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


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