TransAct 40

TransAct statement

Remembrance. Memory. Archive. Is academic work which is not in step with the times threatened with extinction? The documentation archive of Austrian resistance, a non-party institute financed by the state and the Vienna City Council for research into National Socialism and right-wing extremism, has repeatedly expressed concern about participation in the government of the FPÖ (Austrian Freedom Party). In addition to general social effects, this will have direct consequences for us as critical researchers. It is to be feared that conditions will not be right for a systematic study of the Nazi period and its crimes. Haider, whose aggressive and defensive attitude to insight into the criminal character of the Nazi regime which we have documented in detail, continually reacts by defaming all those who seek to correct the (self) image of Austrians as collective victims. In his speeches, historians whose views he finds awkward are labelled "communists", "falsifiers of history", "slanderers of Austria" and "informers". In 1990, speaking in front of ex-Wehrmacht soldiers and men from the Waffen-SS, Haider prophesied: "The time will come when historians like these are no longer in step with the times." One year later, he repeated his threat. "The time for falsifiers of history and slanderers of Austria must end." In 1990 in Carinthia, after there was an attack on one of these "Austria slanderers", psychoanalyst Erwin Ringel, by a fanatic, Haider said, "If someone talks such stupidity in Carinthia, he must be ready to be treated that way." 

When researchers and academics describe the FPÖ and Haider as what they are, they are hauled up in court. Recently, critics of the FPÖ have increasingly been faced with legal action. Whatever the outcome of court proceedings, this serves principally as a means of intimidation. So now it is the courts who decide whether and to what extent Haider and the FPÖ can be described as anti-Semitic. Director of the Austrian Documentation Archive of Resistance, Wolfgang Neugebauer, was sued by the then leader of the FPÖ because he attributed to him an "Anti-Semitism of a specially perfidious kind." Neugebauer's evaluation was based on Haider's defence of criticism from Israel. Immediately after the Austrian general election in October 1999 the successful agitator described the criticism as "hysterical acts" which would be damaging to Jewish people throughout Europe. "In a civilized world," continued Haider, "you do not react with threats but in cases of disagreement you sit down at the negotiating table." Haider's statement culminated with a standard anti-Semitic sentence which makes the Jews responsible for their own persecution: "There are enough people who say, 'Now we know why anti-Semitism exists.'" 

Even in the past, in the struggle against the resistance archive no accusation was too absurd for FPÖ politicians. Together with neo-Nazis, Freedom Party politicians called us "the last Stalin organ", "counterfeit workshop" and "Stasi archive". In addition, Haider tried to associate us with extreme right-wing terrorism. As before, in the case of the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Eisenstadt, a crime which was carried out by young members of the FPÖ, it was attempted to impute an anti-Freedom Party conspiracy with its centre at the resistance archive.

The resistance archive is apparently also responsible for the so-called sanctions against Austria. In the newspaper, Die Presse (29-02-2000) Haider's adviser Andreas Mölzer exposed the reason for the severe reactions from abroad to be a list of statements by leading FPÖ politicians "which has its origin in the old Vienna Town Hall on the Wipplingerstrasse." As so often, the accusation comes in the rhetorical form of a denial, therefore, "Whoever talks here about 'agitation' or even dragging his own country through the dirt is of course doing an injustice to the uprights fighters against the fascist demon from the Wipplingerstrasse." In contrast to Christianity, which shows mercy and forgiveness, they work "in the machinery of the documentation archive supported by tax-payers' money just as efficiently as mercilessly." It is not Haider and his like who are responsible for the criticism because of their statements but "the computer in the Wipplingerstrasse" which "spits out evil by the list". The Documentation Archive of Austrian Resistance does not document reality but carries out the "production of virtual Nazis on a conveyor belt for the use of all the world."

To what extent the FPÖ will follow its words with deeds as a member of the government and whether Haider's prophecy from 1990 will become reality depends on several factors. Apart from a basic anti-intellectual attitude in many parts of the population and defensiveness against memory, the condition of the state budget is convenient. With reference to the tight budget situation the drying up of finances for academic work which is "no longer in step with the times" need not be argued politically. Instead of this, the government can explain their refusal to pay subsidies to academic institutes as "constrained by circumstances". The international and academic reputations of many such institutes make matters more difficult for them. Especially in the initial phase, the new government will certainly attempt to pay attention to opinions abroad and not carry out any spectacular cuts in this field. Until they come to total power the FPÖ will continue to use the tried and tested salami tactics – one cut at a time.

Against the "antifascist prattle" (Jörg Haider) in Austria's schools

In addition to academics and institutions which are not in step with the times, the critical teaching of history and political education has long been a thorn in the side of the FPÖ. In 1994 for instance, the leader of the FPÖ in Burgenland, Rauter, demanded that free showings of Schindler's List for school-children should be stopped. According to Rauter, young people would be given a false view of history by the film. Freedom Party politicians also attempt to intimidate critical and committed teachers. For example, a parliamentary question in 1995: "In the Grammar School Albertgasse 18–22 in 1080 Vienna, Frau Prof. H. (the teacher was fully named in the question) teaches history in the fourth year. The discussion and treatment of the theme of National Socialism and Hitler was used several times by Frau Prof. H. to compare National Socialism with Jörg Haider and to relate the two." The minister responsible was asked: "Will you be taking disciplinary action against Frau Prof. H.?" In 1996, referring to FPÖ threats, the (conservative!) Styrian School Commissioner said, "The teachers don't even dare to teach history or politics because they are afraid of being taken to court."

Heribert Schiedel
Political scientist, works at the Documentation Archive of Austrian Resistance
focussing on racism and anti-Semitism research

Vienna, June 2K

Extract from a contribution to the 4th silence:
4th Silence
To insincerity
4. June 2000
Remembrance – Memory – Identity

Gesellschaft Bildender Künstler 
Österreichs, (Austrian Society of Artists)
General secretary: Doris Rothauer
Idea, concept and project director:
Hanns Kunitzberger

Series of events in
The Vienna Künstlerhaus,
every 4th of the month at 7 p.m.