The Death Marches of Hungarian Jews Through Austria in the Spring of 1945
In May and June 1944, approximately 18,000 Hungarian Jews were sent to the Gaus of Vienna and the lower Danube in eastern Austria to serve as slave laborers and also as a bargaining chip in SS negotiations with the Western Allies. Despite harsh living and working conditions, their survival prospects were good until near the end of the war, when they were sent on murderous death marches to Mauthausen and Gunskirchen. In November 1944, tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from Budapest, as well as Jewish labor conscripts of the Hungarian army began to be deported to Austria to dig trenches at the so-called “Southeastern Wall” (Südostwall) in the Lower Danube and Styria Gaus. Approximately one-third of the Jewish laborers died during their deployment, while the others were sent to Mauthausen at the end of March 1945. The majority of the exhausted laborers were marched there on death marches; only a minority was sent by train. The regional party leaders in cooperation with the SS organized these death marches. Most of the guards on the death marches were members of the Volkssturm, a paramilitary unit raised by the party in October 1944, but there were also Hitler Youth and rural police. The SS provided only a few guards but held overall responsibility for the treks. The article also reconstructs the routes of the death marches through Austria.