“Aliens in the Community” and “Enemies of the State”: Intergenerational Structures of Action and Memory in Families of Stigmatized Victims of National Socialism in Austria and Germany

Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Maria Pohn-Lauggas

Project coordination: Dr. Miriam Schäfer

Duration: March 2021 until February 2024

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), No. 442960441

This research project focuses on the intergenerational transmission of the experiences of people who were socially stigmatized and persecuted under the National Socialist regime before and after 1945.
The interviewees are descendants of people who were persecuted, deported and murdered by the Nazi regime as so-called “Gemeinschaftsfremde” (“aliens in the community”) and “enemies of the state”. This means people who were included under socio-racist terms such as “homosexuals” or “Berufsverbrecher” (“professional criminals”), as well as deserters and Jehovah’s Witnesses as conscientious objectors. Their experiences did not become part of the collective memory in Germany and Austria and remain invisible in public remembrance. Reasons for this can be found in denial discourses, in the social stigmatization of the victims which persisted even after 1945, and, not least, in the fact that there has been no collective fight for recognition by victimized and persecuted persons in organized groups. Similar tendencies can be observed in the social sciences and humanities, where for decades the main focus of multi-generational research has been on Jewish families and the families of Nazi perpetrators.
In the light of this situation, we will investigate the effects social stigmatization and lack of visibility have on the descendants and their intergenerational and biographical structures of acting and remembering, and compare these structures. This is an attempt to fill an existing gap in multi-generational research in the social sciences and humanities.