this is not art*

*not a post about the upcoming brilliant festival in newcastle, australia.

mauthausen walk

last week i had a free day in linz, after i’d seen enough of ars electronica, and was considering some good old-fashion sight-seeing. there’s a beautiful church on the hill i was going to see.

then i met my friend thomas‘ friend, josef. he is a guide for the mauthausen concentration camp and of course after that, i decided that i needed to go there. he was kind enough to give me a lift there (and back!) and, as well as the official audio guide, i got my own personal guide – extra info and sites that i wouldn’t have heard/seen otherwise. especially not in english.

mauthausen yard

i didn’t take many photos – i just really didn’t feel like it, but the place was amazing.

i tried to not imbue it with my own interpretation/nostalgia/meaning/drama but it was still a really loaded place. i almost didn’t go into the gaz kammer (gas chamber) because, well, i don’t even know why – i just didn’t want to trample all over that sacred space. something from learning about aboriginal history must be sinking in.

but i did go in. not to ogle, but to pay respects and to learn from the horror. if i make myself a witness, i can sign up to making sure that kind of stuff doesn’t happen anymore. the more i face it, the more i can be part of the solution, hopefully.

i cried at the women’s camp, when i heard about the hundreds of female prisoners who were shipped from other camps and forced into prostitution for the male prisoners and guards. when they returned to their original camps, they were ostracised and most didn’t make it alive. any that did were denied rights of a pension for those years in prison, because they were prostitutes – technically there were criminals.

mauthausen prison2

i marvelled at the intuitive monument that has developed in the ‘bunker’, the prison. the walls are scrawled with graffiti from younger visitors all over the world and, as yet, hasn’t been removed. it reminded me of the kiss marks at oscar wilde’s grave in paris.

at the moment, it’s the young people’s heartfelt monument, compared to the official plaques from the organisations run by adults. i think i liked this idea, although i can’t see it sticking.

after the regular tour, we drove down to the bottom of the quarry, which is now a beautiful little waterhole – a natural denkmal (monument), but it was the site of the terrible hard labour and suicide jumps.

mauthausen window2

and then we took a side tour to the gusen monument and the weirdness that is gusen village – a working burg on the sites of the massive camp: people live in the guards houses, on the site of the brothel, where the prison accommodation used to be. i think i know how indigenous australians feel a little.

i’m really glad i took the time to visit and to have a better picture of recent european history.

i kept thinking about other recent genocides, including the rwandan and sudanese genocides, wondering why the holocaust shocks us more. are we really that racist? or is it the fact that this killing was so calculated and injected into the very fabric of a very sophisticated state and public – its documents, its politics, its legal system and its media.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

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