Gusen


In December 1939, prisoners from the Mauthausen concentration camp set up a new camp next to a quarry in Gusen about five kilometers southwest of Mauthausen. As in Mauthausen, the main task of the prisoners was to work in the quarry. The first commandant of the camp was SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Karl Chmielewsky, who quickly gained a reputation as brutal. Among other things, he murdered prisoners who were no longer considered to be able to work by showering them with ice-cold water. In January 1941, a crematorium was established to cremate the dead prisoners, before which they were cremated in Steyr. In January 1944 the construction of two large tunnel complexes Kellerbau and Bergkristall began in the vicinity of Gusen in which war-produced industries would locate their production. These were ready for use in 1944 and the prisoners used as slave workers in the tunnels were housed in a new camp called Gusen II (the first camp was consequently named Gusen I).

Gusen had until January 1944 been an independent camp but in connection with the establishment of Gusen II both camps were subordinated to Mauthausen. In December 1944, about three kilometers north of Gusen I and II, a third camp was established in a small village called Lungitz. The camp was named Gusen III and the prisoners were forced to work at a nearby quarry. Prisoners of Gusen I had certainly worked in the quarry since 1940. Work in the tunnels and quarries was extremely dangerous and arduous and thousands of prisoners died as a result of the work. Both the quarries and the war industries built in the mountains were owned by private and SS controlled companies that exploited the labor available in Gusen. All three camps were liberated by American troops on May 5. About 71,000 prisoners from 27 different nationalities sat in Gusen and about half of them died. Gus II and III were burned by the Americans because of typhus. The gus I was gradually destroyed and looted by the locals in the following years after the war.In 1947, the tunnels were blown up after everything that could be reused had been removed.

Current status: Demolished with museum (2008).

Location: 48°15' 25.20" N 14°27' 50.32" E

Get there: Car.

My comment:

Gusen was not the only camp that soon after the war was looted at everything that could be reused. For the civilian population, it was more important to return to normal life as quickly as possible by building up their homes ravaged by the war. There were far-reaching plans to also demolish the remains of the crematorium at Gusen I to make room for houses and homes. But this was stopped thanks to former prisoners who bought the land in 1961 and gave it to the municipality in exchange for a monument (this was established in 1965). In 2003 a museum was opened at the crematorium. In the former camp area at Gusen II, houses and dwellings were built. At Gusen I there are a few buildings left that belonged to the camp. The brothel (opened in 1942), a couple of prisoner barracks, SS barracks and Jourhaus (camp entrance). All buildings have been renovated into private residences, including Jourhaus, which today is a villa of the finer variety.

Follow up in books: Kogon, Eugen: The Theory and Practice of Hell: The German Concentration Camps and the System Behind Them (2006).