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Meditation Room

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'A place of remembrance and hope'

The central element in this room is a cube made of glass and steel. Its contents: stones from the Danube. The victims' ashes were dumped into the river.
Children from the grammar school in Alkoven collected as many stones from the Danube as the number of people murdered. The cube in the middle of the tower recess was filled with them.
On a door made completely of glass, you can read Article 26 'Integration of Persons with Disabilities' of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Passing through this door, you approach the object – this was decisive for the design idea of the meditation room. Proximity to the elements, in particular to water, was a prerequisite. It was therefore logical to interpret the element of water as a 'source of life' and no longer as a 'grave' in the following design work.
Glass panels in gentle colours were mounted in the window recesses (to cover the windows).
Peaceful, simple surfaces and linear structures generate an association with flowing water. The colour (from transparent to green to blue) is concentrated on the windows in the corner tower. The colour of the glass panels is of decisive importance for the atmosphere of the room. For this reason, the panels are illuminated from the rear and below so that the effect created by the windows is also preserved at dusk or in the evening.
Further equipment is limited to the illumination of the cube and seating in the form of simple stools that are inviting for contemplation.
For memorial services and religious prayers, there is a special place for candlesticks in the tower recess.
It was a conscious decision not to use the religious symbol of a specific confession, since the room was to be a place for everyone. A place for commemorating the victims of the euthanasia campaign, but also a place that leads from memories to hope, which in turn brings about memories."
Herbert Friedl 

 

Photo: Meditation room with stools and coloured glass panels on the windows  Kubus mit Donaukieseln im Meditationsraum

Former Admission Room / Gas Chamber

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Right after arrival, the patients were undressed by the castle's own care staff and taken to the reception room. A physician checked the patients' identities and made diagnoses based on a special assessment form. Most people were then photographed in the recess behind a makeshift wall; most of the files were later destroyed. Immediately afterwards, the victims were taken to the gas chamber.
The glass panels now list the names of round 23,000 people who were murdered in Hartheim. The names are not organised alphabetically or according to victim groups, but rather randomly. The team at the facilities gladly provides assistance to those looking for the names of relatives. Moreover, the room offers a cross-section taken from excavating one of the pits in 2001, which was taken from the castle gardens: here, it becomes evident how the personal effects of the victims in Hartheim were thrown in and buried layer by layer.

 

Photo: Glass panels in the former admission room

Perpetrators and Victims

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From 1940 to 1944, there were many employees from the 'Altreich' and the 'Oberdonau' region working at the castle, who were then obligated to secrecy, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes under orders or under the threat of severe punishment. In addition to administrative, office and security staff, orderlies, nurses, drivers, tradesmen and assistants were involved in the mass murder. Only a few of them were tried and convicted after 1945.
The head of the facilities Linz's Dr Rudolf Lonauer, who was also the director of the District Sanatorium and Nursing Home Niedernhart, also took part in numerous deaths there and escaped being held accountable by committing suicide in 1945. His deputy, Dr Georg Renno (†1997) disappeared in 1945.

From the spring of 1940 to August 1941, 'non-improvable' prisoners were transported, according to plan, from hospitals, care and nursing homes in the southeast region of German territory and murdered in Hartheim; the so-called Hartheim statistical figure counts 18,269 people murdered during that time.

Following the summer of 1941, prisoners from the concentration camps were also killed in the euthanasia facilities in Hartheim. Above all, prisoners from the concentration camps in Mauthausen and Dachau and the many minor camps, but also forced labourers from Eastern Europe were murdered in Hartheim until 1944.

What transpired at the castle could not be kept secret from the local community. There were individual acts of active resistance in the town, whilst passive resistance was sometimes discovered even amongst physicians and government workers.

 

Photo: View over the room 'Perpetrators and Victims'

Former Killing Rooms

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Former Gas Chamber

Photo: View along the overhead crossing through the former killing rooms The victims entered the room through a low, narrow steel door. Showerheads were meant to give the impression of a room for bathing. As soon as the doors were closed behind the closely huddled people, toxic gas (carbon monoxide) was pumped into room at floor level from the adjacent room by means of a perforated pipe.
When the victims showed no more signs of life, the gas was pumped back out in order to allow for the corpses to be taken out through the door on the other side.

 

Former Utility Room

Mounted on the outside of the gas chamber were pipes and valves that allowed the physician on duty to pump in the gas. The steel gas cylinders stood in front of the windows. After opening the airtight connecting door, the corpses were dragged by the crematorium staff from the gas chamber through this room into the morgue.

 

Former Morgue

As it sometimes took days for all the victims from a transport run to be cremated, the corpses were stacked in the meantime. If the patients had previously received a special designation on their back or shoulder, their dental gold was removed here.

 

Former Crematorium Room

Photo: Former crematorium roomAt the south side of this room, there was a built-in cremator with two chambers. It is not exactly known what make or model they were. A large flue led through the courtyard wall to one or two chimneys.
Due to the improper cremation process, remaining bones had to be crushed using an electric grinder before the ash, slag and bone meal could be transported off.

Contact Details

Lern- und Gedenkort Schloss Hartheim
SCHLOSSSTRASSE 1
A-4072 ALKOVEN

tel +43 7274 6536-546
fax +43 7274 6536-548
email office(at)schloss-hartheim.at 

Our office is open:
Mon–Thu: 8.30–16.30
Fri: 8.30–13.00

Opening Hours

Mon and Fri: 9.00 – 15.00
Tue – Thu: 9.00 – 16.00
Sunday and holiday: 10.00 – 17.00
Saturday closed

 




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