Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp Liberated - May 3, 1945

Prisoners of Ebensee, one of the sub-camps of Mauthausen-Gusen, after liberation by the US 80th Infantry Division
Prisoners of Ebensee, one of the sub-camps of Mauthausen-Gusen, after liberation by the US 80th Infantry Division

Mauthausen Concentration Camp, established in 1938, grew to become a large group of Nazi labour concentration camps that was built around the villages of Mauthausen and Gusen in Upper Austria, 20 kilometres east of the city of Linz.

The camp served the needs of the German war machine and also carried out exterminations through labour. The conditions within the camp were considered exceptionally hard to bear, even by concentration camp standards. The inmates suffered not only from malnutrition, overcrowded huts and constant abuse and beatings by the guards and kapos, but also from exceptionally hard labour.

By December of 1941, a permanent gas chamber that could kill about 120 prisoners at a time was completed.

Although the Mauthausen-Gusen camp complex was mostly a labour camp for men, a women's camp was opened in Mauthausen, in September 1944, with the first transport of female prisoners from Auschwitz. Eventually, more women and children came to Mauthausen from Ravensbrück, Bergen Belsen, Gross Rosen, and Buchenwald.

Until early 1940, the largest group of inmates consisted of German, Austrian and Czechoslovak socialists, communists, anarchists, homosexuals, and people of Roma origin. Later arrived to the camp Jews, Poles, Spanish Republicans, Soviet POWs and others.

In 1944, a large group of Hungarian and Dutch Jews was also transferred to the camp. Much like all the other large groups of prisoners that were transferred to Mauthausen-Gusen, most of them either died as a result of the hard labour and poor conditions, or were deliberately killed by throwing them down the sides of the Mauthausen quarry, nicknamed the Parachutists' Wall by the SS guards and Kapos. The nickname was a cruel joke which mocked the doomed prisoners by calling them "Parachutists without a parachute".

The exact death toll of the entire Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp system varies considerably from source to source. A sound estimation is 200,000 (40,000 Jews).

The camps of Mauthausen-Gusen, the last to be liberated during the World War II, were liberated on 5 May 1945 by the US 11th Armored Division, 3rd US Army.

It was not until 1949 that Mauthausen-Gusen was declared a national memorial site and finally, 30 years after camp's liberation, on 3 May 1975, Chancellor Bruno Kreisky officially opened the Mauthausen Museum.

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

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