The Stairs of Death


 

Prisoners were forced to climb the 186 steps of the Wiener Graben with large blocks of granite on their backs. Often the blocks would fall, crushing limbs and bodies of those following, sometimes killing. The SS guards invented competitions betting on which prisoner would make it to the top first. Those surviving the ordeal would then be forced to jump from the edge of the quarry to their death below. This particular spot at the edge of the quarry was known “The Parachute Jump.”

“...in 1944 ....The SS led fourty-seven Dutch, American, and English officers and flyers, barefooted, to the bottom. On their first journey up the 186 steps they forced the men to carry twenty-five kilogram stones on their backs. On each successive journey they increased the weight of the load. If a prisoner fell, he was beaten. All fourty-seven died of the treatment” (Konnilyn Feig, Hitler's Death Camps: The Sanity of Madness, New York: Holmes and Meier, 1979, p. 121).


Source: B/W photo USHMM; color photo © Alan Jacobs 1996