ACTA NO. 4,
Jerusalem: SICSA, 1994
The Jews as 'Others': On Communicative Aspects of Antisemitism.
Copyright ©1994, Vidal Sassoon Center for the Study of Antisemitism. All rights reserved
The study, based on eighty test interviews, describes the present grass-roots image of Jews, the perception of Jewish "otherness" by the average Austrian, and the spread of old and new antisemitic stereotypes.
The findings point to the conclusion that the image of Jews held by older Austrians has been passed on to the younger generation. The contemporary image contains a marked religious component, but without reference to deicide or ritual murder accusations.
There were no specific questions concerning the Holocaust, but the topic arose spontaneously, revealing the common tendency for denying responsibility, and accusing Jews of being unwilling to let go of the past.
This pilot study was prompted by two considerations. One was the pressure of time. Fifty years after the Holocaust there are people still living who were old enough at the time to remember the events and the grass-roots opinions before and during National Socialism. These people are still communicating their recollections and thoughts to relatives and friends too young to have been witnesses of these events themselves. It seemed important, at this time of transition, to catch grass-roots communication as it turns into second-hand hearsay.
To study this in Austria in particular was a related concern, for one of the arguments by which distance to the Holocaust is claimed refers to Austria as the "first victim" of Hitler and German National Socialism. Thus, Austrian and German images may differ in some points.
The second major reason for undertaking this empirical inventory of grass-roots communication about the Jews was a theoretical concern: at this time, the very specific questions of anti-Jewish sentiment tend to be blurred by theoretical efforts to understand the phenomenon of xenophobia generally, prompted by the recent waves of immigration from various countries. As shown in this pilot study, the image of the Jews as communicated in everyday discourse is not that of "foreigners" but of "others" -- nicht Fremde sondern anders, Andere. The study is concerned with the facets of this "otherness" as seen by the average Austrian.
The methodological approach concerning the question how Jews are seen in everyday communication reflects a fairly general shift of emphasis in the social sciences, sociology in particular, from the class/status orientation to one which stresses the everyday aspects-- the manner in which the members of society themselves experience reality. The qualitative interview techniques now in use show traces from the related fields of ethnology and anthropology as well as phenomenology. In this particular case the interview guide had to be adapted to meet four particular requirements or difficulties:
First of all, test interviews revealed a certain caginess or reluctance to talk about "the Jews." The subject is for many taboo; one is afraid of being "misunderstood," and would rather avoid the subject.
The difficulty was met by stressing in the introduction that the interview was not concerned with the respondent's own opinion but about hearsay, "what people say," what the respondent "has heard." Further, the purpose of the study was put in a general frame of reference; what people say about various Ausländer--currently a much-discussed problem--and also what is said about Jews. The juxtaposition did not bias the responses: as shown in the pretests, Jews, while thought to be different, do not belong in the category of Ausländer. The introductory question about the Turks served merely as a precursor for the type of information wanted.
Secondly, it was necessary to differentiate between attitudes regarding Jews, and the image of Jews, which is one component of attitude. This phenomenological aspect --how Jewish people are seen --was furthered by avoiding the typical probe or reason-why questions which are standard in qualitative attitude research.
Thirdly, and related to the point just mentioned, it was important that the respondent would concentrate on hearsay --grass-roots communication --rather than his own image of the Jews. Therefore the interview guide kept repeating "what does one hear," "what do people say," "what stories are being told."
Fourthly, the study aimed at a description of the image from the native point of view. Therefore, the interview guide focused on providing leads for the descriptions to be given by the respondents. Principal leads centered on discourse concerning the ways a Jewish person is recognized; positive and negative points about the Jews; stories one has heard about them; assumptions about how Jews think of non-Jews; what one thought about Jews previously as well as today; Jews in Austria and Israeli Jews.
The interview guide is given in the appendix.
A total of eighty interviews were taken in three geographic areas of Austria. These were chosen to provide wide geographic coverage, and to include areas with significant difference in the number of Jews living there now.
Vienna was chosen since it is the capital of Austria as well as having the largest number of Jews living there now. According to the 1990 report on the Wohnbevölkerung nach Religion (population figures according to religion) in Austria, 6554 people reporting Israelitische Religion (i.e., those who identify themselves as Jews) are shown, against a total population of 1,540,000.
The second area covered the north: Salzburg and Upper Austria (Oberösterreich): with 101 Jews in a total of 482,000 recorded for Salzburg; and 99 Jews in a total of 1,335,000 for Upper Austria.
The third cluster of interviews covered the South. Carinthia (Kärnten) was chosen since it is the area with the smallest number of recorded Jews, as well as the section with a political climate of hostility against foreigners. The number of Jews was listed as 20 out of a total of 548,000.
In both the north and south interviews were conducted in the main city and smaller localities. About 40% of the interviews were taken in Vienna, the remainder divided between the north and south.
The sample was divided equally among men and women, and in each group further divided by age. Two age groups were interviewed: people 60 years and over, and a younger group of 17-35 years, born after the Holocaust. Respondents were chosen from the lower and middle socioeconomic groups, with a standard, and sometimes additional technical (but not academic) education, representing the bulk of the population.
A sample of this composition does not, of course, reflect the actual demographic distribution of the country. Nor did the study aim to provide statistical information about the communication contents in the Austrian population. Rather it attempted, through careful analysis of the data, a qualitative insight into the components of grass-roots communication about Jews from respondents of the main population groups. People known as, or professed Nazis, were not interviewed.
The fieldwork of the study was carried out by IFES, Institut für Empirische Sozialforschung in Vienna and, for most of the interviews outside Vienna, by Lokale Marktforschung, Salzburg, during the summer and fall of 1992. I thank both organizations for their cooperation.
No Longer a Subject of Discourse
The very first response when asked what is said or what one hears about Jews reveals an important attribute: at this time Jews are not a matter of everyday discourse. The grass-roots image of Jews, however, is generally familiar and has been communicated in quite some detail.
Unlike the Ausländer (foreigners such as the guest workers or immigrants seeking asylum), Jews lack actuality - at least most of the time - as one learns in the course of the interview.
A young typist from Salzburg, for example, explains the situation this way: "For the young people this chapter is finished. Other outsiders have become the Jews today." (51*) A carpenter explains similarly: "This (the Jews) is not a topic in our shop. And in the inns in the countryside one does not talk about them either because Jews just do not appear." (19)
An elderly Viennese cook points out:
One hears nothing any more about Jews. If one talks about Jews, it is about former times, how it was in the Second World War when the Jews were suddenly gone. But about this matter one talks most rarely. They are today no longer a topic. (41)
The Jews are no longer visible, particularly outside of Vienna. Their fate in the forties (evident in various contexts touched on in the interviews) is a problem that has not been worked out. One avoids talking about it. The matter is settled superficially by designating the subject of the Jews as historical and thus lacking actuality: "About Jews I have heard something only in school or in the media. Essentially it always concerned the situation and the problem of the Jews during Nazi times." (28) Similarly from a young Viennese: "about Jews one sees or hears very little. In history they occur frequently. In particular in the Second World War." (29)
Another way to avoid the subject is by making reference to the fact that people no longer have any contact with Jews. That one "does not know any Jews" was repeated continually. There are only "very few here." An older lady from Southern Austria explains: "one hears nothing. In fact one does not see any Jews any longer. You get the feeling they do not exist... [Later in the interview she remembered] the Jews live in Israel, in America, and in Europe." (5)
No discourse, however, does not mean a lack of generally communicated and accepted images of the Jews. A student from upper Austria explains: "in my circle there is hardly any talk about Jews.... Most people say they are capitalists, that is, very rich." (21)
It was noted that there is no discourse about the Jews because one shuns it. A retired railroad employee stated: "publicly the subject is dodged. Popular they are not." (7) And a young employee of a Salzburg publishing company said: "the subject is difficult because many people won't say anything." (45) "One cannot say anything against the Jews," reports a young bank clerk. And more concretely: "one does not dare to express a critical opinion because one does not want to get the reputation of being an antisemite." The topic Jew is taboo, the assumption being that any comment would be critical.
This restraint, however, does not hold for everybody. The old Nazis, the Ewig Gestrigen (eternal yesterdays), still use the word Jew as a term of abuse, it is said, passing their hatred on to the younger people, proclaiming their opinions noisily in the pub. A casino owner in a resort in Upper Austria said: "there are some who dare to say a lot. They won't have a good word for the Jews. But I always say, that is stupid." (64) And a pub owner from Salzburg agrees: "from the old National Socialists you can even hear, `it is too bad, they didn't get all of them!' You can tell they are Nazis. There are still plenty of them here." (63)
Finally, there may be a temporary flare-up of general discourse when the media reports some news item related to the Jews.
In contrast to the lack of discussion on Jews is the uninhibited discourse about the Turks. It will be remembered that as an introduction to the type of questions that were to be asked about the Jews the respondent were asked "what one says and hears about the Turks."
The young lady who had felt that the "foreigners" had now taken the place of the Jews in everyday discourse, said this:
The Turks have peculiar customs, one hears. For example they slaughter animals on the street. Also they stand around on the street frequently, thus hampering the locals. You have to step down from the sidewalk to be able to pass them. (51)
The young man who said the Jews are not a topic of discourse in his circle, reported this about the Turks: "With most people they are not popular. They are said to be very aggressive and frequently engaged in stabbings." (21) The woman reporting that people will not discuss the Jews, has this to say about the Turks:
They smell of garlic. All their relatives are always there, it is said. They buy the cheapest merchandise. One also hears it is always loud around them with their music. And people complain that the newspaper vendors steal the papers of the subscribers in order to resell them. (45)
The carpenter reporting his firm now had problems other than the Jews, reports about the Turks:
You don't hear anything good. They settled primarily in the BRD. In our shop they form a group all by themselves and destroy the old atmosphere because they all live together in one settlement which makes them altogether a foreign body. (19)
The young mechanic who stressed that one no longer has contact with any Jews, knows this about the Turks:
An acquaintance told me that their children sleep on top of the closets-- in one apartment live much too many people. Generally, one says they are lazy, live off social welfare, get the best apartments. (31)
Finally the elderly cook who said that nowadays one hears hardly anything about Jews, had this to report about everyday communication about the Turks:
One hears there are more and more coming, they behave as if this were their home. They are loud, Ungustler (one cannot get along with them), they live like pigs pressed together, they are dirty, in the apartments there is a bad stench, they band together to rob people (Raeuber-banden), they bother people on the street. In Meidling (a district of Vienna) you can apparently no longer be on the street after 7 p.m. because they are full with this foreigner pack.
Unlike the Jews, the Turks are visible, they are here. Contacts occur in the workplace, in stores, schools, the parks, on public transportation, on the street, sometimes even in the house one shares with them. Moreover, there are generally observed problems in the workplace, housing, social welfare. The Turks are perceived as a general burden, as one of the opposition parties, the FPÖ tirelessly proclaims.
about their lifestyle and crowded living conditions are passed on in
public discourse; the more dramatic, the better. The "foreign" and often
shocking starts with the strange head kerchief of the women who have
"nothing to say" in their family, and are repressed by their husbands.
These men, one hears, are tough rowdies, if not worse, violent not only
against Austrian citizens but even against each other!
Occasionally, there were more positive observations. After all, the Turks "do the dirty work which the natives do not want to do." One has heard that some Turks are "diligent workers." And one has heard of experiences of Turkish "hospitality." However, a respondent living in the country, with no personal contact, knows: "Turks are not popular in our country, as far as I have heard." (78)
To sum up, the comparison between the lively discourse reported about the Turkish immigrants and foreign guest workers and its near absence concerning the Jews reveals a number of differences. There is daily encounter and/or contact with Turkish people. They represent a threatening presence concerning everyday living conditions. They display a foreign culture which, at least in those aspects the average Austrian can observe, is thought to be inferior. One can dwell on their strange doings without inhibition or feelings of inferiority. And this too seems pertinent: the relationship to the Turkish foreigners is free of any historic loading. To the broad masses of the Austrians Turkey is at best a place where one vacations.
None of this applies to the Jews.
The Jews are "Others"
Reference to the "otherness" of the Jews is spontaneous. In this respect a clear distinction is made between "normal foreigners" such as the Turks, and Jews. The German word anders conveys the meaning better than the English word: Jews are different, but unlike foreigners (Auslaender), the Jews have "always been here"; they have been here "for centuries," "for generations." For some of the younger respondents the historic connection dates "at least to the Second World War." Whatever the date, the Jews are not strangers. They are or were ("nowadays, [there are] only a few are here," the corrections goes) part of the social structure, fellow-citizens. In a few cases, it was pointed out that "the Jews have had a major share in shaping the Viennese culture." Less-educated respondents referred to Jewish department stores where they liked to shop, Jewish doctors, Jewish summer guests, Jewish friends of the parents, Jewish neighbors. "We lived with the Jews," one older lady said.
The Jews are anders als wir, (different from us). As will be detailed later, differences are discussed in terms of appearance, the Jewish way of life, customs, special skills. An essential component of the image is derived from Jewish religious observance, and the strict adherence to its rules. A young secretary reports: "Jews are different because of their religion. You see this already in their eating habits. You hear that they are very religious, more conscious of tradition than we are."
This widely observed (and in some ways accepted) difference is frequently also discussed resentfully: "Jews are peculiar people. They live according to strict rules. Their way of thinking is different. Most people do not accept that. They feel people living in our country should adopt our customs." (29)
Jews are others and they also want to remain others, a point that is discussed from several perspectives. For example, it was often observed that Jews have a distinct sense of togetherness within the family (Familiensinn) which is appreciated. But, it is said, they do not want to extend this sense to non-Jews. "They are not interested in us non-Jews," one representative respondent said.
The term abkapseln is generally used to indicate that Jews tend to shut themselves in and to shut non-Jews out. Public opinion has it that this is so because the Jews consider themselves the "chosen people," therefore considering themselves superior, and acting "condescendingly" toward non-Jews. This major element in the grass-roots image produces different kinds of reaction. Some say one thinks about this with anger. Others refer to an attitude of "not giving a darn." Two examples:
Jews treat non-Jews condescendingly because they don't live according to tradition, do not strive for higher values in matters of the mind and stay put in mediocrity. The non-Jews hate the Jews for this contempt. The Jews, it is said, are partly responsible for antisemitism. (52)
Jews say about non-Jews, you hear, they are a people without faith because they have to live without the blessing of the Tora. Non-Jews laugh about this. (46)
In a few cases the alleged non-accepting attitude of the Jews is not only taken from public discourse, but backed up by personal observation. The young secretary quoted before has this to add:
Jews want to have as little intercourse with non-Jews as possible. I know a Jewish girl who gets along with non-Jews but she does not respect them. I believe she is just envious because we can do what they are not permitted to do. I think the Jews judge us to be without morals or manners. (29)
The image of the Jews reflected in grass-roots discourse is ambiguous. There is a component of acceptance, reported particularly by older people for whom the Jews were different, but still part of the social structure. They were not, and still are not, seen as foreigners in the sense the Turks are. They are not met with the kind of hostility displayed against Auslaender who do not belong.
But the otherness of the Jews is also met with a certain distance. Public opinion, especially that conveyed by the younger generation born after the Holocaust, blames the Jews for feeling superior, resents their alleged tendency to keep apart, and their unwillingness to mix. They, too, see the otherness as difference, observed with a certain uneasy resentment unless one can find rationalizations to deny the superiority.
Sources of the Image
"The Jews" found in everyday discourse do not exist. They are a generalization derived from several concrete Jewish groups: Orthodox Jews, the Jews of whom "you can't tell" that they are Jews, and the Jews of Israel.
Today, Orthodox Jews, who are recognizably Jewish, and are visible carriers of the Jewish religion, contribute much to the grass-roots generalizations of the Jews as others.
Liberal Jews "no longer adhere strictly to the Jewish commandments." Frequently "one cannot tell that they are Jewish," hence their contribution to the grass-roots image of the Jews is harder to assess. They are perhaps an essential factor regarding conspicuous contradiction. There is, for example, discourse on the Jews shutting out non-Jewish people. But there is also discourse that some Jews, unlike the Turks, for example, adapt themselves: one cannot really tell that they are Jewish. This is essential to the concept that Jews are not Auslaender (foreigners).
Jews of Israel , while furnishing relatively fewer nuances, provide for some important contributions to the discussion. First, the notion that Jews "do not work with their hands," is neutralized, for the manual work done by Israelis in cultivating their country is well-known. Secondly, Jews in Israel are politically active-- they are not "persecuted." Israelis are part of present-day reality, and provide topics for discussion outside of the Jewish past. This discourse is fed by the news media, rather than being derived from tales told by elderly relatives. Some news items serve to link the present to the past, placing the distant Israelis into a familiar frame of reference: "what the Israelis do to the Palestinians is no better than what the Nazis did" runs the discourse. In general, however, the influence of notions about Israelis upon those regarding Jews appears to be limited: Israel is far away and thus for many not very important.
In addition to discussion about the above three groups, there is also incidental information passed on, for example, a friend has learned from an acquaintance something of the "daily routine of religious Jews." (46) Another has learned from a friend about the rejection of a non-Jewish marriage partner: "If the Jewish boy would want to marry his non-Jewish girlfriend, he would probably be expelled by his family." (29) There is also reference to the "takeover of a company on the part of a Jew" (38) and "tricky business dealings." (60, 62) There are stories told by those who have worked in Jewish shops or homes, and details about Jewish customs in preparing kosher food, and the observance of the Sabbath and festivals. (44, 80) These are intriguing glances into private lives, rounding out the communication content about Jews, and keeping the subject alive and real.
The great variety of spontaneous responses to the first question in the interview (what does one generally hear about the Jews?) demonstrates not only the number of discourse sources but a continuing awareness of content despite the near absence of current discussion on, or presence of, Jews in Austria today. Here are some examples of the variety of first responses:
The bad thing about them, one hears, is that they always want more. They are not satisfied with what they have already gotten, the reparation payments. (62)
I have heard they are hard-working and ambitious. Always learned people (studierte Leute). They are devoted to their traditions --for instance on [the] Sabbath, they are not permitted to walk, just have to celebrate. They may only walk a few steps. (31)
Are greedy for money. In Carinthia the opinion is widely held that the burning of the Jews never took place, old people in particular seek excuses. (72)
One does not know much about them--except historic facts--now you have hardly any contact. They were always more prosperous. One envied them. (68)
I have heard they are stinking rich business people. They loan money for exorbitant interest. They are very religious people, have no tolerance for other religions. See themselves as God's chosen people. (33)
They are intelligent, mad for power, sharp, have crooked noses, determine what happens in the world --have the American armament industry under control through their money. (69)
na ja, that story about the dentist who fifty years ago was somehow involved in executions. Now that---what's his name (Wiesenthal) -- yes, Wiesenthal has accused him. And recently there were fifty-year mourning celebrations. It is also of current interest that they fall upon the Palestinians and the Palestinians over them.(54)
Clearly these first responses reflect personal orientation. As is known from studies on rumors, one tends to remember those details or aspects of a piece of information that tie in with personal inclinations or concerns. One also tends to deflect the content accordingly, a point which is not very relevant here as the discourse playback today reflects a content of near-stereotypical character rather than fresh input.
This is also evident in the fact that the first spontaneous response is generally expanded in the course of the interview; a fairly positive beginning is then enlarged with critical references and vice versa. The young mechanic, for example, who first reported that he heard that Jews were "learned people, ambitions, tradition-bound," goes on to add critical hearsay data, that "the Jews are said to be greedy, that they betrayed and murdered Jesus, are the greatest instigators in the East." Conversely, rather critical first comments end up with a final positive reference:
Jews, it is said, sit in the U.S. and dominate the whole world with their money. They shun alcohol and nicotine which is peculiar for an Austrian. But they are very intelligent people, until today and previously. (36)
Thus, the eighty respondents reported both positive and negative hearsay. Only two had nothing positive to report, and only one was all positive. In nearly all interviews the playback was detailed, touching on a broad spectrum of characteristics. While there was individual variation in emphasis, there seemed to be fairly general agreement on the key features of the image communicated.
The Grass-roots Image in Detail
Although there is little discourse about the Jews going on now, there have been close contacts for hundreds of years, acceptance and manipulated hostility, with the ensuing discussion up to and including the period of National Socialism. Today, there are people still living who contribute their observations to the discourse from knowing, and knowing of, Jewish contemporaries. Out of these sources has come a body of grass-roots notions creating an image of Jews which is still quite present, and which feeds anti-Jewish attitudes and can be drawn upon when specific events momentarily stimulate discussion.
Today a major component of the image communicated, perhaps the most important aspect of otherness, has to do with aspects of the Jewish religion in its various (and only superficially known or understood) manifestations.
One cannot always recognize a Jewish person, but the respondents play back a number of Jewish characteristics, such as physiological qualities, particularly the crooked or arched nose; occasionally other qualities such as big or protruding ears, or eyes that are set close together. The figure is said to be tall, slim, or on the haggard side. Other points such as lively gesticulating, the Yiddish language, or a Jewish name are mentioned less often.
The typical Jew, in terms of appearance, is Orthodox. Even people who admit they have never seen an Orthodox Jew speak of his hairstyle and clothes. They have heard about the Rauschebart or "the dark beard," about the Bajkeles which are usually germanized as Lockerl or Zöpferl (earlocks) on "even young boys." One knows about the black suits or black robes, the big black hats and the Käppi (yarmulke or skull cap). The general impression is of darkness.
For Austrians, such garb contrasts with their own predilection for colorful and ornamented folk costumes, worn happily on holidays. The dark clothing of the Orthodox Jews, however, is their everyday outfit, not reserved for particular festivities, but determined by the (not further understood) requirements of their religion.
A bookkeeper from Vienna has this to say:
In Vienna, in the second district, when the young and the grown-up men go to their synagogue -- Jewish ladies don't wear anything special -- people turn around and make derogatory remarks. (14)
And an elderly musician says:
The Jews look exactly like we do. The Orthodox look different. In the Seitenstettengasse (where the synagogue is located) with their Bajkeles and hats they create irritation. They provoke through their appearance. (40)
"They want to be recognized through their clothes," a technician thinks. (60)
A young Salzburg mechanic reports neutrally:
Those with the black dress, the Zoepferl [earlocks] and the little black Haeuberl [skullcap], those are the faithful.
Jewish customs and mores are discussed, but with little understanding of the reasons for various practices, and confusion as to their exact nature.
There is a general consensus that "with his customs and rites he is different (anders), altogether in his religion is he different." (66) \
In the broad middle socioeconomic and educational strata interviewed there seems to be little everyday discussion on religious content unless somebody has been acquainted with a practicing Jewish person in school or at work. Certain religious notions about Jews seem to be generally known and accepted as a kind of prejudice, however.
Some respondents mention that Jews are "Jesus murderers," as written in the Bible. (77) "The Jews do not recognize the Trinity -- Jesus is just one of several apostles," a young Viennese secretary heard. (35) "They believe that Jesus has not come yet -- or is that the Jehovah?" The lady is not quite sure.
Only two people referred to anti-Judaic myths when reporting stories they had heard about the Jews. Both mentioned the story of Anderl von Rinn, a ritual murder myth from the Tyrol (12, 34), and the poisoning of wells ascribed to Jews. The young mechanic (34) had a number of stories to tell:
Little Christian children are murdered for their ritual feasts.... They drink the fresh blood. That is also the story of Anderl.... They poison all wells --have done that for a thousand years.... They steal the consecrated wafers and throw them to the pigs.
In conclusion, however, this respondent comments: "Concrete stories about Viennese Jews are not known."
The anti-Judaic myths are perhaps more widely known than is evident in the interviews in response to a general question on stories about the Jews. The myths appear to have been recounted from people with a specific personal interest. It is worth noting that the pilgrimages to the grave of Anderl (which was "miraculously" saved from Allied bombing, were stopped by the responsible diocese only in 1985. **
Another reason that the myths, although known, are rarely mentioned may be due to the fact that other aspects associated with the Jewish religion and its observance, in particular those involving social consequences, may be of wider interest. In this category belongs the importance to Jews of education and, in a broader sense, Jewish togetherness (Familiensinn).
The education of children is seen as a major aspect of Jewish tradition. Citing the film, "Yentl," one respondent pointed out that study was reserved for men; women were, and are not permitted to study. (30) "The whole family saves so the children can study." (37) An old Viennese woman remembers discussions: "When a Jew sells little ribbons (Bandl-Jud) his children studied. The Christians went to (the obligatory) school and as quickly as possible to work."
And then she quotes her own case:
My father was illiterate and I did not go to a school of higher learning. Jews visit such schools. They are a people striving for themselves and their offspring [in order to] to secure good positions. That's where the hate comes up. That is why we had National Socialism. In the hospital where I worked, every other function was taken up by a Jew. (44A)
The sense of familial togetherness, of belonging together is also a much-discussed attribute of the Jews. (2, 9, 14, 50, 59, 66, 67, 72, 80) "Family is written with capital letters" (67); "They have a very pronounced sense for their family. It stems from their tradition and their religion." (14)
The Jewish Grossfamilie is a frequently mentioned. One respondent admiringly recalls reports about the help extended a Jewish girl "although she was a stranger to the family." (2) The sense of belonging and mutual support transcends geographic boundaries: "they stick together. They help each other even if they do not live in the same country. They are kinsfolk (Sippen), closed circles of tradition and relationships." (50) A bank clerk says, "The Jews are a people with a very pronounced sense of belonging together. It results from 2000 years of persecution." (8) After expressing appreciation, he adds a critical afterthought: the sense of togetherness is reserved for Jews only, and is an important symptom of the Abkapselung (being closed off to outsiders) and the promotion of Jewish interests. "They help each other in jobs," another reports. (10)
Other components of the image are somehow related to Jewish tradition but are discussed as traits or qualities by themselves and usually given an ambivalent appraisal.
That Jews are intelligent is mentioned in nearly all interviews. It is a quality with rich connotations, and references to the "Orthodox learned men," the emphasis on education, and the preoccupation with intellectual matters. Great Jewish scientists are mentioned, and with some envy it is said "that they are better in the sciences." (34) Or, "there are many good physicians among the Jews. There are few, or rather no manual workers among them, mainly intellectuals." (76) A civil servant remarks on Jews in the arts, that "they are intelligent and often have a special artistic talent.... Until '38 Austrian culture would have been badly off without the Jews." (10) Jewish intelligence is also discussed in the context of historic survival: "they are said to be superior-- otherwise they would no longer exist after hundreds of years of persecution."
An older woman even cites Israeli success in the 1967 war: "they conducted a war--what's the name of the man with the black eyepatch [Israeli General Moshe Dayan]? -- other people would not have been able to accomplish this." (61)
Jewish intelligence as defined in grass-roots discourse of the Austrians in 1992 differs markedly from the accusation, common in the 1930s, that Jews only acquired intelligence from others. The respondents in this study see Jewish intelligence as a genuine trait, derived from the Jewish religion and its values.
Along with intelligence, Jews are seen as capable and competent: "they are very capable. Have an intellectual capacity and are enormously industrious. (1); "they are striving and industrious and have accomplished much in their culture." (15)
The traits of striving and industriousness (strebsam und fleissig) are usually seen in the context of business rather than culture. Jewish competence in business matters (Geschäftstüchtigkeit) is one of the most discussed image components, containing a number of implications.
Sometimes it is discussed as a real plus. One could buy at reasonable prices in Jewish department stores. One could borrow from Jews: "they are very competent in business matters. If you need money go to the Jew." (51) "As [a] businessman the Jew is considered uniquely good. Some classes could only buy from Jews. Jews, it was said, would be satisfied with a small profit so that they could survive themselves." (10)
Sometimes it is merely reported that "Jews are said to be better with money than we are." (27) Therefore one could not compete with them, for "in business matters they are more competent - one cannot compete with them because they will also sell under the price." (76)
One of the consequences of such skills is the wealth attributed the Jews not without envy: "they are good business people -- mostly wealthy because they are so capable" (4); "the saying goes that there are no really poor Jews. They are industrious, striving, conscientious." (2) "One hears that some of them are very wealthy. You can look at that two ways. They must certainly work hard to make that much. You have to be intelligent for that. Certainly they are persecuted for this reason - they create envy among the non-Jews because of the good business-sense." (21)
"Apparently the Jews were always rich," as our grandparents said. (73) Some respondents considered it important to maintain objectivity: "they are correct in business matters. They try to bargain but once the contract is made they stick to it. (57) "One cannot say they cheat. They are just pretty clever." (63) "They accomplished much because they are ambitious, not through illegal means. But they have a certain rigidity, it is said, meaning they are not obliging in business matters." (49)
A sizeable number of people spoke about dishonest business methods, or over-charging. The teacher of a boys group said: "the boys appreciate that Jews will lend money but they consider it bad that they ask so much back eventually." (1) "You have to be careful in money matters" (12); "they are not the most honest; in matters of business you have to watch out." (72) "They are capable business-people. What they start out to do, they get done. If there are problems, they stick it out. Only honest they are not," one says. (78)
Or worded more negatively, the non-Jew will always be the loser: "the Jew always tries to get out something to his advantage" (43); "A negative trait, as one hears, is that they are hard bargainer and sometimes not just hard but unfair. One hears every once in a while that they also cheat their customers." (50)
The term usurers (Wucherer) is used only once. A dishonest or exploitive way of conducting business is related to avarice and/or greed. "They are intelligent, learned, it is said, good in languages, but money means everything for them" (52); "they are intelligent, capable, know how to handle money, but they are avaricious, greedy - money! money! money!." (68)
Sometimes one reports personal experiences, but positive experiences are rarely used to correct the ambivalent stereotype. An older man, for instance, mentions that he had some business with a Jewish person. "I can only report positively," he says, yet in response to the question concerning general discourse he says: "I don't quite know what to say. They are very adroit in business matters. If you have some dealings with a Jew, you have to watch out not to be the loser. They always have the longer string." (58)
Another gentleman who remembers the tips he received as a youngster from a Jewish family living on his street, offers this ambiguous description:
"as far as I have heard, over and over again, that the Jew is an excellent businessman - when you try to get rid of him in front, he will return in the back door." (56)
Negative experiences are used as a confirmation of prejudice. A young girl tells about this experience of her mother: \
Before the war a Jewish classmate was the only kid in the class had a piece of chocolate every day. She never shared it although the other children seldom had any. The Jews were the rich then-- and they still are.
At the beginning of the interview she had said: "The Jews sit in the USA and control the world with their money." (37)
Sometimes an incident which took place many years ago is made to fit contemporary accusations. A young Viennese working man finds possible to encounter confirmation for the old stereotype:
The Jews are thought to be intelligent, shrewd, educated, good business people. The wise Jews one does not mind, the business guys are less popular. They were crooks and they still are that. You just have to look at the Naschmarkt (a popular Viennese market). All in the hands of Jews. They cut prices until the others are gone. Then they go up with the price again. (41)
Two somewhat contradictory notions are evident when one touches on the subject of "World Jewry." On the one hand the Jews, on the basis of their existence in the diaspora, are considered weltoffen (cosmopolitan, world citizens). More often, however, the association is tied to the generally observed sense of familial togetherness, of sticking together which results in international cooperation and influence of the Jews all over the world: "their lobbyism, `rope teams in the media and cultural enterprises,' are talked about as not particularly positive traits" (7); "they have too much influence in various countries in relation to their number." (31)
Paired with the alleged business competence and greed for power the discourse has it that "they want to be influential everywhere, drein regieren (secretively interfering in internal affairs)" (69); "they rule the world with their capital" (37); "they own too many papers" (18); and "they have an organization which spans the whole world which enables them in business matters to know things ahead of time to their advantage." (74)
The idea of a World Jewry also creates anxieties:
Their strong international ties create fears. The World Jewry might take over. Its haunting us. During the Waldheim election one talked about certain Jewish groups from the American East coast. They are not really a political body but they had influence with the American government -- and so Waldheim was put on the watch-list. (32)
An older lady from Salzburg:
Many people are afraid of the Jews. Because they stick together and are internationally represented they often get the upper hand. People are afraid of any invisible Power. For example, think of the money they pumped into Israel. (69)
Two sources are quoted as responsible for the discourse about the "dangerous World Jewry": the events concerning the opposition of the World Jewish Congress to the election of Kurt Waldheim as president of Austria (the term "World Jewish Congress" was not always understood properly); and the antisemitic commentary in the conservative daily Krone.
The stereotype of the revengeful Jew is familiar from the medieval period onwards. Today, it crops up in discussions about Israeli-Palestinian politics and in relation to the Holocaust and its aftermath.
In public discourse the Jews are blamed for not letting the past rest, for their unwillingness to forget, and for being overly sensitive in their "demands for a privileged position." "The bad thing about them is, one hears, that they always demand more. Not only what they have already gotten; they always want more. Re the Reparations payments." (62)
Israel and the Israelis are a subject of contemporary discussion. Their contribution to the grass-roots image of the Jews is in flux. At this time the Austrians interviewed tend to differentiate between the Jews in Austria and those in Israel:
I think one distinguishes between Jews here and in Israel. While one frequently identified with the Israelis, people are rather skeptical about the Jews in Europe and particularly the Jews in America. (17)
The Jews in Israel are hard working people, they are builders. There is a difference between the Israeli and the Jews. The Jews are established-- they are well off and secure-- the Israelis have to work for it all. (3)
Two characteristics are particularly associated with the Israelis: their industriousness in building a fertile country, perceived positively; and their handling of the Palestinian question, which is criticized. "Their settlement policies resemble in many ways the procedures of the National Socialists in the Third Reich." (6)
The degree of appreciation and understanding seems to differ if the respondents have visited Israel or have heard visitors tell their impressions.
During a visit to Israel I noticed how strong the will is, from children to old men, to defend their country in case of an attack on the country. They made a very beautiful fertile country from the desert. (8)
There seems to be limited carry-over from perception of Israelis as laborers, to that of Jews generally, who are still thought to engage only in intellectual work.
Israel is discussed as the homeland of all Jews, and this is reported with some satisfaction: "they were persecuted everywhere else" (39); or, "they are appreciated there." (25) More often, however, Israel is discussed as the solution to the elimination of problems with the Jews elsewhere: "One is happy that the Jews are that far away in Israel. If they practice their customs there, nobody minds it. Many people favor the idea that the Jews should have their own state." (35)
Discourse also pertains to Israel as the preferred Endlösung (Final Solution). One would "prefer to have all Jews there because it is their legitimate state." (32) And Israel is far away, therefore of no particular concern or responsibility. (54) One respondent, one of the very few who had only negative points to report, went so far as to say "it was Hitler's mistake not to send them all back so the Germans would have clean hands." (64)
Most of the specific items making up the grass-roots image are prejudices familiar to all who have been concerned with the problems of antisemitism. Two points from this pilot study, however are worth noting. First, there is allegedly little everyday communication about Jews going on in Austria today, yet we needed only to ask some general questions (not attitudinal, not probing), and now, fifty years after the Jews have practically disappeared from Austria, both older and younger people interviewed speak of "Jewish attributes." Secondly, there seem to be some significant innuendos in the contemporary playback. In this pilot study, racist attributes were hardly mentioned (with the exception of "crooked noses"). There was, rather, a conspicuous emphasis on religious aspects, in particular the social and cultural implications of Jewish religious observance, with an ambivalent appraisal combining respect as well as resentful uneasiness or aggressiveness.
On the Holocaust
There were no direct questions concerning the Holocaust, but in the course of the interviews, about one half of the respondents brought up the subject spontaneously. In a few cases it was the very first comment. A young Viennese when reporting what one hears about the Jews, said "persecution of the Jews, Hitler." (22)
An elderly woman from Klagenfurt elaborated: "persecution of the Jews during the War-- bad crimes one cannot amend (wiedergutmachen). We did not know anything about it; nothing was ever said." A little later in the interview, however, she recalls how the Jews disappeared and added: "there were some who did hide Jews. But only a few dared -- one had too much to fear - one would be denounced even from family members." (79)
One respondent recalled that a relative visited Jewish neighbors secretly until they were taken away (9); another remembered having Jewish neighbors until "they had to move to the second district [a section of Vienna]." Only one man mentioned a specific personal experience: at the Humanic store in Vienna's first district, he had witnessed a salesclerk who had spoken Hebrew to a customer, being "taken away." (25)
When specific details were mentioned, the terms weg-holen or abholen (taken away) were used. The next point in time, weg (gone away) is used, a few times with an explanatory remark "fled or escaped," more often simply: no longer here. "There are only very few Jews here" is, in another context, a much-cited fact. The intervening time between the taking away and being gone is not discussed as a personal experience. It has become a historic event, stories which one has heard in school and in the media, as noted by a young high school graduate:
I know about the generally known stories of the persecutions of the Jews during the time of the Nazis as a historical fact insofar as one has heard about them in class in school or in the media. (24)
A student was one of the few who mentioned the concentration camps: "at the time of the Nazis they were persecuted, they had to wear a yellow star, they were taken into concentration camps and there murdered in masses." (30) A young apprentice is one of the very few who used explicitly the word "gassed." (26)
Sometimes the very young ask why. A mother reported this conversation with her daughter:
A. came home one day [asking] why could you not change it? You lived at the KZ [concentration camp] time. I tell her over and over again: Why don't you try to change your generation. How about it -- that a thousand mothers continuously write to the TV that they should at least stop the violence. (60)
And the head of a youth group said, "the kids want to know why the Jews were put into concentration camps." (53)
When people do not handle the persecutions as a historical fact, an engagement with the specifics of the Holocaust is settled through general moral condemnation: "the suffering which the Jews had to bear because of National Socialism comes to mind spontaneously" (20); and "one can only say that in the last World War the Jews experienced something horrible, when thousands had to die in the KZs. It was always discussed with great regret." (55) "They were treated very badly". (9) One hears of "bad crimes," and "abominable deeds." A working out in the sense of accepted responsibility is hardly evident, one is satisfied with expressions of "pity" (36) or "regret" (55). The word guilt was mentioned only twice in connection with opinions about the Jews in previous times and now. A young steward says:
I believe public opinion today is different. Partly perhaps out of a sense of guilt that the things which happened have induced people to think, also because of films and reports. (49)
One other respondent refers positively to the media: "the Austrian press and the ORF try as much as they can redeem the guilt from the second World War." (18)
The media rather than the individual citizen are considered responsible for dealing with past, and are more often blamed than praised. One respondent cites the "irresponsible handling of collective guilt" (49), complains that the media does not let the past rest: "I only hear about what happened to them -- it's coming out of my ears." (36) "However bad it was with the KZ. That one gives people over 40 a bad conscience, even those who did not participate. Some time the past has to be put to rest." (60)
A number of aggressive mechanisms are developed to maintain the repression of responsibility. For example, the magnitude of the crime, and thus of the guilt, is reduced. Not all Jews died, the argument goes, the rich Jews escaped: "The poor got into the Nazi mill, the wealthy got away in time," says an older railroad employee (7), an opinion shared by others. "Viennese Jewry died out. My father knew many who emigrated and stayed there. Now others are here, but not many yet. Russian Jews are emigrating to Europe." (40)
Jews who survived and escaped to America, and American Jews generally, represent dangerous World Jewry, and "one is of the opinion that the capital of the Jews is in the U.S. Thank God we are rid of them here." (37)
Another mechanism for eliminating responsibility consists of seeing the Jews as responsible for not letting the past rest. "They do not want reconciliation, no forgiving, no forgetting. They preach hatred publicly over and over again." (75) "They certainly suffered great injustice in the Hitler era. They cannot bury the injustice, they carry on with the hatred, stoke it and stoke it." (1) Simon Wiesenthal is seen to represent Jewish revengefulness, and keeping the past alive. At the time of the interviews Wiesenthal had found a highly respected dentist who was accused of participation in selecting Jewish citizens for a transport. This incident produced much discourse, of differing evaluation. An elderly man explains:
Discourse about the Jews happens seldom. There is rarely something happening now such as Wiesenthal finding this presumed war criminal, this dentist. Opinions differ: some say - they should finally shut up. Others say - thanks God they caught another one. And there are some who say there are still too many (Jews) in the world. That I have heard also. (56)
An elderly Viennese woman who worked in a small business:
There is so much talk about what happened that people get real angry. One hears about this so often in TV, for example Wiesenthal. He just now has a 79-year-old dentist in the mangle, because perhaps he liquidated somebody. The young people nowadays have no empathy for this anyway. Besides, what can you prove today? Many people say it would be no longer necessary today. (43)
Wiesenthal's mixing into politics, as in the Waldheim affair, was also disputed, for it means that "old stories are warmed up over and over again." Despite such complaints as these, it is considered important to have a Documentation Center.
Another variant added to the accusation of being irreconcilable is that Jews are always complaining although they have already received reparation payments: "the Jewish people or their representatives do not tire to dig in the past. Germany is paying anyway" (59); "the bad thing is that they always want more. They are not satisfied with what they already got. They always want more." (62)
The degree of repression concerning the specifics of the Holocaust -- what occurred between the weggeholt werden und dem weg (being deported and sent wandering) -- as well as the extent to which this was and still is an unresolved burden, is evident in the jokes told about the Jews. Many of the people we talked to said they had heard them but few could remember any. All these jokes deal with fire, the fire of the concentration camps. Several people repeated some of the jokes, mostly without comment:
How many Jews
fit into a VW car? Answer: 25; 5 on the seats and 20 in the ashtrays.
(66 and others)
These are "jokes from school" a respondent says, "everybody laughed about them; today one rarely hears these jokes." Others disagree, saying that one hears jokes all the time, for example:
What is the difference between a tall and a little Jew? Answer: The tall burns longer.
What is a privileged Jew? Answer: one with a window place in the gas chamber.
How many were at the Olympic games in 1936? Answer: 236,000 in the Olympic Fire, 154,000 on the ash track. (54)
The last as well as the first joke were told by several respondents. The jokes are told frequently, but the response differs. Says a young bank clerk:
I have heard about peculiar Jew jokes. They are macabre and without taste. Some people laugh about them; some do not. But nobody defends the Jews in a decisive way, nobody takes a clear stand for the Jews. (48)
In brutality such jokes go far beyond what Freud described in his analysis of the tendentious joke. In this form the repressed memory is momentarily released without the conscious admission of involvement and responsibility.
In conclusion, the Holocaust apparently troubles a considerable number of the respondents interviewed, but they have found methods to deny responsibility. They assert, for example, that one "did not know." Someone who considers himself a nonparticipant is thus able to express condolences. Others know only about the beginning of the persecution and the final result. Jewish neighbors were taken away, and then the Jews were gone; there are no Jews left in Austria. The intervening period of the Holocaust, and what happened in it, are put in brackets. Thus the Holocaust has become history. One deplores it with the usual vocabulary appropriate for the evaluation of criminal acts in history.
There is, however, a method by which repressed memory is permitted into consciousness through brutal jokes, which are well known, but are easily forgotten. One does not want to admit, or perhaps permit, the release.
Other mechanisms, such as minimalizing the Holocaust, and blaming the victims, are used to support the process of repression. One does not deny that the Holocaust happened, but denies the need to be concerned with it through the use of accepted aspects of the grass-roots image. One may claim, for example, that only the poor Jews perished while the wealthy escaped (and wealth is part of the image of Jews). Or one cites, often with a good deal of emotional display, the "well known" sensitivity of the Jews, their demand for "privileged treatment" and their "revengefulness." The Jews do not forget nor forgive after 40 years. Not the perpetrator but the victim is guilty.
Jews Now and Previously
Toward the end of the interviews a direct question was asked: do people have a different opinion about the Jews nowadays than previously? If so, in which way?
The question was not asked to obtain a measure of the extent of antisemitic sentiment (for which there exist many competent studies), rather to see how the past, in particular the Holocaust, is reflected in the notions concerning current public opinion about the Jews.
A number of respondents had observed changes, the reasons given only sometimes reflect a true change. The fact that there are few Jews in Austria now, meaning less visible, was one of the factors mentioned:
Yes. There is a change. One does not have as much contact. One can say they hardly exist. One does not feel them. Previously they were picked out because they were made responsible for everything. Scapegoats. (53)
The difference is due to the fact that there are much fewer Jews now thus the Jews are less conspicuous which serves to increase their acceptance. (28)
And a young, articulate mechanic thinks that today opinion is being manipulated through the media (obviously referring to one conservative paper):
Previously there were more Jews in Austria thus you were more confronted with them. So hatred could arise more easily. Today you hardly meet one and there is no personal contact. Opinion now is only manipulated through the media and critical people build their own opinion and are no longer set that much against the Jews. Also today's youth is more enlightened. (31)
Less visibility is considered a plus because there is less friction between Jews and non-Jews, but it also presents little opportunity for coming to a change of opinion.
Principally the same stereotypes keep coming up. You are forced to rely on them because there is hardly anybody with any contact with a Jewish person. (69)
The priority of other problems is another reason cited for less discourse about Jews, and to one respondent, less negative opinion.
Previously only negative things were distributed. Today you hear relatively little (with a few exceptions) or nothing, thus nothing negative. They just are no longer a subject of discourse. (66)
In Carinthia, several respondents agreed that discourse concerns foreigners (Auslaender-Debatte) rather than the Jews.
I think there has been a change of opinion. They disappear in the crowd. Previously people were induced by Hitler to have a poor opinion. (68)
The prejudices against the Jews were Hitler's responsibility, it is argued. Without Nazi propaganda public opinion has changed:
People became more intelligent through the events under Hitler. Hatred against the Jews was stoked under the Hitler regime. Today one sees things differently. The Jews are not an inferior race. (77)
And a former nurse, who kept referring to the fear of Jews, thinks that "the campaigns under Hitler might have heightened the fear people had even before Hitler." Such fear still exists but "it is not as bad now." (60)
In a few cases, a changed opinion is related specifically to the Holocaust:
Even the older people understand now that injustice happened. And many young people I know are clearly more tolerant. Of course when young people are radical, they are much more so (antisemitic) than previously (72) ***
An older woman thinks "only the people who don't want to learn have not changed. The others have another opinion now after all one has heard about their fate." (63) A young girl qualifies her observations somewhat. There is less abuse now, she observes:
That something like this could happen, these mass exterminations, nobody thought possible. Previously there was only abuse, now there is also some pity. There is less insult now. But not everybody has changed his mind. (36)
There is change but it did not originate with the non-Jews. It is the Jews who have changed, according to one respondent:
Yes, there are differences against former times. The Jew of today is different, no longer so strict according to the Tora, particularly the younger Jews are more open-minded, they no longer care to shut themselves in. (2)
And if a change of behavior has not yet taken place, it is suggested:
The Jews have to open themselves for the next generation with which they want to live, and say: my way of life is this and your way of life is so and we have nothing against each other. (60)
A number of people, however, believe that there has been no change of opinion about the Jews because the Jews have not changed: "you never hear that a Jew would have changed. They are still people with their own mentality" (51); "I do not think there is a change of opinion. A Jew is a Jew and remains one. This is not said in a derogatory way." (39)
Sometimes there is a conciliatory postscript. A Jew remains a Jew, "but it is not right that people hate them so." (64) But there is also continuation of the prejudice:
When somebody talks about the Jews, he means the Jews previously and now. A Jew remains a Jew. Previously when one looked at the prosperous stores, they were Jewish. And today the bosses in business who are influential, they, too, are Jewish. (38)
An older woman asks as if she did not even understand the question, "why should there be a change of opinion? The Jews have not changed." (62)
Several respondents cited the persistence of antisemitism. "Opinions derive from prejudice and this has not changed," a student states. (46) "There is still antisemitism," a young salesclerk says.
Thus, the persistence of antisemitism is generally acknowledged, and two key elements of the image of the Jews are cited consistently: Jewish wealth, which is said to create envy, resentment, and a fear of the alleged Jewish tendency to use their wealth in the broad political realm. The other component is the Jewish tendency to "stick to their traditions; they won't give them up." Not foreigners but others, the argument goes.
Both aspects are considered to be historic facts for which the Jews have always been persecuted. And for historic facts one today is not responsible. In fact, there might even be some (good) reason for the persecution, the argument goes:
People think the hatred has existed before. Its a certain justification for people now to think [that] it's probably true that something is not ok with the Jews. (72)
The third type of public reasoning for the existence (and justification) of antisemitism is simply tradition. Antisemitism is "something taken over from the older generation," a familiar opinion taken over without question or thinking about it. Said one of the younger people:
You hear negative things from the older generation, for example the invective Du Jud, if one demands too much money. It says that the Jews controlled the banks and business. This way they probably acquired a bad reputation, if you were confronted with them and could not pay them back. (49)
To sum up, in public discourse a more tolerant attitude toward the Jews is said to be noticeable, yet there is also a continuation of the old antisemitic prejudices, although they may not always be spoken out loud. People have "become cautious [in what they say] because of the knowledge of the Nazi times."
Summary and Interpretation of Main Findings
Jews, for various reasons, are not a topic of everyday discourse in Austria.
Interest in the Jews has been replaced, it is said, by the general Ausländerfrage, concern with and discourse about guest workers and asylum-seekers from Eastern Europe and the Third World. These groups contribute to current socio-political and economic problems much debated by the political parties (in particular the FPÖ) and the media.
Particularly in Vienna, but also in other parts of the country, there is contact with, and hearsay concerning the foreigners, some of it positive, but much of it critical.
None of this applies to the Jews, however, for there are few Jews in Austria, Except for the Orthodox, one would not easily recognize a Jew, and there is little contact with them which would contribute to daily discourse. Jews are also not regarded as foreigners, but as "others," for they have been significant in Austrian life -- culturally, economically, and socially as friends and neighbors. The inclusion of the Jews in a general discussion of xenophobia misses the point.
The grass-roots image of the Jews held by older Austrians has been passed on to the younger generation and is played back from hearsay with varying degrees of interest. However, at this time, Austrians distinguish between Jews who are recognizably so, the Orthodox, and Israelis. The latter two, visible representatives of Jewry after the Holocaust, have served to somewhat refocus the image, perhaps also heightening the sense of "otherness."
The contemporary everyday image contains a marked religious component, although only rarely referring to accusations such as the crucifixion of Christ, or ritual murder of Christian children. Rather, the image pertains to Jewish religious rites and tenets (even though poorly understood), and particularly their strict observance. In this context, it is said that Jews, as a result of their religious tradition, emphasize intelletual matters. It is worth noting that this differs from Hitler's view that Jewish intellectual ability was acquired from others. The Jewish emphasis on education, and familial and community togetherness are important components of the image, as well as it's negative side -- a perceived tendency of Jews to keep to themselves, and keep non-Jews out. Some respondents related this to a belief that Jews saw themselves as a chosen people, and therefore felt themselves to be superior.
A second major component of the image is the worldly interpretation of Jewish intelligence -- the alleged proficiency in business matters. There was a belief that one must be wary in dealing with Jews in business matters; Jewish business acumen coupled with greed leads to cheating, often said apodictically, but sometimes formulated more cautiously as something "people say," and occasionally disclaimed entirely on the basis of personal experience.
As result of the alleged Jewish business skill, discourse has it that Jews are rich. A more modern version of this image, one apparently stressed more often after the Holocaust, refers to World Jewry (Weltjudentum), which is said to be influential through ownership of banks or newspapers, as well as through the possession of positions of power facilitated through the mutual support network of Jews. In Austria in particular, there was much resentment of Jewish influence in the Waldheim affair.
The Jews of Israel, unlike European Jews, are seen as industrious and hardworking, and not concerned solely with intellectual matters. Yet Israelis are criticized for their "Nazi-like" treatment of Palestinians, and this unfair treatment is associated with the image of Jews as vindictive. Israel is viewed as the Jewish homeland, which is sometimes viewed in a positive light in that they now can live in a place where they are welcome and respected, where they can observe their own customs freely. A less positive view sees that Jews can be in Israel and therefore cease to be an Austrian problem. More extreme views say the Jews should all go to Israel; had Israel existed in Hitler's day, it would have presented an unbloody solution to the Jewish Question.
Although there was no specific question asked about the Holocaust, it did come up spontaneously in the interviews showing that the past is far from having been worked out. Familiar mechanisms for denying responsibility for the persecution and mass murder of the Jews are evident.
In conclusion, the original concept of the Jews as others who belong, perhaps overstated in some form of overcompensation, no longer holds. In Austria today, there are Jews who cannot be recognized as Jewish, and Orthodox Jews.
Yet the everyday image in its broad characteristics of Jewish otherness, passed on by the older generation, persists although displaying a peculiar kind of remoteness. It results, it seems, not only from the lack of personal contact but also from the unresolved implications of the Holocaust. While generally condemned, the mechanisms used to deny responsibility promote either a splitting off of negative tendencies on the parts of the self and their aggressive projection upon the Jews (enhancing the negative image characteristics), or a stance of regretful distance regarding a historic event for which National Socialism or Hitler, not the individual Austrian, are responsible.
When public discourse occurs today, it results reportedly from the occasional news in the media pertaining to Jewish matters. Where they pertain to the Holocaust and its consequences, they seem to perpetuate existing stereotypes rather than serving a working out of the past. The schools rather than the mass media might be a more appropriate place for this psychological task. Should otherness be a desirable concept of communication, it would need to be re-furnished with intriguing contemporary material capable of replacing the old antisemitic image characteristics.
**See report in Profil, July 12, 1993.
***At the time of the interviews incidents concerning the burning of the homes of asylum-seekers and the profanation of Jewish graves had occurred in Germany rather than Austria. The only spontaneous reference to these events occurred in the interview quoted. A direct question at the end of the interview produced reports of general condemnation, often in emotional terms (Sauerei -- beasts, filth). The acts were attributed to small groups of irresponsible young rowdies, the burning of homes received even greater condemnation as it concerned living human beings. Occasionally it was explained that the cemetery profanation was meant to humiliate Jews, or to say Juden raus (Jews out).
Relevant German Publications, see inter alia
Hermann Beland, "Umwälzungen gebären alte Geister neu -- Das verunsicherte Europa", Psyche 4, 47. Jahrgang, April 1993.
Uli Bielefeld, "Das Fremde innen und das Fremde aussen", Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung, 1990.
Sigmund Freud, Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewußten, GSW VI, 1905.
Sigmund Freud, Das Unbehagen in der Kultur, GSW X14, 1948.
Hans-Jochen Gann, "Gestern Juden, heute Türken. Die Stigmatisierung von Menschen im Witz", in Rolf Meinhardt (Hg.) Türken raus? oder verteidigt den sozialen Frieden. Rororo aktuell 1984.
Helge Gerndt (ed) , Stereotypvorstellungen im Alltagsleben, Festschrift für Georg R. Schroubek, Münchener Vereinigung für Volkskunde, 1988.
Karl E. Grözinger, ed. Judentum im Deutschen Sprachraum, es 1613 ed. Suhrkamp, Neue Folge Band 613, 1991.
Gunar Heinsohn, Was ist Antisemitismus? Der Ursprung von Monotheismus und Judenhass - Warum Antizionismus? Scarabäus bei Eichhorn, 1988.
Dirk Jülich, "Die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten -- Sozialpsychologische Aspekte zum deutschen Denken nach Auschwitz", in Helmut Schreier/ Mathias Heye (eds) Das Echo des Holocaust, pädagogische Aspekte des Erinnerns, Verlag Dr. R. Krämer, Hamburg 1992.
Julia Kristeva, Fremde sind wir uns selbst, ed. Suhrkamp 1604, Neue Folge Bd. 604, 1990.
Hans Küng, Das Judentum, die religiöse Situation der Zeit, Piper 1991.
Peter Löwenberg, "Psychodynamik des Antijudaismus", Psyche 12, 46. Jahrgang, Dez. 1992.
Margarete Mitscherlich-Nielsen. "Die (Un)Fähigkeit zu trauern in Ost und Westdeutschland. Was Trauerarbeit heissen könnte," Psyche 5, 46. Jahrgang, Mai 1992.
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