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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
Pierre Birnbaum: A Political Myth: Léon Blum

Thursday, 19. February 2015, 18:30 - 20:00

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


In his lecture, Pierre Birnbaum demonstrates how Léon Blum's (1872-1950) Jewishness was central to his milieu and mission from his earliest entry into the political arena in reaction to the infamous Dreyfus Affair, and how it sustained and motivated him throughout the remainder of his life. As Prime Minister of France, he wrote many times that he was proud to be a Jew, at the time courageously facing a violent antisemitic movement. Furthermore, from the turn of the twentieth century he showed a deep interest in Zionism, became a close friend of Chaim Weizmann, and beginning in the thirties continuously helped him with the creation of the State of Israel, thus showing for the first time in history that it was possible for a Jew to be at the head of the French State while remaining dedicated to the faith of the Jewish people.

 Chair: Martina Steer (Department of History, University of Vienna)

Pierre Birnbaumis a professor emeritus at the University Paris 1. He wrote several books on the theory of the state and also on the French state seen as a crucial variable in Jewish comparative history like The Jews of the Republic, Stanford 1996 and – together with I. Katznelson – Paths for emancipation, Princeton 1996. He also wrote several books on political antisemitism as a reaction against the involvement of Jews in the State like The Anti-Semitic Moment: A Tour of France in 1898, New York. 2003. Recently, he published a book on La république et le cochon [The Republic and Pork], Paris 2013, on the relation between republican universalism and Kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws. His forthcoming books are Sur un nouveau moment antisémite. Jour de colère. Paris 2015 and Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist and Zionist. Yale 2015.


150120 Einladung Lecture 38 Birnbaum WEB


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