The Arc of History Lecture Series: When Diversity was Normality in Late Habsburg-Austrian Vienna

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The Arc of History Lecture Series: When Diversity was Normality in Late Habsburg-Austrian Vienna

  • Tue 9 Apr 2024
  • 7:00PM

The recording of the lecture is now available to watch.


The Arc of History Lecture Series: Austria 1900 - 2020

We are excited to launch a new series of lectures held throughout 2024, reflecting on Austrian history, identity and creativity over a turbulent 120 year span.

The lectures will be of particular interest to those who have recently acquired Austrian citizenship, or are considering applying.

For new Austrian citizens only: In case the event is sold out, please write an email to office@acflondon.org to join the waiting list.


Lecture 1: When Diversity was Normality in Late Habsburg-Austrian Vienna

9 April 2024, 7 pm

Dr Tamara Scheer, Institute for East European History at the University of Vienna

In her memoirs, Lilian Bader – who later became a teacher – recalls her childhood neighbourhood in Vienna's Leopoldstadt around 1900. Many of those she met every day only spoke broken German: the Czech-speaking cobbler, the Hungarian-speaking farmer selling eggs and milk, and the ice cream vendor with his cart, calling out in Italian. When right-wing populists recently claimed that Vienna was changing from a German-speaking city into a city with an overwhelming proportion of immigrants - they were obliquely referencing the period that began with the Anschluss to the German Reich in 1938 and lasted until just after the end of the Second World War: Austria's darkest moment. A pre-1918 address book swiftly proves diversity was in fact the norm in Habsburg-ruled Vienna. The city's inhabitants came via internal migration from throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire: from Galicia and Bukovina; from today's Ukraine; from Romania and Poland; as well as from the Hungarian part of the Dual Monarchy. And of course they encompassed a range of faiths: Christian, Jewish and Muslim. This normality of diversity is often neglected.

The lecture will provide a historical context to the diverse population living in early twentieth-century Vienna and will reflect on how this is still evident today in walking through the streets of Vienna.

And against this backdrop, the lecture will address the complexities and effects of urban multi-cultural life in Central Europe - at the dawn of a momentous century.


Dr. Tamara Scheer is a historian teaching at the University of Vienna, Institute for East European History, and specialised in the diversity of religion, language and nationality of the Late Habsburg Monarchy. In the past, she has worked, held fellowships and taught at various institutions, among them the Pontifical Institute Santa Maria dell'Anima in Rome, and the Andrassy University in Budapest. Currently, she is heading a research project entitled: Turning a forgotten Burial Place of 450 Austro-Hungarian Soldiers from First World War in Rome into a 21st Century Memorial.


Katherine Klinger is the initiator of the lecture series The Arc of History. Previously, she was director of Second Generation Trust, a UK-based charity specialising in post-Holocaust generational consequences. She organised a number of ground-breaking conferences in London, Berlin and Vienna in the nineties, aimed at bringing together descendants of both victims and perpetrators. Katherine ran the Education Department of the Wiener Holocaust Library for a decade. She has recently acquired Austrian citizenship.


About the Arc of History Lecture Series:

The series commences with the last decades and the onset of Modernity from 1900. This was a profoundly significant period both artistically and intellectually, with far-reaching influence and importance, both nationally and internationally. Against this backdrop, the lectures consider significant Jewish contributions to the period, alongside the darker forces gathering momentum, culminating in the tragic fate of Austrian Jewry and other victims.

Austrian complicity, together with a postwar victim narrative, led many to shun a country that formally had nurtured some of the greatest achievements and minds of the early 20th century. With a growing recognition of the need to reassess its history, Austria finally commenced, in the mid-nineties, its own unique process to repair some of the mid-century rupture. The announcement in 2020, enshrined in law, that all Austrian descendants of NS persecution have the right of citizenship, is an important and significant contribution to this process. To date over 35,000 people from across the world, have acquired Austrian citizenship and it is estimated the numbers will rise considerably in the next decade.

The final lecture in the series will reflect on the implications and meaning of citizenship in a country where connection has often been associated with tragedy and ambivalence, and many have rarely, if ever, even visited. As a new chapter opens, perhaps a new sense of purpose, opportunity and responsibility emerges.

Further lectures in the series (TBC):

  • The Development of the Ringstrasse - A Jewish Boulevard
  • Gabriele Schutte-Lichowski - The Frankfurt Kitchen