Home Sweet Home

Coming from a Vienna mainstream society of active committers of crime and NS-opportunists and being a child of the first post-war generation, Alexandra Reill tries to reflect her identity – Home Sweet Home is the [auto]biographic tracking of fascist history inherited by so-called Vienna mainstream society after World War II.

Documentary film | DV PAL | 16:9 | 00:52:–:–

concept | interviewing alexandra reill
camera thomas königshofer | alexandra reill
editing | sound mix lexandra reill

coordination | public relations alexandra reill
production kanonmedia | vienna 2008

As a child of the first post-war generation who was raised in Vienna in the 60’s and 70’s, filmmaker Alexandra Reill compares the evidence discovered in her own family history with the memories of other children of the first four post-war generations of the “society of majority”.

What myths of denial still exist, even today, in the identity of mainstream Austrian society? To what extent do they contribute to the collective conditioning of character, self-knowledge, daily experience, action, and memory? How are they represented by oral tradition in the family? How do four generations of the children of a war society, once overrepresented by the perpetrators of Nazi crime and opportunism, bear up to the responsibility of this dark legacy? What conditions are necessary to assume responsibility for history and its consequences today?

A Family Story
Alexandra Reill is the daughter of a German woman who grew up in a stronghold of the Nazis – Nuremberg – and who married the son of a Viennese lawyer during the Second World War. The filmmaker’s mother met the blond and attractive young man when she was 20 and working as a nurse in a battlefield hospital at Tegernsee in Southern Germany. Soon after having moved into the parents-in-law’ flat in Richtergasse in the Seventh District of Vienna she had to see her young husband flee from Vienna, taking with him her typewriter – this symbol for somehow being able to secure existence during the ar as even then she could earn little money with typing – and his mistress. In a letter the husband left behind he explained to her that the wedding had been harum-scarum. Out of love – as Reill‘s mother always used to say even in her late days – she finally agreed to divorce.

When Reill‘s mother was in her thirties she met the father of the film maker and for many years became his mistress. When she fell pregnant the father did not accept the “illegitimate” baby. So, as a single parent she had to be a sole wage earner and could not take care of the baby. She brought the little girl to a working class family in Kagran where the girl spent her first six years – in a Socialist family. Only when school started the child was taken back to the “city” and from then on together with her mother lived in a large and at that time fairly bourgeois flat on Mariahilfer Straße which in the meantime the mother had succeeded to rent. Also, the woman made sure that the girl was enrolled in a Catholic convent school to receive good education.

Every day when the after-school care club of the convent school closed at 5 pm, the little girl was the last one waiting in the checkroom to be picked up. Every day the mother had to work overtime and could not pick up her child on time. But every day the foster grandfather from Kagran – a grandpa out of a fairytale book and dearly beloved by the child – took the tram No. 25 to spend one hour for travelling from Kagran to Neubau to pick up the girl on time. Every day equipped with sweets or a sandwich for the child he took care of her until the mother – tired from work – came home in the evening. Then he took the No. 25 again to travel back home which took him another hour. It was like a world-tour – not only because of all the long hours he invested every day but also because it was a tour between two completely different worlds.

The 70ies and thus the youth of Alexandra Reill include the memories of a clique of girls not stopping to ask the mother reproachful questions about the lack of resistance against the Nazis. Again and again they asked. The standard reply was “We did not know, nobody knew”. This answer never ever was believed by the girls and because the same answer was repeated again and again and as if set in stone the teenagers became furious, stayed furios for quite some time until finally they decided that they were not prepared to to hear anything about the whole story any more – claiming that they were not part of the war generation, that they were born later and therefore do not have to assume responsibility for the atrocities which had taken place during World War II.

The beloved grandfather died in the early 90ies, contact with the foster family got looser but every year around Christmas the grandchildren and Reill as the foster grandchild meet for coffee and cake and take a look at old photos.

Christmas 2007 – about 20 years after the death of the grandfather: in her hand Alexandra Reill holds photos shot during the Second World War. She is wondering how neatly dressed her grandmother, a tailor born in the working class neighbourhood Ottakring, and her daughter were. The daughter’s coat even had a fur collar. Poverty was huge …, the family never had been a rich family, on the contrary …. How hard must it have been for the tailor to be able to make such neat clothes for the daughter …. 

Her – if they were relatives it would be her – older sister says that the family was not suffering poverty during the War and that the grandfather always sent parcels back home when serving on the Russion front as a soldier. How could he manage? Well, he had been a commercial traveller by profession before the war, you have to be smart in such a job, he probably knew how to be smart during war times also, so ….

A faded document … Reill‘s sister – in the meantime already in her 50ies and needing glasses for reading which she can’t find … Reill helps her to decipher the old stamp and the Kurrent fonts: official notice of denazification.

The grandfather was exculpated of having been a SA-Scharführer but he was not exculpated of having been a SA-Rottenführer.

Documented. Proven. SA-Rottenführer.

Her beloved grandpa, the fairytaile grandpa, the socialist. This is the reason why he could send parcels, this is the reason why such neat clothes were available. This is what the answer meant he always gave when she was asking questions about the war when she was a child: “Don’t ask, it was very cruel, just don’t ask”. Never he said anything else.

Whom should she exculpate more now? The mother who as a “good” German “who had never known about anything” or the fairytale grandpa where no such denial ever occured but who now – in the biography of the film maker and long after his death – only then – turned out to have been an SA-man?

Now she is in the role of the committer – how can she handle her child’s love embracing the best grandpa in the world now that she knows that he was a SA-man? How does this love of a child change? What are the changes now? What needs to be changed through this terrible fact?

Coming from a Vienna mainstream society of active committers of crime and NS-opportunists and being a child of the first post-war generation, Alexandra Reill tries to reflect her identity. This tracking of traces is compared with the memories of other members of post-war mainstream society in Vienna. Which oral tradition has been handed down by parents, grandparents, great-grandparents? The interviews prove a collectively ongoing tradition to maintain myths of denial – myths which are just of the same kind the film maker knows from her own family. The comparison of memories reveals a common spoken way of phrasing, common myths and records in peoples’ minds of which they think that they are personal family memories, that they are individual – without realizing that the vast majority of these memories often literally is the same like in all the other families with such oral tradition. These memories are not individual memories, they form the framework for a society’s identity and they come from the myths of denial created by a vast majority of committers and opportunists in the Vienna mainstream society of the 30ies and 40ies. And still today, most of them are fully present in daily life.

Leander Kaiser: Die Schuldbewussten
Anmerkung zum 70. Jahrestag der Reichskristallnacht und zum Film Wien mein Wien von Alexandra Reill. Wien, im November 2008

Die Schuldbewussten pflegen eine Art Theologie, die genau so antipolitisch ist wie die Haltung derer, die von den Verbrechen des Nationalsozialismus nichts mehr wissen und hören wollen. Man werde mit der Schuld seines Volkes – des Tätervolkes – geboren. Abgesehen davon, dass mein Geborenwerden für mich zwar die Bedingung des Daseins darstellt, aber ansonsten ein nach Zeit und Ort kontingentes Ereignis ist, ermöglicht ein solches Schuldbewusstsein nicht einmal Reue, ist ohne jede Aussicht auf Absolution, da ich nur bereuen kann, was ich selbst getan habe. Dieses Schuldgefühl – oft stellvertretend für die, die ihre Taten nicht bereut haben – bleibt unbefriedigt in sich und sucht seinen Ausweg darin, zum Schuldbewusstsein zu bekehren, zum Bewusstsein der Blutschuld zu verpflichten, die das ganze Volk zu tragen hat. Es ist, als wäre der psychische Überbau des Christentums, als wären Glaube, Liebe, Hoffnung den Menschen verloren, und so dadurch als sein festes Fundament das schlechte Gewissen, die Sündigkeit, die Erbsünde bloßgelegt worden. Es gilt nichts mehr, unschuldig geboren zu sein.

Vielleicht noch schlimmer als dieses depravierte Christentum ist, dass in solchen Begriffen wie Tätervolk die Idee der Volksgemeinschaft als eines Ganzen, dessen Teil das Individuum ist und in dessen Schicksal es aufgeht, fortgeschrieben wird. Wenn auch unter anderen Vorzeichen korrespondiert solches Gemeinschaftsgefühl derer, die sich als reuige Erben der Schuld der Verbrechen des Naziregimes fühlen, der Dumpfheit derer, die sich als Wir Österreicher von den Anderen abgrenzen. Man huldigt – natürlich unbewusst – einem Anti-Individualismus, den auch die völkischen Ideologen pflegen. Das erste Recht des Individuums ist, nicht unter eine Kategorie subsumiert zu werden, die nicht universal ist, d.h. eine Bestimmung, die nicht allen Menschen als Menschen zukommt. So die Erklärung der Menschenrechte.

Ich halte daher die Rede vom Tätervolk für eine Verführung zur Unfreiheit, eine Bewusstlosigkeit in Bezug auf das nationalsozialistische und völkische Gedankengut und für einen Beitrag zur allgemeinen Entpolitisierung.

Wenn das Individuum seine Verantwortung in der Gesellschaft der Individuen, in der politeia, auf Grundlage seiner Freiheit wahrnehmen will, so gebietet die welthistorische Erfahrung des Nationalsozialismus den Kampf gegen das nationalsozialistische Gedankengut und gegen die demokratiefeindlichen Tendenzen in Politik und Gesellschaft*.

Home Sweet Home supported by

— commission of culture 1070 vienna

Furthermore, our thxs go to

— jewish theater of austria
— mediathek austria
— peter fuxx direct marketing
— technisches museum wien

Home Sweet Home screenings at

— 7*stern / vie / a / 09
— mediathek austria / vie / a / 08
— admiral kino / vie / a / 08

Home Sweet Home featured by

— videomix.cz / cz / 15
— artsuche / d / 11
— educult / vie / a / 08
— orf wien heute / vie / a / 08
— oe1 kultur / vie / a / 08
— oe1 orf.at inforadio / vie / a / 08
— orf newspool / vie / a / 08
— der standard / vie / a / 08
— wien.gv.at / vie / a / 08
— apa.ots.portal / vie / a / 08
— apa.zukunftwissen / vie / a / 08
— der standard / vie / a / 08
— volksgruppen.orf / vie / a / 08
— wieninternational.at / vie / a / 08
— kulturkalender.esel / vie / a / 08
— peter fuxx artscreens / vie / a / 08
— du bist nachrichten / la / a / 08
— unser daheim / vie / a / 08
— theaterkompass / berlin / d / 08
— mariahilf gruene.at / vie / a / 08
— wienweb.at / vie / a / 08
— neubauwest / vie / a / 08
— district journal 1070 vienna / vie / a / 08
— die stadtspionin / vie / a / 08
— educult / vie / a / 08
— UCLA Art | Sci Center & Lab / us / 08
— ferypictures / int / 08
— mondaynews / berlin / d / 08
— jewish theater of austria / vie / a / 08
— döw / vie / a / 09

*
Die spezielle Verwicklung eines Teils der österreichischen Gesellschaft in die Verbrechen des NS-Regimes bedingt weitere Verantwortungen: die Wiederherstellung des Rechts der Verfolgten, die Erinnerung an die Opfer, die Bestrafung und Kenntlichmachung der wirklichen Täter, ihrer Motive und Ideen. Aber auch die Erinnerung daran, dass das Leben und Schaffen derer, die im Widerstand und Exil waren, für uns wertvoll ist.