The Austrian Historians' Commission (2009)

Author(s): Kirk T

    Abstract: It is a truth universally acknowledged that nowhere is the past a greater burden on the present than in the historian's own area of interest. In Austria, in 2008, the past seemed to be more than usually present. From the outset, it was declared a year of multiple anniversaries; and the years 1848, 1918, 1968, and above all 1938 were recalled in conferences and books and in public discussion in the media. And yet some aspects of the past were curiously absent: Austrian democracy, we learned from an events listings handout distributed at Vienna airport, was established in 1918—only to be extinguished by the Nazis in 1938. In this context, Oliver Rathkolb's finding (presented at a conference on democracy held at the Vienna Museum in March), that forty percent of Austrians do not even know who Engelbert Dollfuss was, is hardly surprising. This is not to say that there is no engagement with the thornier questions of Austria's past—in the University's Institut für Zeitgeschichte, there is talk of little else—but that there is now, as delegates at the same conference agreed, something of a gulf between the general public's understanding of the past and that of academic historians and some sections of the press.

      • Date: 16-04-2009
      • Journal: Austrian History Yearbook
      • Volume: 40
      • Pages: 288-299
      • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
      • Publication type: Article
      • Bibliographic status: Published

      Keywords: Holocaust; Nazi slave labour; compensation


      Professor Tim Kirk
      Professor of European History