Mauthausen Death Statistics
Death statistics for Mauthausen are typically given for the whole Mauthausen complex, including the 49 permanent sub-camps, whereas the number of deaths claimed for the other Nazi concentration camps usually include only the deaths in the main camp. Estimates by historians of the number of deaths at Mauthausen vary considerably, ranging from a low of 35,000 deaths in the main camp to a high of over 2 million deaths in the whole complex. The most widely quoted figures, in the books that I read for my research, are 100,000 deaths out of a total of 200,000 prisoners in the main camp and all its sub-camps. It seems that there are no official figures available for the Mauthausen camp, despite the fact that the camp records in the main camp were intact when the camp was liberated.
The Museum at Mauthausen puts the total number of deaths in the whole Mauthausen system at 105,000. Mauthausen was a camp for the most hard-core prisoners including the most dedicated Communists who would have had a motive for exaggerating the death statistics for the camp. The Soviet occupation of Austria lasted until 1955. The Memorial Site at Mauthausen was set up in 1949 during this time of Communist influence.
The Gusen camp was opened in 1940 and it did not become a sub-camp of Mauthausen until 1944. It was the largest of the 49 permanent sub-camps of Mauthausen. In the five years that the Gusen camp was in existence, an estimated 37,000 to 40,000 prisoners died there.
At the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, which started proceedings against 22 Nazi war criminals in November 1945, a set of seven death books with the title "Totenbuch - Mauthausen" on the cover of each one, was introduced by an American prosecutor as Document Number 493-PS, Exhibit Number USA-251. These death books had been confiscated from the Mauthausen main camp by the American liberators. The death books covered the period from January of 1939 to April of 1945, according to the American prosecutor who said, "They give the name, the place of birth, the assigned cause of death, and time of death of each individual recorded. In addition each corpse is assigned a serial number, and adding up the total serial numbers for the 5-year period (sic) one arrives at the figure of 35,318." The death books did not include the deaths in the sub-camps.
By way of comparison, the total number of recorded deaths in the main camp at Buchenwald, a camp for Communist political prisoners and German criminals that opened in 1937, was 34,375 according to camp records released by the U.S. Military. The total number of registered deaths at Dachau, in the 12 years that it was in operation, was 31,951, according to camp records turned over to the Red Cross by the American liberators. The total deaths at Sachsenhausen were around 30,000 according to the USHMM and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The Soviet liberators never released the Sachsenhausen death books, if any were ever found, so the figure of 30,000 is an estimate.
Included in the seven death books found in the Mauthausen main camp were records of prisoners, listed alphabetically, who had been executed at one-minute intervals, although the cause of death was listed as "heart failure." William Shirer wrote in his book "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" that all of the 35,318 prisoners, whose deaths were recorded at Mauthausen, were executed. He did not mention how many died of disease at Mauthausen, where there was a catastrophic typhus epidemic in the last four months before the liberation.
The Mauthausen death books did not include statistics from the period between August 8, 1938, when the camp opened, and December 31, 1938. According to Hans Marsalek, a former inmate in the camp, there were 36 deaths in 1938. In May 1945, during the final days before the American liberators arrived on May 5th, there were around 300 prisoners dying of disease, malnutrition and exhaustion each day in the main camp. These deaths were not recorded in the death books because the camp had been turned over to the Austrian police and most of the staff members had escaped.
In addition, there were 3,000 deaths at Mauthausen after the Americans liberated the camp, according to Martin Gilbert, author of a book entitled "Holocaust." Those who died after the liberation succumbed to disease or were killed by their fellow inmates after the prisoners were released. Many also died from eating too much of the rich food given to them by the Americans, according to Gilbert.
Shortly after the Mauthausen camp was liberated by American soldiers on May 5, 1945, it was turned over to the Soviet Union because it was located in the Soviet zone of Occupation. The camp records, which were released by the Soviet Union in 1947, show that there were 122,767 prisoners at Mauthausen, including all the sub-camps. These figures probably do not include the prisoners from other camps who arrived in the sub-camps of Mauthausen after most of the SS staff had left in the last days before the American liberators arrived and thus were not registered.
Remarkably, the Soviet records show that only 235 Austrians died at Mauthausen. Mauthausen was the first Nazi concentration camp to receive foreign prisoners; it was not a camp that was particularly for Austrians, nor was it a camp that was specifically designed for killing the Jews. It was mainly a camp for resistance fighters from Nazi occupied countries, such as France and the Netherlands, and for German "career criminals."
In March 1946, there was an American Military Tribunal conducted at Dachau, in which 61 men associated with the Mauthausen camp were put on trial. The prosecutor, Lt. Col. William D. Denson stated in his closing argument that "in excess of seventy thousand prisoners were killed between 1942 and the liberation in 1945." He did not mention how many had died from disease in that period of time. The charges against the Mauthausen staff covered only the period during which America was involved in World War II.
Immediately after the war, Mauthausen was a refugee camp for Displaced Persons. Jewish survivors of Mauthausen, who were refugees in the camp, claimed that 180,000 Jews had died at Mauthausen and its sub-camps.
After the Mauthausen main camp was liberated, the Spanish prisoners produced death records which showed that 16,310 Spanish Republicans had died in the whole Mauthausen complex. There were also Russian POWs, British spies, Communists, German criminals, Gypsies, asocials, homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses at Mauthausen. If the total number of their deaths is added to the figures given by the Jews and the Spaniards, the grand total comes to well over 200,000 deaths, which is greater than most of the estimates of the number of prisoners registered in the camp.
The total number of prisoners at the main camp and all the subcamps, in the almost 7 years that Mauthausen was in operation, was just under 200,000, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and "Of these about 119,000 prisoners are believed to have died in Mauthausen and its subcamps. A third of them were Jewish."
The 1957 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 10 p. 288, mentions that in the Mauthausen concentration camp "about 2 million people, Jewish for the major part, were exterminated between 1941 and 1945." Since the camp was in existence for three years before 1941, this would put the number of deaths in Mauthausen at well over 2 million.
By 1986, the Encyclopedia Britannica had revised its figures to read: "out of the probable 355,000 inmates passing through Mauthausen and its satellites, more than 122,000 died from execution or privation."
Mauthausen was one of the top four camps in Greater Germany, the other three being Dachau, Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald. In January 1941, Dachau and Sachsenhausen were designated as Class I camps, where political prisoners had a chance of being released; Buchenwald was a Class II camp for prisoners who were considered harder to rehabilitate. Mauthausen and Gusen was designated the only Class III camps where conditions were more severe and prisoners had to do hard time, working in the quarries.
Mauthausen was a "punishment camp" where the harsh treatment could be expected to result in more deaths. It was also a camp where condemned prisoners were sent to be executed. However, condemned prisoners were also sent to Dachau and Sachsenhausen to be executed; these prisoners are sometimes included in the death toll even though they were not registered, causing the death rate to seem higher than it actually was.
The main Mauthausen concentration camp, on a hilltop 2.5 miles from the center of the charming town of Mauthausen, had a capacity of around 12,000 prisoners and only one prisoner was ever released after 1941. Juan Bautista Nos Fibla was released in August 1941. The Commandant of Mauthausen, Franz Ziereis, said that there were never more than 19,800 prisoners in the main camp at any one time.
In his book, "The 186 Steps," author Christian Bernadac wrote that the last prison number to be assigned at Mauthausen was number 120400, given to Majleck Tenenbaum, a French Jew. Some of the prison numbers were used again after the original holder of the number had died. The last prison death to be recorded at Mauthausen, before the liberation, was that of Xavier Tabac, a French prisoner who had only recently arrived and had been assigned prison number 120388.
Martin Gilbert wrote in his book entitled "Holocaust" that 30,000 prisoners died at Mauthausen in the last four months of the war, including those that died from disease. This figure corresponds to the statistics from the other major Nazi camps in Greater Germany where approximately half of the deaths were in the period from January 1945 to May 1945 as over-crowded conditions caused typhus epidemics to rage out of control.
David Wingate Pike, author of "The Spanish Holocaust," wrote that there were 83,249 prisoners at Mauthausen and its sub-camps in March 1945. If both Pike and Bernadac are correct, this means that around 23,000 prisoners died at Mauthausen in just the last two months of the war. In view of the fact that there was a typhus epidemic in the camp, these figures are entirely possible.
A 45-minute movie shown at the Mauthausen museum does not give any death statistics for the camp; the film is heavily slanted towards the Communist point of view, although the word Communist is never mentioned. The narrator in the movie speaks of "industrial mass murder" at Mauthausen and says that Russian POWs were "exterminated" there. The typhus epidemic which claimed thousands of lives in the camp is never mentioned in the movie.
In the movie shown at the Museum, an American soldier, who was among the liberators of the camp on May 5, 1945, stated that "we must have buried 12,000 bodies" at the Mauthausen main camp. He then added that around 1,200 were buried the first day and 300 per day afterwards, indicating that around 300 prisoners per day were dying in the immediate aftermath of the liberation. However, he did not mention the cause of death for these 12,000 prisoners, and he did not mention that it was Austrian civilians, not the American soldiers, who buried the bodies after the camp was liberated.
In spite of the fact that prisoners at all the Mauthausen camps were dying of typhus faster than the bodies could be cremated, the gassing of prisoners continued until the very end, even while the Red Cross was evacuating prisoners from the camp, according to many accounts given by the survivors. Christian Bernadac, author of "The 186 Steps," quotes the testimony of Maurice-Georges Savourey on May 4, 1945 at La Plaine, near Geneva, immediately after he was taken out of the camp by the Red Cross convoy. Savourey's testimony from Choumoff's book is quoted below from Bernadac's book:
...The day on which the first Red Cross convoy left, Saturday, April 21, 1945, out of two thousand men...one hundred, exhausted by the short route to be covered, were led to the gas chamber and executed...One (sic) Sunday, the 22nd, one hundred fifty men went to the gas chamber; on Monday, the 23rd, eighty men met the same fate...; on Tuesday, the 24th, one hundred eighty, in two groups, all Slavs, were gassed. One of them broke away, ran through the "free camp" in his nightshirt, stumbling, not knowing which way to turn, made his way back to camp 3. There he was retaken by the S.S. and the inner camp police, and returned for execution in the gas chamber. In addition, some forty French were said to have been gassed.
Choumoff, who was a prisoner in the Gusen camp, wrote several books about Mauthausen. In one book, he gave the exact number of prisoners who were gassed at the main camp, which he said was 3,455. In another book about the gas chambers at Mauthausen, he gave the approximate number of victims gassed at the main camp as 4,000 with an additional 1,560 victims killed in the Sauer truck which drove back and forth between Mauthausen and Gusen, gassing prisoners on the way. He wrote that 800 prisoners were gassed in the barracks at Gusen and between 4,600 and 8,000 prisoners from Gusen and Mauthausen were taken to Hartheim Castle for gassing. Choumoff estimated that the total number of Mauthausen and Gusen prisoners who died as the result of being gassed was 34,000.
According to Bernadac, at the time of the liberation on May 5, 1945, there was a combined total of approximately 60,000 survivors in the main camp and all the sub-camps. Franz Ziereis confessed on his deathbed that 65,000 prisoners had died at Mauthausen. If the records released by the Soviet Union after the war are correct, that means that the death rate at Mauthausen was around 50%, which is twice the death rate of the other camps in the Greater German Reich.
In May 1945, at the time of the liberation, there were an estimated 20,000 survivors at the main camp at Mauthausen, 30,000 at Ebensee and an additional 25,000 at Gusen. These estimates were given by 3 different people and the total adds up to more than the 60,000 survivors that Christian Bernadac claims were in all the camps combined.
The large population of prisoners at Gusen and Ebensee was due to the fact that these camps were an "end destination" for prisoners who had been evacuated from other camps as the Allied Armies approached, according to Robert Abzug in his book "Inside the Vicious Heart."
In February 1945, Jews who had survived Auschwitz-Birkenau began arriving at Mauthausen, exhausted and near death after enduring the final evacuation march out of the camp and then a long train ride, sometimes in open boxcars. In the final days of the war, thousands of concentration camp inmates died on a death march, as the prisoners were sent from one camp to another because Hitler did not want them to be released by the Allies to wreak havoc on the civilian population.
Evelyn Le Chene, a former inmate at Mauthausen, wrote that there were 64,000 survivors in the camp when it was liberated, which would mean a death rate of approximately 50% if the figures released by the Soviet Union are correct.
Martin Gilbert puts the total number of survivors in the Mauthausen complex at 110,000, a figure that probably includes the prisoners who arrived from other camps in the last days of the war. Gilbert wrote, in his book entitled "Holocaust," that the Mauthausen survivors included 28,000 Jews. However, there were only 122,767 prisoners in the Mauthausen camp and all of its sub-camps, according to the figures released by the Soviet Union in 1947.
The Encyclopedia Judaica states that 212,000 inmates survived their imprisonment in the Mauthausen complex, a number that is much higher than the total inmate population.
The Museum at Mauthausen has a display which says that there was a combined total of 13,701 Jewish men and 611 Jewish women in the main camp and all the sub-camps of Mauthausen on March 30, 1945. The combined total of all prisoners at Mauthausen on that date was 78,754 men and 2,252 women in the main camp and all the sub-camps. The total number of prisoners at the main camp on March 30, 1945 was 13,852 men and 1,238 women, according to the Museum. In the final six weeks before the camp was liberated, there were many more prisoners who arrived and were probably not counted, as all the camps disintegrated into chaos.
This page was last updated on July 13, 2011