Articles

  • “Was ich den Juden war, wird eine kommende Zeit besser beurteilen...” Myth and Memory at Theodor Herzl’s Original Gravesite in Vienna

    (Issue 2016/1)

    Download PDFDownload PDFTheodor Herzl is mostly remembered as the founder of the Zionist movement and a significant forebear of the State of Israel, where his memory thrives today. This article posits Herzl’s original gravesite in Döbling, Vienna, as instrumental to the construction of Herzl’s legacy through the first part of the twentieth century, when it was used by Jewish community functionaries and Zionist organisations to mobilise a variety of political agendas. By contrast to Herzl’s new burial site in Jerusalem, the now empty grave in Döbling constitutes a powerful alternative lieu de memoire, a counterbalance to the manner in which Herzl’s life and memory are conceived in Israel.

  • „A Naye Yidishe Heym in Nidershlezye“. Polnische Shoah-Überlebende in Wrocław (1945-1949). Eine Fallstudie

    (Issue 2014/1)

    Download PDFDownload PDFHeavy fighting around 'fortress Breslau' resulted in the German surrender on May 6, 1945 and almost completely destroyed the city. The following three years saw the 'relocation' of the city's entire German population to the West. It was the beginning of the city's great transfer period, which inevitably caused the losses of homes and identity crises: it included the ‚resettlement‘ of the German inhabitants, the settlement of Poles, the forced resettlement of the Ukrainian population, the expulsion of the returned members of the German-Jewish community as well as the directed settlement of Polish Shoah survivors. Breslau became Wrocław: the city was rid of German traces, utterly Polonized and, together with the entire area of Lower Silesia, celebrated as a „recovered territory“. The Polish settlers who surged into the city immediately after the end of the war, including Polish Jewish survivors, were supposed to find a new home there. This proved to be too great a challenge under the circumstances of the immediate post-war era: Wrocław was immersed in chaos and destruction, the presence of its German inhabitants was still apparent throughout the city (at least until 1948), the reorganization of the Polish state structures as well as the political consolidation of power was only just underway. Moreover, other factors also contributed to the demolition of initial prospects that Jewish life would be established in post-war Poland. This contribution aimed to analyse and illuminate these factors at hand of the example of Wrocław.

  • „Es ist noch nicht vorbei, wir bleiben deutsch und treu“. Nationalsozialismus und Postnazismus in der Fernsehkabarettsendung 'Das Zeitventil'

    (Issue 2014/1)

    Download PDFDownload PDFThe Austrian television cabaret show Das Zeitventil was produced from 1963 to 1968 by the national Austrian Broadcasting Company under the artistic direction of the cabaret artist and musician Gerhard Bronner. The show saw itself as a decidedly political cabaret and expressed in numerous sketches and chansons its critique on current political events and social developments. In different contexts it also dealt with the issues antisemitism, National Socialism and the Holocaust in post-Nazi Austrian society, which was very progressive and unusual during this period of time in Austria. With reference to current socio-political events and media debates taboo subjects of the Second Republic were portrayed with the means of satire and parody: the failed denazification after 1945 and the consequent continuing effects of a widespread antisemitic Nazi ideology in Austria. The comedians parodied politicians who advocated for the amnesty and the concerns of former Nazis, caricatured German national and antisemitic individuals and organizations, themed the failed denazification and debunked antisemitic resentments and trivialisations of the Holocaust. However, the focus of the cabaret was, as selected examples will show, less on a confrontation with Nazi crimes, in particular the mass murder of the European Jews, but rather in demonstrating personnel continuities of former Nazis and their unwavering Nazi sentiments.

  • „Facing a crisis unparalleled in history“. Jüdische Reaktionen auf den Holocaust aus New York, 1940 bis 1945

    (Issue 2014/2)

    Download PDFDownload PDFThis contribution describes and analyses the activities of two expert committees on Jewish politics and analysis of the present age, which were established in New York in 1940 and 1941. The Research Institute on Peace and Post-War Problems and the Institute of Jewish Affairs were meeting places for Jewish people who worked on political strategy papers on how to address the apocalyptic presence of the extermination of the European Jews, based on their range of experiences during the interwar period. They were modelled on the tradition of East European minority protection policies and the Jewish defence against antisemitism in the Weimar Republic; it was their aim to debate the possibilities for saving the Jews as well as the future of Jewish existence. Their activities resulted in the collection of wide-ranging documentation and many reports on the reality of Nazism. These documents are significant sources of information on the immediate effect of the events on contemporaries and bear witness to the attempts to act, understand, report, remember the victims and at the same time design a new Jewish life after the catastrophe in America while war and extermination were still going on.

  • A Territory, but not a State. The Territorialists’ Visions for a Jewish Future after the Shoah (1943–1960)

    (Issue 2017/1)

    Download PDFDownload PDFThe Jewish Territorialists, represented as of 1934 by the Freeland League for Jewish Territorial Colonisation, searched for places of settlement for Jews outside Palestine/Israel. I here argue that Territorialist ideology demonstrated both continuity and change in the post-1945 years, and continued to focus on an investment in Diaspora life, Yiddishism, anti-statism, colonial and postcolonial attitudes, and Socialist Revolutionary idealism. This article thus challenges the notion that the Shoah spelled the end of non-Zionist Jewish political activities, by demonstrating the ways in which the Freelanders, headed by the enigmatic Isaac N. Steinberg (1888–1957), imagined an alternative Jewish cultural and political future a er the Shoah. By mapping the Territorialist movement’s continued endeavours after 1945, this study also adds to our broader understanding of the rich spectrum of post-Shoah Jewish political ideologies.

  • Al Capone als ‚Aisik Schacher‘? Gangs of New York in der NS-Propaganda

    (Issue 2017/1)

    Download PDFDownload PDFWhen the United States entered the Second World War, Nazi media focussed on the new opponent. While a lot of the patterns which writers used on the US were long established – particularly antisemitic concepts that had since 1939 been used in anti-British propaganda – organised crime for several reasons seem to be a promising topic. Somewhat exceptional is Heinz Halters book Der Polyp von New York. Die Geschichte Tammany Halls. Korruption und Verbrechen im demokratischen Amerika (1942). As source for his book, Halter mainly used Herbert Asbury’s Gangs of New York. An Informal History of the Underworld (1928), which also served as original book for Martin Scorseses movie of 2002 with the same title.

  • Antisemitism and Catholicism in the Interwar Period. The Jesuits in Austria, 1918–1938

    (Issue 2016/1)

    Download PDFDownload PDFThe paper examines the attitudes of the Austrian Jesuits to antisemitism in the interwar period. This question is highly relevant for the study of antisemitism and the Holocaust, because of the strong influence of Catholicism within Austrian society and the prominent role played by Austrians in the Holocaust. The scientific literature has argued that the Austrian context was of central importance to the formation of both antisemitic and anti-antisemitic views among Catholics. However, the dynamics and internal nuances within high ecclesiastical circles have remained understudied. The present research indicates the permanence of an entrenched anti-Jewish tradition as well as the start of a novel reconsideration of this very tradition within the Jesuit Order in Austria. By analyzing tensions in the positions of the Austrian Jesuits, this research contributes to a better understanding of the continuity and rupture in antisemitism in Austria in the period immediately prior to the Holocaust.

  • Auf dem Weg zum Holocaust? Der slowakische Antisemitismus in der Ersten Tschechoslowakischen Republik

    (Issue 2015/2)

    Download PDFDownload PDFOlder Research either hardly paid any attention to Slovak antisemitism in the First Czechoslovak Republic (1918–1938) or regarded as a kind of preliminary stage to the Holocaust. In contrast, it is the intention of the present study to historicise the Slovak antisemitism of the interwar period. Therefore it aspires a sophisticated treatment, which focuses both on the political radicalisation of the Catholic as well as fascist milieus and the latent antisemitism of the Slovak society, respectively the ambivalent responses to antisemitism of the Czechoslovak judiciary and administrative organs. In this respect, the increasing invocation of the 'Jewish Question' since the end of the 1920s appears to be a symptom of the condition of Slovak politics and society (and by trend also of the Czechoslovak State), albeit it could fully unfold its destructive impact only after the annihilation of Czechoslovakia in an altered political context.

  • Crime and Punishment? The Hungarian Gendarmerie during and after the Holocaust

    (Issue 2017/1)

    Download PDFDownload PDFThe Royal Hungarian Gendarmerie was one of the most important state institutions be­ tween 1881 and 1945. Its task was to preserve law and order in the countryside, to prevent peasant uprisings and Socialist agitation in the villages. In 1944, it also became the task the gendarmerie to concentrate and deport the Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. The contempo­rary documents so far researched as well as the papers of the people’s court trials seem to clearly support the supposition that the gendarmerie, from the lowliest patrols to the gen­darmerie district headquarters and to the detective subdivisions, readily took part in the collection and then the deportation of Jews. If deemed necessary, the trainees of the gen­darmerie schools and training battalions assisted in the detection and collection.
    The first question I attempt to answer in this paper is why Adolf Eichmann and his ‘special­ ists’ primarily trusted the Hungarian gendarmerie in the spring and summer of 1944, when the Jews in Hungary were deprived of their property, herded into ghettoes and collection camps, and finally deported. This fundamental question thus relates to the crime, i.e. the deportation, and the role the gendarmerie played in the Holocaust. Second, I discuss the size of the gendarmerie, the number of those participating in the deportation, their connection to other agencies, above all the police and the administration, as well as their attitudes to­ ward the persecution of Jews and to deportations. Third, I investigate whether the gendarmes were cruel, as most of the survivors claim, or, on the contrary, whether they helped the per­secuted, whether they protested and perhaps refused to obey orders, as former gendarmes claim, and as some people in Hungary are still trying to have the public believe. Finally, I investigate what they knew, what they could have known about the destination of the depor­tation trains, and about the true, final end of the deportations.
    My other fundamental question relates to the punishment, to the accountability. What was the extent of the gendarmerie’s punishment, and how did it proceed? Was it a political show, or was their participation in the deportation the real reason for their punishment? How was evidence collected during the proceedings of the screening committees, the people’s prose­cutor and the people’s court? Was torture resorted to, were the charges based on statements of witnesses, and/or were contemporary documents also attached to the indictments? The comparison to the criminal proceedings of other war criminals will be another important aspect of analysis.
            

  • Der russische Blick auf die Shoah

    (Issue 2015/2)

    Download PDFDownload PDFBoth during the Soviet era and after its collapse, there has been no room for Holocaust remembrance in Russia's collective memory; memorials and textbooks only marginally touch on the topic. In 2008, quantitative research across Russia investigated the relationship between tolerance and Holocaust knowledge within the Russian population and concluded that the majority of Russians were not aware of the Holocaust, its victims and their numbers. Considering the fact that the current territory of Russia includes at least 400 sites of perpetration of the genocide of European and Soviet Jews, these results urge the question of the causes for this suppression.

    The city of Rostov-on-Don served as an example in order to address the question of how people now remember the former site of the extermination of the Jewish population. This southern Russian city became the site of a massacre in August 1942, when members of the special commando 10a, part of Einsatzgruppe D annihilated the Jewish population of the city within three days. In the context of qualitative research undertaken in Rostov, 25 narrative interviews were conducted with citizens of Rostov from a range of age groups between September and November 2011. It was the aim of the interviews to record the existing narrative and individual memories of this crime and to compare and contrast these with the official culture of remembrance.

  • Die antisemitischen Ausschreitungen im Berliner Scheunenviertel 1923. Zur Berichterstattung der Wiener Tagespresse

    (Issue 2015/2)

    Download PDFDownload PDFThis contribution uses a case study in order to establish the fundamental theses for a research project on the mass media representation of migration in Vienna and Berlin during the interwar period. What knowledge about migratory movement and experiences was spread in the public spheres of both metropolises via the daily press? The institutionalised production and distribution of knowledge made the press a decisive contributor to what was socially accepted to express and visible, to the definition of topics and therefore the collective perception of social contrasts: the media did no merely reflect, but also produced social realities. The case study refers to strongly antisemitic excesses in the Scheunenviertel in Berlin, a district that was largely inhabited by migrants, in early November 1923. It investigates the depiction and interpretation of these events in the Viennese press against a two-fold backdrop and context: the Danubian city's role as the destiny of a massive migration movement that had developed since the collapse of the Habsburg empire and partly even before, as well as Vienna's predominant antisemitism.

  • Die Anwesenheit des Abwesenden. Nostalgie und das kulturelle Gedächtnis böhmischmährischer Landjuden vor und nach der Shoah

    (Issue 2016/2)

    Download PDFDownload PDFThis paper deals with mostly published memories of Bohemian and Moravian Jews who were born and grew up in villages and small rural towns in the second half of the nineteenth or in the first decade of the twentieth century and who wrote down their histories before or after the Shoah. The first memories, mainly autobiographical fiction, recounting the end of the nineteenth century, were largely a reaction to the process of urbanisation which led to an important migration of Jews to the cities. After 1918, amateur historiography became important in the remembrance of rural Jewish life and was often triggered by feelings of nostalgia. Both forms of cultural memory – (partly autobiographical) fiction and popular historiography – also framed the patterns of remembering rural Jews after the Shoah. Nostalgia was often expressed in connection with sensation, for example in descriptions of religious traditions and habits. In contrast to the testimonies written before the Shoah the ambivalent longing for a place was now overlaid with the irreversible loss of people, the authors’ mourning of their lost relatives, friends and neighbours, and with the emptiness of the remembered places.

  • Die Beziehung zwischen der Pester Israelitischen Gemeinde und der IKG Wien. Vom ‚Anschluß’ bis zum Beginn der Deportationen 1941

    (Issue 2015/1)

    Download PDFDownload PDFThe Relations between the Jewish Community of Pest and the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien (IKG) from the 'Anschluß' until the Beginning of the Deportations, 1938-1941 In 1938 the Jewish Community of Pest (PIH)] and the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien were the two largest Jewish communities of Central Europe. By 1938, the two Jewish communities had cultivated strong relationships with one another for over a century. However, the nature of the relationships between the two Jewish communities had changed drastically in 1938.

    As a consequence of the increasingly worsening official anti-Jewish discrimination, ties of social and legal aid had exclusively replaced any other kinds of relationships. Religious life, chiefly issues of kashrut, social aid for members of the community, as well as Emigration from Austria after the 'Anschluß', and issues concerning one’s Hungarian citizenship after the anti-Jewish legislation had been central to the mutual work of extending social and legal aid to one another.

    A systematic study of the relationships between the two largest Central European Jewish communities between 1938 and 1941 will enable us to understand how these increasingly adversely influenced central institutions of Jewish life attempted to assist their members and one another during the first phase of the Holocaust. To show how the two communities collaborated and tried to help each other is crucial, since these Jewish institutions are routinely portrayed even in historical works as isolationist bodies that were utterly uninvolved and uninterested in the problems of the Jewish world in general. The study will explore how their ties between 1938 and 1941 (until the beginning of the mass deportation of Viennese Jews) influenced the behaviour of the two communities and their members both in the later phases of the Holocaust and its aftermath. The ties of legal and social aid provided a viable model as well as a context for later patterns of relationships within and also without the Jewish world. 

  • Die Heeresgruppe Mitte. Ihre Rolle bei der Deportation weißrussischer Kinder nach Deutschland im Frühjahr 1944

    (Issue 2016/1)

    Download PDFDownload PDFBased on German and Belorussian archives as well as on testimonies, this paper examines the deportation of Belorussian children as forced labourers to Germany by units of Army Group Centre in 1944. It analyses the decision-making process, the imprisonment of thousands of children, their deportation, employment in Germany, the role of Belorussian collaborators, and finally the liberation of the children by the Red Army. By focussing on the participation of German military units in deporting child forced labourers, the article sheds light on the contemporary and post-war web of lies to create and maintain the myth of the ‘clean’ Wehrmacht.

  • From War Neurosis to Holocaust Trauma. An Intellectual and Cultural History

    (Issue 2017/1)

    Download PDFDownload PDFThis paper outlines a historical and critical survey of the contribution of psychoanalysis and other ‘psycho-sciences’ to our contemporary understanding of Holocaust trauma. It argues that the theme of mass traumatisation effects originates in the use of psychiatric knowledge and procedures during the First World War. As part of the war machine, psychiatry had special functions in the mobilisation of the masses as well as in the treatment and rehabilitation of those soldiers who suffered from ‘shell shock’ and later developed ‘traumatic neurosis’ or ‘war neurosis’. The main task of psychiatrists at that time was to cure these soldiers as quickly and effectively as possible – in order to send them back to the same dangerous circumstances, which had caused their symptoms in the first place. In treating war neurotics, brutal punitive methods such as painful electric shocks were frequently used. Based on archival sources, and on the correspondence between Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi, the application of these methods is illustrated here through the example of a Hungarian military doctor, Viktor Gonda. The majority of army doctors regarded war neurosis as a character deficiency, a sign of a ‘feminine’ character. It was thought that this kind of ‘male hysteria’ could also affect ‘healthy’ soldiers, destroying their will, determination, patriotism, and heroism. By contrast, the psychoanalytic conception of war neurosis developed by Sándor Ferenczi in Hungary and by Karl Abraham and Ernst Simmel in Germany was intended to be a humanising alternative to the dominant, mainly ‘punishing’ and torturous procedures applied by mainstream military psychiatry. Psychoanalysts emphasised the importance of understanding the patient’s symptoms, assuming that their explanation originated in the patient’s life history and unconscious motives rather than exclusively in external, physical causes.  The psychoanalytic approach to war neurosis anticipated later debates on the nature of individual and collective psychological traumata. This paper surveys the impact of the First World War on the development of the theory and technique of psychoanalysis, including the concepts of Freud, Ferenczi, Melanie Klein, Abram Kardiner, and others. After the Second World War, psychoanalysis was preoccupied with the exploration of the ‘Nazi mind’, the specific psychological and characterological traits of war criminals, their supporters, and their collaborators. This paper argues that the existence of a Holocaust trauma as a separate group of symptoms was for a long time not really acknowledged.  e focus only shi ed from perpetrators to victims in the 1970s, due to the introduction of the diagnostic category of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) into the vocabulary of psychoanalysis. This paper, however, argues that the concept of PTSD preserved, in some ways, the dominant discourse of First World War psychiatry, continuing, in a subtler way, to stigmatise or blame the victims.

  • Frühe Werke der Erinnerung an den Holocaust in Siebenbürgen

    (Issue 2015/1)

    Download PDFDownload PDFThe terrible details of the tragedy of Jewry in the northern part of Transylvania, which had been annexed to Hungary after 1940, emerged even in the last months of the Second World War, when the essence and events of the genocide were known in ever wider circles. As awareness of the events first emerged, literary and artistic works were also published in Transylvania between 1945 and 1949 that depicted the cruelties of the Shoah and at the same time aimed to raise a lasting monument for the Jewish communities that had been destroyed. These early works of Holocaust remembrance made a considerable contribution to retaining the mass murder in people's consciousness and turning a young generation's awareness to the terrible heritage of Nazism later on, when, during the decades of consolidation of communism, all spheres of life were submerged in a “great silence”.

  • Gefeierte und Verdammte. Der Slowakische Nationalaufstand 1944 als nationaler Erinnerungsort

    (Issue 2017/1)

    Download PDFDownload PDFThe Slovak National Uprising in 1944 was an important act of military resistance against the collaboration of the Tiso regime with Nazi Germany. It was initiated by members of the Civic movement and to a lesser extent by the Communists, and was eventually brutally crushed by the SS, the Wehrmacht, and pro-Nazi Slovak forces. The insurrection is hardly remembered outside of Slovakia although it became an important lieu de mémoire for Slovak nation-building. Nevertheless, academic studies as well as public history and remembrance of the event was and still is highly controversial. The reason for these disputes are manifold. They are rooted on the one hand in the entrenched hegemonic Communist reading, which created a partisan myth around the uprising while minimising the role of the Civic resistance, and on the other hand in the different representations and interpretations in Czech, Czechoslovak, and Slovak historiographies, which in their respective orientations and ideologies attribute different functions to the uprising. Slovak ultra-nationalist narratives also play their role, seeing the revolt as an international conspiracy against independent Slovakia to re-establish a centralist Czechoslovak Republic. In different periods and power constellations – 1945, 1945–1948, 1948–1968, 1968/1969, after 1969 and 1989 – these various interpretations prevailed or stood at stake, and the fighters of the uprising were either “celebrated” or “cursed”.

  • In Search of Myself. Autobiography, Imposture, and Survival in Wartime Croatia

    (Issue 2017/1)

    Download PDFDownload PDFThis article looks at the production of autobiography and imposture as survival techniques during the Second World War in Croatia. Focusing on the petitions of Jewish and Serb citizens wrote to the Jewish Section of the Ustaša Police Directorate and the State Directorate for Reconstruction the article considers the various ways in which Serb and Jewish letter writers who had been placed outside the law in wartime Croatia by the Ustaša regime used a variety of discourse and linguistic markers as well as the generation of idealised biographies in which they identified themselves as Croats in an attempt to escape deportation, ghettoization or stigmatisation and to write themselves into state ideology by asserting their difference from other members of their persecuted community. The article also explores the various ways in which victims who had survived by making compromises with the Ustaša regime sought to rewrite their biographies in the post-war period to identify themselves with the new socialist orthodoxies in the face of the threat of nation-wide campaigns of unmasking and ideological purification. Using Christa Wolf’s novel The Quest for Christa T. as a frame, it asks how much the historian can ever really know about the biographies of individuals, especially those who have felt the need to reconstruct their lives after traumatic events. At the same time it argues that in addition to the important insight these kinds of microanalysis can provide on everyday life and survival in wartime Europe during the Holocaust, they also bring ambiguity to seemingly distinct historiographical categories such as resistance and collaboration and force us, the readers, to confront our own subjectivity through reading their autobiographical petitions.

  • Judging the Past. The Use of the Trials against the Members of the Gestapo in Belgium as a Source for Historical Research

    (Issue 2014/2)

    Download PDFDownload PDFAcademic historians have an ambiguous relationship with the use of documents produced in the context of criminal investigations. On the one hand, these documents provide an avalanche of information, often giving a voice to historical actors that would otherwise stay hidden in classical top-down history. On the other hand, academics denounce such documents as inherently biased and thus unfit for use in an ‘objective’ reconstruction of the past. This problem’s urgency increases in the context of a politically tense period such as the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. In post-war Belgium, military courts were responsible for bringing to justice both German officials and Belgian collaborators.

    This paper identifies the methodological possibilities and problems associated with the use of the documents these courts amassed to this end with regard to research on the Holocaust and the German occupation of Belgium and to history-writing in general. Among others, elements such as the influence of the internal workings of the military court and the legal framework in which it had to operate, the similarities and differences in how historians and prosecutors go about their research, and how defence strategies employed by suspects/perpetrators as well as witnesses/victims twisted their hearings and testimonies, are addressed. The paper concludes that although judicial sources come with inherent limitations, they can be employed in academic history as long as attention is paid to the specific context in which they were produced and they are subjected to proper critical reading.

  • Letter from Linz. An Archive Story

    (Issue 2017/1)

    Download PDFDownload PDFIn 2015, I discovered a previously unknown letter from Simon Wiesenthal, sent to his wife Cyla upon learning she was alive in 1945, in the Wiesenthal archive in Vienna. This essay is an ‘archive story’ about this serendipitous discovery and my time spent in Wiesenthal’s former office in Vienna’s Salztorgasse, just before it was dissolved and the collection was moved to its new home at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute. Focusing on the materiality of the archive and its traces of a ‘Polish’ Wiesenthal, embedded in a network of Polish Jewish survivor-documentarians, it asks which biographical narratives were made visible or invisible by the old archive. Grappling with the nostalgia many historians feel for the materiality of traditional archives, moreover, it considers how the move to digitally based research might enable some forms of serendipity yet foreclose others.