The two Austrian filmmakers and SURVIVING GUSEN co-directors Johannes Pröll (left) and Gerald Harringer (right) live not far from the former concentration camps Gusen. Over several years (since 2012) they interviewed survivors and promised them:
that what happened in Gusen will never be forgotten.
Johannes Pröll (production, direction)
Born in 1983 in Linz, he studied audiovisual design at the Linz University of Art. Founder of BRIGHT Films GmbH based in Linz. Since 2010, several installations and films have been implemented, as well as working on projects as a producer, recording director and assistant director.
“In 2013, I met Karl Littner, a survivor of the Gusen II concentration camp, at his home in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, he has since died. Now that the last witnesses are dead, I see it all the more as our task to keep alive the memory of events in the time of the Nazi terror in Austria, especially in Linz and the surrounding area, where the Mauthausen and Gusen camps showed a particularly gruesome face of National Socialism. But it is not the concentration camps mentioned alone, but the whole network of organized transport, enslavement, exploitation and extermination that plays a role in our film. SURVIVING GUSEN is looking for a location of the crime scenes in the current situation. In doing so, we take a restrained, distanced path and let the viewers take the phenomena of the paradoxical superimposition of the present (e.B. the Jourhaus of the Gusen I concentration camp as an inhabited villa or the settlement houses above the sites of the former concentration camp barracks) and the Nazi past itself. The model of this form of assembly was the very impressive “Audioweg Gusen”. What is also particularly noteworthy in our documentary is the topic of deportation along the Summerauerbahn. A sad chapter, which was hardly given attention in all previous documentaries about Mauthausen and Gusen. If one reads Karl Littner’s autobiographical accounts of his terrible experience of deportation through the Mühlviertel, one can see how under-represented this subject is. We dedicate a whole chapter to this.”
Gerald Harringer (book, director)
Born in 1962 in Linz, he studied at the Art University in Linz and then completed a post-graduate degree in film and video at the Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in London. He was a media associate at The Kitchen’s video archive in New York in 1993/94 and is one of the co-founders of the Linz-based artist cooperative and communication agency Die Fabrikanten (since 1990). He is a freelance filmmaker (harringer.net).
“The visual and acoustic narrative of SURVIVING GUSEN is also intended to consciously touch our emotional perception, knowing that many of these real events from 1945 want to evade a rational description through words. The perspectives on the locations and crime scenes shown are partly abstract and distant, the tone room-filling, close and present. In the dystopian stories, reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno, which run through the film in a collage-like way, there are always hopeful elements that tell something about being human. Without these small gestures of help and humanity, survival would be worthless and pointless– in the final analysis.
In the first chapter we learn how incredibly horrible the deportations to the Mauthausen and Gusen camp in the winter of 1944/45 must have been along the Mühlviertler Summerauerbahn. At the same time, we hear the voice of a spokeswoman who reads from regional chronicles and letters. In the autobiographical report of the former concentration camp inmate Karl Littner, abysses open up for the listener.
A drone camera from a long distance, as well as a central perspective on the railway tracks, allows us to look at the snowy railway line of the Summerauerbahn. We learn in the accounts of contemporary witnesses and chroniclers what human beings had to endure during the Nazi rule inhumane things and that survival was often only possible with the help of other people.
In the second chapter, everything revolves around the former gusen concentration camp. On the one hand, the events are located even more strongly than in Chapter 1 (KZ Gusen, Jourhaus) and on the other hand the topic of survival is deepened by help. In an interview with Stanislaw Leszczynski, we learn how vital the help of comrades was for concentration camp inmates, how seemingly small but courageous decisions of individual people made the survival of others.
In the third chapter, concentration camp survivor Duan Stefancic (in the course of a conversation with the Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen) talks about the journey by the gusen II towing path into the rock crystal tunnels and about the courage that he has never lost.
In the fourth chapter, the liberation is described chronologically and from different perspectives (on 5 May 1945). We also learn how Karl Littner came to Gusen for the first time after many years and see the survivor in his new home L.A.
My father was a sergeant in the German Wehrmacht and, like so many, a follower of the Nazi system. He died when I was 15 years old and I could never take him to his role in the 2nd century BC. World War II.
I hope that SURVIVING GUSEN contributes to the culture of remembrance, to events that must never be forgotten.”
Wolfgang Dorninger (sound, music)
Born in 1960 in Linz, studied at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna with Peter Weibel. The sound is at the heart of the artistic work of Wolfgang (artist name “Fadi”) Dorninger, whether as the operator of the experimental music label base, as a performer, composer of theatre and film music or for music groups, sound designers, sound artists or lecturers at the Art University Linz. His arrangements range from concert-like room-sound installations, multimedia performances and acoustic presentations to theatre music and techno (dorninger.servus.at).