Mathausen Concentration Camp

Mauthausen Concentration Camp was part of a group of Nazi concentration camps built near the  village of Mauthausen, about  20 kilometres (12 mi) east of  Linz in Austria. It  is less than two kilometres [uphill] from the  Danube and is often visited by people cycling along the Danube Cycle Path. Much of the camp has been preserved and is open to the public.

Mauthausen and nearby Gusen I, were  the only two camps  to be labelled as “Grade III”  and  were intended to be the toughest camps for the “Incorrigible Political Enemies of the Reich”.  Mauthausen was  used to kill the ruling classes of conquered countries through hard labour and mistreatment.

The photograph above shows the entrance to the camp. Unlike other concentration camps which used barbed wire to contain prisoners Mathausen has granite walls and administrative buildings. The granite came from a nearby quarry and working in that quarry was the main way in which inmates were tormented and killed. The camp had a small gas chamber but mainly employed the extermination through labour (Vernichtung durch Arbeit) policy of the Nazis.

Entrance to gas chamber

The gas chamber had a capacity of about 120 persons

Mathausen was a concentration camp, not an extermination camp. Extermination camps killed people quickly [usually on arrival] but Mathausen was designed to kill slowly.  The Nazis wanted their prisoners to suffer before they died and the camp quarry was the main instrument of torture and murder. The photograph below shows the quarry to the north-west of the camp. It is overgrown now but you can walk down to see it.

Prisoners not only had to quarry the granite but carry it on their backs  up to the camp. The path is all up hill and includes a steep section of 186 steps.

Prisoners carrying granite blocks up the 186 steps.

There is a YouTube video of the path. The steps start at about 5.30 minutes.

Visitors can go into several of the camp buildings, including some reconstructed barracks. There is also a small museum. I have visited other concentration camps. Some visits have been twenty years apart. I have noticed that some concentration camps [particularly Dachau] are being increasingly sanitised, so that an uninformed visitor might see them as little more than tough prisons and wonder what all the fuss was about.

The exact number killed in the Mathausen complex of camps is not known but it thought to be between 120,000 and 320,000.

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