Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp

Mauthausen, Austria

Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp was the hub of a large group of German concentration camps that was built around the villages of Mauthausen and Sankt Georgen an der Gusen in Upper Austria. The camp operated from the time of the Anschluss, when Austria was annexed into the German Third Reich in early 1938, to the beginning of May 1945, at the end of the Second World War. Starting with a single camp at Mauthausen, the complex expanded over time and by the summer of 1940 Mauthausen had become one of the largest labour camp complexes in the German-controlled part of Europe, with four main subcamps at Mauthausen and nearby Gusen, and nearly 100 other subcamps located throughout Austria and southern Germany, directed from a central office at Mauthausen.

As at other Nazi concentration camps, the inmates at Mauthausen-Gusen were forced to work as slave labour, under conditions that caused many deaths. The subcamps of the Mauthausen complex included quarries, munitions factories, mines, arms factories and plants assembling Me 262 fighter aircraft. In January 1945, the camps contained roughly 85,000 inmates. The death toll remains unknown, although most sources place it between 122,766 and 320,000 for the entire complex.

The Mauthausen-Gusen camp was one of the first massive concentration camp complexes in Nazi Germany, and the last to be liberated by the Allies. The two main camps, Mauthausen and Gusen I, were labelled as 'Grade III' (Stufe III) camps, which meant that they were intended to be the toughest camps for the 'Incorrigible political enemies of the Reich'. Unlike many other concentration camps, which were intended for all categories of prisoners, Mauthausen was mostly used for extermination through labour of the intelligentsia – educated people and members of the higher social classes in countries subjugated by the Nazi regime during World War II. The main camp of the complex in Mauthausen is now a museum.

Mauthausen was declared a national memorial site in 1949. The main camp of the complex in Mauthausen is now a museum. The site remains largely intact, but much of what constituted the subcamps of Gusen I, II and III is now covered by residential areas built after the war.

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