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February 1945, Landhaus [Provincial Government Building]

The member of the provincial government, Adolf Dietscher, forms a “Volksturm” [territorial army] unit to pursue around 500 Soviet prisoners of war who have escaped from Mauthausen concentration camp – the so-called “Mühlviertl rabbit hunt”.

On the 2nd of February 1945 approx. 500 Soviet prisoners of war staged a spectacular escape from death block 20 in Mauthausen concentration camp. Over 300 were able to get through the barbed wire and fled in a northerly direction into Mühlviertel.

The regional administration immediately announced the escape of “dangerous, hardened criminals” and asked for support from the populace. Almost all the men who were fit for military service were in active service which is why so-called “Volkssturm” units were formed. They consisted of old men and youths aged 14 and above. The participation of a large proportion of the local inhabitants is horrifying – the majority of the escaped prisoners were attacked and shot or beaten to death on the spot.

The SS called it the “Mühlviertel rabbit hunt”. A number of farmers’ families helped escaped prisoners but only 11 are known to have survived. On the 10th of February 1945 between 40 and 50 men were given uniforms and arms in the regional parliament building in Linz in order to hunt the “escaped and dangerous criminals”. The head of the provincial administration, Dr. Adolf Dietscher, led one group. In spring of 1947 he was brought before a People’s Court, found guilty of murdering a concentration camp prisoner and sentenced to 10 years hard labour. He was released after only four years however.