and Local-International Platform ST. GEORGEN/GUSEN, Austria

KZ Mauthausen-GUSEN Info-Pages

Dr. Johann (Papa) Gruber

"The Saint of Gusen"

Dr. Johann Gruber was a teacher and a Roman Catholic priest who did not hesitate to offend the Nazis after the 3rd Reich´s annexation of Austria.

In 1938, Dr. Gruber was removed from his job and imprisoned by the Nazis who accused him of sexually abusing some of his pupils. As a result, Dr. Gruber was sent to prison at Linz and Garsten from 1938 to 1939, to wait for the Nazi trials against him.

After these trials, he was first sent to KZ Dachau and then, because he was a priest, to KZ Gusen in 1940.

So, from the first hour, he was a prominent Austrian political prisoner at this camp.

When the Vatican achieved improvements for priests in the concentration camps in March 1940, most of the German and Austrian priests at KZ Gusen camp were re-transferred to the better KZ Dachau camp. But Dr. Gruber volunteered to remain in KZ Gusen to help his Polish comrades who were to be exterminated in KZ Gusen.

Since Dr. Gruber had been in very good standing earlier in his life with many high-ranking people of the former Austrian Republic, he was granted unusual privileges by the SS, and he used these privileges to help the poorest of his comrades in the camp.

Thus, he became a very valuable inmate at KZ Gusen to both the SS and the inmates.

This put him in a position to organize many things. For example, he organized a school inside the camp to educate Polish children who were deported to the camp.

In addition, in 1941, when archeological findings were made along with the construction of a railway to KZ Gusen, Dr. Gruber became chief of that archeological command.

This position also allowed him to maintain contacts with people outside the camp (archeologists, people from museums, etc.). He was able to raise money from his friends on the outside and to smuggle this money into the camp while arranging for the archeological findings to be registered in museums outside the camp.

This enabled him to bribe SS-men and Kapos to allow him to organize food inside the camp for those inmates who were starving, and thus saving many lives.

But smuggling money in was not all; together with friends from Linz, he also smuggled out information about KZ Gusen.

Unfortunately, his organization was betrayed in early 1944 and he was tortured and ritually killed by the SS and GeStaPo in April 1944.

With "Papa" Grubers death, hope vanished for many inmates and KZ Gusen became a "Hell of Hells" without any chance for survival.

Since 1987 several attempts are made to achieve the canonization of "Papa" Gruber at the Vatican.

Finally, the Nazi sentence against Dr. Johann Gruber (6 Hv 247/38, 6 Vr 839/38) was officially reversed on January 29, 1999 by "Landesgericht Linz" - 55 years after his martyrdom.

The place in front of the KZ Gusen Memorial was named in the honour of Dr. Johann Gruber "Papa-Gruber-Platz" along with the local-international commemoration at Gusen on May 5, 2001.

On December 20, 2001 the governor of Upper Austria, Landeshauptmann Dr. Josef Puehringer, and Maximilian Aichern, the Bishop of Linz, inaugurated a memorial plaque in the presence of M. Paul Brusson (President of Amicale Belge de Mauthausen) and M. Fjodor Solodivnik (Vice-President of the International Mauthausen Committee) at the "Institut fuer Hoer- und Sehbildung" in Linz, Austria.

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Most recent updates of this page were made on
2001-12-20 by Rudolf A. HAUNSCHMIED,
Martha Gammer, Siegi Witzany-Durda and
Jan-Ruth Mills with her students in US-Alabama