The German Predicament: Memory and Power in the New Europe

By Andrei S. Markovits; Simon Reich | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
Austria: Germany's Junior Partner

Although many Austrians would like to see Hitler go down in history as a German and Beethoven as an Austrian, it was the other way around.

-- Frederick C. Engelmann, "The Austro-German Relationship"

This will be the world's most powerful economic bloc in which the Germans will have their place with open borders to Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary.

-- Helmut Kohl, Der Spiegel, 26 February 1990

Austria may be the only one of Germany's nine contiguous neighbors where German tourists can relax without feeling guilty. Even though the Austro-German relationship (an intra-German relationship until 1806 arguably 1866, perhaps even 1871, quite possibly 1945) had its ups and downs, it has been continuously cordial throughout the twentieth century. Most important, the Nazi era whose legacy still burdens Germany's relationship with so many European countries saw the closest and most harmonious interaction between Germans and Austrians this century. Even though Austrians have been magically successful in selling to themselves and the world the notion that they were Hitler's first victims, the Nazi past does not divide Austrians from Germans. It unites them. Thus Austria's relationship to Germany is unique in Europe. 1


Culture

The German presence in Austria's culture is nothing short of overwhelming. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the production, financing, and channeling of contemporary Austria's mass culture has become the prerogative of German media giants. In the print media, its electronic counterpart, advertising, book publishing and all other aspects of mass culture, Germany's influence is so pervasive that Austria's leading student of the country's media calls Austria a "media colony." 2

Here are some data to illustrate the point. German media giants have controlled, either directly or indirectly, 70 percent of Austria's daily newspapers since the mid-1980s. The Federal Republic's second largest newspaper company, the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung has acquired a 45 percent interest in the two largest Austrian dailies, the Neue Kronen Zeitung and the Kurier, thus not only exerting decisive financial control but in effect ending competition by uniting them under one foreign owner. With the Neue Kronen Zeitung reaching 2.7 million Austrian readers, 43 percent of Austrian readership, and the Kurier, though a distant second, still reaching 941,000 Austrian readers on a daily basis, 15 percent of Austrian readership, the "Kronen-Kurier" has a prominence which is proportionally speaking far and away the highest in any advanced industrial de­

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