Hartheim Castle Memorial – Place of 30,000 Murders

Castle Hartheim Memorial

free entry


4.5/5 Pros

  • Impressive exhibition
  • Very good structure, which makes you feel the final steps of the murdered
  • Short, but very precise and good information

When you think about Nazi Germany murders, you typically think of extermination camps like Auschwitz or the concentrations camps. A lot of cruelty in these times has however also taken place in other institutions of the regime. One of them is Castle Hartheim, where some 30,000 people were murdered. During a trip through Austria, I visited the memorial.


History of Castle Hartheim

The history of Castle Hartheim can be reconciled back to the 12th century. Since 1898, the castle hosted an institution for handicapped people. In 1938, the Nazis closed this institution. In spring 1940, the castle was transformed into a killing center (“Tötungsanstalt”), which majorly included a gas chamber and a crematory (see below). Relatives and institution remember selected victims in memory plaques in the castle. A lot of physically and metally ill people are among the victims of Tötungsanstalt Hartheim, but also priests and other enemies of the Nazis. There were two waves, the so-called Aktion T4 with 18,269 deaths between May 1940 and August 1940 and the Aktion 14f13, due to that roughly 12,000 died in the gas chambers.

Originally, the ashes of the buried were brought to the Donau river, which is some four kilometres away from the castle. As (on top of the fact that many people were brought to the castle, but nobody left it) this lead to too many rumors, the ashes were buried int he backyard of the castle, which was not visible to the people of Alkoven. This “cemetry” was found by chance in 2002, when digging for maintenance works at a distinct heating pipe disclosed masses of human ashes, belongings and bones. They are buried in the sarcophagus you see in the picture below.


Castle Hartheim – Location and Admission

Hartheim is a borough of Alkoven, a town which is located some 15 kms East of Linz in Austria. The castle is quite prominently located and well-signposted. There is a major parking lot at the memorial. From Linz, you could also opt for the S5 local train to Alkoven, which is roughly a one kilometer walk away from the Castle.

During my visit, I could only visit the memorial, as the exhibition Value of Life was closed due to house maintenance. That exhibition requires a three Euro admission. Hartheim victims and their families have free entrance. Castle Hartheim is closed on Saturdays, the Monday and Friday times are 9:00 to 15:00 hrs and until 16:00 hrs. Tuesday to Thursday, the castle closes one hour later. On Sundays and public holidays, the museum is opening from 10:00 to 17:00 hrs.


Castle Hartheim – Visiting the Memorial

The memorial is built in a way that you follow the people’s fate from being delivered from other camps and sites to Hartheim to their death in the gas chambers and cremation. Metal piles right outside the hut define an area, which originally hosted a hut in which the bus of the moribund men and women were disembarking. The glass wall lists all the places from which people were brought to Hartheim.

Background Information

A first room of the exhibition gives background information about the systematic killings by the Nazis in Germany. It also features how ill people have been mistreated systematically (also in other places) by medication, electronic shocks and other experiments or simply by lack of food.

In the second room, you learn about the history of the killing center. The most impressive exhibit is likely the large picture of the castle, where you can see the smoke of the crematory. It also gives some rare exhibits which proof the role of Castle Hartheim. Most of the killing center has been de-constructed by the regime in 1944.

The next room is where the persons had to undress. It gives some personal stories and belongings of the people. There are also pictures of some of the persons who have been murdered in Hartheim.


To the Gas Chamber and Crematories

The next room is the examination room, where doctors proofed the identify of the victims and also decided if they will receive special treatment after death, e.g. due to special illnesses, but also due to dental gold. This room nowadays hosts the list of all 30,000 victims of Tötungsanstalt Hartheim. There is also a pillar which represents the found bones, ashes and belongings in the backyard in the early 2000’s.

The next room is the foodbridge. You are nowadays walking through the room on a wooden bridge. Shower dummies were located at the ceiling. In fact, the people were brought to the “shower room” in groups of thirty to sixty people, the doors were locked and carbon monoxide was let into the room through a perforated pipe. Typically, the doctors opened the gas valve and are thus repsonsible for the murders. In rare cases the Brenner (people who drove the crematory) did that as well. After about one hour, the carbon monoxide was gone and the corpses were brought to the corpse room.

You follow on the route of the corpses. The first room is the technical room, where the doctors and Brenner watched the people choking. The second room was the corpse storage. The location crematory oven in the final room is only represented by a light installation – all the suspicious items have been removed by the Nazis.


Castle Hartheim – My View

Castle Hartheim is one of those places you visit and just have to remember. It is impressive – and depressive. You feel the last steps of the murdered, you feel like walking side by side with them. The memorial is not too large, but it is absolutely sufficient to understand the injustice what has happened in places like Hartheim and other killing centers. The staff is also very friendly and helpful. Bad luck that I could not see the Value of Life exhibition – but if you are around Alkoven, I really urge you to stop by this place (at least if you are traveling without kids – it may not be suitable for them). I am thankful to have had the opportunity to see this memorial. and Austria

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2 thoughts on “Hartheim Castle Memorial – Place of 30,000 Murders

  1. Gerard Montesino

    Hi, I do think this is a great blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to revisit yet again since I book-marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.

    1. Florian Buechting Post author

      Thank you very much for your kind comments 🙂 Yes, I believe so as well that travelling is a great way to teach yourself – and to guarantee a peaceful time between us!

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