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The Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) organises academic events in order to provide the broader public as well as an expert audience with regular insights into the most recent research results in the fields of Holocaust, genocide, and racism research. These events, some of which extend beyond academia in the stricter sense, take on different formats ranging from small lectures to the larger Simon Wiesenthal Lectures and from workshops addressing an expert audience to larger international conferences and the Simon Wiesenthal Conferences. This reflects the institute’s wide range of activities.


The range of events further extends to the presentation of selected new publications on the institute’s topics of interest, interventions in the public space, the film series VWI Visuals, and the fellows’ expert colloquia.



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Sławomir Kapralski: The Holocaust as a Frame of Memory and the Roma/Sinti Political Movement

Wednesday, 30. October 2013, 18:30 - 20:00

Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie Universitätsstraße 7, 4th floor, HS-C (C0428), 1010 Wien


VWI goes to the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology


The Nazi persecution of Roma, although based on generally shared racist ideology, has been largely inconsistent and irregular, de-centered and de-synchronized. In result, however, ca. 500,000 Roma perished and many Roma communities have been wiped out. This contrast between the effort and the effect has influenced post-war memories of Roma and made it largely fragmented. In my presentation I will analyse the relation between the specific nature of the Nazi persecution of Roma and the Roma memories of their suffering. I will argue that those memories did not form a coherent picture of the past that would be widely shared among Roma. Therefore, the recent “memory boom” with regard to Roma genocide can be interpreted as a process of social construction of victimhood in which memory becomes a marker of identity rather than recollection of the past. With the help of Jeffrey Alexander’s theory of trauma I will argue that in the case of Roma and their memories of genocide we in fact face not a simple phenomenon of remembrance/oblivion, but a socio-cultural process of reconstructing the meaning of the past, caused, among others, by the transformation of Roma identities that followed the shifts of the Roma status in Europe after World War II. The agents of this process have been drawing on various resources, and one of the most important of them has been the discourse of the Holocaust. I would like to briefly present the efforts of Roma activist to be included in that discourse, its presence in contemporary commemorative activities of Roma, as well as its advantages and disadvantages in the context of Roma politics of identity.


Comments by Gerhard Baumgartner


Host and moderation by Wolfgang Kraus


Sławomir Kapralski is Senior Fellow at the VWI.


Gerhard Baumgartner is a former Senior Fellow at the VWI, Professor at the Joanneum Graz.


Wolfgang Kraus is Deputy Chairman of the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Vienna


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