Simon Wiesenthal   Letter 06   14-Dec-1994   Mauthausen rock quarry

December 14, 1994

Simon Wiesenthal
Jewish Documentation Center
Vienna, Austria

Dear Mr. Wiesenthal:

I have just been reading your description of a scene from the Mauthausen rock quarry:

He [Simon Wiesenthal] drew the stone quarry as the gateway to Dante's inferno and later, for a 1946 booklet honouring the first year of liberation of Mauthausen, he captioned what it showed: "Building the pyramids was a preview in which hundreds of thousands of slaves perished.  In the stone quarry, every SS bandit felt like a pharaoh.  Just as in ancient Egypt, giant blocks of stone never lighter than 110 pounds, by Himmler's order were carried by human bodies.  An SS man sat atop such a block, cracking his whip to make work merrier for him!"  (Alan Levy, The Wiesenthal File, 1993, p. 65)

While reading the above description, the following questions sprang to mind:

(1)  You say that the Mauthausen quarry "supplied paving stones for Vienna and other Austrian cities" (p. 64).  But as the stones from the quarry have some use and are not carried back and forth merely as a torture to the prisoners, then Himmler's intervention in the workings of the quarry would have created intolerable inefficiencies.  Would every stone have to be weighed before being carried to see if it met the 110-lb criterion?  And what of the stones that weighed less than 110-lb? If only 110-lb or greater stones may be carried, then the smaller stones must never be lifted, and so they would get left behind, until finally, the quarry would be deep in these unmovable smaller stones and work would have to cease.

(2)  You say that "an SS man sat atop such a block, cracking his whip to make work merrier for him!" (Alan Levy, The Wiesenthal File, 1993, p. 65).  This is an image that I have trouble conjuring up a credible version of.  A 110-pound stone would be not more than the size of a cube measuring one foot on each side.  I try to picture an SS officer weighing perhaps between 150 and 200 pounds sitting down on this one-cubic-foot stone, and then ordering some weak and emaciated Jews to lift the stone without dropping it or him, and then to carry the stone with him sitting on it cracking his whip.  The picture doesn't work.  Such a thing cannot ordinarily be done.

(3)  Nor would the SS officer submit to being lifted in this way.  He would soil he would wear out the seat of his pants sitting and being carried on rock like this all day long.  More importantly, he would be precariously perched and might fall and injure himself on the rocks in the quarry, or rip his uniform when he landed on the ground, or merely appear ridiculous when he fell.

(4)  What good is the SS man's cracking his whip when it is understood that he cannot really apply it? If the SS man did whip the prisoners who were carrying him, they might flinch and release their grip and drop him.

As you can see, the image that I conjure up from your brief description is incredible.  Does the drawing mentioned in the quotation above show how this carrying of an SS man on top of every stone was carried out?  If you have such a drawing, I would very much appreciate your sending me a copy.

Yours truly,

Lubomyr Prytulak