We assume that many inhabitants of Linz know a lot about some of the aspects of the city’s Nazi past. Uppermost in the collective memory are the architectural manifestations of the Nazi regime which are still very much part of the urban landscape: the VOEST, the former Hermann Göring Works, above all, a symbol for the Nazi armaments industry and still a relevant economic factor is followed by the Nibelungen Bridge, the bridgehead buildings and the housing estate originally known in the vernacular as the “Hitler buildings”. The 1938 post-Anschluss prestige and housing projects in the city in which Adolf Hitler spent his youth are anchored in public awareness. In contrast, with few exceptions, the topography of terror, the “on site” realisation of the Nazi persecution and extermination policies, has found little place in the collective memory.
The project IN SITU. Relocating Contemporary History: National Socialism in Linz—a project for the European Cultural Capital 2009—is aimed at visualising and inscribing the multi-layered dimensions of Nazi extermination policies into daily perceptions. Committed to the “principle of quiet effectivity”, the project refuses to turn the Nazi period into an event and follows, instead, three levels of communication. In the public domain spray stencilling of short texts establishing connections to the Nazi era will be carried out at 65 locations. This process is not only concerned with iconic sites in the topography of terror in Linz such as, for example, the Gestapo headquarters in Langgasse, the police prison in Mozartstrasse or the synagogue in Bethlehemstrasse. Seemingly everyday buildings and places that have, up till now, been almost completely ignored in this context will have their historical significance exposed as sites related to the implementation of persecutory measures under the Nazi tyranny. Given the frequency of the marked sites, just a short walk through the centre of the city opens ones eyes to the dense entanglements of the exercise of political power, state and individual terror but also manifests room to manoeuvre. This is also emphasised in a city plan specially developed for the project. It re-frames the perception of the city with reference to the selected sites and the stories connected with them.
The book IN SITU. Relocating Contemporary History: National Socialism in Linz offers the people of Linz as well as international guests detailed information on their trips through the city. Where photographs were to be found in public collections, these have been used to convey an impression of the places where events took place. The series of photos taken in 2008/09 by the Linz photographer Norbert Artner invite change in perceiving the present.
The publication will be flanked by this website, www.insitu-linz09.at, where people from all over the world interested in the project can find information and more detailed information: historical documents provide “on site” insight into the concrete structures of the Nazi tyranny or touching accounts by victims of the regime. A book list will indicate further lines of investigation in literature and research and guest contributions from experts will supplement the selections made of places and their stories.
IN SITU is to be understood as a communication/education project seeking new artistic and scientific ways of taking part in a public discourse about the memories of the Nazi tyranny. In 1996 the municipal council of the provincial capital of Linz passed a resolution in favour of a scientific investigation of the era of Nazi dictatorship. In the meantime a multitude of research works have been made available to the (expert) public. These form the scientific basis for the IN SITU project which takes the results of contemporary history research back into concrete public places and, equally, into the memorial landscape of Linz.
Dagmar Höss, Monika Sommer, Heidemarie Uhl