Mauthausen, The B Side

Mauthausen, The B Side

If you search for Mauthausen in your smart phone app store of choice, you can find a terrific app published by the museum.

After Monkey left, I wandered in the camp using the app as a guide and through the museum.

The camp

The camp was a slave labor camp that began as a public/private partnership to extract granite, serve the German state, and make money immediately after Anschluss.

One of the disturbing things both here and for the museum at the Berlin Wall (which charted Hitler’s transformation of Germany into a totalitarian state) is how fast the horror happened. In this case Anschluss happened in March 1938 and the camp construction began in August.

The Mauthausen slave labor camp was paired with the still deadlier Gusen and the network of up to 100 additional smaller work camps.

The museum

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the museum that occupied one of the largest camp buildings. It thoroughly covered the rise and conditions in the camp and what happened after the war. I spent a great deal of time there and there was still more to explore.

The camp was a scramble to survive for those that did.

Prisoners had a cap that they were required to wear during roll calls and drills-which could last for hours (especially if the weather was bad). To lose your cap meant death.

There was a story that struck me deeply.

A man told a story of how he arrived at the camp and was raped and had his cap stolen. He was able to steal a cap from another prisoner–condemning a total stranger to death–while saving his life.

Dehumanization is reducing the value of life to a piece of fabric.

The second story that struck me is that German regulations required a ratio of one guard to 10 prisoners. Mauthausen is not a large town. At its peak, this slave labor camp required almost 9,000 guards. We sometimes hear stories–there was one this week–of Nazi guards meeting Justice. But these numbers really brought the scale home to me.