Anti-Semitic Caricature, Wien Museum

Anti-Semitic Caricature, Wien Museum

The Fulbright staff in Vienna periodically offer us a local tour and “Stammtisch” (conversation table time). Last week, we viewed the exhibit “Vienna Types” which showed the evolution of stereotypic images of certain groups of Viennese – “typical” images of the working poor made into romanticized, sentimental etchings and porcelain statuettes for the aristocracy – and a collection of dreadful anti-Semitic caricatures of Jewish “types.” Anti-Semitism, although now generally deplored in public, persists in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. For example – our tour guide skipped right past the Jewish images and made no comment about them as part of his obviously practiced tour aimed at school students and tourists. There is still also a good deal of general Austrian sentiment that Austria was a victim of Hitler, and “the Nazis made us persecute the Jews,” when the historical record – finally more openly being recognized and in fact pushed by museums and other contemporary cultural interpreters – clearly shows that Vienna welcomed Hitler with open arms in 1938, and Austrian hatred and envy of the Jews was as virulent as anything the Germans did. Clearly the curators of this exhibit were more sensitive to the issue than our young guide, and to the importance of showing these historically shameful images. The exhibit, I believe, has just closed, but you can check out other interesting local exhibits, including a current exhibit of documentary photos by Edith Tudor-Hart on the museum’s web site: http://www.wienmuseum.at/.

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About pcooperwhite

Christiane Brooks Johnson Professor of Psychology and Religion, Union Theological Seminary, New York NY
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