"Closed" institution?

The psychiatric hospital Mauer-Öhling (Lower Austria) in the Nazi era and in collective memory

Approximately 50 students of the ALW at the Fachschule Amstetten (Lower Austria), all aged around 17, took the Nazi category „unworthy of life“ as a starting point to look into the notion of „disability“. In accordance with their seminar focus on „Health and Social Affairs“ the students concentrated on the occupational profile and Menschenbild in medical and health care during National Socialism.

Today’s hospital Landesklinikum Amstetten in Mauer-Öhling is located in the immediate vicinity of these students’ school. Founded in 1902 as “Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Landes-Heil-und-Pflegeanstalt” and housing about 2000 beds, it was the third-largest clinic in Austria which either deported its patients to Euthanasia Centres or murdered patients in-house on the basis of National Socialist “Euthanasia”.

Only little research has so far been done on these crimes and they have barely been discussed in public. While Mauer-Öhling was a “closed” institution, contact between inmates, medical staff as well as the affiliated supply yard and the surrounding population can be assumed. In an initial subproject Dr. Philipp Mettauer posed questions on the flow of information: how and with the help of which participants could information reach the outside of the institution? The content and traces as well as the lack or denial of such information were collected by the participating students together with Dr. Wolfgang Gasser in a second subproject. They were supported by the project team in doing research in local media and in conducting street interviews as well as interviews with selected people – members of staff, relatives of victims.

The aim of the project was not only a greater knowledge of the processes within the institution during National Socialism but also a clarification of today’s presence of these processes within the collective memory in the region of Amstetten. The students’ research extended this understanding and it was transported to the general public by means of film.

This projectwork was intended to result in a memorial commemorating the victims of Mauer-Öhling; interested students could – on a voluntary basis – participate in the preparation of this memorial.

This project had a Top Citizen Science-extension project.

The project "Names, graves and memory. The "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt" Mauer-Öhling in der NS-Zeit" aimed working with citizen scientists on the creation of public awareness on the extended hospital cemetery and those buried there. Through biographical research and interviews with relatives of victims and the medical staff at that time, the life stories of the forgotten victims were reconstructed.

This project has been completed.