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

By Peter Utgaard | Go to book overview

PREFACE

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

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