Tracing Persecuted Social Workers During the 1930s in Vienna

Irene Messinger

Irene Messinger is a social scientist in the field of migration and exile research. She received her master’s degree in educational sciences and her doctoral degree in political sciences from the University of Vienna. Prior to her academic studies she worked as a social worker for refugees. She is a professor at the University of Applied Sciences at the Department for Social Work in Vienna and is currently doing research on persecuted female social workers in the Nazi period.

OBJECTIVES: Building on a socio-historical overview of Austria in the 1930s with a special focus on Vienna, this article shows that the history of Austria’s displaced female welfare workers has still to be told. Their life stories can be reconstructed by means of biographical research. The article focuses on how to find their traces in the archives and gives insights in an ongoing research project about the topic. THEORETICAL BASE: This section is a review of scholarly works on the Austrian welfare system from the emergence of the Austrian Republic in 1918 to the NS regime lasting until 1945. METHODS: Since no collective sources on persecuted welfare workers can be found in archives, the lives of individual persons must be traced through biographical research. OUTCOMES: Archival sources will be discussed in detail, and it will be shown which archives in Vienna and what other networks can be used accordingly. SOCIAL WORK IMPLICATIONS: The two massive ruptures in the history of social work during the Dollfuss-Schuschnigg regime (1934–1938) and the Nazi regime (1938–1945) have not yet been comprehensively discussed, especially under the aspect of persecution and expulsion of female welfare workers. The findings can contribute to adding a missing piece of Austrian professional social work history.

social work history, Austria, biography research, gender, exile, contemporary history

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