Gusen concentration camp
Gusen is the name of the biggest and most brutal Nazi concentration camp complex on Austrian soil. Originally called "Mauthausen II", it finally consisted of three different concentration camps (KL Gusen I, II & III) whose work details were distributed over an area of several square kilometers.
With one exception in 1943 and early 1944 the number of inmates was bigger at Gusen than at the related Mauthausen twin camp. Also the total number of victims was in most periods higher at the Gusen part of the twin-system than at Mauthausen.
Only in early 1944 the widely independent Gusen complex was administratively annexed to Mauthausen concentration camp. Then, for example, the inmate numbering system of Gusen was substituted by that of Mauthausen.
Nevertheless, the two concentration camps were closely linked from the beginning, having had some structures in common (e.g. command staff, regional DEST headquarters and rifle range at St. Georgen/Gusen). Together, and with the infrastructure at St. Georgen, they formed what can be considered as the former Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp complex.
"(...) In March I was brought to Mauthausen to build the Gusen camp. The building tempo had to be accelerated, because the "Aktion gegen die polnische Intelligenz" was designated for the month of April. What no one knew in the home country, we knew - the SS-men who were beating us, told us that we build a camp for our rotten brothers from Poland, who today can still spend Easter uneventfully, without an inkling what awaits them. They called the camp under construction Gusen "Vernichtungslager fur die polnische Intelligenz"". - Stefan Józefowicz bank headmaster no. 1129 in Mauthausen, 43069 Gusen.
On mayl 25, 1938, the first lots of land were acquired at Gusen by the SS company DEST (Deutsche Erd- und Steinwerke GmbH or "German Earth & Stone Works, Inc."). Mauthausen concentration camp was founded later.
The existence of important stone quarries at Gusen was the key for the SS administrators' decision to establish a system of two concentration camps at Gusen and nearby Mauthausen. By 1939, the work carried out by inmates of "Mauthausen" at Gusen exceeded the work done at the Mauthausen "Wienergraben" quarry — a period when both concentration camps were makeshift installations and hundreds of inmates of the "Mauthausen" camp had to walk to the Gusen quarries every day.
From the earliest beginnings, DEST focused its investments on its stone industries at Gusen. This led to the development of the biggest and most modern DEST plants at Gusen during the first half of World War II, with its own administrative infrastructure, Werkgruppenleitung, at the nearby town of Sankt Georgen an der Gusen [hereinafter mentioned as "St. Georgen"]. Thus, both St. Georgen and Gusen became the siege of Granitwerke Mauthausen, from which DEST operated its business at the quarries of the dual concentration camp system, Mauthausen-Gusen
From 1943 on, DEST of St. Georgen shifted production from granite to armament products. DEST received several contracts and offered slave labour from its concentration camps at Gusen to companies like Heereszeuganstalt Wien, Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG or Messerschmitt GmbH of Regensburg, and established huge armament plants at St. Georgen and Gusen, a good deal of it underground and bomb-proof. The most important such joint-venture was the project B8 Bergkristall - Esche II, where DEST established and operated a huge underground assembly plant for Messerschmitt Me-262 jet planes.
To maintain its hectic activities, three concentration camps at Gusen were run by the SS:
- Gusen I, for the inmates assigned to the activities of DEST at Gusen;
- Gusen II, for the inmates assigned to the activities of DEST at St. Georgen; and
- Gusen III, for the inmates assigned to the activities of DEST at Lungitz.
Until January 1944, the Gusen concentration camps (called "Mauthausen II" in 1939), were widely independent from the nearby Mauthausen concentration camp. They had their own independent numbering system, death register, construction directorate, guard battalion, and post office. It was only in the final phase of the war that it was annexed, like countless other satellites, to the concentration camp at Mauthausen. Nevertheless, especially in 1944, the number of inmates at the Gusen camps was double that at the related camp at Mauthausen. Even the number of victims appears to be significantly higher compared to the Mauthausen camp.
Due to its industrial potential, the Soviet occupation forces early decided to continue the operation of the former DEST installations at Gusen, under the name of "Granitwerke Gusen", after the liberation of the camps, while dedicating the economically unimportant Mauthausen part of the double camp system to a memorial site. This caused the Gusen camps to become more or less forgotten for decades, while all attention was given to the much smaller Mauthausen site.
The Austrian government took until 2000 to decide questions of property concerning the huge underground plants at St. Georgen and Gusen, but by the early 1960s, survivors had grown concerned that all evidence of the Gusen camps would be erased from what was fast becoming a middle-class neighbourhood. Entirely with their own funds, survivors bought the plot of land surrounding the crematorium and built the Gusen Memorial, dedicated on May 8, 1965. Nearly forty years later, in 2004 the government of Austria, with generous contributions from Poland, built a tiny museum at Gusen to commemorate the 40,000 nearly forgotten victims. In 2009, New York artist Karen Finley installed a sculpture in the courtyard of the crematorium, Open Heart, which commemorates the death of 420 Jewish children over two days in 1945 by lethal injection to the heart, by Nazi doctors.
The key personnel of the camp trias included the officer in charge I (Schutzhaftlagerführer I) of KL Gusen I, SS-Hauptsturmführer (R) Karl Chmielewski (1940-1942) and SS-Hauptsturmführer (R) Fritz Seidler (1942-1945). SS-Hauptsturmführer Max Pausch (Lagerführer) and SS Hauptscharführer (Master Sergeant) Franz Gottfried Schulz (Schutzhaftlagerführer II) were responsible for KL Gusen II. SS-Unterscharführer (R) Wilhelm Maack was commander of concentration camp KL Gusen III at Lungitz (1944-1945).
SS-Obersturmführer Richard Bendel was at first Rapportführer in KL Gusen I (1943) and in KL Gusen II later (1944 to 1945). Hans (Johann) van Loosen was chief kapo (non-German guard) at KL Gusen I for years and became camp elder at KL Gusen II in 1944. Leitzinger was camp clerk I (Lagerschreiber - administration) at KL Gusen II and Franz Gruschka was his deputy until he was killed by Van Loosen in January 1945. In January 1945 Antoni Lisiecki followed Gruschka. The block warden of the camp was Karl Albrecht.
The command staff of the camp complex consisted of 60 to 300 men. The number of guards reached up to 3,000:
Officer in charge II: SS Michael Ostuf Redwitz (1941 to March 1942) SS Ostuf Walter Ernst Berger (April 1942-October 1942) SS Ostuf John Beck (1942 to June 1944)
Rapportführer SS: Uscha Anton Streitwieser, SS Uscha Kurt Isenberg (1940) SS Uscha Rudolf Brust, SS Scha Kurt Gangstätter, SS Uscha Knogl SS, SS Uscha Kurt Kirchner (1941-1942) SS Uscha priest Franz Berger, SS Uscha Rennlein, Uscha Jörgl SS, SS Uscha Damaschke SS Uscha Michael Killermann (1943-1945)
Labor service leader / labor assignment officer: SS Kurt Gangstätter, SS Uscha Kurt Kirchner, SS Uscha Kotzur SS, SS Uscha Damaschke, SS Uscha Michael Killermann (1940-1941) SS Uscha Kluge, SS Uscha Alfons Gross (1941-1942) SS Stscha Ludwig Füssl (1943-1945)
Watch Sturmbann (13 companies for 3029 men) SS Hstuf Mark Habben (until 1942) SS STBF Alois Obermeier (1943-1945)
Prison camp leader: Hans Kammerer (1940 to January 1941) Helmut Becker (January 1941 to May 1941) Karl Rohrbacher (May 1941-December 1944) Heinz Heil (December 1944-March 1945) Martin Gerken (April 1945 to May 1945)
Warehouse clerk I (Administration): Rudolf Meixner (May 1940-February 1942) Adolf Jahnke (February 1942 to May 1945)
Stock clerk II (labor input): Erick Timm (until March 1945) Heinrich Lutterbach (April–May 1945)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gusen concentration camp.|
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- Rudolf A. Haunschmied et al. St. Georgen-Gusen-Mauthausen - Concentration Camp Mauthausen reconsidered. Books on Demand. Norderstadt, 2007.
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