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Michal Pinski יא״ 1                   

                 Mauthausen

Mauthausen (Gusen) concentration camp was a small part of a large group of German concentration camps. They were built around the villages of Mauthausen located in upper Austria. It was opened in August 8, 1938, a few months after the Anschluss of Austria. Starting with just one camp at Mauthausen, the compound grew over time and by July of 1940, it had become one of the biggest labour camps where they became slaves. Thousands of Russian and Polish POWs (prisoners of war)were also interned at Mauthausen. Jews and political prisoners from Austria, Holland, Italy, and Hungary were forced into labor. The death toll is unknown, since most records were destroyed in 1945. There wwere an estimated 122,766 to320,000 from the whole compound .The Sub-camps were divided into 49 permanent sub-camps and approximately 10 camps that lasted for some weeks.

The Mauthausen camp was one of the first and biggest camps in Germany, but one of the last to be liberated.The site was designed to resemble an old fortress, complete with stone guard towers. They were labeled “Grade III”,  and were  intended to be the toughest camps, since they were  mostly used for extermination through labour. Mauthausen held the record for concentration camps (as opposed to extermination camps) for executions and deaths: some 36,000 from January 1939 through April 1945. Many of these died from the exhausting labor in the granite quarry, where others were executed in the gas chamber or shot to death. When the camp was opened, Himmler ordered a couple of hundred prisoners from the Dachau camp to be transported to the little town of Mauthausen just outside Linz. The plan was to build a new camp in order to supply slave labor for the Wiener Graben stone quarry. Until 1939, most of the prisoners were put to work building the camp and the living quarters for the SS. The main camp of Mauthausen consisted of 32 barracks surrounded by electrified wire, high stone walls, and watchtowers. Due to the immense number of prisoners that poured into the camp, Commandant Ziereis ordered that the fields to the north and west were to be ringed with wire. Here, Hungarian Jews and Russian soldiers, mostly, were kept in the open, all year around. Another killing method, favored by the SS during the winter season, was to gather a group of prisoners in the garage yard and order them to undress. A guard then sprayed water over the group which was left to freeze to death. This was quite effective in a region where the winter temperature usually was around minus 10 degrees Celsius.

Mauthausen was liberated by the U.S. Army 11th Armored Division on 5-6 May 1945.

The main camp of the complex in Mauthausen is now a museum.

The Jewish Community (Kultusgemeinde) was established as a result of a Habsburg statute of 1890, which granted Austrian jews religious autonomy. In January 1938, there were approximately 190,000 jews living in Austria most of whom were members of the Kultusgemeinde.

Before 1938 the A.J.C was strong, wealthy and successful in every aspect. There were approximately 34 jewish communities in Austria. Vienna, besides the 22 synagogues and 50 prayer houses, there were jewish museums, libraries, schools (Hebräisches Pädagogium, Theologisches Lehranstalt, and Chajes Realgymnasium), hospitals and medical clinics, orphanages, sport clubs, theaters, kosher kitchens, zionist organisations, political associations and more. One of the largest groups were the Jewish WW1 Veterans Association. Jews made up 3% of Austria's population ( they stood up for their work in textiles).

A Lot of contributes came from the Austrian and American jewish communities in 1933 until 1937 for general aid (rehabilitation ,reconstruction and refugees) .

Almost all of the families in the A.J.C were wealthy and enjoyed a very comfortable life. They participated in the general and common activities of the non- jewish communities.  They were integrated in the cultural, professional and intellectual level, as a unit. Before the war, jews and non jews lived as equals (in the broad sense of the word).

In March 1938 every jew was rapidly expropriated from their belongings, properties and businesses. Jews had to declare all their bank accounts, real estate, insurance policies, etc. 

On November  1938 violent acts erupted against synagogues, jewish businesses, houses were burnt and destroyed. This night was called the “Kristallnacht” were the jews were sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp and some were sent to forced labor work.

By February 1939 most of the jewish businesses were now given to nazi members. After these events the Jews were ordered to move to Vienna and then eventually to the 2nd district which became a ghetto.

The post A.J.C :

Austria was liberated by the Soviet Army in May 1945.

Very few returned to Vienna after the war. The Austria’s Politicians wouldn't respond to the responsibilities regarding the crimes of the Nazi regime, due to this the jewish quality of life was never returned because none of them were given back their money, belongings or property. When the war ended the Jewish Community was very small and consisted only elderly. By 1948 the number of members doubled and continued flourishing. The situation of the A.J.C was extremely complicated and difficult so it received help especially from North America. The Jews who returned to Vienna in 1945 expecting the same peaceful and comfortable life before the war were very disappointed to arrive and discover the new reality of the situation. On May 10, 1945 a law passed through saying that the nazis had to restitute the jews` properties, belongings and would receive compensation.

After the war, antisemitism continued and the first president (after the Austrian -Hungarian” monarchy finally collapsed), declared that Austria was not ready to allow jewish families to build ties and monopolise again economy declaring that the german and austrian families needed jobs themselves. However, between 1946 and 1949 the jewish community achieved some restitutions from aryanised properties. Also they proposed that some of the Jewish furniture confiscated by the nazis should be returned.

There was yet another obstacle for legal jewish restitutions, the Moscow declaration which said that Austria was an enemy and this ended up in the 10 year allied occupation and therefore within this time very little was done in benefit of the jewish community.

Still now around Europe jewish communities and families are fighting for restitution.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauthausen-Gusen_concentration_camp

http://www.jewishgen.org/ForgottenCamps/Camps/MauthausenEng.html

http://www.thirdreichruins.com/mauthausen.htm

https://www.mauthausen-memorial.org/en/History/The-Mauthausen-Concentration-Camp-1938-1945

http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/othercamps/mauthausen.html




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