How Did the Cultured, Creative Society of Vienna Lose Its Moral Compass?  Coming to Terms with History

How Did the Cultured, Creative Society of Vienna Lose Its Moral Compass? Coming to Terms with History

The panel considered the long history of anti-Semitism in Austria, the period of open immigration of the reign of Emperor Franz Josef, as well as the political upheavals and instabilities that followed the Treaty of Versailles that dismantled the Habsburg Empire and ended World War I. Interwar divisions over political philosophies, over support for Austrian independence versus an alliance with the culturally- linked and increasingly inhumane regime of Nazi Germany, the economic stresses and promise of an integrated relationship, the eventual autocratic government under Austro-fascism and the ultimate concern for survival without a potentially bloody German invasion, all form part of the discussion.

The panel explored the historic circumstances that allowed Austria to characterize itself as the “First victim” of Nazism, rather than as perpetrators or collaborators in the Holocaust. It delved into late wartime initiatives to induce Austria to break away from Germany and into post war concerns that allowed Austria to bury its past and fail to acknowledge its complicity. These include worries, shared by the Western Allies, over the advance of communism, the appeal for Austria of reducing reparation demands, the extended occupation of Austria postwar and the dissolution of the war crimes tribunal at the end of the Allied occupation in 1955. These explanations no longer are taken as a justification to avoid addressing and reconciling with history as a new generation of Austrians has adopted policies of remembrance, restitution and dialogue. The panel discussed the steps taken to date and considered the most constructive and ethical ways to achieve reconciliation in such circumstances. At the same time, Austria’s immigration policies remain among the strictest in Europe. The panel will consider those policies in the context of 20th Century Austrian history and raise the question of how Austria can best maintain its unique creative cultural legacy, while being a successful, pluralistic and open society.


Panel Speakers: