mauthausen gusen concentration camp

World War II (part II)

[ He was forced to become part of the SS, or Schutzstaffel, one of the largest and most powerful organizations in the Third Reich, then sent to Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp as part of the “Death’s Head Units”. It didn’t take too long for him to understand that was just another way to punish him. ]

[ Austrian soldiers soon became well known for being way more human and compassionate both on the battlefield and toward the prisoners, and Germans started to treat them like scum (even if Austrians had always been seen by the Nazis as “lesser beings” than Germans). Many of them were executed, accused of “disobeying and not fully fulfilling they duty”, only because they showed a glimpse of compassion. Roderich had to withstand so many of his compatriots suffer this end… and sometimes ordered to shoot them himself. ]

[ He had to participate in inhuman acts, seeing his own people being imprisoned, tortured, experimented on. Sometimes he felt like he was slowly but constantly losing his sanity. He distanced himself from everybody, emotionally speaking, as much as he could, knowing that if he got attached to somebody, they would have been killed, or worse, and he would have finally lost his grip on reality, losing his mind. As time passed by, he became a cold, detached being, not showing a single glimpse of emotions… at least on the surface. ]

[ He did what he could. He didn’t want to flee and leave his people alone, so he participated in the Austrian Resistance, helped people to flee to neutral countries such as Switzerland or to the Allies countries and brought food and sometimes medicines to the prisoners… or at least provided them a painless death. He did his best to help children who would have ended up in concentration camps by sending them to Austrian and German families who could have taken care of them as if they were their own. ]

[ Sometimes he was discovered… and consequentially punished. Both physically…

…and by hurting the few beings he was still attached to. ]

[…to be continued…]

10

I have been sitting on this photo set, unsure on whether it was appropriate to share. If I am going to post the good about the world, then sometimes I need to share the evil,  and it doesn’t get more disturbing then concentration camps from the second world war. I visited the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp complex in Austria, which was a group of Nazi concentration camps that were ran from 1938 to 1945. Like many of the horrendous death tolls, the remain unknown, although this area is estimated between 122,766 and 320,000 people. Terrible acts happened within the walls, and it still resonated. It is like the earth and land surrounding the camp still remember all the deeds, and an eerie silence floats in the air. There are no birds flying across the land, there are no small animals, just silence. Silence and sad memory. Walking through the courtyards and hallways was a heavy experience. Any positivity or joy is absent, and I felt the weight of the crimes.

Reading the stories, and being in the same area made everything I thought was a tough experience in life pale in comparison. Extermination through labour, gas chambers, torture, death marches, medical experiments. At the camp I was at they had an area called the ‘stairs of death’. Prisoners would carry stone up to 50 kilograms in weight up 185 stairs. As they followed one after another, if one fell at the top it would create a terrible domino effect, crushing the next prisoner down, falling onto the next, and so on. Another way the guards inflicted death was to line up everyone along a cliff face, and gave the option to prisoners to either push off another prisoner, or get shot. Apparently the life expectancy for new prisoners was 6 months at the start of the war, but by the end it was less then 3. On the 5th of May, 1945 an American Squadron approached the camp and liberated the surviving prisoners. I don’t really know what more to say. Experiencing in person was horrible, but it needs to be done. We need to not brush away lightly the crimes of the past, but remember them in crucial detail, so that it will never happen again. If you are travelling through Europe, it is a necessity that you visit a camp. Being there made it more real, not just a distance time and place that we study in high school. It will change you, and with that change, hopefully fill you with the strength to not let the helpless be unfairly treated in the future. Let us never forget.