Interactive Sequences


The average time budgeted at a memorial site (ca. two hours), combined with the Mauthausen Memorial's size and its complex history allows for an average of some ten minutes for each of the tour's stations, or sequences. This demands an exceptionally well structured methodology.

The educational challenge is in creating a setting which enables a discussion within the group on the meaning of the historical facts for us, the individuals standing today at this site. Standing with a group at one of the guided tour's stations is intended to unfold a compact workshop of some ten minutes. The use of source materials, the narrating of a context, the observation of the site and the posing of questions are the structural elements of such a workshop, such an interactive sequence.

Portraying perpetration: talking about the guards / Workshop 2

Paul Schwediauer describes how he and Lukas Strasser conceived a station on perpetrators, focusing on their choices and putting them into historical context, revealing options and individual variations among the guards. 

The station is placed in the area of today‘s memorial park, where formerly the camp‘s guards had their accomodation and infrastructure.

The initial material used is the quote of Mauthausen survivor Franz Jany:

The commander of the Camp Mauthausen was Sturmbannführer [Major] Ziereis. This man knew no mercy. It was he who gave the order: every SS soldier who shoots a man who is fleeing, gets 3 days off. This was implemented by the SS guard troops in the following way: they took a man's hat from his head and the guard would throw it 3-5 metres beyond the line. Then he would demand that the man go and get his hat, and as soon as the man was beyond the barrier, he was shot. (Franz Jany. Ein Erinnerungsbericht. Dokumentationsarchiv des Österreichischen Widerstandes, DOEW 853; Copy at AMM A/03/03 Translation by Hannah Kammermeier)

Additionally, Paul Schwediauer introduces a photograph showing guards off duty, in their free time:

On site, Paul Schwediauer and Lukas Strasser are offering the workshop participants their material and the questions they pose a visitor group: 

On the character of questions posed to a group

Paul Schweidauer and Lukas Strasser are pointing out, that whenever they pose these questions to a visitor group, the reactions differ very much: At times a deeper discussion evolves, but in other cases there is hardly any starting. In the discussion with the experts, Christian Gudehus comments on the character of their questions, contrasting the use of "closed questions" and "open questions": 

Whereas Christian Gudehus stresses the difficulties of using both open and non-open questions in the framework of a tour, Paul Salmons is suggesting a different perspective on the nature of questions, adding those which help to rethink perceived wisdoms, myths and missconceptions. as he points out in the following sequence: 

Discovering hidden history

Discussing the challenge of dealing with an issue related to a hidden place - the former SS barracks, now covered by the memorials - Paul Salmons finally hints on how to frame this complex situation in an interactive sequence:

What do we want to achieve: stating the aims of each station / Workshop 2

After Daniel Tscholl's presentation in the garage court, Christian Gudehus wants to learn more about the role of this station, Daniels aims in this particular part and how they fit into the narrative of the whole tour.

Involving all of the group / Workshop 2

Interacting with a group is a serious challenge, and the bigger the group the more challenging it becomes. Disinterest on the part of participants, often a frustrating experience for guides, can be viewed as a form of communication, challenging guides to respond, to act. In the following sequence Léontine Meiijer-van Mensch addresses the issue:

Regarding the interactive sequences, the members of working group 1 were contemplating the integration of more diverse places within the Mauthausen Memorial into tours. Other questions were: How can we combine places and topics in new ways? How do we deal with the creation of suspense in context with the basement system and the gas chamber and crematorium area at the end of the tour? How do we share and discuss “good questions” among guides? 

Most visitors wish to see the gas chamber during the guided tour, some even exclusively come to see it. However, after the guided tour other places have become more important for many visitors. A possibility to not let the guided tour be dominated by the anticipation of the visit of the gas chamber could be to start a tour with the crematorium area. To solve the problem of the gas chamber and crematoriums as the last station of the guided tour another station right after the crematorium area could be chosen that doesn’t deal with mass murder.

Demystifying the gas chamber by pointing out that the actual technical process of a gas chamber killing is a very simple process could promote the realization that talking about the people who were responsible and involved is more complex and interesting. 

An interesting chance for discussion could be to talk about how lots of places concerning the SS aren’t visible anymore since the people who built the memorial didn’t want it to depict the “perpetrators’ side”This could offer a chance to discuss how and with which thoughts the memorial was established and how it changed over time.