The Perpetrators of Hartheim and What We are as Humans

On October 1, 2019, JKU Rector Meinhard Lukas delivered a speech at Schloss Hartheim in memory of some 30,000 victims of the Nazi regime murdered in Schloss Hartheim.

JKU Rector Meinhard Lukas.
JKU Rector Meinhard Lukas.

Rector Meinhard Lukas’ impressive words recalled the time when people who deviated from the social norm were not only regarded as cost factors, but also denied dignity and the right to life. He pointed out the continuing relevance these historical events have to the present, even referring to personal and family references in regards to disability and illness. He moved away from a comfortable “never again rhetoric" and emphasized: "Those who only move within the historical frame of National Socialism eloquently distancing themselves from it may save themselves the thankless confrontation with the social wounds of the present."

Rector Lukas also asked "…how fellow countrymen, how older generation family members in this area became mass murderers, contributors, enablers and looked away, thus simply becoming inhuman. How could such a hard layer build up on their conscience - even their soul – to disregard intolerable suffering even though at the same time, they were loving family fathers, good friends to others, and faithful churchgoers? Does this demon slumber both in us and in our society?”  In order to be serious about learning from history, one should pay attention to the "tiny and smaller steps being taken today", to the increasing coarseness of language when talking together and used in political discourse. Internet hate, questioning human rights – even by politicians - attacking the human dignity of certain groups are currently threatening our democracy and constitution. In conclusion, Rector Lukas stated that "…the way we deal with people in need of protection says something about what we ourselves are as human beings."

Click here, opens an external URL in a new window for the Rector’s commentary.

The entire speech is available here, opens an external URL in a new window.