“Expedition from Herzl to Hakoah”

Der Standard (05/19/2008)

Vienna is Jewish; Vienna was always Jewish and Vienna will also always be linked with Jewish history

Whoever does his shopping on a Saturday at Karmelitermarkt in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt district notices that Vienna, as we know it today, is clearly defined by Jewish history and tradition. Whether Orthodox Jews with black hats and sidelocks are discussing on the corner or whether names such as Café “Tachles,” located not far from Karmeliterplatz, remind one of Jewish culture…..

In her book entitled, Jewish Vienna, Expedition from Herzl to Hakoah, Birgit Schwaner offers an overview of life in a city whose citizens are frequently unaware of the fact that the “Masl” and the Haberer,” of which one so often talks about, is derived from the Hebrew “masol” (lucky star) and “havarim” (friend).

History and the First “Viennese Gesera”
In Jewish Vienna, the author touches upon many areas of history and of people who were repeatedly invited to Vienna to serve the princes of the City or to stimulate commercial transport, only later to be expelled under false pretenses.  

Beginning approximately with the middle of the 13th Century, the Babenberger wanted to revive trade and made it easy for Jews from the Rheinland and Bohemia, who had once been expelled from Vienna, to return. There where today the Jewish Museum is located once flourished a unique, segregated “Jewish city,” which contained a hospital, a kosher butcher, ritual baths and a meeting house.

The first expulsion of the Jews from Vienna took place between 1420 and 1421. Reasons for the pogrom – sometimes referred to as “Gesera,” meaning “fate or persecution” in Hebrew - was based upon a collective claim against Jews as serving as enemies of the Catholic Church. Many of the Viennese Jews were either set out to sea -  in this case the Danube - on boats without a rudder or were forced to undergo baptism. Thousands committed suicide in the synagogue in order to avoid being baptized.

A Lively Jewish City
The fact that what is Jewish Vienna today can be found mainly in the 2nd district is illustrated by numerous contributions, such as articles on the Sports Club Hakoah, which takes on a new home in the form of a sports center. The association, which was founded in 1909 under the highly promising name of “Strength” and held in high esteem before WW II because of its international success, was forbidden in 1941.

Back at Karmelitermarkt, Saturday shoppers again and again “come across” brass plates which offer insight into aryanized stands. The path of remembrance winding through Leopoldstadt commemorates the biographies of Viennese Jews, who were either expelled from their homes or murdered during the Third Reich.

Beginning with Tempelgasse, Birgit Schwaner’s book relates some thirty different places of Jewish history as a fascinating expedition through Jewish Vienna.