Established: 1 August, 1938
Location: in Austria, near Linz
The concentration camp of Mauthausen was constructed in August of 1938, just five months after the Anschulss, the annexation of Austria to the German Reich.
The area of Mauthausen was specifically chosen as the site for a camp due to its location near a granite quarry. DEST, a company wholly-owned by the SS, purchased the quarries not only for commercial advantage, but also in anticipation of a huge increase in the demand for granite, which would be needed for the gigantic monuments planned for the “cities of the Führer” (one of which was scheduled to be Linz).
For the SS, the concentration camp served two functions: the elimination of political enemies through detention, violence, arbitrary killings (thus keeping the inmates in a constrant state of terror, and also a useful mechanism for subduing those who opposed Nazism outside the camp); and secondly, a source of commercial profit, via the intensive exploitation of the deportees as slave labour.
Mauthausen, the only concentration camp given the classification “3rd class” (a camp of punishment, and of extermination by overwork) became one of the most terrible Nazi facilities. The prisoners had to endure inhuman conditions of detention and were forced to work literally as slaves in the quarries. Violence, brutality, inhumane punishment, hunger and murder all constituted common features of their daily lives. The killings came in many forms: as a direct result of SS violence, by hangings, executions, injections directly to the heart, poisoning and often by gas. Other deportees were simply soaked in water and left to freeze to death of exposure in the harsh Austrian winter.
The increase in the production of war materials, and the Nazis’ efforts to transfer factories damaged by the bombardment of the Allied forces to underground galleries lead to an expansion of the camp’s functions from 1943 onwards. A large number of the prisoners were destined for armaments production in these satellite camps.
Approximately 200,000 people of various nationalities were deported to Mauthausen: political opponents, people persecuted for religious motives, homosexuals, Jews, gypsies, prisoners of war and even common criminals. Half of all these prisoners were killed, either deliberately or a a result of the impossible living and working conditions.
Research conducted by ex-prisoner Hans Marsalek about Mauthausen has documented the passage through this place of torture and death of 197,464 people: 192,737 men and 4,727 women. At the moment of the camp’s liberation, in May 1945, approximately 66,500 deportees (of whom 1,734 were women) were found in the camps that had Mauthausen as their base. Most of these people were in conditions that did not permit them to survive long after liberations. The Italians deported to Mauthausen numbered more than 8,000.
On 16 May, before being repatriated, the camp’s survivors made an oath to fight for a “new world, free and just for all”.
For more information on Mauthausen:
The information on these pages has been partly gathered from the official Mauthausen site, with information in various languages including German, Italian and English.