Review for 2020

17.12.2020

Thank you for your friendship and support and let’s stay connected in 2021!

Review for 2020
(Credit: Mauthausen Memorial)

Ladies and Gentlemen!
Friends and longtime supporters of the Mauthausen Memorial!

The Mauthausen Memorial is an international place of memory, where the past and the present come together in dialogue and, in a normal year, our work would reach some 290,000 people from Austria and abroad. This year was, and remains, very different.

Except for a period over the summer, the grounds of the former Mauthausen concentration camp were often quiet and empty due to the coronavirus pandemic. For all of us this was a wake-up call and a mandate not to allow our connection to the world to be broken and, with a louder voice, to draw attention to our themes such as human dignity, active memorial culture and historical and political education.

We therefore focused on developing our digital programmes. Under the motto “Gedenkstätte digital”, our dedicated team of educators produced 50 videos during the lockdown in early 2020. The aim was to reach young people in particular during the period of home-schooling, and to offer teachers high-quality teaching materials for distance learning. This programme was well-received and clicks and views for the videos on our social media channels are up in the tens of thousands.

The second part of our digital offensive is currently on-going. Working together with our educators, we are presenting objects from our exhibitions and depot, using them tell stories about the prisoners’ gruelling everyday lives. Yet all this is done in the knowledge that these programmes cannot replace a visit to the historical site itself.

This year, Covid-19 has often taken us to the limits of what we can do. Nevertheless, a busy year is almost behind us. It is time to look back at the challenging months and the many moving moments and encounters:

The all-important development of the Gusen Memorial is currently on-going. The federal government has given a clear commitment to this site and has initiated negotiations to purchase the land. There are a lot good ideas and plans to concentrate on memory work in Gusen that is future-oriented – this is an important milestone for memorial culture in Austria and for how the history of the years 1938 to 1945 is dealt with.

For Gusen, but above all for the Mauthausen Memorial as well, we have succeeded this year in closing a gap. Together with regional politicians, influential local leaders and with the energetic support of the transport authority in Upper Austria, the Mauthausen Memorial is finally on the public transport network and can now be reached by bus. The new line runs between Linz railway station and the Mauthausen Memorial.

Our most significant commemorative days during the year, which take place around the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp on 5 May, were quiet but dignified occasions at our memorial sites this year. It was important to us to make the historical sites accessible, and many international representatives and small groups used these first days of easing after the initial lockdown to come to us. This relationship with the historical site is essential to us all. For all those for whom a visit was not possible this year, we moved the commemoration of the victims and the survivors online, insofar as this was possible. Under the hashtag “Liberation1945” we received many moving drawings and thoughts on the topic of “liberation”.

We were allowed some sense of normality during the summer months. We were delighted to welcome many visitors, who were accompanied by our educators and, while observing all safety requirements and hygiene regulations, we were able to put on our annual open air film retrospective. Our hopes for a more lively autumn were dashed by further restrictions and a second lockdown. But here too our approach was that commemoration must always be possible, even in these challenging times. And so we embarked on our second digital education programme of the year under the motto “Objekte erzählen Geschichte(n)” (“Objects tell (hi)stories”). At the present time, we are not only able to reach out to visitors with these videos of objects from our exhibitions and collections but, from 8 December, we have been welcoming them back to the historical sites as well.

In recognition of the achievements of the entire dedicated team at the Mauthausen Memorial, we were recently delighted to be awarded the Austrian Museum Seal of Quality. With this renewed motivation, we are facing the future with optimism and drive and are looking forward our many exciting projects and plans for next year.

At this point I would like to thank you for your good wishes, your constructive criticism and your interest in our work. We hope that you will continue to stay connected with us.

Wishing you all the best for 2021 and, above all, good health!

With best wishes,

Dr Barbara Glück
Director, Mauthausen Memorial