Modernism in Galicia: Imperial Nostalgia in Soma Morgenstern

Kata Gellen, Duke University

Soma Morgenstern’s trilogy Sparks in the Abyss, written 1930-45, offers an example of the literary mythologization of Galicia, the easternmost region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Though the novel is set in 1928-29, 10 years after the dissolution of the Empire, it revives the myths associated with this area, in particular that of the peaceful co-existence of peoples with different ethnicities, religions, and languages. The novels present an idealized and hopeful tale of agrarian return and religious awakening, at the same time as the plot is driven by repeated acts of violence and expressions of hatred. This paper seeks to explain these complex movements through a critical use of the concept of nostalgia. Not simply an emotion or idea, and not necessarily naïve or regressive, nostalgia is a modernist literary operation with a historical and fantasy function: it crystallizes the past both for narrative purposes and to posit a future that can be hoped for. As such, modernist nostalgia brings sense and purpose to the dramatic disjunction between plot and tone in Morgenstern’s work. It is thus integral to a mode of storytelling that defines the East European German-Jewish novel in the twentieth century.

The Empire in the Province:  An Unknown Interwar Austrian Tale

Helmut Konrad, University of Graz

With the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy’s disintegration, the imperial order’s foundations withered away.  The Emperor, the army and the bureaucracy were gone, the Catholic Church, the Socialists and the Jews faced increasing German nationalist challenges.  Even in Vienna, the bastion of Jewish-led Social Democracy, government ministries issued denials of citizenship to decorated Socialist soldiers, and Socialist rank-and-file resented the Jewish leadership.  The provinces showed local patriotism but were content to join German nationalism against Vienna. “Red Carinthia” may be emblematic of the imperial anemia.  The intellectual elite was Pan-German, and the primarily rural Socialist workers thoroughly German nationalist and hostile to the Vienna leadership. Austrian-German identity was defined against imaginary Jews and Slovene neighbors.  The Counterreformation’s earlier failure assured that widespread crypto-Protestant sentiments would turn to nationalism and leave the Catholic Church a defender of Slovenian minority rights.  The fading traces of the Empire in the Province suggest that Hacohen needs to modify his view of the Socialists as a bulwark of the imperial order and, more generally, that the imperial legacy cannot carry the burden of a rewritten Austrian history he wishes to impose on it.  Moreover, the generation of postnational US historians, doubting its force and attributing it to the intelligentsia and to nationalizing states, would do well to look at Carinthia:  They will find nationalism from below overwhelming the national intelligentsia and skipping the state to join the Reich.


Memory, Empire, and the Language Crisis: Hermann Broch’s “Hofmannsthal und seine Zeit”

Richard Lambert III, UNC – Chapel Hill

In his 1947/48 essay “Hofmannsthal und seine Zeit,” Hermann Broch diagnoses Habsburg Austria as the center of a world bereft of values (Wert-Vakuum).  While this summation start of the 20th Century clearly diverges from the nostalgic longing of an author like Stefan Zweig, it is initially unclear what contribution his post-World War II critique seeks to make, especially in light of the essay’s ideological agreement with the corpus of Broch’s earlier critical work. Is Broch’s goal simply to dance on the grave of the dead-and-buried Austrian monarchy? And, in light of Adorno’s famous declaration about poetry after Auschwitz, what role does Hofmannsthal assume in this critique?

In this paper, I explore the intertwined relationship that Broch weaves between Hofmannsthal and fin-de-siecle Vienna as a historical case study. Crucially, I argue, this historical investigation is not performed in order to clarify the past, but rather, to illuminate Broch’s own artistic and societal obligations in the post-World War II era. In this vein, Hofmannsthal is not only a significant figure for Broch as harbinger of the famed Viennese Sprachkrise, but also for his status as an author plagued by analogously complex historical cirucmstances, and moreover, as an author struggling with his status as converted, assimilated Jew.

By outlining Broch’s theory of language in relief of his idiosyncratic reading of Hofmannsthal’s canonical “Ein Brief,” I argue that Broch casts the identities of artist and assimilated Jew mutually exclusive terms. Trapped between diametrically opposed demands of language on the one hand, and cultural necessity on the other, I argue that Broch’s reading develops Hofmannsthal as a token of historical destruction that must be overcome in order to redefine both Jewish identity and artistic achievement in the reshaped postwar landscape. 

Blown out of Empire: Hungarian Jewish Memory in Exile

Ilse Lazaroms, Center for Jewish History, New York

In the wake of World War I and the failed revolutions, thousands of Hungarian Jews went into exile. One of the reasons for their sudden departure was the fact that with the dissolution of the empire and the emergence of the new nation states, the Jews of Hungary had suddenly become a national minority in an otherwise mono-ethnic Christian state. Their new status brought with it renewed antisemitism and a surge in anti-Jewish violence. Because many Jews had experienced the prewar decades as a “golden age,” the sudden reversal of fortunes came as a shock. And so, their emigration from paradise took on multiple forms. The violence with which Jews were unshackled from the Hungarian homeland influenced the ways in which they experienced the loss and, subsequently, mourned it.

This paper examines the ways in which Hungarian Jews remembered the empire, caught as they had been between their loyalty to Franz Joseph on the one hand, and their deep sense of patriotism to the Hungarian national cause on the other. It traces how far the legacy of the empire could travel, to what corners of the world Hungarian Jews took their memories of life during Austria-Hungary, and what, in the course of their peregrinations, happened to the image of the empire.

Habsburg Unplugged: The Memory of the Habsburg Monarchy in Hungary after Its Fall, 1918-1944/45

Béla Rásky, Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies

The fall of the Habsburg Monarchy plummeted both Austria and Hungary into a deep crisis. In Austria, the pan-Germans and the Social Democrats, now republicans, succeeded in dissolving their bonds to the Habsburg past. They looked – albeit antagonistically and with radically different concepts – into the future, leaving the Habsburg Empire behind. Even for those who were nostalgic for the Empire, the Habsburgs vanished into a mythical period by creating a cultural memory overcoming the actual past. A restoration of the supra-national state never became a mainstream idea, and the supra-nationality of Austria, the “Austrian mind,” remained a mere ideology.

Hungary, the imperial partner through the 1867 compromise, overcame its links to the Habsburgs surprisingly quickly. Initially, the traces of the Habsburg Empire were very faint. The end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire represented only a collateral damage to the real catastrophe, i.e., the dissolution of the historical Kingdom of Hungary, which resulted in major territorial losses. The only sensible argument for revising the Trianon Treaty was an historical claim, an appeal to the historical borders.  Hungarian political discourse shifted its gaze to the past, and became obsessed with the former kingdom’s history.

Hungarian Jews’s identity and loyalty patterns depended, as they did for other minorities, on whether they became citizens of the successor states or stayed in what was now Hungary, but, invariably, old identities and loyalties expired and had to change. In Hungary, the era before 1918 became, in retrospect, a golden era. For the Jews in the successor states it meant re-thinking loyalities and memories. But it also meant an opening up for the understanding of historicity of socio-political developments.   

Jewish Difference in an Austrian nation: Austria from Monarchy to Republic

Lisa Silverman, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Austrian Jews’ unwavering loyalty to the Habsburg Monarchy is legendary and uncontested, verified by countless memoirs, newspaper articles, plays, literature, and other works of art. Jewish Habsburg loyalty was also crystallized in interwar Austrian writing. The most well-known example is a scene from Franz Theodor Csokor’s 1936 play, “Dritte November 1918,” in which a Jewish army doctor tosses “earth from Austria” into the grave of a recently deceased Colonel of the Austro-Hungarian army. However, a re-examination of the play according to the terms of Jewish difference reveals that the play’s characterization of Jews as the dual Monarchy’s most loyal subjects was not entirely positive. In this presentation, I argue that after 1918, labelling support for the Empire as “Jewish” became a significant way for interwar writers and others to clarify and critique the terms of their changed political, social, and economic circumstances. A more nuanced examination of the portrayal of Jewish loyalty to the Empire in the literature of the interwar period can help us better understand the role of Jews and Jewish difference in the development of the idealized image of the Habsburg Monarchy.

Socialist Betrayal or Imperial Loyalty? The Julius Deutsch 1923 Trial

Georg Spitaler, Verein für Geschichte der ArbeiterInnenbewegung

In the summer of 1922, Julius Deutsch, one of the leading Viennese Social Democrats, spent a weekend in the St. Nikola resort, located in the Strudengau, Upper Austria. In a local inn, another vacationer, a conservative alpinist, insulted Deutsch, accusing him of being a traitor to the Emperor, a “Schuft” (villain), who, like other “Jewish Revolutionaries,” played his part in overturning the old order. He “stabbed in the back” the Imperial Army. In an attempt to correct public perception of his actions in the First World War, as both a Habsburg officer and a Social Democratic labour union delegate in the Ministry of War, (as well as a state secretary for military affairs in the first years of the new Austrian republic), Deutsch sued for libel. The court proceedings took place in 1923, a year of national elections, and received extensive media coverage. The verdict did not rehabilitate Deutsch. The provincial courts in Grein and Linz acquitted the defendant on appeal, following the anti-Semitic arguments of the defense. Similar to other political trials in the interwar years, the court proceedings unfolded into a “court of Injustice”, with contested concepts of “Jewish difference” being performed (Lisa Silverman). Deutsch, who left the Jewish Community (IKG) as a young man, never identified himself publicly as a Jew. In fact, his Jewish heritage became a blank space in his (auto-)biography. In the courtroom, however, Deutsch was forced to engage explicitly with his Jewishness, and recognize that the judicial and discursive power of definition were in the hands of the Anti-Semites.

In my paper, I will focus on Deutsch’s retrospective narration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in his courtroom speech, and the insights that can be gained from the trial about the antagonistic political arena of the new nation state (Deutsch-)Österreich, where Julius Deutsch’s claim, as a Social Democrat, to represent the working class and speak as/for “the (working) people” was challenged by the “racial” and ethnic concepts of the German Volk of his Catholic and right wing political opponents.

Eurafrica and the Austrian Imperial Legacy: Paneuropa and the Freemasons

Katherine SorrelsUniversity of Cincinnati

In the late 1920s, Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, founder of the Pan-European Union, began promoting a vision of Africa as one pan-European colonial territory, Eurafrica. At first glance, the idea might look like a straight-forward expression of biological racism and German expansionism. Yet the fact that Coudenhove posed the Eurafrican idea in evolutionist terms cannot be taken as a litmus test for an essential far-right ideological commitment. In the early twentieth century, internationalisms on the left were often predicated on theories of cultural evolution. The thinking of Rudolf Goldscheid, who moved in some of the same circles as Coudenhove, is a case in point. Eurafrica reflects Coudenhove’s attempt to blend ideas from internationalisms on the left with Catholic conservative influences and an investment in rehabilitating the Austrian imperial legacy. The result was a balancing act, a highly eclectic vision resting on unstable alliances across ideological divides. The idea captures the ambiguities and ideological complexities at the heart of the Austrian imperial legacy. Given the impact of Coudenhove’s thinking about European international organization, these ambiguities were further propagated and are thus important elements of the broader history of internationalisms in the twentieth century.

Beggar-Your-Neighbour Vs. Danube Basin Strategy:  Habsburg Economic Networks in Interwar Europe

Andreas Weil, University of Vienna

The successor states to the Habsburg Empire were eager to become economically independent from Vienna. In the aftermath of Austria-Hungary’s dissolution in 1918, they quickly implemented a set of neomercantilistic measures, especially nationalization programs, which shifted power in industry and finance to the new governments.  The big Austrian banks and industrial firms were in a weak position due to the the Allied powers’ political backing of the successor states and the Austrian currency’s depreciation but they responded by founding holding companies in neutral countries and relying on the traditional Viennese commercial networks with the successor states to sustain them. The 1920s saw a reestablishment of a common market of interregional trade and interlocking directorates among the former Habsburg territories. International credit (extended primarily by bankers of Jewish origin) facilitated the common market but with the 1929 crash became unsustainable.  The failure of Viennese banks’ industrial holdings and of loans to East European debtors and Western financiers in the aftermath of 1929 caused the Creditanstalt-crisis of 1931 and put an end to Vienna’s position as a financial hub in East Central Europe. Even during the 1930s crisis, however, the successor states’ share in the bilateral balances of trade indicates the continued economic interdependency among the successor states.

Imperial Traces in Italian Trieste

Saskia Ziolkowski, Duke University

This talk focuses on the significance of considering how Italian Triestine literary works, especially those of the interwar years, exhibit Austrian characteristics and how Triestine authors’ connections to Austria-Hungary can help reorient the study of Italian literature. Trieste – Mitteleuropean, Mediterranean, Central European, Austria-Hungary’s Zugang zum Mittelmeer, and Italy’s porta orientale – is often described as being “nowhere” given its mixed cultural and historical past, but the city also had a great deal in common with other formerly Austro-Hungarian cities and can be considered the geographical as well as cultural bridge between the German-language and Italian worlds. Critical concentration on the French-Italian connection has overshadowed other influences, like Austrian ones, that are important to take into account when considering Italian literature and especially Italian literary modernism, a subject that only really began to be really studied in the twenty-first century. Austrian modernism, in contrast, has been a source of critical exploration for many decades. While reassessing the modernism of Triestine Italian authors helps shed light on the significance of their work in the Italian literary landscape, the question of the “Austrianness” of Italian Triestine authors also invites a broader consideration of imperial influence.