In 2009, the Department of Culture and Science in the Lower Austrian Provincial Government and the City of St. Pölten invited submissions for the design of a monument to the forced labourers interned in St. Pölten Viehofen in 1944 and 1945. The competition called for the linking of three nerve centres: the site of the labour camp for Hungarian Jews, the nearby labour camp for Eastern workers, as they were called, at the Glanzstoff factory, and the mass grave at the St. Pölten municipal cemetery. All three sites were to form reference points for the concept and to be given equal consideration. Traces of the Eastern workers camp still remain today on a privately owned property. Nothing is left of the camp for Hungarian Jews. The old barracks were demolished and the excavations flooded to form a lake. The jury recommended two projects: this one and one by Catrin Bolt.
The basic idea behind my project is to recall repeatedly over the course of a year the memory of events that have disappeared underneath Viehofen Lake. By sending some 20,000 personally addressed handwritten picture postcards to the inhabitants of St. Pölten I will create a virtual network that touches people personally and links them to each other. The people of St. Pölten will thus become a part of the memorial. It is up to each individual, however, to come to terms with the events that took place in the city during the Second World War.
Each postcard contains an identical sentence written by me: I am well and in good health. This is the standard sentence that every letter written by camp inmates during the Third Reich, if indeed they were allowed to write at all, had to contain. The triviality of these words contrasts the unapologetic phoniness of the collective disregard for human dignity with the powerless of the individual victims. This paradox is also reflected on the shores of the lake where bathers are now invited to enjoy their leisure without concern.
Each of the postcards has a picture of one of the three sites to be linked according to the terms of the competition: Viehofen Lake, the former Glanzstoff factory, and the mass grave at St. Pölten municipal cemetery. The reverse side provides information about the history of the site and the project website.
The postcards will not all be sent together but over the course of the year. People living in neighbouring streets will receive the cards at the same time. The fact that they are personally addressed and handwritten is designed to make the recipients aware of my willingness to contact each individual person. I hope in this way that some recipients will begin to discuss the sentence or the illustrated site and its history. In order to complete the task in the course of a single year I have to write fifty-five postcards a day.
The names and different religions of the deceased buried in the mass grave at St. Pölten municipal cemetery are known. In my opinion it is for local politicians to ensure that sufficient information is provided on the trave. It is not the task of artists to relieve them of this responsibility.Tatiana Lecomte
Vienna, April 2010