Scrapbookpages Blog

January 8, 2014

American soldier, who liberated Mauthausen, saved woman who was on the steps of the crematorium

Marsha Kreuzman is a Holocaust survivor of the Plaszow, Auschwitz, and Mauthausen concentration camps.  The story of her liberation from Mauthausen is told in a recent news article which you can read here.

The Mauthausen concentration camp was liberated by American soldiers on May 5, 1945.  General Eisenhower ordered a re-enactment of the liberation on May 6, 1945 so that photographs could be taken. This was the day that American soldiers, from the 11th Armored Division, including Joe Barbella, arrived at the camp.

The liberation of Mauthausen was re-enacted on May 6, 1945 when soldiers of the 11th Armored Division arrived

The liberation of Mauthausen was re-enacted on May 6, 1945 when soldiers of the 11th Armored Division arrived at the camp

The photograph above was taken on May 6, 1945, the day after the official liberation of the Mauthausen main camp on May 5, 1945. The photo shows prisoners surrounding an M8 Greyhound armored car.

According to Pierre Serge Choumoff (a prisoner at the camp), the liberation of Mauthausen, as shown in the photo above, was reenacted for photographers at the request of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Nazi eagle over the gate had already been removed by the prisoners and a banner, written in Spanish, had been put up by the Spanish political prisoners. The English translation reads “The Spanish Anti-Fascists Salute the Liberating Forces.”

This quote is from the news article, cited above:

LIVINGSTON, N.J., (RNS) It’s been almost 70 years, but Marsha Kreuzman still remembers the moment she lay outside the steps of a Nazi crematorium wishing she could die.

Kreuzman had already lost her mother, father and brother to the Holocaust, and death seemed inevitable, she said.

But then an American soldier picked up her 68-pound body and whisked her to safety.  […]

On May 5, 1945, U.S. soldiers from the 11th Armored Division would cross the Linz border in Austria and liberate Mauthausen. [Joe] Barbella wouldn’t enter the camp with the medical unit until the day after it was liberated, he said.

“When we got there, we saw all these people were skin and bones,” Barbella said.

Kreuzman said she remembers lying down just outside the camp’s crematorium when the soldiers arrived. She heard the words: “You’re free.”

She fainted and a soldier carried her to a field hospital, where doctors would start nursing her back to health, she said.

Apparently, 68-pound Marsha had been lying on the steps down into the crematorium for one whole day before Joe Barbella arrived and the liberation of the camp was re-enacted for the benefit of the press.  Or was she placed on the steps for the re-enactment?  Hopefully, the Communist prisoners, who had helped to liberate camp, had picked her up, on May 5th, and had taken her inside the camp hospital which was located right next to the crematorium.

The white building in the photo is the camp hospital

The white building on the left is the former Mauthausen camp hospital, which is now a Museum.  The steps down into the crematorium are shown in the center of the photo

Steps down into the Crematorium at Mauthausen

Steps down into the Crematorium at Mauthausen are shown in the center of the photo

The photo above shows a view of the Mauthausen crematorium chimney. I took this photo from across the street, where I was standing at the open gate into the Quarantine camp where prisoners were confined for two weeks upon their arrival in an attempt to prevent epidemics. The green building, on the right side, is the bunker or camp prison. An outside stairway, at the end of the green building, leads to the execution area underground where prisoners were shot or hanged.

The gas chamber is located underground in the area to the left of the chimney. In the foreground is the opening into the Quarantine camp.

Marsha Krauzman says that she was lying on the steps down into the underground crematorium, when she was rescued by an American soldier on May 6, 1945. She had been taken to the crematorium by the German guards, presumably to be killed in the gas chamber.

On May 5, 1945, the date given for the official liberation of the Mauthausen main concentration camp, a platoon of 23 men from the 11th Armored Division of the US Third Army, led by Staff Sgt. Albert J. Kosiek, had arrived at the main camp near the town of Mauthausen. They had been guided there by Louis Haefliger, a Red Cross representative who was staying in the camp, and two German soldiers, after first liberating the Gusen sub-camp, 6 kilometers to the west.

Haefliger had taken it upon himself to go out and find American soldiers fighting in the area. He brought them first to the Gusen sub-camp because of the rumors that Hitler had instructed Ernst Kaltenbrunner to give the order to kill all the prisoners by blowing them up in the underground tunnels of the munitions factories there.

After the prisoners in the Gusen sub-camp were released by the American liberators, fighting broke out among the inmates and over 500 of the prisoners were brutally killed by their fellow inmates, according to Sgt. Kosiek. The platoon of American soldiers was unable to control the released prisoners, so they left the Gusen camp and proceeded to the main camp, where the Communist prisoners had already organized an International Committee that was ready to take control of the main camp.

For many years, the Mauthausen camp had only one oven

For many years, the Mauthausen camp had only one oven

Although Mauthausen allegedly had a gas chamber, which was underground, in the crematorium building, there was only one cremation oven, which is shown in the photo above.  The prisoners had been working to build a second double oven in the last few weeks before the camp was liberated.

Marsha Kreuzman was lying on the steps that led to the underground gas chamber, which doubled as a shower room.

In the YouTube video below, you can hear a young Marcha Kreuzman tell the story about how she was taken, along with many other prisoners, to the Mauthausen crematorium. She implies in her talk that the prisoners were taken to the crematorium to be killed and then burned. Or was she actually taken to the camp hospital which was right next door to the crematorium?