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Thread: Open discussion RE "Concentration Camp SS rifles"

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    Super Moderator mrfarb's Avatar
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    Default Open discussion RE "Concentration Camp SS rifles"

    I wanted to have an open discussion regarding single rune, SSZZA4 and SS contract rifles.

    Many times I see them described as "concentration camp" rifles- how accurate do you feel that statement is?

    In doing the research for our last book, I delved deeply into the subject. Not one account of 98k's being actually manufactured in the camp were found in all the postwar interviews I read from camp employees, including Steyr employee accounts. (to be honest, not much was found though).

    So, I put the facts in the book- Steyr did indeed have a large portion of the underground factory at Gusen to used for production, mostly parts though. Lets focus on just the 98k, as production there was varied. The assumption is if Steyr made parts there, they made guns. I doubt it.

    Why waste important underground space to manufacture an outdated weapons system? I don't think they would have. I suggest that the assembly was done outside of Mathausen, in a location above ground and outside of the camp. I have anecdotal evidence of Radom pistols being assembled elsewhere, but parts seem to have been manufactured underground.

    So- the questions stands- why use valuable underground space for assembly of outdated weapons? I can see keeping the machines safe from bombing, but I can assure you the people who assembled them were considered expendable, even German or Austrian workers. If the assembly area gets bombed out all you lose is what is there for assembly.

    Just some thoughts I wanted to put out there for discussion. This topic won't be covered in the Vol. 1 book, but will be covered in the Vol. 2 in the future. I plan on finding the answer to the question as to where- I have a clue due to some work from the Kreigsmodell book, namely a unit history from an 11th Armored Recce vet that brought 3 bnz45 rifles back.....plus other anecdotal evidence from the swjXE I purchased.
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    Senior Member pzjgr's Avatar
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    I would guess you are on the right track. It doesn't make sense to use a secure, secret, underground location to build a bolt action rifle. Assembly doesn't take a whole lot in specialized tools if you have parts that are in spec, straight barrels, etc, etc. A few jigs and fixtures, hand tools, etc and some skilled and semi-skilled, and non-skilled workers.

    The manufacture of the parts take the specialized hard to replace equipment. Now the argument can be made to use an undergorund secure and secret factory to house manufacturing machinery to protect it from bombing, produce the parts, inspect them, and ship the in spec parts off to an assembly location. If you are essentially using slave labor and hand tools for assembly, even if the allies catch wise to your assembly "plant" and bomb it, you simply find another building, get more prisoners and hand tools and continue. If you only supply them with enough parts to assemble enough rifles for a week say, even if destroyed no biggie you didn't lose a lot. Sort of a WWII equivalent to just in time manufacturing.

    Makes sense, and seems plausible...

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    Super Moderator mrfarb's Avatar
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    Yes pzjgr, exactly what I am saying. I need to clarify a bit- when I say not made in a Concentration Camp, I don't mean not made by Concentration Camp inmates. During my research I found the layout for the Mathausen subcamp of Gusen II- this is where the Steyr Barracks were located (a large facility). These barracks supplied the workers for the underground facilities there. There were no assembly areas in the Steyr barracks from the plat maps I looked at.

    Also, in arial views I saw no rifle ranges for test firing guns (you can't do that underground- well, you can but it's a waste of valuable real estate). Also, read this statement from our book:

    From Page 25:

    The Pole Emil Samek has given a detailed report about efforts to slow down production in the Steyr plant at Gusen: “I worked there from spring 1943 to the liberation on May 5, 1945, mostly as a setter . . . This gave me many opportunities for sabotage by setting the devices incorrectly, and other setters did the same thing. However, we soon stopped doing it, for it would have been easy to trace such acts. . . . Only during the final inspection in a separate shop were there greater opportunities for passing larger numbers of improperly dimensioned parts for the final montage, which was done outside the plant, or for putting the right parts on a junk pile to be scrapped. I only worked on the final inspection for a few months, but I know that organized sabotage took place there. . .


    However, a 100 percent sabotage was not possible until after the installation of a tempering facility in our plant.” In this endeavor young Poles acted so conspiratorially that Samek did not learn until after the war “what excellent work was done” there. The improper hardening of some parts of a gun sufficed to make the gun fail after a short period of use.
    \Samek’s compatriot StanisBaw Nogaj has mentioned Józef Ladowski as the organizer of this very effective sabotage in the heat-treating shop, and he has also reported about Poles who gave out damaged implements in the toolhouse. During the nightshift, other Poles substituted defective parts for good ones and sent them to the main plant in Steyr. The good parts were taken back to the plant and added to the production lists for a second time."



    Keep in mind that inmates had no idea where parts were going when they left the plant, they only assumed that these parts were shipped to Steyr Austria.



    Also, the Steyr plant in Steyr Austria was heavily bombed in February 1945 and finished off in April of 1945. This bombing of Steyr assets was one reason the barrel plant was moved to Gusen in 1944, to protect the valuable machinery that made the parts (as you state).


    Last edited by mrfarb; 04-02-2010 at 07:54 AM.
    Order the new K98k book at www.thirdpartypress.com
    Don't forget to visit www.latewar.com for info on late war 98k's.

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    Super Moderator mrfarb's Avatar
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    I know there isn't much to comment on this thread, but I wanted to give an update- seems I was correct in my assumption that Steyr weapons production was totally bombed out in February 1944 and production was moved. I got the name of a town sometime back, but lost it in my research pile- I remembered where I got the info from (thanks Don) and did some digging.

    It seems that Steyr weapons production was moved from Steyr in March of 1944 after the bombing. The chosen locations were Gusen and Molln, Austria. So, here's a map of the location in relation to Steyr (driving distance is 31 kilometers):



    Now, a map with Molln, Gusen, and Steyr- the distance to Gusen from Steyr was 39 Kilometers:



    Most people aren't aware of how close Steyr was to the Gusen camps. 39 Kilometers is about 24 miles!


    The following is a history of Austria in Chronological order listing this fact- I'm still looking for an actual reference for this. This is a translated link, so the translation is a bit odd:

    http://babelfish.yahoo.com/translate...rUrl=Translate

    From what I've been told, the Radom P35 pistols were assembled in Molln, but it's not confirmed. It's possible that 98k assembly was moved to Molln. It's also possible that 98k assembly was done in the vicinity of Gusen. I'll find the evidence, it just takes time and energy.
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    Order the new K98k book at www.thirdpartypress.com
    Don't forget to visit www.latewar.com for info on late war 98k's.

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    Senior Member pzjgr's Avatar
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    Good stuff!

    I wouldn't be surprised if there were more than one satelite assembly location, maybe 2 or 3 dispersed. As I said, if they are getting in spec parts, it wouldn't take much in the way of tools for doing final assembly.

    You have a few dispersed "plants" run a few truck loads of parts to them once a week or so, and Bob's your uncle....even if one gets found and hit, you have another one or two going....

    The big thing is to keep your actual manufacturing machinery safe, hidden, and operating.

    How about the Steyr VG series....where were they being assembled? I just picked up "Desperate Measures" and haven't got to that chapter yet....

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    Senior Member don w's Avatar
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    Hi Farb,

    Okay, I’ll post some of what I learned and saw while in Austria.

    According to the local Gusen Gasthause owner, he counted that Gusen KZ’s had 12 tunnels with one large tunnel that the local locomotive would drive into.
    He thought there were about 20 or more tunnels but had only crawled around 12 of them personally, as a boy. He said that most of the tunnels are sealed, flooded, and unsafe now.
    I asked him if he found any guns or gun parts and he said “yes”, he had found crates of gun parts. He didn’t know to what kind of guns.
    He said that the local chemical companies had small sub-plants there.
    He said that there was aircraft manufacturing going on at Gusen., he thought it was Me.
    When I asked him if Gusen was ever bombed he said that “only one bomb fell nearby, and the people thought it was from a plane trying to do a dump”.

    Gusen is located near Gusen Creek, which feeds directly into the Danube River. The river is approx. a kilometer away from the camp(s) proper. The river is extremely wide at that point too.

    The local train runs through the edges of Sankt Georgen, Gusen and Mauthausen.

    The roads used to be secondary hardened dirt roads, but lead from Stery, Linz, Sankt Georgen, Sankt Valentin, Gusen, and Mauthausen.
    So, this makes Gusen and Mauthausen perfect for shipping and receiving.

    Also to note, the Gasthause owner said there was truck production there too, so, would it make sense to load the trucks with goods when driving them to different locations?

    Questions:

    Is it cheaper to ship parts or people?
    Is it safer to ship parts or people?
    Could you do both ?
    How many tunnels did Stery rent from the government ?
    If you have dozens of kilometers of tunnel space what would you do make parts, or assemble completed weapons in them ?
    If you have all these means of transport, ie river, train, roads, and possibly local airfields, would you ship people, parts, completed weapons, or everything?
    Those planes that were being manufactured there, were they flown out, or taken by ship?
    ( If flown, then there must have been an airfield). The land is flat around there, sans the large hill / ridge jutting up from the ground.

    I vote they did a little of everything. I think they performed the tasks needed/ ordered by the Government at the time. If it meant sending workers to a location, or sending raw steel for shaping into parts, or assembling machinguns, rifles, etc,,they did it or were punished. Just what ever the flavor of the day was
    Last edited by don w; 04-06-2010 at 09:54 PM.

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    Senior Member Wolfsburg's Avatar
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    This link mentions that Me-262 fuselages, machineguns and sub-machine guns were built in the Gusen tunnels but no mention of K98s...

    http://www.thirdreichruins.com/gusen.htm

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    I brought this thread back because I just purchased a "concentration camp" Steyr 98k with the single rune. It was made in 1943. I find it hard to believe that sabotoge was as rampant as most people would like to think. Considering the rifles all had to be inspected and proofed, and the workers WERE working under close supervision, and any evidence of sabotoge would have lead to instant execution or worse, I question how many rifles really were sabatoged. I think this sabotoge thing has snowballed to the point where everyone just assumes that a single rune rifle is a POS and should not be fired any any circumstances. I postulate...if the rifle survived until this date and it hasn't blown up or had a major malfunction, I doubt there is any worry about it being defective or dangerous to shoot. Attached is my single rune 98k I purchased from Empire Arms yesterday. Here's the info on the gun:

    GERMAN Model 98k Mauser bolt-action rifle # 4909 (8mm), a single-rune rifle mfg. under SS control at Mathausen concentration-camp for Steyr-Daimler-Puch in 1943. A Russian-capture import in Excellent condition, 100% reblue with Nazi eagles intact, most parts electropenciled to match number on receiver. The bore very bright with crisp rifling, the early solid walnut buttstock has some handling-marks, with clear cartouches on right side. No cleaning-rod or locking-screws.
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