As the year 2004 draws to a rapid close, let me point out some Austrian highlights of the past months. The long-awaited visit of President Moshe Katzav took place in October. He met with Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and was the first foreign dignitary to encounter the newly sworn-in Austrian Foreign Minister, Ursula Plassnik.
A month earlier the President of the Knesset, Reuven Rivlin, also came to Austria and held talks with the President of the National Council, Andreas Khol.
The Washington Post* published an exclusive interview with the Secretary General of the Austrian National Fund, Hannah Lessing, who began disbursing additional money to each victim of the National Socialist Regime.
Read about a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian youth in an Austrian Peace Camp, and the work of two Austrian scientists who are currently researching the life of one of the greatest cabaret artists, Fritz Grünbaum.
You will also find an obituary on the great Austrian resistance fighter, Carl Szokoll, who died last July. The Museum of Ethnology is exhibiting the collection of Eugenie Goldstern who tried to abolish - through her work - the traditional difference between the notions "primitive" and "civilized."
Vienna is planning another large Holocaust Memorial on the Aspang grounds; Die Presse interviewed the head of the Israelite Religious Community in Vienna, Ariel Muzicant; and the European Council adopted a recommendation for the fight against anti-Semitism.
Austrian Press and Information Service
*It is uncustomary for this publication of media coverage to include news sources other than those from Austria. However, due to the importance of the matter, we have decided to make an exception this time
For Holocaust Families, Restitution and Reconnection
Washington Post (11/24/04)
Hannah M. Lessing describes herself as a recovering banker with a mission. For 10 years, she has been secretary general of Austria's National Fund and General Settlement Fund, organizations that investigate restitution claims by victims of the Nazi Holocaust.
Lessing, an outgoing 41-year-old with raven hair, started out with five employees. Her staff is now 110.
When she started in 1995, her organizations had a fund of $210 million, authorized by the Austrian National Assembly. Money has been added since then, and she has devised investment options to keep generating income and create a self-sustaining operation.
Lessing says her staff has investigated 180,000 claims. The victims she has sought out have included not only surviving Jews but also gypsies, orphans who were placed in homes for delinquents, people who were abused in scientific studies and homosexuals.
She travels to the United States, Israel, Europe, Argentina and other countries, reaching out to survivors and encouraging them to stay in touch with her Vienna staff. She said her work is repeated catharsis. Tears and effort notwithstanding, she said, the quest to address Austria's past ambivalence about Nazi cruelties almost seems like a wish come true.
Over the years, her databank has helped cousins reunite and long-lost childhood friends locate one another.
When she makes contact, some survivors shun any ties to Austria, rebuffing efforts for symbolic compensation. Others embrace gestures of healing from a once-irreplaceable homeland, drawing comfort from cultural connections.
"Some just do not want to have anything to do with Austria or make peace with it. Others call late at night wanting to chat about how to make apfelstrudel," she said.
Of 4,500 claimants in Israel, only 3,200 are alive, Lessing said. In the United States, almost everybody has been located.
"The older they get, it is long-term memory and nostalgia that stays; short-term memory goes," Lessing said in an interview last week. "Some have died; others are in their late nineties."
In her passport, Lessing keeps a 1999 letter from a man who lost 55 members of his family in 1939. He wanted to find a cousin he believed had escaped, as he did, when they were children. Regi S. was found and told of her relative, Kurt T.
She got in touch with him immediately.
"You gave me back my family," the man wrote to Lessing. "In case you go knocking on heaven's door, take this letter with you. They will let you in without further ado."
Lessing is the descendant of Holocaust victims. Her father fled Vienna at age 16, immigrating to Palestine in 1939. He left behind his mother, 50, and grandmother, 94, who were killed in Auschwitz in October 1944. Her father returned to Austria in 1947.
He blamed himself for the deaths, Lessing said. "Every survivor child's dream is to make it up to the parents. I often dreamed I could find my grandmother and bring her home to my dad," she said.
One Thousand Euros for Each Victim
Die Presse (09/09/04)
The National Fund will Compensate Those Who Lost Rental Property with 1,000 Euros Each
Vienna - The curators of the National Fund cleared the way for an additional payment in the amount of 1,000 Euro to be paid out to each victim of the National Socialist regime. In 2001 the Fund declared a sum of 150 million dollars to be paid out as compensation for the loss of rental property and personal effects. About 20,000 claimants received 7,000 dollars each. Out of the 21 million dollars remaining, each claimant will receive an additional 1,000 Euro.
Hannah Lessing, Secretary General of the National Fund, will begin disbursing the payments this year. It will not be necessary to submit an application. All claimants or heirs of claimants will be contacted through correspondence. According to Lessing, her colleagues from the Fund will try to give the oldest claimants preference when processing payments.
In Dachau at a Summer Resort
Die Presse (10/11/2004)
The Theater Museum Displays an Exhibit on Fritz Grünbaum in 2005
A Researcher of Theater and an Historian Take on the Biography of the Great Cabaret Artist
Karl Farkas explains to Fritz Grünbaum the meaning of Albert Einstein: "Alright, listen - Einstein said, time and space are relative concepts." Grünbaum: "To whom did he say that? You?" Farkas: "No!! In general, he said that everything is relative. For example, sit down nude for one minute over a glowing burner on the stove." Grünbaum: "It would never occur to me in my wildest of dreams!" Farkas: "But, only as an example!" Grünbaum: "For example, you sit down! I’m not such an idiot!"
"Conversation About Einstein" is the title of one of the episodes that Fritz Grünbaum and Karl Farkas staged in the Simpl. The two became acquainted in 1921: As a person sitting in the audience at the Cabaret, Simplizissimus, Grünbaum tried to rattle the master of poetry improvization, Farkas, by interjecting comments. He counterattacked him; suddenly the two outbid each other in a witty exchange of blows and the dual began.
In April of 2005, Fritz Grünbaum’s birthday will be celebrated for the 125th time. It will be an occasion for the historian, Marie-Theres Arnbom and Christoph Wagner-Trenkwitz, to become involved with the cabaret artist, librettist of the operetta and revues, script writer and actor. In a project of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), they want to reconstruct Grünbaum’s life and sift through his works. "First of all, we canvassed the archives - not only in Austria, but in many different places where one can find traces of Grünbaum: In Brünn, where he was born, in Wien, where he studied, in Berlin, where he spent a number of years, and in Karlsbad, where he frequently played in guest performances," said Arnbom. And one finds something rather astounding - in Brünn, he had founded an association of artists and had invited Arthur Schnitzler to his reading. In the Mährisch-schlesischer Korrespondent (Moravian-Silesian Correspondent), we found a review stating that the ladies from Brünn apparently came to see not so much the poet but the handsome man. And the review also comments that he read rather half-heartedly."
Records from the archives of censorship belonging to the office of the Governor of Lower Austria, which are kept today in the archives there, reveal: "Any texts that were to be presented on stage for the first time had to first be censored. Expressions such as ‘lower classes of people’ were not allowed, or ‘Franzl Prohaska,’ the pseudonym for Kaiser Franz Josef, was crossed out.
Also photos, textbooks on operettas, theater and cabaret repertoire were discovered by the two researchers. The idea is a big Grünbaum exhibit in the Theatermuseum. "Moreover, we want to help make Grünbaum’s work popular again. We hope to do this by staging two evenings in the Volksoper, which show a cross section of Grünbaum’s works - from operettas, like Dollar Princess set to music by Leo Fall, and from songs to his rhymed monologues. The high point of the evening is the comeback of Karlheinz Hackl, who together with Heinz Marecek, will perform some verbal exchanges. And the Austrian Film Archive will do a film retrospective. Grünbaum acted in as many as ten films.
As Arnbom claims, it is not easy to reconstruct what Grünbaum left behind since he had no children, and after his death in the Dachau concentration camp, everything he had was dispersed throughout the world. Also the whereabouts of his extensive art collection is uncertain. At least two Schiele are going to be part of the the exhibit: "The Dead City," and "Two Girls Embracing."
Arnbom has preoccupied herself considerably with Grünbaum’s time spent in the concentration camp: "Grünbaum, who forever was making fun of the Nazis in his performances, was clearly hated by them. They literally tortured him to death. One survivor described how Grünbaum was forced to lie on the floor with his tongue sticking out while German soldiers wiped their boots on it until it was a bloody clump of flesh."
Despite the atrocious conditions in the concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald, Grünwald never lost his humor. :"He always organized cabaret evenings and entertained his fellow sufferers for a few untroubled hours." The exhibition will also show a poster, which the historian, Gerald Stourzh, has called attention to: "In July 1938 there was an exhibit in Vienna entitled, "The Eternal Jew." The poster shows photos of Jewish inmates in concentration camps, among which is Fritz Grünbaum. At the bottom it states: Jews and Jewish Laborers in Dachau at a Summer Resort. "That is gruesome," said Arnbom.
The two researchers have another goal: "We want that a commemorative plaque be erected at Grünbaum’s place of birth in Brünn. Currently a branch of McDonald’s occupies the house...."
Austrian Theater Museum: Exhibit from February 2 - May 5, 2005 (www.theatermuseum.at); Volksoper Wien: "Grüß mich Gott!" (Greet me God!) Grünbaum Evening on February 13 and 17, 2005 (www.volksoper.at); Retrospective in the Metro Cinema (www.filmarchiv.at).
"The Others Aren’t Just Figures Made of Wood"
Der Standard (10/09/04)
In an Austrian "Peace Camp" Israeli and Palestinian Youth Worked Toward a Perspective Living Together without Violence
"You learned that wrong in school," reported Mike Moffat, a Jewish participant of the Peace Camp on the tone of discussions between Jews and Palestinians which suddenly could have ended abruptly. "At the beginning, it was very difficult to understand the other side," confirms Dima Khoury, a Palestinian participant.
The often fully diverse interpretations of history and years of living in fear and insecurity have hardened the fronts in the Middle East conflict. Some 103 youth from both sides now had the possibility of meeting each other in the Döbriacher Friedenscamp organized by the Austrian Kinderfreunde in a neutral atmosphere. The goal: To offer the young generation the possibility of meeting their "arch-enemies" peacefully and with tolerance.
War of Children
The youth camp is part of an initiative that is urgently necessary for resolving the bloody Middle East conflict. "Young people from both sides are tired of having to live with this conflict," reports the project’s director, Daniele Pruner. Under-aged suicide bombers on the Palestinian side and young female soldiers in the Israeli Army: The conflict surrounding the "Holy Land" is, above all, also a war of children.
A New Generation
" The strength of the project lies in having the opportunity to confront a new generation with the idea of a peaceful youth," writes Daniele Pruner, the hostess of Kinderfreunde, and that is the intention behind the initiative made up of seven socialist youth organizations in Israel, Palestina, Great Britain and Austria - some 103 young people in the ages of 15 and 25 overcame their prejudice and came to the camp in Döbriach, Austria.
Palestinians from West Jordan met Jewish and Arab Israelis. Palestinians from the Gaza Strip failed to overcome the hurdles of bureaucracy in leaving the security zone; in other words, they were not granted permission to travel outside the region. Also those who were allowed to leave were confronted with a long road ahead. The youth from West Jordan had to pass six checkpoints until they finally, after two days of travel, arrived at the Jordanian capital of Amman, in order to fly from there to Austria.
Difficulties in Getting to Know One Another
During the first few days, there was great insecurity on both sides, said the young Palestinian, Dima Khoury. "After I got to know the others, it was a wonderful experience." Through discussions, games and mediation, one tried to break down the prejudice. There was one particular issue these young people were unable to agree upon: The Palestinian refugees’ right of return. "The days spent in the camp have completely changed my attitude," claimed Mike Moffat. "We came here as enemies and left as friends."
In the coming years, the youth organization, Kinderfreunde, wishes to repeat the project. The financing is lacking, claimed the Secretary General of the group’s umbrella organization, Uwe Ostendorff. He accuses politics of hypocrisy. Politicians officially support the peace process, but when it concerns supporting concrete projects, it is lacking. Nonetheless, there is no lack of commitment, ideas and will in order to carry on with the project.
"This project can represent only a first step towards people understanding one another," knows Daniela Pruner. "But we believe that peace in the Middle East is possible and viable." This is a commitment that David Ben Gurion, founder of the State of Israel, surely would have admired. Because from him comes the phrase: "He who in Israel doesn't believe in miracles is not a realist!"
Vienna Plans a Large Holocaust Memorial
Die Presse (11/25/04)
Vienna is planning to erect a memorial on the Aspang grounds for 60,000 people deported by the NS regime. City Councilor Schicker says he doesn’t want a "stele landscape like in Berlin."
Vienna - It is to be a memorial "that gives back the deported their names - which will be an enormous challenge, when considering that there were 60,000." The project, announced by Vienna’s head of municipal planning, Rudolf Schicker, during an interview with Die Presse, will occupy the grounds of the former Aspang Railway Station in the Landstraße.
The first step will be to organize an international architecture competition in 2005, says Schicker. At the present time the Aspang grounds is a huge abandoned area, which is to become a new residential project called "Eurogate" housing 13,000 people. This new urban area will have as its entrance a memorial commemorating those deported. Between 1939 and 1942, some forty-seven trains filled largely with Austrian Jews left this place. Currently there is only a small plaque, along with the square renamed "Square of the Victims of Deportation" in 1995.
Schicker hopes for a "modern, attractive solution that doesn’t insult anyone." Since the surface area has a slight upward slope to it, one could certainly develop something "visually aesthetic."
Railroad Tracks will be Integrated
Schicker doesn’t think that the project will evoke the emotional discussion like the memorial did in Berlin: "The result will certainly not be a stele landscape as in Berlin." What is certain is that the original tracks of the Aspang Railway Station will be integrated into the memorial. Also, another idea is to disply a railway car from that time.
Schicker hopes to be able to gain the approval of all of the parties so that the project can get underway. Time is of the essence: "There is the danger that those who survived the deportation will not live to see the memorial." During the coming months Schicker plans to establish a committee of proponents of the idea.
Initial consultations and agreements are already underway: The Israelite Religious Community is also included, said their president, Ariel Muzicant. The Secretary General, Avshalom Hodik, believes, that the deportation should be "visualized" and integrated into the concept. He doesn’t support Schicker’s idea to chisel all of the names of the deported into stone since this idea was already used in the memorial on the Judenplatz in Vienna: "That’s sufficient."
Contributors to the project will also be the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance. The newly appointed director, Brigitte Bailer-Galanda, supports such a memorial for Vienna: "It is the ideal and right place for it." She has, however, some personal doubts as to the project’s financing: "After having financed the memorial designed by Rachel Whiteread on the Judenplatz, I can’t really imagine that the City of Vienna will finance a second Holocaust memorial.
As to the financing Schicker, himself, wants to deal with the Federal Government, which has other financial worries on the horizon: Private investors will be sought for 2005, the year of the big jubilee?. Generating more money for a memorial could be difficult, says Schicker: "I hope it works."
There is another project which is surely easier to make happen: In 2007 a new junior- and senior high school is to be erected next to the square bordering the Aspang grounds, and it will be named Aaron Meczer: The Jewish teacher gave tremendous support to children during the deportation and in the concentration camps until the day of his assassination.
President Rivlin: Visit is a Gesture of Friendship
Austrian Press Agency (APA) (09/07/04)
President of the Knesset Speaking with Parliamentarians
Vienna - As President of the Knesset, Reuven Rivlin characterized his official visit to Austria as a "gesture of friendship." He sees in Austria an "honest broker" in the relationship between Israel and the European Union as well as in the politics of the Middle East. Rivlin also spoke positively of how Austria dealt with its dark National Socialist past and paid special tribute to its fight against anti-Semitism. Austria has been exemplary and can serve as a model for other countries.
Rivlin’s talks with members of the Committee on Foreign Realtions, following his meeting with President of the National Council Khol, took place in a very open atmosphere.
When speaking to the parliamentarians, Rivlin also defended the building of the Sicherheitswall (security fence/wall), which, as the president emphasized, has proven to be very effective against terrorist attacks. Israel committed itself to the decision of building the wall after considerable hesitation; the wall is, [however], necessary in protecting the Israeli people from terrorism. Protection of its people is "not only the right of the State of Israel but its duty," concluded Rivlin.
Rivlin commented in depth on the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis and the standpoint of the Israeli government regarding their relationship. No one in Israel wants war, he said; on the contrary, everyone yearns for peace. One prerequisite for implementing the "Road Map," on which there are varying standpoints, is ending fanaticism and terrorism.
The president of the Israeli parliament underlined that terrorism cannot be limited to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; rather it is now occurring globally and must be combated, such as the terrible killing of Russian school children.
In conclusion, Rivlin expressed particular appreciation for the work of the Austrian Ambassador in Israel and hoped for further strengthening of the good bilateral relationship.
"The Impression of a Deep Friendship"
Der Standard (10/21/04)
(taken from APA, red)
Words of Praise on the Second Day of Israeli President Katzav’s Visit
During his meeting with Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, Moshe Katzav appealed to the EU to make aid to the Palestinians dependent on the condition thatterrorist threats against Israel come to a stop.
Vienna - During his meeting with Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, the Israeli President, Moshe Katzav, underlined the importance of his visit to Austria. From the talks with Austrian top leaders, he received the impression that there was a "deep friendship" between the two countries.
There will always be differences, but misunderstanding must be avoided, emphasized Katzav in his speech following a working luncheon given by Schüssel at the Federal Chancellery. The source of many problems between Austria and Israel has not been due to a lack of friendship, but much more due to misunderstanding, said Katzav.
Prevention, Not Retaliation
The Israeli president apologized for the Palestinians who were civilian victims of the fight against terror. "I am very sorry, and I apologize that civilians, women and children have lost their lives. Those are accidents; they are never a reason for attack." Palestinian terrorists hide among the civil population, rockets are fired at Israel from housing complexes, and Israel has to defend itself. Military assaults are not intended as retaliation but for reasons of prevention.
Katzav appealed to the European countries to make their economic and political support of the Palestinians dependent on their ending the terror directed toward Israeli civilians. "It must be made clear to the extremists that under no circumstances does the free world accept terrorism." The Palestinian President, Yassir Arafat, has possibilities for stopping the Palestinian terror. "But he doesn’t do it. His own head of government has complained that terror is a catastrophe for the Palestinian society."
Federal Chancellor Schüssel spoke of an historic visit. The State of Israel is a State like no other, emphasized the Federal Chancellor. The realization of Theodor Herzl’s vision guaranteed that the "monstrosities committed during the Holocaust can never happen again." Schüssel underlined that Israel and Europe shared the same basic principles, the same rules of law and the same philosophy.
"This is a special meeting on a special day," characterized the new Foreign Minister, Ursula Plassnik, coming together with Katzav in Vienna. Plassnik had been sworn in only a few hours previously. A first-time meeting with Katzav had been her absolute "wish" on that day. "The relationship to the countries of the Middle East will represent a focal point of my foreign policy agenda." Also, the EU has an interest in peace and stability in the Middle East, added Plassnik.
Austria has very good relations to the countries in the region, offering diverse experience and understanding of the problems confronting them. Plassik was happy that the relationship between Austria and Israel has become normalized. The relationship between the two countries was often embittered - lastly due to the Austrian Freedom Party’s (FPÖ) participation in the Schüssel government in year 2000. The relationship that Israel had degraded at the time was again restored to the diplomatic level in 2003.
Moreover, Plassnik pledged "to deal with the past in a responsible manner by living up to the standards Austria has set and continues to set in order to satisfy its historical responsibility." Together with Federal President Heinz Fischer and Minister of the Interior Ernst Strasser, Katzav visited the former concentration camp of Mauthausen.
Muzicant’s Praise for Ferrero-Waldner and Haupt
Die Presse (10/23/04)
Michael Fleischhacker and Rainer Novak
Following the visit of Israeli President Katzav, Ariel Muzicant, head of the Israelite Religious Community (IKG), explains why he is again on speaking terms with the government. And he speaks about Europe’s hostility to Israel.
Die Presse: Israeli President Katzav paid a visit to Vienna. Can this be interpreted as reconciliation with Austria?
Ariel Muzicant: We, of the Religious Community, initiated and engineered this visit. President Katzav was in Vienna because in January I had asked him to come. Today we are like little children, happy that it went so well and that the shambles could be repaired. That is sensational when one considers how the basis of discussion was four years ago.
Apparently it is the first time that you and Wolfgang Schüssel speak with each other again after a long time.
Muzicant: We have met on a number of occasions. I have a number of things which I would like to discuss with the new Foreign Minister as well as with the Federal Chancellor. For example, the topic of Turkey. The Jewish World Congress and the European Congress are very interested that one not alienate Turkey. We consider the threat by extreme Islamists as immanent. The real Christian-Jewish world must understand what is happening with terrorism.
You support Turkey’s membership in the EU: Should Israel one day also join the European Union?
Muzicant: Yes, it would be good. But Israel will not be able to enter the European Union as long as the conflict with the Palestinians has not been resolved.
That was the topic of discussion with President Katzav...
Muzicant: The Israelis made a very bad mistake over the last twenty years by having given Europe the cold shoulder. Katzav is the first Israeli statesman who has said: "We must fight for the heads and hearts of Europe." One mustn’t condemn Israel because of its wall. It might be that the wall was built in the wrong place. The fact is, however, that it has saved the lives of hundreds of Israelis.
But the wall has been built in the wrong place.
Muzicant: Alright. But, actually, the topic is the wall and not where it was built. The Israelis would be condemned, no matter where they had built the wall.
That’s, however, an hypothesis. Israel built it on land that was annexed. Israel’s need for protection is, however, a matter recognized by everybody.
Muzicant: No, it isn’t. The Israelis say, ‘The line of ceasefire is a line of ceasefire. That is not a border recognized under international law. The Palestinians have never recognized this line. That is the reason there are, according to Israeli diction, disputed areas and not occupied areas.’ The fact is that the Supreme Court of Justice has forbidden building the wall at specific places, and the wall will be torn down and relocated in the direction of the line of ceasefire. We don’t move about in a state of lawlessness.
Do you believe that Europe is on the side of the Palestinians?
Muzicant: It is a fact that the majority of Americans see the conflict differently from the Europeans. Just look at a report by German or Austrian television and one by American television. Here, it is emphasized that during an assault on Hamas, an innocent child was killed. Every innocent child who has ever been killed is a catastrophe. But when the Palestinians consciously kill Israeli children for the reason that they could one day become soldiers, people find that, of course, abhorrent, but they are relativizing: The Israelis also are guilty of doing bad things.
Does Israel expect Europe to take on America’s position?
Muzicant: No. What the Israelis expect from the Europeans is that they force the Palestinians to stop the terror.
Does that mean withdrawing aid?
Muzicant: When the Europeans say to the Palestinians, ‘You have now six weeks time to catch all the terrorist groups and to see that terror comes to a stop. If not, then we will do A, B, C and D.’ That need not mean a sudden withdrawal of aid. But the Europeans must take the appropriate measures so that the Palestinians get the feeling that they mean it seriously. The Europeans, however, condemn terrorism and say at the same time,...’but.’
Do you sense from the discussions with the Federal Chancellor and the Foreign Minister that there is willingness on their part?
Muzicant: I was strongly impressed by Ferrero-Waldner. She didn’t always share the same opinion as we, but she has been extremely committed over the last one or two years. If there is a strong dynamic within the EU regarding this question - from Germany’s Joschka Fischer to Ursula Plassnik in Austria, and also Poland and Italy, then something can change.
What has changed? Where is the new change in wind coming from?
Muzicant: There is no change in wind. Diplomatic relations between Austria and Israel have been resumed - also, because the Jewish Community sent a report in 2002 explaining why diplomatic relations are important.
Wolfgang Schüssel was not your favorite partner at the conference table.
Muzicant: I will never approve of a coalition with Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ). I will always say that the FPÖ is made up of Mr. Strache, Mölzer and Stadler. But I will be wary of making any accusations against Herbert Scheibner or Ursula Haubner. I have not changed my position.
But was your personal relationship to the Chancellor difficult?
Muzicant: I am in a position where one must live with pragmatism. There are simply issues that have priority - such as questions regarding Turkey or the Middle East. I have worked out the question of kosher butchering with Minister Herbert Haupt. We can now go to other communities within Europe and say, ‘Look what kind of law we have here. You will find that in no other European country!’
As to the new climate of change. What about the unresolved questions accompanying restitution?
Muzicant: I assume that the questions regarding restitution will one day be resolved. Currently I am not carrying on any discussions on the topic of restitution.
European Council Adopts Recommendation For Fight Against Anti-Semitism
Austrian Press Agency (09/20/04)
No public funds for anti-Semitic organizations
Strasbourg/Brussels - The European Council’s Commission against racism and intolerance adopted recommendations to the governments of the member states for the fight against anti-Semitism. The governments of the European Council’s members should see to it that, according to law, organizations and parties which support anti-Semitism receive no public funding. Such organizations should lawfully be able to be dissolved, states the recommendation.
Applying to all countries of the European Council, people who deny or trirvialize the Holocaust should be punished. Anti-Semitism must also be tracked on the internet, on satellite television and "other modern means of communication." Police, lawyers and judges should be specifically trained to recognize crimes of an anti-Semitic nature. Victims of anti-Semitic assaults should be encouraged to file a report so that the case can be pursued. Educational programs against racism should be developed in all of the schools. For further information, see: http://www.coe.int/ecri
Funds Waiting for Legal Peace NS Compensation Is Making Progress
Wiener Zeitung (09/01/04)
The Claims Committee of the General Settlement Fund, responsible for compensating the loss of personal wealth of NS victims, announced having processed more than one hundred cases
Delay in disbursing the 210 million dollars worth of payments from the Fund has two reasons: First of all, the 20,000 applications are still being processed so that the money can be distributed fairly; secondly, there first has to be legal peace since two of the class action suits are still pending and must either no longer continue to be pursued or defeated.
The British lawyer, Sir Franklin Berman, Head of the Claims Committee, repudiated recent demands for an interim payment: "According to law an interim payment is not possible." In view of the claimants’ age, the three-head Committee - apart from Berman and Kurt Hofmann from Austria and recently Vivian Curran instead of Robert Rosenstock from the U.S. - is making strong efforts to accelerate the proceedings. Berman is clear: The funds can offer "nothing more than a piece" of justice.
Carl Szokoll (1915 - 2004)
Der Standard (08/27/04)
(taken from APA)
The Fight Against Hitler was Worth It
Vienna - Carl Szokoll is dead: Known as "Vienna’s Rescuer" while serving in the resistance against the Nazis, he died at the age of 89. "I have the feeling that our fight was worth it," said Szokoll in his last interview in July 2004. He worked as the contact man of Graf Stauffenberg, who toward the end of WW II tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
After the operation "Walküre" failed, Szokoll was in charge of leading a conspiracy in order to save Vienna. The military officer assembled "perjurers," banded together with the Resistance Group 05, and in April 1945 made a deal to cooperate with the Red Army by surrendering Vienna without a struggle. Under the pretenses of a fictitious command, the German Armed Forces were to withdraw, allowing the Red Army to march into the city, and with help of the Radetzky units, to arrange for a takeover in power. The operation, however, was disclosed, and leading officers were arrested and executed. Vienna was spared, however, from total destruction.
Szokoll survived as one of the few involved in the "Radetzky Operation" and worked after the war as a film producer and author. He wrote some of the script for the film, "The Last Act" (1955), in which Albin Skoda played Hitler.
Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel paid tribute to the resistance fighter calling him a "genuine hero," who "contributed considerably to the freedom of the Republic of Austria." Head of the Austrian Socialist Party Alfred Gusenbauer spoke of a "great Austrian." Federal President Heinz Fischer pointed out Szokoll’s commitment to freedom and democracy. Minister of Defense Günter Platter said: "Carl Szokoll has made a name for himself in maintaining the tradition of the Federal Armed Forces." The City of Vienna will thank him with an honorary gravesite. The spokeswoman for Judicial Affairs from the Green Party, Terezija Stoisits, asked for an official ceremony.
The Elementary in Culture
Die Presse (9/22/04)
The Museum of Ethnology is Finally Exhibiting the Collection of the Jewish Researcher, Eugenie Goldstern (1883-1942)
The cows and oxen are made out of branches. The forks of the branches stand for the horns, while the patterns of the hide are carved into the wood. A billy goat is made out of a toe bone and sheep out of the cones from a larch. In their simplicity and abstractness, the figures of animals appear archaic. They are not, however, cult objects from the Stone Age but rather children’s toys from the early 20th century, primarily from the western Alpine region. Some of these pieces are from the Eugenie Goldstern Collection, which the researcher had given or sold to the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna between 1911 and 1930.
The exhibit, "Ur-Ethnographie," is showing now for the first time the entire collection of 806 objects: Salt containers in the form of hens, sleds with animal bones as vats, wooden potatoe mashers - evidence from a modern but extensively untouched folk culture which Goldstern tracked down with skill and a systematic gaze into isolated mountain villages of Wallis, Graubünden and Savoyen. The exhibit emphasizes the comparative aspect by adding objects taken from other cultures, such as Africa and Asia.
At the beginning of the 20th century, ethnographers were "in search of the elementary in culture," as stated in the subheading of the exhibit. But the arrangement appears somewhat thrown together, as if one had quickly emptied out the stored-away boxes. The animal toys, the most important part of the collection, are crammed together into a single display case. The correlation between object and description is somewhat for puzzle fanatics, as if while assembling the exhibit, it had to go fast. The catalogue offers little more than the list of objects.
With this exhibit, the Museum of Ethnology makes - if somewhat late - amends with the past. But the exhibit certainly could have been a bit more direct and self-critical.
In 1905 the Goldstern family, Jewish business people from Odessa, fled to Vienna from the pogroms during the times of the Russian Czar. As a woman with a Russian matura, Eugenie was able to enroll as a student at the University of Vienna with the status of auditor, and finally in 1920 she received her Ph.D. in Fribourg, Switzerland. She began her field work in 1912, and during the winter of 1913/14, she spent time living in a stall, side by side with livestock and dwellers from Bessans in Savoyen. Her work on the French mountain village is considered one of the first monographs on a community.
After 1924 Goldstern stopped publishing, and at the end of the 20s, she stopped her field research and withdrew totally. On June 14, 1942, she was deported from Vienna and assassinated in the Polish concentration camp of Izbica. Michael Haberlandt was founder of the Museum; his son, Arthur Haberlandt, was the museum’s director from 1924 to 1945. As a staunch Nazi, he broke all ties with Goldstern beginning in the 1930s.
Since 1929 the researcher who, during the times of inflation at the beginning of the 1920s, had supported the Museum with a considerable sum from her own dowry, was no longer registered as a member of the Vienna Association for Ethnology. One would have gladly learned from the exhibit the kind of ethnology carried out during the two world wars and for what reason the research contributed by Goldstern, who originally studied with Michael Haberlandt, was refused a place in the museum.
Goldstern wanted to abolish the traditional difference between the civilized and the "primitive" by proving the existence of "simple" cultures in the heart of Europe. This comparative contribution renounced value judgements and hierarchies. Instead, the Museum looked to prove the superiority of the "Germanic race."
Yiddish Theater of Montreal in Vienna
Informationen aus Österreich (Nr. 18/04)
For the last ten years, Yiddish Theater has been playing in Vienna. During its 10th anniversary, the Yiddish Theater of Montreal gave a performance of the musical "Anatevka" from November 9 - 14, 2004, in Akzent Theater. The music was composed by Joseph Stein and Jerry Brock and the script, based on Schalom Lejehem’s "Tevje, der Milchige," was written by Sheldon Harnick.
The enchanting and touching performance was performed in Yiddish with German translation dubbed in simultaneously.