Foundation of the 'Salzburg Seminar'

1947 - The Beginnings of Salzburg Global Seminar

During the war, Nazi authorities used the Schloss as a summer residence and guesthouse. In 1945, it was returned to the Reinhardt estate, and in the summer of 1947, Helene Thimig offered the use of Schloss Leopoldskron to Clemens Heller, a Harvard graduate student, visionary and founder of Salzburg Global Seminar. 

Seminar lore has it that Thimig, whose husband had died four years earlier and who seemed to have had no intention of taking up residence in Salzburg again, had encountered Heller on the subway in New York, where she then resided. After listening to Heller’s idea with rapt attention, with a grand gesture of enthusiasm, she exclaimed, “Why you must hold it at Schloss Leopoldskron!”

From this legendary exchange in a New York City subway, the bond was forged between Schloss Leopoldskron and what was to become Salzburg Global Seminar.

The “Salzburg Seminar in American Studies” (as it was first known and is still labeled on the front door of the Schloss) was founded by Heller, together with two fellow Harvard students – Scott Elledge and Richard Campbell – as an international forum for those seeking a better future for Europe and the world. The first session offered not only education on American literature, art, history, and culture, but also a beautiful, calm setting, and nourishing food, enormously appreciated by those from countries long at war. The founders believed that former enemies could talk and learn from each other, even as countries reeled from the ravages of war. Looking beyond Europe’s immediate needs for physical reconstruction and economic development, they argued for a “Marshall Plan of the Mind” as a critical element of recovery. 

Salzburg Global Seminar purchased Schloss Leopoldskron in 1959. During the first session in 1947, all Fellows were expect to share dormitories, but thankfully since the purchase of the Meierhof in 1973, this is no longer necessary! 

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