Austria's post-Holocaust Jewish community: a subaltern counterpublic between the ethics and morality of memory

Karner, Christian (2015) Austria's post-Holocaust Jewish community: a subaltern counterpublic between the ethics and morality of memory. In: Revisiting Holocaust representation in the post-witness era. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 253-271. ISBN 978-1-137-53041-7

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In The Ethics of Memory, Avishai Margalit argues that memory and ethics are features of the ‘thick relations’ that bind ‘families, clans, tribes, religious communities and nations’ internally. This he contrasts to the ‘thin relations’ that connect humanity as a whole and that are generally not underpinned by universal investments in a shared past. There are exceptions, however: genocide and, paradigmatically, the Holocaust present a moral case for a universal memory.

Bracketing out charges of primordial reification to which Margalit’s distinction between ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ relations lays itself open, I here explore some of the discursive features of select recent representations and invocations of the Shoah as articulated from within parts of Austria’s small contemporary Jewish community. As such, this chapter relates to a central question in contemporary Holocaust studies, namely how the growing temporal distance from the Holocaust impacts on commemoration today. It does so in a national context where the Shoah resulted in the murder of more than 65,000 Austrian Jews, with some 130,000 forced into exile; and where the post-war period saw – at least until the mid-1980s – widespread amnesia of Austrian contributions to the Holocaust.

The discursive snapshots selected for analysis span Margalit’s distinction between ‘ethics’ and a ‘morality’ of memory, as encapsulated in select representations of the Shoah in intra-group debates and in dialogue with the world at large respectively. The discursive snapshots in question include:

1. The 2009 issue of Das Jüdische Echo, co-founded in 1951 by Holocaust survivor Leon Zelman. The 2009 issue focussed on being ‘at home in Europe’ and contained chapters on diverse historical and contemporary issues – ranging from Jewish histories to contemporary right-wing populism, from the exclusions endured by Roma communities to civil society activism; and though in part focussed on Austria, the issue in question also contained chapters on each European national context. And crucially: the Shoah formed an omnipresent part of the backdrop to these timely reflections articulated to Jewish and non-Jewish readers alike.

2. Recent discussions, involving prominent members of Austria’s Jewish community, about contemporary anti-Semitism. Particular attention is paid to both the invocation – and refutation – of the Holocaust as an interpretative prism for anti-Semitism in and beyond Austria in the early 21st century.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: This extract is taken from the author's original manuscript and has not been edited. The definitive, published, version of record is available here:
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Sociology and Social Policy
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Depositing User: Karner, Christian
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2016 13:17
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 17:19

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