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“Memories and Imaginaries: Democratic Citizenship”

 

This citizen science project, funded by the FWF, in cooperation with Univ. Prof. Dr. Marina Gržinić (PI) and her research team (Dr. Jovita Pristovšek and Dr. Sophie Uitz) at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna investigates the imaginaries of Jewish, queer, and migrant citizen groups in post-Nazi Austria from 1945 until today, specifically imaginaries formed through memories: How are memories by Jewish, queer, and migrant communities manifested within majoritarian narratives of Austrian society? How do members of these communities position themselves in relation to broader hegemonic discourses on state and nationhood? To what extent are democratic counter-discourses performed in these communities? And how do they alter, challenge, or expand the construction of predominant historiographies and citizenship?

 

“Memories and Imaginaries” is aimed at fostering democratic citizenship and critical thinking at a young age by learning about and exploring the long historical trajectory of discrimination and marginalization (antisemitism, homophobia, racism, and xenophobia) and the almost protean qualities of its inherent structures from an intersectional perspective.

 

The project follows a novel approach combining citizen science with art-based research offering “Memory Labs” for high-school students during May-June 2022, in which the topic will be explored experientially, for instance, through rap-poetry, performative narration or material-based discussions. Each lab session will be documented in graphic recording by an artist and in shorthand typewriting by a stenograph.

 

On behalf of VWI, Dr. Mirjam Wilhelm will be involved in these “Memory Labs” as an expert with material originating from her research on ‘forgotten’ Jewish graphic artist Vjera Biller, whose life and artworks serve as an emblematic example of multiple marginalization: as a woman, as a woman artist, as a Jewish woman artist, as a homosexual, and, subsequently, an alleged ‘Geisteskranke’ under Nazi-persecution in Austria.

 

The project is listed for the OeAD’s Citizen Science Award 2022. Its outcomes will be disseminated via a designated book publication titled Erinnerung und Imaginäres combining the artistic lab-documentation as well as scholarly explorations of the topic.

 

Prof. Dr. Éva Kovács and Dr. Mirjam Wilhelm are responsible for the project at VWI.

Research Projects at the VWI

 

The founding concept for the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) from the outset envisaged the execution of research projects through third-party funding. This was to ensure that short, mid, and long-term research was conducted independently of the academic work rhythms of the institute. Individually initiated and designed projects, for which funding is sought from national, international, and European funding bodies, play just as much of a central role in this respect as do collaborative research projects that have been conceptualised and brought to the VWI by external project organisers.

 

Research projects are conducted by a variable number of different staff members who are either employed by the institute or work on the basis of a services contract. Since the establishment of the institute, numerous third-party funded projects have been concluded and several more are currently based at the institute.

 

The institute constantly endeavours to submit new applications and thereby to explore further research fields and acquire new staff members.

The ‘Invisible’ Austrians

 

(Self-) Perceptions and Social Positionings of Children of Black American Occupation Soldiers and Austrian Women

 

The ‘Invisible’ Austrians is a dissertation project that emerged from the research and exhibition project Lost in Administration/SchwarzÖsterreich, which was based at the University of Salzburg from 2013 to 2018 and which was also significantly promoted by the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI).

 

Lost in Administration aimed on the basis of narrative biographical interviews to research the life stories of those individuals who were born between 1945 and 1956 to black GIs and Austrian women. Archival research in Austria and the USA was intended reconstruct their treatment by the Austrian and American authorities. Sources and documents that emerged in the context of research on the project have already led to scholarly publications, while thematically relevant materials were moreover made available to the broader public in newspaper articles as well as the exhibition Black Austria. The Children of African-American GIs, which was on display at the Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art in 2016.

 

A thorough scholarly appraisal of the interviews and documents is now being undertaken in this dissertation project – which is based at the VWI and the Department of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna – by VWI staff member Philipp Rohrbach.

 

Most of the children of black American GIs and Austrian women who grew up in ‘white’ post-Nazi Austria had to come to terms with their fate individually, without a peer group. These children thus became a physically visible, but ultimately nonetheless ‘invisible’ population group, remaining for the longest time marginalised not least of all in Austrian historiography. On the basis of a detailed analysis of three narrative biographical interviews that form the core of this dissertation project, the self-perceptions of members of this group will be analysed as they are recounted in their stories. In addition, the dissertation will analyse the largely stereotyped images constructed in these children’s files by child welfare authorities in Upper Austria, Salzburg, and Vienna (the former US occupation zone in Austria). Where relevant for a better understanding of the content emerging from the interviews and documents, the dissertation project will also reconstruct aspects of the (welfare) political treatment of this group after 1945.

 

The dissertation is being supervised by Prof. Johanna Gehmacher and Prof. Albert Lichtblau and is being conducted in cooperation with the research focus on women’s and gender history of the Faculty of Historical and Cultural Studies at the University of Vienna.

 

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Mapping the Genocide of the Roma in Hungary

 

Despite efforts by scholars and educators in the last two decades, the genocide of the Roma remains underrepresented in commemorative practices, scholarship, and education on the Second World War in Central Europe. Furthermore, countries like Hungary and Slovakia display strong feelings against their Roma populations. Institutionalised Romaphobia in these countries is in fact reinforcing these negative societal attitudes and obscuring the genocide of the Roma from practices of Holocaust remembrance.

 

This international partnership will serve to develop an online portal dedicated to the genocide against the Roma in the 1940s, focusing on western Hungary and southern Slovakia, where the deadliest anti-Roma persecutions took place. The key result of the project will be an interactive map visualising the collection and labour camps, sites of killings and atrocities, burial sites, memorials, and routes of forced marches.

 

This project, which is funded by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), will digitise and utilise unexplored archival sources on the topic and offer a complete digital catalogue of archival records from state archives of Hungary and Slovakia with multilingual descriptions to facilitate further research. The portal will moreover incorporate images, thematic maps, glossaries of key persons, places, and subjects, as well as a timeline providing a comprehensive account of the genocide of the Roma in Hungary, including its origins and aftermath, and its contemporary spatial, cultural, and political memory. Complimentary educational materials will be created and integrated, making the portal accessible for educators.

 

The archive will finally be disseminated to our nationwide network of local authorities, including mayors, civil servants, and directors of school districts, museums, cultural institutions, and NGOs. Local decision makers will thus be able to conduct public lectures, cultural programmes, and educational and commemorative programmes like Roma Holocaust Memorial Day. Ultimately, this project will integrate Roma perspectives in national narratives and educational practices, filling this gap in research, education, and memorialisation.

 

Responsible for the project, funded by IHRA, is László Csősz (National Archives of Hungary).

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

 

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