Destructive Practices, Life-Saving Practices. Corporal Activities in Mauthausen (1938-1945)


  • Doriane Gomet IFEPSA

Palabras clave:

Second World War - Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camps -Mauthausen - Sport - violence


Although the death rate was extremely high in Mauthausen, survivors speak about “sports activities”. This study shows that this term actually referred to two different kinds of practices: punitive and recreational physical exercises. It also demonstrates that the purposes of those practices depended on the status of inmates in the camp hierarchy, and thus on the power exerted over inmates. While they retained certain common features with the educational activities carried out by the SS, the physical exercises imposed on prisoners with no specific responsibilities in the camp were — because of their fierceness and repetition — a highly repressive means for deliberately crushing them. As for sports activities, they were a form of leisure activity designed for prisoners of high status in the camp hierarchy. Through these means, the SS intended to ensure the active collaboration of prisoners in camp self-government, but they also found there an opportunity for their own entertainment. For some prisoners, this entertaining dimension became part of a more general strategy enabling them to rise above the dehumanization they suffered at the hands of the SS.

Biografía del autor/a

Doriane Gomet, IFEPSA