Together, the gas chamber, the technical room, the morgue and the crematorium room comprised the site of the National Socialist mass killings in Hartheim. The history of this location is not preserved in plain sight. The reason for this is that the evidence was destroyed in the National Socialist demolition measures at the turn of the year 1944/1945. All killing installations were removed, so that a superficial examination would have revealed nothing of the history of the period 1940 to 1944.
The remaining architectural traces of the events had to be found, preserved and interpreted in order to make it possible for visitors to “read” them. One step, literally an incisive one, was to cut through the former killing rooms and thus make this mechanised killing pathway visible. A walkway leads through the spatial cut, showing the visitors the way. It is possible to walk through the killing rooms but not to tread the floor. From this distance, every visitor must decide for themselves how close to get to the historical events.
At the same time, the few surviving architectural traces on the ground are protected.
“My central mission is to keep a process of memory in progress”, wrote the artist Herbert Friedl, who died in 2018, about his redesign of the Memorial in Hartheim Castle. He believed this required the creation of a new reality, standing at a distance from the real historical events. His aim was not to reconstruct or stage-manage the installations and events, but to evoke the history in visitors’ minds by means of an abstract design. The memorial rooms are characterised by “emptiness”. This enables the still present, original traces to keep their strength. The harmony and beauty of the castle are confronted with “irritations” and “disturbances” that call to mind the tragic events there. In designing the Memorial, Friedl restricted himself to two materials, glass and steel. These can be found, for example, in the former bus shed, the victims’ path to the killing rooms and, in the exterior, on the windows of the killing rooms. Traces of light lead through the memorial rooms to the meditation room.
The victims’ route on the arcade pathway was also lined with steel panels, an allusion to the wooden walls in place at the time. The artistic design also includes the glass panels in the former reception room, the excavation block, the walkway through the former killing rooms, the lighting in the former crematorium room and the meditation room.