Delbert Cooper: Classroom Discussions

Delbert Cooper (30 minutes)


Historical notes:


Mauthausen was established not far from Hitler’s birthplace in Austria, just after Germany annexed that nation in 1938.  The first inmates were transferred from Dachau to work in a large stone quarry nearby, the “Wiener Graben.”  Eventually it has 49 satellite camps throughout Austria, with 195,000 prisoners.  Himmler took particular interest in Mauthausen as a model for slave labor – conditions in the quarry were extremely harsh, and prisoners could be worked to death more cheaply than by gas chamber or firing squad.  This Vernichtung durch Arbeit, “annihilation through work,” was official policy.  Accordingly they were given few tools and insufficient food and clothing.  Mauthausen was notorious as one of the most deliberately brutal of all camps.  Gunzkirchen, where Del Cooper got his first look at Nazi atrocities, was nearby and provided workers for the quarry at Mauthausen.



Discussion questions


1.  How would an experience like Del’s change you?


2.  Del helped capture one of the officers who ran the camp.  What would you do in that situation?


3.  If you had been a US government official during the war, and had known about the camps, would you have made the information public?  Why or why not?


4.  In your own life, have you had the experience of discovering something painful and shocking?  Was it something you might have prevented, had you known about it?  Did you feel guilty, or angry, or both?

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