Culture of Remembrance
# Introduction

On 25 October 2000, the eve of the Austrian National Holiday, the Holocaust Memorial by Rachel Whiteread was unveiled on Judenplatz in the center of Vienna. The monument, commissioned by the City of Vienna and erected at a central location, is not just a place to commemorate the murder of more than 65,000 Austrians of Jewish origin, but is also intended as a visible symbol that attitudes toward the Nazi past have changed.

The starting point for a new orientation in the Austrian remembrance culture was the debate around Kurt Waldheim’s war record in 1986. Up to then, Austrian governments had always referred to the Moscow Declaration of 1943 stating that Austria was the »first victim of National Socialism.« Now this »victim thesis« was under attack (called »historical lie« by the writer Robert Menasse) because it had enabled the Austrian state to avoid shared historical responsibility for the crimes of the Nazi regime.

Only in 1991 did the Austrian government, in the words of the Federal Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, admit to its »co-responsibility for the suffering that the citizens of this country, but not Austria as a state, had caused other people and nations.«

This transformation of the historical memory finds its most obvious expression in the landscape of monuments. Whereas the monuments erected after the war were generally dedicated to members of the resistance, now other groups, disregarded hitherto, are remembered: Roma and Sinti, homosexuals, victims of euthanasia and, above all, victims of the Holocaust.


Holocaust Memorial, Judenplatz
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Holocaust Memorial, Judenplatz, 2000.

The Culture of Remembrance