ARBEITSKREIS FUER HEIMAT-, DENKMAL- UND GESCHICHTSPFLEGE ST.GEORGEN/GUSEN
Plattform 75 JAHRE REPUBLIK
KZ Mauthausen-GUSEN Info-Page
4th International Conference
on Learning and Research in Working Life
2-4 July 1996, Steyr-Austria
Local-International Historical Initiative
Plattform 75 JAHRE REPUBLIK
Von der Vergangenheit zur Zukunft
Platform 75 Years Republic of Austria,
from Past to Future
Plattform 75 JAHRE REPUBLIK gives evidence that research-endeavours
of people being in ordinary working life can give tremendous impulse
to professional academic disciplines.
A group of local individuals started research on the more or less
forgotten concentration camp complex of GUSEN, Austria.
This local research-endeavour meanwhile developed to an
internationally well known local-international initiative
moderating professional scientific exchange and Local-International
Commemorations dedicated to the approximately 40.000 victims
of more than 20 European Nations.
This local-international initiative gave a crucial impulse
to bring the forgotten but biggest former NAZI-concentration- and
extermination camp complex of KL Gusen I
, II & III back
to Austrian History.
A vast amount of informative and commemorative events was
planned and carried out between 1994 and 1996 to do this together
with the local people that live now in and around that very historic area.
C O N T E N T S
- Historical Background
- Scope of the Local-International Initiative
- The Development and Activities of the Initiative
- General Results of the Initiative
- Contribution/Results to/for Sciences (New Research Aspects)
- Future Activities
- General Proposals for Improvements to Support Research in Working Life
The national-socialist (NS) period between 1938 and 1945 left
deep footprints in and around the communities of St. Georgen/Gusen,
Luftenberg, Langenstein and Mauthausen, Austria.
Local population was forced into the Nazi war-machine and population
grew four times by Germans coming in to St. Georgen from the "Alt-Reich".
This was due to the foundation of the central "civil" administrational
complex of the "Deutsche Erd- und Steinwerke GmbH" (DEST) in this small
Upper-Austrian village totalling some 1.600 inhabitants prior to
the "Anschluss" (annexation of Austria to the 3rd Reich)
in March 1938.
DEST was a company held by the SS (Schutz-Staffel; Hitler's private army)
and came to St. Georgen along with the exploitation of slave-labour
within the concentration camps of Mauthausen and Gusen.
Although the MAUTHAUSEN Central Camp is well known, the bigger and
more horrible KZ GUSEN Satellite-Camps never entered history.
This because of the fact that mortality in the KZ Gusen camp
was much higher and so nearly no eye-witnesses survived the
KL Gusen I, II & III Concentration- and Extermination Camp Complex.
The First KL GUSEN Camp was founded
in Winter 1939/40 to reduce the number of prisoners dying at
their daily march between the Mauthausen-Wienergraben Camp
and the Gusen Stone-Quarries.
Starting with the beginning the KL GUSEN Camp has had more
the character of an extermination camp. This was due to the fact
that the first inmates (Germans & Austrians that were against the Nazis)
came from the MAUTHAUSEN & DACHAU camp to die in the GUSEN Stone-Quarries
by being exterminated by hard labour, brutalities and nearly no drinks
In 1940, exterminating people developed rapidly at GUSEN in parallel
to the mass-deportations of Polish intellectuals along with the
Nazi-Invasion to Poland. Some 10.000 of the polish elites
(politicians, artists, professors, priests, etc.) were killed officially
in GUSEN. Polish groups speak from some 27.000!!!
The next groups that came in to the GUSEN camp had been
Republican Spaniards that were captured along with the
German Invasion to France.
In 1942 one next big group had been Soviet "prisoners of war"
that came in to die in GUSEN. Also the first known gazation in a Nazi concentration camp
was carried out in Gusen in 1942 with them!
With 1943 the GUSEN Stone-Quarry changed upon orders of Minister Speer
to a centre of arms-production by the exploitation of slaves.
So, in addition to the stone-quarries, an small-arms production plant
was set into operation "employing" some 8.500 concentration camp prisoners
for the manufacturing of machine-guns, parts for rifles, aircraft engines
and fuselages for Messerschmitt-aircraft.
In Summer 1943 the situation changed due to the first successful
strategic bombings of the Messerschmitt aircraft plant at Regensburg,
Germany. From this time on, the Germans scattered most of their war-industries
and begun to transfer some key technologies to underground installations
all around the "Reich".
And, one of this places became the St. Georgen & Gusen area.
At first, in Gusen, a small tunnel system (KELLERBAU) was excavated
to hide a gun-production plant being transferred from Poland, and,
in Winter 1943/44 decision was made to build one of the biggest
German underground installations in St. Georgen, some 4 km west
of the KL GUSEN I camp (KL Gusen II - BERGKRISTALL).
To carry-out this giant project, Field-Marshall Goehring and
SS-Chief Himmler decided capturing and deportation of young,
strong men from all the territories, the Nazis had to move out
due to the allied pressure.
For ST. GEORGEN and GUSEN, this brought a rapid increase
in the number of concentration camp slaves and the broad distribution
of concentration camp cruelties to all the surroundings of the camp.
Most of this people were deported in this last phase of the war
without any obvious reasons from France, Belgium, The Netherlands,
Luxembourg and Italy.
Also thousands of Jewish man (even from KL AUSCHWITZ B)
were set into march to ST. GEORGEN and GUSEN to be exterminated
by hardest labour, no food, bestiality, and horrible hygienic conditions
along with the construction of this giant underground plant dedicated
to the final assembly of the first jet-propelled Me-262 plane
Along with this project, KL GUSEN was enlarged in 1944
with the KL Gusen II & III Concentration Camps.
So, the KL GUSEN complex with 25.000 inmates became
twice the number of inmates compared to the MAUTHAUSEN Central Camp
and one of the most horrible ones that ever existed
in the history of the 3rd Reich.
Mortality was extremely high and so nearly nobody survived
this horrible "Hell of Hells" as former prisoners
thought about the GUSEN exterminations by hardest work.
Therefore, the KZ GUSEN extermination facets never entered history
and so it remained to be brought back to consciousness by the direct
local-international co-operation of the few surviving former inmates
of this KZ GUSEN camps and the eye-witnesses within the local population
that still is alive.
Scope of the Local-International Initiative
- Gathering information about this horrible period in
local- and European history from all around the world, and
- Giving this information, the reasons and background with its
meaning to our modern democratic society to the local population
and all other interested people all around the world
- Teaching young people the values of humanity, solidarity,
tolerance and love by demonstrating to them "The Hell" that
people can make themselves on the example of KL GUSEN
- Giving older people a forum to speak out what became tabooed
within the last 50 years of cold war and political confrontation.
- Giving a clear warning against the new developing tendencies
towards right wing extremism or Neo-Nazism.
- It is an important contribution to understand
the past and current political developments
in a good way to coming to terms with the past.
The Development and
Activities of the Initiative
So, the following comprehensive series of high-quality events could be
carried out (hereby the idea was that each different group that represents
part of the population defines individual events that give information and
possibilities to exchange and discuss):
- Since 1985
Historical research endeavour started within
Arbeitskreis für Heimat-, Denkmal- und Geschichtspflege
(Heimatpflegeverein) - the local history association.
- Official chapter about Nazi-period "Zum Gedenken"
(For Memorial) in publication of Community of St. Georgen/Gusen
(see Further Reading).
- A program was published by the Austrian Federal Ministry
of Education and Cultural Affairs to activate people all around
Austria to stimulate endeavours concerning the commemo-
ration of the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the
democratic Republic of Austria.
- The idea was taken within the VOLKSHOCHSCHULE DER
ARBEITERKAMMER (Association for Adults Education)
at St. Georgen/Gusen (VHSAK) upon the project of the
Austrian Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs
- Foundation of the (local) "Plattform 75 JAHRE REPUBLIK"
upon the initiative of VHSAK. To give a more broad
educational impulse to all the people in the area,
- the Community of St. Georgen/Gusen,
- the Community of Langenstein,
- the Community of Luftenberg/Donau,
- the Parish of St. Georgen,
- the local culture association "Kulturverein TRIBÜNE" and
- the local history association "Heimatpflegeverein"
to gather within this plattform.
- April 1994
Historical Excursion to KL Gusen remnants
- May, June 1994
Studying-Circle for people interested in this period
- November 1994
All-Saints Services dedicated to commemorate the 40.000 victims of the KZ Gusen Camps
- December 1994
Active Support of TV-Documentations for FRANCE 3, ORF & 3-SAT ("Mauthausen pour Memoire" by Roy Lekus)
- January 1995
Historical Excursion to KL Gusen remnants for Gusen population
- January 1995
Presentation of Video "Lass fallen den Stein" (Drop the Stone)
to commemorate the victims and sufferings of the KL Gusen camps.
More than 400 people attended due to big interest of population
in subject! Video had to be shown a few times after this presentation too.
- March 1995
Scientific lecture by Univ.-Dozent Dr. Bertrand Perz
on concentrations camps in the 3rd Reich
- April 1995
Historical Excursion to KL Gusen remnants with respect
to the 50th anniversary of the death of Marcel Callo for
some 400 people of the Dioceses of Linz and the rest of Austria,
including Bishop Maximilian Aichern and a commemorational
address of the Archbishop of Rennes, France
- April 1995
Weekend-Meeting for youngsters to discuss this evil period
and, especially, new trends & tendencies towards Neo-fascism
- April 1995
First Austrian Presentation of Prof. Alfred Hrdlickas
series of paintings to commemorate the sacrifice of
Dr. Johannes Gruber - an Austrian resistance fighter
and Nazi-victim of KL Gusen I
- May 5, 1995
First encounter and discussion of KL Gusen survivors
from all around Europe, and local eye-witnesses
(from around the camps) with
the local population & younger generation
- May 5, 1995
1. Local-International Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary
of the Liberation of the KL Gusen I, II & III concentration
camps with an official written commemorative address
of the Austrian Federal President, Dr. Thomas Klestil
and some 4.000 attendees from the local population,
all around Europe and even the United States
- May 7, 1995
Local-International Service in the Church of St. Georgen
for the 40.000 souls of the former KL Gusen camps in the
presence of the Governor of Upper Austria and with a
commemorational address of His Holiness Pope John Paul II
- April 19, 1996
Presentation of Video "St. Georgen in the 3rd Reich".
The video was produced by amateurs without any order.
Thus reflects interest in local population
- May 4, 1996
2. Local-International Commemoration at the KZ Gusen Memorial
with some 1.500 attendees. Official addresses of representatives of
the Russian Federation, France, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia and
the State of Israel. Some 500 Italian youngsters attended too!!!
- June 1996
Exhibition "The Years after Liberation"
A plastic model of the extermination camps was built
by an activist of the local history association upon
the findings of old photographs and plans.
- This helped tremendously to teach and
to support remembrance of eye-witnesses
after more than 50 years.
- The activist received the award of the community of St. Georgen
for cultural achievements for this educational contribution.
General Results of the Initiative
- An active discussion- and information process about different
facets of N`tional Socialism was started.
- For the first time, about this evil period was
offered to the local population.
- Many local people learned for the first time about
the cruelties and the dark chapter in the history of
- People got the possibility to communicate for the first time
in theirs lives, their most personal inner experiences and
arguments to the situation in those days.
- They were offered the chance to coming to terms
with this past and this personal (bad) experiences
(some therapeutic aspect).
- More awareness about the importance and political message
of the remnants of the former KL Gusen I, II and III Camps.
- E.g.: With June 20, 1996 the community of St. Georgen dedicated
for the first time in history the name of a street
to Marcel Callo (one of the many unknowns that died
for the KL Gusen II projects in St. Georgen).
- A sensibilization for tendencies against democracy, humanity
- A consciousness for the importance to fight actively against
extremism and Neo-Nazism (today an in the future).
- New friendships between
- international guests & local people, and
- local people & local people !!!
- New world-wide contacts between interested academic and non-academic
- archives, communities,
- universities and
- political parties.
- Several Official Awards have been given to activists of this
initiative and thus brought the research findings to the consciousness
of political responsible people.
- One Award of the Government of Upper Austria
for Achievements in Adults Education
- Two Awards of the Community of St. Georgen/Gusen
for cultural achievements
Contribution/Results to/for Sciences
(New Research Aspects)
- Significance of KZ GUSEN MEMORIAL as Austrias
most important Memorial building (also from an
artistic point of view).
Meaning & Messages of KZ GUSEN MEMORIAL to commemorators.
- KL GUSEN to be one of the most horrible camps in
"Treblinka - Auschwitz - Gusen"
Importance of KL GUSEN II remnants at St. Georgen for
Shoah/Holocaust-Dimension of KL GUSEN II
- Direct deportations from KL AUSCHWITZ B
- Direct ties to GUNSKIRCHEN and EBENSEE camps
Knowledge that KZ GUSEN MEMORIAL is dedicated
to KL GUSEN II victims too.
KL GUSEN II dominated MAUTHAUSEN Central Camp
in final phase of war.
KL GUSEN had twice the number of inmates than
MAUTHAUSEN Central Camp (due to KL Gusen II).
KL GUSEN counts more victims than MAUTHAUSEN Central Camp.
- 1/3 of all KZ-victims on "Austrian" territory
- 80% of all Germans & Austrians deported to
"Mauthausen" killed in Gusen
KL GUSEN (and KL EBENSEE) mainly responsible for bad
conditions in "Mauthausen" - Complex
(was a Satellite-System)
Transparency to the martyrium of the Beatified Marcel Callo
in Mauthausen-Gusen complex
- Many prisoners that died in the final phase of the war
at the KL Mauthausen-Revier were starved by months
of inhumane conditions in KL GUSEN II.
- Behaviour of "human" beings at lowest (!) "living" conditions (wolf-society)
General sociological aspects & rules of life & culture within and around
a horrible concentration camp
Complexity of life and "human" extermination-mechanisms
in extermination camp (internal hierarchies).
Life & interaction of local population with a concentration camp
that spread out to ordinary housing zones.
- Significance of Dr. Johannes Gruber as one of Austrias
most important resistance fighters.
Total dictatorship of high-ranking SS-man in regard to local
political institutions (e.g. communities).
Local people are interested to learn/know their real history
and value democratic systems.
- Sufferings of local population when being exposed to everyday
cruelties (especially women & children)
Traumatization of local population (to live-on with this death-experience)
and the possibility to coming to terms with this past (personal experiences).
Fact that 3rd Reich has not vanished from an emotional point of view.
It is still a governing experience in minds of local population
(NAZI-Education, SS-Terror, Death-Experience, Fear of NAZI-Come Back)
Fact that official statements and public discussion are important means
to solve problems of past and contemporary problems.
The scope already shifted from the horrible past to a more better future.
So, future activities will be:
- Increasing the democratic culture of the local population; i.e.:
activating & motivating a broad range of organisations & persons
to play active key-roles in solving local political problems and
to speed-up local political development(s).
- Offering informative political journeys to our international
partners in the countries surrounding Austria. Thus deepening the attitude of
understanding, tolerance and co-operation, already reached.
- Supporting MEISTERKLASSE HRDLICKA (a group of young artists
from all around Europe) of the Academy of Applied Arts, Vienna in
developing a concept for a commemorational path (with appropriate
monuments) to commemorate the KL Gusen II victims in St. Georgen.
- Supporting a group of students and young people within the
"Informationsprojekt KZ Gusen" (Information Project KZ Gusen)
to be successful in starting comprehensive, scientific research
on the different historical and humanitarian facets of an
extermination complex like KL Gusen I, II & III.
- Growing partnerships with Italian communities (cities) that got
(historical) ties to the St. Georgen and Gusen area & people.
General Proposals for Improvements to Support Research in Working Life
- Better acceptance of amateur-research results
by "home" academic institutions
- Austrian universities ignore research results while
international organisations like Yad Vashem,
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum thank for them
- Provision of professional academic infra-structure
to ambitious amateurs:
- Free access to archives
- Free access to Internet-facilities like students
(private individuals have to pay high rates
for using this services via commercial providers)
- Development of open & transparent (electronic)
exchange- and information systems to stimulate
multi-national and transcontinental co-operation
of ordinary people, doing "research in working life".
- Financial support (to help cover cost of copies, letters,
fax, e.mail, phone calls)
- Starting-programs (budgets) to stimulate
"amateur" research-initiatives of people in working life.
- Possibilities to publish results professionally to present/offer them
to people interested or people that have a scientific need to know.
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970609 by Rudolf A. HAUNSCHMIED