Gassings at KZ Gusen Camps

Gassed Inmates of KL Gusen
Gassed Inmates of KL Gusen as found by US Liberators, May 1945.

Some people dispute the gassings and the presence of gas-chambers at concentration camps. However, at KZ Gusen, lethal gassings were conducted even without gas chambers by simply closing a barracks gas-tight and filling it with Zyklon-B.

In March 1942, KZ Gusen conducted a “first” experimental gassing of this sort.

Previously, victims of KZ Mauthausen and KZ Gusen were transported by special “busses” to Hartheim Castle where a gas chamber had been operating since 1940.

First (Experimental) Gassings at Gusen

March 2, 1942: An epidemic of typhus in KZ Gusen promoted SS doctors to order the dying to be killed by starvation and heart-injections. One hundred sixty-four Soviet prisoners of war were murdered by Zyklon-B in barracks No. 16 of KZ Gusen I. These Soviet prisoners were the first to be killed by the experimental closed-barracks gassing. It was the first gassing of prisoners of war in world history.

On the same day, some three hundred dying Polish and Spanish inmates of KZ Gusen who also suffered from typhus were gassed in barracks No. 32 of this camp.

Final Gassing of Ill and Unfit Inmates

The Night to April 22, 1945: Two weeks prior to liberation, some 684 inmates of KZ Gusen I were gassed in barracks No. 31 because they were too ill to be transferred to the “Sanitaetslager” outside of Camp Mauthausen, just as 3,000 others had been a few weeks earlier.

SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Fritz Seidler, commander of KZ Gusen, ordered two inmates of Gusen to force the remaining ill people into one barracks and to gas them.

After this gassing, the Polish prisoner-doctor Dr. Koniecny committed suicide because he was not able to prevent the gassings, which were ordered by the SS.

There were certainly other gassings at KZ Gusen but, just these few are documented.

Pierre Serge Choumoff writes about 823 victims of KZ Gusen gassings.

The Gas Van shuttling between Gusen and Mauthausen

In autumn 1941, SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Dr. Erich Wassitzky, the chemist of Camp Mauthausen, gave the order to prepare a green lorry to gas people by carbon-monoxyde on the way from Gusen via Langenstein to Mauthausen and vice versa, some 5 km.

Then, in spring 1942, the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Main Office delivered a more specialized vehicle called a “Sonderwagen” (special van) or a “S-Wagen” by the SS, and nicknamed “Phantomas” by Spanish and “Duschegubka” by Slavic inmates.

This gas van held thirty people and was used between autumn 1941 and autumn 1942, primarily to exterminate Soviet prisoners of war.

At KZ Gusen, SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Dr. Kiesewetter was responsible for selecting victims to be gassed.

In fact, the Mauthausen victims were gassed on the way to Gusen and the Gusen victims on the way to Mauthausen.

Pierre Serge Choumoff writes about 900 victims of that mobile gas van at Mauthausen and Gusen.

The Gas Chamber at Hartheim Castle

Beginning in 1940, the gas chamber at Hartheim Castle, some 40 km west of Mauthausen-Gusen, was used to exterminate handicapped German and Austrian civilians (Aktion T4). The first victims were gassed there by carbon-monoxyde.

In April 1941, RFSS Heinrich Himmler ordered “Aktion 14f13?, the special treatment of ill or decrepit concentration camp inmates.

The first pre-selections were made in KZ Gusen by SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Karl Chmielewski on 1 May 1941, and the first transfer of forty-five KZ Gusen inmates to the Hartheim gas chamber took place on August 14, 1941.

Similar selections began in June/July 1941 at Camp Mauthausen and the first transfers form Mauthausen to Hartheim comprised seventy Jewish people from the Netherlands on August 11, 1941.

According to P.S. Choumoff, some 934 inmates of KZ Gusen and some 234 inmates of KZ Mauthausen were murdered in 1941 in the gas chamber of Hartheim Castle.

The gassing of Mauthausen-Gusen inmates at Hartheim stopped for a while in 1942, because gassings were carried out directly in, and between, the Gusen and Mauthausen camps.

But in 1944, when tens of thousands were deported to KZ Gusen to work and die for the KZ Gusen II (Bergkristall) Tunnels, the ill and unfit again were brought to Hartheim Castle to relieve overcrowding at KZ Gusen and KZ Mauthausen.

Pierre Serge Choumoff writes that there were about 30,000 victims of the Hartheim gas chamber.

More about Hartheim can be found at the Website of the Hartheim Castle Memorial Museum.

The Gas Chamber at Camp Mauthausen

Set into operation in March, or perhaps May, of 1942 by SS-Standortarzt Dr. Eduard Krebsbach, this gas chamber killed people no longer able to work or those quite hopelessly ill. Thus, Dr. Krebsbach carried out the orders of the Chief of Amt III D of the SS at Berlin.

On 29 April 1945 the technical equipment of this gas chamber was removed.

Pierre Serge Choumoff writes about 3,455 victims of this gas chamber of Camp Mauthausen.