The Ebensee concentration camp was established by the SS to build tunnels for armaments storage near the town of Ebensee, Austria in 1943. It was part of the Mauthausen network.
Due to the inhumane working and living conditions, Ebensee was one of the worst Nazi concentration camps for the death rates of its prisoners. The SS used several code names: Kalk (English: limestone), Kalksteinbergwerk (English: limestone mine), Solvay and Zement (English: cement) to conceal the true nature of the camp
Approximately twenty thousand inmates were worked to their deaths to construct giant tunnels in the surrounding mountains. Together with the Mauthausen subcamp of Gusen, Ebensee is considered one of the most horrific Nazi concentration camps.
Jews formed about one-third of the inmates, a percentage increased to 40% at the end of the war, and were the worst treated, though all inmates suffered great hardships. The other inmates included Russians, Poles, Czechoslovaks, and Gypsies, as well as German and Austrian political prisoners and criminals.
Prisoners arose at 4:30 A.M. and worked until 6:00 P.M., constructing and expanding tunnels. After some months, work was done in shifts, 24 hours a day. There was almost no accommodation to protect the first batch of prisoners from the cold Austrian winter, and deaths increased greatly. Bodies were piled in heaps and taken every three or four days to the Mauthausen crematorium to be burned; Ebensee did not yet have its own crematorium. The bodies of the dead were also piled inside the few huts that existed. The smell of the dead, combined with the stenches of sickness, phlegm, urine, and feces, was said to be unbearable.
Prisoners wore wooden clogs, or went barefoot when the clogs fell apart. Lice infested the camp. In the morning, food rations consisted of half a liter of ersatz coffee; at noon, of three quarters of a liter of hot water containing potato peelings; and, in the evening, of 150 grams of bread. Thanks to such paltry rations, abysmal living conditions, and the onerous demands of labour, the death toll continued to rise.
U.S. troops of the US 80th Infantry Division found the surviving prisoners at Ebensee crammed into disease-ridden, overcrowded barracks.
As the Second World War in Europe came to an end, mass evacuations from other camps put tremendous pressure on the Mauthausen complex, the last remaining concentration camp in the area still controlled by the Nazis. The 25 Ebensee barracks had been designed to hold a hundred prisoners each, but they eventually held as many as 750 apiece. To this number, one must add the prisoners being kept in the tunnels or outdoors, under the open sky.
The crematorium was unable to keep pace with the deaths. Naked bodies were stacked outside the barrack blocks and the crematorium itself. In the closing weeks of the war, the death rate exceeded 350 a day. To reduce congestion, a ditch was dug outside the camp and bodies were flung into the quicklime. On a single day in April, 1945, a record eighty bodies were removed from block 23 alone; in this pile, feet were seen to be twitching. During this period, the inmate strength reached a high of eighteen thousand.
American troops of the US 80th Infantry Division arrived at the camp on May 6, 1945 - though for many inmates liberation came too late and they died of hunger, disease and exhaustion despite the efforts of American doctors to save them.
- 1. ^ "History of KZ Ebensee". Zeitgeschichte Museum und KZ-Gedenkstätte Ebensee. 2009-07-05.
- 2. ^ Irving, David (1964). The Mare's Nest. London: William Kimber and Co. p. 238.
- ▪ Zeitgeschichte Museum und KZ-Gedenkstätte Ebensee (English)
- ▪ Virtual Library Chapter on Ebensee Concentration Camp
- ▪ 3 photographic panoramas by Bernhard Vogl
- ▪ Underground Factory Projects - a virtual tour
- ▪ "Horror off the Beaten Track", The Jerusalem Report September 1, 2008
- ▪ KZ - Friedhof Ebensee 1,450 names at Find a Grave