Book Review: Vienna’s Conscience, by Richard Winter

Viennese Refugee Publishes Book on Post World War II Austrian Guilt Pangs

Richard Winter escaped from Vienna to the United States on his third try in 1939. Later, as a result of this experience, he encouraged the study and understanding of the source of hate crimes and crimes against humanity and worked to promote the peaceful resolution of conflicts based on such crimes.  His hope was to prevent them from escalating into violence born of ignorance.

Winter, however, nurtured a serious love-hate with the city of his birth before his death in the year 2000.  His widow Susan Balk has always suspected that, deep down he fantasized that the Nazi era in Austria had been an aberration, and this is why he went back to Vienna in 1988 and approached men and women randomly on the street to ask them about their attitudes toward being Austrians and toward the Nazi era.

As Balk writes in the book, “Vienna’s ironies can be disorienting.  For example, the birthplace of psychoanalysis is a city embroiled in an elaborate pattern of denial and revisionism. These shadows are hard for a visitor to imagine, walking around that glittering town and even harder for the Viennese themselves to acknowledge.”

Now, in 2008, Winter’s photographs and interviews from 1988, fifty years after Hitler’s takeover of Vienna, have been published with help from Susan Balk and Gregory Weeks in Vienna’s Conscience: Close-Ups and Conversations after Hitler, published by Reedy Press in St. Louis, USA.  A book presentation will take place in the Sigmund Freud Museum, Berggasse 19 in the ninth district of Vienna on Tuesday, June 24 at 7 p.m.

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