Satellite Camp Bretstein
Establishment of the satellite camp
Bretstein Subcamp was established in June 1941. It was commissioned by the “German research institute for nutrition and alimentation GmbH”. This enterprise was owned by the SS and started running a sheep and horse farm on three different mountain farms in Bretsteingraben in 1939.
The Bretstein subcamp was located below the Wieser farm, about four kilometres outside of Bretstein proper, in the so-called “Bretsteingraben”. It consisted of four fences and watchtowers which surrounded the prisoners’ barracks and the two barracks for the SS staff.
The prisoners at Bretstein Subcamp were predominantly from Spain and were arrested in France. Moreover, there were several members of Jehovah’s Witnesses imprisoned at the Bretstein subcamp. There were several attempts at escape in 1941 and 1942, despite poor prospects of success. The highest number of prisoners at the camp at once was at around 80. According to historians, at least 170 prisoners were transferred to Bretstein.
After setting up the camp itself, the SS provided 170 prisoners for the construction of the agricultural road into Bretstein valley. The prisoners were also used for road construction as well as for agricultural work. Conditions were especially harsh due to the mountain climate and the lack of food and clothes provided for the prisoners. The SS murdered five Spanish and two German prisoners there.
According to historical research, the Bretstein Subcamp was guarded by approx. 50 members of the 2nd company of the SS Totenkopfsturmbann (Death’s Head Assault Unit) Mauthausen. This relatively high number of guards was especially due to the isolated location of the subcamp and the large amount of field work the prisoners had to do outside the camps, in the forests of Bretsteingraben. The camp was led by SS member Schneider, SS-Obersturmführer (Senior Assault Leader) Karl Schöpperle, and SS-Untersturmführer (Junior Assault Leader) Fritz Miroff.
All prisoners were transferred to Steyr Subcamp as early as 10 December 1942. The camp was empty until 5 June 1943, when another ten prisoners were transferred to Bretstein. After only 20 days, those prisoners were sent to Mauthausen Concentration Camp. Bretstein Subcamp was shut down on 30 September 1943.
Commemoration and remembrance
In 1998, two memorial plaques were set up by the town of Bretstein on top of a SS homage stone. In 2003, students of the Fohnsdorf high school set up a memorial site near the former camp’s grounds. The “Verein KZ-Nebenlager Bretstein”  is responsible for the care and maintenance of the memorial site. The programme for the commemoration and liberation celebrations can be found here.