The Notorious Stairs Of Death At Mauthausen Concentration Camp | Short History

Peter Preskar 3-4 minutes 1/2/2022

“If there is a God, he will have to beg for my forgiveness.”

Peter Preskar

Stairs Of Death at Mauthausen concentration camp

The Stairs Of Death at Mauthausen concentration camp (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The Mauthausen concentration camp was one of the largest labor camps in Nazi-controlled territories.

The first camp was established on a hill above the town Mauthausen, twenty kilometers (twelve miles) from Linz in Austria. Hence the name the Mauthausen concentration camp.

When the Americans liberated the Mauthausen camp on May 3, 1945, the camp complex comprised 101 satellite camps all across Austria. From 1938 until 1945, these camps held 320,000 prisoners. Only 80,000 survived until the liberation.

Forced labor in a quarry (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The Mauthausen concentration camp was classified as a Grade III concentration camp because they designated it for the most dangerous political opponents of the Nazis.

For its grueling and deadly conditions, the Nazis nicknamed it Knochenmühle (in German bone grinder).

The prisoners were severely starved, weighing forty kilograms (eighty-eight pounds) on average.

The inmates at the main Mauthausen concentration camp worked in a granite quarry. The Nazis needed granite as a building material for Hitler’s grandiose plans to rebuild Germany.

Heinrich Himmler, the head of SS, walking the Stairs of Death (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

At the base of the quarry were the notorious Stairs of Death.

During their long shifts under blazing heat during summer and freezing temperatures during the winter (often −30 °C (−22 °F)), the camp guards rounded the exhausted prisoners up to ten times per day to further increase their suffering.

The guards forced each of them to pick up a granite block, weighing up to fifty kilograms (110 pounds).

naked survivors at Mauthausen on May 5, 1945 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

They had to carry stone blocks up the 186 stairs, one prisoner behind the other. If any of the exhausted prisoners collapsed, he fell on the prisoner next to him. The second prisoner fell on a third one, thus creating a domino effect.

The heavy stones crushed the limbs and bodies. The prisoners died on these stairs every day.

Those prisoners who made it to the top of the stairs were herded towards the cliff, nicknamed The Parachutists Wall. The guards pointed guns at them and they had to choose either to push the prisoner next to them over the cliff or be shot. A lot of the prisoners voluntarily jumped over the cliff into certain death.


The Stairs of Death today (Photo by: Stefanie J. Steindl)

Life at Mauthausen was so terrible that men would throw themselves at electric fences to get electrocuted.

The following sentence, which was found scratched on the walls of the cell at Mauthausen, illustrates the agony of the Mauthausen prisoners:

“If there is a God, he will have to beg for my forgiveness.”