Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp, Austria

While driving from Mayrhofen to Vienna Mike, his mum, and I stopped at Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, 20 kilometers outside Linz in Upper Austria. Mauthausen operated from 1938 to 1945, and was responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 people. It was one of the largest labour camp complexes in German controlled Europe during WWII and directed over 50 sub-camps in Austria and Germany. Its inmates were used as slave labour. They were literally worked to death.

This was my first visit to a concentration camp. It was both everything and nothing like I expected it to be. How do you put it into words?

The most surprising thing I learned at Mauthausen was that a brothel was set up in the camp and used to manipulate prisoners by 'rewarding' them for good behaviour. The women in the brothel were also inmates, shipped to Mauthausen from other camps and shipped out after six months of unimaginable living conditions. But leaving Mauthausen wasn't respite. These women often contracted sexually transmitted diseases and, like most ill prisoners, were not treated but executed when they returned to their original camps. Unimaginable.  

I walked around the camp with Mike, frozen to the bone, as my audioguide told me prisoners were often forced to line up for roll call in the camp's main square for hours, or even days. In the winter. In that cold. Unimaginable. 

They slaved at a nearby rock quarry for 12 hours a day, malnourished and psychologically and physically abused, until they died.  Unimaginable.

They were forced to walk into electrified barbed wire fences, burnt and tortured until they died. They were shot point-blank, froze to death, starved, and were gassed. Unimaginable.

Places like Mauthausen are so important to visit. If not only to remember the atrocities of WWII, but to recall that no human, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, or race, should suffer at the hands of another. Even when that utopian kind of world seems unimaginable.
- Jess













1 comment :

  1. This concentration camp is sadly famous in Spain, lots of soldiers ended up there after being captured by the nazi bastards. Very sad the story of that people, after losing the Spanish Civil War lots of them who scaped from the national catolic persecution enroled in Allied armies to continue fighting the fascism, a lot of them ended at Mathausen, some of them survived and could tell their story. To not forget it, to not repeat it.

    Here is a newspaper article about one of these men: Original article and the
    Google Translation

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete

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