Das Land der Kellerkinder

David Jones erklärt am Fall Fritzl, für zivilisierte Nationen unbegreiflich (hell, I‘m being ironic!), die postnazistische Alltagskultur der Österreicher:

When, in August 2006, the pale, haunted-looking Natascha Kampusch fled her evil captor, after eight years in an underground lair in a Viennese suburb, few questioned the assertion of Austrian officialdom: that this was an iniquity which might have occurred anywhere.

The following February, however, when it was discovered that another three children had been locked in a rat-infested hideaway for seven years in Austria’s third city, Linz — this time by their deranged mother, who also managed to conceal their disappearance with breathtaking ease — the doubts began.

And yesterday, following the latest and in many ways most chilling of all Austria’s recent domestic horror stories, there began a cacophonous demand for answers.

[…] „Three cases in one small country are just too incredible. Everyone is asking: ‚Why Austria?‘“

There will be no easy explanations. Having reported on the Kampusch case from the outset, however, and spent a great deal of time in Austria talking to social workers, psychologists, police officers and senior members of the judiciary as well as ordinary Austrians, perhaps I can proffer a view.

Returning to Vienna last week to report on the latest instalment of the Natascha story, I was reminded that, for all its sophistication, charm, culture and outward modernity, this is a country whose values and behaviour are still shaped by its uncomfortable past.

As anyone who remembers the plot to The Sound Of Music will recall, during the late Thirties and Forties, Austrian society was riven with fear and mistrust, as some connived with the annexing Nazis and others (like the film’s defiant naval captain Georg von Trapp) sought to remain free of their malign influence.

The Germans encouraged collaborators to spy on their neighbours and report any dissent, and — much as the Austrians now dislike admitting it — this has produced the sort of insular mentality which underpins its towns and villages to this day.

On the one hand, the concept of good neighbourliness is utterly alien to many older Austrians. They are so wary of over-familiarity that they rarely socialise in each other’s homes — preferring to meet in „heuriger“ (communal wine-drinking areas) — and avoid making small-talk over the garden fence. For this reason, they usually have no clue what is going on next door, and have no wish to find out.

On the other hand, they are a nation of habitual petty sneaks who will report even the smallest transgression, such as litterdropping, to the authorities.

[…] It is a mentality which frequently confounds Mike Leidig, a British journalist who has lived in Vienna for many years. If he holds a noisy party, he says, neighbours never knock on his door to remonstrate personally, but complain anonymously to the police.

He experienced this arm’slength attitude again recently, in more alarming fashion. Having tracked down a female former Nazi concentration camp guard who remains among the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s top ten most wanted war criminals, Leidig duly sought the opinion of the woman’s unwitting neighbours.

„Every one of them told me I should leave her alone, it was in the past, and the attitude was that they did not know and did not care that they were living next to a wanted woman accused of killing children and other innocents in the Holocaust,“ he says.

„That is typical Austria.“

4 Antworten auf „Das Land der Kellerkinder“

  1. Gravatar Icon 1 asiodulöh 02. Mai 2008 um 12:47 Uhr

    Raff ich irgendwie nicht so ganz… du meinst: „für zivilisierte Nationen unbegreiflich (hell, I’m being ironic!)“, aber hältst es dann für sinnvoll speziell zu untersuchen was „typical Austria“ ist?

  2. Gravatar Icon 2 lysis 03. Mai 2008 um 12:23 Uhr

    Das eine hat ja nichts mit dem andern zu tun, gell?

    Klar, was dem Fritzl eingefallen ist, das haben bestimmt auch Väter anderer Herren Länder im Kopf. „Typisch österreichisch“ ist wohl eher, jede noch so kleine Ordnungswidrigkeit anzuzeigen, aber bei einem monströsen Kapitalverbrechen einfach wegzugucken — eben so, wie sie’s schon im NS gehalten haben.

    Die gequirlte Scheiße der deutschen Heimatschriftstellerin Thea Dorn mach ich aber deshalb noch lange nicht mit. Diese blöde Rassistin meint ja im SPIEGEL allen Ernstes, das Ganze als eine Art „Rückfall“ der Österreicher in das Verhalten „unzivilisierter“ Völker erklären zu können — so als wären es nicht die Deutschen, sondern die „Hottentotten“ gewesen, die in den Kolonien die Peitsche geschwungen haben.

  3. Gravatar Icon 3 lysis 03. Mai 2008 um 14:02 Uhr
  4. Gravatar Icon 4 Entdinglichung 04. Mai 2008 um 18:06 Uhr

    interessanter Artikel dazu von Thomas Glavinic im Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/03/austria.internationalcrime1

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