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From Empire to Republic

Peter Berger
Günter Bischof
Fritz Plasser

II. Costs of War: Social/Mental/Cultural Legacies

A Partnership of the Weak: War Victims and the State in the Early First Austrian Republic

Ke-chin Hsia

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This essay examines one specific aspect of what actually was happening in immediate post-WWI Austria: How did war victims, a group of people most directly and adversely affected by the war’s destructive power, interact with the new republican state? Understood by contemporaries to consist mainly of disabled veterans, widows and orphans, war victims were especially vulnerable — economically and physically — in postwar Austrian society. Lacking viable work abilities and opportunities in a broken economy, and identifying the origins of their suffering in previous acts of state, the future of war victims was to a large extent linked to the decisions and even the fate of the new Republic, which was experiencing its own difficult search for firm footings in the wake of the war and imperial collapse. This particular facet of state-civil society relationship presents an opportunity to explore the understudied question of how the First Republic tackled the complex issue of the war victim wel...

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