MAUTHAUSEN, Nazi concentration camp in Austria, 12½ mi. (20 km.) S.E. of Linz, established in April 1938 shortly after the annexation in March of Austria to the Third Reich. The *SS employed its prisoners in the local granite quarry called "Wienergraben," that was incorporated into the camp. Initially, Mauthausen served as a concentration camp for Austrian anti-Nazis. The first commandant was Albert Sauer. Its commander from February 1939 to May 1945 was Franz Ziereis about whom it was stated that "he gave his son 50 Jews for target practice as a birthday present" (see Presser, p. 54). Starting as a satellite of *Dachau, Mauthausen became an independent camp in the spring of 1939, and expanded continually, with several satellites of its own throughout Austria (Gusen, Ebensee, and others) by the end of the war. After the outbreak of World War II Mauthausen became a camp for anti-Nazis from all over occupied Europe and in 1940 was graded category III, the harshest category of concentration camps (Dachau was in category I). Mauthausen received the so-called "protective custody" prisoners whose "return was not desired" (RU = Rueckkehr unerwuenscht; see *Camps, Concentration and Extermination). Himmler specially ordered the death of a prisoner in Mauthausen to be communicated to his family only after incineration. The camp had the highest death rate for those in "protective custody" of all the concentration camps. Mauthausen was used for political prisoners. Of over 10,000 Spanish Republicans who were interned there early in 1941, handed over by the Vichy regime, only 1,500 were still alive after one year.
Work conditions were intolerable; the prisoners had to carry heavy stones up the 186 steps of the "Wienergraben." It was called Death's Way. In November 1941 Russian prisoners of war began arriving, destined for immediate death through overwork and starvation. Though able bodied and trained for military combat, they did not engage in an uprising until February 1945; their revolt was unsuccessful and many were killed. The camp authorities used a special measuring installation to shoot their victims in the nape of the neck. Prisoners were also killed by phenol injections or gassed at the euthanasia installation at Hartheim until a gas chamber was constructed in one of Mauthausen's three sections. From the beginning of 1942 prominent citizens from occupied territories arrested under the "night and fog decree" were brought there. Recaptured prisoners of war were executed under the "bullet decree" (Kugel-Erlass). When prisoners of other camps were caught for clandestine activities, those not immediately executed were sent to Mauthausen for punishment. Following *Heydrich's death, hundreds of Czech prisoners were killed.
In May 1941 about 400 Jewish "hostages" from *Amsterdam arrived via *Buchenwald; they were all killed within three days in the forced-labor quarry which also served as a site for execution. There were another two shipments of Jews from Holland to Mauthausen (end of 1941 and 1942) who were killed after a short time in the camp. Up to 1944 Jews were never allowed to live for more than three days. When in early 1945 the camps in the East were evacuated, thousands of prisoners from *Auschwitz, including Jews, were brought to Mauthausen; thousands of Hungarian Jews who had slaved building fortifications at the so-called "Southeast Rampart" were also brought to camp. The name of Mauthausen was particularly feared by Holland's Jews, and the Germans took advantage of this fear to suppress resistance to their measures against the Jews. Jews in Mauthausen were singled out for especially cruel treatment compared to that given non-Jews (see Anklageschriftin der Strafsache gegen Fritz Woehrn et al. (1968), 98–102, 228–35). Shortly before the capitulation it was planned to murder all Mauthausen prisoners in a subterranean aircraft-construction hangar in Gusen, but the plan was not carried out. Mauthausen was liberated by U.S. troops in May 1945. In the main camp the prisoners had rebelled. Ziereis hid in the camp but was shot by a U.S. patrol several days later when he tried to escape. According to camp records – and they may be an understatement – 199,404 were interned at Mauthausen; 119,000 died. Of those who died, as often due to work conditions and lack of food as to the gas chambers or killing fields, 38,120 were Jews.
G. Reitlinger, Final Solution (19682), index; IMT, Trial of the Major War Criminals, 23 (1949), index; J. Presser, Destruction of the Dutch Jews (1969), index; P. Tillard, Mauthausen (Fr., 1945); H. Maršálek, Mauthausen mahnt (1951); H. Maršálek and J. Kohl, Wegweiser durch das ehemalige Konzentrationslager Mauthausen (19602); M. Riquet, L'Europe à Mauthausen, tragédie de la déportation 1940–1945 (1954).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.