Intergenerational transmission of resistance against National Socialism and Visual Practices of Remembering

In 2008 I interviewed a woman who was born in 1921 in Vienna. Coming from a socialist family background she was involved in the National Socialist society in Vienna by profiting from the system in terms of social advancement. In 1943 she married her husband who was a soldier in the German Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) at the time. After the breakdown of National Socialism she got informed that her husband had been executed by the Nazis because of his resistance activities within the Wehrmacht. Three years later she married a former Jewish resistance fighter. After his death she tried to find out what happened with his executed brother and other murdered family members.

Olaf Nicolai: Memorial for the victims of Nazi Military Justice. © Iris Ranzinger/KÖR
Olaf Nicolai: Memorial for the victims of Nazi Military Justice. (© Iris Ranzinger/KÖR)

In knowing these biographical data we talked intensively about her biographical experiences, and during our talk it became clear that she was very involved in the question of remembering resistance, but that she had difficulties to find the words to speak about the resistance of her husbands. Her narration was mainly influenced by public discourses which make it almost impossible to talk about resistance in the Austrian public or in other social spheres like working places and even families. Especially the national victim discourse is responsible for silence and broken narratives. This discourse was established after 1945 and aimed to position Austria as the first victim of Hitler Germany and thus to legitimize the Austrian majority’s refusal of responsibility for their participation in the NS system. From the start, the “Austrian resistance” was stressed in order to refute responsibility for NS crimes. This anti-fascist variant of the national victim discourse also becomes manifest in the erection of memorials for victims of political resistance. Continue reading

Persecution and Exile of Austrian Sociological Authors During Fascism

Ed.: this post is part of a series dealing with Austria’s history of fascism. Further entries can be found here.

Hundreds of Austrian sociological authors were persecuted and exiled during fascism between 1933 and 1945, most of them Jews, but also a large number of non-Jewish liberals, democrats, socialists and communists. The repression began during “Austro-fascism” between 1933/34 and the “Anschluss” to Nazi Germany in March 1938 – which was welcomed by most of the Austrian population. As soon as Austria joined the “Third Reich” German forces and Austrian volunteers unleashed a wave of terror imprisoning more than 70,000 people in a few days. While tens of thousands managed to flee, many thousands more were murdered in prisons and concentrations camps.

Marie Jahoda
Marie Jahoda, © Archiv für die Geschichte der Soziologie in Österreich, Uni Graz

But even if the number of exiled and murdered Austrian artists and scientists was relatively high, exile research in Austria started very late. Up to today Austria has not a single professorship for exile and/or holocaust research, as pointed out by the Austrian Society for Exile Research. Information on exiled Austrians rarely reaches a broader public, and when it does it is usually in the form of a short reference to when an exiled person dies, as occurred recently when Carl Djerassi (1923-2015), inventor of the birth control pill, died on January 30, 2015.

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Führerstadt and Heimatgau: Linz and Upper Austria During the Nazi Era

Ed.: This is the first of a series of post dealing with Austria’s history of fascism and the persecution and exile of Austrian sociologists.

 You are moving to Austria, nice! Are you going to live in Vienna or the countryside with the alpine Landscape? – No, I’m moving to Linz. – Linz? Isn’t that the Hitler City? Isn’t it a Nazi Town?

 This is how (fellow European) people usually react when you are telling them about planning to move to or currently living in Austria. Based on this experience we decided to tell you about this dark chapter of our city and country.

The Hitler-Linz-Connection

Hitler was born in a small town in Upper Austria and spent most of his youth in Linz. The city reminded him of his childhood and his mother, therefore he referred to Linz as his “Heimatstadt” (hometown). However, Hitler’s sympathy for Linz also rested upon his ideological thoughts; in his opinion Linz was the “deutscheste Stadt” (most German city) in the Austrian K&K Empire. In his Vienna times he told his friends that there were only a few Jews living in Linz. As a result of these memories he envisioned turning Linz into one of the most beautiful cities in the “Deutsche Reich” by using a certain kind of architecture. The Danubian city became one of the five “Führerstädte” (the Führer’s capitals) besides Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Nurnberg.

The picture shows a panorama shot from above of Hitler's large housing complex
“Neue Heimat”.  NORDICO Stadtmuseum Linz

On March 12th 1938 (the day of the “Anschluss” of Austria) he visited his “Heimatstadt” and declared himself the Godfather of Linz. Straight away Hitler planned to rebuild the whole city. In his vision Linz should transform into the cultural capital of the Nazi Empire. Continue reading