Dear Friends of Austrian Information,
It is my pleasure to introduce this issue of Austrian Information to you as Austria and the United States celebrate 175 years of diplomatic relations. The Austrian-American friendship spans an even longer time period, however, going back to the first Austrian settlers who arrived on the shores of Georgia in 1734. Ever since, a large number of Austrians and citizens from the Austrian Empire in the 18th century to today’s Second Republic have crossed the Atlantic to make a new life for themselves in the United States. Their numbers peaked in the early 20th century. Not always did they leave voluntarily, however: during the rule of the National Socialists, when Austria was part of Hitlerite Germany, many Jewish Austrians found refuge in the U.S. and elsewhere in order to escape the Holocaust.
Austrians have left many an imprint on the fabric of American society: often dubbed the “silent invaders”, you will not find distinct Austrian quarters in the big cities; there is, for instance, no “Little Austria” in New York City or an “Austrotown” in San Francisco. Austrians generally assimilated quickly into American society, yet their traces can be found in all fields of life, ranging from arts to science and technology, and the culinary world. They became governors, members of Congress and Supreme Court Justices, won Nobel prizes and Academy Awards. Some became household names. The closest agglomeration of Austrians (or Americans of Austrian descent) can be found in the city of Chicago, home to many immigrants and their descendants from the Burgenland region. At the end of the 20th century, some 40,000 Chicagoans were believed to be of Austrian descent; this would constitute the largest Austrian “city” outside of Austria.
We should also note that Austrian descent can mean different things when observed through the prism of multi-ethnicity in the Habsburg Empire, which makes it also difficult to correctly measure Austrian immigration to the United States. Today, the friendship and cooperation between our two nations are manifest in many areas; we cooperate in academia with lively exchange programs that not only bring a host of Austrian students to the United States, but also a great number of American students to Austria, mainly through large summer school programs. These encounters form the bedrock of future relationships, both professional and personal. We cooperate on the political level, where we have been working together closely on a number of key foreign policy issues, specifically during Austria’s membership in the U.N. Security Council 2009- 2010. Among those issues are human rights, specifically the freedom of the press and the protection of journalists, the protection of women, but also the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
On the economic level, business ties between Austria and the U.S. continue to grow; today, the United States are Austria’s largest trading partner outside of Europe, and many U.S. companies have established headquarters in Vienna due to the city’s unique location in the heart of Europe and its historic ties to Austria’s neighbors. Overall, we can be proud of this wonderful relationship on both sides of the Atlantic. I invite you to learn more about it and its history in this issue of Austrian Information and on our new website dedicated to the occasion – www.project175.org
Hans Peter Manz