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Reclaiming Heimat

Trauma and Mourning in Memoirs by Jewish Austrian Reémigrés

Jacqueline Vansant

European History, Jewish Studies, Memoir

Published: September 2001
ISBN: 9780814329511
Pages: 208 Size: 6 x 9
Illustrations: 17 b&w illus.

Reclaiming Heimat is a fascinating and important contribution to Austria's post war history.

— Helga Embacher

In Reclaiming Heimat, Jacqueline Vansant focuses on nine memoirs by seven Austrian reéimigrés—Ernst Lothar, Stella Klein-Low, Hans Thalberg, Minna Lachs, Franziska Tausig, Hilde Spiel, and Elisabeth Freundlich—who provide moving accounts of the profound loss of Heimat (home/homeland) and self and the desire to recover the loss in part by returning home. A disparate group with varying relationships to Judaism, they were nonetheless bound together by state-sanctioned anti-Semitism. As a result, their individual life stories reflect group experiences that are notably different from the collective memories of the general Austrian population.

Vansant uses these autobiographical accounts to construct a useful framework to explore issues of individual and collective identity and cultural memory in an Austrian context. By examining the textual manifestations of the traumas of exile and return and the process of mourning the loss of homeland on rhetorical, thematic, and metaphorical levels, she reveals the difficulty in reconnecting to the Austrian "we" as a Jewish Austrian in postwar and post-Holocaust Austria.

Reclaiming Heimat will interest students and scholars of Holocaust and Exile studies as well as German and Austrian literature. This book is also intended for a general readership interested in the aftermath of the Nazi era.

Jacqueline Vansant is an associate professor of German at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Vansant has written a study which, in its balance of scholarship, pellucid thinking, and clarity of presentation, makes for a fascinating read. . . . Vansant's book will find a wide readership.

– Biography

Vansant's analysis presents a vivid account of the struggles these reemigres confronted in reconciling what it means to be Jewish and Austrian in post-Holocaust Austria.

– Central European History

Jacqueline Vansant shows the complicated search for homeland and identity by a small group of expelled Austrian Jewish reémigrés in an anti-Semitc society. Reclaiming Heimat is a fascinating and important contribution to Austria's post war history.

– Helga Embacher, Institut für Geschichte, Universität Salzburg