Dear Readers,

April, 2007

With this issue of Jewish News from Austria, we are happy to be able to provide you with a broad selection of articles which have appeared in the Austrian media since the beginning of the year.

We would also like to point out to all readers of Jewish News from Austria an important change:  Since January 2007 you will find actual news items, information on events, publications as well as useful links on a regular basis on our new website:   Thus, by offering you a broader coverage, in addition to our regularly appearing newsletter, we try to keep you well informed.

Since our last issue, we have also attempted to update the list of e-mail addresses of subscribers to Jewish News from Austria. In particular the list of organizations receiving the newsletter was updated and enlarged. We would be very grateful for your support in the outreach of this newsletter by informing us of people you know who might be interested in Jewish News from Austria. Moreover, we would send a hard copy by mail to those who are interested but have no access to the internet.

I would appreciate very much your response.

Yours sincerely,

Wolfgang Renezeder
Director of the Press & Information Service
Embassy of Austria

P.S. If you no longer wish to receive the electronic newsletter, please send us a short note to that effect.

Lively Jewish Culture in Vienna

Conference from March 19 – 22: International scholars present the most recent research results on Jewish life in Vienna from 1900 to 1938.

“What I am trying to do is to comprise the history of Vienna’s Jews in relationship to the life of this entire city; that is, to recognize what Vienna meant and means for them, thereby clarifying the peculiarity of this piece of West European Jewry,” wrote Hans Titze in 1933, author of a standard work on the topic. The quotation is at the same time the motto of the international conference, “Vienna and the Jewish Experience – Acculturation, anti-Semitism and Zionism.”

University Holds Conference on History and Culture of Viennese Jews

The conference, “Vienna and the Jewish Experience from 1900 to 1938: Acculturation, anti-Semitism, Zionism,” organized by the Department of Contemporary History under the Faculty of Historical and Cultural Studies at the University of Vienna will take place from March 19 – 22. The aim of the conference is to inform the general public on current research and studies of culture.

Future House” Opened for Jewish Community in Vienna

Hahn: “Lively center for conversation and dialogue”

Vienna – On Sunday afternoon the Jewish community opened the “Future House,” located in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt. Across the street is the Lauder Chabad Campus, which was devastated last November out of anti-Semitic motives. “It often comes, unfortunately, to setbacks of the most unworthy and inhuman kind,” said Minister of Science Johannes Hahn in his opening speech.

School Project Searches for “Last Witnesses” of National Socialism

“A Letter to the Stars” enters its fifth year

Vienna – The large-scale project on contemporary history, “A Letter to the Stars” enters its fifth year. Having as motto, “Ambassadors of Remembrance,” some 15,000 pupils will contact Holocaust survivors throughout the world and document their life stories. As the organizers of the project, Josef Neumayr and Andreas Kuba, said at a press conference, a database comprising 2,500 “last witnesses” has been established for this purpose.

Austria Welcomes UN Resolution Against Denying the Holocaust

Foreign Minister on International Holocaust Remembrance Day
Vienna, 27 January 2007 - "This resolution is an outcry against any attempt to deny the horrors of the Shoa," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik following the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in which the community of states clearly condemns any denial or belittlement of the holocaust.

Jewish Museum Vienna Presents "Oskar Strnad 1879-1935"

Oskar Strnad was one of the most brilliant architects, stage designers and theoreticians of the early 20th century. Together with Josef Frank, he founded the "Vienna School" of architecture, which distanced itself from the aestheticism of Wiener Werkstätte and was close to Adolf Loos in its basic approach free from dogmatism. As almost all Loos disciples, the founders and early members of the "Vienna School" came from a Jewish liberal middle-class background. Strnad's main focus was housing. His aim was to "shape without rigid forms" and to create "no dungeons but open worlds". He realized for example, the villa of the writer Jakob Wassermann presented in the exhibition, a semi-detached building in Vienna's Werkbundsiedlung and several flats in social housing complexes. Besides water colours and ceramic objects, Strnad also created furniture (e.g. for Hugo von Hofmannsthal); a drinking glass series made from mousellin glass can also be admired.

Klagenfurt: Premiere of "Jedem das Seine" by Turrini and Neuwirth

In spring 1945 about 100,000 Hungarian Jews were driven to Mauthausen concentration camp. Only 20,000 survived. Silke Hassler and Peter Turrini describe the fate of 20 of them waiting in a barn to continue their march in “Jedem das Seine“ (“To Each His Own”). Roland Neuwirth, the founder of the music group “Extremschrammeln“ (blending traditional Viennese “Schrammel” music with contemporary elements), wrote the music for this “popular operetta,“ as the subtitle of the work implies.

Ruth Beckermann’s Documentary "Zorro’s Bar Mitzva" is a Hit

Viennese documentary filmmaker Ruth Beckermann earned a doctorate at the University of Vienna in 1977 after studying journalism and art history. Together with Josef Aichholzer and Franz Grafl, with whom she produced the film “Arena Besetzt,“ she founded the film distributing company “filmladen” in 1978, where she remained for seven years while producing films and writing numerous books. Beckermann’s splendid documentaries include: “East of War,“ “A Fleeting Passage to the Orient,“ “Return to Vienna“ and “Paper Bridge.“

Kramer Prize Goes Posthumously to Austrian Exile Author Jakov Lind

It was announced on February 5, 2007 that the Theodor Kramer Prize 2007 would go to the Austrian exile author, painter and actor, Jakov Lind, who celebrated his 80th birthday on February 10, 2007. Due to his poor health, the prize was to be presented by Georg Stefan Troller to relatives of Lind at the Vienna Jewish Museum on March 13. An awards ceremony was to take place in Krems (Lower Austria) in late May. On February 17, 2007 Jakov Lind died in London; his funeral was held merely one day later.

Austria’s Future Fund

Positive Report on the Fund’s First Year of Performance Klasnic: Eighty projects amounting to a total of approximately. 2.5 million euros
Vienna – Commenting at a press conference on the Future Fund’s first year, the Chairman of the Board of the Republic of Austria’s Future Fund, former Provincial Governor Waltraud Klasnic, and the Fund’s Secretary General, Ambassador Dr. Richard Wotava, submitted a positive report on the Fund’s first year of performance.

Symposium on “Art Looting and Restitution” Held at Vienna’s Urania

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

On January 18, 2007 a symposium on “Art Looting and Restitution” was held at Vienna’s Urania. Experts discussed the practice and future of art restitution. Predictions as to when research on the provenance of art works and restitution will be concluded cannot be made at this point, stated researcher on restitution and co-organizer, Michael Wladika.

Among the subjects discussed was the provenance research currently being conducted at the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), on 420 objects of art, comprising 20% of the acquisitions of the NS period, which has yet be determined. According to Monika Mayer, provenance researcher at the Österreichische Galerie, the current status of about 600 paintings and sculptures is still unclear. Hannah Lessing presented the art database established by the National Fund for the Victims of National Socialism launched in October 2006 and containing some 8,000 objects of art. One half comes from Federal museums and the other half from museums belonging to the City of Vienna. Walter Hellmich, Chairman of the Vienna Restitution commission, gave an overview of the activities in Vienn and illustrated the dimension of the work undertaken: 40,000 objects of the municipal library as well as 24,300 acquisitions by museums had to be classified as “dubious” just based on the date of acquisition.

“Highest Priority” for Waehring Cemetery

Der Standard (03/13/2007)

Speaker Prammer criticizes delays over the past years: “I don’t have an explanation”

Vienna – The rescue of the Jewish cemetery in Vienna’s district of Waehring seems more and more likely. After positive signals coming from Vienna’s city hall, Speaker of the Austrian parliament, Barbara Prammer, has joined the chorus. “We not only have a basic responsibility to maintain the Jewish cemeteries in particular; there also exists a legal commitment”, Prammer told Der Standard, admitting at the same time that there” has been no coordinated approach” to the issue over the past few years. For Prammer, who also heads the Board of Trustees of the National Fund, the Waehring cemetery has “highest priority”: ”It has to be the focal point of our attention.”

Acid Rain, Freezing, Rank Growth

This is exactly where the focal point hasn’t been for a long time. The cemetery presents itself accordingly: Closed to the public –public access would be a safety issue- uncontrolled plant growth, acid rain and freeze have been destroying the last existing tombs.

A working group will now be established “as soon as possible”, says Prammer; creating a concept for the upkeep of all Jewish cemeteries in Austria across the federal, state, and local level. “My goal is to create a list of priorities.”

If Prammer has her way, the cemetery project will be financed through the National Fund; the correct appropriation of funds would be guaranteed through the Austrian Court of Audit. This would only be possible with additional funding for the National Fund. Initial talks with the Federal Minister of Finance already took place, said the Speaker. In the case of Waehring, talks with the city of Vienna shall now take place as soon as possible.

Condition “Is Not Unknown”

Why the cemetery has been neglected for so long Prammer can’t answer either. “I don’t have an explanation, and I say that very openly. It has after all been known that the cemetery looks like it looks, but now it would be important to avoid any further waste of time”.

Due to its bad condition, the Waehring cemetery is the center of attention. Overall, the concept includes 66 cemeteries. “I don’t see such big problems anywhere else, so we can postpone other projects for a little bit, explained Prammer”. “Many cemeteries are well taken care of by the communities, and this has been going on without any commotion.”

The 2002 “White book On Status Quo and Renovation Requirements of Jewish Cemeteries”, produced by the Jewish Community mentions “different ways of implementing the established norms of upkeep”. “In sum”, the report reads further, “the ongoing upkeep has room for improvement”. In Germany, an agreement between the federal, state, and local level on the upkeep of Jewish cemeteries has been in place since the 1950s. (Peter Mayr)

Two New Brochures Inform About Jewish Life in Vienna

Die Presse (01/04/2007)

Vienna – Where can one shop for kosher items? How is the Israelite Religious Community organized? And what are the origins of the name, Leopoldstadt?

The City of Vienna brought out beginning of 2007 a new issue of the free brochure, “Jewish Vienna,” in cooperation with the Jewish Welcome Service Vienna. The new publication claims to not only offer historical information but more up-to-date, useful information.

Thus, a concise summary covering the Middle Ages until the Present is complemented by an extensive overview of various Jewish organizations, museums, restaurants, services offering advice as well as contact addresses on questions of restitution. A city map explains geographic places of Jewish history (the City Temple, Palais Epstein). The brochure is published in German and English.

Newly included in the brochure is also a small booklet on the city’s district offices. It also offers individuals as well as businesses a survey of their services and expertise: i.e. passports/visas, lost and found, parking, sidewalk cafés, as well as such things as the exhibit on hunting postcards or help in the fight against the pigeon scourge.

According to the city, the reason for reissuing the brochure was to announce the change in hours of operation for agencies – partly lengthened, partly shortened – initiated in December 2007.

Both brochures can be obtained via a telephone hotline (01 277 55) or directly over the internet.