German Society Study Weekend 2018 – Vienna present and past

Event report

After the German Society of the CIOL had decided to hold its traditional September study weekend in Vienna, the Economist added its seal of approval by rating Vienna the most liveable city in the world. The theme was an all-embracing “Vienna Present and Past” and attendance at the various events ranged from 20 to 30 people.

The UN is not only in New York

To start off in the present, many took the opportunity of arriving a little early to visit the UN building on the “Donauinsel” for a guided tour. “Present” is a relative concept; the building cannot deny its late 70s architecture, but the work done here is definitely geared to the present, whether that be the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency or organizations dedicated to trade and labour law, drugs trafficking, refugees and the various impediments on the way to achieving the Millennial Goals. The actual Nobel Peace Prize medal and certificate (awarded in 2001 to the United Nations as an organization and Kofi Annan, as Secretary General) are displayed rather modestly in a hallway.

Vienna and the war, cold and otherwise

In the afternoon the group set out by coach for a Vienna tour with a difference. Our guide, Gerhard Strassgeschwandtner (no wonder he introduced himself by his first name only) took us on a “Cold War Vienna” tour, determined to set the record straight. Gerhard grew up in post-war Vienna and became convinced that the standard version of history as he heard it, namely that Austria was Hitler’s first victim, is not correct. Our first stop was at the Hofburg, the magnificent array of buildings demonstrating imperial greatness in the centre of the city. We stood on one side of the vast central courtyard to see the balcony from which, only a couple of days after annexing Austria, Hitler was acclaimed by a vast number of patently enthusiastic Viennese. Gerhard showed a number of photos to illustrate his point. Other relics of the war are not so easily hidden, such as the indestructible flak towers/bunkers no-one quite knows what to do with and the huge Soviet war memorial, allegedly to the “Unknown Soldier” but more caustically known in Vienna as the “Unknown Father” in bitter reference to the many hundreds of women raped by Red Army soldiers. Gerhard pointed out the Allies’ joint administrative headquarters just opposite the memorial, so that the Western powers were forced to see the pompous structure whenever they met – first point to the USSR in the Cold War tussle. Driving along the Danube Canal, the lack of buildings older than post-war bore testimony to the bitter final battle for Vienna fought out over the water. Although one wouldn’t know it today, much of central Vienna was severely damaged in 1944 after the US bombers were able to use Italian bases for their raids. The historic buildings, including the famous opera house, have all been rebuilt as they were pre-war. As the map shows, Vienna was the prize in the Cold War battle for influence in Eastern Europe, which explains why the Americans poured huge resources into making sure it did not fall into Soviet hands.

The weekend will take place in Austria’s capital, Vienna – a city that offers a unique blend of imperial traditions and stunning modern architecture. All guided tours will be in German.

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Friday 14 September
The weekend starts with an optional tour of the United Nations. You can join the scheduled tours. For more information, click here.

16:00      Cold War Vienna bus tour, including a visit to the Third Man Museum
19:00      Networking dinner

Saturday 15 September
 Guided tour of Das Rote Wien in Waschsalon at the famous Karl-Marx Hof, including a tour of the housing complex. For more information, click here.
12:00      Networking lunch at a traditional Heuriger

No events have been planned for the early afternoon which gives attendees an opportunity to discover Vienna for themselves.

In the late afternoon attendees will meet up again to visit a Viennese Caféhaus. The Viennese coffee house has been added by UNESCO to their list of intangible cultural heritage, saying that the coffee houses have a “very specific atmosphere” and are places "where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill."

In the evening, attendees can join committee members at either an opera, concert or a visit to Vienna’s English theatre; alternatively they can make their own arrangements.

Sunday 16 September
 Tour of the Erste Weltkrieg section and the Republik und Diktatur room at the Heeresgeschichtliche Museum

After the tour, attendees are welcome to visit the other exhibits in the museum.


If you are interested in attending the 2018 Study Weekend in Vienna please contact Jadwiga Bobrowska, German Society Treasurer, directly at Deadline for registrations is Friday 27 July 2018.

In addition to your own travel, accommodation expenses and meal costs, participants will be asked to pay a registration fee prior to the departure of the bus tour on Friday afternoon (or whichever event you attend first):

€ 25       GS and/or CIOL members
€ 35       Non-members (who accompany members)

Please note the German Society has not reserved a contingent of rooms at a hotel. However, upon request Jadwiga can email you a brief guide to accommodation and travel in and around Vienna.


September 14th, 2018 10:00 AM   to   September 16th, 2018 4:00 PM
V500, WC1X 8BG
United Kingdom
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CIOL German Society