„Bitte vergeßt nicht, alle Briefe gut aufzuheben“

Shared Agency in einem Briefwechsel österreichisch-jüdischer Schüler in der Emigration

  • Jacqueline Vansant University of Michigan-Dearbor
Keywords: Anschluss, Youth Aliya, Letter-writing culture, Agency, Networks in Exile

Abstract

After the National Socialists came to power in March 1938 a group of 15 and 16 year-old classmates of Jewish heritage met for the last time and promised to keep in contact with one another as a group. The boys’ original promise resulted in a group correspondence, or “round letter” as they called it, which stretched over more than a decade and crisscrossed three continents. Drawing on the essay „What is Agency“ by Mustafa Emirbayer and Ann Mische, Vansant examines the correspondence as an expression of shared agency. It provided the youth with a means to act at a time when their options were severely restricted and it allowed them to resist the efforts of the new regime to destroy their community. Indeed, the establishment, the survival, and the archiving of the group correspondence or “round robin” are all expressions of the boys’ agency. In this essay, the letters are a window into the drama of the period and they serve as witness to the boys’ inventiveness as well as their familiarity with a lost letter-writing culture. The correspondence, which consists of 106 round letters for a total of 675 individual letters, has been housed in the Archive of the History of Austrian Sociology in Graz, Austria since 1994.

Published
2019-06-13