In March 1938 Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany. The event is known as the Anschluß. On March 12 1938 the first German troops marched into Austria, they were met with no resistance, the majority of Austrians welcomed the Anschluß.
Five months later Mauthausen concentration camp went in to operation.
Mauthausen was a Nazi concentration camp on a hill above the market town of Mauthausen,approximately 20 kilometers east of Linz, Upper Austria. It was the main camp of a group with nearly 100 further subcamps located throughout Austria and southern Germany.
An estimated 197,464 prisoners passed through the camp system between August 1938 and May 1945. At least 95,000 died there. More than 14,000 were Jewish.
Mauthausen was one of the most brutal and severe of the Nazi concentration camps. The prisoners suffered not only from malnutrition, overcrowded huts and constant abuse and beatings by the guards and kapos,but also from extremely hard labour.
The work in the quarries ,often in unbearable heat or in temperatures as low as −30 °C (−22 °F) – led to exceptionally high death rates.The food rations were limited, and during the 1940–1942 period, an average inmate weighed 40 kilograms (88 lb).
There were also a few Prisoners of War in the camp in 1944, 47 Allied military personnel (39 Dutchmen, 7 British soldiers and 1 US soldier), all of them agents of the British Secret Operations Executive. The one US soldier was Lieutenant Jack Taylor.
Jack would become the first Navy Seal. During the Mauthausen trials he was asked the question:
“How many ways did they execute them?”
He replied “Five or six ways: by gas, by shooting, by beating, that is beating with clubs, ah, by exposure, that is standing out in the snow, naked, for 48 hours and having cold water put on them, thrown on them in the middle of winter, starvation, dogs, and pushing over a hundred-foot cliff.”
Despite the war coming to an end, the camp authorities decided to carry out the last mass murder in the gas chamber on April 28, 1945. The victims were 33 Upper Austrian Social Democratic and Communist opponents of the regime. This was the last gassing of the Holocaust. One week later on 5 May 1945, it was liberated by the United States Army.
The camp commander Franz Ziereis had fled with his wife on 3 May 1945. He attempted to hide out in his hunting lodge on the Pyhrn mountain in Upper Austria. He was discovered and arrested on 23 May 1945, by an American army unit. He was shot three times in the stomach while trying to escape and brought to a U.S. military hospital set up at the former Gusen I camp , a sub camp of Mauthausen, where he died shortly after interrogation by a former inmate of Mauthausen, Hans Maršálek. His corpse was later hung on the fence of Gusen I by former prisoners of Gusen.
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