Fleeing the Nazis: Austrian Jewish Refugees to the United States

A unique one-day symposium devoted specifically to the experience of Austrian Jewry during the Holocaust took place at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. on June 18, 2019.  Over fifteen experts contributed their research findings on the Austrian Jewish experiences of persecution and forced emigration under the Nazis. Many placed particular emphasis on those refugees who fled to the United States. Over two hundred participants assembled at 10:30am in the Helena Rubenstein Theater for the start of this program which lasted until 6:30pm. The rare international audience included historians, scholars, distinguished guests, museum staff and visitors; but most predominately a number of Austrian Jews who witnessed the atrocities discussed.

Following brief welcome remarks by Elizabeth Anthony of the USHMM, organizer of the event, the audience was greeted by Thorsten Eisenreich, Director of Press and Information from the Austrian Embassy in Washington D.C., and Gerhard Baumgartner of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance. The impressive presentations varied in both style, format, and content; historians shared their current research, museum staff presented archival materials and rare artifact collections, and specialists from the film and photo archives at the USHMM revealed new footage of Austrian Jewish refugees in the United States. One of the most moving sessions was a live interview with Herta Griffel Baitsch conducted by Anatol Steck. Herta left Vienna on a Kindertransport in 1940 at the young age of seven. Accompanying their intimate conversation, visuals of museum artifacts illuminated on the screen in the background.  Drawings, letters, and artifacts discovered by the USHMM and presented to Herta in her later life, helped her to repair her memory and piece together her history for future generations.

In the Closing Roundtable, Refugee Studies and Holocaust Studies, Historian Deborah Dwork of Clark University poignantly noted, “fleeing does not write refugees out of the story; it simply takes the story elsewhere. Indeed, flight takes it everywhere.” She emphasized the necessity of integrating the Austrian Jewish refugee experience and other refugee experiences into Holocaust History.

The symposium was made possible by the support of Edie and David Blitzstein, in memory of Kurt and Thea Sonnenmark.  To learn more about the program and for a full listing of the speakers and their topics of expertise, click here.  The full event was filmed by the USHMM and is available for viewing on the Meuseum’s YouTube channel

Author: Ilana Offenberger, College of Arts & Sciences, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, president of the association “American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance”

DÖW & HL-senteret exhibition at the UN Headquarters New York

Lives Cut Short – Seeking Refuge During the Holocaust: The Short Life of Ruth Maier

The Dokumentation Center of Austrian Resistance (DÖW) and the Norwegien Center for Holocaust and Minorities Studies (HL-senteret), together with the Austrian and Norwegian Permanent Missions at the UN prepared an exhibition about the Holocaust victim Ruth Maier, which was opened on 29 January 2019 at the Visitors Center of the UN HQ New York and can be seen there until 26 February 2019.

UN press release

Credits: George-Wilhelm Gallhofer

Entry on the DÖW web-site – with further reading

Norwegian movie by Elsa Kvamme (pilot video clip) – in English

2018 Radomir Luza Prize for David W. Gerlach

The 2018 Radomir Luza Prize was awarded to David W. Gerlach, Saint Peter’s University (Jersey City, NJ) for his book The Economy of Ethnic Cleansing. The Transformation of the German-Czech Borderlands after World War II (Cambridge University Press, 2017).

This year’s Radomir Luza Price for an outstanding work in the field of Austrian and/or Czechoslovak World War II studies, particularly in the fields of diplomatic history, resistance and war studies was awarded during the forty-second annual conference of the German Studies Association (GSA) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 2018. It was the second time that the awarding of the prize took place in the course of the Association’s banquet on Friday evening, 28 September 2018. In previous years the awarding of the Radomir Luza Prize had been part of the “Austrian Reception”, given by the director of  the Austrian Cultural Forum New York during the annual GSA conference; the prize itself had been provided by the Center Austria: The Austrian Marshall Plan Center for European Studies at the University of New Orleans (Radomír Luža had been professor for European and German history in New Orleans, from 1967 through 1993, at Tulane University).
Since 2017 the American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance have been able to double the annual prize money. This was made possible by a generous grant by the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria. With the help of Gerald Fetz (Secretary-Treasurer of the GSA), the Luza Prize has been moved to the German Studies Association, which is taking care for the assessment of the granted money.
Because the prize winner of this year could not show up personally, the formal  presentation of the prize by representatives of the American Friends of the DÖW was replaced by an announcement during the banquet. The GSA representative, who moderated the banquet, payed tribute to the organizers of the prize read a summary of the statement of the jury:

Gerlach’s study about the expulsion of the “Sudeten Germans” from Czechoslovakia after the World War II deals with a still controversial chapter of modern Central European history. An independent academic view from British or American researchers was missing. David W. Gerlach’s book is filling this gap. Offering a unique contribution to the growing literature on ethnic violence, it explains the situation in border regions in valuable case studies and examines the “ethnic cleansing” in Czechoslovakia in a wider Central European framework. We learn that “ethnic cleansing was not only about ethnicity.”  Also “migration and property transfers” propelled the ethnic transformation of the Sudetenland. Gerlach reveals how Czechs struggled amongst themselves over property and administrative control, as most designated as Germans underwent expulsion. Gerlach also explores how ethnic cleansing ended, how one of the most highly industrialized regions in Europe floundered and, finally, how the scars of the expulsion resonate up until today. 

Right: Cover of David W. Gerlach’s book


To the members and all those interested in the association and the DÖW


The annual meeting 2018 takes place at Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown in the room PM Rivers (close to the Grand Ballrooms)


Opening remarks by Gerhard Baumgartner, DÖW director

Report on activities of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance since October 2017 by Friedl Garscha, DÖW senior historian

Report on the association’s development since October 2017 by Michael S. Bryant, secretary/treasurer (including announcement about this year’s winner of the Radomir Luza Prize)

Questions and answers

Elections (president, vice president, board members)


After the meeting of the “American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance” we will move to the room King’s Garden 5, where the Austrian Reception, given by the Austrian Cultural Forum New York, will start at 7:30 PM

Radomir Luza Prize 2018: Applications Welcome!

The American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance/Vienna, supported by Center Austria: The Marshall Plan Center for European Studies at the University of New Orleans, are pleased to announce the 6th annual prize namend after Radomír Luža for an outstanding work in the field of Austrian and/or Czechoslovak World War II studies, particularly in the fields of diplomatic history, resistance and war studies.  This prize carries a cash award and seeks to encourage research in the above mentioned fields focusing on the time period between the Anschluss and Munich Agreement (1938) and the end of the Second World War (1945) and its immediate aftermath in Central Europe.

To be eligible for the 2018 Radomir Luza Prize competition, the book or dissertation must have been published (or a dissertation defended) between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017.  Authors must be citizens or resident aliens (holders of “green cards”) of the United States or Canada. Dissertations must have been awarded by a North American University. The language of the work must be English.

To be considered for the Radomir Luza Prize competition, please send a copy of your work electronically to: mbryant@bryant.edu

The deadline for submissions is August 15, 2018.  The winner will be announced at the GSA conference in Pittsburgh, PA, September 27th-30th, 2018. The awarding will take place during the banquet of the GSA at Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown, on Friday evening.

2017 Radomir Luza Prize Awarding

This year’s Radomir Luza Prize was awarded to Erin R. Hochman, Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX), for her book Imagining Greater Germany: Republican Nationalism and the Idea of Anschluss (Ithaca/NY: Cornell University Press, 2016).

Up to 2016 the awarding ceremony took place in the course of the “Austrian Reception”, given by the director of director of the Austrian Cultural Forum New York, during the German Studies Association’s annual conference. This year it was, for the time, part of the Association’s banquet on Friday evening.

Winfried Garscha, as representative of the “American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance”, quoted from the reason of the jury:

Hochman’s Imagining Greater Germany is in perfect alignment with Radomír Luža’s classic Austro-German Relations in the Anschluss Era, in fact, her book represents a sort of prequel to Luža’s book. It is a serious work of comparative history on the important question of who supported “democracy” in Weimar Germany and the First Austrian Republic? Her focus on “cross-border” contacts of Germany’s and Austria’s “entangled” interwar histories of the “Pro-Anschluss” movements on both sides of the border is an innovative new approach on Austro-German relations. Her chapter on “symbols” of the new democratic republics (flags, anthems, state holidays) adds a lot of new information on the domestic contestations of these symbols. This is a well-written, deeply researched history that will honor this first Luza Prize to be administered by the GSA.

Hochman is the fifth recipient of the Luža Prize, started in 2012.

Günter Bischof, representative of the Center Austria, which had financed the prize until 2016, gave a short outline of the history of the prize and of his name-giver Radomír Luža. The American Friends of the Dokumentationsarchiv des österreichischen Widerstandes (Winfried Garscha, David Wildermuth) and the Center Austria: The Austrian Marshall Plan Center for European Studies at the University of New Orleans (Günter Bischof) have originated and organized the annual Radomir Luza Price in Central European Studies of the World War II Era. With a grant from the Austrian Future Fund (Zukunftsfonds der Republik Österreich) and with the help of Gerald Fetz (Secretary-Treasurer of the GSA), the Luža Prize has been moved to the German Studies Association and will be awarded annually during the GSA Banquet.

Czech-born Radomír Luža fought with his father in the Czech resistance against the Nazis and fled the country after the Communist takeover in February 1948. He emigrated via Vienna to the United States. After receiving a PhD in History from New York University, he began his prolific career at the University of New Orleans and switched to Tulane University in New Orleans, where he served as an eminent professor of Central European History until his retirement. He wrote books both on Austria and Czechoslovakia during World War II. His memoir The Hitler Kiss is a classic on the Czech resistance.

Left: Awarding ceremony on October 6, 2017, Hotel Sheraton, Atlanta, GA: Winfried Garscha, Erin Hochman, Günter Bischof (from left). Photo: Gerald Fetz.



Right: Cover of Erin Hochman’s book.

2017 Annual Meeting on Oct. 7th in Atlanta

Date: Saturday, October 7, 2017
Time: 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Room: Georgia 7 (Level 1) (Sheraton Atlanta)

The American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance annual meeting takes place directly before the Austrian Cultural Forum New York reception in the same room, which is always a great opportunity to greet the larger Austrian academic community.

I would also like to remind those members who have yet to pay their 2016-2017 American Friends dues that they can do so at our annual meeting.  Of course, members may also simply send their dues to me at the address listed below.

All the officers of the American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance look forward to seeing you at our annual meeting.

David W. Wildermuth

Symposium “Expulsion and Extermination”: September 25-26, 2017, Vienna

DÖW symposium about new quantitative and qualitative research regarding exile and the Holocaust

Research regarding the various aspects of the Holocaust is one of the central activities of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance (DÖW): On the one hand, in the area of exile research; on the other hand, the research project “Register of Names of Austrian Victims of the Holocaust”, undertaken from 1992 to 2001. Beginning in 2010 the DÖW began the project, “Expulsion—Exile—Emigration. Austrian Exiles As Seen in the Files of the Law Firm of Dr. Hugo Ebner,” using a portion of the pension documents acquired from the law firm of Dr. Hugo Ebner in 2006; as well as the “emigration lists” of the Vienna Israelite Community (IKG).

Despite the numerous studies of partial aspects of the expulsion, persecution, and murder of Austrian Jewish men and women, a comprehensive analysis of how the different victim groups related to each other economically and socially, or in terms of age and sex, for example, was lacking. The project “Expulsion and Extermination. New quantitative and qualitative Research Regarding Exile and Holocaust” investigated questions regarding the network of social relationships; the history of expulsion and extermination; and the subsequent fate of this largest group of Nazi victims, who were also at greatest risk of extermination. The results are a social and structural analysis and a collective biographical synthesis.


Language: German

Symposium: Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus), Wipplingerstraße 6-8, 1010 Wien, Salvatorsaal (entrance in the courtyard)
Evening Session on September 26, 7-9pm: City Hall (Rathaus), Lichtenfelsgasse 2, 1010 Wien Festsaal (entrance: Feststiege I)

Registation: christine.schindler@doew.at