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  • Day9

    Mauthausen Concentration Camp & Memorial

    April 6, 2019 in Austria ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    Less than 30 minutes from Linz, in the rolling agricultural lands above the Danube and with sightlines to the majestic and still snow-covered Alps in the distance, is the site of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp that was operated by the Nazi SS from 1938 to 1945, when it was liberated by advancing U. S. troops from 11th Armored Division of the U.S. 3d Army. Today it is preserved and operated as an interpretive site and memorial, with both exhibition and teaching/learning spaces, and a memorial park area where monuments from the various nations whose nationals were interred and killed or died there are recognized.

    In all, more than 90,000 perished at Mauthausen and its sub-camps from 1938-45. It was not on the scale of Auschwitz or Treblinka, but no less horrendous. There was a gas chamber eventually developed at Mauthausen, and crematoria, echoing on a smaller scale the implementation of the Nazis’ “final solution” found at an even greater level at the other larger “death camps.” Mauthausen was a work camp. First in a granite quarry for stone for buildings and monuments for the Third Reich (and for the construction of the camp itself), and later in small arms manufacturing and other measures to support the Nazi war effort. Despite the mechanisms of mass murder found at Mauthausen, the vast majority of deaths there came from the deplorable living and working conditions, lack of adequate food and medical care, and arbitrary violence used to intimidate and subjugate the prisoner population, including summary execution (for offenses as petty as showing up without one’s prison uniform cap for roll call), hangings, and shootings.

    It is a most sobering visit, in a place of otherwise incongruous pastoral beauty. But a noteworthy effort by the Austrian authorities and the enterprise now running the camp grounds, memorial, and exhibits to remember and interpret this very troubled time in human history.

    Among the notable detainees at Mauthausen was Simon Wiesenthal, who after his liberation and the war became a renowned Nazi hunter and advocate for justice for those involved in perpetuating the atrocities and war crimes that occurred during the Holocaust.

    Of the over 90,000 who perished at Mauthausen, the names of more than 81,000 have been documented. In the Room of Names, housed where thousands were murdered and their bodies disposed of, is a list of those names illuminated by light, as well as hard-copy loose-leaf books with alphabetical listings. We observed the pages in the listings of the Feldmans and Handmachers, our family names, to see and remember how many of those landsmen were victims of the Shoah.
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    Karen Boss

    If traveling doesn't startle and change us it is not worthwhile. Glad you have had a powerful experience.