Experience: Gusen

Fred Ferber
Henry Friedman
Mike Gluck
Aron Gross
Sam Offen
Charles Strassberg
Harry Weinstein
“Satellite camp of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Germany. Gusen was established in March 1940 to compensate for the phenomenal growth of Mauthausen. It was liberated on May 5, 1945. During 1940, some 5,000 prisoners arrived at Gusen, where they worked in brickyards and quarries. During that time, more than 1,500 prisoners died or were killed there. During the first half of 1942, over 2,000 Soviet prisoners were brought to Gusen.

“The living conditions at Gusen were quite brutal. Prisoners were made to work at a backbreaking pace, and those who could not keep up were killed. One of the camp's barracks was designated for prisoners who were to be executed by poisonous injection and was also used for the fatal beatings of those prisoners too weak to work. In addition, groups of prisoners from Gusen were taken to be killed in the gas chambers of the nearby Hartheim castle. Two more satellite camps, Gusen II and III, were instituted in 1944. The prisoners at Gusen II worked on constructing tunnels to underground armaments factories.

“Altogether, 67,677 people were interned at the Gusen camps, of whom 31,535 were recorded as having died, not including the 2,500 Jews whose deaths were not recorded, and the 2,630 prisoners gassed at Hartheim — a former Euthanasia Program installation.”

Yad Vashem
Shoah Resource Center, The International School for Holocaust Studies

The 26th Infantry Division

“On May 5, 1945, the "Yankee" division overran Gusen concentration camp. SS authorities had established Gusen as a separate concentration camp in May 1940 to better exploit the nearby stone quarries with forced laborers. As Allied bombing raids on Germany increased in intensity, the Nazi leadership decided to move industrial war production underground, using concentration camp prisoners for labor. At Gusen, the SS deployed inmates to excavate out of nearby mountains an elaborate system of tunnels that connected to mammoth subterranean installations for aircraft production. In 1944, Gusen had become a subcamp of the Mauthausen concentration camp. In May 1945, as U.S. troops neared the camp complex, some SS and Nazi Party planned to demolish the tunnels with the prisoners inside. The advance of the 26th Infantry and 11th Armored Divisions ensured that such plans would not be carried out. 

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Accessed on July 21, 2011

An emaciated survivor wrapped in a blanket sits up on a stretcher in the newly liberated Gusen concentration camp. Gusen, Austria, between May 5 and May 15, 1945.

— National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.
Accessed on July 21, 2011

The Gusen subcamp of the Mauthausen concentration camp. This photograph was taken after the liberation of the camp. Gusen, Austria, May 1945.

— United States Holocaust Memorial Museum