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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.

History of Hartheim Castle to 1940

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Historical photo: Staff of the institution Hartheim before 1939 with the castle of Hartheim in the background Historical photo: Castle of Hartheim in 1931

Hartheim Castle is a Renaissance castle that was built in the 17th century and is considered one of the most important works of Renaissance architecture in Upper Austria. At the close of the 19th century, it was donated by its former owner, Prince Starhemberg, to the Upper Austrian State Welfare Society (Oberösterreichischer Landeswohltätigkeitsverein) for the care of mentally and physically disabled people. This society established a so-called 'Facility for the Feebleminded, Imbecile, Idiotic and Cretinous', where the disabled were cared for by the Merciful Sisters of St Vinzenz von Paul until 1940. Following Austria’s integration into the German Empire in 1938 and the Act on Transition and Categorisation of Societies, Organisations and Associations of 17 May 1938, the Upper Austrian State Welfare Society was disbanded on 10 December 1938 and its direction was transferred to the Institution of the Welfare Department of the District Self-Administration.

Historischer Ort

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Unfortunately, there is not much literature on Hartheim:

Simone Loistl und Florian Schwanninger: Vestiges and Witnesses: Archaeological Finds from the Nazi Euthanasia Institution of Hartheim as Objects of Research and Education. In: International Journal of Historical Archaeology (2017) 1-25,
DOI 10.1007/s10761-017-0441-2

You will find information on this website, namely at the pages History before 1940, Killing Facility Hartheim 1940–1944 and History 1945–2003


In addition, you may want to read the following articles:

Download as pdfKepplinger_The Hartheim Euthanasia Institute (PDF)

pdfHahn_What Occured in Linz (PDF)

pdfProsecution of former T4 assessors (PDF)



If you want to know more, please contact us. We will be glad to give you as much information as we can.





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Lern- und Gedenkort Schloss Hartheim

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