Mauthausen Concentration Camp
At the Mauthausen Concentration Camp prisoners were literally worked to death. Unlike the death camps in Poland, where huge gas chambers killed thousands a day, Mauthausen killed prisoners through hard labor and torture. Mauthausen was the only Category Three concentration camp, meaning the prisoners sent there were meant to be exterminated, and exterminated through work. When the camp opened in August 1938, the prisoners were assigned to work in the granite quarries and to build the actual camp. Inmates worked in the quarries and armament factories with their bare hands, and the SS guards would kill those who fell behind or got worn out. For the prisoners who escaped when the camp was liberated, many had faced arduous labor, torture, and starvation in the most physically brutal concentration camp of the Nazi regime.
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Józef Scislo: The world must judge. Recollections of an inmate from Hitler’s concentration camps
“At the first roll call in Mauthausen, the large inmate transport from Sachsanhausen was more like a burial procession. Behind us were trucks pulled by inmates and loaded with the dead or dying. We stood for two hours until everyone had been counted and the status of the transport had been calculated. The Germans were always very precise in their calculations. There were over three hundred corpses. The entire SS staff was gathered in the roll call area, including the camp commandant SS-Standartenführer Franz Ziereis and Hauptsturmführer Karl Schultz.
When they had finished counting they started the selection. The healthy inmates stood on the left and the sick on the right, next to the camp orderly room. An SS man announced in German (translated immediately by an inmate standing next to him) that the sick and unable to work were to be sent to a hospital to get well and recover - some blocks had been specially set up for that purpose - and the healthy and strong would start work immediately. Sokiewicz, Lichoñczak, Ludwig and I all wanted to change to the right-hand side because we didn’t feel well. Luckily - as it later transpired - an older SS man ordered us to remain on the left. I don’t know whether he did it out of compassion or duty but I owe my life to him. When we hesitated, he shouted at us and ‘helped’ us with his stick. He also kicked Ludwig. We quickly moved over to the crowd of ‘healthy’ inmates. On the right-hand side of the roll call area were 450 men. They could hardly stand. They were exhausted from the five-day journey without food, drink or sleep rather than sick. It was shortly before midnight and they were ordered to take their clothes off. Instead of being led to the blocks, they were moved to a square behind the bath house next to the camp walls. They even had to take off their shoes and belts, which were normally retained when inmates were given new clothes. The south and west sides of the six-metre-wide square in front of the bath house was lined by a wall with watchtowers. When the naked inmates had been driven onto the square, a long row of kapos and block elders with sticks in their hands formed. The trap had closed.
The warm and sunny day was followed by a cold and windy night. The inmates began to freeze. Their cries for help and mercy gradually became fewer, mingled with the groans and weeping of the dying. Those who were still alive were placed under the shower for a second time and driven out wet into the icy cold. In the morning 94 inmates were still alive. Even before reveille, four SS men with spade handles entered the square. It wasn’t long before a deathly silence reigned.””
Source: Józef Scislo: Swiat musi osadzic. Wspomnienia wieznia hitlerowskich obozów konzentracyjnych [The world must judge. Recollections of an inmate from Hitler’s concentration camps]. Iskry, Warsaw, 1969, 113-150