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National construction work and hierarchies of empathy in post-war Austria
journal contributionposted on 2014-08-13, 14:30 authored by Robert Knight
This article seeks to link Austrian policy and attitudes towards Displaced Persons and refugees with the postwar project of establishing a national identity which was clearly demarcated from National Socialist Germany. Building on critical views of Austria as a ‘reluctant country of exile’ it goes back to postwar Austrian perceptions of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) as an organization which, though providing welcome relief, was also tarnished through association with criminality and the black market. It then examines Austria’s demarcation from ‘ethnic Germans’ on the one hand and Jewish Displaced Persons on the other, which reflected an informal ‘heirarchy of empathy’ but also indicated the potential of both groups, in very different ways, to disrupt the national demarcation project. An analysis of the treatment of anticommunist DPs and refugees in the Cold War questions the claim that Austrians sympathized with them. The article concludes that while the perception of Austrian humanitarianism towards DPs and refugees became part of the Austrian self-image as a victim of Nazi rule and a potential victim of the Soviet Union, the historical record is much less clear-cut.
- Social Sciences
- Politics and International Studies