A Day & 320,000 to Remember

{The following blog is a descriptive summary about my experience at Mauthausen Concentration Camp reader discretion advised.}

While on my visit in Linz I first had the opportunity to visit the Mauthausen Memorial Concentration Camp. This was my first time visiting a concentration camp and it is a day I will never forget. As a tour guide told stories and walked us through the entirety of the camp my mouth was unable to form words as I imagined the camp full of humans, humans just like me. Stuck in an awful, painful, sad world where they were trapped and tortured for simply not being one person idea of “good enough”.  I truly thought that I understood the impact the Holocaust had on history but now having seen it first hand I realize I didn’t really understand fully before. Upon entering the camp it is a stark contrast as the beautiful hills roll into the beginning of the alps in one direction and then death and torture were right in the opposite direction behind the walls.

IMG_0619You can see the alps in the distance. IMG_0620Directly turned around from where I stood to take the photo before. The camp.

Walking through their barracks where they slept 2 to a bed. Where it was built for 300 but housed up to 1,000 at one time. Their washroom where over 600 people tried to wash at the same time. The quarry where they were forced to work 14-20 hour days mining granite and filling wheel barrows with no shoes, jackets, gloves or even food. The average weight of a person leaving the holocaust after liberation 75 years ago this May 7th was 60lbs. Mauthausen was a camp that was a majority men. Doctors, professors, lawyers, educated people etc. Women were only brought in to be prostituted as a reward to the men that obeyed them and for the guards.

P1050917
BARRACKS LEFT KITCHEN RIGHT (FOR WHAT LITTLE FOOD THEY FED PRISONERS)

It’s hard to imagine that this pathway was once dirt or snow with up to 320,000 people walking back and forth on it.

At the entrance to the camp memorials stand high put in place there by their respective countries, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Spain, etc.

It is amazing the number of Spanish names I found in the books they had lining the memorial. Everyone had a specific name tag to put them in a category whether they were Homosexual, Handicapped (mentally or physically), Jewish, Spanish, or just not useful to society given the category A.

I walked through a small museum where I saw names of victims, torture devices, and graves of the forgotten. They killed so many at Mauthausen that they stopped keeping record of the names. I saw a huge needle that was brought forth during trial described as a needle used by the camp doctor to deliver lethal injection into the heart. When prisoners were killed this way they would write that they tripped or fell and died in their record log but would put a small dot next to their name to signify that secretly a lethal injection was given.

I halted upon reaching the gas chamber door, opened it a crack and peeked in and then retreated a few steps back. With deep breaths I told myself I wasn’t going to go in, but then I thought, there were hundreds of thousands before me that had to go in, by force, and that I couldn’t turn a blind eye out of fear and sadness for what they suffered. I approached the door yet again and took a step in, the rest of the tour behind me I was alone. It was terrifying, chilling, the door thudded to a close. The gas chamber was tiny, a lot smaller than I imagined with a small closeted room next to it where the gas was fed into the room. They stuffed these rooms full of people, and my heart broke as I imagined someones last moments seeing nothing but blank white walls, hearing nothing but cries and hateful things from the guards, and feeling nothing but un-acceptance, rejection, and hopelessness from not only the guards but the rest of the people of Linz and the surrounding areas that didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t fight for them.

sad

I walked out of the gas chamber and directly into the next room, the crematorium a room with 3 ovens side by side with carts lined inside for inserting bodies….again my heart broke.

P1050926

The holocaust was a giant extermination of people that weren’t the image that one group wanted. I knew that, but now I know that. 

The names scrolled in books thousands of pages, not even all recorded, and memorials lined with names with font so small simply because they wanted to fit them all in a huge room. 320,000 people died at Mauthasuen at least that is number recorded, we can assume there were even more.

I learned that the city of Linz like many others new what was going on up at the top of the hill at Mauthausen but for whatever reason remained silent. One women who lived nearby the camp actually wrote a letter to the police (as if that would do anything) that said the camp was too loud and was starting to smell so she preferred if they could do their business elsewhere because it was disturbing her home. This is the type of attitude people took towards it, kind of out of sight out of mind, or for some they were too afraid to try to help people, others just carried on feeling they were incapable of helping. It is amazing to me the human mind, we have way of seeing chaos but can still stick to the day to day. We become desensitized to it. Even today with facebook and other news outlets. We ask ourselves “but what can I do?” and the answer isn’t easy, send money, write a letter, join the military…I know even I couldn’t answer that question satisfyingly for myself. (If you haven’t asked yourself this question I think it be a good idea to start. Find a charity you are passionate about, disaster relief, refugee help, homelessness, etc. & give to it, time, money, supplies, an extra room whatever you can.

It’s hard to believe that something like this could happen again. Of course we wouldn’t think it could but in ways it is happening right now in Syria. I think the only way to prevent repeat in the future is through more education. I wish everyone could visit this camp and see it first hand or any of the camps still memorialized today. The more people that are aware of what happened 75 years ago will hopefully share the same passions as everyone that visits. The passion that we can not ever let anything like this happen again. Then pass that passion on for generations. Changing the world I can only hope.

We are all created equal and are equal. Behind this skin and this face is a mind, a heart, and it is no better or more important than anyone else’s.

Sierra

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2 thoughts on “A Day & 320,000 to Remember

  1. It is hard for me to believe there are actually people that think this didn’t happen. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and travels with us!

    1. I know Anndi, it breaks my heart that someone could deny this. & You’re so welcome, I thought of you and your family most while I was there.

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