The picture above is of the entrance to the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. Initially, it was a single camp, but over time, it expanded and by the summer f 1940, it was one of the largest labour camps in German-controlled Europe. This concentration complex and four main sub-camps at Mauthausen and nearby Gusen. Along with 50 other sub-camps located throughout Austria and southern Germany, Mauthausen-Gusen used the inmates as slave labourers.
The camps formed one of the first massive concentration camp complexes in Nazi Germany - and was one of the last to be liberated by the Allies. Mauthausen-Gusen were also the only two camps in all of Europe to be labelled "Grade III". I was puzzled at what this label meant, but soon found out. "Grade III" meant that they were intended to be the toughest camps for the "Incorrigible Political Enemies of the Reich". To put it simply, Mauthausen was used mostly for extermination through labour. Many of the prisoners were educated people and members of the higher social classes in countries under Nazi control during the war.
Sometime in the beginning of the year 1945, the camps contained roughly 85,000 inmates, both male and female - this information was gathered from the central office in Mauthausen! Though they didn't keep as good records on the death toll, most sources place it around 122,000 and 320,000 for the entire complex. And those fortunate people who did survive to see liberation day were little more than skin and bones with little to no clothing when the soldiers arrived... If you're thinking what I'm thinking, I have to agree - that news is depressing and heart wrenching!
Wow! This has been a depressing post - but it's all true. And we need to be aware of it! It's part of our history, and we must never forget what others suffered before us! I found many pictures of the survivors of Mauthausen-Gusen camps, but many were too ghastly to put on the blog. The book, From Dust and Ashes, hit right home and had SO MUCH true facts in it that it was almost more of a history book than a fiction! Tricia did an amazing job of depicting how it really was for the concentration camp survivors after they were liberated. I HIGHLY recommend the book!
Mauthausen Survivors Cheering Soldiers of the 11th Armored Division
"As a veteran of the 11th Armored Division during the liberation of Mauthausen and Gusen concentration camps, I am very impressed with the studied details Tricia Goyer, an author of a later generation, has gathered and interwoven with the fiction story From Dust and Ashes. I heartily recommend this wonderful book."
- Ross Snowdon, U.S. Army veteran, 11th Armored Division