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Hartheim Castle in 2005

Collection bus and driver

Viktor Brack testifies in his own defence at the Doctors' Trial in Nuremberg in 1947

The Hartheim Euthanasia Centre (German language: NS-Tötungsanstalt Hartheim) was a Nazi killing centre that was part of their euthanasia programme, since also referred to as Action T4. It was housed in Hartheim Castle in the municipality of Alkoven near Linz in Austria.

Hartheim Statistics

In June 1945, during investigations by US Forces into the former gassing facility at Hartheim, American investigating officer Charles Dameron broke open a steel safe in which the so-called Hartheim Statistics were found. This was a 39-page brochure produced for the internal purposes of the Nazi Euthanasia Programme (Aktion T4) containing monthly statistics of the gassing of mentally and physically handicapped patients (described in the document as "disinfection") carried out in the six euthanasia institutes on the territory of the Reich.[1] In 1968 and 1970 an ex-employee of the establishment revealed, as a witness, that he had to compile the material at the end of 1942.[2] The Hartheim Statistics included a page on which it was calculated that in "disinfecting 70,273 people with a life expectation of 10 years" food to the value of 141,775,573.80 Reichsmarks had been saved.[3]

Numbers killed in the first extermination phase in Hartheim

According to these statistics a total of 18,269 people were killed in the gas chamber at the Hartheim Euthanasia Centre over a period of 16 months between May 1940 and 1 September 1941, as follows:[4]

1940 1941 Total killed
May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug
633 982 1,449 1,740 1,123 1,400 1,396 947 943 1,178 974 1,123 1,106 1,364 735 1,176 18,269

These statistics only cover the first extermination phase of the Nazi's euthanasia programme, sometimes called Action T4, which was brought to an end by Hitler's order dated 24 August 1941 following protests by the Roman Catholic Church.

In all it is estimated that a total of 30,000 people were murdered at Hartheim. Amongst the killed were the sick and the handicapped as well a prisoners from concentration camps. The killings were carried out using carbon monoxide poisoning.

14 f 13 "Special Treatment" programme

Just three days after the formal end of Action T4 a lorry arrived in Hartheim with 70 Jewish inmates from Mauthausen concentration camp who were subsequently executed there.[5] The Hartheim killing centre achieved a special notoriety, not just because it was here where the largest number of patients were gassed, but as part of Action 14f13 Hartheim was also the institute in which the most concentration camp prisoners were murdered. Their number are estimated at 12,000.[6]

Those no longer capable of working at Mauthausen, especially in the quarries, as well as politically undesirable prisoners, were brought to Hartheim to be executed. In the papers these transfers were disguised with terms like "recreation holiday". The entries under "sickness" included "German haters", "communist" or "Poland fanatic". From 1944 the prisoners were no longer selected by T4 doctors; it was only a question of securing space in Mauthausen camp quickly.[7] Other transports came from the concentration camp of Gusen and possibly also from Ravensbrück.

Death doctors

The Action T4 organisers, Viktor Brack and Karl Brandt, ordered that the execution of the sick had to be carried out by medical doctors because Hitler's authorisation (dated 1 September 1939) only referred to doctors. The operation of the gas tap was thus the task of the gassing doctors in the death institutes. However, during the course of the euthanasia programme, the gas cocks were occasionally operated by others in the absence of the doctors or for other special reasons. Also, many doctors did not use their real names in the documents, but used other names to disguise themselves.

The following death doctors worked in Hartheim:

  • Head: Rudolf Lonauer: 1 April 1940 to April 1945
  • Deputy head: Georg Renno: May 1940 to February 1945

Niedernhart holding station

The Action T4 euthanasia centres had intermediate holding stations for victims. For example, many lorries carrying victims to their destination at Hartheim went via the Niedernhart Mental Institute in Linz, where Rudolf Lonauer was the senior doctor as he was in Hartheim. There victims were mainly killed by starvation or medical overdose. Time and again the screening and categorisation of prisoners was carried out. A bus was then filled with the chosen victims and driven to Hartheim.

Move of euthanasia head office to Hartheim and Weißenbach am Attersee

In August 1943 a result of the air war the head office for the Nazi Euthanasia Programme was moved from Tiergartenstraße 4 in Berlin to the Ostmark region, which was then humorously described as the air raid shelt of the Reich. The statistic and documents by Paul Nitsche[8] – correspondence, notices and reports ended up in Hartheim (office department, accounts office) and the Schoberstein Recreation Centre near Weißenbach am Attersee (medical department) – presumably as part of the move of the T4 head office.[9]


Well-known victims

Jan Maria Michał Kowalski.

  • Bernhard Heinzmann (1903–1942), German Roman Catholic priest
  • Friedrich Karas (1895–1942), Austrian Roman Catholic priest
  • Jan Kowalski (1871–1942), Polish bishop of the Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites
  • Ida Maly (1894–1941), Austrian artist
  • Gottfried Neunhäuserer (1882–1941), Austrian Benedictine father
  • Werner Sylten (1893–1942), Evangelical theologian

The clergy

A total of 310 Polish, seven German, six Czech, four Luxemburg, three Dutch and two Belgian priests were murdered. Many of them were transported from the Priest's Block in Dachau concentration camp.[10] The chaplain, Hermann Scheipers, was also moved to the Invalid's Block, in order to be taken to Hartheim. Scheiper's sister – who stayed in contact by letter – tracked down a certain Dr. Bernsdorf, employee of the RSHA Berlin-Oranienburg, who was responsible for the clergy imprisoned in the Priest's Block. She confronted him with by stating that, in Münsterland, it was an open secret that imprisoned priests were sent to the gas chamber. Bernsdorf apparently became very nervous during the discussion and telephoned the Commandant's Office at Dachau. Scheipers reported that it was on that same day, the 13 August 1942, that there was a response: he and three other German clergymen were moved from the Invalid's Block (here the SS assembled prisoners for onward transportation) back to the Priest's Block.[11]

Hartheim T4 staff

File:Christian Wirth in uniform.jpg

Christian Wirth as Sturmbannführer

  • Erwin Lambert: master bricklayer, oversaw construction of the crematorium and gas chambers
  • Rudolf Lonauer: head Nazi euthanasia doctor in Hartheim, Niedernhart Mental Asylum in Linz and Geschwend Castle in Neuhofen an der Krems
  • Vinzenz Nohel, worker, "burner"
  • Franz Reichleitner: criminal policeman, management; – was later commandant of Sobibor extermination camp
  • Georg Renno: psychiatrist, deputy head Nazi euthanasie doctor[12]
  • Anton Schrottmayer, care worker, suicide[13]
  • Franz Stangl: criminal policeman, Gestapo official, deputy office manager; - was later camp commandant of Sobibor and Treblinka
  • Karl Steubel: senior care worker, suicide[13]
  • Josef Vallaster: worker, "burner", later overseer at Sobibor extermination camp
  • Gustav Wagner; – was later deputy commandant at Sobibor extermination camp
  • Christian Wirth: criminal commissar, office manager; – was later commandant in Belzec extermination camp

Those chiefly responsible for recruiting the lower-ranking staff, according to subsequent witness statements, were the two Gau inspectors, Stefan Schachermayr (1912–2008[14]) and Franz Peterseil (1907–1991), as well as Adolf Gustav Kaufmann (1902–1974), head of the inspection department of the T4 central office in Berlin. [15]

See also

  • Hartheim Castle - education and memorial site.


  1. Page from the Hartheim Statistics (accessed on 22 November 2010)
  2. Zur Fundgeschichte siehe: Klee: Euthanasie im NS-Staat, p. 478 and note 23. For the location of the originals see also: Friedlander: Der Weg zum NS-Genozid, p. 518 f. in note 99.
  3. Klee: Euthanasie im NS-Staat, p. 24.
  4. Klee: Dokumente zur Euthanasie, p. 232 f.
  5. Klee: Euthanasie“ im Dritten Reich, p. 266.
  6. Klee: Euthanasie im Dritten Reich, p. 290.
  7. Klee: Euthanasie im Dritten Reich, p. 292.
  8. Siehe auch: Friedlander: Der Weg zum NS-Genozid, p. 518 f. in noteg 99.
  9. Organisationschema der NS-Euthanasie. Auslagerung der Aktion T4 nach Hartheim im August 1943. – from an account in: Klee: Euthanasie im NS-Staat, p. 168 f.
  10. Stanislav Zámečník, Comité International de Dachau (ed.): Das war Dachau. Fischer-Taschenbücher, Vol. 17228, Die Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 3-596-17228-4, S. 219–222.
  11. Hermann Scheipers: Gratwanderungen. Priester unter zwei Diktaturen. 3rd ed. Benno-Verlag, Leipzig 1997, ISBN 3-7462-1221-9.
  12. Peter Schwarz: Der Gerichtsakt Georg Renno als Quelle für das Projekt Hartheim. In: Jahrbuch. Dokumentationsarchiv des Österreichischen Widerstandes, Vienna 1999, p. 80–92. – full text online.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Klee: Deutsche Medizin im Dritten Reich, chapter 10: Österreich.
  14. Barbara Tóth: Der Handschlag – die Affäre Frischenschlager-Reder. Dissertation. University of Vienna, Vienna 2010, p. 43. – full text online (pdf).
  15. Josef Goldberger: Euthanasieanstalt Hartheim und Reichsgau Oberdonau. Involvierung von Verwaltungs- und Parteidienststellen des Reichsgaues Oberdonau in das Euthanasieprogramm. In: Mitteilungen des Oberösterreichischen Landesarchivs, Vol. 19. Oberösterreichisches Landesarchiv, Linz 2000, p. 359–373. – full text online (pdf).


  • Henry Friedlander, Johanna Friedmann (trans.): Der Weg zum NS-Genozid. Von der Euthanasie zur Endlösung. Berlin-Verlag, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-8270-0265-6. – Inhaltsverzeichnis online (pdf).
  • Heinz Eberhard Gabriel (ed.), Wolfgang Neugebauer (ed.): Vorreiter der Vernichtung? Von der Zwangssterilisierung zur Ermordung. Zur Geschichte der NS-Euthanasie in Wien, Vol. 2. Böhlau, Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-205-99325-X. – contents online (pdf).
  • Mireille Horsinga-Renno, Martin Bauer (trans.): Der Arzt von Hartheim: Wie ich die Wahrheit über die Nazi-Vergangenheit meines Onkels herausfand. rororo paperback. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-499-62307-3. – text online.
  • Brigitte Kepplinger: Die Tötungsanstalt Hartheim 1940–1945. 21 pages. o. J., o. O. – full text online (pdf).
  • Brigitte Kepplinger (ed.), Gerhart Marckhgott (ed.), Hartmut Reese (ed.): Tötungsanstalt Hartheim. 2nd expanded edition. Oberösterreich in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, Vol. 3. Oberösterreichisches Landesarchiv, Linz 2008, ISBN 978-3-900313-89-0. – description of contents online (pdf).
  • Ernst Klee (ed.): Dokumente zur Euthanasie. (Original ed. from 1985). Fischer-Taschenbücher, Vol. 4327. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1997, ISBN 3-596-24327-0.
  • Ernst Klee: Deutsche Medizin im Dritten Reich. Karrieren vor und nach 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-10-039310-4. (Chapter 10: Österreich).
  • Ernst Klee: Euthanasie im NS-Staat: die Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens. unabridged edition, 12th ed. Fischer-Taschenbücher, Vol. 4326. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 3-596-24326-2.
  • Ernst Klee: Euthanasie im Dritten Reich. Die Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens. fully reworked edition. Fischer-Taschenbücher, Vol. 18674, Die Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-596-18674-7. – Inhaltstext online. (formerly under the title: Euthanasie im NS-Staat).
  • Walter Kohl: Die Pyramiden von Hartheim. Euthanasie in Oberösterreich 1940 bis 1945. Edition Geschichte der Heimat. Steinmaßl, Grünbach 1997, ISBN 3-900943-51-6. – Inhaltsverzeichnis online (pdf).
  • Walter Kohl: "Ich fühle mich nicht schuldig". Georg Renno, Euthanasiearzt. Paul-Zsolnay-Verlag, Vienna 2000, ISBN 3-552-04973-8.
  • Kurt Leininger: Verordnetes Sterben – verdrängte Erinnerungen. NS-Euthanasie in Schloss Hartheim. Verlagshaus der Ärzte, Vienna 2006, ISBN 978-3-901488-82-5.
  • Tom Matzek: Das Mordschloss. Auf den Spuren von NS-Verbrechen in Schloss Hartheim. 1. Auflage. Kremayr & Scheriau, Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-218-00710-0. (Inhaltsbeschreibung).
  • Johannes Neuhauser (ed.): Hartheim – wohin unbekannt. Briefe & Dokumente. Publication P No 1 – Bibliothek der Provinz. Bibliothek der Provinz, Weitra 1992, ISBN 3-900878-47-1.
  • Franz Rieger: Schattenschweigen oder Hartheim. Roman. (Zeitkritischer Roman). Styria, Graz (u.a.) 1985, ISBN 3-222-11641-5. (Ausgabe 2002: ISBN 3-85252-496-2).
  • Jean-Marie Winkler, Gazage de concentrationnaires au château de Hartheim. L'action 14f13 en Autriche annexée. Nouvelles recherches sur la comptabilité de la mort, éditions Tirésias - Michel Reynaud, Paris, 2010 (ISBN 9782915293616)

Other literature see main article: Nazi Euthanasia Programme or Action T4

Audio and video

  • Tom Matzek: Das Mordschloss. Eine Dokumentation über die Gräuel in Schloss Hartheim. TV programme by ORF, 2001, Brennpunkt. 1 videocassette (VHS, ca. 45 minutes). S. n., s. l. 2001. [B 1]

Footnote to "Audio and video"

External links

Coordinates: 48°16′52.17″N 14°06′49.50″E / 48.2811583°N 14.11375°E / 48.2811583; 14.11375

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