“Save their memory” urges PM as he announces plans to buy former Nazi-German death camp which is now home to among other things a LUXURY villa
Poland is attempting to buy plots of land that make up the former German-operated concentration camp Mauthausen-Gusen in Austria.
Sections of the Gusen part of the camp near Linz in Upper Austria are privately owned and have homes and businesses located on them.
During the visit by German chancellor Angela Merkel to the German extermination camp Auschwitz last Friday, Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki referred to Mauthausen-Gusen saying, "We cannot allow the areas of former extermination camps to turn into places unworthy of remembrance. Places that serve other purposes.”
Poland has been working for some time to purchase these plots. However, in a post on the Chancellery of the Prime Minister’s English Twitter account, the prime minister called on Austria to buy the land plots.
“Every second prisoner died in it. […] We are obliged to cultivate this memory, because if the memory goes away, it is as if we have provided suffering twice to those who survived the unimaginable hell.”
A spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry stated on Sunday that private owners of land plots on the grounds of the former German concentration camp Gusen had signalled their readiness to sell them.
After some owners expressed their willingness to sell the land in 2018, the Austrian Interior Ministry commissioned a feasibility study, which it says will be the basis for further decisions.
The director of the Mauthausen-Memorial, Barbara Glueck, also appealed on Sunday for Austria to buy the plots of land in the former camp.
Mauthausen concentration camp was founded in August 1938 near Austria’s largest granite quarry.
The camp was modelled on Dachau concentration camp and was initially a place of imprisonment and execution of German and Austrian socialists, communists, homosexuals and potential or actual opposition to Nazism.
It was the first German concentration camp established outside the Third Reich.
The plots that Poland wishes to take out of private hands, however, are a few kilometres west in the town of Gusen.
One plot is the site of the Jourhaus, which was the center of political SS power in Gusen.
It accommodated the SS camp command and the administration. Prison cells were located in the basement and prisoners were systematically abused and murdered there.
The large gate located in the middle of the Jourhaus was the camp’s main entrance. Now, there is a luxury villa on the site which features a swimming pool to the rear in the place of the roll-call square during the camp’s operation.
By 1940, the vast majority of prisoners in Mauthausen-Gusen were Poles, who made up as much as 97% of the prisoner population. Other prisoners included Austrian Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, Hungarians and Dutch.
One of the forms of torment favoured by the SS guards were the ‘Stairs of Death’. The guards would often force prisoners exhausted from hours of hard labour without sufficient food and water to race up the stairs carrying blocks of stone.
Those who survived would often be placed in a line-up at the edge of a cliff known as ‘The Parachutists Wall’ and would be given the choice of being shot or pushing the prisoner in front of him off the cliff.
Other common methods of killing prisoners included beating the prisoners to death, starving them to death in bunkers, hanging and mass shootings.
At times the guards or kapos would either deliberately throw the prisoners on the 380 volt electric barbed wire fence, or force them outside the boundaries of the camp and then shoot them on the pretence that they were attempting to escape.
The Gusen camp played a particular role in destroying the Polish intelligentsia. It is estimated that around 30,000 died at the camp, including teachers, priests, doctors, civil servants, architects, engineers, journalists, writers, poets, musicians, composers, social and political activists, university professors, students, artists and lawyers.
The total number of victims of Mauthausen-Gusen is estimated at anywhere from 72,000 to 122,000.