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Title: The myth of the first victim: the impact of Austria’s official narrative on Jewish identity reconstruction
Author: Simões, Anabela Valente
Keywords: Austria, Holocaust,Vergangenheitsbewältigung,Memory and Identity
Issue Date: May-2011
Publisher: Universidade de Aveiro, Centro de Línguas e Culturas
Abstract: After the constitution of the Second Republic, on April 27, 1945 (at the same time as Germany was being held responsible for crimes of genocide) Austria adopted the role of victim of the nazi regime – which was actually an attribute formally stated in the Moscow Declaration of November 1, 1943 that considered Austria the first free country to be stricken by Adolf Hitler’s hegemonic policy when it was annexed in March 1938. This perception, this imagined national narrative would last four decades. It would only be in 1986, as a consequence of the “Waldheim affair”, that the crystallized official narrative that Austria was Hitler’s first victim started to be questioned. The acknowledgement that elected President Kurt Waldheim had been an SS Officer during the national-socialist regime generated a major political scandal. This confrontation with the past and the assumption that Waldheim had only “fulfilled his duty” led to an in-depth reflection about Austria’s co-participation in the nazi crimes and moved a group of young Austrian intellectuals towards political and social participation. Amongst others, Robert Schindel, Robert Menasse, Ruth Beckermann and Doron Rabinovici are some prominent intellectuals who have intervened by breaking the silence about anti-Semitism and deconstructing the self-victimizing myth of the nation. The question of the Austrian myth is particularly relevant when linked with the topic of Jewish self-reconstruction in the aftermath of the war. For the majority of the Jewish Diaspora the Holocaust became the central aspect of Jewish self-perception; it was the event that provided them with a sense of belonging to a wide community of victims. This wasn’t the case of Austrian Jews though; Austria denied Jews their especial status of victims of the NS regime, having therefore denied them the affirmative definition of the subject as a member of a specific community.
ISBN: 978-972-789-342-3
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