Spaniards in the Holocaust: Mauthausen, the Horror on the Danube

Spaniards in the Holocaust: Mauthausen, the Horror on the Danube

Spaniards in the Holocaust: Mauthausen, the Horror on the Danube

Spaniards in the Holocaust: Mauthausen, the Horror on the Danube

Synopsis

This important work focuses on the experience of the large Spanish contingent within the Mauthausen concentration camp, one of the least known but most terrible camps in Nazi Germany. Refugees from the repercussions of the Civil War, 7,000 Spanish Republicans were arrested in France by the invading Nazis in the collapse of 1940. A microcosm of the experience of national prisoner communities, their story possesses a unique historical value. No other national group succeeded in placing its members in all the key clerical positions in the SS administration, and no other group managed to hide and save all its basic records.Vilified by Franco and condemned by Hitler, their story makes an outstanding contribution to the literature of the holocaust.

Excerpt

The story of Mauthausen covers a little over seven years, from the Anschluss in 1938 to the last week of the Second World War. In that time several hundreds of thousands of prisoners passed through, 200 000 of whom died. While Mauthausen is the name of a village on the Danube as well as that of the granite fortress on the adjacent hill, it served to designate not only the mother camp but also the scores of subsidiaries, large and small, scattered throughout every part of Austria except the Tyrol, but all administered by the Lagerführer in the Hauptlager. It was not technically an extermination camp (Vernichtungslager), nor was it a camp designed for Jews, but prisoners were systematically exterminated there, and Jews were among its victims. As were tens of thousands of prisoners of war who, under the Geneva Convention, were entitled to imprisonment in a Stalag or an Oflag. The majority of these POWs were Soviets, but the few score Dutch, American, and British servicemen (numerically in that order) who were interned there were among those treated the worst. So much for the fiction that the SS mind was governed by notions of race, when in fact it was obsessed by the love of power and the frenzy to humiliate, as the SS demonstrated only too clearly in their treatment of the Dutch. But if the largest prisoner of war contingent was Soviet, the second largest was Spanish, who found themselves in Mauthausen for two reasons: the first, because no government (Franco's, Pétain's, or Hitler's) cared whether they lived or died; the second, because the camp where they were sent was designed as the worst of all in Nazi Germany.

Mauthausen was also home, at some time or other, to some 15 000 SS, of which a surprisingly large portion were Austrian. It should not be forgotten that, proportionate to population, more Austrians than Germans were members of the Nazi Party and volunteers for the SS, from Kaltenbrunner and Eichmann downwards. It was not the villagers of Mauthausen alone who were privy to the 'secret', but every community that was close to a subsidiary camp, from Linz to Wiener Neustadt to the Yugoslav frontier.

The Mauthausen archipelago is worthy of a study that would run to many volumes, but it also lends itself to a comprehensive study of a

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