Geoff Walden

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Gusen Concentration Camp / Project B-8 "Bergkristall" Tunnel System

 

   Two underground tunnel projects were started in the area of St. Georgen, east of Linz. Inmates from the nearby Mauthausen camp were moved to a satellite camp adjacent to the village of Gusen, where they worked in a stone quarry. Later, a small tunnel system was in place in the hills just north of the Gusen camp. This was called the "Kellerbau" and was used for the manufacture of machinegun parts and submachineguns.

   A larger underground project was started adjacent to St. Georgen. This was the "Bergkristall" (Rock-Crystal) Project B-8, intended for the mass production of Me 262 jet fighters. This would have been a very extensive project when finished, one of the largest of the German underground manufacturing facilities, having some planned 50,000 square meters of manufacturing space (see also the pages on Thüringen/Kahla/REIMAHG, Nordhausen, and Mühldorf). The B-8 Project was begun in March 1944 and went into production of Me 262 fuselages and parts in early 1945. By the end of the war almost 1000 Me 262 fuselages had been assembled at B-8. The slave laborers from the Mauthausen and Gusen camps suffered one of the highest mortality rates of all concentration camps - nearly 40,000 died there from 1938-45.

   The B-8 Bergkristall tunnel system was some 85 percent complete when captured by the U.S. Army at the end of the war. On 5 May 1945, the 41st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron of the 11th Armored Division overran the site and liberated the remaining prisoners in the Gusen camps. The area was turned over to the Soviet military in the summer of 1945, and they blew up the main tunnel entrances in 1947. The site is accessible today, but is located on private property, and the tunnel openings are closed (although there are plans to possibly open one or more of the tunnels for public view). The Gusen I camp crematorium is open as a public memorial, with an adjacent museum.

MapQuest map link to Gusen / St. Georgen

 

This aerial reconnaissance photo taken in March 1945 highlights the sites shown below. The main Gusen I concentration camp was the
block of buildings in the lower center of the photo. The Gusen II camp was the smaller set of buildings to the left, labeled 19 on the photo.
The numbered red circles show the following sites:  1 - crematorium memorial, 2 - main gate "Jourhaus", 3 - gate posts, 4 - rock crusher in quarry,
5 - existing entry to the Kellerbau tunnel system (the tunnel system is under the wooded hill just to the north).  (U.S. Army Air Corps photo)

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Gusen Concentration Camp Memorial, at the site of the KZ-Gusen I crematorium (No. 1 on the photo above). On the right, original camp gate posts that still exist at the site (No. 3).

 

The Gusen crematorium oven in 1945, after its capture by the U.S. Army, and the crematorium memorial today.  (U.S. Army Signal Corps photo)

 

The main entry to the camp was through the so-called Jourhaus, an SS administration building (similar to Dachau) - No. 2 on the aerial photo. The Jourhaus is today a private residence. The period photo (or possibly just post-war) on the left was taken from inside the camp area, near the location of the gate posts shown above (No. 3).  (KZ Memorial Mauthausen)

 

SS barracks and administration buildings were located adjacent to the Jourhaus, and some of these still exist today (white No. 15 on the aerial photo).

 

The main purpose of the Gusen I camp was to provide slave labor in the adjacent rock quarry. This huge rock crusher was positioned over a rail line that carried the gravel and crushed rock to various construction sites. The rail line was removed after the war, and the rock crusher fell into ruins. (No. 4 on the aerial photo)

 

Plan of the Kellerbau tunnel system, adjacent to the Gusen II camp. The dotted lines show parts that were either never completed, or destroyed by the Soviets after the war. In 2009 or 2010 the main existing entrance was reconstructed and closed, but there has been some discussion about opening this tunnel as a memorial, similar to Ebensee.

 


 

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On the left - an Allied aerial reconnaissance photo from April 1945, showing the Gusen I and II camps (# 13 and 19), the quarry site (#21), and the entrance to the Kellerbau tunnels (#31). On the right - plan of the B-8 Bergkristall tunnel project in nearby St. Georgen.  (from post-war Allied reports of the Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee (CIOS), Imperial War Museum, London)

 

Two views of the B-8 Bergkristall tunnel system taken in May 1945, after the U.S. Army overran the area.  (left - U.S. National Archives, RG 111SC-231581; right - Bundesarchiv, 192-003)

 

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These photos show the remains of concrete bunkers at one of the entrances to the Bergkristall system. These bunkers were probably built to protect the tunnel entrances, or for final assembly of the Me 262 fuselages, in common with other such sites. These bunkers and tunnel entrances were blown up by the Soviets in 1947.

 

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Another nearby entrance to the Bergkristall system. For several years this entrance was accessible, but in 2009 or 2010 it was closed off and locked.

 

KZ-Lager Gusen webpages  --  http://www.gusen-memorial.at/index.php , http://www.gusen.org/gu20101x.htm
http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/1325/berg.htm
 

Other concentration camp sites  --  Dachau, Buchenwald, Dora (Nordhausen), Sachsenhausen, Flossenbürg, S/III Jonastal, Ebensee, Mauthausen (Austria)

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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.


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