Ebensee - sub camp of Mauthausen

Survivors of Ebensee pose with a cart loaded with dead bodies

One of the survivors of the Ebensee concentration camp, according to Martin Gilbert's book about the Holocaust, was Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, a prisoner who worked as a medical doctor in the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Dr. Nyiszli is shown in the photo above, wearing a white coat. The movie entitled "The Gray Zone" is based on his story.

Dr. Nyiszli was an eye-witness to the gassing of prisoners at Birkenau and the horrible medical experiments conducted on the prisoners by Dr. Josef Mengele. When Auschwitz was evacuated in January 1945, Nyiszli was among the prisoners on the death march to central Germany. As the American Army approached, he was marched again to Ebensee, a sub-camp of Mauthausen in Austria.

In his book "Holocaust," Martin Gilbert wrote the following quote from Dr. Nyiszli:

On May 5, a white flag flew from the Ebensee watch-tower. It was finished. They had laid down their arms. The sun was shining brightly when, at nine o'clock, an American light tank, with three soldiers on board, arrived and took possession of the camp. We were free.

Austrian civilians were forced to bury the bodies at Ebensee

Evelyn le Chene, the historian of Mauthausen, wrote that, as the American armies approached Ebensee, all thirty thousand prisoners in the camp were ordered into a tunnel packed with explosives. There were similar reports of plans to kill all the prisoners at other camps, such as Nordhausen, and even Dachau, but none of these plans was ever carried out.

Hitler did not want the prisoners to be released to get revenge on German and Austrian civilians. In fact, the Russian liberators at Theresienstadt did release the Jewish prisoners there, and according to Theo Richmond, the author of the book "Konin, One Man's Quest For a Vanished Jewish Community," the former inmates did get "nekomeh" or Revenge. Richmond quotes Louis Lefkowitz, a Jewish survivor of Buchenwald and Theresienstadt, who recounted the following story regarding German civilians who were trying to flee from the Russian soldiers who were also exacting vengeance on the Germans:

I saw nekomeh in Theresienstadt. For two days after the liberation, the Russians let us do whatever we want. I was too weak to join in, but I saw our boys bring in Germans who were running away on horse and wagons. They brought them in - whole families on the wagons. They put gasoline over the people and burned them up. Wagons with whole families were burning day and night for two days.

The following quote, regarding the plan to force all the Ebensee prisoners into a tunnel, is from Evelyn le Chene:

The prisoners, to a man, blankly refused. The SS guards were paralyzed with indecision. The hordes of humans swayed and murmured. For the first time since their arrest, the prisoners who were not already dying saw the possibility that they might just survive the war. Understandably, they neither wished to be blown up in the tunnel, nor mown down by SS machine guns for refusing. But they knew that in these last days, many of the SS had left and been replaced by Ethnic Germans. [...] With the war all but over, they were thinking of the future, and the punishment they would receive for the slaughter of so many human beings was something they still wished - even with their already stained hands - to avoid. And so the prisoners won the day.

A movie crew prepares to film Ebensee after the liberation

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This page was last updated on December 5, 2008