Marketing emigration in Austria

This announcement of Ross’s South America lecture at Urania, the main popular education site in Vienna, mentions the two focal points Ross would address in his illustrated talk Durch Südamerika (Across South America). Firstly, the political, social, and economic conditions an emigrant would meet when becoming an Auslandsdeutscher (German abroad), resp. Auslandsösterreicher, and secondly, the ethnographic image of the countries Ross had visited. The combination of these two aspects was quite innovative.

Parallel to the screening of Shackletons Südpol-Expedition, a long- and bestselling Urania-film, in his talk Ross capitalized on two trends, omnipresent at that time at Urania.1 On one hand, he targeted his text at those willing to escape from the postwar economic hardships in Europe, in particular Germany and Austria, by providing up-to-date information about the immigration environment, which he described as radically modified after war’s ending (this aspect was presented in detail in his guide book Südamerikanisches Auswanderer-ABC; see “Rather contra than pro”). On the other hand, it reflected his undiminished interest in foreign peoples in faraway countries.

Ross is marketed not only as an expert in political, social, and economic aspects of immigration, but also as a venturous explorer who visited Bolivia’s indigenous population on horse and muleback. For this, the announcement—suggested by the lecturer himself,2 —used telling but common wording: the descendants of the Incas would have “stuck to an entirely primitive stage [of life]”.3 All these topics were covered in a series of three lectures Ross delivered in September and October 1921, each stressing another perspective: emigration; indigenous populations; and scholarly explorations; on the first see Serving Vienna’s workers instead of the Auslandsdeutsche (Germans abroad).

Katalin Teller

[n.d.]. [Announcement of the lecture “Durch Südamerika”]. Verlautbarungen des Volksbildungshauses Wiener Urania. Nr. 29. 1921 Sep 3; 5.

Topic: Auslandsdeutsche
Case: Speaking engagements


1 For an idealized but informative history of Urania see Wilhelm Petrasch. Die Wiener Urania. Von den Wurzeln der Erwachsenenbildung zum lebenslangen Lernen. Wien; Köln; Weimar: Böhlau; 2007 (

See the form in “Korrespondenz: Veranstaltungen”, B-VHO 1/1a/102-201, at the archive of Urania (Österreichisches Volkshochschularchiv).

3 For a critical account of the ethnographic films at Urania see Christian Stifter. Die Erziehung des Kinos und die Mission des Kulturfilms. Zur Organisation des Guten Geschmacks in der frühen Volksbildung und Kinoreform in Wien, 1898-1930. In: Spurensuche. Österreichisches Volkshochschularchiv, Jg. 8; H. 3-4; 1997; 54-79.

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