KZ GUSEN MEMORIAL COMMITTEE
within ARBEITSKREIS FUER HEIMAT-, DENKMAL- UND GESCHICHTSPFLEGE (AHDG)
and Local-International Platform ST. GEORGEN/GUSEN, Austria
KZ Mauthausen-GUSEN Info-Pages
KZ Gusen I Concentration Camp
Prior to the foundation of the KZ Gusen I prisoners
of the Mauthausen-Wienergraben Camp were daily marched
some 4km to the stone-quarries at Gusen.
Since an average 150 prisoners died monthly in the winter of 1938-39
due to this gruelling march, it was decided in December 1939
to establish another camp at Gusen, Austria.
Hence, some 400 German and Austrian prisoners of KZ Mauthausen-Wienergraben
marched every day from Mauthausen-Wienergraben to Gusen to construct
3 prisoners barracks, a few SS-barracks and an electric fence
at Gusen by March 1940.
Because the Mauthausen Central Camp was under construction at this time, as well, both camps
(Mauthausen and Gusen) were administered by SS-Standartenfuehrer Franz Ziereis from one central
command in the Wienergraben-Valley. But in March 1940, SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Karl Chmielewski
came from KZ Sachsenhausen to KZ Gusen, where he remained in command until 1943.
The first group of inmates were primarily priests and offendors of the NAZI-Regime from Germany and Austria
(like Dr. Johannes Gruber).
They were exposed to the heaviest work in the
stone-quarries of KASTENHOF and GUSEN and in the construction
of the KZ Gusen I and died quickly. "Lager" Gusen
became one of the first in the 3rd Reich to exterminate people.
Extermination of the Polish
With the German invasion of Poland, the GeStaPo used
KZ Gusen I to exterminate a large group of Polish intellectuals
in the stone-quarries of Gusen and on the construction sites. The first group
of 480 Polish inmates was sent to Gusen on March 9, 1940. Within
one year, Gusen grew from some 800 inmates to some 4,000
by spring 1941. Some 1,522 died in 1940 due to the
heavy work in the stone-quarries of Gusen and the brick-production
plant at Lungitz. In late 1941, the next
group of inmates to be exterminated at KZ Gusen by heavy work
were Soviet Prisoners of War. This group of inmates was
also the first to be gassed at KZ Gusen
The crematorium was also
set into operation on January 29, 1941 at KZ Gusen.
During this period, KZ Gusen also got its own death register.
Prior to this, the victims had to be registered by the
municipality of St.Georgen/Gusen to which the territory
KZ Gusen developed more rapidly
In late 1941, KZ Gusen with 8,500 inmates,
for the first time, holded 1,000 more inmates than the neighbouring
Mauthausen "Central" Camp. In fact, exempt for 1943,
the Gusen Camp(s) had more inmates than the camp
On January 1, 1941 both camps at Gusen and Mauthausen became
the only Category III camps in the 3rd Reich - a term meaning
"camp of no return" to GeStaPo officials all over the Reich.
Being sent to KZ Gusen was, in fact, a death sentence until autumn 1943.
than Mauthausen Camp
Biggest Stone-Crusher in Europe
Due to the abundance of Polish labor, KZ Gusen and its stone-production
developed so rapidly that DEST decided to build what was to become Europe´s
biggest stone-crusher at this site.
The heavy construction work was done by thousands of Spanish Prisoners
sent into KZ Gusen in 1941 after the fascist defeat
of the Republican Spaniards.
By the time the stone-crusher went into operation in 1941, approximately 2,000
of these Spaniards had died in its construction.
The ruins of that stone-crusher can still be seen. It is also worth noting that the
architects who designed the KZ Gusen Memorial
around 1962 took this ruin to shape parts of this Memorial building.
KZ Gusen Railway Station
On March 3, 1941, the SS also began a new railway-line
between the station at St.Georgen/Gusen, KZ Gusen, and the giant stone-crusher.
The "Schleppbahnbruecke" Bridge, which is still in existence,
was cast in concrete by KZ Gusen prisoners in one day and one
night on September 15, 1941.
KZ Gusen Archeological Museum
In early 1942, during the construction of that railway-line, the SS
found a grave-yard from the Bronze-Age. Once aware of this,
Commander Chmielewski ordered the railway-command
(Kommando Schleppbahn-Bau) to halt any further construction work
and ordered a special command of imprisoned priests under the guidance of
Dr. Johannes (Papa) Gruber to make an archeological excavation
of the area. Later on, Chmielewski also ordered an
Archeological Museum built within KZ Gusen to show
these findings to high-ranking visitors from such places as Berlin.
By maintaining this museum, Chmieleski also tried to further
his SS career by getting the attention of Heinrich Himmler.
After the archeological excavations were finished, construction
of the railway-line continued, and the railway began operation
on March 23, 1943. So, another instrument of the industrial
exploitation of inmates was finished early this year. Eventually,
some 25 locomotives were used to keep the giant
KZ Gusen complex running.
KZ Gusen Harbor Project
A harbor for Danube Steam Ships at KZ Gusen was completely planned
and the barracks already finished when it was cancelled by Minister Speer
during a personal visit in March of 1943. Trees had already been
removed at the planned KZ Gusen Harbor site of the plan´s cancellation.
KZ Gusen Brothel
In June 1941, when Himmler visited the KZ Mauthausen and the KZ Gusen camp
he gave order to establish a brothel for certain groups of privileged inmates
inside both concentration camps. So, the KZ Gusen brothel building that still
exists as a private house today went into operation with 8 to 10 German
prostitutes from KZ Ravensbrueck in autumn 1942.
In fact this brothel was limited to privileged German, Austrian, Polish
or Spanish inmate-officials (Kapos) and several privileged inmates of
the armament-prodction commands.
Each of this functionaries had to pay RM 2,-- for one visit. RM 0,50 were
given to the prostitute and RM 1,50 to the SS-WVHW at Berin.
KZ Gusen War Production
Perhaps due to Speer´s intervention, DEST began to transform production
from stones to armament-products in spring 1943 at Flossenbuerg, Mauthausen and Gusen.
So, a new set of some 18 baracks were set into operation for that purpose at KZ Gusen,
and the commands were called "GEORGEN-MUEHLE I, II, III and IV"
for STEYR-DAIMLER-PUCH AG, a leading arms-production company
of former Old-Austria and later Nazi-Germany.
At first they began to manufacture parts for aircraft-engines
and machine-guns with prisoners from KZ Gusen.
In 1943 DEST also started building fuselages for the Me 109 fighter-plane
as a sub-contractor of Messerschmitt AG at KZ Gusen. For this purpose,
DEST also invested 4 big, hangar-like baracks north-east of KZ Gusen.
DEST produced some 20 fuselages per month for Messerschmitt at KZ Gusen.
This armament-projects brought some improvement in the "living" conditions
within KZ Gusen, but the situation changed rapidly, when
"Sonderstab Kammler" discovered KZ Gusen as a location
for German Underground Plants
in late 1943.
KZ Gusen Underground Installations
First, tunnels were dug directly north of KZ Gusen to bomb proof the
machine-gun production there. Later, this system, with some 12,000 m2,
was code-named "KELLERBAU" (you can
find the names of inmates in late 1944 here).
Almost simultaneously, another, even larger underground plant was dug at nearby St.Georgen/Gusen with some
50,000 m2 of bomb-proof production area. This largest project of DEST
BERGKRISTALL later on and became one
of the most horrible concentration camp sites in WWII history.
The first group of BERGKRISTALL workers were 272 KZ Gusen
inmates officially sent to "Bergkristall-Bau" (Bergkristall-construction)
on January 2, 1944.
KZ Gusen II - The Hell of Hells
This excavations consumed so many lives that the SS ordered more inmates
for KZ Gusen. When the GeStaPo delivered these inmates from all over Europe and other camps,
KZ Gusen quickly became overcrowded. So, the SS established a new sattelite of the KZ Gusen
named KZ Gusen II.
From this time on, the earlier, more older installations
at Gusen were called KZ Gusen I.
By the end of the war, some
- 25,000 prisoners worked at KZ Gusen I, II & III
- 12,000 prisoners at KZ Gusen I (GEORGENMUEHLE and Stone-Quarry)
- 12,500 prisoners at KZ Gusen II (BERGKRISTALL)
- 274 prisoners at KZ Gusen III (Lungitz; Logistics and "Bakery" )
All three KZ Gusen camps and the Mauthausen camp were liberated
on May 5, 1945 by S/Sgt. Albert J. Kosiek and his 23 men
of 41st Recon Squad, 11th Ard Div, 3rd US Army because
they were picked up by the Swiss Red-Cross-Delegate Mr. Louis
Haefliger, alerted Kosiek to prevent the murder of 25.000 KZ Gusen inmates.
The SS had planned to blast all of them up with high-explosives in the
KZ Gusen I & II Tunnels.
Number of Victims
All in all some 37,000 people died at the Gusen I, II & III
- several thousand people more than at the KZ Mauthausen Central Camp,
- nearly one third of all the victims that died in the 49 concentration camps all over "Austrian" area
The Forgotten KZ Gusen Victims
All the terrain was privatized in the late 50s
and private houses were built, where so many people had suffered
To prevent the removal of the KZ Gusen I & II
Crematorium Ovens, a group of former Italian and French
KZ Gusen inmates bought them to errect the
KZ Gusen Memorial that reminds us today to the 40,000 victims
of the Gusen I, II & III Concentration Camps.
Along with the Local-International Commemoration on May 3, 1997,
this Memorial was given to the Republic of Austria by some of
those KZ Gusen survivors. This official transfer also became the
reason to present an overview of the KZ Gusen I, II & III
history by means of this Web site as of May 3, 1997.
Back to Index
For more literature look to Further Reading
- Bernadac Christian, Le Neuvieme Cercle - Gusen I, Editions France Empire, Paris 1975
- Bernadac Christian, Les Sorciers du Ciel - L´Organisation Gruber (about Dr. Johannes Gruber), France Empire, Paris 1969
- Carpi Aldo, Diario di Gusen, Torino 1993
- Lenz Johannes Maria, Christus in Dachau - Priester in Gusen, Libri Catholici, Wien
- Marsalek Hans, Die Geschichte des Konzentrationslagers Mauthausen(-Gusen!)
- Marsalek, Konzentrationslager Gusen - Ein Nebenlager des KZ Mauthausen
- Rief Silvia, Wir schmieden das Schwert - Alltagserfahrungen eines Rüstungsarbeiters
im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG, Werk Letten und Konzentrationslager
Gusen, Wien 1996, Univ., Dipl.-Arbeit
- Vitry Stephanie, Les Morts de Gusen, Maitrise d´histoire,
Universite de Paris I, Panteon-Sorbonne, 1994
For additional information, comments or suggestions, please contact:
ARBEITSKREIS FUER HEIMAT DENKMAL- UND GESCHICHTSPFLEGE
Most recent updates of this page were made on
000303 by Rudolf A. HAUNSCHMIED,
Martha Gammer, Siegi Witzany-Durda and
Jan-Ruth White with her students in US-Alabama