Saturday, November 24, 2012


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.

SS Obergruppenführer" and "General der Waffen-SS" Hans Kammler-Since it had been decided that the Peenemünde rocket research centre was to be relocated into a protected underground area, it became clear that the necessary work would have to be done by concentration camp prisoners. On October 1943, this project called "Cement" was approved by Hans Kammler who was the responsible building official of the SS.
[Anybody familiar with Nazi Germany will be familiar with Himmler, Speer, Bormann and such but few have ever heard of Hans Kammler. Kammler was a General in the SS, rather an accomplishment any way you look at it. Kammler "was regarded by many in the Nazi hierarchy as the most powerful man in Germany outside the Cabinet." (Blunder! How the U.S. Gave Away Nazi Supersecrets to Russia, by Tom Agoston, Dodd, Mead & Co.)
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
The site chosen for the barracks was a heavily wooded place where snow lay about five feet deep. During the basic work of building the foundations, the snow or rain fell relentlessly. The prisoners worked their 12 hour day relentlessly, in hopelessly inadequate clothing. On their feet they wore wooden clogs, or claquettes, with canvas uppers. The snow stuck to them every step so that walking became almost impossible. They were a permanent torture to the prisoners who wore them. The wood would crack and split deeper and deeper until it was held together only by the canvas at the top. When the clogs fell apart completely, the prisoner had to walk barefoot. Their feet were badly lacerated as they stumbled over rough ground, and very often abscesses and infection would set in. There were no facilities for washing the few clothes they had, however wet they were. As a result, the sickness rate rose rapidly. Lice soon infested the camp, which the SS, with their terror of vermin would not tolerate. There was one isolated occasion in December 1944, when the prisoners were given a minute piece of soap, a warm bath and a change of shirt and shorts.

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
Both Bachnayer and Ziereis showed extreme sadistic traits, but Bachmayer favoured a more riotous way of life. He drank heavily and often. Although he was married, he had mistresses. He often accompanied others to wild orgies on the Mauthausen farms. Once, after one of these nights out, he returned to camp with his SS companions just as a commando of hungry, sick and exhausted men was coming back from a work shift. In his drunken state he grabbed a machine-gun from its post and let off burst after burst at the prisoners. The commando of thirty men was riddled with bullets, and not one remained alive. Bachmayer was commandant of Ebensee for only a few weeks. After establishing his rule there, he returned to Mauthausen, leaving the camp under the command of an Obersturmführer who appears to have been totally deranged. He subscribed to all the most extreme methods of the SS, the civilian employees and the criminal Kapos. He would readily comply with requests from the civilian building department for more prisoners for their building programme. If the commando for such task were under strength, he would have the sick dragged out of the pitiful shelter of the infirmary to swell the ranks. Naturally, a few hours later the dead and dying would be brought back on hand trucks from the building sites and the quarry workings. Bachmayer chose a German political prisoner to be chief camp leader. It was a job which was generally given to a prisoner of the criminal class and thus to some extent his choice was unusual. This man was of higher intelligence than the average prisoner and he preferred to delegate the more sordid activities to the second camp leader, who was notorious for beating men to death. The combination of these two became a reign of terror.

Living and dying and dead people are in one room together
One of their methods of toture-plus-murder was to tie a prisoners arms behind him, the hands side by side and thumb to thumb, and then suspended him from a tree about eighteen inches off the ground. Bachmayer would then let his dogs loose. Sometimes the prisoner would faint immediately, at other times he would left in this unspeakable torture to die a slow and agonising death. One of the camp leader's was trafficking gold and precious stones. Prisoners arriving from other camps via Auschwitz in late December 1944, and early January 1945, brought in valuables which he did not hesitate to extract from them. He made deals with the SS, who were always on the look-out for a quick profit, and exchanged the jewels for food, clothing, cigarettes, alcohol and out-of-camp visits. As has already been said, it was officially forbidden for the SS to take part in such activities, and the RSHA were usually most vigilant. Many notorious murderers, including the infamous Globocnik of Treblinka, were court-marshalled for trafficking offences. The two camp leaders demanded favours of the men whom they chose for the privileged positions of block leaders, sectaries and so on. They in their turn often used their lucrative positions to secure young prisoners as Stubendienst, or cleaners. The all-male life of the concentration camp naturally gave rise to a certain amount of homosexuality, and a few prisoners, who in the normal way would never have given it a thought, fell into perverted ways. Wether or not homosexuality was always the motive, it was noticeable in Ebensee that the block leader' auxiliaries were usually about eighteen years old, well fed and reasonably clothed. In their newly found authority, they would not hesitate to beat without mercy , men who were old enough their fathers.
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)
The Commandant employed two stool pigeons, who regularly reported to him any signs of rebellion among the prisoners. Even the SS disliked this and his successor had one of the men bludgeoned to death for being a toady.
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.

Anlage B-This preliminary plan shows the tunnels in their planned completed state. In actuality, none of the tunnels was finished beyond the major cross passage in the centre, and the other cross passages were mostly unfinished. Only Tunnels 1, 2, 4, and 5 were in a condition for use. Tunnels 7 and 8 had no exterior entrances. This plan shows how the tunnel entrances were made smaller than the interior working spaces, to protect against bomb blasts.
By he time the war ended there were prisoners housed in one of these upper dormitories. When they entered the tunnel factories they were never to see daylight again. Even when they came down from their holes for their day's work, daylight was cut off by the massive entrance doors of steel which swung back on a pivot fixed in the ground. Eventually, the entire camp would have been moved inside and thousands of humnan beings would have become nothing more than emaciated automatons. Work on the tunnels went on twenty-four hours a day in three-eight-hour shifts. The three teams of prisoners worked in chaotic conditions. Wires, pieces of wood and all kinds of obstacles littered the area and, as they struggled with their great loads, it was only too easy to trip up and stumble. The noise of the electric drills was ear-splitting. The only place for the prisoners to eat gruel provided for them was in the working area. It was also the only place where they could relieve themselves, the buckets being placed in full vie of everyone.

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.


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.

Interior of Tunnel 3 in Anlage A in 1945. This photo shows the partially finished nature of most of the tunnels. interior of one of the Anlage A tunnels today. This is Tunnel 5, the mine tunnel

 Entrance to a tunnel in the Anlage B section (this may be Tunnel 9 Entrance to Tunnel 5 in Anlage B today. This tunnel, the most complete of Anlage B, is maintained by the
&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 completed part of Tunnel 5 was lined with pre-fab concrete sections, supporting lights and water and gas pipes.

The main gate to the Ebensee concentration camp, seen in this photo taken just after liberation, has been preserved as a memorial" 



  1. Dear Herb,

    I'd be very interested in knowing more about you. Was looking for some info about counterfeiting done, originally by inmates of Sachsenhausen, who might have been moved to Ebensee. The suggestion came from an internet friend of mine and author, David Israel, whose book, The Day the Thunderbird Cried, you can find on Amazon, along with a Review I wrote about it for both the print and Kindle editions. Hoping this will find you and that you will be in contact. Dachau? Went there first in 1965 as 13 year old Army Brat when dad was stationed there. Dad was a WWII Vet a member of the 45th Division which liberated it. Mom was one of 18 from Straubing, Germany. I've spent many years in Munich where I also got my doctorate in Theology in 1985. Much more that I won't bore you with here. Thank you so much for this Blog which I am looking through. Were you the son of someone working at Dachau in some capacity? Maybe there is more somewhere else here in one of the blog postings.

    Trust you are well there in NZ. You sound as if you've had a fascinating life and I'm happy for that.

    Please do consider emailing me at
    The Rev. Dr. George M. Garin, Jr.

  2. P.S. I'm an Anglican Priest, currently in Troy, NY. Do Protestant worship services at a Nursing Home here and lead music at a Baptist Church. Work with folks with Developmental Disabilities.

    To show I'm real you can find me on Facebook or just google me. Somewhere on google should be an Orlando Sentinel Article about me from the mid 90's with a bit about my and my family's experience as a Professor/Missionary in Kinshasa from 86-94.

    Again, hope to hear from you. I'll google you now and will also subscribe by email for any further blog posts.

    1. The Rev. George M. Grain. Jr
      I am rather surprised and at the same time delighted to receive reactions from some people that read my blog. To answer your enquiry regarding counterfeiting money, I did not comment on this subject, but while there might be an interest I will do it now, but partially:
      Jocob Goldglss and Heinrich Fajermann, Jewish internees, released from the concentration camp at Ebensee prior to 9th May, 1945, gave the following account of a large scale counterfeiting operation by RSHA Amt F. This has been corroborated by seizure of documents and other materials on 25th Nay by 307 CIC Detachment. In January, 1944, subjects with 138 other Jewish printers, engravers, bookbinders and bank clerks were selected at Sachsenhausen concentration camp for the purpose of counterfeiting British currency and the falsification of a wide variety of foreign documents and credentials. I February, 1945, the printing plant was moved to Mauthausen concentration camp. Operations were discontinued in April. Subjects stated that the utmost secrecy was maintained and that all workers who became sick were shot and only the speed of our advance [The Allies,sic] prevented the execution of the personnel at Ebensee. A total of 130,519,175 British Pounds were counterfeited. Of them 50,000,000 were destroyed as poor counterfeits, although it was originally intended to drop them over England as a disruptive measure. Some 60,000,000 were taken to Tyrol, and by April 1945 20,000,000 were in the hands of the RSHA Agents who were attempt to put them in circulation in Allied territory. The material recovered by CIC Walchen near Wattens includes stored records of RSHA Amt F, blank passports of European and South American countries, sample passport pages with visas, official metal die stamps, wax impressions of foreign and diplomatic seals, American AGP and social security cards, counterfeiting material, including wire meshes for watermarks of British currency and for the US State Department seal and samples of British counterfeit 5 and 10 Pound (Sterling) notes.[sorce U.S. Weekly Intelligence Summary No. 42, H.Q. 12th Army Group, June, 1945 (ITS Historical Section).
      In fact the money they printed was that good that the Bank of England accepted them as genuine. German Counter Intelligence Agents paid their most successful spy, codenamed 'Cicero' in the British Embassy in Ankara with counterfeit money that was only detected after the war. For further reading the is: - Enter Picture 11/39: 'Forged Fiver'
      As to my self, my entire life story you will find most likely under older blogs, one of them of interest to you might by from 'Sonndorf to Dachau'.
      PS.The server to your e-mail you quoted was uable to deliver and returned the message
      Kind Regards

  3. Ok...I'll try again...Hope this gets through, for I've tried twice already without success. Only now, more than a year later, am I seeing your reply. I thought I'd get a notice, but didn't. Would love to correspond. My email is


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