Dear Readers,

With this issue of Jewish News from Austria, we are happy to provide you with a broad selection of articles which have appeared in the Austrian media in the course of the last three months.
Within the framework of a joint project by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG), a collection of valuable archival holdings, highly significant for Holocaust research, were found in an abandoned building of the Jewish Community of Vienna in 2000 and are being recorded and microfilmed. Altogether two million pages have been currently microfilmed and categorized. As we now know, it involves one of the largest, most complete holdings of any Jewish community - covering a period of 300 years. Among the finds were also deportation lists, emigration applications and many other documents which offer insight into the fate of the victims of the Holocaust.
The previous month was also marked by the sad news of the passing of Leon Zelman, co-founder and head of the Jewish Welcome Service. The focus of his tireless efforts was the program, "Welcome to Vienna," through which some 4,000 Austrians, expelled from Austria in 1938 after the Anschluss, were invited together with their families for a visit to their former homeland.
Finally, we want to remind all readers of Jewish News from Austria that you can find actual news items, information on events, publications as well as useful links on a regular basis on our website:

Yours sincerely,

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

Chancellor Gusenbauer paid visit to Israel and Palestinian regions

Israel was the first stop of the three-day Middle East trip of Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. On 2 September 2007 he paid a visit to the City Hall in Tel Aviv, where Prime Minister Ytzhak Rabin was assassinated in November 1995. Gusenbauer laid a wreath at his memorial in the presence of the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, as well as Rabin’s children.
In the evening the Honorary Fellowship of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Centre, a renowned Israeli private university, was bestowed on the Chancellor. In his thank-you statement he underlined Austria’s moral responsibility in view of the crimes committed against the Jews. “Many perpetrators of the Holocaust were Austrians. Many Austrians formed part of the Nazi machinery bringing death, suffering and destruction to Europe. Many Austrians preferred to look away when their Jewish neighbours were killed and suffered“, explained Gusenbauer. It had taken Austria many years to recognise its moral responsibility for the “darkest period in our history“. said Gusenbauer.
As far as the Iranian nuclear programme was concerned, the European position was clear. Europe was ready to engage in a dialogue if Iran was prepared to meet its obligations: “A nuclear Iran is not acceptable.“ Gusenbauer stressed the humanitarian disaster in the whole region and especially in Iraq, with two million refugees above all in Syria and Jordan.
Like the EU, Austria considered a two-state model the only solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “This does not give room for interpretations on Israel’s right of existence“, stressed Gusenbauer. “Fair“ solutions were also necessary for Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugee problem.
On the second day of his trip to Israel the Austrian Federal Chancellor visited the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, where he laid a wreath and, deeply moved, stressed the need to be alert to anti-Semitism and racism. Gusenbauer wrote in the guest book of Yad Vashem that the memorial reminded of the “incredible horror of Holocaust“ and the responsibility to “learn from the past“.
After visiting the memorial, the Federal Chancellor held talks with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and politicians of the opposition.
Israel appreciated the “clear position of Austria“ against the phenomenon of terror and the nuclear ambitions of Iran, stated Israeli President Peres, who also underlined the “excellent relations” with Austria. An invitation to visit Israel was extended to Federal President Heinz Fischer in Vienna.
Gusenbauer described the talks of the Israeli government with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a “great hope“. An agreement of Israel with the moderate Fatah would strengthen its position among the Palestinians and weaken the radical Hamas.
Prime Minister Olmert described Austria as a “central country in Europe” and as a country of “central significance” for shaping the Middle East policy in the EU. Both heads of government underlined the close economic, cultural and political cooperation between Israel and Austria. The Austrian Chancellor invited Olmert to Austria.
Gusenbauer concluded his Middle East trip on 3 September 2007 in Ramallah (West Bank), where he met with Palestinian President Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as well as chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. He welcomed the direct bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians also on this occasion. Moreover, he proposed to invite Syria and the Lebanon to the planned international Middle East conference in November.
The Federal Chancellor emphasised the “profound solidarity” of Austria with the Palestinians. Austria was aware of the suffering of the Palestinian people and supported the peace process. Gusenbauer laid a wreath at the tomb of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

© Federal Chancellery  

Austria mourns for Leon Zelman

Leon Zelman, the head of the Jewish Welcome Service, died aged 79 at Wilhelminenspital in Vienna on 11 July 2007. Born in Szcekociny (Poland) in 1928, he lost his father after the occupation by German troops in September 1939. His mother starved in the ghetto of Lodz. In 1944 he was deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp together with his younger brother, who was killed there. Leon escaped the gas chamber because he pretended to be two years older. After detention in different concentration camps he was liberated in Ebensee in 1945. After three years of a difficult recovery, he studied journalism at the University of Vienna and became active in the Jewish Students’ Association. He founded “Jüdische Echo“, which to date is one of Austria’s most important periodicals. His historic achievement was the foundation of the “Jewish Welcome Service Vienna“ (JWS), an organisation that builds bridges between the displaced Austrian Jews (and their descendents) and their former mother country, encouraging them to visit Vienna. Since 1980 the JWS has invited about 4,000 persons expelled by the Nazis to visit Austria. Until his death Zelman considered it a crucial political task to raise the awareness of young people. He received high official awards, such as the “Great Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service to the Republic of Austria” and the Ring of Honour of the City of Vienna. On 13 July 2007 Leon Zelman was buried in a tomb of honour of the City of Vienna in the Jewish section of Vienna’s Central Cemetery. Leading representatives of the state and government paid tribute to the deceased. President Heinz Fischer described Leon Zelman as “an exceptional personality” and stressed his achievements in the framework of the JWS, a non-profit organisation wishing to contribute to a better understanding between Jews and non-Jews. Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Finance Wilhelm Molterer mourned for the “activist and bridge builder“. In his speech held in the Hall of Ceremonies of the Jewish Religious Community at the Central Cemetery Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer emphasised that Zelman had never tired of standing up against anti-Semitism and building a culture of remembrance. “He wanted the world to become a better place and overcame evil with good“, said the Chancellor. This places him in the elite company of personalities like Nelson Mandela. Vienna’s Mayor Michael Häupl also dedicated very personal words to Zelman. With Leon Zelman and his cheerful, sometimes “rough” character, an irreplaceable person had been lost who had survived the unsupportable without “surrendering himself to vengeance or hatred”. In a low voice Häupl added: “I do not know how such a wonderful person could develop from the unsupportable“.

© Federal Chancellery

Speaker of Parliament Prammer in Israel

During her official visit to Israel (9 to 14 July 2007) Speaker of the Austrian Parliament Barbara Prammer also met with newly elected President Shimon Peres. She handed over a letter of Federal President Heinz Fischer and conveyed his “best wishes and regards“. Like all other EU Member States, Austria was represented by its ambassador at the inauguration of President Peres (15 July 2007).
Prammer also held talks with her counterpart Daliah Itzik, whom she had met at an event of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in New York.
Prammer stated that she visited Israel in her capacity as the chairwoman of the National Fund for NS Victims and the General Settlement Fund. As the National Fund had to approve each individual project it was very important to obtain information in situ about the projects to be co-financed by the National Fund, stated Prammer.

© Federal Chancellery 

Leon Zelman, head of Austria's Jewish Welcome Service, dies aged 81

zelmann.jpgVienna (dpa) - Holocaust survivor Leon Zelman, head of the Jewish Welcome Service, died aged 81 at a Vienna hospital on Wednesday morning after a prolonged illness, Vienna's city administration said in a press release.
Zelman, who survived the concentration camps in Auschwitz and Mauthausen, was born 1928 in Poland. After WWII, Zelman, a prominent journalist, worked on developing travel between Austria and Israel.

The Jewish Welcome Service, a non-profit organization founded in 1980, works to promote Jewish culture in Austria, in order to "improve understanding between Jews and non-Jews."

A major focus of the body is organizing visits to Austria by Jews who were driven out by the Nazi regime in order take away their initial fears about visiting their old home.

Up to now, more than 4,000 displaced Austrian Jews and their families have been invited back by the organization.

President Fischer congratulated Israel’s new President Peres

Federal President Heinz Fischer congratulated newly elected Israeli President Shimon Peres on 13 June 2007. In his letter of congratulation the Austrian President praised his “extensive and extensive political experience” as well as his “untiring efforts to promote dialogue and reconciliation”, especially in the Middle East. This had won Peres great international recognition, which was symbolised by the Nobel Peace Prize. “I am looking forward to a close cooperation with a view to further developing the good relations between our countries based on our long-standing good personal contacts and numerous common political concepts”, Fischer was quoted in a press release.

© Federal Chancellery


June 27 to June 29, 2007    

Under the auspices of: Federal President Heinz Fischer
Opening: Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer

Venue: Grosser Saal AK-Bildungszentrum (training center of the Chamber of Labour of Vienna), Theresianumgasse 16-18, 1040 Vienna
Live Internet broadcast:

The topic of this conference will be the interconnections between economic exploitation and racist-motivated mass extermination during the National Socialist regime that was primarily directed at Jews, Sinti and Roma, Soviet prisoners of war but partly also at political enemies and groups of people stigmatized as "antisocial" and "criminal". What were the relationships between "extermination through labour", the "extermination of so-called 'life unfit for work' and 'life unworthy of living'", "extermination as labour" and the victims' hope for "survival through labour"? Geographically, a special focus will be on the regions in Eastern Europe that were occupied by Nazi Germany.
Conference languages:
German and English


Wednesday, 27 June, 2007
Opening Evening

Address of Welcome
Herbert Tumpel
President of the Chamber of Labour of Vienna

Anton Pelinka
Chairman of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI)

Charlotte Knobloch
President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Vice President
of the European Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress

Conference Opening
Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer

Introduction and Moderation
Bertrand Perz

Opening Lecture
Ulrich Herbert
„Arbeit und Vernichtung“:
Über Konvergenzen und Widersprüche nationalsozialistischer Politik
Thursday, 28 June, 2007

Moderation: Johanna Gehmacher
Dieter Pohl
Judenverfolgung und Zwangsarbeit im besetzten Osteuropa (in German)
Elizabeth Harvey
‘Womanly work’ in Nazi-occupied Poland:
gender, labour and Germanization (in English)
Lunch Break

Moderation: Brigitte Bailer-Galanda
Patricia Heberer
‘Arbeitsfähigkeit’ and the ‘Euthanasia’ Action (in English)
Florian Freund
Roma, Sinti, „Zigeuner“: Ausgrenzung, Zwangsarbeit und Vernichtung (in German)
Coffee Break
Moderation: Gerhard Botz
Manfred Grieger
Industrie und Holocaust: Zwangsarbeit und „Vernutzung“ in der deutschen Rüstungswirtschaft (in German)
Harald Welzer
Tötungsarbeit (in German)
18:30     End
Friday 29 June, 2007

Moderation: Hans Safrian
Christian Streit
Die Arbeitsausbeutung und Massentötung sowjetischer Kriegsgefangener (in German)
Andrej Angrick
Ausbeutung und Vernichtung im nationalsozialistisch besetzten Lettland (in German)
 Lunch Break
 Moderation: Karl Stuhlpfarrer
Andrea Löw
„Unser einziger Weg ist Arbeit“: Zwangsarbeit und Überlebensstrategien im Ghetto am Beispiel Łódź (in German)
Gustavo Corni
Zwangsarbeit in den osteuropäischen Ghettos aus der Sicht der Opfer (in German)
Coffee Break
Eleonore Lappin
Zwangsarbeit und Todesmärsche ungarischer Jüdinnen und Juden in Österreich (in German)
Moderation: Siegfried Mattl
Frank Stern
Jiskor – Visuelle Erinnerungen im Spielfilm seit 1944 (in German)
End of Conference
Conception: Bertrand Perz (Institute for Contemporary History at the University of Venna), Ingo Zechner (Jewish Community VIenna)
Overall Project Management : Brigitte Pellar und Sabine Lichtenberger, Institut zur Erforschung der Geschichte der Gewerkschaften und Arbeiterkammern in der AK Wien (Institut für Gewerkschafts- und AK-Geschichte). phone: +43-1-501 65-2393, cellphone: +43-664-501 83 15

Organization: Institut für Gewerkschafts- und AK-Geschichte (AK Wien), section.a

Kreisky Prize: Chancellor Gusenbauer pays homage to Lerner

Gerda Lerner, a researcher specialised in women’s history, received the Bruno Kreisky Prize for her life-time achievements and the political book of the year 2006. Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer paid homage to the professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin (USA) in the festive hall (“”) of the Austrian National Library in Vienna. He praised her not only as a “doyenne and pioneer of women’s historiography” but also the as “the person devoting most efforts to the academic recognition and institutionalisation of women’s historiography”. The “godmother of women’s history“ – the Chancellor quoted from the New York Times – was known far beyond academia and had always considered her activities for the “others”, those on the fringes of society, to be of high political relevance. The discrimination against women in history was only one but a “significant form of discrimination” since women were “the group stigmatised as “others” for the longest period in history“, stated Gusenbauer. Lerner was born to Jewish parents in Vienna in 1920. Together with her parents she had to flee the National Socialists. She was able to become a “recognised citizen and scholar only in the USA“. In 1972 Lerner had succeeded in establishing the first study programme for women’s history in the USA in 1972 and a PhD programme in 1980. Society owed it to the laureate that the “environment for women in science and the humanities had changed“. After her “generations of women had followed her example and were able to rely on her support“. Through her work Gerda Lerner finally gave “the oppressed majority of women the history which the male history had denied them for such a long time”. She had realised “before the others that social discrimination was complex and that exploitation, oppression, discrimination were the effects of historical processes”. By way of conclusion the Chancellor stated that it was a great pleasure to him “to award this very important prize to the most active and brightest historian at the beginning of the new women’s historiography”.Among Gerda Lerner’s most outstanding works are “The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle Ages to Eighteen-seventy (Oxford University Press, 1994). The German translation ““ was published by dtv in Munich in 1998.

© Federal Chancellery

Parliament: solemn ceremony against violence and racism

The focus of this year’s commemorative ceremony against violence and racism held in the Austrian Parliament on 4 May 2007 was on resistance against the National Socialist regime. Speaker of Parliament Barbara Prammer delivered a speech to honour the memory of the resistance fighters. Witnesses of the period launched an appeal to stay alert and former resistance fighters warned the youth against “seducers”. The ceremony in Parliament was opened by the Ensemble Klesmer Vienna with Jewish melodies. Besides the members of government led by Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Vice-Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer, numerous representatives of both chambers of Parliament and the leaders of the parliamentary groups of the five political parties were among the attendees. The event was held in commemoration of the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp on 5 May 1945.

© Federal Chancellery

Jewish Museum Vienna: the female dimension in Judaism and Goldman

From 16 May to 18 November 2007 the Jewish Museum Vienna (JMW) presents the exhibition “Best of All Women. The Female Dimension in Judaism“ exploring the role of the Jewish woman in religious, economic, social and cultural contexts. The show demonstrates how female and male perspectives often lead to completely different perceptions of historical events. The “parochet” in whose story the exhibition title is inspired will also be displayed. Zwi Hirsch Todesco had donated the Thora curtain to the City Temple in Vienna when his daughter Nina married in 1833. In his dedication he praised his wife Fanny as the “best of all women”. The acquisition and restoration of the parochet had been supported by the insurance company UNIQA. In its branch on Judenplatz the Jewish Museum Vienna presents a “Tribute to Paul Goldman. Photographs 1943-1965“. This exhibition turns the spotlight on outstanding press photos, showing for example the arrival of Holocaust survivors in Palestine and everyday life in Israel at that time.

© Federal Chancellery 

Austria commemorates the 62nd anniversary of the Second Republic

On 27 April 2007 Austria celebrated the 62nd anniversary of the Second Republic. On 27 April 1945 Karl Renner’s provisional government had signed the Austrian Declaration of Independence. After the wreath-laying ceremony in the consecration room and the crypt of Burgtor, the entrance to Hofburg, the government held a special Council of Ministers.
In his statement Gusenbauer did not only thank the generation of the post-war reconstruction era but also reminded of the victims of the NS regime and Austria’s co-responsibility for the crimes of National Socialism. A lasting political and social consensus had been the foundation for Austria’s success story. The Chancellor referred to the EU as a peace project “which we will support and promote to the best of our ability“.

© Federal Chancellery 

Commemorating Mauthausen

At this year’s ceremony at the former Maut-hausen concentration camp on 6 May 2007 tribute will be paid to scholars and artists imprisoned by the Nazis. Besides survivors, witnesses of the time and guests from all over the world, Chancellor Gusenbauer and Interior Minister Platter will be among the attendees.

© Federal Chancellery

New virtual exhibition on Austrian contemporary history

The Austrian Media Library of Vienna’s Technical Museum recently presented a new web exhibition titled “Acoustic Records 1900 to 2000“. The project comprises more than 1500 sound and video documents of the Austrian history. The files can be accessed in a user-friendly way by clicking on a time bar. In the next years the scope of the archives is to be expanded up to the present. Documents of the 19th century will be integrated and more in-depth information will be provided on specific themes. The spectrum ranges from the oldest sound document of Emperor Francis Joseph in 1900 and the speech of Joseph Goebbels on the eve of the plebiscite on the annexation of Austria in 1938 to a “Wochenschau“ report on Thomas Bernhard’s theatre play “Heldenplatz“ in 1988 and a recording of Nobel Prize laureate in literature Elfriede Jelinek.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

“Never Again" – Viennese Pupils In Silent March In Auschwitz

About 10,000 young people from all over the world will participate in the commemorative event “March of Remembrance and Hope“ (14 to 17 April) also this year. Marching for example from Auschwitz to Birkenau they will follow the same route that led thousands of prisoners of concentration camps into annihilation more than 60 years ago. For the first time Austrian pupils participate, about 300 of them coming from Vienna. In their voyage through the past in Poland they will visit former Jewish communities and places that stand for something that should never be repeated.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

Mourning For Photographer Harry Weber

Austrian photographer Harry Weber died aged 85 in the night to 10 April 2007 after suffering from a heart disease.
Weber was born in the town of Klosterneuburg (Lower Austria), fled from the Nazis to Palestine and returned to Vienna after WWII. He was one of the most eminent representatives of Austrian photo- journalism. As the chief photographer of the magazine “Stern” for Austria, Weber shaped the discipline of documentary photography for many years. He soon also won renown as a photographer of music and theatre productions. In 2002 he was awarded the Great Austrian State Prize for Artistic Photography and the professional title “professor”. Being a modest personality, he always refused to be referred to as an “artist”. Nevertheless, he is considered to belong to the Austrian elite of classical photography – together with Inge Morath, Franz Hubmann und Erich Lessing. Weber published several excellent photo volumes, e.g. “Wien bei Nacht“ (Vienna By Night), “Wien – Gesichter einer Stadt“ (Vienna – Faces of a City) and “Salzburg im Licht“ (Salzburg in the Light), “Die Wiener Philharmoniker“ (The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) and “Jerusalem“.
In 1994 the Historical Museum of the City of Vienna presented his photo series “The Others“. In 1996 the Jewish Museum Vienna staged the show “Today in Vienna. Photographs Documenting Contemporary Jewish Life by Harry Weber“. In 2001 an homage was paid to him with “A Life in Photographs“ at Palais Harrach in Vienna.
Federal President Heinz Fischer showed himself deeply moved by the death of the photographer and praised in particular his documentary work, from the photos illustrating the process leading to the Austrian State Treaty to the Hungarian Revolution in 1956.
Minister of Culture Claudia Schmied stated in a press release that Harry Weber’s photos depicted “cruelty and every-day life in a condensed reality”. Nevertheless, he had been one of “the kindest persons in the hectic environment of photo-journalism“.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

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 Vienna 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 shapes" and to create "no dungeons but open worlds". He realised 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, also furniture created by Strnad (e.g. for Hugo von Hofmannsthal) and a drinking glass series made from mousellin glass can be admired.

In 1909 Strnad led the architecture class at the Kunstgewerbeschule (arts and crafts college). The drawings, photos and publications exhibited are a tribute to his pedagogical work as well as to his disciples and assistants, who passed into oblivion after their emigration. Typescripts, books and magazines introduce to Strnad's theoretical work.

Another important section of the exhibition is devoted to Strnad's theatre, stage and fim designs. It shows the plans for a "simultaneous theatre" with three stages, the Leopoldskron Palace Theatre, a theatre tent for New York as well as plans and a model of a theatre with a circular stage designed with Max Reinhardt, a theatre and cinema for the Ortmann-Pernitz workers' colony and a model of the Royaards Theatre in Amsterdam. Strnad excelled also as a stage designer, creating the sets for the spectacular premiers of Ernst Krenek's "Jonny spielt auf" ("Jonny Strikes Up the Band") and Alban Berg's "Wozzeck" in Vienna. Moreover, he was credited for the sets of "Masquerade" and "Episode", two famous films starring Paula Wessely.

The first comprehensive exhibition on this outstanding artistic creator is held at the Jewish Museum Vienna until 24 June 2007.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

Freud Museum: On The Couch - Cartoons From The New Yorker

Sigmund Freud made several scientific analyses of the joke. His book "Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious" was published in 1905. The Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna now shows - fully consciously - psychoanalysis-related cartoons from "The New Yorker" magazine. Curator Michael Freund selected 80 drawings. In 1928 the first of countless caricatures of psychoanalysis appeared in the influential magazine.
The complete exhibition initiated in 2006 with the support of the Art Department of the then Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is shown for the first time in Austria. The exhibition was previously displayed at the Museum of the City of New York, the Freud Museum London, the Dream Museum in St. Petersburg and the Austrian Cultural Forum in Prague.

© Federal Chancellery Austria