May 17, 2007

Living in a Nazi death camp

Residents of the Austrian village of Gusen live on the foundations of a former concentration camp. Until recently no one spoke about the town's past, but an audio tour by an artist who was born there is changing that.
The route of the 100-minute audio tour, which opened last week, takes the visitor through Gusen I, the camp built to house mostly Polish, Spanish and Russian prisoners. It wends its way past the pink three-storey fa├žades of today's Parkstrasse, where a village teacher during a wartime visit to the dentist recounts blundering into an execution of children tied in sacks.

Further down, at number 3 Parkstrasse, a cream, two-storey house is now on the site where Gusen's makeshift gas chamber once stood.

"Commander [SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Karl] Chmielewski had a welcoming speech for us," one Polish survivor who lives in the UK, but wishes to remain anonymous, recalled. "He said 'For you there is only one way out from here. Through the chimney'."

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