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Last Update 1 September 2006


Hartheim castle (near Linz in Austria) was built at the end of the 16th century. By 1793 the building belonged to the princes of Starhemberg. In 1898 Hartheim castle was donated to the Landes wohltätigkeitsverein in Oberösterreich (Provincial Charity Club of Upper Austria), in order to install a home for physically and mentally handicapped children.

During Nazi Germany's affiliation of Austria, the building was expropriated. In 1939 the castle was converted into a Aktion T4 euthanasia centre with gas chamber and crematorium. At the western side of the castle a wooden annex was built, in which the victims left the busses, unnoticed by others.
During May 1940 the first 633 patients were gassed. Four drivers (among them Franz Mayrhuber and Franz Hödl) drove the large grey buses of the Gekrat organisation which carried the victims to the castle, where they disappeared into a wooden annex. After they have been gassed ("Burner": Barbel, Bolender, Mertha, Nohel and Vallasta), gold teeth were extracted from the corpses. After cremation, bones were still visible among the ashes. These were pulverized to dust with a bone mill. At least once a week a lorry left the castle and drove to the rivers Donau and Traun to scatter the ashes into the water.
Until August 1941 the death toll of the Hartheim killing center had risen to 18,269 and later, during the Sonderbehandlung 14f13 operation, nearly 12,000 victims were killed. Also more than 8,000 inmates of the concentration camps Dachau and Mauthausen / Gusen were killed.
In 2003
In 2003
Franz Bredow
Franz (F) and Bredow (B) in Hartheim
During the summer of 1943 Hartheim became a department of Aktion T4, since Berlin was no longer considered to be safe. Another department was installed at the Aktion T4 recreation facility "Haus Schoberstein" in Weissenbach, at the Attersee lake in Austria. The population near Hartheim castle became aware of the killings. Always, after the arrival of a grey bus, a dark cloud appeared from an invisible chimney. On days with low cloudbanks, the smoke spread over Hartheim town. It smelled of burned flesh and hair, causing the townsfolk to be physically sick. The fact that a lot of people were brought to the castle, but nobody left it, caused rumours to be spread. To calm down the citizens, the Hartheim authorities arranged information meetings. The townsfolk were told that used oil had been burned. A warning was issued against persons divulging any observations.
During December 1944 and January 1945 inmates of the Mauthausen concentration camp had to dismantle and remove the gassing installations. Most of the documents were destroyed.

After the liberation by General Patton's Third US Army, the War Crimes Investigating Team No.6824, headed by Major Charles Dameron, found a box which included documents concerning the Aktion T4. In these documents so-called "savings" were listed, documenting the killings. Above 70,000 victims of Aktion T4 "saved" Germany more than 885,000,000 Reichsmark (today approximately 3 Billion US$).
In 1954 the rooms of the castle were converted into rental flats.

A number of Aktion Reinhard personnel served at Hartheim, these include Heinrich Barbl, Rudolf Beckmann (perhaps), Kurt Bolender, Paul Bredow, Helmut Fischer, Kurt Franz *, Anton Getzinger, Hans Girtzig, Hubert Gomerski, Karl Gringers, Ferdinand Grömer, Paul Groth, Gottlieb Hering, Fritz Hirche, Franz Hödl, Erwin Lambert, Hermann Michel, Wenzel Rehwald, Franz Reichleitner, Karl Richter, Paul Rost, Ernst Schemmel, Franz Stangl, Karl Steubl, Friedrich Tauscher, Josef Vallasta, Gustav Franz Wagner, Arthur Walther and Christian Wirth.

In 1969 a memorial was installed in the area used as killing facilities. The "Verein Schloss Hartheim" was founded in 1995, with the objective to reslove the history of the NS-euthanasia at Hartheim, and to find an adequate use for the castle.

* See the Franz Photo Story!
Hartheim Trail of Smoke Urn </a
Hartheim Trail of Smoke Urn Crew Excursion

Learn more about the history of Katharina Wohlgenannt who perished in Hartheim.

Hartheim Memorial
Walter Kohl: "Ich fühle mich nicht schuldig". Wien, 2000
© ARC 2005

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