Memorial Book for the Victims of National Socialism at the University of Vienna in 1938

2009–21th Cent.

Following the National Socialist regime’s accession to power in 1938, more than 2,700 mostly Jewish members of the University of Vienna were dismissed for “racial” and/or “political” reasons and subsequently displaced and/or murdered. Since 2009, more than 70 years after the so-called “Anschluss”, the University of Vienna commemorates this injustice and is aware of its shared responsibility for this inconceivable atrocity perpetrated against its members. The names of the dismissed, displaced and disenfranchised women and men are recorded for the first time in the Memorial Book. The victims of National Socialism from this institution, including those from the Medical Faculty that has since become independent, thus become part of the university’s collective memory.

In the book’s preamble it is made clear that it is not meant as an attempt to rectify past injustices, but instead is “a symbolic initiative, unfortunately destined never to be completed. This document is dedicated to the Present and to the Future, as a memento and a caveat addressed to all affiliates of the University: "Nip evil in the bud".”

The project consists of the hand-written Memorial Book, displayed in the Denk-Mal Marpe Lanefesch (the former Jewish prayer pavilion of the old General Hospital) in the Campus of the University of Vienna, as well as the online Memorial Book, which combines the planes of remembrance and research.

At the moment it contains the names of 1,790 displaced students, 234 names of people whose academic titles were revoked, and about 220 names of displaced professors and lecturers. Apart from short biographies of the people concerned, photographs, documents and autobiographical memories are also included where possible.

The Memorial Book understands itself as a work in progress. Despite years of intensive scientific research it is not complete, but instead a document of, and occasion for, remembrance. It remains in an open research process, which hopefully will in the future discover the names of currently unknown victims of National Socialism and let them become part of the memorial project. With this in mind, the people responsible for the project are thankful for any helpful leads. The Memorial Book is constantly being updated and amended. It can be accessed from anywhere via the internet. A prominently placed feedback function offers the possibility to communicate with victims’ relatives and to add to the research.

Through the online Memorial Book, an active dialogue with the generation of victims’ children and grandchildren has developed. With their help, the editorial team has been able to constantly record, enhance, and publish new (educational) biographies of displaced persons. Knowledge, personal memories and documents from private and family memories have thus been combined with the results of classic historical research and have thereby also changed it. Victims’ families appreciate the Memorial Book in its function as an expression of individual remembrance and honoring, while students and researchers use it as a scientific resource.

The Memorial Book is a project by the Forum “Contemporary History of the University of Vienna” at the Institute of Contemporary History. Editors: Herbert Posch and Katharina Kniefacz, administration: Friedrich Stadler.