The KZ Gusen Memorial

President Van der Bellen
Austrian Federal President Dr. Alexander Van der Bellen at the KZ Gusen Memorial, May 2017.

On May 3, 1997, the story of KZ Gusen I, II and III entered Austria´s official history when the Memorial Crematorium at KZ Gusen was transferred to the Republic of Austria during the local-international commemoration. On behalf of Comite International du Souvenier du Camp de Gusen and Amicale Francaise de Mauthausen, former KZ Gusen I prisoner Pierre Serge Choumoff presented what is undoubtedly the most important memorial on Austrian territory to Sektionschef Dr. Wolf Szymanski of the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior.

In the early 1960´s, survivors and families of KZ Gusen victims sponsored the memorial with 98.551,91 French Francs to prevent the KZ Gusen incinerators´ removal to the Mauthausen State Memorial. The initiative to create this international monument for all victims of KZ Gusen I and II dates back to an International Mauthausen Committee conference in March 1961 in Budapest.

Dr. Ermete Sordo, of Milano, Italy, bought an area of 1750 square meters around the KZ Gusen incinerators to commemorate his brother who died at Gusen. Then, in January 1962, the Italian and French Mauthausen associations founded Comité International du Souvenier du Camp de Gusen. Prof. Roger Heim, a former KZ Gusen inmate and member of the French Academy of Sciences, Paris, was the first president. Amicale Francaise de Mauthausen led effort to realize the KZ Gusen Memorial. Simultaneously, the world-renowned Professor of architecture Ludovico di Belgioioso, a KZ Gusen survivor from Milano, Italy who also lost his brother in KZ Gusen, joined with professors of architecture Enrico Peressutti and Ernesto N. Rogers to design the KZ Gusen Memorial that Austria has today.

Inaugurated on May 8, 1965, the concrete simplicity of the KZ Gusen Memorial recalls the devastation of 37,000 human beings in the largest and most brutal concentration camp on “Austrian” territory.

The memorial´s labyrinthian entrance symbolizes the martyrs´ last path and alludes to the labyrinths in the KZ Gusen II underground installations. While the concrete refers, as well, to that huge tunnel system, the cube-shape echoes the big stone-crusher that marked another dimension of industrial work and death in KZ Gusen I, II and III, which held more prisoners and claimed more victims than the Mauthausen central camp.

Errected without a single Austrian contribution twenty years after the liberation of the camps, the KZ Gusen Memorial is one of the most precious monuments the Republic of Austria will ever receive.

Since 2004 the KZ Gusen Memorial is acompanied by a visitors´ center which gives some insight into the history of the former KZ Gusen I, II and III concentration camps.

It took 72 years after the liberation of this biggest and most cruel Nazi death camp on Austrian territory that Austrian Federal President Dr. Alexander Van der Bellen payed tribute to the +70.000 persons that suffered or died in the KZ Gusen I, II & III complex as the first Austrian head of state at this outstanding memorial.

Today the KZ Gusen Memorial is open to the public during the opening hours of the visitors´center

Recommended literature:

  • Kuehn Christian, Das andere Bauen, Die Presse, Spectrum 17./18. Juni 2000, Wien
  • Smretschnig Christian, Memorial de Gusen, Bautenkatalog, Seminararbeit zur Gebaeudelehre-Pruefung unter em. o. Univ. Prof. Arch Anton Schweighofer, Institut fuer Gebaeudelehre der Technischen Uinversitaet Wien, Wien 2000