Statement by the Guide Initiative (Initiative of Educators at the Mauthausen/Gusen Memorial) concerning the draft law on the supposed transfer of the memorial

Being an association of the majority of the memorial’s guides we have on several occasions made public commentaries about its future. In these instances we have always called for including the wider public and the people involved in these discussions as opposed to limiting these debates to the realm of ministries and their officials. Sadly, this has not been happening. We do support the transfer from the Ministry of Interior – However, this draft law does not live up to its own ambitions at all.

Whatever happened to the transfer?
Although its naming does indeed imply a transfer, this draft law does not intend it. The memorial will be kept under control and its managament will even stay dependent on the ministry, while the parliament will lose its voice. We, the guides, regard it to be a matter of utmost importance that the memorial became independant politically and not just formally – For it should obtain a kind of autonomy that has been crucial in the development of similar institutions.

Whatever happened to the civil society?
This draft law details a decision-making board that is appointed by ministries rather than representatives of a trans-disciplinary civil and researcher’s community. This supervisory board can hence not be regarded as independant – especially not from party politics. The same problem applies to the scientific advisory board: It will be appointed by the management and can thus run the risk of being intermingled with party politics. The societal board is not equipped with any authority but has an advisory role only. It is only an illusion of an inclusion of the civil society, as the board will be dominated by unions and social partners.

Whatever happened to the international dimension?
We regard the memorial to be an international place. This applies to its historical dimension on the one hand and to its function as a place of historic-political educational encounters on the other. The new draft law hardly even considers this degree of internationality and reduces it to the mentioning of the Comité International de Mauthausen. A greater involvement of international actors and players is necessary. We need those international players to be a part of the memorial’s organisational structure instead of this so very Austrian, self-sufficient solution.

Guide Initiative (Initiative of Educators at the Mauthausen/Gusen Memorial)
April 2016

Extreme right-wing slogans on the wall of the former concentration camp Mauthausen

We take the graffiti on the wall of the former concentration camp and the cemetery of Mauthausen very seriously and are shaken by the expression of racist aggression. A rather extreme lubricating action at a memorial is a problem that affects all people in Austria and must be publicly recognized as such and discussed. A statement by the Ministry of the Interior to the graffiti appeared only after several days late and in response to public and media pressure. A day later, a swastika was discovered at the cemetery of Mauthausen on a grave stone. It is the grave of a girl with a Turkish name who died in 1976.

Once again, it has been attempted to brush the problem under the carpet, or just to cover it in this concrete case. The priority of the Minister of the Interior is the identification of the perpetrators. Our priority is a social climate and policy that does not prepare the ground for neo-Nazis. Racism is not a phenomenon that can be reduced to the extreme right.

We will continue to work together with the visitors at Mauthausen Memorial and discuss about our own and the official dealing with today’s racism and right-wing extremism.

Kepler Salon Extra: The Every Day After – Austria on May 6

“The Causa Waldheim in the second half of the 80s rang in a new era in the official history of Austria, or so they say. But only ten years later, May 5 became the Austrian Memorial Day and the commission of historians was set up. First significant effects on the politics of remembrance work were recorded around the turn of the millennium, when international attention was high again. In 2007, first concrete steps were set towards a redesign of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial.

What is the overall balance today, a quarter of a century after the “Waldheim Affair”? What is the relationship between political declarations and social narratives relating to the Nazi era? Is the Republic committed to its responsibility, and what amount of responsibility does it actually take? What’s going on in the memorial landscape after the relevant days, when the spotlights swivel away? And how does Austria come off in an international comparison?

On the panel to discuss about this:

  • Albert Lichtblau, associate professor in the department of history and deputy director of the Center for Jewish Cultural History at the University of Salzburg
  • Ines Brachmann, Mediators Initiative at the Mauthausen-Gusen Memorial
  • Ulrich Fuchs, deputy director of the European Capitals of Culture Linz09 and Marseille – Provence 2013
  • Yariv Lapid, head of the Center for Humanistic Education in Lochamei Haghetaot

Hostess: Birgit Kirchmayr, assistant professor at the Institute for Modern and Contemporary History at the Johannes Kepler University Linz” quoted from: www.kepler-salon.at

Kepler Salon Extra on Facebook

Date and Time: 6. Mai 2014, 19:30

Location: Kepler Salon, Rathausgasse 5, 4020 Linz, Austria (Google Maps Link)