Securing, Processing, and Indexing the Archive of the Free Austrian Youth (FOEJ) Part 1+2

Project Funding: Future Fund of the Republic of Austria (P14-1785, Part 1 and P15-2292, Part 2); National Fund of the Republic of Austria (Part 2)
Project Duration: 01.11.2014–31.10.2015 (Part 1), 01.01.2016–31.12.2016 (Part 2)
Project Lead: Siegfried Mattl (LBIGG), Part 1 until 25.04.2015 / Ingo Zechner (LBIGG), Part 1 and Part 2
Project Team: Karin Kaltenbrunner

The project served to scientifically organise and index the archive of the Free Austrian Youth (FOEJ). Founded in 1945 and structurally influenced by precursor organizations in the anti-Nazi exile, the FOEJ was one of the most important political youth organisations of the Second Republic. As a communist apron organisation, the FOEJ manoeuvred between the democratic traditions of the resistance and the Stalinisation of the communist parties. This culminated in 1968 with the rupture between FOEJ and the Communist Party of Austria (KPOE) during the suppression of the “Prague Spring.” Its largely unwritten history exemplifies the course of post-fascist reorganization in Austria.

In late 2013, the FOEJ board entrusted the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for History and Society (LBIGG) with the archive for research and analysis. The written collection alone comprises approximately 15 meters of documents, including meeting minutes, correspondences, discussion and decision texts, organizational reports, and materials related to public campaigns, revealing the evolution of FOEJ from a party-affiliated communist front organization to a dissident movement in the context of the New Left. Unique to the collection are artifacts related to cultural and educational activities, such as guides for organizing group meetings, lecture series, collections of games, songs, and poems, providing valuable insights into the practice of youth political work after 1945. An extensive photo archive, series of magazines and newsletters, posters, flags, and a small number of other objects and artifacts (such as pins and richly illustrated memory albums) supplement the collection with further materials relevant to research and potential public use.

Part 1 of the project was completed in October 2015, covering a total of 444 collections or individual objects in 53 archive boxes. In February 2016, work on the FOEJ archive was resumed thanks to renewed funding from the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria and additional financial support from the National Fund of the Republic of Austria. Part 2 of the project aimed to expand the archive with significant visual and printed materials, especially related to FOEJ’s educational work and group activities, as well as its connections to the political and social movements of the Austrian New Left from the 1970s onwards. The archive holdings were completely digitised and made available for academic research after the project was completed.

a. Image: Departure for the 1952 Whitsun meeting in Graz under the motto “For the homeland, for peace” © FOEJ