WU faces up to its historical responsibility


In addition to the return of library books identified as looted property, the research of expelled WU staff* and students is at the center of its activities on Nazi history. Two WU alumni stand out for their particular commitment to fighting Holocaust oblivion.

In May 2010, the University Library of WU began systematic research into the provenance of all publications it had acquired since 1933 and published up to 1945. Provenance research is intended to identify those printed works that were unlawfully seized from their former owners under Austrofascism or during the National Socialist tyranny. In the course of the project, approximately 70,000 volumes from the library's holdings were examined, and 731 titles were identified as "secure looted property". Based on the provenance research, WU has so far been able to make seven restitutions to persons, organizations or their legal successors who were deprived of their property for ideological and political reasons between 1933 and 1945.

After the expulsion of staff members by the Nazi regime after World War II had already been addressed in publications of the Hochschule für Welthandel (the name of WU until 1975) as well as in academic publications, intensive research on students began at WU in November 2012. Their names and fates are part of a memorial book and a Commemorative Memorial, which was inaugurated on the WU campus on May 8, 2014.

WU Alumni against the Forgetting of the Holocaust

Today, two WU alumni stand representative for many other WU students with their life motto "Never Forget."

Hannah Lessing is the daughter of photographer Erich Lessing. In the 1978 TV series "Holocaust - The Story of the Weiss Family," she impressively played the role of Sofia Alatri, a Jew who was murdered in a gas chamber of a concentration camp. Lessing graduated from the Lycée Français de Vienne in Vienna and studied commerce at WU, graduating in 1988 with a Magister rer. soc. oec. degree.
Lessing was involved in the negotiations for the Washington Indemnification Agreement in January 2001. She has headed the General Settlement Fund for Victims of National Socialism since 2001 and the Fund for the Restoration of Jewish Cemeteries in Austria since 2010. Since 2011 she has been the representative for Austria in the International Committee of the Auschwitz Foundation and a board member of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance (DÖW). Lessing is distinguished by extensive lecturing activities within the framework of the National Fund and the General Settlement Fund as well as in the field of international Holocaust remembrance.

Oskar Deutsch grew up in Vienna, where he attended the American International School. After a degree program at WU, he joined the family business Alvorada, a coffee trading company. After holding various positions in the company, he most recently served as its managing director. In 2015, the family separated from the company and has since focused on real estate investment and management.
Deutsch became involved in the Jewish Council of the Jewish Community (IKG) in 1993. Following the resignation of Ariel Muzicant, he was appointed president of the Jewish Community of Vienna in February 2012 and confirmed in office at the end of 2017. In addition to the renovation of the City Temple in Seitenstettengasse in Vienna's 1st District, he also worked to modernize the community's administration and public relations. The Austrian-Jewish Cultural Heritage Act, which came into force in 2021 and in which Deutsch played a key role, established a long-term safeguard for Jewish life through a fixed financial contribution from the Republic of Austria. Deutsch repeatedly speaks out on sociopolitical issues, such as anti-Semitic statements or actions. In 2017, he edited the anthology "The Future of Europe and Judaism."

Event tip
"Closed to Exclusion - Open to Inclusion."
Library & Learning Center, Ceremonial Hall 2, June 05, 2023, 6:00 p.m.
The event will examine Jewish life in Vienna in the context of social acceptance and rejection from the end of the 19th century to 1938. This will be followed by a discussion with international experts on the emergence and spread of anti-Semitism. In addition, research results from WU on the awarding of honorary doctorates to persons close to the Nazis and current findings on expelled members of the Hochschule für Welthandel will be presented.

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