Sarah Knoll, BA MA











In her PhD-project Sarah Knoll analyses Austria’s reactions towards refugees from the Communist Bloc (1956–1989/90) with a special focus on the activities of NGOs an the UNHCR (Advisor: Univ.-Prof. Mag. DDr. Oliver Rathkolb). She is the recipient of a DOC Fellowship of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and research associate at the Department of Contemporary History of the University of Vienna. She was a Junior Visiting Fellow at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva and a research associate at the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Historical Research of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in a research project on the resistance fighter Franz Marek and a publication project on Austria and the German reunification (1987-1990). At the University of Vienna, she is part of the research groups History of Human Rights and Democracy and New Cold War Studies and works as external lecturer.

Research Interests:

Austrian contemporary history, Migration to Austria, Cold War, Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, International Organizations and NGOs, History of the Prater in Vienna.

Current Research Project: Austria and the Cold War refugees from the Communist Bloc (1956-1989/90). The work of NGOs and UNHCR (working title)

Advisor: Univ.-Prof. Mag. DDr. Oliver Rathkolb

The PhD-project examines the five major “refugee crises” after 1945 (Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Poland 1981/82, GDR 1989, and Romania 1989/90) in a comparative way with a special focus on the work of national and international relief organisations. They were responsible for accommodation, assistance and organized the transit of refugees to other countries. Moreover, they were part of the global system to deal with “refugee crises”. As part of their efforts to find a place in the newly establishes refugee regime after 1945 their role must be critically examined. Especially the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM, today International Organization for Migration IOM) and the Organizations of the Red Cross Movement (International Committee of the Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Austrian Red Cross) are under investigation. The project assumes that reactions of state, society and relief organizations towards the refugees were interconnected. The Cold War and global changes in the world economy constitute a significant background for the analysis, as they strongly influenced the recognition of refugees and Austria’s frequent calls for international support.


  • with Maximilian Graf/Ina Markova/Karlo Ruzicic-Kessler, Franz Marek. Ein europäischer Marxist. Die Biografie, Vienna 2019.
  • with Maximilian Graf, In Transit or Asylum Seekers? Austria and the Cold War Refugees from the Communist Bloc, in: Contemporary Austrian Studies 26: Migration in Austria, Innsbruck/New Orleans 2017.
  • with Maximilian Graf (Hg.), Franz Marek. Beruf und Berufung Kommunist. Lebenserinnerungen und Schlüsseltexte, Wien 2017.