Tourism at the Wolfsschanze

Unanticipated teaching requirements and a study-abroad trip with students have more or less stalled my project on tourism and Austria for a while. I’m reporting back, however, with this link to a NYT article about tourism projects at Hitler’s Wolfsschanze.

The article highlights a couple of developments there, but what I find most interesting in some of the on-site interviews with visitors is the idea that going to see the ruins of Hitler’s command center will somehow help to understand how the “unimaginable,” to quote one visitor, could happen.

I’m not so sure that the unimaginable will become more imaginable on this site, but read for yourself.

Remains of Hitler’s largest bunker at the Wolfsschanze.

The “Book of Austria”, Revisited

I just stumbled across an interesting article by Austrian cultural critic Wolfgang Müller-Funk in the Austrian literary magazine Wespennest. In this piece, entitled “So viel Österreich: Mutmaßungen über die Erfindung eines Landes”, Müller-Funk compares the Österreich Buch (about which I’ve had a lot to say here)–with a very recent publication titled Österreich and edited by none other than Hannes Androsch, the former SPÖ minister of finance.

As one might guess, Müller-Funk cannot find lots of good things to say about the new book, the chapters of which were authored by some of the most well-known names in the Austrian academic and intellectual scene, including Adam Wandruszka, Wendelin Schmidt-Dengler, Anton Pelinka and Gerald Stourzh, to name only a few. As Müller-Funk writes, “[e]hrenwerte Namen finer abtretenden und abgetretenen Generation, die sich noch einmal an den großen Narrativen abarbeiten, die die imaginäre Nation Österreich zusammenhält [sic].”

Much more interesting than his take on the Androsch volume is Müller-Funk’s discussion of the Österreich Buch, which he discusses by throwing in quick references to Anderson’s Imagined Communities and Hobsbawm’s Invented Traditions. What makes Austrian national identity construction after 1945 unique in Müller-Funk’s eyes, is the complete lack of the “juvenile[…] Dynamik” that he sees as crucial to Hobsbawm’s concept of nation building: “In dem selbstgestrickten narrativen Gewebe gibt es keine wirklichen Helden und schon gar nicht eine dynamische Gegenwart” (Müller-Funk).

Müller-Funk states–appropriately, in my view–that the book is not an example for “Verdrängung” but rather for an “absichtsvolles Schweigen, […] das damals jeder versteht [sic].” And he does a nice job of reading the picture of the Venus von Willendorf with its panic-induced caption

“Wer Österreich auf dem Weltglobus sucht, muss den runden Erdball langsam um seine schiefe Achse drehen, sonst könnte er das Austria des XX. Jahrhunderts leichthin übersehen. Wo liegt das vielgenannte Österreich überhaupt? Welches ist sein Platz in Raum und Zeit, in Geschichte und Kultur?”

For Müller-Funk, these questions explain why almost 70 years later another volume about Austria pursues many of the same topics that the Österreich Buch already addressed:

“Hinter den offiziellen und halb-offiziellen Selbstdarstellungen unseres Landes lugt die Angst hervor, wir könnten in und vor allem von der großen weiten Welt übersehen werden, weil wir so klein (geworden) sind. Deshalb und wegen der Unsicherheiten, die auch eine Folge unserer belastenden Geschichte sind, kommen wir nicht los von dem Zwang, beständig über uns reden, sprechen und erzählen zu müssen.”

To read the entire article, click here.