Hi everyone! I have been having the busiest summer ever--all good. I was privileged to spend two weeks on a European trip, a cruise on the Danube River. It was the trip of a lifetime! Of course, there were so many interesting things to see and learn. One thing in particular that I would like to share with you is my visit to the former Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, now the Mauthausen memorial. Viewing the memorial and listening to talks about what happened there were harsh reminders of evil events in history. Such an evil place in the beautiful hills of Austria. We were told stories of how the SS soldiers used to play soccer on a field just outside the gates of the camp. The people in the nearby town would come to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon watching the soccer games and socializing with the SS soldiers. It is a stark reality that those citizens had to be aware of the horrendous conditions at Mauthausen. Yet they did nothing to help those tortured souls inside. When the games were over the citizens went home, back to their daily lives and the SS soldiers would return inside the large front doors and once again become the torturers of the camp with the harshest conditions within the concentration camp system. What happened to those people to be complicit in such inhumane, evil acts? How were ordinary citizens able to enjoy Sunday afternoon soccer games with SS soldiers? What about the soldiers themselves?
This is the view of Mauthausen as you approach the camp.
When the first inmates arrived in August 1938 they were immediately put to work constructing the camp. The pictures below shows the barracks-type housing built row after row by inmates. Some were used for supplies and the inmates lived in the rest. Obviously, there was no privacy and no way to escape.
Later inmates were forced to work in the quarry at the camp, carrying heavy pieces of granite out of the quarry, up a long staircase known as the "Stairs of Death." They worked eleven-hour days and were given little to eat. Many inmates who became sick were sent to the camp hospital where they were given little or no medical treatment and left to die. Thousands of prisoners were murdered. They were beaten, shot, electrocuted, given lethal injections, and more than 10,000 were killed in the gas chamber.
The actual gas chamber is part of the museum at Mauthausen.
Two of the actual ovens are part of the museum at Mauthausen.
Today the camp has been maintained as a memorial so that the atrocities committed there will never be forgotten. There is a feeling of helplessness and as visitors quietly pass through the doors of the outer wall topped with a barbed wire fence with an electric charge strong enough to kill a person and walk into the center of the area consisting of wooden barracks where the prisoners once lived. One building houses the gas chamber where more than 3,000 people were killed. Two of the ovens still exist and are on display in the crematorium at the memorial. Here the corpses of the dead were incinerated.
A beautiful, peaceful memorial park has been constructed just outside the main door to the camp. Nations and victims' groups have donated various monuments in memory of their people who suffered and died at Mauthausen.
The pictures below show just a few of the memorials erected by countries who lost citizens at Mauthausen.
There is also a memorial wall where friends and relatives of victims have placed pictures, notes and prayers.
Visitors are overwhelmed seeing the atrocities of what took place at Mauthausen. It is a brutal reminder to appreciate all of the freedoms we enjoy every day. Feelings of helplessness, anger and despair are replaced with feelings of hope and determination to never let this happen again.