Cruelties at KZ Gusen Camps

Dragging Inmates along the Camp Roads

Drowning of Inmate KL Gusen I
An uncountable number of inmates were drowned in the most cruel ways in simple buckets and barrels.

This method was used in the first phase of KZ Gusen history as punishment for inmates who tried to hide inside the camp. The victims were dragged by their feet over the sharp stones of the camp pavement until their heads were wounded.

Drowning Inmates in Water-Tubs

Between Summer 1940 and the end of 1942 many ill or unfit Poles, Spaniards, and Jews were selected to be drowned in tubs, small barrels, etc. Kapo Hans van Loosen, Kapo Klockmann and “Block-Aeltester” Schroegler specialized in this method of killing at KZ Gusen.

Bathing Inmates to Death

This cheap method of killing ill or exhausted people was invented by SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Karl Chmielewski when he was commander of the KZ Gusen I between 1940 and 1943 (in 1943 he became commander to KZ Vought, in the Netherlands).

Chmielewski´s adjutant during 1940 and 1942, SS-Hauptscharfuehrer Heinz Jentzsch, would bring between 40 and 200 inmates into the KZ Gusen showers and expose them to cold water until they died, usually after about 30 minutes. Hence, Jentzsch was nicknamed “Bademeister” (bath-attendent).

Unitl 1943 several thousand KZ Gusen inmates were exterminated by this brutal way.

“Hanging” Inmates on Trees

For punishment, inmates were hanged from trees by their arms, which were bound at their backs. This painful punishment was derived from medieval torture-methods. In some cases, people hung thus were forgotten and died after some 30 minutes.

Throwing Inmates Down

This method was also used to kill people as cheaply as possible in the KZ Gusen stone quarries. At the Dachau trials, DEST stone quarries´ chief Paul Wolfram was scentenced for personally throwing several people down the KZ Gusen I Kastenhof Stone Quarry.

The same method was used at the Wienergraben stone quarry below Camp Mauthausen, where “The Parachutists Wall” stands as a reminder today.

Beating Inmates to Death

In the final phase of KZ Gusen II, ill or unfit people were no longer brought to KZ Gusen I to be killed by gas or by heart-injections. They were simply beaten to death with axes, sticks, and shovels. On the night to April 23, 1945 some 600 “unfit” inmates of KZ Gusen II were exterminated by beating.

Extermination of 420 Jewish Children by Heart-Injections

At the end of February 1945 some 420 Jewish children between the ages of 4 and 7 years were sent into KZ Gusen where they were exterminated by SS-doctors and their helpers with heart-injections.

Extermination of Priests

In early 1940, many priests from KZ Buchenwald, KZ Dachau, and KZ Mauthausen were sent to KZ Gusen for extermination. Together with the Jewish inmates, they belonged to the lowest-ranking group of prisoners and often were exposed to the private atrocities of SS men in the camp. Since all religious practices were forbidden, many priests were punished or killed when exposed as priests or when betrayed for practicing their faith.

Polish priests, in general, were fully exposed to weather conditions, because they were only allowed to work at the external commands in the stone quarry and at the construction sites of the camp.

Thus, the average survival period for Polish priests in KZ Gusen was around 100 days in this period.

Because of the fleeing of two comrades, on August 13, 1940, all the prisoners of the “stone-carry” command were forced to run all day long. By the evening of that day, 14 of them were dead – nearly all of them were priests.

General Treatment of Jewish Inmates

Jewish inmates together with the prisoners of the punishment unit were generally isolated in barrack No. 16. The inmates of this barrack had to do the hardest and most dirty work in KZ Gusen and were subjected to any atrocities, the SS-men, Kapos, or other inmates within the camp could devise.

For example, they were used to empty the cesspools under most inhumane conditions: they had to do this naked (summer and winter) and running at the double. Other time, they had to carry the stones in the stone quarries of Gusen.

In the second half of 1940, none of the 41 Jewish prisoners survived KZ Gusen. Between 1940 and 1943/1944 no Jewish inmates are known to have survived the Gusen camps.

The average survival period of Jewish inmates was only several weeks. In some cases, it was only a few days.

In the Summer of 1944, most of the Jewish inmates were sent to KZ Gusen II where they had to dig the huge underground systems without any medical support. As a result, nearly 1/3 of all the KZ Gusen II victims were Jewish.