Today’s post is not one of the usual travel posts. Mauthausen Memorial is a former Nazi concentration camp located in Austria. I was thinking for some time before publishing this post if I should do it or not. But I came to the conclusion that I want to share things that are relevant to me on my blog. If you don’t feel comfortable reading about such a place, feel free to check out my other posts on other topics. I understand this topic is not for everyone.
Last week I visited Mauthausen Memorial for the second time, it was the first time for my parents to visit. My first visit was many years ago with school. My dad said what I felt at the first time: “This place has such a depressing atmosphere.”
We had a very interesting guided tour who answered every question and that also made us question and think about ethic. The concentration camp Mauthausen is labelled as a grade 3 camp, the toughest camp for political enemies, e.g. Soviet Soldiers, criminals, political prisoners, and homosexuals. In short: people who don’t deserve to live according to the Nazis. Prisoners worked mainly at the granite quarry. The life expectation in this camp was in average 3 months, it was designed to kill those who could not keep up with the hard work demanded. Today the appearance differs from the original, most of the barracks are not there anymore but you can see the remains.
The tour guide told us about a couple of people that were in different relations to the concentration camp, mainly about prisoners but also people who lived in the area. Every time I had to think: “How would I have acted in this situation?” – the only honest answer is, that I have no idea.
Talking about the behavior of people in different situations: A few people from the city came to work at Mauthausen concentration camp treated the prisoners badly in front of the guards. Due to that they had a better reputation in front of the guards. A man (inhabitant of the city) that was occasionally working with the prisoners shared his water with them in front of the guards. This act of humanity was punished, the man ended up in the concentration camp himself and died.
How would we act if we would be in the situation of the man? As the tour guide said:
“We are not entitled to judge. We cannot say how we would have acted. We haven’t been in their situation. Humans can act extreme in extreme situation.”
I totally agree with this.
Every story about someone was highly interesting. Mauthausen Memorial is highly focused on showcasing how the victims suffered at the concentration camp, it’s still possible to visit three original barracks where the prisoners stayed, the rest was removed but there are still remains in the grass which is today growing on the space where other barracks used to be. At my visit they had two rebuild beds in the barracks but it seems that they have been removed.
The barracks where the guards living onsite stayed are completely removed, I would have been also interested on seeing the “other side” to see how much it really differed.
Can you image that just a wall made such a huge difference for the life of people?
Inside the wall people are exploited, abused and murdered. In front of the wall is a swimming pool and a football field for the SS. It sounds so surreal and weird to me. Difficult to describe my feelings towards this.
After the guided tour around the area, we had quick look at the Room of Names, where all the names of the prisoners were written in their original language. Afterwards we explored the museum and the other area outside such as the staircase of death which leads to the place where granite was mined.
Some facts for visitors:
The entrance to Mauthausen Memorial is free if you want it to explore by yourself. It’s possible to borrow audio guides for 2 Euro. They have guided group (5 Euro) tours in German, English (11:30) and Italian (12pm).
It is recommended that visitors should be older than 14 years which totally makes sense for such a place. But it’s not forbidden to bring small children.