Hannes Richter

The Reconstituted American-Austrian Cultural Society

Hannes Richter

Founded in 1954 to promote cultural, educational and scientific relations between the United States and Austria and to foster a wider knowledge of the arts of both countries, the American-Austrian Society in Washington, D.C. was recently reconstituted as the American-Austrian Cultural Society. Along with other American-Austrian Societies in the U.S. and the Austrian-American Councils, they represent important cornerstones for the Austrian Community and Friends of Austria in the United States.

The historical background of the American-Austrian Society (AAS) reflects the strong cooperation which developed between the U.S.A. and Austria during the years following the end of WW II. Many close and lasting friendships were formed during the years of Allied Occupation between 1945 and 1955 in regions under American administration. Strong relations were formed between native Austrians and American representatives in Salzburg and other localities. When they left, U.S. soldiers returned with many pleasant memories of their time in Austria. From this fertile ground, U.S. General Mark W. Clark and other Americans founded the AAS, to keep those memories of Austria alive. The idea was embraced by Austrians living in America, with many becoming honorary presidents. Later, under the initiative of Fritz Molden and the World Association of Austrians Living Abroad, the Austrian-American Council was created to provide networking opportunities for Austrians living in the U.S.

Since the 1950s the American-Austrian Society in Washington has fostered academic, university and cultural cooperation: young people have participated during their years of study in academic exchanges within the framework of the Fulbright Scholarship, the Summer School Program at the Universities of Vienna and Innsbruck or other university partnerships which provided the foundation for a continued interest in Austria and Austrian culture. Events organized by the AAS or the Austrian Embassy allow those formerly acquainted with Austria to renew their ties and reconnect with Austrian culture. Moreover, AAS traditionally served as an important network opportunity for Austrian and American members in the U.S.A.

Many distinguished cultural events were organized every year in close collaboration with the Embassy, such as the concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Tibor Kovac last year (featured in No. 60/2 Austrian Information). In addition, some of the events have become beloved Washington traditions, such as the children’s afternoon with St. Nikolaus and Krampus, held in early December, the Kaffeehaus Jause, featuring Viennese pastries, and the Heurigen. Recently, the Society organized a meeting that featured readings from German and Austrian literature under the motto “Humor in der deutschen Sprache” (Humor in German Literature).

The change in legal status should allow for greater opportunities to broaden and deepen the Society’s activities by enabling it to tap into a greater variety of resources. The newly constituted American-Austrian Cultural Society, which is the successor of the American-Austrian Society, was recently incorporated in the District of Columbia.

The American-Austrian Cultural Society issues quarterly newsletters containing information about upcoming events and other items of interest to the membership. Its membership is comprised of individuals and families who come from a variety of countries. All of them, however, share an interest in and a love for both countries – Austria and the United States. The Society’s proceeds benefit the SOS Children’s Villages, a worldwide organization that originated in Austria.
For more information
please contact the Society at:
Telephone: 703 941-0227