allocation at Ebensee was well below that of other camps outside the Mauthausen group. The official ration was 150 grams of bread and 0.75 of a litre of a soup which was often made from grass. So desperate were they of sustenance, they would brave punishment of twenty-five lashes even to nibble at a stray piece of coal. They ate from communal bowl, five men to a bowl, and had no individual eating utensils. In February 1944, they went without bread for a whole week. This was catastrophic, for although the bread was almost inedible, it at least gave them little sustenance. When the civilian overseers urged them to work even harder, the prisoners told them that they had eaten nothing. This incensed the Commandant. He had all the prisoners assembled in the roll call area and, after many hours of waiting, he told them that the entire commando concerned would be shot if their lack of food were ever mentioned again and that in any case, 'none of them would ever leave the camp alive'. Despite this, one of the braver and humane Kapos, a Pole, approached him and asked him outright for an increase in the food allocation for his commando on the grounds that they were doing the most strenuous work. He paid dearly for his courages act. He was shot on the spot.

Former roll call area in the Ebensee concentration camp. The snow-capped peaks of the Alps Mountains loom in the distance. (May 8, 1945)
The Commandant employed two stool pigeons, who regularly reported to him any signs of rebellion among the prisoners. Even the SS disliked this and his successor had one of the men bludgeoned to death for being a toady.
On January 17tth, 1944, another transport of 500 prisoner arrived from Mauthausen. They were to prepare the ground for the building of the mountain tunnels during the daytime, and in the evening they were to work on the enlargement of the camp, 500 more, mostly Italians, were brought to the camp in February of the same year, and from this time until liberation the effective strength was never to fall below 8,000. The building of the camp went on at the same time as the construction of the tunnels. The number of prisoners' Blocks was increased. The infirmary was enlarged to include an operating theatre, a sterilising unit, a dental clinic, a laboratory, an isolation pavilion and even a convalescent building. [PS 2176 (71) JAD, 3rd US Army, sic] These parts of the camp were kept for inspection purposes. The crematorium which was built on a slightly different design from Mauthausen and Gusen. Standing a little apart from other buildings, it was a wide, squat building with an enormous chimney that rose high into the air.
Crematoria Oven at Ebensee
The building of tunnels was a tremendous task. The prisoners wee faced with a mountain which towered majestically above the camp, its summit often obscured by swirling mist. As the excavation work proceeded, its natural beauty became heavily scarred and it was changed out of all recognition. As the tunnels went deeper and the excavated rocks piled up outside, the level approach road rose gradually higher and higher. The mountain seemed to shrink and take upon itself a new, ugly squatness, the tunnel entrances and the road being finally at a level about a quarter of the way up the original mountain. The construction of the tunnels was undertaken with modern high-powered machinery and equipment, as well as with ordinary picks and hammers. Electric lighting was installed and massive drainage scheme was begun to deal with the constantly dripping water from the tunnel ceilings. It had to be channelled into drains behind machinery and inspection pits had to be placed at regular intervals. The walls, ceilings and floors were all cemented as work progressed. The electric cables and drainage pipes were laid underground. But still the water seeped through, as soon as a particular area was finished and the machinery was installed. Some of the machines were for the manufacturing parts for aeroplanes, others were for the V-1 and V-2 rockets which were being launched on Great Britain. Another tunnel was used as a gigantic benzine store. There was also a plan to excavate a tunnel with direct access to the lake (the Traunsee). Planes would then be able to take off and land in the protection of the mountain.
At certain points in the tunnels, staircases were built to an upper gallery which was hewn out of the rocks high up above the machinery. These galleries, which were never finished, were no more than huge, dunk holes with rounded ceilings. There was no light in them and no access to the outer world. They were destined to be prisoners quarters, and with them Ebensee was entering a new phase of de-humanisation in which men were to be deprived of their sight. Like burrowing animals, they would have to become accustomed to perpetual darkness. The prominenten were to be fractionally better off, for they would have smaller chambers fitted with single electric light.

Anlage B-This preliminary plan shows the tunnels in their planned completed state. In actuality, none of the tunnels was finished beyond the major cross passage in the centre, and the other cross passages were mostly unfinished. Only Tunnels 1, 2, 4, and 5 were in a condition for use. Tunnels 7 and 8 had no exterior entrances. This plan shows how the tunnel entrances were made smaller than the interior working spaces, to protect against bomb blasts.
By he time the war ended there were prisoners housed in one of these upper dormitories. When they entered the tunnel factories they were never to see daylight again. Even when they came down from their holes for their day's work, daylight was cut off by the massive entrance doors of steel which swung back on a pivot fixed in the ground. Eventually, the entire camp would have been moved inside and thousands of humnan beings would have become nothing more than emaciated automatons. Work on the tunnels went on twenty-four hours a day in three-eight-hour shifts. The three teams of prisoners worked in chaotic conditions. Wires, pieces of wood and all kinds of obstacles littered the area and, as they struggled with their great loads, it was only too easy to trip up and stumble. The noise of the electric drills was ear-splitting. The only place for the prisoners to eat gruel provided for them was in the working area. It was also the only place where they could relieve themselves, the buckets being placed in full vie of everyone.

Two separate works were located in the Ebensee hills -- Anlage A was a large system closer to the lake and town, and Anlage B was a smaller system adjacent to the concentration camp, just to the southwest. Neither system was completely finished before the end of the war, but the tunnels in Anlage A were more extensive, and larger. At the end of the war, Anlage A contained a working petroleum refinery (which later produced gasoline for the U.S. Army). Only one or two of the tunnels of Anlage B, where tank and truck motor parts were made, reached any sort of completion; and none were as long as planned, nor were the side connecting passages finished.
The work was performed mainly by inmates brought from the Mauthausen camp, the Ebensee camp, adjacent to the Anlage B tunnels, has all but disappeared today, save for the main gate and a memorial on the site. Some 8200 inmates died at this camp before it was liberated on 6 May 1945 by the U.S. Army. Tunnel 5 of the Anlage B system is maintained today as a memorial.


Map of the Ebensee tunnel system, some show tunnels that were planned but never started, others were started but not finished.Anlage A contained a working petroleum refinery which later produced gasoline for the U.S. Army. Only one or two of the tunnels of Anlage B, where tank and truck motor parts were made, reached any sort of completion; and none were as long as planned, nor were the side connecting passages finished. Anlage B tunnels, has all but disappeared today, save for the main gate and a memorial on the site. Some 8200 inmates died at this camp before it was liberated on 6 May 1945 by the U.S. Army. Tunnel 5 of the Anlage B system is maintained today as a memorial.

The photo on the left, shows the Ebensee Oil-Refinery works still in operation and used by the U.S. Army to distil gasoline. . This view shows the multi-story aspect of the refinery at Anlage A - the rails going up the slope lead to another opening at an upper level, where smoke from the refining process is issuing. Plans of Anlage A show four of these upper level tunnels. Although the tunnel opening on the main level is labelled 7 in this post-war photos, it was more likely Tunnel 1 or Tunnel 2 on the German plan. The photo on the right shows the interior of Tunnel 2 - one of the two-story tunnels - of Anlage A in 1945.

Interior of Tunnel 3 in Anlage A in 1945. This photo shows the partially finished nature of most of the tunnels. interior of one of the Anlage A tunnels today. This is Tunnel 5, the mine tunnel

 Entrance to a tunnel in the Anlage B section (this may be Tunnel 9 Entrance to Tunnel 5 in Anlage B today. This tunnel, the most complete of Anlage B, is maintained by the
&nb sp; Widerstandsmuseum in Ebensee, and is open to the public.

Tunnel 5, Anlage B, then and now. The 1945 photo shows the machinery in place for the
manufacture of tank and truck engine parts.
There was actually a second story above the concrete roof, for offices (see sketch below).

This 1945 sketch of a tunnel cross-section shows the main floor, with its pre-fab concrete walls and ceiling,and the space for offices and shops above.
The completed part of Tunnel 5 was lined with pre-fab concrete sections, supporting lights and water and gas pipes.

The main gate to the Ebensee concentration camp, seen in this photo taken just after liberation, has been preserved as a memorial" 


Monday, November 19, 2012


In the meantime, while prisoners were starving everywhere, the greatest care and attention was being lavished on Gusen's angora rabbits. These animals were housed in wire-mesh-fronted, wooden hutches, which were cleaned out regularly. They were fed on the best bran and the strictest guard was placed upon them. During the winter, when the snow began to lie, it was feared they would suffer from general cold and dampness. The SS decided to move hutches from their position at the bottom of the hill to higher, flatter ground between Gusen I and Gusen II. A group of Polish prisoners were rounded up for the difficult task of moving these large, handle-less objects. The SS began to shout and the Kapo began to beat them. As the blows fell thick and fast, they somehow found a way to hold and a way to move the bulky hutches up the hill. It is extraordinary to note that if one of the rabbits died, a report, made out in quadruplicate, had to be sent to Berlin. Clearly the death of an angora rabbit was more important that that of a human being.
The infirmary occupied Blocks 27-32 inclusive and, like that of Mauthausen and the Russenlager, was to all intents and purposes a house of death. Prisoner doctors and orderlies were dedicated to their job of saving life. What they achieved was done by devoted personal care rather by medical treatment, for supplies were hard to come by. The most infamous of the infirmary blocks was Block 31, to which enormous numbers of dysentery cases were allotted. Before this building was completed witnesses report that Block 24 was the dysentery block. sufferers from this disease were usually too weak to get to the primitive lavatories, in which case the Kapo in charge would hurl them into Stube (room) B or the 'Bahnhof'(railway-station) as it was commonly known. Here, covered in their own excrement and that of others, they lay on the ground or upon each other, wherever they were flung, and left to die. No food or medical attention reached the Bahnhof, and the sick must have lived in terror of being thrown in there. The chief SS doctor in charge of the infirmary was Hauptsturmführer Vetter, whose arbitrary operations and experiments on human beings have already been spoken of in the Mauthausen section. He also indulged in the hideous practices of making lampshades out of tattooed human skin and of head shrinking for paperweights. Many witnesses testify to the amount of sophisticated equipment which he installed to perfect the art. [Thousands of prisoners died during human experiments, drug and vaccine testing. Before long-time Bayer employee and SS Auschwitz doctor Helmut Vetter was executed for administering fatal infections, he wrote to his bosses at Bayer headquarters: "I have thrown myself into my work wholeheartedly. Especially as I have the opportunity to test our new preparations. I feel like I am in paradise."sic]

Located in Block 27, this museum displayed 286 specimen of human organs harvested at KZ Gusen in connection with the SS Medical Academy at the University of Graz. The photograph shows hearts, lungs, kidneys, faces, skeletons and skulls of murdered KZ Gusen inmates. In some cases, inmates were killed by heart injections to preserve their anatomical "anomalies" . The museum also contained an album of tattooed skin. Other "artwork" , such as lamp shades and even furniture, was produced here. In 1944, three big crates of anatomical preparations were transferred to SS Medical Academy at Graz
There were other terrible so-called medical practices at Gusen which included such things as the injection of various fluids into the heart, operations without anaesthetics and the skinning of human bodies for preparation and conversion into lampshades and book covers [My Great-grandfather had a library with a number of books that were covered with human skin, from executed murderers, that was a practice used in the seventeen hundreds, we did not think it was distasteful or horrible, but unethical now, and you can find them to this day in some Antique Shops,sic] Medical selections took place of those with tuberculosis, those who were expandable because they were too emaciated to work, and those considered suitable for Hartheim. Others, who were too sick to help or defend themselves, were beaten to death. Every survivor of concentration camps has some particular memory of his incarceration which haunts him like the spirit of some think shared with those long dead. Lt. Le Chene can never forget the dull thud, thud, thud of a human head banging against steps as a body was dragged , feet first, down from the infirmary to the crematorium cart. Those heads without hair or flesh, with gaping sockets where there had once been eyes, were nothing more than bone covered with wax-like skin. The bodies were flung on to the carts, the forms flying through the air and landing one on top of the other, legs arms, heads in all directions. As they lay there, they let off strange hisses of gas. Selection for life or death were carried out on until within one week of liberation. They were made by members of a profession sworn to bring aid to those in need, by men who were well fed, well clothed and who held their heads high. They wore their white coats or smart SS uniforms proudly and perpetrated murder without a qualm. Lt. Le Chene recollects when he was in the infirmary in Block 31:
'Opposite my bunk - and I was fortune enough at this time to be the only one in the bed - was the table of the Blockschreiber (clerk). Suddenly, without warning, a selection began. The SS doctors at the table and, lying on my stomach only daring to move my eyes, I watched the parade of naked skeletons pass before them. These poor wretches, no more than sacks of bones, already knew what was about to happen and each made some super-human effort to pull up straight, to make their eyes shine, to move smartly, to show any trait which would seen as health. It was useless. "Stube A" and "Stube B was all that was said. "Stube B" was to lead to death, those who had received this order fitfully darted a glance round the Block, in what was despair of mind and spirit, in what hope of help or escape, one will never know'.
Those who were selected for Stube A that day were transferred to Block 32, while those who were recommended to die remained in Stube B of Block 31. During the night the whole camp herd the screams from Stube B and reports from a sub-machine gun trained on the door of the block. Those who tried to break out from this gas tomb were mown down. That night more than 300 men were killed, many of them French. It made no difference to the SS doctors at this late stage of the war. The facts were plain. Germany was going to loose the war and was going to be overrun either by American or Russians. As it was, there were far too many sick and dying men in Gusen. How much more convenient it would be if they were already dead and cremated, just part of the camp statistics, when the enemy forces arrived.
When Lt. Le Chene was transferred to Block 32 with the other Stube A selections, he shared a bed with a newly arrived Italian who had come to the Infirmary straight from the showers. The Italian had typhus and it was not long before Le Chene began to show the symptoms of the disease.

The Concentration Camp Gusen

KZ - Gedenkstätte Gusen - aerial photo

This aerial shot shows the Concentration Camp Gusen I and II in the year 1945. For better orientation it has been completed with a schema of the Camp buildings. Clicking on the information points shows further information to the camp buildings. By selecting the corresponding index clip above the image the aerial shot of Gusen in the year 2001 can be retrieved. „Plan and aerial shot 2001“ shows, which buildings of the Concentration Camp disappeared after 1945 and which are still there today.

All you have to do is use the Link "Gusen Memorial, you should now see this plan in colour:

'Dr. Toni Goscinski took blood samples from both of us and then told us the truth. It was virtual death sentence. I felt that this was the end. I was already half my original weight and did not have the strength to go on'. But Dr. Goscinski was determined to save his life. From his very small store of medicaments he managed to give Le Chene a daily injection which would help his heart to combat the illness, and also a daily tablet to reduce the fever. As the fever began to die down, Dr. Gascinski told him that he would have to go back to work in the quarry because another selection was under way and the next few days would be be very dangerous.
'In the quarry the battle to work and survive began. The feeble lived just as long as it took for a Kapo's cudgel to clout one on the head. I could not have survived such punishment. I struggled to lift a block of granite from the ground to a truck. A burly SS came up behind, laughed at me, snatching the block from me, threw it as if it were a feather into the truck. He was amused of the feebleness of the Englishman'.
Lt. Le Chene was readmitted to the infirmary in a state of collapse. It was here that a few days after the liberation he heard an American voice calling out for the 'sick British officer' because a plane was leaving Linz for England. He had been pointed out to the Americans as the "Britisher' who was dying of typhus and he still recalls the gentleness with which they treated him. One nursing orderly whispered as he cradled his head in his arms: 'I know you'd like a good steak, fella, but it would kill you'. Actually, the thought of a steak was very far from Le Chene's mind. With his stomach shrivelled and hard as it was, it was extremely painful even to swallow broth.
It is a sad comment that after his terrible ordeal this man was not given the slightest medical aid, either on board the aircraft or upon landing in England. Nor was any care given to his elementary comfort. He was ordered to fill up a mountain of forms when his hand was so weak that it had to be guided by someone else. He was left without medical care for six days before Colonel Buckmaster and his secretary, Miss Vera Atkins, arrived to identify him as their Agent 'Gregoire'.

Gusen sub-camp
The death rate of any single nationality is analysed by M. de Bouard in an article in the Revue d'histoire de la deuxeme guerre mondiale, beginning on page 49. From this, it is seen that the first 500 dead in Gusen were all Poles except 4, and these were AZR ('Asoziale Zigeuner Reich'- Reich asocial gypsies). By the end of 1940, the rate had reached a crushing 1,500, all Poles except twelve, again gypsies, and right up to March 1941 the Poles continued with at least a ratio of four out of five deaths over any other nationality. By June 1941, this rate had slightly eased to every three in four, as prisoners of other nationalities were beginning to be noticed in the camp. After the Poles, the next highest rate at Gusen was at that time amongst the Spaniards, who were used as pawns in Hitler's schemes to draw Franco into active participation with the Axis powers. During the month of June 1941, the increase in the number of Spaniards was reflected in the death registers, for during that month their ratio was one in four of total deaths, and from October 1941 to the end of the year, it increased to three-quarters and then four-fifths. In the spring of 1941, a few Yugoslavs arrived. Because of their relatively numbers, their death ratio did not exceed one in fifteen of the total deaths. In the summer of 1942, Russians began to arrive and very soon made up half the total of deaths registered, later in the same year this figure was one third of the total, though Russians were far fewer in number than either Poles or Spaniards. The survivors of the latter two groups had by this time become hardened to the rigours of camp life, whereas the Russians had so little resistance that they died en masse.
Hungarian Jews began to arrive in May 1944. They were practically exterminated. They died at the rate of one in four during the third week in June, one in three in the second week, one in two in the first week of July and in the second week of July the rate was in excess of one in two. Finally because of the high death rates of the various nationalities arriving at the camp towards the end, the Hungarian Jews death rate stabilised in April 1945, to about two in every five dead.

Gusen after liberation

The Italians began to arrive in Gusen in large numbers during late autumn of 1944. They were to feel the full force of hate and vengeance from their former ally, whose savage and cruel methods of waging war had turned the Italians against them. They were to rise with great courage to face their fate in camps such as Gusen where from autumn 1944 to May 1945, their death rate was steady at one in fifteen of all nationalities.
French and Belgians began to arrive in May and June of 1942, the Belgian death rate being in the order of one in thirty and the French, one in fifty. In April 1943, some 200 French prisoners reached the camp and in March and April 1944, two large transports of French prisoners arrived which were sent to Gusen II, where their mortality rate rose sharply to reach one in ten of total deaths, a figure which remained to the end.
But , if it is possible to pick out one group who suffered most in the concentration camps, it was always the Jews. Block 16 housed the Jews who had been deported from the Polish Ghettoes. In front of the Block was a hole about 8 feet wide and 6 feet deep filled with water and covered with blood and excrement. Jews were drowned in this pool after suffering the most terrible privations. One of the worst commandos, the lavatory commando, was always manned by Jews, as it was in Mauthausen. Block Leaders varied considerably. Some wee tolerable to live under and some were not. One man called Fasefski did all he could to look after the inmates of his block. Another named Pastewka often hit prisoners so hard and persistently that they succumbed, but he would never allow anyone else to hit a prisoner in his own block. Block 17 had a particularly sadistic Block Leader, who was responsible for killing many of the Jewish inmates. His last victim was only seventeen years old. Marek, in charge of Block 6, was also extremely hard on the prisoners under him. [statement, Stanislaw Sekowski, sic] Block Leaders such as he contributed enormously to the total number of deaths. Some of them were in the habit of forcing their prisoners to perform violent physical exercises in the Block after long hours working in the quarries. Because of their very low physical and mental condition, this often ended in the prisoners' total collapse. Collapse led to the infirmary, and the infirmary led to the Bahnhof.
It is not known exactly when Gusen crematorium was built, but it is quite possible that it existed before the end of 1942. It had certainly been in existence in March 1943, when the gas-van trips between Mauthausen and Gusen took place. It consisted of one incineration chamber. The building of a massive Bekleidungskammer (clothes store) began in 1943 on a triangular strip of land some three hundred metres from Gusen. It was probably intended for the SS. After a while, however, it was decided that this building should be the start of a second camp, that of Gusen II. Gusen II was to be the home and burial place of hundreds of Hungarian Jews and a great many French Resistance Fighters, as well as a sprinkling of Italians, Poles and Belgians. When the first transport arrived in 1944, the conditions in Gusen II were atrocious, The Blocks contained no water, heating or sanitation, and it was not until two months later that the authorities installed a primitive form of water pipe fitted at intervals with holes.

The French convoys which arrived at this time (1944) were deportees from the transit point at Compiegne. They consisted almost entirely of former Resistance Fighters or men who had been rounded up for forced labour in the Reich. There were also a few members of the maquis [secret Army Members sic], but as they were usually murdered at the time of capture, they were very much in the minority. In May 1944, there was one of the biggest influxes of Hungarian Jews. As at Mauthausen, they were deliberately and systematically eliminated by every means at the disposal of the State. The next big convoy of Polish families came after the failure of the Warsaw uprising in 1944. This was the first time that children were brought into Gusen. It was late in 1944 that a team of Kapos and SS-men killed an unspecified number of the children by massive bludgeoning with axes. The screams from Gusen II were heard with horrified stupefaction by everyone in Gusen I. These children, whose names were never put on the strength lists, necessarily have to be included in that huge miscellaneous category of 'lost'. During winter of 1944-45, there was a rise, not only in the general exterminations, but also in the natural deaths and suicides by hanging, severing of veins and running into the electric fencing.

Gusen Crematorium
There was also, of course, the legal executions ordered by the Reichsführer SS, Heinrich Himmler. A shooting wall ran parallel to the crematorium. Beside the shooting wall was the gallows, which in Gusen was a permanent fixture. Both were in full view of the civilian population who worked at the camp, and of inmates of the surrounding Blocks. The shooting wall was made of a kind of peat designed to minimise the chances of ricochet. It seems that firing squads tended to shoot into the same spots. This could be seen by the holes made by the bullets repeatedly hitting the same place in the peat surface after passage through the human body. The execution book shows that the prisoners were shot at about two minutes intervals. On one occasion during summer of 1944, a group of prisoners were led behind the crematorium and ordered to undress, placing their clothes in neat piles. [Information from Lt. Le Chene, sic] After the first victims were shot, the next in line for execution had to remove the bodies to one side and then take their place at the wall. It is hard to imagine anything more callous. After the executions, a white powder was spread over the area in order to soak up the blood. In the hot sunshine the nauseating stench, coupled with the sickly smell emanating from the crematorium, was overpowering.
On another occasion, a group of captured airmen were executed at Gusen. It was on 25th July, 1944, around eleven o'clock in the morning that three planes, American or Canadian, were shot dowm between Gusen and Linz. The airmen were captured by an Obersturmführer (1st lieutenant), who was joined by the camp commandant Seidler and few other SS-men. Seidler shot all except one man, who came down somewhat apart from his comrades. He was shot by an SS-man in front of the Gusen main entrance. The bodies were taken to the crematorium. [PS 2176 (200), JAD, 3rd US Army,sic]
During air raids the prisoners were ordered to take cover in the tunnels, but many preferred, if they could, to hide and watch events. The SS guards and command seemed to abandon their charges during air-raids, however, few escape attempts were ever made for two reasons. First, there was nowhere to go even if the escapee were strong enough to attempt it, and secondly, retribution on the innocent inmates. In one raid, an American airman was seen to bail out, but before his parachute reached the ground, he was shot by a burst of sub-machine-gun fire. His legs jerked up to his stomach, which was torn with bullets. He too was cremated in Gusen. [Information from Lt. Le Chene, sic]

As the US Army approached Gusen, the SS command fled from the camp to hide in the surrounding country or farther afield. Only the local Volksdeutsche (Etnic Germans) were left in charge. On 6th May 1945, the day after the Americans had made a cursory visit to the camp, a resistance committee led a popular uprising, numbering some hundred prisoners. After disconnecting the electric fencing, they formed a human battering ram which burst out of the prison confines into the neighbouring villages and countryside. They effectively sought and found a great many of their persecutors, who were summarily killed. The Gusen resistance group, physically fortified by the heady joy of freedom, then joined a similar Mauthausen group to help check the SS rearguard actions. If the SS rearguard actions had been successful, it would have been catastrophic to the prisoners.
I have avoided to quote death figures, as Gusen death statistics , if anything, are harder to define than those of Mauthausen, furthermore there is the tendency to manipulate figures to make them look "good". A total death of 38,453 are given by Jurek Osuchowski in 'Gusen, Entry to Hell, published by the National War Ministry, Warsaw, 1961. This figure, colossal though it may be, do not take into account the unknown number of lost children. The total number of deaths in the Mauthausen chain of camps for the years 1940-43 inclusive is increased by 18,575, as these were the years in which deaths in Gusen were not registered in Mauthausen and those executed direct from Warsaw. The statistics for Mauthausen alone are given as the very minimum, there being no accurate way of recording the thousands who died and were erased from the registers, or those who were never in the register at all. In an historical account this is something which should not and cannot be overlooked. The figures given here, taken from the existing death register, record those who remained registered. Guesses have been made at the number of deaths in Mauthausen and Gusen which include 'Kugel Aktion', various secret executions, those erased from the records, and the thousands who died unheeded in the days of the liberation. But it is not possible to prove these guesses with facts, for the facts were not at the disposal of the victors: 120,000 to 200,000 dead may be a fairly accurate assessment. One must therefore accept the figures as only minimum, adding a rider that the numbers 'lost' will never be known.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Gusen, one of Mauthausen's sub-camps was about six kilometres to the west of the Main Camp. Theoretically, it was independent until 1944, after which it came entirely under the control of Commandant Zirereis. Contact between the two camps appears to have been rather loose, but their records seem sometimes to have kept together. This has led to a good deal of confusion in later attempts to provide accurate statistics for each camp. According to the Revue d' Histoire de la Deuxeme Guerre Mondiale (No. 45, January 1962, p. 47), the first prisoners to arrive at Gusen held five-figure Mauthausen numbers. It also states (p. 46) that the exact date when Gusen was established was not known. Further information come to light, however, since publication of the Revue, from which it appears that the figures hitherto thought to have Mauthausen's may, possibly, have been transfer figures from Dachau.
On the 26th May, 1940, the first transport of prisoners, mostly Poles, arrived at Gusen from Dachau. An extremely reliable survivor of this original group, Stanislaw Sekowski, states that neither he nor any of his group ever saw Mauthausen and that their numbers were issued at Dachau. It is certain, though, that some of the groups numbers were altered later and that there was a general confusion of numbers between Dachau, Mauthausen and Gusen. When Gusen started its own numbering on or about 19th June 1940, prisoners who already had a Dachau or a Mauthausen number were thus provided with two. This went on until 12th February, 1944, by which time there were extremely few men with double numbers left alive. [Information from Casimir Clement, sic] When the camp was liberated, only ten of the original 1,087 were still living. [Information from Stanislaw Sekowski, now living in England (1973) was at Gusen from 1940 to 1945, sic] After 123th February, again according to the Revue d' Histoire de la Deuxeme Guerre Mondiale, all former Gusen numbers were exchanged for new Mauthausen numbers and all, without exception, were higher than the number 43,000. This may well be so as regards prisoners who had had Gusen numbers, but the use of the expression 'without exception' is rather misleading as an indication of Gusen strength. For instance, the British NN agent Lieutenant Le Chene, who was transferred to Gusen on the 12th June 1944 retained his number 35129 all the time he was in the camp. Nor was he the only one, as is shown by the Veränderungsmeldung (change of strength) marked Gusen, 10th March 1945. It would be true to say, therefore, that from the time of the numbering Gusen always contained a great many other prisoners in addition to its original inmates. These others were never issued with Gusen numbers, but kept the numbers they had been given at Mauthausen and other sub-camps.

Construction of a prisoner barracks.'
The Mauthausen entry register was altered accordingly to show the transfer. This page was altered accordingly to show the transfer. This page is particularly interesting because it lists the Nacht und Nebel prisoners, the vast majority of whom had been in the Resistance movements of their various countries, or others, such as Lt. Le Chene and those who were transferred to Natzweiler (Alsac) on 20th June,1944, who were British agents engaged in special operations. It was generally believed that the authorities wanted to bring all such agents together in one place and that they were to be exterminated at Natzweiler. This is unlikely to be so, since it would be senseless to move them to a camp nearer the battle area when Mauthausen was the usual place for extermination of agents. It is more probably that Himmler, with a ready eye to the appeasement of the Western Allies, saw an important bargaining counter in this collection of brave and intelligent men, all so valuable to their own countries. However, this assumption makes no attempt to hide the fact that mass executions of special agents did take place in Natzweiler until the last moment of the Nazi collapse.
Lt. Le Chene would undoubtedly have been included in the Natzweiler group had it not been for an SS-man with a particular hatred for the British. This man spotted him in the Quarry and vindictively had him transferred to Gusen, which, at the time, was considered to be a worse fate than Mauthausen. As it turned out, the transfer was to his advantage. When he arrived at Gusen he was sent to the quarry and attached to a team of men, mostly Poles, who were working on a cable linked to a windlass motor. The inch-thick cable was pulled by the motor with such force that when granite was being hauled, the prisoners took refuge in case the cable should break. When it did break, it whipped back with such violence that it could rip a man's leg off.
Type of Windlass Electric Motor used on ships'
The Pole in charge of the windlass also hated the British. He told Le Chene to eat his midday meal in a hut used by Kapos and SS, knowing that this would almost certainly lead to a beating-up. As luck would have it, the quarry Oberkapo was a Viennese named Voganig, He was puzzled to find an Englishman in the hut, asked him what he was doing there and recognised at once that a trick had been played on him. As a result, the Pole was turned out of the windlass hut and replaced by Le Chene, who was thus given a least a little protection from the elements.
The first group of prisoners to arrive at Gusen direct from Dachau was augmented a week later by another. After that, transports for Mauthausen came only as far as St Georgen, Ninety per cent of these prisoners were Poles, the rest were an assortment of German and Austrians. They were deposited on the quarry site where there was no shelter, no water, no sanitation- absolutely nothing. The Poles soon learned to invent imaginary professions for themselves. It was far too dangerous to admit to being a doctor, a lawyer or a member of any other profession. There is some evidence to show that Gusen was originally intended as a camp for elimination of the Polish intelligentsia, and in its early days this was certainly so. Later, with influxes of up to twenty different nationalities, its character changed and everything was subordinated to the general extermination by work. After the first mass killings of professors, clerics, doctors, lawyers, architects and so on, it became apparent that such people were very much needed and their lives were generally spared.
As the building of the camp Blocks of Gusen progressed, Block I was made into stores block and Block 2 the first shelter for prisoners. Later on, Block 2 became the permanent quarters for the high proportion of prominenten such a dentists and doctors. Block 9 became known as the Spaniards' block. Large numbers of them were housed there, but it also contained Germans and Poles from whom the future Block Leaders and prisoners were recruited. The main walls round the camp were built by the prisons out of nearby granite. The main entrance was designed, oddly enough, by one of the inmates. All the building work was made much harder because of lack of water. Sanitary arrangement were extremely primitive. A series of hole were dug in the ground that was surrounded by barbed wire. Over the hole was placed a narrow plank on which the prisoners had to crouch. It was a precarious business and may fell in. [I experienced this method myself as a POW in most camps after the war, sic] It was not until 1941 that pipes were laid and running water laid on to the communal washroom and lavatories. Unlike Mauthausen, where there was generally washing facilities in each block, the washrooms and lavatories of Gusen were in separate buildings at right angles to the blocks. Eventually, there were about thirty prisoner blocks built in wood and two i stone. The Gusen kitchen was divided into three compartments. In the first were huge boiling cauldrons, each with a capacity of 750 litres. In the second the food was prepared, and the third was a food store. Swedes (a yellow-fleshed turnip) were brought into the camp as early November 1940, but for some inexplicable reason, they were not used until February 1941, by which time they were already half rotten.
The camp was surrounded by high tension wiring where no granite walls existed, and was built on a steep incline. Many of the Blocks, such as Block 30 (the infirmary), had to be approached by flights of steps. They were built on the same lines as those of Mauthausen, and at the beginning they had no furniture and no heating arrangement.

The Gusen concentration camp after liberation. (May - June 1945)
The prisoners slept packed together like sardines. If one of them, probably with a cold in the bladder as a result of debility and exposure, wished to go to the lavatory, he had to brave the curses of his exhausted comrades as he tried to reach the door. By the time he returned, he had usually lost his sleeping place. The disturbance would incense the Kapo in charge, who would lash out at those nearest to him until the prisoner who had been the cause of the disturbance was somehow squeezed into few inches of space. Once the blocks were built, and this included the living quarters for the SS and Wehrmacht guards, the civilian businessmen began to take a lively interest in the camp, for it was to become an extremely lucrative proposition.
The granite extracted from the Gusen quarries was of a superior quality to that from Mauthausen. The main quuarry was the hillside behind the camp. It was one of three levels and ther was a stairway roughly hewn between the second and third levels. A smaller quarry lay to the east. Behind the quarries, five subterranean tunnels, with two offshoots, were cut deep into the hill. They were part of the new Gusen II, who's inmates were French (mostly deported from Compiegne to Mauthausen), Italians and Jews. Not much is known about when this colossal task was undertaken, nor the reason for its being built in record time and with a record cost of life. Prisoners on the Kellerbau commando, as it was called, worked round the clock in three shifts in order to complete the tunnels, which were to become underground factories for Messerschmidt aircraft, the production of which had been seriously curtailed by the Allied bombardments of 1943. The hillside would protect the factories from possible air attack and work could go on underground, unobserved by enemy aircraft. Some three kilometres away in the direction of Linz at St Georgen, there was another subterranean factory in the area known as Gusen III.

First, tunnels were dug directly north of KZ Gusen to bomb proof the machine gun production there. Later, this system, with some 12,000 square meters, was code named "KELLERBAU" .The KELLERBAU Tunnels at Gusen almost simultaneously, another, even larger underground plant (U-Verlagerung) was dug at nearby St. Georgen/Gusen with some 50,000 square meters of bomb-proof production area. This largest project of DEST was code named B8 BERGKRISTALL-ESCHE 2
The large Steyr works built in Gusen I, produced parts for machine-guns and other weapons, while the Messerschmidt factory was responsible for the assembling the fuselages for the aircraft. It was intended to transfer both factories to the tunnels in the hillside as soon as they were ready. There were in fact air raids in the region of Mauthausen and its sub-camps, including Gusen. The first was probably a raid on Steyr in 1943. Every now and again in the camp death registers notice long lists of those killed as a result of air-raids, but there is little proof that bombs actually fell on Mauthausen, in the quarries or in any of the sub-camps. There are no traces of craters other than the small ones caused by normal blasting operations. The air-raid entries in the death records are probably just another example trying to pass the buck. Prisoners engaged on building the tunnels were treated with the utmost ferocity. Deaths, which were officially attributed to accidents at work (whether provoked or real), reached fantastically high figures. The tunnels were built only by human beings pitting their strength against the unyielding mountain. First there was drilling to place the dynamite charge, then there was blasting. After the blasting, huge chunks of granite had to be removed by the prisoners in the same way as they did in the Mauthausen quarries. They hewed at the rock with pick-axes to make standing room. Huge wooden piles to support the tunnel were then heaved into place by men dropping with fatigue and hunger. And all the time they were driven on to work harder by the brutality of the SS. The Third Reich would stop at nothing to complete the work and to perfect the installations.
In 1941, or thereabouts, work was begun on the construction of the biggest stone crusher Austria was to have. When completed, the square stone tower stood out above all the other buildings in the area. Conveyor belt buckets would lift stones to the top of this giant edifice, whose capacity for one cycle was 1,600 tons. Inside the tower was an apparatus which crushed the stones and separated them into chambers according to their size. At ground level each chamber had its own exit hole, which gave directly on to the tracks placed around the base of the tower. In this way, the granite was graded from large blocks down to fine dust. When the Allied bombing began in earnest, there was a heavy demand for these stone blocks in order to repair the damaged roads.
This huge rock crusher was positioned over a rail line that carried the gravel and crushed rock to various construction sites. The rail line was removed after the war, and the rock crusher fell into ruin'
Mauthausen's chain of sub-camps provided large financial gains both for individual businessmen and for the state, which included the RSHA or security forces. They were also an important factor in the continuation of Germany's war effort against the increasing strength of the Allies. Throughout the Nazi sphere of influence they provided a network of slave labour which could be called upon at will to counteract the effect of Allied attacks. [This was easily said than done, sic] There is a relative lack of authoritative information on Gusen, and because of this, facts can easily become distorted. One of the few survivors from the original 1,087, Stanislaw Sekowski, is fortunately possessed of a memory like a tape recorder. He was a member of a small commando which arrived in Lungitz from Gusen late 1940. Lungitz is about five miles from Gusen and two and a half from St Georgen. At first the commando consisted of about sixty-four men, but later on from 1941 to 1942 it was increased to about eighty. The Kapo in charge of them was called Schlagelhofer. They were put to work in an extremely modern brick factory, equipped with a new Keller Automat which was powered by a diesel engine. It was capable of producing 24,000 bricks per day and, on the second press, some thousand tiles. The factory also produced drain pipes and wall plates. When the commando was increased to eighty men, the factory received a new 100 hp steam engine, a new press and other machinery, which meant that new buildings and chimneys had to be constructed. Although they received extra food rations because of the hard labour enforced upon them in this commando, the prisoners died like flies. When the commando was wound up in 1942, only two prisoners were still alive. The brick kiln was meticulously maintained by prisoners working in relays. Its daily output exceeded the usual 24,000 bricks when the Oberkapo ordered the small furnace doors to be opened and the bricks to be lifted out by hand. It is true that for this work the prisoners were issued with asbestos gloves and protected clothing of a kind, but the effect on them of this repeated exposure to intense heat was catastrophic, and their health deteriorated beyond the point of no return. As far as the bricks are concerned, their quality was reduced by continual opening of the oven doors and their being removed from the furnace. In the effort to achieve a bigger output the bricks were not being properly kilned. In 1940 and 1941 the prisoners working on this commando were taken from Gusen to Lungitz by trucks, but in 1942 they had to walk both there and back. The commando was abolished in that year and the surviving men were transferred to the Gusen, Messerschmidt and Steyr works.

Brick-making factory
The prisoners from Dachau who arrived at the St Georgen quarries in June 1940, were met by SS-men armed with whips and clubs. In January 1941, a great many prisoners from this transport went to work in the stone chiselling commando known as Steinmetz in the Kastenhof, which was the lowest of the quarries of the three tiers. German civilians in Gusen at this time were certainly aware of conditions in both the camp and the quarries. The ample evidence for this includes receipts for supplies and pay-cheques made out to them. In 1941, the Commandant of Gusen was Hauptsturmführer Chmielewsky and his second-in-command was Kluge. They were followed at the beginning of 1942 by Seidler. One does not know why the roles were reversed and Chmielewsky came second to Sweidler, who became Commandant, when both were of the same rank. Survivors from this time tend to say that Chmielewsky was not Commandant but Lagerführer, and that it was in this capacity that he formed a Burgruinen [castle ruins, sic] commando of thirty men in the spring of 1941. This commando was formed with the object of excavating the ruins of the Scharfenberg Castel on an island in the river Danube. Work continued for over a year, during which time pottery, silver coins, parts of weapons, stone carvings, a brass seal and a Roman touchstone from the second century A.D. were found. All finds were taken back to Gusen to be housed in a museum. The men were then sent to take part in the construction of a railway line at St Georgen. During the work of driving a pass through the hill they discovered an old cemetery. An archaeologist was sent for, and work on the pass stopped while he examined the site. A second archaeological commando was formed. The University of Vienna was informed and various distinguished visitors came to visit the site.. Older tombs, probably the oldest in Austria , were uncovered as the digging went deeper. The Gusen museum was enriched with many new and really valuable exhibits. In 1943, Himmler came to see for himself, and in the autumn of that year Hitler ordered that the most valuable objects should be moved to Nürnberg. Those that were left behind at Gusen were removed to a small hut near the bread stores. In 1944, the archaeological commando wound up. Other finds came to light and came to the museum, when, the tunnel digging for the Messerschmidt and Styr factories, various palaeontological discoveries were made. An important mammoth tusk was sent to the Linz museum.
Dr. Gruber, the man in charge of the second excavation commando, had been director of a school for deaf and dumb children in Linz. [In fact he was a priest, sic] As a well known anti-Nazi and friend of Dr. Schuschnigg, the Austrian Chancellor, he was one of the first to be arrested after the Anschluss. As a prisoner, he had some sort of agreement with the SS by which he obtained from them gold teeth they had extracted from corpses. This in itself was a terrible crime for an SS-man to commit, because all gold had to be handed in to the WVHA. By some unknown method he managed to transfer the gold and other items of value to his bank account at Linz. Equally mysteriously, he was able to repay the SS in money from his account, while they in their turn gave him cigarettes. The next move was to exchange the cigarettes for garments from the clothing store in Block 25 and for food from the kitchen. With these things Dr. Gruber was able to alleviate the suffering of four young French NN prisoners whom he had befriended. When they got back from their gruelling work in the quarries, there he would be, his pockets bulging with food, his arms perhaps full of clothes and pairs of shoes. The number of NN prisoners he was helping grew from four to a dozen or so, by which time he had reached an agreement with two Spaniards working in the kitchen to have a whole cauldron of soup delivered to him for his charges. Dr. Gruber deliberately courted danger and there was no doubt whatever that he was being protected somehow. After all, an SS-man who worked a black market in stolen gold with a prisoner would almost certainly protect the man who could have him executed. However, on 4th April 1944, the Gestapo and Seidler swooped and Dr. Gruber was incarcerated in the bunker. He underwent non-stop interrogation and torture, but he never divulged the names of his accomplices or those who had benefited from his activities. He died on Good Friday. 7th April, 1944. He was strangled by Seidler himself in the bunker. In a place where death was accepted as an everyday occurrence, Dr Gruber's death stood out and is still remembered. [ source: Revue d' histoire de la deuxime guerre mondiale, No. 45 (January 1962), p. 62,sic]
Dr. Johann Gruber was a teacher and a Roman Catholic priest who did not hesitate to offend the Nazis after the 3rd Reich´s annexation of Austria.In 1938, Dr. Gruber was removed from his job and imprisoned by the Nazis who accused him of sexually abusing some of his pupils. As a result, Dr. Gruber was sent to prison at Linz and Garsten from 1938 to 1939, to wait for the Nazi trials against him. After these trials, he was first sent to KZ Dachau and then, because he was a priest, to KZ Gusen in 1940. So, from the first hour, he was a prominent Austrian political prisoner at this camp.When the Vatican achieved improvements for priests in the concentration camps in March 1940, most of the German and Austrian priests at KZ Gusen camp were re-transferred to the better KZ Dachau camp. But Dr. Gruber volunteered to remain in KZ Gusen to help his Polish comrades who were to be exterminated in KZ Gusen.
Since Dr. Gruber had been in very good standing earlier in his life with many high-ranking people of the former Austrian Republic, he was granted unusual privileges by the SS, and he used these privileges to help the poorest of his comrades in the camp.Thus, he became a very valuable inmate at KZ Gusen to both the SS and the inmates.
This put him in a position to organise many things. For example, he organised a school inside the camp to educate Polish children who were deported to the camp.In addition, in 1941, when archaeological findings were made along with the construction of a railway to KZ Gusen, Dr. Gruber became chief of that archaeological command.This position also allowed him to maintain contacts with people outside the camp (archeologists, people from museums, etc.). He was able to raise money from his friends on the outside and to smuggle this money into the camp while arranging for the archeological findings to be registered in museums outside the camp.
This enabled him to bribe SS-men and Kapos to allow him to organise food inside the camp for those inmates who were starving, and thus saving many lives. But smuggling money in was not all; together with friends from Linz, he also smuggled out information about KZ Gusen.
Unfortunately, his organisation was betrayed in early 1944 and he was tortured and ritually killed by the SS and GeStaPo in April 1944. With "Papa" Gruber's death, hope vanished for many inmates and KZ Gusen became a "Hell of Hells" without any chance for survival. The Nazi sentence against Dr. Johann Gruber (6 Hv 247/38, 6 Vr 839/38) was officially reversed on January 29, 1999 by "Landesgericht Linz" - 55 years after his martyrdom.
Since 1987 several attempts are made to achieve the canonisation of "Papa" Gruber at the Vatican.[source. Wikipedia,sic]
During the years 1940-42 the majority of prisoners at Gusen were still Poles. They were allowed to receive a limited number of parcels from home and to write a limited number of letters. The letters were also censored and as a rule merely said they were alive and healthy and could make good use of a food and clothing parcel. [the German Armed Forces censored letters of their own soldiers as well, sic] In due course when parcels arrived, the SS opened them and removed anything that they wanted for themselves. When the prisoner finally received the parcel, it seldom contained the food which had been sent. [this is doubtful, the SS had no need to steal food from parcels, they lived well, sic] He might be lucky enough to receive articles of clothing and indeed wear them for a time, but anything new and good automatically became the cause of bargaining and jealousy. The allocation of food at Gusen was as bad as it was at Mauthausen. As usual, the meagre ration that each Block eventually received depended upon how much was stolen by the Block Leader for himself and his cronies, and for his black market operations.