Barbara Serloth

After the Shoah. Politics and Antisemitism in Austria after 1945, mandelbaum verlag, Vienna 2019

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An overview


A few introductory remarks

At the heart of the book "Nach der Shoah. Politik und Antisemitismus in Österreich nach 1945" (After the Shoah: Politics and Antisemitism in Austria after 1945) stands the question of how, despite all assurances to the contrary, the antisemitism that was deeply rooted in the values of most Austrians affected the demands of the (former) Austrian Jews for restitution and equal treatment during the transition to democracy until post-war independence in 1955. The book also asks how the political elite of the time addressed the claims of those who had been forced to emigrate that they remained a natural part of Austrian society.

The resulting segregation  of the Jews from Austrian society was causally related to the trivialisation of National Socialism and Austrian complicity in the National Socialist regime and its crimes that served as the basis of Austria's myth of victimhood. The political discourse and the narratives, both positive and negative, made these prejudices and antisemitic stereotypes and their effects clear.

Of course, the overview given here can only sketch the book's content. It does not strictly follow the sequence in the book; however, a number of source citations make reference to the relevant passages.

The book is currently only available in German.


The Continuity Narrative

Austria, May 1945: the famous "Zero Hour" was a politically brilliant narrative of a new beginning for the nation of Austria and its society. It became the tale of a country stricken by fate and its inhabitants, who, after overcoming the Nazi reign of terror, had pulled themselves up from dire conditions and had rebuilt the peaceful, democratic society that had existed before. The description of the disastrous conditions in 1945 and the years of reconstruction thereafter was accurate enough, but the rest was largely a fairy tale. The story of the "Zero Hour" was a part of Austria's claim of victimhood. Each fed into the other. On the basis of these two narratives, Austria and the Austrians were able to exempt itself from having to confront their own guilt and participation in National Socialism and the Shoah. National Socialism and its atrocities were summarily exported and handed over to West Germany as a complete package for it to handle.

The fact is that that any sense of Austrian identity was not automatically re-established with the collapse of the Third Reich in 1945. There were calls for continuity, both in general, but especially in politics. The continuity narratives not only complemented each other, but also conditioned each other. The narrative of democratic continuity which claimed that Austrian democracy had only been interrupted by the violent occupation of Hitler's Germany, portrayed as a hostile foreign power, made it possible for Austria to reinforce its sense of victimhood and assert its claim to innocence. For its part, democratic continuity was signalled not only by the rebuilding of old structures and a political architecture, constitution, and norms very similar to those from before the war, but also by the continuity of the persons occupying the political sphere. The founding fathers of the Second Republic had already been central political figures in the First Republic, although they tried to erase any memory of Austria's pre-Hitler dictatorship under Dolfuss and Schuschnigg between 1934 and 1938. These narratives may have been correct in their core, but they were loaded with an essential aspect that should have led to their relativization. The reasons for ignoring the pre-Anschluss Austrofascism varied. On the one hand, mentioning it would have put the continuity narrative in question, and, on the other hand, everyone was at pains to bury the scars of the civil war. The political aim was not to let any consideration of actual history debunk the alleged unity and shared fate of the Austrians during and after the war.


Trivialisation of Forced Emigration and Flight

It is obvious that this idyllisation of Austrian society and history would inevitably have consequences in Austrians' attitude toward refugees in general and Jews who had been forced to emigrate in particular. Continuing the Nazi propaganda that those who had fled were "runaways" who had enjoyed a lovely, secure existence in exile, refugees were renamed emigrants who, by leaving, had given up their right to participate in the political discourse about the legacy of National Socialism, the Nazis, and their sympathisers and beneficiaries. For example, Alfons Gorbach, a former concentration camp prisoner and powerful ÖVP politician, said[1]: "There is something special about these emigrants. As soon as the waves of the ocean rippled, they took refuge in the foreign countries that saved them. From their safe haven, from the safe shore, they then called out to the little Austrian ship drifting on the waves and its shipwrecked sailors to tell them all the bad things they had done and how they ought to swim in order to save the situation in the end."[2] Gorbach went a step further and criticised the emigrants for trying to damage Austria's good reputation. "I do not want to dispute the merit that these emigrants have earned abroad, but there were also a number of emigrants who, on balance, were not of use to Austria, but instead generated certain propaganda to greatly harm the Austrian people between 1934 and 38 and now wish to do us yet more harm!"[3]

It was common practice in post-war Austria to marginalise the reasons for refugees' departure so as not to jeopardise the victim narrative. In 1946, then-Chancellor and ÖVP party leader Leopold Figl, who himself had to endure the tortures of the Nazis in various concentration camps [4], fully ignoring the anti-Semitism, Aryanisation, disenfranchisement, and eventual plans to exterminate the Jews, said : "We once again welcome all Austrians [...] – but as Austrians, not as Jews. We must all participate equally in the new Austria." By 1955, right-wing VdU politician Fritz Stüber[5] had merged two negative narratives when he declared "that Austria, for example, was supposed to 800 million shillings available to emigrants who, at the earliest opportunity, had shed their Austrian citizenship like a snake sheds its skin."[6] This message was intended not only to exclude the Jewish forced emigrants and refugees from Austrian society, but also what he claimed were the refugees' unjustified demands for reparations. By denying this group of former Austrian citizens their connection to their homeland because they had since taken on a new nationality, it became possible, in light of the prevailing negative narratives, to name this alleged lack of connection as grounds for refusing their claims.

An entire series of political, economic, and social means were used to trivialise the refugees' escape as emigration and ignore the real history. This applies especially to the forced Aryanisation and total disenfranchisement of Austria's Jewish population. It would be a criminal distortion of the politics of the post-war years to claim that the restitution policy had not also been determined by an honest endeavour to compensate for injustices done and to restore property to its rightful owners. However, it would be just as criminal not to mention that the basic mood in Austria did not foster an honest policy of restitution. The political elites reinforced this general attitude with corresponding measures and standards. Central to this was the decision to tell those who had benefited financially or in terms of property from Aryanisation that the policymakers were endeavouring to cushion any hardships that might have been caused by restitution. This was inevitably linked to the Realpolitik of not denouncing Aryanisation, and thus trivialising it. At the same time, those who had lost their assets under Aryanisation were offered hardly any assistance. The transformation of the spoils of Aryanisation into the "democratic" status quo in post-war Austria was rounded off by years of political denial.


Jewish Scepticism about Austrian Politics

Conversations with contemporary witnesses of the first and second generation, who, as Jews, were exposed to the murderous antisemitism of the Nazis and/or experienced its effects first hand, have shown a sober resignation over Austrian politics both in the post-war years, but also afterwards. One of the reasons for this was the clear determination of the politicians to downplay the role of Austrians in the crimes and other actions of the Nazis. Ultimately, however, given all due consideration, one can speak of it as their political preference, as both the denazification policy as a whole and the discussion of a hardship fund for those who had benefited from Aryanization were confronted with the claims for restitution. Upon considering the balance of power in post-war Austria, one must admit that those who had enriched themselves through a morally unacceptable exploitation of the disenfranchisement and expulsion of the Jews were mostly, but not always, favoured politically and legally. They were not always able to protect the wealth ill-gained through Aryanisation, but much of it was retained to an unacceptable extent.

In the long post-war period, the antisemitic narratives that led to segregation and the continued propagation of the associated antisemitic stereotypes became an inherent part of Austria's democratic structures. It was only in the 1980s, after the myth of victimhood had first been shattered, that Austria began to reappraising its Nazi past and the questions of restitution.


The Restitution Problem

The failure to re-appraise the issue of guilt was no doubt connected with fundamental political decisions, which, in the present study, were primarily examined on the basis of the restitution problem. These political decisions can be described as profound, as they set the course for the reconstruction of democratic society in the Republic of Austria. The decision to depict Austria as a victim of National Socialism and to make the National Socialist and radically racist acts and perpetrators taboo inevitably resulted in the further propagation of negative isms and stereotypes.

For the post-war Austrian political elite, constituting a new sense of identity was not a matter of reorienting society. No intellectual considerations were given to a possibility reformation of society. This was also reflected in the uncritical adoption of the narrative that the political and/or racial victims of National Socialism were not refugees, but emigrants, making use of the narratives about "emigrants" prevalent in earlier Nazi propaganda. In the political narratives, those who had fled were longer considered "true" members of Austrian society, even after 1945. This was frequently, but not always, accompanied by a delegitimisation of their political requests for a voice and/or legal claims. This renewed elimination inevitably resulted in the political strengthening of those who had benefited from Aryanisation.

The reappraisal of political discourses at the parliamentary and ministerial level showed that the efforts to spare former Nazis from the hardships of the National Socialist Act, and thus from any consequences and sanctions for their actions during the war, were incompatible with the stated will to denazify Austria. Instead, they sought to integrate these former Nazis as quickly as possible into respectable Austrian society, together with all of the associated political rights. In addition, with a view to strategic power interests, the two major parties could not and would not ignore the votes of the roughly 500,000 registered former Nazis. In the end, they inevitably found themselves being courted by the rival parties, which allowed them to make demands on the new regime. They were not only sought after as voters, but were also able to infiltrate the political system as stakeholders and office holders. At the same time, they were able to retain their active roles, not only within the process of setting norms, but also in the courts, which had a lasting consequence due to the failure to denazify the judiciary.[7] Even before the end of the denazification phase, a number of former, and even high-ranking, Nazis had managed to re-enter politics. A kind of snowball effect could thus be observed in the political, administrative, legal, and social system, which, as a consequence, allowed many erstwhile Nazis to continue their careers readily with few sanctions. That labour shortages, especially in the academic sector, contributed to this is undisputed; however, an obvious solution would have been to invite the Jewish doctors, lawyers, and scholars who had forced to emigrate to return. The statements made in this regard were clear: "As Gorbach explained, 'Austria does not have a surplus of people and urgently needs every citizen, but above all his intelligence.'[8] He expressed the same attitude to the problem of the labour shortage, especially in academic professions, that Karl Renner had noted in October 1945 when he declared: 'We don't have enough doctors. The Jewish doctors are gone, the Nazi doctors have lost their licences.'"[9] At the time, Renner was already trying to resolve the situation by weakening the denazification laws.

Former Nazis sought certificates to wipe their records clean and, once granted, were able to operate unobstructed if they adapted their basic ideological attitudes to the post-Nazi, democratic framework of society. It can be assumed that there were certainly plenty of opportunists among the former Nazis for whom such a pragmatic solution made sense. However, this is not the perspective one should use to consider the actions of Austria's politicians, for it would mean adopting the "petty Nazi" narrative. Instead, one should ask how they worked to counter the racist and antisemitic socialisation. And the answer, unfortunately, is a simple "Not at all." The political elite wanted to let matters rest, and, so, by failing to address it, the racist attitudes and stereotypes were passed on, albeit in a weakened form.


Restitution and the Austrian Ping-Pong Blockade

The attitude of the founding fathers of the Second Republic to the problem of restitution already manifested itself during the provisional government under Karl Renner. While representatives of the political parties were more than willing to reclaim their parties' assets, they were extremely hesitant when it came to setting an honest policy that put the victims of Aryanisation at the centre of their political efforts. The claims of the Jews were instead instrumentalised to legitimise their own interests.

Karl Renner did not lack clarity in this respect when, already during the fifth session of his provisional government, he demanded the return of the assets of his Social Democratic (SPÖ) party.[10] In connection with the discussion surrounding the "Draft bill to register Aryanised and other assets seized in connection with the National Socialist takeover of power," he not only urgently demanded consideration of the interests of the SPÖ, but even coupled this demand with a threat of resignation and an argumentative side reference to the Jewish claims for restitution. Renner: "I take it as a given that such a law must be passed. It would, after all, be quite incomprehensible for every small Jewish merchant or peddler to be compensated for his loss, while an entire class and a movement to which 47% of the population belonged were to have the results of their diligent efforts and organisational work not returned without penalty and without replacement, without the law creating some sort of remedy for it. However, I do not want to associate that with this law, but I give notice that I will continue as Chancellor only if such a law is enacted. I hereby declare that I would not be able to continue participating in the affairs of state if the injustice of 1934 is not made good. I ask the gentlemen not to forget that I also have a personal reputation to uphold, and that my legitimacy throughout the state and, to a substantial extent, within the population depends on this injustice being made good. I could not carry on if I were to hold the rights of 7% of the population so high and sacred that I made a special law, but that I did not respect the rights of the other, by far greater part."[11]  Following the objection of Secretary of State Johann Koplenig (KPÖ) that there were other workers' organisations besides the Social Democrats affected by this situation, Renner went a step further and stated: "My position as State Chancellor essentially rests on the fact that all layers of the Austrian population have a certain trust in my objectivity and justness. However, the moment that such a significant part of the future democracy were to doubt this justness would be the moment my position were shaken, and you would have a Chancellor whom one no longer universally believed to be objective. I, therefore, do not want to be State Chancellor because maybe Russia or another power wants it, but because Austria has confidence in me." [12] This line of argument consisted, on the one hand, in highlighting the Jewish claims and, on the other, in pointing out that the accusation of having made a special law for "7% of the population" would run counter to the Austrians' sense of justice. However, the objection that it is necessary to give equal treatment to all victims is illegitimate, since it necessarily entails a causal link with the harmonisation of all groups of victims, and thus constitutes a difference in treatment. In addition, the question arises as to whether the political parties ran the risk of not getting their assets back. The tactical measures set by the three democratic parties involved in the process of establishing norms at the time speak against this.

It can therefore be assumed that Karl Renner very consciously placed the Jewish claims in the foreground and insinuated that they constituted "special treatment" in order to give his own interests greater legitimacy. Added to this is his reference to the wishes of the foreigners, whereby the Jews' claims to have their stolen assets restituted or compensated were once again, by way of precaution, branded as a matter that was being forced on Austria. Whoever wanted could associate this with the power of the "world Jewry." Renner thus clearly drew on antisemitic images, images of Jewish privilege, and of world Jewry, which he contrasted with the 47% of eligible voters among the population who had voted for the SPÖ. The fact that in social democracy, in particular, the intersection between social democrats and Jews was not insignificant, had to be ignored in this line of argumentation, because that would have meant firstly the firm elimination of the Jews from the unified group of social democrats and, secondly, emphasising the threatened discrimination against the "real Austrians" by a political icon. Needless to say, this was to be implicitly communicated, but, due to latency of communication and raison d'état, was expressed in an encoded way.

This refusal to recognise Austria's share in the guilt was summed up during the National Council's debate on the Nullification Act on 15 May 1946 by then ÖVP representative Ernst Kolb with the famous statement that Austria had nothing to atone for, since it had not done anything wrong. Kolb not only framed his rejection of restitution on the basis of the victim myth, but went significantly further, drawing a picture of the National Socialists hiding the expropriation of the political parties behind the narrative of the Aryanisation of the assets and property of the Jews. The thrust of this line of argument was obvious; from the outset it was necessary to marginalise Jewish claims for restitution and to reserve the word "restitution" above all for Austria's claims, or, more specifically, the claims of the Austrian state, its organisations, and political parties. At first, Kolb made use of semantics in order to then present the Austrian point of view: "[I]f we render the word 'Wiederherstellung' in the language of the Allies, we arrive at the term 'restitution,' which, in German, can be translated by Zurückstellung ('return') or Erstattung ('reimbursement'), and thus encompasses everything that has been mistakenly called 'Wiedergutmachung' (reparation). It is about restoring justice and returning the property that was taken away. The first party with a right to such restitution is the Republic of Austria itself, because a significant portion of all the assets that were forcibly taken over the past seven years belonged to the Austrian state. At the time of National Socialism, there was a lot of deliberate talk of Aryanisation in order to blanket over the fact that by far the greater part of all the seized property had been taken away not due to racist, but rather political reasons. For the most part, it was Austrians who were involved, which is why it was not possible to claim that one was seizing third-party property in the name of the People, because it was the native property of Austrians that was being placed into the hands of foreigners. To cover this up, the catchphrase Aryanisation was invented; in fact, only a part of the seized property was a result of Aryanisation." [13]  According to Kolb, the National Socialists invented "the catchphrase Aryanisation" in order to conceal the seizure of property from political parties. We come across two essential narratives here: on the one hand, that, in any case, not so much had been stolen from Jews, and, on the other hand, that the property that was confiscated was Austrian. The latter meant a reconstruction of Austrian society that did not include Jews. Otherwise, the property taken from the Jews would have been "native property," too.


The Krauland Ministry and Former Nazis as Central Figures in Restitution Policy

In the first federal government of the Second Republic, the restitution agendas were handed over to the Federal Ministry for Asset Protection and Economic Planning (the so-called Krauland Ministry, after the minister who headed it). It is telling that an especially large number of lesser and major players in the National Socialist regime who were subsequently employed in this ministry, revealing not only the attitude of the political elite towards the former Nazis, but also towards reparations itself. Due to the extent of their records, some were only able to be hired as consultants, as was initially the case for Walther Kastner. Kastner was responsible for the "Aryanisation" of large Jewish enterprises between 1938 and 1943 at the Kontrollbank, a position so important position that each of these "instances of Aryanisation" was subject to his approval. Like the interventions on behalf the ministry's officials, he cynically used this experience to his great advantage in post-war Austria. In his letter of support for Kastner, MP Eduard Ludwig (ÖVP) actually specifically referenced Kastner's experience in Aryanisation: "Kastner was an experienced employee of the Property Transactions Office from 1938 to 1945, then a Section II consultant in the Federal Ministry for Asset Protection and Economic Planning (nationalisation), and now, following denazification, he has returned to the practice of law. Une bonne tête, without doubt. He is certainly called to straighten these matters out, since he was significantly responsible for their entanglement in the first place."[14] Kastner seems to have had a significant influence on the wording of the Third Restitution Act and subsequently, together with Wilhelm Rauscher, Section Council in the Ministry of Justice, also drafted the legislative compendium and explanatory notes for the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Restitution Acts.[15]

The cynical act of having people who had occupied central positions in the Aryanisation process during the war set restitution policy in the Second Republic seems to have been consciously accepted. On the one hand, the politicians wanted to push the legislation through with little discussion, and, on the other hand, this approach promised a rather positive settlement, at least in the interests of the majority of the population. Kastner quite aptly formulated this attitude as follows: "Since there is no such thing as a solution for a mass problem that will please everyone, hardships are unavoidable. The goal must be: justice and the preservation of the Austrian economy." [16] "Preservation of the Austrian economy" necessarily entailed an agreement to protect the perpetrators, which was documented not only in the expression of concerns over lost tax revenues for the Austrian state, but also fears that assets could flow abroad.

The willingness to enter into an arrangement for the problem of restitution was based above all on the concern for Austria's international reputation and not upsetting the Allies so that Austrian independence could be achieved as quickly as possible. This was reflected not only in the political statements, but also in the memorandum of the State Chancellery for Foreign Affairs, entitled "The Foreign Policy and International Law Aspects of the Compensation Claims of the Jewish Victims of the Nazis." This ten-page assessment very frankly and explicitly referred to the power of "world Jewry," showing its roots in antisemitic conspiracy theories. The authors pointed out that while there was no "Jewish state," the imaginary group of Jews in control nevertheless had great influence on foreign policy and in the press. This imaginary cabal of Jews was, it claimed, able to "exert its influence on world public opinion; then again, [...] it understood how to induce the governments of other states to accept their demands. The Jews succeeded in this all the more easily, as international finance capital is largely in Jewish hands. […] It is no coincidence that Jewry is called the fifth world power and that Hitler's Germany was annihilated for its opposition to it." [17] The frankness of these antisemitic images of the "world power of the Jews" in a paper that was supposed to serve to inform and raise awareness among political decision-makers is quite unsettling.

Of course, one cannot say that there were no efforts or success at making restitution. The problem was that until the 1980s, no awareness of the problem existed and thus no action was taken. Commitments were made and withdrawn, negotiations delayed, and, ultimately, laws were drafted which left considerable room for judicial freedom.


Renewed Segregation and Antisemitic Prejudice in Politics

The policy of treating those who had been forced to flee the Nazi regime was reinforced by efforts to suppress their attempts to return. This was done, on the one hand, by not lightening the immigration regulations of the Allies, and, on the other hand, by a selective invitation policy. Further support for preventing the return of Jews to Austria was evident in the strict rejection of Jewish claims for restitution. At first, even social assistance was denied. The First Victims' Welfare Act, for example, only covered those who had been persecuted for political reasons.  Assistance was later granted, but only reluctantly. For example, President Karl Renner, [18] regarded as one of the key Social Democratic politicians of the First Republic and of the initial post-war years, feared that the restitution of property would be accompanied by "a mass, sudden flood of the displaced." Renner even expressed this negative attitude towards the return of the Jews directly to their face. According to statements from Richard Crossman[19] in an interview with the Palestinian Committee, in February 1946, he expressed his suspicion that the Jewish communities would no longer recover and, referring not to the Shoah, but to the now-defunct free trade of the Habsburg Empire. 1945, was, according to Renner, "the final and complete demise of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. Along with it, the foundation of Jewish trade has disappeared. Most Jews have been annihilated and their property throughout the entirety of Eastern Europe has been seized as [formerly] German property. Under Russian influence, nationalised economies will now be established that will not make any space for Jewish family firms. And even if there were space for them [...], I do not believe that Austria, in its current mood, would once again allow Jews to build up these family monopolies. We would certainly not allow a new Jewish community from Eastern Europe to come here and establish itself while our own people need work."[20] As Renner saw it, Jews were obviously not part of Austrian society.

It should be noted that both the political intervention measures and narratives were not suited to countering antisemitic values. Such political and social action was not intended to have such an orientation. This means nothing other than that neither a discussion of guilt and other discussion of Austria's role in the Nazi regime could be started. Antisemitic values continued to be accepted as part of Austrian society, which also resulted from a lack of appropriate awareness of the problem. Without exception, the political parties were prepared to allow the former National Socialists to reintegrate readily into the society of the Second Republic for reasons of power politics. In addition to insufficient empathy for the actual victims of National Socialism and sorrow for their losses, their suffering, and their traumatisation, these actions were mainly driven by numerical realism. No party strategist was able to overlook the fact that there were around 500,000 people in Austria who had been officially recorded as having been Nazis. There were many more who went along with the regime (so-called "Mitläufer"), but had not registered as party members, as well as the young adults and children not yet eligible to vote during the war years. In other words, those who were officially National Socialists or who had otherwise benefited from the political regime of terror were certainly a significant proportion of Austrians. Although in the first two legislative periods of the Second Republic a very large number of politicians and cabinet members were represented who had a concentration camp past, a significant portion of public opinion was not influenced by people who aimed at clear and profound scrutiny of the recent past and a corresponding way of dealing with Nazism and its crimes. Although the political elite consistently advocated a negative attitude towards National Socialism during the first four years after the war, empathy towards "petty Nazis" and the political battle for the votes of the former Nazis as a whole resulted in a political mood that forcibly trivialised National Socialism and thus glossed it over. It should be noted that strategic considerations of power are one thing, the nature and extent of the accommodation of these that was shown, another. This already began with the National Socialist Act, which had to be strengthened under pressure from the Allies and was denounced by all parties as "imposed", and continued with the initial demands for amnesty for various groups stained by National Socialism. The political elite's accommodation of the former National Socialists was so great that they did not even shy away from a political scandal. Then, on 13 July 1950, contrary to the assurances given to the Allies before the summer break to refrain from politically explosive actions, a motion for an initiative was introduced which was intended to improve upon the Third Restitution Act, to the massive benefit of the Aryanisers. [21] 

The Jews who had returned to their homeland not only had to contend with the same disastrous economic conditions as any other Austrians, but were also confronted with being a minority in terms of numbers, with only a very feeble lobby to represent their needs and demands, and with the continued existence of antisemitic attitudes. As those returning had to recognise, the political parties were only too willing to exchange morality for votes. In addition, although the former Nazis were able to break into politics, the few Jews who had returned or survived in Austria did not. The Jews' historical experience of segregation and the strong impact on society exerted by the refusal to accept complicity in the Nazi state of terror and its system of oppression and extermination seem to me to be not unimportant in this context. It should also not be forgotten that the interviews showed that the Jews living in Austria after 1945 were by no means apolitical, but they were extremely sceptical of institutional politics. On the basis of the situation at the time, it can be stated that in the long post-war period in Austrian history, we encounter a power structure that sought to suppress the imaginary collective of Jews and keep them powerless while securing power for those who had belonged to the NSDAP and had supported the Nazi regime, including its Aryanisation policies. This also reflects that the economic and financial power in the post-war period remained in the hands of the perpetrators and followers while being legitimised as part of a "democratic" society.

In the end, the restitution legislation, the delay of restitution and the rapid (re)integration of former National Socialists into the areas of politics, the economy and the judiciary, but also academia and all social areas, resulted in sustainable safeguarding of the group of Nazi sympathisers and Nazi perpetrators, but also of those who profited from antisemitism. This must be viewed as continued discrimination against Jews. All in all, the antisemitic segregation of the Jews from society that predated the Nazis and the National Socialist policies continued to shape the values, norms, and measures taken in the democratically organised Austrian society post-1945. This is not to hide the fact that there were also efforts at least to make up for the loss of assets. These did take place, without a doubt. One was also aware of the extent of complicity, but this was marginalised and edited out from the perceived image of the recent past. The effort to integrate the former Nazis into Austrian society as quickly and in as uncomplicated a way as possible must be viewed as of central significance to the foundations of the Second Republic. Causally connected with this were the victimhood myth and the fear that a clear way forward and an excessive amount of former National Socialists could call this into question. The political elite decided to negate the need to look back on and reappraise what was then the recent past, and thus the existence of negative isms and stereotypes. At the same time, it decided not to counter antisemitic values with any consistency, which resulted in their becoming accepted as part of post-war politics and society.

It should therefore not come as a surprise that antisemitic values were incorporated in the legislation of the post-war years or that laws were also established on their basis. This has to be observed, for example, in the restitution acts, with their short deadlines and their narrow conception of entitlement, or in the many years of refusal of restitution. It should be noted that a non-regulation also represents a regulation and must be assessed with a view to its consequences. This also applies to the equal treatment of facts which are in principle not to be treated in the same way. The position of the Austrian Government, according to which all people living in Austria before 1938 were victims of National Socialism and the war, and therefore nobody was to be given preferential treatment, must be regarded as a total mockery of the victims of National Socialism.



[1] Alfons Gorbach was sent to Dachau concentration camp in 1938 in the so-called "Prominententransport" ("transport of prominent persons"), and to Flossenbürg concentration camp in 1944. From 1945 to 1970, he was a member of the National Council of the ÖVP, from 1945 to 1953, and then again from 1956 to 1961, he was Third President of the National Council, and from 1961 to 1964, Federal Chancellor. Politically, Gorbach strove for the so-called "erstwhiles" to enter into a political union with the ÖVP.

[2] Serloth, After the Shoah, loc. cit., p. 222.

[3] ibid.

[4] In the archive of the DÖW (Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance), one can read: "Transferred to Flossenbürg concentration camp on 27.09.1939, and returned to Dachau on 02.03.1940. On 08. 05.1943, provisionally released from Dachau concentration camp. On 08. 10.1944, arrested again and taken to Mauthausen concentration camp. On 21. 01. 1945, transferred to the district court of Vienna (indictment: preparing high treason). Imprisoned until 06. 04. 1945." During Austro-fascism, Figl was a member of the Federal Economic Council from 1934 to 1938 and Minister of Agriculture from 1938. After 1945, he was co-founder of the ÖVP and was ÖVP Party Chairman up until 1952; from 1945 to 1953, Leopold Figl was Federal Chancellor, then Foreign Minister; in 1959, he was President of the National Council and thus the second-highest-ranking person of the Republic of Austria (after the Federal President).

[5] Stüber joined the NSDAP in 1932; until 1938 he worked as a lawyer in the civil service, and afterwards, until 1945, at the newspaper Neues Wiener Tagblatt. In addition, he wrote poems and ballads, which also showed appreciation for Hitler. From 1949 to 1953, he was VdU mandatary; subsequently, he sat in the National Council without party affiliation until 1956.

[6] Serloth, After the Shoah, loc. cit., p. 229.

[7] Cf. Serloth, After the Shoah, loc. cit., p. 97.

[8] Serloth, After the Shoah, loc. cit., p. 124.

[9] ibid.

[10] Cf. Serloth, After the Shoah, loc. cit., p. 45f.

[11] Ibid., p. 45.

[12] Ibid., p. 46.

[13] Serloth, After the Shoah, loc. cit., p. 72.

[14] Ibid., p. 59.

[15] Cf. Rauscher, Wilhelm/Kastner, Walther, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Restitution Act, Vienna 1949.

[16] Serloth, After the Shoah, loc. cit., p. 60.

[17] Ibid., p. 111.

[18] Karl Renner headed the provisional national government between 27th April and 20th December 1945, after which he served as Federal President from 20th December 1945 until his death on 31st December 1950. In the First Republic, he held various ministerial posts between 1918 and 1933; among other things, he was State Chancellor from 15th March 1919 to 7th July 1920 and President of the National Council from 29th April 1931 to 4th March 1933.)

[19] Richard Crossman was a leading politician in the Labour Party and intellectual; see. crossman/urss/bio, pt. 13.07.2019.

[20] Serloth, After the Shoah, loc. cit., p. 70.

[21] Serloth, After the Shoah, loc. cit., p. 166.