Klagenfurt Premiere Of "Jedem Das Seine" By Turrini And Neuwirth

In spring 1945 about 100,000 Hungarian Jews were driven to the 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 reads.

The artist describes his music as the “tonality of the people”. Disfigured sounds echoing the waltzes of Johann Strauß from a distance, sweet and light, harsh and bitter. “Vienna Blood” is performed as a Klezmer version on the violin by Aliosha Biz. When WWII was drawing to a close in late April 1945, the half-starved people were provided with food by the peasant woman Traudl Fasching in the barn. To thank her, opera singer Lou Gandolf – brilliantly enacted by Alexander Kaimbacher – wants to perform an operetta for the music-loving farmer.

The project is increasingly fascinating, even to Traudl’s alcoholic husband and the Nazi Stefan Fasching. At the end the war is over, Hitler is dead and the prisoners believe that the horror finally came to an end. But the barn is boarded up and set to fire. After it burnt, the entire ensemble stands for several minutes in the dark at the edge of the stage – probably the most touching moment of Michael Sturminger’s production at Stadttheater Klagenfurt. Then the actors collapse and the orchestra led by Guido Mancusi performs once more this strange waltz-like music.

The play has been conceived as a present to the outgoing theatre manager of Stadttheater Klagenfurt, Dietmar Pflegerl. The actors, authors and the composer were given standing ovations at the first night on 8 March 2007, e.g. by Minister for Culture Claudia Schmied and the Director General of the Austrian National Library, Johanna Rachinger.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

Vienna Pays Homage To Leon Askin

Vienna gets a “Leon Askin Square“. The square near the last stop of the tram line 52 in Vienna’s district Penzing will be named after the actor and director deceased in 2005. Askin, born as Leon Aschkenasy in Vienna in 1907, studied at the Vienna Academy of Music and Performing Arts. He won international renown as a political cabaret artist in Vienna, Düsseldorf and Paris in the 1930s. In 1938 he fled Paris. In 1940 he moved to the USA, where he first became a successful theatre actor (production of Goethe’s “Faust“ on Broadway in 1949) and started his film career in Hollywood in 1952. In 1960 he played a role in the film “One, Two, Three“ directed by Billy Wilder and in 1972 he participated in “Hammersmith Is Out“, with Peter Ustinov as the film director. In 1994 he finally returned to his native city Vienna, where he impressed as a stage actor even in very old age.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

Future Fund Of The Rrepublic Of Austria Highlights Positive Results

On 9 March 2007 the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria presented the positive results of its first year of activity. So far 148 applications were filed, 120 were processed and 80 projects were approved. The total financial aid for 2006 amounted to 2.5 million euros. The Future Fund was established in 2005 as the successor organisation of the Reconciliation Fund for the indemnification of NS forced labourers. It was endowed with 20 million euros, will be functional for ten years and supports projects commemorating NS victims as well as promoting tolerance and non-discrimination.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

Positive First Year For The Republic Of Austria's Future Fund

Klasnic: 80 projects amounting to a total of approx. 2.5 million euros

Vienna, 9 March 2007 –  Taking stock at a press conference, 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 activities.

“So far we have processed 120 project applications, 80 of which have been approved, amounting to a total of 2.5 million euros,” said the Chairman of the Board. The Future Fund, which is financed from funds left over after the former Austrian Reconciliation Fund was dissolved, is in a position to support projects of up to 2 million euros annually,” said Secretary General Wotava.

Most of the projects approved deal with the Nazi regime and its consequences, but there were also interesting projects on other totalitarian regimes, emphasised Klasnic.

The Chairman drew special attention to the efficient, swift and unbureaucratic work of the members of the Board and of the Project Promotion Council who all work on an honorary basis, volunteering a considerable part of their leisure time to study the sometimes very extensive project documentation.

Wotava explained that the meetings of the two bodies are held jointly every month, while as a rule the Board takes its decisions on the applications within three months of their submission.

“On account of the varied and interesting projects and the excellent working climate in the Fund I am looking forward to my future activities as Chairman of the Future Fund’s Board,” concluded Klasnic.

Contact for further inquiries:
Secretary General Ambassador Dr. Richard WOTAVA
Future Fund of the Republic of Austria
PO Box 90
1014 Vienna

Tel. +43/1/ 513 60 16 10
Fax: +43/1/513 60 16 15
E-Mail: info@zukunftsfonds-austria.at



University of Vienna: Conference On History And Culture Of Viennese Jews

From 19 to 22 March 2007 the conference “Vienna and the Jewish Experience. 1900-1938. Acculturation, Anti-Semitism, Zionism” organised by the Department of Contemporary History of the Faculty of Historical and Cultural Studies of the University of Vienna will take place. The aim of the conference is to inform the general public about the current state of research and cultural studies.

The venues of the conference are Vienna’s town hall, the University of Vienna, the Jewish Museum of the City of Vienna as well as the Metro cinema run by the Austrian Film Archives. Scholars and artists invite to lectures, film screenings and readings. The opening statement is given by author Steven Beller in the framework of the “Vienna Lectures” on 19 March 2007. Beller wrote several books on Austrian and Jewish history and lives in Washington.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

WKÖ: Austrian Trade Relations With Israel Are Booming

“The bilateral trade relations between Austria and Israel had been on a high level in the past but intensified significantly last year”, said the President of the Economic Chamber Austria (WKÖ), Christoph Leitl, at the ceremony staged for the President of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, Uriel Lynn, who received the Grand Golden Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service to the Republic of Austria. His untiring efforts in promoting the bilateral trade relations made a decisive contribution to the 15% increase of Austrian exports to Israel as well as Israeli exports to Austria in 2006, stressed Leitl.

Austria’s most important export goods are machinery, vehicles, IT hardware, industrial equipment, car components, pharmaceutical products, chemicals as well as food. Austria imported mainly communication devices, electrical appliances, measuring and control devices, vegetables and fruit from Israel. Great opportunities could arise from the modernisation and further development of Israel’s infra-structure, e.g. road and railway construction, the enlargement of seaports and airports.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

Ruth Beckermann's Documentary "Zorro's Bar Mitzwa" - 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 had realised the compilation film “Arena Besetzt“ she founded the film distributing company “filmladen” in 1978, where she was active for seven years. In this period her early films and books were created. Beckermann’s splendid documentaries include “East of War“, “A Fleeting Passage to the Orient“, “Return to Vienna“ and “Paper Bridge“.

Her latest masterly work is the documentary “Zorro’s Bar Mitzva“, which has been a box office hit in Vienna since mid-December. Beckermann accompanied four 12-year-olds of Jewish origin during their preparations for the bar mitzva, the Jewish initiation ritual into the world of grown-ups. The sensitive and humorous film does not only show the difficulties of young people in growing up and maturing but also those the parents have with their offspring. Moreover, the documentary gives insight into the vibrant Jewish culture and tradition in Vienna.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

Kramer Prize Goes Postumously To Austrian Exile Author Jakov Lind

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

Jakov Lind was born into an Eastern Jewish family in Vienna in 1927. In 1938 the pupil of the Jewish grammar school in Vienna and his younger sister escaped to Holland with the help of a refugee organisation. He found refuge with a family and prepared himself for a future life in Palestine. After the Nazis occupied the Netherlands, Lind went underground with forged documents in Germany. As Jan Gerrit Overbeek he signed up on a Rhine towboat in 1943. He survived the war in Hamburg. After the war he held various jobs and tried to become an actor in Israel and Vienna. In 1954 he went to London. In 1962 he published his book “Soul of Wood“, which was enthusiastically acclaimed in the English-speaking countries, where he was compared to Kafka and Beckett. The German critics remained reserved, obviously not coming to terms with Lind’s perspective of an “almost boisterous joker“ (Marcel Reich-Ranicki) not assuming the victim’s role.

In 1966 he published the grotesque allegory “Eine bessere Welt“. “Ergo“, the stage adaptation of the book, was successfully premiered in New York in 1968. In 1997 the play was for the first time performed in German language at Vienna’s Volkstheater. In “The Trip to Jerusalem“ (1972) he criticised official Zionism. In 1997 Lind received the Golden Medal of Honour of the City of Vienna.

© Federal Chancellery Austria


Universal Artist Gerhard Bronner Was The "Conscience Of Austria”

Cabaret artist, composer and writer Gerhard Bronner from Vienna died aged 84 in a hospital in Vienna on 19 January 2007 after having suffered a stroke some days earlier. He had had a decisive impact on the Vienna’s musical cabaret in the post-war period. On New Year’s Eve he had still performed at Theater Akzent in Vienna, presenting a mix of famous cabaret songs, such as “Der G’schupfte Ferdl“ or “Der Papa wird’s schon richten“ (previously interpreted by Helmut Qualtinger, one of the heavyweights of this genre).

Born in Vienna’s working class district Favoriten in 1922, he had to flee from the Nazis to Palestine in 1938. He returned to Vienna in 1948, worked as an entertainer and pianist in Marietta Bar, which he bought in 1955. It became a springboard for many artistic careers, e.g. of Georg Kreisler, Louise Martini, Peter Alexander and Helmut Qualtinger.

The artist was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art and the Nestroy Ring of the City of Vienna. He recorded more than 60 long-playing records. In addition, he wrote scores of more than 120 TV entertainments and 2,000 radio programmes, e.g. the popular series “Guglhupf“ – created jointly with Peter Wehle – and “Schlager für Fortgeschrittene“. His achievements include the translations of US musicals (“My Fair Lady“, “Alexis Sorbas“ and “Cabaret“) and new versions of classical operettas, such as “The Bat” based on Johann Strauß for Covent Garden Opera in London. In 2004 he published his memoirs “Spiegel vorm Gesicht“. In 2005 he created together with Elfriede Ott “Noch immer – schon wieder“ at Stadttheater in Walfischgasse in Vienna, which became a highlight in Vienna’s tradition of witty cabaret programmes. Ott now delivered a touching speech at his funeral.

Gerhard Bronner was the father of four children, among them Oscar Bronner, the co-founder and editor of the magazine “profil“ and the daily “Der Standard“.

Numerous politicians mourn Bronner. Chancellor Gusenbauer described him as the “artistic conscience of Austria. He was a fierce critic of the dark sides of the Austrian history, of which he had been a victim”. Former Secretary of State for Art Franz Morak considered Bronner the “Prometheus bringing irony into Austria’s reality of the 1950s and 1960s“. His cabaret songs became part of “the repertoire of popular culture“. Minister for Culture Claudia Schmied referred to his death as an “irreplaceable loss”. In their obituaries Vienna’s Mayor Michael Häupl and City Councillor Andreas Mailath-Pokorny explained Gerhard Bronner’s “ambivalent relation“ to Vienna, as it was no longer possible for him to feel at home in this city.

Gerhard Bronner was buried in a tomb of honour of the City of Vienna on 26 January 2007. Among the mourners was Federal President Heinz Fischer, who gave a moving speech.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

Vienna Urania: Symposium On “Art Looting And Restitution"

At the symposium “Art Looting and Restitution“ experts discussed the practice and future of art restitution at Urania in Vienna on 18 January 2007.  It is hardly foreseeable when research on the provenance (history of ownership) of works of art and restitution will be concluded, stated restitution researcher and co-organiser Michael Wladika.

Among the subjects discussed was provenance research at the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), where the provenance of 420 objects of art or 20% of the acquisitions of the NS period was still not determined. According to Monika Mayer, provenance researcher at Öster-reichische Galerie, currently the status of about 600 paintings and sculptures is still unclear. Hannah Lessing presented the art database of the National Fund for the Victims of National Socialism, which was launched in October 2006 and contains about 8,000 objects of art. One half comes from federal museums and the second half from museums of the City of Vienna.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

Austria "Deeply Affected " By Death Of Teddy Kollek

The legendary former mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, died at 95 in Jerusalem on 2 January 2007. The Old Austrian born in Hungary and raised in Vienna occupied the city’s top position for almost thirty years (1965 to 1993). He had been re-elected six times. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hailed Kollek as the “builder of modern Jerusalem“. One of his main concerns had been to promote the peaceful coexistence of Jews and Arabs in the city. This was also the mission of the “Jerusalem Foundation“ founded by him.

Kollek was laid to rest in a state funeral on Herzlberg in Jerusalem on 4 January 2007. Besides Kollek’s family and thousands of mourners from Israel and all over the world, President Moshe Katzav, Prime Minister Olmert as well as numerous ministers participated in the ceremony. Austria was represented by Secretary of State for Art and Media Franz Morak.

Teddy Kollek was born as the son of a banker in the village Nagyvaszony near Budapest on 27 May 1911. His father named him after the founder of Zionism Theodor Herzl. He spent his childhood and youth in Vienna, where he soon joined the Zionist youth group “Blau-Weiß”. In 1935, three years before the “annexation” of Austria to Nazi Germany, he emigrated with his family to Palestine, which at the time was under a British mandate. During WWII. Kollek was performing intelligence missions in Europe to save Jews from NS annihilation. In 1965 the Social Democrat became mayor of Jerusalem for 28 years, whose eastern part, including the historic city centre, was conquered by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967. His right-wing Conservative opponent Olmert succeeded him in this office in 1993. In the same year Kollek was awarded a honorary doctorate of the University of Vienna, in 2001 the City of Vienna granted him the honorary citizenship.

Austria reacted deeply affected to Kollek’s death. In his words of condolence to Kollek’s family Federal Chancellor Schüssel expressed “deep mourning and respect” for the deceased. “With Teddy Kollek’s death not only the life of an extraordinary person and politician has come to an end but also part of the Israeli-Austrian history. Unlike any other, Kollek symbolised the eventful past of the two countries as well as the unsparing efforts to achieve understanding and reconciliation”, Schüssel reminded of the commitment of Kollek, who had been born in Old Austria. Secretary of State Morak described Kollek as “an important and eminent politician and bridge builder. Teddy Kollek has rendered a great service by establishing relations between Austria and Israel“, said Morak. Kollek had always stayed in contact with his former home country. In the past few years cultural cooperation had been intensified, e.g. in the context of the Chamber Music Festival or the Herzl Museum. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn praised the meritorious service of Kollek to exchanges between Christians and Jews and reminded of the fact that the restitution of the Austrian Hospice to the Catholic Church was “mainly an achievement of Kollek”. Deep mourning was also expressed by the Jewish Religious Communities in Austria.

“He was a great man, a great conciliator, somebody who did not know hatred”, Vienna’s ex-mayor Helmut Zilk paid homage to his deceased former counterpart. He was proud to have succeeded in reconciling Kollek with Vienna and to have been his friend. Kollek had paid several visits to Vienna and had been a honorary citizen of the federal capital. In 2006 Zilk received the Teddy Kollek Prize for meritorious service to the City of Jerusalem. Vienna’s incumbent Mayor Michael Häupl and SPÖ leader Alfred Gusenbauer were alsod deeply shocked by his death. With Teddy Kollek the world lost a “truly great human being and exemplary politician who had made untiring efforts to bring about peace between the Jews and Arabs“, said Häupl. As a “great humanist”, Kollek had stood for credibility, solidarity and justice, emphasised Gusenbauer.

© Federal Chancellery Austria