The site

On March, 12th, 1938 the Anschluss (Annexation) of austrofascist Austria to the German Reich took place. Two weeks later, the National Socialist Gauleiter (regional head) of Upper Austria, August Eigruber, announced to an enthusiastic audience that his Gau (region) would have the “distinction” of building a concentration camp. The location chosen was the town of Mauthausen on the Danube. Political opponents and groups of people labelled as “criminal” or “antisocial” would be imprisoned here and forced to work in the granite quarries.

On August, 8th, 1938 the SS (Schutzstaffel – the major paramilitary organisation under the Nazi Party) transferred the first prisoners from the Dachau Concentration Camp to Mauthausen. During this phase, the prisoners, who were all Germans and Austrians and all men, had to build their own camp and set up operations in the quarry. Their daily lives were shaped by hunger, arbitrary treatment and violence.

In December 1939 the SS ordered the construction of a second concentration camp just a few kilometres from Mauthausen. The Gusen branch camp officially went into operation in May 1940.

After the outbreak of war, people from across Europe were deported to Mauthausen, which gradually developed into a system of several interconnected camps. During this phase, Mauthausen and Gusen were the concentration camps with the harshest imprisonment conditions and the highest mortality. Prisoners at the bottom of the camp hierarchy had barely any chance of surviving for long. Those who were ill or “useless” to the SS were in constant danger of their lives. In 1941 the SS started to construct a gas chamber and other installations at Mauthausen Concentration Camp for the systematic murder of large groups of people. 

During the second half of the war the prisoners, who now included women for the first time, were increasingly used as forced labourers in the arms industry. In order to accommodate the prisoners where they worked, the SS established several subcamps. Newly-arrived prisoners were transferred to these camps from the main camp. More and more, Mauthausen itself became a camp were the sick and weak were sent to die.

Since the prisoners were now needed for their labour, living conditions improved for a short time. From the end of 1943 onwards, inmates were also deployed in the construction of underground factories, for example those in Melk, Ebensee and St. Georgen an der Gusen. The murderous working conditions that prevailed at these sites soon led to a dramatic rise in the number of victims.

Towards the end of the war, the Mauthausen Concentration Camp became the destination for evacuations from camps near the front line. Tens of thousands of prisoners arrived on several large transports. Overcrowding, lack of food and rampant disease led to mass death among the prisoners in the final months before liberation.

On May, 5th, 1945 the US Army reached Gusen and Mauthausen. Some prisoners were in such a weakened state that many still died in the days and weeks after liberation. Of a total of around 190,000 people imprisoned in the Mauthausen Concentration Camp and its subcamps over seven years, at least 90,000 died.

A few years after the war had ended the former Mauthausen Concentration Camp was transformed into a memorial. On the other hand, the sites of the former satellite camps and of the branch camp Gusen were long repressed from commemoration by state authority.

While at all sites the remains of the satellite camps were being removed, concentration camp survivors and relatives of people killed in the concentration camps were thwarting the process of repression by establishing commemorative markers. Upon their initiatives, public memorials were established in Ebensee, Gusen and Melk. The Mauthausen Memorial today is an international site of remembrance and political-historical education. Here, the memory of the victims is being preserved, the history of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp and its sub-camps is being researched and documented, and through exhibitions and educational programmes its visitors are empowered to deal with and discuss the history of concentration camps.

The Mauthausen Memorial aims at raising awareness for any resurgence of National Socialist activities, anti-Semitism, racism, discrimination of minorities and antidemocratic tendencies. Furthermore, it is supposed to contribute to preserving public knowledge and memory of National Socialist mass crimes committed at the former Mauthausen and Gusen Concentration Camps, and at all its sub-camps. The Mauthausen Memorial regards itself as a place of remembrance and education, with human rights education through live teaching of history being among its central tasks. It promotes the teaching of history, communicates its significance for present and future times and aims at pointing out comparable present-day developments, tendencies and processes.

The Mauthausen Memorial is a Federal Institution under Public Law and is financed by the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Austria.


The project

The European Heritage Volunteers Project will be engaging on different elements that constitute the remaining legacy of this infamous site. Historic documentation is important to provide a de-tailed record of the significance of a property for research and interpretive purposes.

Within the memorial complex, there are several examples of memorial plates and small monuments of remembrance of the various ethnic groups and communities that were victims of the National Socialists and were interned at Mauthausen Concentration Camp. This assemblage of memorials represents the most varied and distinct collection of monuments to concentration camp victims in all of Europe. In 2021, the first European Heritage Volunteers Project at the site under-took the task of documenting some of these monuments of the nations to assist the remembrance efforts being carried out at the Mauthausen Memorial.

There is another relevant memorial area which has never been documented, where the European Heritage Volunteers Project in 2022 will be tasked to work in – the memorial located in the area of the crematorium. The site was the place where the bodies of the victims – in total more than 100,000 persons – were burned to ashes and dispersed leaving no trace. Because of this, the descendants and survivors were robbed of any space for personal remembrance.

The memorial objects that were placed around the crematorium ovens were for the most part very personal and freely designed, and have never been fully documented in their entirety due to their constant change. The aim of the project is to record the current state of conservation, description and content of these memorial objects according to the guidelines for heritage documentation used by the Austrian Federal Monuments Office.

The documentation process will allow setting an actual situation of the memorials, making it easier to document in the future the dynamics of the changes that are still taking place. The memorial plaques and objects found and documented in this area will then be compared by the participants with the information contained in the “Room of Names”.

The “Room of Names” displays the names of all those known by name who died in the Mau thausen Concentration Camp and at Gusen and other satellite camps. In total, the names of over 84,000 people who died between 8 August 1938 and 30 June 1945 are to be found here. The room is understood as an addition to existing memorials, which commonly place remembrance in a national or group-specific context. For many of the dead, there was nothing before to commemorate them. The “Room of Names” is the result of a research project carried out by the Archive of the Mauthausen Memorial over more than ten years, in which the names of those deported to the concentration camp were collected in databases. In addition, the original spellings of the names in accordance with the prisoners' home countries were reconstructed for the display. The names were no longer to appear in the often-germanised spelling of the administration of the concentration camp. For the reconstruction of these original spellings, the Mauthausen Memorial was assisted by over 40 embassies, institutions and memorial museums.

Matching the data from the “Room of Names” gives the opportunity to link names with the pictures of the memorial plaques, places and possibly also to life stories. Through this documentation exercise, the information conveyed by the memorial plaques in the crematorium area will not be lost, and the vibrancy of the monuments can still be preserved.

As part of the educational programme, the participants will also take part in discussions and exchange about the future memorialisation project at the Gusen satellite camp.The participants will be invited to provide their international perspective to what took place in this satellite camp and should prepare beforehand for this topic. The discussions will be guided and moderated by a professional and researcher on this area. In addition, there will be guided visits to other memorial places linked to the history of Mauthausen Memorial Complex.


The project will take place from July, 17th, till July, 30th, 2022, and is jointly organised by European Heritage Volunteers and the Burghauptmannschaft Österreich.

European Heritage Volunteers