Colonial revisionism in Austria?

These excerpts from Ross’s 1927 book Die erwachende Sphinx deserve special attention as contextual material for two reasons: it is a unique publication in view of tabooing the colonial discourse in Austria, and in contrast to the claim of the editors, it is not an analogous but a revised reprint.

The Volksblatt für Stadt und Land, a Viennese popular illustrated tabloid weekly, was not one of Ross’s main platforms. Nonetheless, on the occasion of the screenings of Ross’s African travelogues, and similar to the marketing strategies in other press organs, the magazine made publicity for Ross by printing chapter 42 and 43 from Die erwachende Sphinx.1 For an Austrian periodical it seemed a curious decision to pick the sections on German colonial politics instead of more palatable topics in social democratic-ruled Vienna, such as the lectures by Ross’s proxy speaker Paul Schebesta on the economic exploitation of Africa’s black populations (see The weak white).

The conservative and increasingly anti-Semitic Reichspost of Vienna, which leaned heavily toward Christian social politics, announced the premiere of the film Die erwachende Sphinx with skepticism and criticized German revisionist claims.2 It is all the more curious, therefore, that the Volksblatt für Stadt und Land modified certain paragraphs. It did not moderate their revanchism, but deleted Ross’s statements that put the general revanchist claims into perspective. As well it eliminated Ross’s objections to the racist aspirations of current colonial forces. This publication strategy may be seen as evidence for the strong, albeit latent, presence of right-wing and anti-modernist ideas before 1934 in Austria and its links to Germany (such as the so-called Anschlussgedanke and, certainly, colonialism).3

Katalin Teller

Colin Ross. Verlorenes Land. Eine Fahrt durch das ehemalige Deutsch-Ostafrika. Volksblatt für Stadt und Land. Jg. 59, Nr. 22. 1928 May 27; 5-6.

Topic: Colonialism
Case: Speaking engagements


1 See Library.

2 See Anonymous. Neue Filme. Reichspost. 1927 Dec 16; 34 (343): 11, where the journalist, on the authority of Ufa’s Foreign Service but without having seen the film, assumes that “it must be a propaganda film for the purpose of the restitution of the colonies”. See Library.

3 See, for instance, Klaus Amann. Staatsfiktionen. Bilder eines künftigen Österreichs in der Wiener Wochenschrift Der Friede. In. Die Dichter und die Politik. Essays zur österreichischen Literatur nach 1918. Wien: Ed. Falter; Deuticke; 1992; 15-30.

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