Mauthausen Concentration Camp today
MAUTHAUSEN CONCENTRATION CAMP TODAY
Mauthausen concentration daily trip from Vienna will include Vienna – Linz – Mauthausen village – Mauthausen concentration camp.
The most convenient and cheap transport to get to Linz (a city of Adolf Hitler’s youth) is the train. Trains from Vienna to Linz provide an every-hour ride, starting from 6:40 am (then 7.40, 8.40, etc.) and the starting point is the Westbahnhof Railway Station. You will experience fast travel at a speed of 200 km / h and it takes 1 hour and 20 minutes to find yourself on a platform of Linz. Trains back from Linz to Vienna also go every hour (17.01, 18.01, 19.01, 20.01, and the last one at 21.01).
Find your way to the OBB (title of the railway company) information center. Buy a ticket to the Mauthausen village. It goes apr every 30 minutes. You will be consulted to take either a direct Intercity train (With Mauthausen on a screen) or with one transfer at St. Valentin Bahnhof (the final destination is Garsten Bahnhof). Two-way ticket Linz-Mauthausen-Linz costs 10 euros (September 2017).
After 25 minutes of a train ride, you will arrive at the Mauthausen train station. There are three main ways to get to the Mauthausen concentration camp today and the memorial site.
- On foot. 5 km of walking to the site, alongside the bus route.
- You can take a taxi – it will cost 10-12 euro
- Bus № 361. It goes every hour and the bus station is just in front of the railway station.
Whatever means of getting you to choose, you will need to get to Linzer StraBe / Neue Mittelschule bus stop. You will find yourself in the authentic Austrian rural place with hills, drowned in the morning fog, and beautiful tiny streets with modern one and two-story private homes. It’s impossible to lose the way with plenty of “Footpath to the memorial site” signs on every corner of the road. This picturesque route will take you 20 minutes to the Mauthausen Memorial.
I’ve made a map of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp today with markings – it resembles my route through the site within that emotional three hours.
The Mauthausen Memorial Complex is open daily from 9 to 17.30. Free of charge.
- Information Center
- Former SS workshops and guard barracks (SS-Mannschafts)
- SS sports ground (SS-Sportplatz)/After-war cemetery
- Infirmary camp (Sanitätslager) / Russian camp (Russenlage)
- Former SS guard barracks (SS-Mannschaftsbaracken)/ Memorial park
- Mauthausen Graben Quarry (Wiener Graben)
- SS administration building (Stabsgebäude)
- The main gate (Lagertor)
- Wailing wall (Klagemauer)
- Roll call area (Appellplatz)
- Barrack № 1 – Canteen, clerk’s office, and brothel
- Barracks № 6 and 11
- Barrack № 5 – Jewish barrack (Judenblock)
- The killing site and Ash dump (Aschenhalde)
- Tent camp (Zeltlager)
- Barracks 16-20 – Quarantine (Quarantänehof)
- Camp II (Lager II)
- Camp III (Lager III)
- Infirmary (Krankenrevier)
- Camp prison or Bunker (Lagergefängnis)
- Kitchen (Küchenbaracke)
- Laundry barrack (Wäschereibaracke)
- SS garage courtyard (SS-Garagenhof)
A complex of concrete buildings, which includes information, a bookstore, free toilets, a bistro (opens at 10 am), and educational seminar rooms. The bookstore provides visitors with all the main editions about the Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp and some well-known general works on the Holocaust. The language is generally German, but there are some English editions. A kind and polite consultant will give you a free map scheme of the memorial and will even make some additional markings and give initial information on how to build your route through the former camp. Most of the visitors prefer to take an audio guide in a variety of languages. 24 metal plates within the territory are to point out sites where you can listen to a fragment of the historical tutorial of one-hour duration.
FORMER SS WORKSHOPS AND GUARD BARRACKS (SS-Mannschafts)
As well as several old wooden buildings these constructions have not remained after World War Two. The former site now consists of the Information Center, free open space, and parking. If we take a look at the war scheme of the Mauthausen Camp, this SS site included 5 barracks and another three small constructions. Mauthausen guards used to live here and made use of the workshops and a sort of recreation area. A Firewater pond was dug and lined with concrete in the summer of 1944.
SS SPORTS GROUND (SS-Sportplatz) / FORMER CEMETERY
SS guards of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp used to have their free time here in the fresh air, playing football 50 meters away from the main wall. The first week after the Mauthausen liberation in May 1945 was dramatic because of the high mortality among the former inmates with the already inevitable condition. American soldiers decided to use the former Sports ground as a site to bury the corps as a temporary cemetery. An approximate number of these unfortunate inmates reached 2600. During 1955-1956 France initiated the exhumation of the corps in order to honor the memory of the French prisoners of the Mauthausen camp. Many corps were transferred to different countries and the remains were reburied at the Cemetery within the CAMP II.
INFIRMARY CAMP (Sanitätslager) / RUSSIAN CAMP (Russenlage)
The construction of this outer camp was initiated at the end of 1942. It has earned a camp call-name the “Russian camp” (Russenlage) as it was considered to maintain Soviet POWs from the Eastern front. Despite the 5333 Russian prisoners of war, transferred to the Mauthausen during 1941-1942, only 300-400 of them were still alive when the new camp was finished in the winter of 1942-1943. Within the next two years of existence now called “Infirmary Camp” was used to maintain seek inmates, who were unable to work. The majority of these prisoners died from starvation and diseases and some of them were tortured or killed in the Mauthausen’s gas chamber. Some inmates were dramatically chosen by the SS doctors for the experiments. The former “Russian or Infirmary camp” used to include ten barracks, which were 55 meters long and 9.5 meters wide each. Inmates were forced to live in terrible conditions without appropriate hygiene, medical treatment, and supplies.
In order to avoid a possible epidemic, American soldiers leveled this camp to the ground in 1945. The later 2000-s witnessed archaeological excavations which revealed stone foundations of the former barracks and remains of human bodies and personal belongings. The memorial to some extent resembles ‘The Monument to the Soviet POWS’ beyond the Auschwitz Birkenau death camp.
The free space site now includes only the “Austrian memorial to the Soviet prisoners of war” with the text below:
On this place was a so-called “Russian (infirmary) camp”. Its barracks imprisoned thousands of the brave citizens of the socialistic countries, tortured by the Hitler’s Nazi minions. They put their lives to make Europe free and, in this respect, to make the Austria a state of freedom.
FORMER SS BARRACKS (SS-Mannschaftsbaracken)/ MEMORIAL PARK
The former SS constructions were located in front of the main gate of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp (as well as near the SS garage courtyard). This site was divided by the road and included wooden blocks, warehouses, premises for guards, an SS kitchen, and even a horsebox. Soon after Mauthausen’s liberation in 1945, the whole territory was officially delegated to the Soviet occupation administration. Former wooden SS barracks were sometimes in use as warehouses and then were empty and abandoned. On June 20, 1947, Mauthausen Camp was delegated to the new Austrian Republic with the term that the new administration will create a memorial complex there. The construction plan implicated the destruction of the old SS barracks, in particular, those in front of the Main Gate.
The first version of the Mauthausen Memorial Complex was ceremonially opened in the spring of 1949 as “The public Mauthausen Memorial” under the supervision of a new Austrian government, war allies, and several public organizations and contributions of the former inmates. France was the first country to open its national memorial already in the Autumn of 1949. Stonewall states: “AUX FRANCAIS MORTS POUR LA LIBERTI” (For the French, who died for freedom). The next 60 years witnessed the construction of multiple national memorials here to honor the victims of the War and the Holocaust. The most ambitious architectural compositions belong to France, Soviet, Polish and Jewish. You can also find and express honor to the memorials of the Dutch, the Federal Republic of Germany, and the German Democratic Republic, Roma, Sinti, Bulgarian, Albanian, Luxemburg, Spanish, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Belgian, Italian, British, Greek, Slovenian, Czechoslovakian and others.
MAUTHAUSEN QUARRY (Wiener Graben)
On your way to the Main gate, finding yourself within the Memorial park, you will also see an almost unnoticeable footpath to the Mauthausen quarry, which had become a place of death for thousands of inmates through the years of forced labor, similar to the quarries all around Europe, such as in Plaszow. We pass another tiny path that now leads to a site where some wooden workshops used to stand (demolished after the war). Green bush hides the 30-meter cliff, the so-called “PARACHUTE JUMP” (Fallschirmspringerwand). The SS guards and camp capos forced an unknown number of inmates to jump from this cliff to find death on the stones below. The first Holland Jews transferred to the Mauthausen in the summer of 1942 were killed in such a cruel manner. A memorial plate in German, French, and Russian tells the story of the “Parachute Jump”. An unnumbered amount of prisoners committed suicide, jumping down the cliff, and being unable to continue surviving.
This narrow footpath alongside the quarry merges into rapid descent – the infamous “STAIRS OF DEATH” (Todesstieg). When the Mauthausen was in operation, most of the stairs were of different heights and forms, thus even physically strong and healthy men were exhausted soon after arriving at the Mauthausen camp. Stairs of Death were rebuilt twice – in 1942 and then after the war, so today height and shape of the stones are far from the labor period. Inmates were forced to make their way up and down multiple times a day with dozens of kilograms of stones, beaten by SS guards and capos, and experienced constant humiliation. Guards could hit some prisoner to look at his rolling down the stairs. This practice was common in punishment and penalties for those inmates who dared to obey the camp rules.
The existence of the Granite Quarry was a strong reason to build a huge Mauthausen Concentration Camp in this very place of Austria after the annexation in 1938. Forced labor was initiated and supervised under the direct control of the SS and its “Deutsche Erd- und Steinwerke GmbH” company. It used to supply granite, for example, to build ambitious architectural constructions, designed by Hitler himself and Albert Speer. In particular, in Linz, 20 km from here. In 1942 the total number of the Mauthausen prisoners who were forced to work in the Quarries of the Mauthausen and Gusen reached 3000. The general supervision was under the high SS officer with the assistance of civil professionals, contributing to technical aspects. Direct control was deliberated by SS guards and camp capos.
Forced labor within the Mauthausen Quarry had no seasons and had been carried out the whole year. The one matter which differed was the work hours. The length of the working day generally reached nine hours in winter and up to eleven in Summer. Today we see no former infrastructure within the Granite Quarry. It used to include a small premise to shape stones, a drawing machine, pumping machinery, and two towers with cables. Starting from the spring of 1944 some Mauthausen inmates were forced to work within Messerschmitt AG nearby to produce components for aircraft. The factory was destroyed during the war and is now presented by the remains of a foundation hidden in the woods. The rocks from the quarry were used to build one of the expositions of the ‘Mahnmal Gegen Krieg und Faschismus‘ in Vienna, better known as ‘Monument against Fascism‘.
SS ADMINISTRATION BUILDING (Stabsgebäude)
A granite building was once constructed to the right of the main entrance and the road of stones from the Mauthausen Granite Quarry nearby. It had become a part of the modern Memorial complex with the same design. Initially, the administration was a wooden building and replaced with a granite one, constructed by the inmates in 1942. The SS administration building known as “KOMMANDATUR” included the camp Commandant’s headquarters and the chancellery. Albert Sauer was the first commandant of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp and after a few months (February 1939) he was replaced by Franz Ziereis, who had been the supervisor of the camp until the liberation of the Mauthausen in 1945. In May 1945 former commandant tries to escape, but he was noticed and wounded. Franz Ziereis admitted to the mass murders in the Mauthausen and tried to deliver responsibility to his SS supervisors. After Ziereis had passed away from his wounds, former inmates grabbed the body of the former commandant and put it on the barbed wire fence with the images of the Swastika and the name of Hitler. The Administration building was the very place where the future and fate of new inmates were determined. The former Commandatur is partially opened and a kitchen and toilet are accessible.
MAUTHAUSEN MAIN GATE (Lagertor)
Similar to Auschwitz and Dachau, the main gate has become one of the infamous symbols of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial and now is a part of the modern memorial complex within the territory. It was the only entrance for the prisoners (the SS garage courtyard was not in access to inmates). After some bureaucracy within the Kommandatur, newly arrived prisoners used to enter the camp by means of the Mauthausen Main Gate. We can see two massive guard towers on both sides for the armed SS guard.
WAILING WALL (Klagemauer)
Newly arrived inmates were forced to enter the Main Gate and stand still to the right. They had to experience the initial cruel attitude from the SS guards and capos, as well as humiliation. Guards were used to satisfy some prisoners’ suffering. Inmates were forced to stand near this wall for hours and sometimes for days, being chained to the wall (chains remained). This part of the Mauthausen Memorial Complex also impresses with dozens of honorable plates of different nationalities, placed on the wall. In particular, we can find a plate, which honors the memory of Dmitri Karbishev, who suffered five years of camps and died here.
ROLL-CALL AREA (Appellplatz)
The roll-call area of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp is also known as APPELPLATZ in German. 200-meter long inner square which starts from the Main Gate and reaches the former Camp III. Mauthausen prisoners were dictated to gather for roll-call up to three times every day. After the number of prisoners dramatically rose in 1943, roll call was deliberated twice a day. The first one, about an hour duration the early morning, and another one, up to three hours in the evening at the end of the working day. Inmates were ordered to form two ranks regardless of the weather. Capos and SS officers calculated the number of inmates in every barrack, dead and alive. Prisoners had to salute multiple times in complete silence. The Memorial exposition still obtains a huge stone roll. Some inmates were forced to roll it along the area covered with gravel and crushed stones.
BARRACK № 1 – CANTEEN, BROTHEL, CLERK’S OFFICE
One of the few remaining wooden barracks is Block № 1 on the left side next to the Main Gate. This kind of camp erection was usually subdivided into two or three parts for different purposes. The right side of the Barrack № 1 was a kind of clerk’s office for some privileged inmates (capo), who performed the internal order and maintained a system of reports among the prisoners. Under the strong supervision of the SS, these men were also responsible for the calculations of the number of Mauthausen prisoners – live and dead, using the protocols of the everyday roll calls. The office was also a place where the main decisions on the transfers to the sub-camps, such as Gusen, concluded. Only trusted capos had the ability to work here and to have access to the camp liberties, to avoid physical work and humiliation. One of the few conditions was to have “Arian” blood. Most of these privileged inmates were former political prisoners and criminals from Germany and Austria. Such administrative position and camp status demanded cruelty, and an absence of pity, and very few amounts of these clerks had assisted the other prisoners of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp and sub-camps. In particular, under the direct supervision of the SS officer.
The middle part of the Barrack № 1 was used as a canteen for prisoners. A place, where privileged capos also had access to additional provisions, and even the means of hygiene and other goods of the camp’s inner black market, was ignored by the SS guards. The left part of the Block 1 used to include a brothel (till 1942) for capos and those prisoners, who had some goods to buy time with a woman. For some time women from Ravensbruck were promised freedom after the “service” in this camp brothel, which then turned out to be a lie.
REMAINED BARRACKS № 6 & 7
These two wooden barracks were the first in their particular rows of the blocks for prisoners on the left side next to Roll-call are and now a part of the Mauthausen Memorial. Each of them and the barracks destroyed were also divided into three parts. The middle part contained a premise with cloth, a toilet, and common a washing room. The left and right parts of these wooden blocks were divided into two parts each – the living room and bedroom. These wooden barracks had to maintain about 300 prisoners, but in 1944-1945 some of them were accommodated with enormous 2000 people each. In total unsanitary conditions, two or more men used to share one wooden bed with a wool blanket as the most possible variant. In general, only capos had pillows of hay. The working day used to start at 4:45 am in summer and 5.45 in Winter. Inmates had to make the common bed, make up the blanket, take a quick bath, have a poor breakfast, and get to the Roll-call area as soon as possible. Barrack № 11 was for some time a place to accommodate children and yearlings, brought to Mauthausen most commonly from Poland and USSR. Also, it was used to maintain Spanish fighters against the Franko regime, who had immigrated to France but then were captured by the Gestapo.
BARRACK № 5 – JEWISH BLOCK (Judenblock)
The percentage of Jews in Mauthausen was quite low until the beginning of 1941. In that dramatic spring, the first big group of Jews was brought to the Mauthausen. The SS administration decided to create a particular site for these inmates within premise B in Block № 5, next to the barbed wire fence. Soon after Barrack № 5 obtained the infamous “Jewish block” (JUDENBLOCK) title. The development of the Holocaust in Europe had its resemblance to the Mauthausen camp. The Jews within the camp were at the very bottom of the camp hierarchy. Inmates of Block 5 had to sleep on the floor in their one cloth without blankets or pillows all seasons. Their food ration was the poorest as well as the absence of any medical treatment.
The average lifespan here was of a few weeks and even days. In addition to starvation and unsanitary, Jewish prisoners had more often become victims of the cruelty of capos and the SS guards. They were beaten to death, shot within fictional attempts of escape, forced to touch the barbed wire fence under electricity, and jumped from the cliff within the Mauthausen Quarry (Parachute jump). A number of Jewish prisoners of the Barrack № 5 were killed in the gas chamber in the Hartheim euthanasia center. The “Jewish block” was additionally fenced with barbed wire and inmates were forbidden to communicate with the other prisoners in the Mauthausen. The modern site of the former and now demolished Mauthausen “Jewish block” is presented with a memorial sign. Remain of the stone foundation and a glass sign table with the history of the Barrack № 5.
BARBED WIRE FENCE AND THE ASH DUMP (Aschenhalde)
The barbed wire fence on the Northside of the camp, next to the former sites for barracks is a historical restoration, created in 1947 as a part of the Memorial complex. We can observe the barbed wire only on the top of the fence, as the authentic Mauthausen fence was of a few rows of barbed wire with 380 V electrical pressure. The SS guards and capos used to kill prisoners, forcing them to vault the electric fence to death. These poor inmates generally suffered more than a moment, being burned alive.
A small ravine next to the North fence was a camp dump site for years. For some time, it was a killing site and starting from 1944 a place to accumulate ash from the corps, which had been burned within three furnaces of the Mauthausen. A tiny memorial now honors this place with no direct access for tourists.
TENT CAMP (Zeltlager)
In the summer of 1944 the number of prisoners in the Mauthausen camp went up dramatically and the wooden barracks of the main camp had no more space to accommodate new arrivals. Camp administration decided to create a temporary open site with the tents next to the Ash dump to accumulate a new amount of residents. These canvas premises were tailored for a maximum of 800 inmates, but in fact, some of them included 2000 prisoners within subhuman living conditions of extremely high mortality. In the spring of 1945 few thousand Hungarian Jews, forced to death march here from Hungary, were accommodated within the Tent camp. The site was in operation until the Mauthausen liberation in May 1945.
BARRACKS 16-20 / QUARANTINE (Quarantänehof)
Five wooden barracks № 16-20 were initially separated by a stone wall, which now is a part of the Mauthausen Memorial Complex. The area was considered to maintain particular groups of prisoners and has obtained a “Quarantine” (QUARANTINE) camp slang title. Most of the newest arrivals to the Mauthausen were accommodated here for two to four weeks to avoid a possible epidemic. These first weeks provided inmates with an indication of the cruel camp attitude and humiliation. Quarantine also emphasized possible capos and, on the opposite, sick and weak people for extermination. Over the years, the barracks of the Quarantine were generally overcrowded with prisoners up to 1000 in each one, designed to maintain 300. Close quarters guaranteed the absence of hygiene, blankets, and the graduation of groups of possible workers.
With the start of the Eastern campaign and the “Barbarossa” war plan, the German army (Wehrmacht) initiated a transfer of part of the Soviet POWs to perform forced labor within the Third Reich. In October 1941 about 2000, the Soviet prisoners of war were placed in Barracks № 16-20 and the Quarantined side was at that time called a “Russian camp”. These POWs were appointed to the most difficult and exhaustible kinds of works in the Mauthausen. In the spring of 1942 this sort of “Russian camp” was eliminated (it was months before the construction of the outer “Russian camp” near the SS sports ground).
In September 1944 the arrival of a huge group of women to the Mauthausen resulted in the initiation of the so-called “Women camp” of the Mauthausen. Before that, the majority of the inmates had been male. Nevertheless, up to the beginning of the year 1943, most of these newly arrived women were forced to work within different sub-camps. In March 1945 about 2000 women from the Ravansbruck were transferred to the Mauthausen and placed within the 16-20 Barracks to organize a full-fledged Women’s camp. Even the last days of the War witnessed new groups of new arrivals.
Block № 20 has become infamous because of the highest mortality level within the history of the Mauthausen and is known as “Infirmary barrack” or “DEATH BLOCK”. Initially, it was a part of the Quarantine area and maintained seeking and dying people. Despite the supposed purpose, Barrack № 20 had no medical treatment and appropriate nutrition. Starting from May 1944, a number of the Soviet prisoners of war were placed here in unlivable conditions. No less than 4000 inmates had been accommodated within the “Death Block” until February 1945. Most of them have not survived or were intentionally killed. On February 2, 1945, a number of its prisoners attacked the capos and SS guards, attacking the guards on the towers by throwing stuff and the content of the fire extinguishers. Some were killed by the guards, but about 400 of the prisoners managed to leave the Mauthausen, using the cloth to cover the electric barbed wire fence. The days after were a period of man hunting, performed by the SS and locals. Only 11 people among the escapees survived the war.
MAUTHAUSEN CAMP II (Lager II)
This part of the Mauthausen concentration camp was constructed in 1941 and the wooden barracks were generally used as workshops. In particular, Barrack № 25 was used as a premise for disinfection of the camp clothes, performed by 10-12 inmates. Starting from 1944, the barracks from 21 to 24 were used as a quarantine inner camp, as the Quarantine next to the wall now operated mostly with women and separated groups of prisoners. Now newly arrived inmates had to spend a few weeks in Camp II before getting into the main camp. This part of the Mauthausen camp was a place of birth for the resistance movement. Its inhabitants used to help seek and starved prisoners by means of inner barter of the goods.
CEMETERY. The former Camp II of the Mauthausen camp is used as a war cemetery. Within the last months of the Second World War Mauthausen and its sub-camps were overpopulated with the prisoners with the highest level of mortality in the spring of 1945. Camp furnaces next to the killing area were unable to manage an increasing amount of dead bodies and guards initiated mass burials outside the camp. After the liberation of the Mauthausen, American soldiers found these burials as well as hundreds of unburied bodies. In addition, approximately 3000 exhausted inmates died soon after the liberation. In 1945 they were buried on the territory of the former SS sports ground. In 1961 the Mauthausen administration initiated the creation of a new war cemetery within the territory of the former Camp II. It now contains more than 14 000 human remains.
MAUTHAUSEN CAMP III (Lager III)
In spring 1944, in order to operate the increasing amount of newly arrived inmates, SS administrations decided to build another part of the main camp, called Camp III (Lager III) outside the eastern walls. The construction was finished in Autumn and the new camp included five wooden barracks for the inmates, two workshops, walls, and three additional watchtowers. After suppressing the Warsaw uprising in the summer of 1944, Mauthausen accepted groups of Jews from Warsaw and most of them were put into Camp III. In April 1945 Apr 1400 inmates (mostly old, seek, and weak) were stacked here, waiting for the gas chambers or another way of death. At the same time, some prisoners from the other part of the Mauthausen managed to steal the keys from the guards and save hundreds of the poor inmates in Camp III. After the war, the territory of the former outer camp was not included in the Mauthausen Memorial Complex and was abandoned for some time. In 1970 walls, barracks, workshops, and watching towers were completely demolished, revealing a green grass field.
While the majority of weak and seek inmates of the Mauthausen were destined to wait for their death within the Barrack № 20, Quarantine, or by means of the SS medical experiments, gas chamber, or beating, a privileged group of so-called capos had access to medical treatment. SS administration paid their interest to maintain the order chain, compiled with privileged prisoners. Skillful workers with appropriate technical experience also had the privilege to access the Infirmary. Initially, it was presented by a wooden barrack until the fall of 1944, when a new granite building was constructed (construction had started on September 1st, 1940). A new infirmary (Germ “Krankenrevier”) used to occupy one-half of the stone building and divided into wards with cots for 130 people and equipped with medical accessories. All these “good things of life” were inaccessible to the majority of the prisoners in the Mauthausen camp.
Today the first floor of the former Infirmary holds the constant exhibition called “The History of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp 1938 – 1945”. This kind of museum shares the personal belongings of the former prisoners and guards, scale maps, and photos.
The basement of the Infirmary involves another historical exhibition named “The Crime Scenes of Mauthausen – Searching for Traces”. The underground site also gives access to the former killing area, gas chamber, and crematoria. “HALL OF NAMES” impresses with the installation of dozens of thousands of identities of the former prisoners and victims of the Mauthausen. Big books of record include this personal data with even days of death.
The process of transformation of the former Infirmary into a museum was initiated in the 1960s and included the replanning of the premises on both floors. Special markers on the floor still give a perspective of wartime architecture. In 1970 the process was finished and Infirmary has become a museum with exhibitions as it is today.
GAS CHAMBER, EXECUTION ROOM AND CREMATORIA (Krematorien und Tötungseinrichtungen)
These infamous premises were located on the underground floor of the Infirmary and Camp prison. Three furnaces had been operated in crematoria until the last months of the war. The first one was put in use back in 1940 to ‘operate’ the bodies of the dead inmates. In a period before, that bodies had been sent to the crematories of Linz and Stair. The second one was taken into operation in 1942 and the last furnace was only in 1945, shortly before the liberation of the Mauthausen. Three of the sub-camps, including Gusen also were equipped with crematoria. The furnaces of the Mauthausen did not just eliminate the bodies but also succeeded in hiding the evidence of violence. All dirty work was performed by a small group of inmates called sonderkommando, who were forced to live here in the basement, separated from the other prisoners.
EXECUTION ROOM had been in operation starting from 1941 to perform individual murders. SS guards used to force a prisoner to come close to a particular part of the wall with a tiny hole and another guard shot the poor inmate in the head. The SS had also installed a sort of scaffold to execute prisoners of the Mauthausen.
The GAS CHAMBER of the Mauthausen concentration camp was put in operation in March 1942 and at least 3455 inmates were gassed to death by means of the infamous Zyklon B. After the War, neither commandant Ziereis nor SS guards denied the existence of the gas chamber, and its main purpose. One step before the entrance give a perspective of another premise where doomed prisoners had to take off their cloth before the execution. They were also inspected to find some jewels and in particular golden dental crowns.
The former CREMATORIA now shows two of three furnaces of the Mauthausen Memorial. Also a perspective of the gas chamber with memorable plates on its walls to honor the victims.
CAMP PRISON / BUNKER (Lagergefängnis)
The Camp prison of the Mauthausen, known in German as Lagergefangnis, was put into construction already in 1939 and in operation in 1940. The first floor of the building used to include 33 cells, which remained until today even with the bars. SS guards initiated a sort of punishment – detention within poorly lighted cells, without furniture and even a bed, using a bucket as a toilet, and without food and water. Generally, inmates had to spend days in solitude, but sometimes they had been accommodated in pairs. The camp prison also was a place to detent those prisoners, who were commissioned to be killed in a gas chamber or be shot in the backyard. SS guards and Gestapo established a system of torture to humiliate political prisoners or any other group. The walls still contain scrawled signatures of the former “inhabitants”.
As we proceed to the basement, we can observe a fridge cell, with walls covered with ceramic. The SS doctors and guards used to store bodies here before being burned within the crematoria. Another remaining premise was used to maintain medical experiments. The stone table is still here.
KITCHEN BARRACK (Küchenbaracke)
While the canteen for prisoners was located in Barrack №1, the kitchen itself was used to maintain in a wooden barrack next to Camp prison. Generally, former cooks were selected to work here and to a poor food intake for prisoners and square meals for the SS guards and administration. Even though a usual working day lasted for eleven hours, prisoners of the Mauthausen camp used to receive poor nutrition intake of fewer than 1500 calories. Even this crucial nutrition was cut within the last months before the Mauthausen liberation. The common daily ration consisted of half a liter of dishwater or coffee for breakfast, beet and potato pottage with a small piece of meat for dinner, and 300-400 grams of bread, sometimes with a jam, for supper. Capos and other privileged inmates used to receive increased rations. The kitchen barrack was also a place to devastate food deliveries from the outside world.
LAUNDRY BARRACK (Wäschereibaracke)
The former Laundry wooden barrack is located near the Wailing Wall and the Main gate on the right hand. Laundry was usually operated with a cloth of the SS and capos. The clothes of the Mauthausen prisoners were disinfected within the living barracks or sometimes here, in a separate premise. The barrack used to contain a shower room to allow prisoners to have rare (every 4-6 weeks) hygiene procedures to avoid epidemics. The building now contains a chapel with national flags and memorial signs, made of stone.
SS GARAGE COURTYARD (SS-Garagenhof)
The former inner courtyard was used to maintain the transport of the Mauthausen guard and had a separate entrance. The site was generally used as a place to maintain roll-call among the SS guards, under the supervision of the commandant. From 1939 to 1940 rarely permitted visitors, relatives of the now-dead prisoners had a chance to see the bodies within poorly lit premises. They had no access to the main camp of the Mauthausen. In 1941 the administration maintained the mass disinfection roll-calls to eliminate the risk of typhus.
I am very grateful to war archives, museums, libraries, private collections, and writers for the historical photos in this article. To the extent that some author or a copyright owner may not want some of the above black-and-white photos to be used for educational purposes here, please contact me for adding credits or deleting the pictures from the article.
My own video from the site, taken in September 2017