"Walk of Solidarity", May 5th, 2017 at 4:00 p.m.
On the day of the liberation of the former concentrations camp Gunskirchen we commit toghether with survivors of the camp the "Walk of Solidarity".
Daniel CHANOCH, Concentration camp survivor
Willi MERNYI, Chair of the Austrian Mauthausen Committee
Guy DOCKENDORF, President of the Comité International de Mauthausen
Survivors of the Gunskirchen Concentration Camp will read the Mauthausen Oath together with young people on the anniversary of the liberation of the sub-camp, followed by guided tours about the history of the former concentration camp.
Meetingpoint: Memorial at B1, Former concentration camp cemetery Gunskirchen
The History of Gunskirchen Concentration Camp
Building of the camp in the so-called “Hochholz Forest” began in December 1944, carried out by prisoners of the satellite concentration camp, Wels I. Hans Maršálek recorded the opening date of that camp to be December 12th, 1945 – the day that the first death march arrived. The Gunskirchen Concentration Camp was designed to be a receiving camp for Jewish prisoners and was a sub-camp of Mauthauen Concentration Camp.
Between Gunskirchen and Edt bei Lambach
The Gunskirchen Concentration Camp was in a wooded area at the border between the two communities of Gunskirchen and Edt bei Lambach – about 550m from both community borders. Gunskirchen Concentration Camp was – along with the ‘ship camp’ and the ‘tent camp’ in Mauthausen itself – a camp where prisoners would no longer have to perform forced labour until their death, instead the prisoners were more or less left to themselves with an absolute minimum of food and catastrophic sanitary conditions. The prisoners who were deployed at the end of 1944 to build the camp (around 400 in total) were Polish, French, Belgian and Russian and accommodated in the local primary school. The commander of Mauthausen Concentration Camp decided April 14th, 1945 that the prisoners interned in the tent camp in Mauthausen should be transferred to Gunskirchen. These transports can be proven by notes taken by the Gendarmerie as well as the reports of witnesses from the local area. Many of the prisoners were no longer registered by name, so exact numbers are unknown. According to estimates, they were as many as 20,000 prisoners interned at Gunskirchen. As well as the many unregistered prisoners from the tent camp, registered Jewish prisoners from the women’s concentration camp at Mauthausen were also transferred there. It was, however, predominantly Hungarian Jews from the “South-east Wall” that were interned at Gunskirchen. Many prisoners died already during the death marches and as many as 200 per day died after their arrival in Gunskirchen. The causes for this included the catastrophic lack of food, an outbreak of typhoid and abuse at the hands of the SS.
SS Hauptsturmführer Karl Schulz was the last SS commandant and Heinrich Häger was the deputy leader of the commando from December 1944. The guards were largely made up of men from Upper Austria.
In the days before the liberation, prisoners were still being transferred to Gunskirchen with the task of burying the corpses there are quickly as possible. Nevertheless, when the camp was liberated, it was still full of the remains of dead prisoners. The 71st Infantry Division occupied Gunskirchen village on 4th May 1945 and 1300 US soldiers were accommodated in the local school, and the commando of prisoners there was liberated. The concentration camp in the forest was discovered in the days that followed. At the time of liberation by the US soldiers there was 5419 survivors and 3000 had left the camp before the American troops arrived. Between 2700 and 5000 prisoners were murdered in Gunskirchen concentration Camp. Many of the prisoners who survived to see liberation died soon afterwards due to the catastrophic conditions in the camp.
Today a memorial stands on the street that leads to the Saag area of the village and a memorial plaque and a memorial stone where the camp once stood commemorate the brutal camp. Every year, the Austrian Mauthausen Committee cooperates with local initiatives to hold an liberation commemoration in memory of the victims.