With its heavy stone walls and towers, Mauthausen resembles a castle overlooking the Danube valley just east of Linz, Austria. It was established a few months after the annexation of Austria in 1938 (the Anschluss). The camp was notorious for its deadly labor regime, with many of the prisoners working in the quarry adjacent to the camp. Undernourished prisoners were forced to carry heavy stones on their backs up the 186 steps—the Todessteige, or Stairs of Death—to the top. Nearly 60% of the almost 200,000 prisoners who passed through Mauthausen perished. American soldiers liberated the camp on May 4, 1945.

The walls, towers, and many interior buildings still stand. The area where the SS lived is today a monument park where several dozen structures of striking diversity have been erected by countries and ethnic communities.