9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN03 Biographical Perspectives on European Societies

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 The impact of the second world war on memory and generations Building II, C2.02

"Heroicized victims": How non-Jewish women in Austria embed National Socialism and the post-war period in their biographies?

The issue of this presentation is embedded in the specific Austrian discourse on National Socialism, which is led along the lines of a myth of victimisation.Thereby, Austria is picked out as the "first victim" of Hitler-Germany. In the sense of a reversion of perpetrators and victims this discourse offers an opportunity to deny responsibility for the involvement of Austrian people in the Holocaust. Since the 1980ties a creeping transformation of the national discourse of victimisation has taken place. Responsibility and guilt are more and more picked out as central themes. But, parallel to this transformation another discourse has been established, picking out women as victims of war simply because of their gender and because they made sacrifices in the process of Austria?s reconstruction during the post-war period. These non-Jewish women are referred to as the generation of "ruins women" ("Trümmerfrauen") and as sacrificed heroines by the actual political and public discourse This also implies the necessity of publicly remembering the post-war time by blinding out the time before 1945, which also means not to pick out the direct and indirect involvement of women in the National Socialism.

This specific Austrian situation is the background of this presentation, which mainly focuses on an analysis of female biographies of the generation of "Trümmerfrauen". These women are referred to as "generation" because they were born before 1928 and thus experienced National Socialism and the post-war period as girls or young women. The meaning of National Socialism and the post-war period for the Austrian biographies and in which way this meaning corresponds to gendered discourses of victimisation will be worked out in the presentation. Guiding questions will be whether the current public constructions of "Trümmerfrauen" as sacrificing heroines change the perspective on the and the way of integrating the mentioned historical events in the own life story and memory, or whether other individual experiences or discourses have a stronger impact on the biographical embedding of the National Socialism and the post-war time in biographies told by former "Trümmerfrauen".