Forgetting the Nazis : schools, identity, and the "Austria-as-victim" myth since 1945 / by Peter Michael Utgaard.
After the 1938 annexation or Anschluss, Austria was part of Nazi Germany. Although the Austrian state ceased to exist, many Austrians supported the Anschluss and participated fully in the Nazi war. After the war, Austria was restored by the Four Powers. In order to legitimize the Austrian Second Republic, Austrian politicians cultivated an official myth of victimization. This "Austria-as-victim" myth became a fundamental part of Austrian identity and the legitimacy of the Second Republic rested on the shoulders of this myth. Austrian schools were both a primary reflector and propagator of official victim mythology. Through the sources of Austrian history and reading textbooks, yearbooks, and other government documents, this study traces the history of the official memory of the "Austria-as-victim" myth and examines its themes. From 1945-1955, schools played a key role in building an Austrian identity completely separate from German identity. Cultivation of Austrian uniqueness contributed to a positive Austrian identity through emphasizing themes of homeland (Heimat), landscape (Landschaft), and others, but emphasis on Austrian uniqueness also supported victim mythology by casting Austria as the antithesis of Germany, thereby divorcing National Socialism from Austrian characteristics. From 1955-1986, the themes of the "Austria-as-victim" myth emerged in their purest form. Important themes included: (1) the Anschluss of 1938; (2) Austria's role in the war and the Holocaust, (3) views of the Austrian resistance; and (4) the Allied occupation. Each of these layers of myth deepened and expanded the claims of the myth of "Austria-as-victim" and legitimized the Second Republic. Controversy surrounding the election of President Kurt Waldheim in 1986, combined with the fiftieth-anniversary of the Anschluss in 1988, amounted to a watershed event marking abandonment of the pure "Austria-as-victim" myth. Yet significant aspect of this mythology remain entrenched in Austrian school materials and political life, because many groups in Austrian society continue to defend themes of victimization as important to Austrian legitimacy.
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