May 04, 1945
Liberation of Gunskirchen
The 71st Infantry Division liberated Gunskirchen, one of the many subcamps of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.
Major Cameron Coffman of the 71st Infantry Division wrote:
Nazism at its worst was unfolded in stark reality before Doughboys of the 71st Infantry Division today when they stumbled upon a carefully concealed concentration camp six kilometers north of Lambach, Austria...
Construction of the Gunskirchen camp began in December 1944. The camp was planned to house several hundred slave laborers. When the camp was opened in April 1945, however, thousands of prisoners evacuated on death marches from Mauthausen started to flood Gunskirchen. In these overcrowded conditions, diseases such as typhus and dysentery spread rapidly through the starving and weakened camp population. The prisoners were—with the exception of 400 political prisoners—Jews from Hungary whom the Germans had forced to march on foot from their homeland to Austria, where they were to be used for forced labor. Some 17,000 Hungarian Jews reportedly passed through the Gunskirchen camp.
When troops of the 71st entered the camp, they learned that the SS guards had fled the corpse-littered camp days before. Some 15,000 prisoners were still in the camp. In the months following the liberation, some 1,500 former prisoners died as a consequence of their mistreatment by the Nazis.