The main purpose of the “Hartheim Memorial Book” project is to record the names of all those murdered in Hartheim. We want to give them their identities back, to prevent their disappearance into anonymity and to help their relatives and descendants in their search for the last traces of their murdered family members.
The project was initiated with the support of the State of Upper Austria and the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education and Art in 1998.
During the period when Hartheim Castle was used as a Nazi euthanasia centre (1940–1944), a special registry office was set up on the site. In late 1944, all documents produced during this time were either removed or destroyed.
For this reason, when researching the victims’ names we essentially have no option but to resort to four types of secondary source:
1. Documents from the mental hospitals, insofar as they still exist;
2. files from the post-war trials concerning Nazi euthanasia;
3. records from cemetery administration offices;
4. Documents from the concentration camps.
The overall number of victims of Hartheim is estimated at around 30,000. Although this number is based on relatively weak source material, it has been recognised in scholarly research. The aim of the project is to either confirm or correct this number with the greatest possible precision. Currently, around 23,000 names are recorded in the Memorial Book. Because of the lack of primary sources, we are fully aware that a complete record is an unachievable goal. Historians have managed to document the “T4” transports from the large dispatching institutions with almost no gaps, but the availability of source material for the smaller mental hospitals, some of which no longer exist, is problematic. New signs keeps coming to light that people were taken directly from their homes and only a short time later were dead. But to this day it has not been possible to prove these claims with written sources. Researchers often cite conflicting death tolls. One explanation for this is that they use different sources. Ultimately, for some people presumed to have been victims of this particular site, it is in fact not certain that they were murdered at Hartheim.
The primary intended readership for the Memorial Book is, firstly, relatives of people who were murdered here and, secondly, researchers. Because the Austrian Data Protection Act (DSG) 2000 classifies the contents of patient files as “sensitive data” subject to special protection, the Documentation Centre only ever passes on data about victims to the above-mentioned groups. The Hartheim Memorial Book is a database in which researchers can search according to various criteria, e.g. surname, place of residence or place of birth.