Newsgroups: alt.revisionism,alt.skinheads Subject: Holocaust Almanac - "In the Shadow of Death" - a review Summary: A review of interest to those researching Mauthausen, the Nazi death camp in Austria. The book deals with the residents of the area, and how they reacted to the camp, its administration, and its inmates. Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Followup-To: alt.revisionism Organization: The Old Frog's Almanac, Vancouver Island, CANADA Keywords: Hartheim,Horwitz,Mauthausen Archive/File: holocaust/austria/mauthausen shadow.death Last-Modified: 1993/11/02 New York Review of Books, October 8, 1992 by Istvan Deak An impressive work exclusively devoted to bystanders is Gordon J. Horwitz's "In the Shadow of Death." His subjects are the Austrians in and around Mauthausen, a town located close to a notorious Nazi concentration camp, although not one primarily for Jews. Only 40,000 of the 119,000 people who died there between 1938 and 1945 were Jews, and therefore the people who lived near the camp (or camps, since Mauthausen had many subsidiary establishments) did not necessarily think of the camp inmates as Jews. Set up in 1938, soon after the 'Anschluss' of Austria, the Mauthausen camp housed German and Austrian criminals, "asocials," political prisoners, homosexuals, Jehova's Witnesses, and later, Poles, Spanish republican refugees handed over to the Germans by Vichy France, Soviet and other POWs, as well as, of course, Jews. With a large stone quarry at its center, Mauthausen camp was a thriving business enterprise for the SS but it was also a particularly brutal place. One form of punishment consisted of having to run up the 186 steps of the quarry shouldering a heavy slab of stone. The SS called those who fell, were pushed, or leaped into the pit "Parachute Troops" ('Fallschirmja"ger'). In 1940 a gas chamber was set up in nearby Castle Hartheim, at first to kill only mentally ill and retarded Germans and Austrians, but later camp inmates as well. Subsequently, a gas chamber was set up in Mauthausen camp itself, with Soviet POWs as its first victims. The center of Mauthausen, a small town of about 1,800, almost exclusively Catholic, inhabitants (there had been no Jews there before the war), was three miles away from the camp. The local people, as Horwitz's interviews and documents show, regularly witnessed atrocities being committed whenever new arrivals were driven across the town, or whenever local farmers and workers had to go near the quarry. A public road led directly across the camp, and although those using it were forbidden to linger, they heard and saw enough for the atrocities to become widely known and often discussed. Even in the early years of the camp, inmates were shot in full view of the peasants and left to die on the roadside. Eleanore Gusenbauer, a farmer, filed a complaint in 1941 about the tortures and the random shootings: "I am anyway sickly and such a sight makes such a demand on my nerves that in the long run I cannot bear this. I request that it be arranged that such inhuman deeds be discontinued, or else be done where one does not see it." Complaining was not without its risks: some who protested what they saw happening were sentenced to a stay in a concentration camp, and when a man called Winklehner threw bread and cigarettes to the inmates, he was taken to Dachau camp, where he died. All in all, however, the locals learned to live with the camp. They resented the rowdiness of the SS but profited from the business the SS brought to the town. The civilians employed at Castle Hartheim soothed their consciences with the knowledge that they were not directly involved in the gassings. Near Hartheim, parts of human bodies littered the countryside and tufts of hair flew out of the chimney onto the street: but neither this nor the smell of burning flesh prevented the staging of popular candlelight festivals at the castle. Even the monks at the famous Benedictine monastery nearby at Melk accepted the sight and stench of the local subsidiary camp and crematorium. On February 2, 1945, when hundreds of Soviet officers escaped from the camp, townspeople joined in the hunt. Only a dozen made it to freedom, thanks in part to a couple of brave local inhabitants, who thus helped persons who were clearly seen as the enemy. During World War I, Mauthausen had served as a gieant POW camp; it must have been difficult for the townspeople to distinguish between prisoners of war, common criminals, political prisoners, and innocent victims. Still, the passivity and silence of most of the population is disheartening and so is the wave of acute anti-Semitism that swept the region immediately after the war, as it did throughout Europe from the Netherlands to Poland. Today, despite some efforts by the Austrian government to preserve the memory of the camp, no one really wants to talk about what happened in Mauthausen. Horwitz, who managed, after much effort, to find revealing sources, concludes: "The efforts to address the past are minimal compared to the enormity of the deliberate silences, evasions, and distortions of a generation that slowly, mutely fades into the grave." Followups to alt.revisionism
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