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Workshop on Violence

During the second Think Tank Workshop, social psychologist Christian Gudehus held a lecture on violence theories. One of his main focuses is research regarding aspects of collective violence. 

In this workshop, Christian Gudehus offers the participants a different approach to the general analysis of a violent scene. The workshop does not only aim to give a theoretical input to the participants, but also to connect the theory to the practical pedagogical work: Could this approach be applied to presenting violent acts in the history of the concentration camp in the pedagogical work at the memorial site?

Christian Gudehus explained that during the last 20 years, there has been a shift in violence research which resulted in a different approach to violence:

The phenomenon of Mobbing can serve as an example for the wider definition of violence that follows from this approach, as Christian Gudehus explains in the following video:

Portraying the behaviour of SS-men often causes confusion among the visitors. Christian Gudehus shows that an action-centered approach can also help resolve these contradictions 

Christian Gudehus explained that the definition of violence is very complicated, and there is no accepted definition. Definitions change as a result of social changes over time and space. Violence against children, for instance, is a relatively new form of socially condemned behaviour. Therefore, researchers and educators need to redefine violence continually:

The question, why people behaved the way they did, is especially relevant in the work at memorial sites. Christian Gudehus explains the relevance of theories of action in our pedagogical work: not only regarding history and historical events, but also in the present: 

After this short introduction into the theories of violence, Christian Gudehus explains how to approach a situation analysis of a concrete example of a violent act and gives examples of questions that can be used in the analysis:

For a long time, the approach to analysing human behaviour was to relate it to the political system or society in which the person lived. Christian Gudehus explains a different approach to analysing a certain situation while still taking into account that different frames influence a person's decision on how to behave.The frames influencing a person's behaviour can vary:

Provided with information on how to approach a situation analysis, the participants try to analyse an example of a violent act of the history of the concentration camp Mauthausen, following the action-centered approach. The results are then discussed among the participants. One of the groups chose the following example: An inmate who works in the punishment company in the quarry and has to carry heavy stones up the quarry steps is addressed by an SS-guard who offers him to put down the stone, step outside the chain of guards and rest. When the inmate accepts the offer, the guard shoots him. This was a common way of murder in the Mauthausen concentration camp by the SS-guards. It was formally registered as an escape attempt stopped by the guard, who was then rewarded with three days leave for having stopped an inmate 'attempting to escape'.

In the discussion it became clear once again, that while the educational goal is to understand the human dynamics of murder in the concentration camp, it is extremely difficult to achieve. What motivates the murderous acts? Christian Gudehus encourages discussing these diffculties openly with the visitors. 

One critical question raised in the discussion concerned the danger of banalizing the murder through presenting it as a part of the human behavioral repertoire.   

Such questions will be explored further in the course of the EU project. Furthermore, Christian Gudehus will analyse a concrete example of a violent act and discuss the relevance of such an analysis with the participants.

Modeling complexity

Before presenting the program „Being Human“, Paul Salmons invited the participants of the Think Tank workshop to have a look at a topographical model of the concentration camp Mauthausen in the hall of the visitor center.:

While studying the details of the model, the participants made some suggestions where the error might lie:

After having discussed the various suggestions of the guides regarding specific details of the model, Paul Salmons explains a possible purpose of

working with this model:

The way the model was built is an example of the narrative in the Austrian post-war society, as Paul Salmons points out:

Paul Salmons then explains how he would use the model at the end of a guided tour with students: