GRÜNANGER - Work in progress

Grünanger is a vivid neighbourhood on the outskirts of Graz in southern Austria, made of idyllic wooden houses, new residential buildings and a large skate park. The history of its inhabitants is the history of exclusion. It was the location where society pushed and hid everything that was different and undesirable. The settlement was built in 1941, for the Germans from the Romanian Bukovina, whom Hitler called to return to the German lands. Gradually it became a labour camp for war prisoners and forced labourers. In April 1945, the location became a stopover for Jews who were forced into the "March of Death" towards the Mauthausen-Gusen camp. They were starved and forced to sleep in the open. At least 35 people were killed on the spot. In 1947, British allies excavated a number of human remains in the area. They also set up a military court that convicted four guards for their war crimes. But after that, those events disappeared from public discourse, and for many of the inhabitants of Graz, that remained unknown until recently. Austria perceived itself as a victim, denying its own Nazi engagement in World War II. The research was long obstructed and the process of Graz’s coming to terms with the past was very long. Finally, a first commemoration ceremony in the memory of the victims was organized in April 2013, thanks to a few dedicated activists.

The area recently became a hot topic in the media because of the construction of a nearby hydroelectric power plant, opposed by local eco-activists. Today in the area live socially endangered citizens in wooden houses owned by the city of Graz. The houses were not left out of war but were built on the existing infrastructure. The neighbourhood is a world for itself, idyllic with its wooden cottages, flower gardens and garden dwarves. Residents are well connected and often support one another. During warmer months they socialize in their gardens or on the green fields drinking cheap beer. Most of them live from social assistance. Due to the city plans for the development, neighbourhood as it is, could soon disappear and its residents will be relocated. Most of them fear it will be the end of their lifestyle because they will be relocated to apartment blocks. The project is ongoing with occasional visits to the area.

Supported by the City of Graz and Kulturvermittlung Steiermark. Collaborator on the project: Gerhard Gross