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Photograph of the Gusen crematorium: a walled in and adapted double muffle Topf mobile oven. 

Prior to having its own crematorium Gusen sent bodies initially to Steyr municipal crematorium and then to Mauthausen crematorium once it was operational. The Gusen crematorium was completed in late 1940 and was situated between barracks 17,18 and 25 and 26. It began operations at the end of January 1941.

The adapted double muffle Topf portable was fired by coke, not oil which was the original designed mechanism for this type of crematorium oven.

Initially as at other concentration camps, urns of ashes of dead prisoners could be purchased by relatives. Uncollected or unwanted and later on all ashes were scattered across the Danube river.

In late 1944 and into 1945 as fuel ran out and the death rate increased the Gusen oven was unable to keep pace. Bodies were therefore stacked not just in the mortuary of the crematorium and outside the crematorium but outside the prisoner barracks.

A detailed death book of cremations and also the use of coke to fire the ovens was kept and survives in the archives. It gives some interesting facts and figures. For example 999 people were cremated between 26/9/1941 and 12/11/1941. This is 20 bodies a day a very high mortality rate for a camp in 1941.

In addition no cremations took place between 16/10/1941 and 25/10/1941 because the oven had broken down. The fire resistant bricks had worn out and needed to be replaced by a Topf engineer.

Sources: Federal Ministry of the Interior: Concentration Camp Gusen 1939-1945, Vienna 2006.


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