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Austrian Film, Austrian History, Austrian Society

Oktober 26: Austrian National Holiday

Today, Austria celebrates its “Staatsfeiertag”, the Austrian National Holiday. Officially, the day commemorates Austria’s declaration of “immerwährende Neutralität” [eternal neutrality]. This meant that Austria would stay out of any military pacts such as NATO or the former Warsaw pact and would not engage in any military actions other than self-defense.

It was that condition, which finally led to the signing of the so-called State Treaty of 1955. From 1945 to 1955, Austria had been occupied by the US, British, French, and Soviet armies as a consequence of World War II. While the Western Allied had more or less handed over sovereignty to the Austrian government, the Soviet Union used the Eastern parts of Austria as a pawn in the Cold War. Many feared that Austria would be partitioned similar to Germany, where the Soviet Union did not give up control over the Eastern zone, which eventually became the GDR.

It is a sign of Austria’s long history of suppressing its own involvement in National Socialism that most Austrians still associate the National Holiday celebrated today with what they call the “liberation” from the Allied occupation troops. In other words, for the war and postwar generations, the 10 year presence of the Allied troops was more of an “occupation” than the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany from 1938 to 1945.

This sentiment is expressed in the clip from the filmic satire 1. April 2000 (W. Liebeneiner, 1952), which shows an Austria in the utopian year 2000 still occupied by the Allied forces and punished by the World Police for violating world peace. The clip, and the entire film, are also a quite comical example of science fiction.

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About GG

Gundolf Graml is Associate Prof. and Dir. of German Studies at Agnes Scott College. He has a Ph.D. in German Studies from the University of Minnesota and has published articles on German and Austrian film and tourism. He is currently writing a book about tourism and Austrian national identity after 1945. Other research projects include critical whiteness studies and, most recently, investigations into the connection between memory and nature. At ASC, Gundolf Graml teaches courses on a broad range of topics, from German 101 to German and Austrian Cinema and Afro-German History and Culture.

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