Mauthausen Oven: Liberation Report
I posted recently about a visit to the Mauthausen memorial center where I raised the possibility that one of the ovens there may have been constructed after liberation. Surprising confirmation of this possibility came recently when someon uploaded onto the Internet a description of visiting Mauthausen on May 9 1945, only a couple of days post liberation. I have post the entire description and below I discuss the parts of the testimony that seem to confirm the presence of only a single oven.
Although the name of the camp is not specified, it can be safely determined to be Mauthausen both by the date on the report and by various features described. The text is written up as a description or report, later someone has handwritten a short note at the end and appears to have sent it on to his parents. Another hand has crossed out the word “clerks” that appears in several places in the text (a description of the people touring the camp) and replaced it in block capitals with the word “FELLOWS” in biro. What the reason for this is I am unsure, unless this person felt ‘clerks’ was insufficiently martial. The report is written in style reminscent of Psychological Warfare reports, proto-typical press releases, that were commonly prepared for the wire services and newspapers of the time.
The handwriting at the beginning and end reads, as far as I can make out, as follows: “Dear Mum and Dad
This is report of a visit to a camp [illegible word]. God what a sight and odour. This was written by one of the fellows with me.
Your loving son Stanley.”
Amongst the text this stuck out: “I saw the gas chamber in which the people thought they were going get a warm water shower but instead a deadly gas would come out of the pipes. Forty persons would be packed into a small room at the time. The walls were niched from bullets fired by that SS troops had fired at victims who refused to enter the gas chamber. In another room was a small blast furnace in which a sliding table carried the unconscious victim so he could be consumed by the heat in two minutes”
In fact, an oven matching this description (complete with sliding table) can be seen very close to the shower room (alleged gas chamber) and it’s interior (as discussed previously) is completely consistent with being a working crematorium oven.
Additionally, the liberation photo shows exactly this same arrangement with the sliding table – strongly suggesting that this is the oven the army clerk is describing in his report.
A more confronting image from USHMM of this same oven at Liberation is found here. The Topf double oven that neither then nor now appears to be equipped with a sliding table is also nearby the shower room, so if it had existed on the 9th of May, it is surprising the army clerk did not describe it.
It is worth commenting on the Gas Chamber/Shower Room. I have visited the shower room and I can confirm that there are absolutely no bullet marks on the walls, nor have I ever read anything that would support the claim that poison gas was ever delivered through the shower heads – although this was a claim very much in favour and often repeated in 1945 and 1946. Below is the earliest photo I have seen of this facility.
There is a latch on the door that can be used to secure it (left hand side of the photo above). However, the inside has a large screw and crescent shape latch that is very easy to operate when in the shower room- which I tested to confirm. In other words, in its current configuration it would have been very easy for a person being gassed to open the door from the inside; admittedly the larger leverage of the outside handle means that someone of moderate strength could prevent this by physically holding on to the outside handle during the gas process, but it seems a very odd design for a homicidal gas chamber.
Even more surprising, the doors are very far from gas tight.
Above you can see the the white line between the rusted door frame and the main portion of the door. That white line represents a gap almost half a centimeter wide, it is about as far from gas tight as a door is possible to be; most suburban front doors have a better seal on the. In fairness, I can not guarantee that these were the doors present at liberation (in fact I know of no May 1945 images at all). I did see in a history of the camp post liberation a photo of the shower room from either 1946 or 1947 which, if I recall correctly, had no doors at all. I will email the Mauthausen Museum and see if they can assist.
However, not only does the door seem absolutely unsuitable for gassing, there is neither visible ingress for a toxic gas or egress to remove this gas when the gassing was finished. A good forensic search for potential gassing facilities of this room (without success) can be found at Scrapbook Pages, with many close-up photos. As well as a fascinating collection of eye-witness accounts from the same site here and here. My own favorite:
For the installed gas chamber at Mauthausen: 4000; for the mobile gas chamber (Sauer truck): 1,560; Hartheim: 28,000 to 30,000 of which 4,600 to 8,000 came from Gusen or Mauthausen; finally occasional gassings in Gusen: 800. Total 34,000. At least 11,000 of these 34,000 were registered at Mauthausen or Gusen.
Thirty-four thousand gassed.
Who was it that said that the gas chamber at Mauthausen was a myth?