A unique donation was made to our Museum in the spring of 2011. We received this beautifully carved cigarette case from Roland Waringer, a gift to his Grandfather by a French prisoner from the POW camp at Mauthausen.
A letter that accompanied the donation told how the prisoners would pass through his Grandfather’s village of Ennsdorf, to and from their work as wood cutters for the camp.
His grandfather was a shoemaker and would repair and sometimes make shoes for the prisoners. In return for this and food he gave them, some wood was left behind for the villagers with the co-operation of their guards.
The French prisoner who carved this cigarette case may have considered himself one of the more fortunate inmates. He was part of a group that worked outside of the Camp that appeared to be more humanely treated by their guards. It is not known if this prisoner survived the war.
The Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp was located in Austria and purported to be the worst of the worst Camps operated by the German SS. The camp served the German War Machine in the manufacture of munitions and in the later stages of the war the ME 262 fighter jet and the V2 rocket.
Tens of thousands of European prisoners were tortured and starved to death in this camp. Thousands of others faced “extermination by labour” and worked to death in adjacent stone quarries. As punishment they were forced to carry 25 – 50 kg blocks of stone up the 186 “Steps of Death”. Many thousands of others met their end in Gas Chambers and Gas Vans.
On the 5th May 1945, a Red Cross worker in the area guided a Platoon of the 11th Armored Division U.S. Third Army led by S/Sgt. Al Kosick to the camp and its liberation.