Mauthausen Aktiv GUSEN

and Local-International Platform ST. GEORGEN/GUSEN, Austria

KZ Mauthausen-GUSEN Info-Pages

The Jewish Prisoners of KZ Gusen II

by Martha Gammer

After the disaster of Stalingrad the arms production of the Reich needed more hands and had to be sheltered: The main production centres in Germany and Austria soon got within reach of allied bombing in the beginning of the year 1944. Therefore the heads of the Wehrmacht wanted to put the production into subterranean areas. Natural caves in Gusen were enlarged and the tunnels of a former beer brewery in St. Georgen, 3 km west from Gusen, were transformed into one of the largest subterranean production areas that have ever existed. The deadly work was mainly done by Jewish men deported from Hungary to Auschwitz and by Polish Jews.

The first group came from Mauthausen main camp, 272 prisoners had to start the "Bergkristall" tunnel drilling and construction work. Further on the transports of men were organised from Auschwitz via Mauthausen or to St. Georgen Railway Station directly.
Many Jewish men were deported directly from KZ Auschwitz
to KZ Gusen II to work for the construction of BERGKRISTALL
The local inhabitants remember the many young people, even children, running from the new constructed Gusen 2 camp to Bergkristall in St. Georgen, driven by dogs and SS men mounted on horseback. Later platform trains were used to cover the distance and transport the thousands of prisoners day and night. The local inhabitants also remember the icy winter of 1944/1945 when cattle trains from Auschwitz were posed outside the station stuffed with prisoners who could not enter the crowded camp and had to die after days of waiting in the trains.

After several months of hardest work in Gusen,
surviving Jews were sent via Mauthausen for final
extermiantion to Gunskirchen
The work inside the tunnels either at the drilling or at the production of Jet planes is described as the most deadly work in heat and dust and under the steady threatening of death. Criminal Capos used to beat and kill during work. As there was a lack of any security measurements many prisoners were killed by accidents and had to be carried back to the camp after the 12 hours work. The exhausted figures called "Muselmen" usually died of starvation or of illnesses after three months. Jewish prisoners, forming the main group of Bergkristall accompanied by Italians, Polish, Russians, French and some other nations suffered of the worst conditions: They got the smallest food or no food. As the small crematory of Gusen 1 could not do the work, many were transported back to Auschwitz just for gazation or to Hartheim, a castle near the Danube in Upper Austria, where handicapped inhabitants had been gazed and burnt before.

Graves of Jewish victims were marked with David´s star after the war at Gusen (the background shows remants of KZ Gusen II The outmost size of the camp was reached when Auschwitz itself had to be evacuated in January 1945 because of the approaching Soviets. Many prisoners had to march to other camps or were transported in cattle cars even to Mauthausen and Gusen, filled with men, women and children. Many of them were killed immediately after their arrival by injections or gazation, others stayed in Gusen II like animals, were sent away from any food distributions and then died. Companions tell the worst sight they ever had: Jewish children, all naked, had to empty the latrines with buckets. They stood in the excrements up to their waists. There was just one water supply in Gusen 2, and the water that could be used was taken from the Danube. Thousands got infected by Typhus.

In April 1945 there were still by the thousands of prisoners in that primitive camp, but many had to return to Mauthausen and start the death marches to Ebensee and Gunskirchen according to the order "that no prisoners should get into allied hands" . Just a small number survived these long footmarches of 64 kilometres, and if they did, they starved in the days of liberation. Jewish prisoners were the least ones to have the chance of surviving.

The words of Rav Yechezkel Harfenes, survivor of several nazi camps: "Compared with these all cruel camps I can say these were paradises compared with Gusen. It is unknown as there were just a few survivors of many tenthousands who can tell the story of its horrors."

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Most recent updates of this page were made on
991201 by Rudolf A. HAUNSCHMIED,
Martha Gammer, Siegi Witzany-Durda and
Jan-Ruth White with her students in US-Alabama