Remembering and Forgetting Nazism: Education, National Identity, and the Victim Myth in Postwar Austria

Remembering and Forgetting Nazism: Education, National Identity, and the Victim Myth in Postwar Austria

Remembering and Forgetting Nazism: Education, National Identity, and the Victim Myth in Postwar Austria

Remembering and Forgetting Nazism: Education, National Identity, and the Victim Myth in Postwar Austria


The Myth of Austrian victimization at the hands of both Nazi Germany and the Allies became the unifying theme of Austrian official memory and a key component of national identity as a new Austria emerged from the ruins. In the 1980s, Austria's myth of victimization came under intense scrutiny in the wake of the Waldheim scandal that marked the beginning of its erosion. The fiftieth anniversary of the Anschlua#159; in 1988 accelerated this process and resulted in a collective shift away from the victim myth. Important themes examined include the rebirth of Austria, the Anschlua#159;, the war and the Holocaust, the Austrian resistance, and the Allied occupation. The fragmentation of Austrian official memory since the late 1980s coincided with the dismantling of the Conservative and Social Democratic coalition, which had defined Austrian politics in the postwar period. Through the eyes of the Austrian school system, this book examines how postwar Austria came to terms with the Second World War.

Peter Utgaard was raised in Carbondale, Illinois where he studied German at Southern Illinois University. After study and teaching in Lower Austria he pursued his doctorate at Washington State University. Utgaard returned to Austria as a Fulbright researcher at the Austrian Ministry of Education for dissertation research. Utgaard currently serves as Chair of History and Social Sciences at Cuyamaca College in San Diego where he was awarded the college's Excellence in Teaching Award.


This book is an analysis of how the Austrian education system cultivated postwar Austrian national identity through the vehicle of the “Austria-as-victim” myth; a myth that came to define the official memory of the Austrian Second Republic. the victim myth is shorthand for a number of interconnected themes that turned the Austrian experience from 1938–1955 (especially the Anschluss, World War ii, and the Allied occupation) into a positive narrative of redemption to mark the (re)birth of a new democratic, prosperous, neutral, and non-German Austria. the work examines the history of the victim myth from its birth to its fragmentation in the mid 1980s up to the present.

I conducted research for the project at the archive and library of the Austrian Education Ministry during the 1995–1996 academic year, but the roots of the book date to the 1987–1988 academic year that I spent as an undergraduate student in Baden, Lower Austria, and in Vienna. in retrospect, questions that this book seeks to answer were initially conceived during that year when the Waldheim controversy raged, and, in the spring, when Austria marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Anschluss. When it came to World War ii and Nazism, what differentiated Austrians from Germans? How and why was the Austrian view of the war so different from that of Germans? How did Austria more or less escape the Cold War? Later I came to realize that these and other questions collectively formed a much bigger question: How did Austrians, who had been an integral part of the Third Reich, explain their role in the war and the subsequent rebirth of their nation? For this book, I further refined the question by focusing upon the role of Austrian education in defining postwar Austrian national identity.

This volume is organized into three parts. Part I, “Reversing the Anschluss, 1945–1955,” includes chapter 1, “From Blümchenkaffee to Wiener Mélange: Schools, Identity, and the Birth of the Austria-as-Victim Myth.” This chapter covers the origin of the Austria-as-victim myth and examines the role of Austrian schools in shaping and rebuilding Austrian identity in the immediate aftermath of World War ii. An important topic of this chapter is how school materials incorporated several themes to build a unique Austrian identity that was purposefully separated from . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.