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

By Peter Utgaard | Go to book overview

Chapter Five
FRAGMENTATION OF THE VICTIM MYTH
SINCE 1986:
From Kurt Waldheim to Jörg Haider

We share moral responsibility because many Austrians welcomed the
‘Anschluss,’ supported the Nazi regime and helped it to function.

— Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, 19931

The 25 February 1988 cover of the German glossy magazine Stern featured a young woman dressed in traditional Austrian attire holding a sacher torte decorated with an Austrian flag and a red-and-white striped swastika. The headline of the cover read “Österreich ’88. Zuwenig Schnee, zuviel Waldheim” (Austria ’88. Too little snow, too much Waldheim).2 Meanwhile, the more respected German newsweekly Der Spiegel published a series on Austria, beginning with a cover story on 25 January 1988 featuring a photo of Hitler at Vienna’s Heldenplatz and a smiling Kurt Waldheim, with the caption, “Trauma Anschluß, Trauma Waldheim.”3 Fifty years after the Anschluss, the German press was vehemently criticizing Austria and undermining Austria’s claim to be a victim of Nazi Germany. Symbols of Austrian uniqueness were turned on their head and linked with Nazism through the image of a woman in Trachten dress bearing a Nazified chocolate cake. This allegorical assault on Austrian identity was an outrage to many in the Alpine republic. How could the Germans, who had invaded Austria in 1938, now have the audacity to judge Austria?


The Waldheim Controversy

The answer was the 1986 Austrian presidential election, with its attendant international media attention and the subsequent investigation into the background of the Wehrmacht veteran and former UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim. As chronicled by Melanie Sully, Waldheim was chosen by

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