Just when I thought that I had heard everything about the many cruel ways that the Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, someone e-mailed me about the so-called “bathing to death” that was introduced by SS-Haupsturmfuehrer Karl Chmielwesky at Mauthausen between the Summer of 1941 and January 1942.
This information comes from the Nizkor web site, from which I have quoted below:
Inmates who were sick or un-fit for work were selected, driven to the bathing facilities for prisoners and showered with cold water for half an hour or longer. The drains of the pools were closed or blocked with victims who were already collapsed so that the water level continued to rise. In most cases death was through acute circulatory collaps (sic) or through downing. Often the SS-men who stood around the pool accelerated this by pushing the victims under water. At least 242 inmates were killed this way.
Source: Cp. Gisela Ralitsch: “Das KL Mauthausen” in Studien zur Geschicte der Konzentrationslager, eds: Hans Rothfels und Theordor Eschenberg, Stutthgart: Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 1970, pp. 50 – 92, hier pp. 72f.
The photo above shows the outside of the Mauthausen concentration camp with what looks like a swimming pool in front of it. (The stone exterior of Mauthausen reminds me of Folsom prison in the Johnny Cash song.)
I don’t know of any other pool at Mauthausen, so this must be the place where the “bathing to death” took place.
Lt. Commander Jack Taylor, a Navy commando during World War II, was captured and imprisoned at Mauthausen for 35 days before the camp was liberated by American troops in May 1945. Lt. Cmdr. Taylor testified as a witness for the prosecution at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal.
Here is a quote from Lt. Taylor’s Nuremberg testimony about Mauthausen:
Question: “How many ways did they execute them?”
Lt. Cmdr. Jack Taylor: “Five or six ways: by gas, by shooting, by beating, that is beating with clubs, ah, by exposure, that is standing out in the snow, naked, for 48 hours and having cold water put on them, thrown on them in the middle of winter, starvation, dogs, and pushing over a hundred-foot cliff.”
Lt. Cmdr. Taylor was the first witness for the prosecution in the Mauthausen case, which was brought before an American Military Tribunal at Dachau. When asked by prosecutor Lt. Col. William Denson, on direct examination, how many different forms of killing that he had come in contact with at Mauthausen, Taylor testified as follows:
“Gassing, hanging, shooting, beating. There was one particular group of Dutch Jews who were beaten until they jumped over the cliff into the stone quarry. Some that were not killed on the first fall were taken back up and thrown over to be sure. Then there was exposure. Any new transport coming in was forced to stand out in the open, regardless of the time of the year, practically naked. Other forms of killing included clubbing to death with axes or hammers and so forth, tearing to pieces by dogs specially trained for the purpose, injections into the heart and veins with magnesium chloride or benzene, whippings with a cow-tail to tear the flesh away, mashing in a concrete mixer, forcing them to drink a great quantity of water and jumping on the stomach while the prisoner was lying on his back, freezing half-naked in subzero temperatures, buried alive, red-hot poker down the throat. I remember a very prominent Czech general who was held down in the shower room and had a hose forced down his throat. He drowned that way.”
Lt. Cmdr. Taylor may have been confused about the nationality of the general who allegedly drowned in the shower. There were similar stories about a Russian general, Lt. Gen. Dmitry Mikhailovich Karbyshev, who was either drowned in the shower or forced to stand outside in freezing weather while water was poured over him on some unknown date in February 1945. A statue of Karbyshev encased in a block of ice stands near the gate into the Mauthausen camp. Taylor could not have “remembered” this incident because it had allegedly happened almost two months before he arrived at the camp.
The photo below shows the statue of General Karbyshev encased in ice; his likeness is carved on the other side of the white block that you see on the left in the photo.
The photo below shows the “garage yard” at Mauthausen. The stories about dying from exposure were based on the fact that the prisoners had to take a shower and then stand naked outside in the garage yard while their clothes and barracks were disinfected in an effort to prevent typhus which is spread by body lice.
Note that Lt. Cmdr. Taylor mentioned drowning in the shower room at Mauthausen, but not drowning in the pool at Mauthausen. But with all these different methods of killing prisoners at Mauthausen, I wouldn’t put anything past those evil Nazis. I am curious about the “bathing to death.” If anyone knows anything about this, please enlighten us by posting a comment.