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Heimrad Bäcker – It is possible that they won’t kill us and they might allow us to live*


Heimrad Bäcker started photographing the premises of the Mauthausen and Gusen concentration camps in the 1960s—long before remembering Nazi atrocities became a collective endeavor in Austria. The project became an extensive photographic record of the initially abandoned and later repurposed site: an inventory of a place in more than 14,000 photographs. Bäcker, whose work as an author and publisher stands out in Austrian literature after 1945, saw Mauthausen and Gusen as realms of memory in the sense of the French historian Pierre Nora. Nora coined the phrase lieux de mémoire to describe places where collective memory becomes manifest, thus allowing a culture of remembrance and historically motivated identity formation to emerge. In contrast to Nora, Bäcker was not primarily interested in national concerns but rather in taking responsibility for one’s knowledge and coming to terms with it. In 2015, Heimrad Bäcker’s photographic estate was donated to mumok by his stepson Michael Merighi. It comprises a body of work whose 14,000 individual items bear witness to a lifelong investigation of a place and the Nazi mass extermination it implies. In this exhibition,...

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