History of Hartheim Castle 1945–2003

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 Photo: View over the castle's yard before the renovation 1997 to 2003    Photo: View of the first memorial room in the former reception room

Immediately following the war, the castle served to accommodate refugees, but it was returned to the Upper Austrian State Welfare Society along with its agricultural operations in 1948. The situation made it impossible, though, to continue working with the disabled at the castle. After the devastating Danube flood of 1954, flood victims were accommodated at the castle by the Municipality of Alkoven. Since that time, up to 30 flats were rented out at the castle.

 

In 1968, the efforts undertaken by the Upper Austrian State Welfare Society to re-start work with the disabled bore fruit: Institut Hartheim was established in the vicinity of the castle. Institut Hartheim and the Upper Austrian State Welfare Society (today’s GSI Gesellschaft für soziale Initiativen, Association for Social Initiatives), the organisation that oversees it, were aware of their obligation to keep the memory of the victims of the Nazi euthanasia programme alive and therefore established a memorial in the castle in 1969. The Upper Austrian State Welfare Society considered the new institute to be a 'living place of atonement for all the victims at Hartheim Castle'.

 

Over the years, the conviction has grown that continuing to utilise the castle as a residential building was contradictory to the special situation it posed. The initiative started by the Verein Schloss Hartheim (Association of Hartheim Castle) in 1995 and the decision taken in 1997 by the State of Upper Austria to transform Hartheim Castle into a place for learning and remembrance led in 1999 to alternative flats being built for the tenants and renovation and restoration works starting at the castle. After this extensive work on the castle and its outbuildings (2000 to 2003), which was made possible by the Gemeinnützige Schloss Hartheim GmbH (Non-profit Organisation for Hartheim Castle) and financed by the State of Upper Austria and in part by the Federal Government, Hartheim Castle opened in 2003 as a place for learning and remembrance where the memorial and exhibition on the topic of the 'value of life' are housed.