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Simon Wiesenthal Lectures


The Simon Wiesenthal Lecture series has been held in collaboration with the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (DÖW) and the Institute of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna since 2007, when the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) was still being established. As an important aspect of the task of education on recent academic insights in the fields of Holocaust research and genocide studies, the lecture series has developed into the VWI's education flagship.


The lectures take place every six to eight weeks, with renowned scholars presenting the most recent research insights on the Holocaust to a professional audience as well as a broader public. They showcase the impressive spectrum of this discipline, its numerous questions and issues ranging from empirical-analytical historiography to topics of cultural scholarship, and involve young scholars as well as established academics.


The Austrian State Archive as our co-operation partner has since June 2010 provided us with the perfect location for our lectures: the rooftop foyer of the “Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv” at Minoritenplatz in Vienna. This location at the rear façade of the Federal Chancellery of the Republic of Austria is symbolic of the reappraisal of the Holocaust in Austria: After all, this history had been marginalised for decades, just like its immediate historical antecedent, Austrian antisemitism, was cut out of history, its appraisal shoved aside for victims and their descendants to deal with. This has only changed in recent times. The Shoah has simultaneously been moving ever closer to the centre of Austrian historical awareness. It has slowly emerged from the repressed periphery and out of the realm of taboo and silence and into the focus of understanding of Austria’s most recent history. Thus, the Simon Wiesenthal Lectures are held at a place that represents the symbolic and real centre of the Republic and is at the same time also an instance of this turn in the Austrian perception of its own history.



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Simon Wiesenthal Lecture
Christopher R. Browning: Holocaust history and survivor testimony: The case of the Starachowice factory slave labour camps

Thursday, 18. October 2012, 18:30

Dachfoyer des Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchivs, Minoritenplatz 1, 1010 Wien


The factory slave labour camps of Nazi Germany have been an understudied phenomenon of the Holocaust. The large collections of survivor testimonies have been an underutilised source for writing Holocaust history. Through examining the post-war testimonies of 292 survivors of the factory slave labour camps in Starachowice, Poland, given between 1945 and 2008, Browning attempts to examine both the considerable benefits and potential pitfalls that such sources hold for the Holocaust historian. At the same time, through a case study of a single complex of factory slave labour camps, he attempts to illuminate wider issues concerning the Nazi exploitation of Jewish slave labour, the complicity of German industrialists, the conflict between ideologically-driven mass murder and wartime economic necessity within the Nazi regime, the internal dynamics of the slave labour community, and the survival strategies they pursued.


Christopher R. Browning is the Frank Porter Graham Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has delivered the George Macaulay Trevelyan Lectures at the University of Cambridge and the George L. Mosse Lectures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research has focused on Holocaust perpetrators and the decision-making process that led to the “Final Solution”. Among his books published in German are Ganz normale Männer, Die Entfesselung der Endlösung, and Die Endlösung und das Auswärtige Amt. He has also served as an expert witness in the Holocaust denial trial of Ernst Zündel in Toronto in 1988 and David Irving’s libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books in London in 2000.

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The Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) is funded by:


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