The sub-camp Ebensee was begun in late 1943. By this time it had already become apparent that the war was to be a long one and that more underground armaments factories would be needed. Ebensee, situated in the mountainous, well wooded region in the Salzkammergut, and therefore relatively free from observation and attack, was an ideal location. The main purpose of the camp was to provide labour for the construction of enormous underground tunnels in which armaments works were to be housed. There were to be twelve factories, each 1,400 feet long and each linked to one connecting tunnel. The site was to be given the official code name "Zement". The prisoners were to work under the supervision of civilian engineers employed by German Construction Firms. Among the more important firms working on the project were Siemens-Bau-Union, Siemens-Schuckert, Grossdeutscher Schachtbau, Hinteregger und Fischer, Hozhamm, Polensky, Deutscher Bergbau, Hermann Göring-Niblungen-Werke and Solvay-Werke. The first arrivals at the camp on 18th November, 1943, were sixty-three men, mostly professional workers, who came form another sub-sub-camp, Redyl-Zipf. The following day 418 prisoners arrived from Mauthausen, and a little later other prisoners, mostly Poles, Russians and Yugoslavs that came from Mauthausen, Wiener-Neustadt and Schlier. Soon there were more than 1,000 prisoners at Ebensee. Two SS construction experts, Kammler and Engelhart, assisted by German civilian workers, who supervised the construction.
Kammler, whose position of authority was directly under Himmler, was in charge of Hitler's most secret projects, specifically projects such as the world's first jet engines and rockets. He had over 14 million people working for him, mostly building UNDERGROUND factories. Agoston said his projects were equivalent to being in charge of building the Great Pyramids or the Coliseum in Rome. Speer said that he believed that Kammler was being considered to take his (Speer's) position. Albert Speer, in his book Spandau, The Secret Diaries brags that it was he who ordered Werner Heisenberg to stop building an atomic bomb and concentrate on a "uranium motor" for aircraft. Towards the end of the war, Hitler even made Göring and Speer subordinate to Kammler. Eisenhower admits in Crusade In Europe that the Nazis were within 6 months of developing advanced weapons that would have changed the outcome of the war. sic]
|Concentration Camp Ebensee|
In this region of Austria, winters are long and hard. Snow often falls profusely in early November, and November 1943 was no exception. The only accommodation provided for the first batch of prisoners was an old storage hut, a small barracks doubling as wash-room and a wooden latrine. In the area in front of the hut the prisoners assembled for roll call, at which time selections were made for the work commandos. After rising at 4.30 a.m., they began work at 6 a.m. and finished at 6 p.m. One of the first buildings to be erected was a small infirmary in which there were only five double bunk beds. Most prisoners were already in a poor state of health when they arrived at Ebensee and so the beds were quickly filled, with a number of men to each bunk. There were a great many cases of phlegmon and highly infectious erysipelas (acute inflammation of skin). The only medical attention was provided by a single prisoner doctor who had acted as nurse and pall-bearer. He treated phlegmon by the primitive method of jabbing a knife into the swollen part to let the puss escape. A hole the size of a human fist was left when the wound finally healed. The only sanitary provision in the infirmary was a bucket placed in the middle of the room. The smell of this, combined with the smell of the undressed and untended sick was almost unbearable. During the first few weeks twenty prisoners died. The bodies were piled in a corner and removed every three to four days. They were taken to Mauthausen because Ebensee had no crematorium at the time.
|Survivors look out from the upper tier of a bunk in the infirmary barracks for Jewish prisoners in the Ebensee concentration camp|
TREATMENT OF PRISONERS
Brutal Kapos and SS man saw to it that the construction work progressed fast, and by middle of January 1944 there were eight prisoners' barracks, three SS barracks and a kitchen all ready for occupation. The camp was surrounded by a barbed wire fence, and small towers with machine-guns as well as shacks for the SS were set up few yards apart all around the perimeter. soon as all the prisoners were installed in the newly-built concentration camp, they started preparing the terrain for the tunnels. Long hours were spent carrying stones away, cutting down trees, loading and unloading machinery and materials. The internal administration and supervision of Ebensee followed the same pattern as Mauthausen and Gusen. One SS man and prisoner leader were assigned to each commando of five to ten prisoners. The larger commandos had a proportionately higher number of SS. Ebensee had two camp leaders and a camp recorder, otherwise known as camp secretary. Commandant Zireis sent his most capable and vicious man to head the camp, Georg Bachmayer. He was to enforce the same ferocious pace of work on the prisoners as he had maintained at Mauthausen. The two men, Ziereis and Bachmayer, were not very intimate and vied with one another in the cruelty which they had inflicted on prisoners. Bachmayer was, however, indisputable the King of Hounds. His favourite dog was a huge Alsatian called Lord, which was his permanent companion. The other dogs seemed to have belonged to the camp and their ferocity was not due to any lack of food. In fact, they were better fed and stronger than most of the prisoners. Even after his return to Mauthausen, Bachmayer often revisited the camp with Lord. On one occasion, on 12th May, 1944, an eighteen-year-old Italian prisoner escaped. Three days later he was caught three miles away and brought back to camp. After he had been interrogated and badly beaten, Bachmayer emerged with his dog. Lord was unleashed on the exhausted boy, who cried desperately to defend himself against the savage animal. His cries of 'Pieta, Commandante' filled the air. Bachmayer and an SS audience watched the poor youth being ripped to pieces. The Death Certificate registered. 'Suicide by electrocution'.
|Dogs were killed by prisoners and eaten after liberation|
|Living and dying and dead people are in one room together|
The prisoners' food allocation at Ebensee was well below that of other camps outside the Mauthausen group. The official ration was 150 grams of bread and 0.75 of a litre of a soup which was often made from grass. So desperate were they of sustenance, they would brave punishment of twenty-five lashes even to nibble at a stray piece of coal. They ate from communal bowl, five men to a bowl, and had no individual eating utensils. In February 1944, they went without bread for a whole week. This was catastrophic, for although the bread was almost inedible, it at least gave them little sustenance. When the civilian overseers urged them to work even harder, the prisoners told them that they had eaten nothing. This incensed the Commandant. He had all the prisoners assembled in the roll call area and, after many hours of waiting, he told them that the entire commando concerned would be shot if their lack of food were ever mentioned again and that in any case, 'none of them would ever leave the camp alive'. Despite this, one of the braver and humane Kapos, a Pole, approached him and asked him outright for an increase in the food allocation for his commando on the grounds that they were doing the most strenuous work. He paid dearly for his courages act. He was shot on the spot.
|Former roll call area in the Ebensee concentration camp. The snow-capped peaks of the Alps Mountains loom in the distance. (May 8, 1945)|
On January 17tth, 1944, another transport of 500 prisoner arrived from Mauthausen. They were to prepare the ground for the building of the mountain tunnels during the daytime, and in the evening they were to work on the enlargement of the camp, 500 more, mostly Italians, were brought to the camp in February of the same year, and from this time until liberation the effective strength was never to fall below 8,000. The building of the camp went on at the same time as the construction of the tunnels. The number of prisoners' Blocks was increased. The infirmary was enlarged to include an operating theatre, a sterilising unit, a dental clinic, a laboratory, an isolation pavilion and even a convalescent building. [PS 2176 (71) JAD, 3rd US Army, sic] These parts of the camp were kept for inspection purposes. The crematorium which was built on a slightly different design from Mauthausen and Gusen. Standing a little apart from other buildings, it was a wide, squat building with an enormous chimney that rose high into the air.
|Crematoria Oven at Ebensee|
The building of tunnels was a tremendous task. The prisoners wee faced with a mountain which towered majestically above the camp, its summit often obscured by swirling mist. As the excavation work proceeded, its natural beauty became heavily scarred and it was changed out of all recognition. As the tunnels went deeper and the excavated rocks piled up outside, the level approach road rose gradually higher and higher. The mountain seemed to shrink and take upon itself a new, ugly squatness, the tunnel entrances and the road being finally at a level about a quarter of the way up the original mountain. The construction of the tunnels was undertaken with modern high-powered machinery and equipment, as well as with ordinary picks and hammers. Electric lighting was installed and massive drainage scheme was begun to deal with the constantly dripping water from the tunnel ceilings. It had to be channelled into drains behind machinery and inspection pits had to be placed at regular intervals. The walls, ceilings and floors were all cemented as work progressed. The electric cables and drainage pipes were laid underground. But still the water seeped through, as soon as a particular area was finished and the machinery was installed. Some of the machines were for the manufacturing parts for aeroplanes, others were for the V-1 and V-2 rockets which were being launched on Great Britain. Another tunnel was used as a gigantic benzine store. There was also a plan to excavate a tunnel with direct access to the lake (the Traunsee). Planes would then be able to take off and land in the protection of the mountain.
At certain points in the tunnels, staircases were built to an upper gallery which was hewn out of the rocks high up above the machinery. These galleries, which were never finished, were no more than huge, dunk holes with rounded ceilings. There was no light in them and no access to the outer world. They were destined to be prisoners quarters, and with them Ebensee was entering a new phase of de-humanisation in which men were to be deprived of their sight. Like burrowing animals, they would have to become accustomed to perpetual darkness. The prominenten were to be fractionally better off, for they would have smaller chambers fitted with single electric light.
PICTURE GALLERY OF THE TUNNEL SYSTEM
Two separate works were located in the Ebensee hills -- Anlage A was a large system closer to the lake and town, and Anlage B was a smaller system adjacent to the concentration camp, just to the southwest. Neither system was completely finished before the end of the war, but the tunnels in Anlage A were more extensive, and larger. At the end of the war, Anlage A contained a working petroleum refinery (which later produced gasoline for the U.S. Army). Only one or two of the tunnels of Anlage B, where tank and truck motor parts were made, reached any sort of completion; and none were as long as planned, nor were the side connecting passages finished.
The work was performed mainly by inmates brought from the Mauthausen camp, the Ebensee camp, adjacent to the Anlage B tunnels, has all but disappeared today, save for the main gate and a memorial on the site. Some 8200 inmates died at this camp before it was liberated on 6 May 1945 by the U.S. Army. Tunnel 5 of the Anlage B system is maintained today as a memorial.
|PLANT LAYOUT-ANLAGE -A|
Map of the Ebensee tunnel system, some show tunnels that were planned but never started, others were started but not finished.Anlage A contained a working petroleum refinery which later produced gasoline for the U.S. Army. Only one or two of the tunnels of Anlage B, where tank and truck motor parts were made, reached any sort of completion; and none were as long as planned, nor were the side connecting passages finished. Anlage B tunnels, has all but disappeared today, save for the main gate and a memorial on the site. Some 8200 inmates died at this camp before it was liberated on 6 May 1945 by the U.S. Army. Tunnel 5 of the Anlage B system is maintained today as a memorial.
The photo on the left, shows the Ebensee Oil-Refinery works still in operation and used by the U.S. Army to distil gasoline. . This view shows the multi-story aspect of the refinery at Anlage A - the rails going up the slope lead to another opening at an upper level, where smoke from the refining process is issuing. Plans of Anlage A show four of these upper level tunnels. Although the tunnel opening on the main level is labelled 7 in this post-war photos, it was more likely Tunnel 1 or Tunnel 2 on the German plan. The photo on the right shows the interior of Tunnel 2 - one of the two-story tunnels - of Anlage A in 1945.
&nb sp; Widerstandsmuseum in Ebensee, and is open to the public.
Tunnel 5, Anlage B, then and now. The 1945 photo shows the machinery in place for the
manufacture of tank and truck engine parts.
There was actually a second story above the concrete roof, for offices (see sketch below).
This 1945 sketch of a tunnel cross-section shows the main floor, with its pre-fab concrete walls and ceiling,and the space for offices and shops above.
|The main gate to the Ebensee concentration camp, seen in this photo taken just after liberation, has been preserved as a memorial"|
CONTINUED UNDER PART 2