Oral History

US veteran Ross Snowdon describes the camp quarry and barracks and the burial of the dead in Mauthausen

Ross Snowdon is a veteran of the 11th Armored Division. During the invasion of German-held Austria, in May 1945 the 11th Armored (the "Thunderbolt" division) overran two of the largest Nazi concentration camps in the country: Mauthausen and Gusen.


Down the hill was a barracks where those who could not work in the quarry would be put there, and they had double deck bunks, and they would have three people who were too weak to work laying in each one of those bunks, and maybe two of them were deceased and the other one was too weak to get out of there. The thing that bothers me about that was that when we revisited the place in 1980 they had torn those barracks down and put monuments up there and I think those barracks would have been a better monument to those people who died there because they could not work anymore. But we went down to the village of Mauthausen and we brought the residents from there up, and our engineers had dug these long ditches, and in them -- you see them here somewhere, they have my original pictures, I haven't seen them but they're here -- but we took four of the citizens from Mauthausen, one on each hand, one on each leg, and they laid these bodies in these trenches with some dignity and they, "Oh, I didn't know what was going on, I had no idea." And I said, "You could smell what was going on because the ovens had been freshly used there." And I said, "But the next time you see some activity on this hill, you make it your business to find out what's going on up there, because," I said, "I don't believe you." I said, "I know that you know what was going on up here." And, so, they didn't like the idea of helping us to bury those bodies, but we had the satisfaction of having them bury these people with dignity, and although the deceased couldn't enjoy that part of it, at least I think they probably know what we had done to preserve their memories.


Thank you for supporting our work

We would like to thank Crown Family Philanthropies and the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for the Holocaust Encyclopedia. View the list of all donors.