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Casting of crematorium stretcher used to load the ovens at Mauthausen concentration camp


Painted fiberglass casting of a long, rectangular stretcher from the crematorium at Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, commissioned by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for installation in the museum’s permanent exhibition. In March 1938, Germany annexed Austria, and established a concentration camp roughly three miles from the town of Mauthausen the following August. It originally functioned as a forced-labor camp with a granite quarry. Additionally, in 1941, the camp began to carry out mass killings using gas and several other methods. The systematic killings necessitated the construction of a crematorium facility at the camp, and the dehumanization of prisoners’ deaths was compounded by the high-volume and industrialized body disposal methods. The stretcher (also called a corpse board) was loaded with corpses by forced-labor prisoners, who then lifted it and placed on a set of iron rollers. The prisoners loading the stretchers were ordered to stack the bodies in arrangements that allowed them to burn as efficiently and quickly as possible. The stretcher was then pushed to the back of the muffle, oven chamber, (for an example in the collection, see CA91.1.10), unloaded with the aid of a fire iron or fire hook (for an example in the collection, see CA91.1.8) and then withdrawn. After it was removed, the prisoners would cool the stretcher with a mix of water and soap, which would help the following load to slide off more easily. The stretcher and cremation tools at Mauthausen—and most of those used in crematoriums throughout Europe at the time—were supplied by the German-based engineering and manufacturing company, J.A. Topf & Sons. The metal components of Mauthausen’s furnace—including the stretcher—were shipped to Mauthausen at the end of September 1942. The last mass murder in the Mauthausen gas chamber occurred on April 28, 1945. The SS abandoned the camp on May 3 and US troops arrived within days.

manufacture:  after 1989 August 15-before 1991 March 18
representation: Mauthausen (Concentration Camp); Mauthausen (Austria)
manufacture: West Sussex (England)
Tools and Equipment
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
Record last modified: 2020-06-30 09:24:46
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