Mathausen "Stairs of Death"; prisoners were forced to carry granite blocks, some weighing up to 110 lb. up 186 steps, repeatedly throughout the day, if they fell from exhaustion, they were often killed
DEST, founded on April 29, 1938, in Berlin, was administered by the VWHA for the purpose of procuring building materials and organizing slave labor and overseeing quarry operations. The Sachsenhausen (1936), Buchenwald (1937), Flossenbürg (1938), Mauthausen (1938), Natzweiler-Struthof (1939), Gross Rosen (1940) and Neuengamme (1940) concentration camp sites were chosen because of their proximity to soil suitable for making bricks, or due to the close proximity of a brickworks factory or stone quarry. DEST was widely successful in the exploitation of slave labor, most of whom were Jews, in the quarries. Human labor was used cruelly, becoming one of the main tenets of war crime charges in the Nuremberg Trials. The director of the program, SS-ObergruppenführerOswald Pohl, who was stationed in Berlin, was sentenced to death for war crimes in 1947 in Nuremberg, and executed in 1951.
In 1943, DEST changed its focus from stone industry to armaments. From this time the organization played a key role, helping the SS to enter some key war industries. This was underlined by their industrial park at St. Georgen and Gusen that made the SS a key supplier of aircraft fuselages (Me 109, Me 262), carbines and machine guns to companies like Messerschmitt and Steyr-Daimler-Puch. To run its business with the inmates of the Gusen and Mauthausen concentration camps, DEST operated its headquarters of Granitwerke Mauthausen between 1940 and 1945 in the town of Sankt Georgen an der Gusen which was its biggest and most important "Werkgruppe" (industry group).