The year 2005 is one of remembrance for Austria and the whole world. Sixty years after the liberation of the concentration camps we mourn the loss of millions of innocent lives and strive to instill in our youth - we are down to the fourth post-war generation - an understanding of history combined with a sense of responsibility and justice.
The current issue includes two articles on this topic: A speech by the Austrian State Secretary for Art and the Media delivered to the 28th Special Session of the General Assembly; and an interview with three survivors of Auschwitz.
Three articles are dedicated to different forms of NS resistance, including a discussion of historians on whether deserting the flag should be considered an act of resistance.
You will find three articles on the official front: Austria bestowed the citizenship upon a Rabbi from New York; the Israeli Minister for Jerusalem and the Jewish Diaspora visited Vienna; and the Vienna Hofburg opened its doors to about one hundred former Viennese.
The French philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut, gave an interview to Die Presse on the dangers of a multicultural Europe and a new form of anti-Semitism, which he calls anti-racist anti-Semitism.
Read about an innovative memorial at the Jewish cemetery in Krems; an exhibit on the life of a 19th century cantor; a high-level panel discussion on restitution of stolen art organized at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C.; a new, virtual TV documentary on "Austria - the Second Republic;" and finally, a play by an Israeli dramatist staged in Linz, Austria.
Austrian Press and Information Service
Speech by Austrian State Secretary for Art and the Media Heinz Morak to the 28th Special Session of the UN General Assembly
Die Presse (01/24/05)
Elie Wiesel reminded us that we must speak out so that the world listens, that we must speak out so that the world learns. Sixty years ago the victims of Auschwitz were waiting in vain for the world to speak out. This must never happen again.
Sixty years ago when the Allied troops entered the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau and other death camps, the world was shocked by the atrocities that came to light. Mankind’s understanding of history and of the degree of evil human beings are capable of has never been the same since.
Since then, the day of liberation of the concentration camp, January 27, has been a day of commemoration and a reminder: Auschwitz, the largest extermination and concentration camp has become a symbol for the Holocaust and many nations commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz with a special Holocaust remembrance day.
This commemorative Special Session of the General Assembly of the world organization, that was founded to prevent the reoccurrence of such monumental crimes, is of particular importance. Austria has actively supported the holdings of this Special session. We thank the Secretary General for his efforts to make this possible.
Standing here as a representative of Austria, I feel two emotions - the agony of knowing that our country lost so many of its Jewish citizens to the Holocaust, and the pain of realizing that far too many Austrians took part in this greatest of all crimes.
More than 65,000 Austrian Jews were killed by the National Socialist regime. They were deported to places of unspeakable horror, where, we must admit, some of their neighbors might have marched them into gas chambers, lined them up against execution pits, or starved them in ghettoes.
Auschwitz stands for the destruction of all human values that mankind took pride in: The killing of 1.35 million Jews, 20,000 Sinti and Roma and 100,000 other inmates, persecuted by the National Socialist regime on racial and political grounds, or simply for being different, represents a break with civilization itself.
The commemorations of the 60th anniversary of liberation demonstrate that Auschwitz has its importance not only for the remembrance in European countries but also as a place of universal remembrance. Today it stands on a global scale for the disastrous consequences of tyranny and the contempt for the value and dignity of the individual human being.
Memorials at places where the most heinous crimes of the Nazi regime were committed help us to realize the dimension of the events and to connect the inconceivable number of victims of the Nazi genocide with the fate of individual persons.
Memorials are important, but after all, they remain where they are. Education is a far more powerful tool. Education reaches into every school and every home. Our young people, representing our own future, might be taught that no country can achieve any degree of progress or development without respect for human rights and for the dignity of the individual. This is the lesson and the legacy that the memory of Auschwitz is handing down from generation to generation.
That is why Austria is an active member of the "The Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research." Governments comprising the Task Force have committed themselves to the implementation of national policies and programs in support of Holocaust education, remembrance and research.
Austria successfully initiated national programs; for instance, the program "Never Forget," provides for lecture visits by Holocaust survivors, or a program for teachers called "National Socialism and the Holocaust." More than 15,000 Austrian students participated in the "Letter to the Stars" project, where students, together with survivors or their descendents, researched the individual life stories of Holocaust victims.
Auschwitz is an historical site of global relevance and has for each nation its specific importance. For Austria it is the commemoration of the victims of National Socialism and the Holocaust, the commemoration of Jews, Roma and Sinti, the victims of euthanasia, homosexuals and the opponents to the NS regime.
It took Austria a long time to grasp the complexities of its own history and to understand that Austria, which ceased to exist as an independent country after the Anschluß, was not just a victim of the Nazi regime, but that Austrians were also among the perpetrators and that many supported, or at least, acquiesced, in the measures of persecution. For that reason, Austria acknowledges its share of moral responsibility. For too long we have all too voluntarily accepted the statement in the declaration adopted by the Allies in Moscow in 1943 that declared Austria as the "first free country to fall victim to Hitler aggression" and neglected that the same declaration reminded Austria "that she has a responsibility which she cannot evade for participating in the war on the side of Hitler Germany."
The Nazi regime not only committed crimes against humanity on an unprecedented scale in the history of human civilization, it is also responsible for the greatest organized robbery of all times. Only in the last few years did we begin to understand the enormity of the material losses that the victims of Nazi persecution had to suffer.
After the war Austria made serious efforts of restitution and compensation and much was actually done. Only after many decades did we come to realize that not everything had been done and that there were gaps and deficiencies in our restitution and compensation efforts. In order to remedy this situation, the Austrian Government started comprehensive efforts to that effect and we trust that these efforts, supported by all political parties and the Austrian society at large, will bring at least some measure of justice to victims of National Socialism, although they came late, too late for so many.
If we speak of moral responsibility with regard to the past, it is also incumbent upon us to draw the right lessons from the past and to address the continuing scourge of anti-Semitism. Austria, joining international efforts, is conscious of its responsibility and undertakes a broad spectrum of measures to fight anti-Semitism, xenophobia and other forms of racism and intolerance at all levels. For instance, a project in cooperation with the "Anti-Defamation League" focuses on "sensitization" and "anti-bias" training for our police forces. The program has been made mandatory, so that today, all young policemen and policewomen undergo this training.
Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, we are made aware of what we lost and what was destroyed, and of the benchmark of what we are now doing and what we must do to preserve the legacy of the millions killed in Auschwitz and elsewhere by an inhumane regime and to create a more just and a more democratic society.
The victims deserve no less than that.
Thank you, Mr. President
Die Presse (01/26/05)
Wolfgang Greber (Vienna), Susanne Knaul (Jerusalem), and Ewald König (Berlin)
Sixty years ago the concentration camp of Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops. Three survivors among the mass murders recall those times.
His eyes are blue and water easily; they have seen many roses and carnations when he was young. Franz Danimann, today at the age of eighty-five, was learning to be a gardener during the 1930s in Schwechat. Later, when his eyes witnessed needles injected into hearts and emaciated bodies hanging from the gallows, these memories saved him. Danimann was in Auschwitz. He survived. Since then he tells his story again and again.
In 1935 he was drawn to the "illegal leftists," admits the man born in 1919, while turning his marriage ring. "Those were the revolutionary socialists, communists, and free union workers." One fought Fascism in Austria with pamphlets, sensing the evil to come. "Just before the invasion of Austria we demonstrated against the NS party, together with those from the Christian camps: 'Red-White-Red until death,'" was the rallying cry near Stephansplatz. That attracted attention. Soon after, he found himself in prison until the beginning of 1942. As the end of our prison term approached, it was clear to us that "release from prison was improbable; it was much more the case that they would be forced into a correctional division of the Armed Forces, the 'Division 999,' a commando for "missions impossible." But it all worked out differently."
"They were tall and elegant"
Lena Nozyce from Lodz was fourteen when the German soldiers marched into the city in 1939. "They were tall and elegant. They impressed us," recalled the woman standing on her balcony in Jerusalem. Some days later, all the teenager’s romanticizing disappeared. In its place came the awareness of the first Poles hanging on the gallows. Her father was no longer able to work and the family of seven earned their money by transporting garbage out of the ghetto.
The Nozyces were Jews and that was their "mistake." Until the summer of 1944, Lena lived in the ghetto; her father and brothers and sisters were already dead, having suffered from typhus and starvation and finally carted away. Lena held on another two years, together with her mother, until it was their turn.
"I am Jew, German and Communist," says Kurst Goldstein in his warm Berlin apartment. For the past fifty-five years he has been married to his wife, Margot. "I swore: Goldstein, they’ll never destroy you! If you survive, you will put so many children into the world to replace those that were murdered." The marriage produced five sons.
One can’t believe he is ninety years old. At the time of Hitler’s rise to power, the anti-Fascist had graduated from his studies, was arrested and escaped. Via France and Palestine, he landed in Spain where he fought on the side of the Republicans during the civil war. After Franco’s victory, he was arrested and held prisoner in France. In 1942, one handed him over to the Germans. Auschwitz was waiting for him.
Franz Danimann was already there: "On April 24, 1942, I received the number 32635. And because my identity card stated that I was a gardner, I was deployed to work in the garden of the camp commander, Höss. There were vegetables and flowers to tend to."
He was again lucky in being forced to work as an orderly, and therefore got more to eat and didn’t have to work outside. Thus, he was able to avoid the fate of thousands who fell victim to death waiting in line to call out their number. "It could take hours. Who collapsed was given an injection of poison into the heart."
Luck appeared again, in the form of a cell mate: "In August of 1942 there was gossip circulating that in the camp of Birkenau were 'places of recuperation.' Those who were sick, who weren’t confined to bed but still couldn’t work, could go there. I had typhus and wanted to go. A Polish man warned me: 'Franz, those are gas chambers!' That was something I had heard for the first time. On August 29, 1942, the ambulance left to transport the patients: Seven hundred and forty-six people, among them Alois Sindl from St. Pölten, Franz Riegler from Mürzzuschlag and Pep Nagl from Vienna."
When the train finally arrived in Auschwitz, Lena Nozyce was confronted with hell: "Mother had disappeared. Before our eyes, women half naked were running around with shaven heads crying: ‘Bread, bread!’ One of the women had a cane and hit the women. We thought that it was a mental institution."
Those who were new had to undress and had their heads shaven. Off to the showers. "We didn’t recognize ourselves any longer, naked and shaven." Each person was allowed to take a piece of clothing. "Everything had to go fast." In the barracks were thousands of women lying like sardines. After the final selection was made at the end of 1944, they got shoes. One of the Jewish wardens said: "Do you see the furnace? That is where your families were burned." I asked: "That is not true. Why do you say things like that?" She answered: "Because you, too, are being sent, and we want the world to know about it."
Kurt Goldstein arrived in Auschwitz in a train, whereupon was written: "Holds eight horses or twelve persons maximum." Hundreds were inside. Women were separated from the men. They disappeared. The number "58866" was burned onto his arm. One worker recognized him as a resistance fighter in Spain and gave him the tip as to how he could work in a coal mine.
The worst was when newcomers who were at the same time fathers of a family would ask him whether he could deliver news to their wife and children - they were namely told to go to the other side upon arrival. He then had to tell them: "They were no longer because they had been gassed. The men wept on my shoulder."
When the Russians approached, the SS wanted to do away with all traces. One tried to bring about 100,000 prisoners into another camp. Many died during the "death march." On December 30, 1943, three Austrians were hanged. "Good friends of mine," said Danimann, with watering eyes. On January 27, 1945, the remaining forty-five Austrians painted a red-white-red flag on the wall of the barrack. Until the very end one was afraid that German bombers would attack, killing all of the survivors. "There were planes circling overhead, but then left again."
At some point he fled from the camp into a barn. Some called out, "Schto?" which means "what?" in Russian. At that moment he realized it was a Russian soldier, a middle-aged man, whose face he no longer can remember. He embraced him, calling "Bratje, Bratje" (little brother). In May, he returned to Vienna.
Lena Nozyce survived "her" death march and was placed in a concentration camp in Magdeburg. "It was a paradise with three meals per day." After 1945, she studied law and went to Israel where she became a judge. Kurt Goldmann survived the march to the concetration camp of Buchenwald from which only 500 out of 3,000 inmates managed to stay alive. Goldmann, the Berliner, later lived for a long time in Vienna where he was the Secretary of the Federation of Resistance Fighters.
Franz Danimann became a lawyer and directed the Labor Bureau of Lower Austria. Despite all, the man trained as gardener, who oversaw the garden of Auschwitz, has also some good memories of the hell at that time: It was there that he heard classical music for the first time. On Sundays the camp’s orchestra played Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi. "I discovered for the first time what strength music can give."
To this day he has the music of "Fidelio" or that of "Nabucco" sung by the choir of inmates still in his head. Later he bought records of these pieces. Upon mentioning this, his eyes regained their brightness.
Portraits (Standard Weekend Edition, 03/25/05)
The resistance fighter, witness of the times, diplomat and politician has made history. Instead of celebrating the Anschluß in 1938, the sixteen-year-old bicycled all the way to Rome.
No pompous words, only deeds in the name of humanity. Chancellor Schüssel named the Tyroler, Ludwig "Lucky" Steiner, a "man for delicate situations." On April 14, 2005, the resistance fighter and only living witness of the State Treaty negotiations in Moscow, will turn eighty-three years old. Limber as a young person, the former diplomat, State Secretary of the Foreign Ministry, Member of the National Council, head of the Lucona- and Noricum Committee leans over to pick up a paper that has fallen on the floor. With steadfastness, he exhibits the Archives of the Restitution Fund, for which he dedicates his time voluntarily: "A gesture of good will for forced laborers who endured the National Socialist Regime." One can scarcely make up for the suffering, but nonetheless: We were able to work through 135,000 cases found in Eastern- and Western Europe. The work keeps him young, he explains, without a trace of aging in his voice.
The son of a baker from Innsbruck was lucky - that is, retrospectively, and from an ethical standpoint. His father, who as a member of the town council stood up against the conservative circles among the clergy and against the National Socialists, allowed him to discover what was being played out politically at the time. On April 10, 1938, the day of the referendum, which was to legitimize the Anschluß, the sixteen-year-old Ludwig bicycled with his brother to Rome "in order not to be a part of it." Today he is still deeply angered over the jeering Nazis tearing down the red-white-red flag in Innsbruck: "One of them wanted to burn it, but another trampeled on it screaming: 'Into the mud with the rag.'"
The Gestapo brought his father to the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen because of certain outcries against Hitler, and therefore the son was often taken from the classroom and interrogated. "When I returned to school two hours later, I was emotionally devastated. Who will betray me? Long before the Anschluß, other classmates had already denounced him for his political engagement."
In order to avoid becoming a member of the Hitler Youth, he founded the Innsbrucker "Youth Mountain Rescue Service," together with friends. The Catholics were seen by the young Nazis as enemies: "There were many fights." And because of all this, it became clear to him to reject the offer to join the SS troops, so that his father would be freed."
Toward the end of the war, Steiner joined the Tyrolian Resistance Group 05 of Karl Gruber who later became Foreign Minister. The goal was to save Innsbruck from being destroyed, and also the youngest soldiers who were supposed to stand up against the Americans. The idea was to have Innsbruck liberated before the Americans arrived.
It was as if in a film: Gruber bore the undercover name, Dr. Brant and established a camouflaged position in an Innsbruck office involved with radio communications. The first meeting of the resistance took place on the evening of April 9, 1945, in Room 14 of the Innsbrucker Nursing Home. Steiner, all of twenty-two at the time, was aware of his dangerous mission: To meet with the American troops, who had already positioned themselves close to Seefeld and bring them to Innsbruck. Parts of the area were filled with mines, the bridge of Zierl had been blown up and the countryside was in the middle of a snowstorm. Nonetheless, Steiner was able to penetrate the U.S. lines and reach Major Bland West on May 3, 1945.
He can still hear the admonishing cries of the field marshals: "Stop, Kraut, don’t budge!" Proudly he displays a photo of Lieutenant Ludwig Steiner together with two American officers, and the faded red-white-red arm bands upon which was written in German and in English: The Austrian Resistance Movement 05.
On the same day he accompanied the American troops to the Inntal. A German battery of troops shot at the tanks that drew back for a short period of time. Otherwise, nothing happened. Three white flags taken from the altar of the church of Zierl blew in the wind from the church tower. Then it became quiet and peaceful, described Steiner the dramatic moments with little emotion. Ten years later he flew to Moscow to the negotiations of the State Treaty as Chancellor Julius Raab’s secretary.
He told this story to Rudolf Nagiller for the ORF’s (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation’s) documentary entitled, "Austria is Free - The Miracle of the State Treaty" (available on CD). He also told the story of how the official present for the visiting guests from Austria, a Russian perfume called No. 5, tipped over and soaked his clothes: "That was the first time that my wife, Danielle, who was pregnant at the time, felt really nauseated!" Together with her, his son, Thomas, and his daughter, Gabrielle, and three grandchildren, he will celebrate his 83rd birthday. We congratulate and offer our hopes for reaching one hundred!
Who Was Irene Harand?
Der Standard (03/14/05)
In the eulogies honoring the "unflinching combatant of National Socialism and anti-Semitism," the political ambivalence of her biography which does not fit at all into the historical perception of the pre-fascist corporative state has been omitted. Not in the current article.
The "Harand Movement" during the 1930s was the only social element in Austria that existed for two reasons: To combat National Socialism and anti-Semitism. The movement had about one thousand members in Austria. There were, however, also sympathizers in many countries throughout Europe.
There are many reasons why this movement fell into oblivion in Austria: For one, it didn’t fit into the "left/right" scheme of political categories following 1945. For another, the Harand Movement proved that already at that time, Christianity and anti-Semitism and National Socialism were never compatible.
Irene Harand and Moritz Zalman stood politically close to the Christian Conservative camps. Many professed Monarchists were active members of the Harand Movement. Irene Harand supported politically the contents of the course taken by the Austrian government of the times under Engelbert Dollfuß and Kurt Schuschnigg. In the weekly magazine, Gerechtigkeit, and in the speeches offered the masses, the position taken by the Harand Movement was clearly expressed. Irene Harand rejected all criticism of the Dollfuß regime, pointing out that Dollfuß saved Austria from being taken over by the Nazis and that any discussion of the corporative state would have only been used by the Nazis.
Harand advocated establishing a "united front" to stand up against National Socialism and accepted that in times of utmost danger, democratic freedom had to be restricted because it would only be used as propaganda by Austria’s opponents.
Efforts to put together a "Christian-German Corporative State" was also supported by Irene Harand. Irene Harand interpreted "German" as belonging to the language and interpreted "Christian action" as the fight against anti-Semitism.
She recognized indeed that there were, nonetheless, also anti-Semitic currents within the Fatherland Front to which the Harand Movement belonged, but didn’t accuse the regime: "The sincere efforts of the government are being sabotaged by a group of politicians and bureaucrats who out of wanton or unconscious stupidity, support anti-Semitism in order to win over a particular section of the population for the present political system," she wrote on October 25, 1934 in Gerechtigkeit.
Harand protested sharply against suspending Jewish physicians from their jobs in Vienna, against forcing Jewish civil servants into retirement and against "pushing many Jews out of cultural and economic life." She came to the conclusion that these acts "not only were an affront against the spirit of justice and the Christian ethic," but also "agitation" against the government.
Irene Harand celebrated the treaty between Austrian and the Third Reich, signed in July of 1936, as a victory for the government in the struggle for the country’s independence. She could not or simply would not accept that with this treaty, the door was opened for National Socialist progaganda and that important functions within the government were overtaken by the Nazis. She reacted to the increased propaganda by the National Socialists in Austria after July 1936 with increased educational efforts.
Irene Harand remained a loyal supporter of the Schuschnigg Government up until the very end, despite the fact that some of the mass protests of the Harand Movement were prohibited by the German Ambassador, von Papen. Whether or not Irene Harand changed her mind later regarding the corporative state remains unknown to this day. Advocating the corporative state ignited criticism particularly on the part of the Social Democrats. The Social Democrats recognized her fight against the Nazis as well as anti-Semitism, but criticized her position taken on the corporative state and on the civil war of February 1934.
...of the Dollfuß Regime
Irene Harand blamed the civil war solely on the leading figures of Social Democracy. First of all, she held them responsible for having weakened the front against the National Socialists through their irresponsible behavior, and secondly, for betraying the workers: "The main reasons for failure of the Social Democratic Party leadership were that they regarded their own well being as one of the goals, in many cases even as the main goal, and the work of their voters as a means of achieving a higher position for themselves," criticized Irene Harand in the February 16, 1934 issue of Gerechtigkeit.
On the other hand, she defended the Social Democrats against attacks directed by the anti-Semites, such as Leopold Kunschak of the Christian-Social Worker’s Party: "The fact that there were relatively many Jewish politicians in the Social Democratic Party can be explained by the sad fact that the large people’s parties were anti-Semitic, and (...) because, on an economic level, the Social Democratic Party meant very little or nothing to the wide strata of the population." Despite their opposition to the Social Democrats, many of those confined to illegality used the Harand Movement as a platform for restructuring.
The National Socialists took the struggle of the Harand Movement very seriously. Irene Harand’s book, "Sein Kampf (His Struggle) - Answer to Hitler," which was published in 1935 by using their own financial resources, was publicly burned in Salzburg after the Anschluß. The National Socialists placed a bounty of 100,000 Reichsmark for the capture of Irene Harand. This was a considerable amount, but was about one tenth of the yearly salary of a university professor in those times.
Irene Harand was never caught, however, since she was in Paris and London in March of 1938 - in order to voice an appeal for Austria’s independence on behalf of and with the approval of the corporative state regime.
Irene Harand fled to the United States and founded the emigrant organization, "Austrian Forum," which she headed from 1960 until her death in 1975.
Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park East Synagogue Receives Austrian Citizenship
Austrian Consulate General of New York
The spiritual leader of New York´s Park East Synagogue and the Minskoff Cultural Center, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, received Austrian Citizenship on Thursday, March 31, 2005. The Austrian Consul General in New York, Ambassador Dr. Michael Breisky, hosted a ceremony at his residence and handed over the decree of citizenship. Ambassador Breisky highlighted the long-lasting cooperation between Rabbi Schneier and Austria.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, Ambassador Dr. Gábor Horváth, Consul General of Hungary, and Ambassador Dr. Gerhard Pfanzelter, Permanent Representative of Austria to the U.N., were also present at the ceremony.
Vienna born Arthur Schneier emigrated to Hungary and subsequently to the U.S. to escape Nazi persecution. Like many former emigrants from Austria, Rabbi Schneier recently decided to take advantage of the provision in Austrian law that enables Austrian victims of Nazi persecution to re-establish citizenship.
For questions, please contact:
Gregor B. Csörsz, Vice - Consul
AUSTRIAN CONSULATE GENERAL
31 East 69th Street, New York, NY 10021
Phone (212) 737-6400 Fax (212) 772-8926, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Israel’s Minister Honors Europe’s Commitment to Democracy in Vienna
Austrian Press Agency (APA) (03/08/05)
Sharansky: Jerusalem "Symbol of Freedom and Equality."
Vienna - Nathan Sharansky, Minister for Jerusalem and the Jewish Diaspora in the Israeli Cabinet, recognized Europe’s commitment to democracy as "exemplary." During his visit of the Lauder Chabad School of the Jewish Orthodox Community in Vienna’s 2nd district, he praised particularly "the efforts made by the European Union toward Eastern Europe." Sharasky, who was a human rights activist from the Ukraine and former Soviet dissident, made a lecture tour throughout Europe speaking about democracy, human rights and Europe’s role in the Middle East peace process.
Sharansky, fifty-seven years of age, who was greeted by the students waving Israeli flags, characterized Jerusalem in his short address as the "site of the prophets" and as the "symbol of freedom and equality." Proclaimed by Israel as "eternal and undivided," the city is one of the sticking points in the peace process with the Palestinians, who likewise claim Jerusalem as their capital. A resolution by the United Nations General Assembly in 1947 made provision for establishing Jerusalem as a neutral "special area." During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel occupied the Arab eastern part of the city; the UN declared the annexation that followed as illegal.
Sharansky was born in 1948 as Anatoli Schtscharanski in Donezk. Under Stalin following the war, his family was forced to assimilate. Despite discriminating harassment, Sharansky studied Physics and Applied Mathematics and became a colleague of the physicist, dissident and later Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Andrej Sacharow.
Having spoken out openly for the rights of Jews and human rights in general, Sharansky was arrested. He was condemned for having committed treason and spying for the United States and spent nine years in prison in the Siberian Gulag. It was there that he first came in contact with his Jewish heritage through the copy of a book containing the Psalms.
In 1986, under Head of State Mickail Gorbatschev, Sharasky was exchanged for a Russian spy. In Israel he founded "Israel Be’Alyah," the right-wing immigrant party (Israel through Aliya), which in the meantime has become the Likud Party, and then later became Minister of Industry and, subsequently, Minister of the Interior and Minister of Housing. Since 2003, he is member of the Cabinet responsible for Jewish Diaspora Affairs and Jerusalem.
Those Expelled by the NazisGuests at the Hofburg
Der Standard (04/06/05)
Vienna - Last Wednesday Federal President Heinz Fischer welcomed about one hundred former Viennese who had been expelled by the National Socialists to the Hofburg.
With this invitation the Austrian President continues the tradition of his predecessor, Thomas Klestil, to maintain "the dialogue," says a speaker from the President’s office. The invitation is a gesture on the part of the Republic of Austria as well as the City of Vienna, demonstrating that those expelled from their former home country are "heartily welcome."
Invited by the "Jewish Welcome Service Vienna," which was founded by Leon Zelman twenty-five years ago, the guests are invited to Vienna for one week each year. The Mayor of Vienna, Michael Häupl, awarded Zelman the "Goldener Rathausmann" for his years of continued service.
"Israel is a Wall"
Die Presse (01/19/05)
Post-National Europe Has a Problem with the Nation of Israel
Anne-Catherine Simon and Norbert Mayer
The philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut, warns of a multicultural Europe and of a new form of anti-Semitism.
Die Presse: "Hatred of Israel" is the title of your lecture. Who are those who hate?
Alain Finkielkraut: One must establish a connection between anti-Semitism and what I call hatred of Israel. Those who hate Israel today are not anti-Semites in the strict sense of the word. They are proponents of humanity and democracy. Israel breaks with this ideal of the equality of all people in their eyes. Israel is a nation, which one believes to have been founded upon ethnic criteria. But at the same time, one also believes that Israel oppresses the Palestinians. In other words, the hatred for Israel gets its energy from anti-Racism. That is the great paradox of our time: - anti-racist anti-Semitism.
Such anti-Racism is the domain of the Left, not the Right. The relationship is, thus, turned upside down.
Yes, there is a big misunderstanding between the Left and the Jews. Today one owes the Jews everything as victims, but one owes them nothing as a nation. The result is a highly strange situation, particularly in France: On the one hand, we are kept extremely on the alert against classical anti-Semitism. (The French radical Right) Le Pen created a giant scandal when a newspaper quoted him as defending collaboration and playing down Nazi crimes. A number of days before a well-known French cabaret artist ranted about the Zionist arrogance. The renowned actor, Jamel Debbouze’s, comments on the matter were that the cabaret only said out loud what everyone else was thinking to himself. Those are two types of anti-Semitism. The racist type is on the decline and creates general commotion; the other is young and strong and is thriving and left fully unpunished.
Regarding the latter of the two, is the term, anti-Semitism really justified?
I’m not clamouring after this word, it is clear, however, that today it is not about the politics of a country. The Jews are denounced, generally speaking as being racist, unless they condemn Israel. But not in the form of criticism of particular actions by Israel’s Prime Minister Sharon. One is asking for more: The anti-racist anti-Semitism is celebrating Jews today who compare Israel with the Nazis. The Israeli film maker, Amost Gitai, made an exceedingly brutal film about prostitution whereby Israel depicted not only the country of the temple desecrator but of the panderer. A critic writing for the newspaper, Le Monde, called the film extraordinary. In particular he emphasized a scene whereby the young prostitutes from Estonia and other Eastern European countries are brought to a room filled with showers which reminded one of the gas chambers. That’s what is today being asked from the Jews.
Where does this change of paradigm come from?
The growing lack of understanding for Israel has something to do with the post-national development of our society. In earlier times cosmopolitan Jews were pushed to the edge of the nations. Today it is Jewish nationalism, which is being evermore ostracized in the post-national societies. Today’s democratic movement knocks down more and more borders – and Israel is a wall. What makes the life of the Jews so fragile is the additional appearance of a brutal Islamic anti-Semitism. Today it is very difficult to teach about the Shoa in France. There are more and more students who express their rejection with negative comments or jokes.
Can one find any comparative tendencies in French intellectuals?
Islamic anti-Semitism has somewhat resonated among the intellectuals in the sense that a portion of them doesn’t refrain from attacking Israel’s "racism." At the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Intolerance and Xenophobia in 2001, Israel was attacked and stigmatized over and over again. This showed what modern anti-Semitism looks like today. It was here that a movement formed which one could characterize as Islamic-Progressive. That is a very alarming alliance.
Is the criticism of Israel’s politics only legitimate when it is expressed within Israel?
What I expect from European media and governments is the attempt toward a just discourse. Without Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the majority of West Bank, no peace will be possible. Sharon hopes perhaps to keep a large part of the West Bank territory. One must say clearly that this hope is unjustified and impossible. But one must also speak fairly in regard to the Palestinians and not only to them but also about them. The latest suicide attacks in the Gaza Strip have proven that the idea that terrorism is growing out of a lack of hope is not true. The lack of hope doesn’t come from the occupation itself, but from the perspective of a compromise. The role of European journalists would be to hold up a mirror in front of both sides. That is not done with the Palestinians in France.
You criticize Europe for only looking forward, and masking its past. Will Eastern European enlargement change anything?
I don’t think so. One sees it in the discussions about EU membership of Turkey: If Europe were to look at its past, if it were to commit itself to its history, then this question would never arise. Europe turns its back on its history in order to be the Europe of human rights.
Should one dream of a multicultural Europe, including Turkey and perhaps also Israel, or are you giving a warning like Samuel Huntington of such a mixture?
After World War II Europe decided to lose its identity and recognize only universal norms. Ulrich Beck once said that Europe is a form of cosmopolitism on the move which consists not of substance but of procedures. Multiculturalism is a frightening dead-end street.
Readings Between the Graves
Der Standard (12/23/04)
After a long, silent past, an interesting project at the Jewish Cemetery in Krems is causing a stir.
The two artists, Clegg and Guttmann, have built a public library.
Krems - The Jewish Cemetery in Krems founded in 1882 lies like a small forgotten island squeezed between two busy traffic routes. Almost immediately one comes across a sculpture by Hans Kuppelwieser. A fifty meter-long metal band is suspended like a threshold just above the ground upon which can be read the names and dates of the one hundred twenty-nine murdered Jews from Krems.
There is now a new piece of art by Clegg and Guttmann, who have built a public library, together with Kuppelwieser’s work, reconstructing memories that are exemplary for Austria. There are three bookcases, the size and form of which reminds one of a grave.
For Clegg and Guttmann, this is a piece of sculpture whose foundations represent institutions and social factors. It is different from the public library, which Clegg and Guttmann built in 1991 as an art project in Graz, and from any other library in all of Austria.
In Judaism a cemetery has a direct connection to life. A person who is dead and buried is, for example, still a person subject to public law. And, thus, this library is also like a symbolic link between the dead buried in the cemetery and the living. Likewise the work of Clegg and Guttmann is a memorial for the once flourishing Jewish community in Krems. The historian, Robert Streibel, expresses it in direct words: "Krems on the Donau has a long tradition in matters concerning National Socialism and anti-Semitism." This tradition should now be publicly brought to an end. The project goes back to a competition announced in Lower Austria for a public piece of art to serve as a memorial consisting of a Jewish gravestone to be walled into the exterior façade of the Piaristen Church. And it was Clegg and Guttmann that won the competition. The two artists work with an art concept that can be understood as a "social communicative process." They place their installations at fractured sites with the intention of achieving a socio-political happening with an artistic work of art. Finally, the library stands also for something like an alternative form of information.
On the occasion of the seven hundred-year celebration of the city in 2005, an initiative by the Association of Friends of the Jewish Cemetery Krems, will convert the cemetery’s deteriorated ‘house of words’ into an information center.
The construction by the architects, Walter Kirpicsenko and Alexander Klose, are planning for a twelve meter-long and six meter-wide concrete slab that will be supported by four glass panels. These panels also serve as supports for the Documentation of Jewish History in Krems by Robert Streibel. The Jewish gravestone from the Piaristen Church will also be worked into it. One component will be an audio installation by Konrad Rennert, reporting on the tragedies of the Jews in Krems.
Hohenems: "Cantormania" From Salomon Sulzer to the Jazz Singer
Der Standard (01/24/05)
An exhibit in the Jewish Museum in Hohenems from October 17, 2004 to January 23, 2005.
On the occasion of the 200th birthday of Salomon Sulzer, the Jewish Museum in Hohnems had an exhibition on the exemplary lives of Jewish cantors from the nineteenth century until the present. The exhibition, Cantormania. From Salomon Sulzer to the Jazz Singer, was based on the idea of commemorating Sulzer’s birthday with a virtual singing competition whereby cantors from various times and countries throughout the world were invited.
It didn’t matter whether one came from Berlin during the past 19th century or from Eastern Europe or from New York’s days of Broadway. With their virtual participation, they were all congratulating the cantor, Salomon Sulzer, whose life works changed the course of Jewish religious service, musical form, and also the profession and perception of the Jewish cantor.
Salomon Sulzer, a son of the Hohenems community and High Cantor of Vienna, reformed not only the music of the synagogue from ground up, but he also defined the profession of the Jewish cantor in a very new way. The exhibition began with Salomon Sulzer and the impact he had on Jewish liturgy, on the historical development of Reform Judaism in Central Europe and later developments in North America. The exhibit depicted the various life stories of individual cantors up until the 21st century, particularly in view of the conflict between religious and worldly professions. In the dissension between the synagogue and the stage, cantor from both worlds have been honored as stars and some scolded by the rabbis for their secular successes. Even Sulzer, himself, was not only famous as reformer of synagogue music but also shined as an exceptionally gifted singer in the Viennese society in the so-called Schubertiaden, among others.
Metaphorically formulated, the Jewish Museum in Hohenems was transformed into a backstage - where space was found not only for costumes, notes and souvenirs, but also surprising memorabilia and articles from fans.
The exhibit focused on the biographies of individual cantors and tried to bring together their contradictory life stories. At the same time, it also included world famous opera tenors, like Joseph Schmidt, or someone like Al Jolson (Asa Yoelson), who played the Jazz singer, Jack Robin/Jakie Rabinowitz, in the first American tonfilm. Thus, a cantor became star of the stage. The cantor’s familiy, Malavsky (Israel Singer), was depicted in the exhibit as the great favorite of traditional Polish songs of the synagogue. They all tried to find their way between tradition, reform and art, between religious humility and worldly self-realization.
For the first time recordings of Oriental cantor music were presented from the Austrian Phonogram Archive, collected one hundred years ago in the Middle East during a musical anthropological excursion undertaken by the Austrian Academy of Sciences under the direction of Alfred R. Idelsohn.
Whether with Salomon Sulzer and his reform of the religious service, or with Al Jolson and his focus on the entertainment stage, whether cantors forged careers as adored tenors or bewitched their communities as choristers - the exhibition depicted servants of liturgy and rebels against tradition, conservatives as renovators and revolutionary orthodoxies in their vast diversity between East and West and the Orient, the old and the new world.
Apart from the exhibit, a special cantor concert presenting the diverse musical spectrum of cantoral art in the temple and on the worldly stage took place in the newly renovated room of the former synagogue of Hohenems. Additional events also followed.
Restitution of Stolen Art: Despite Efforts It’s Also a "Weak Point"
Austrian Press Agency (APA) (11/18/04)
Washington - As for the topic of restitution of stolen art works during the times of National Socialism, an interim consensus was achieved at a discussion held at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Despite the numerous cases in which art works were returned to the victims of Nazi persecution as well as to their heirs, there are also many weak points, said Sophie Lillie, author of the book, "What Once Was - A Manual of Vienna’s Collection of Seized Art." The law regarding art restitution is an "Enabling Act" that doesn’t legally hold the government responsible. Also, it is often interpreted very "conservatively."
Of the approximately two hundred thousand Jews living in Austria in 1938, only about five thousand families were able to take their property with them abroad, explained the researcher, Ruth Pleyer. Searching for stolen art works and their former owners and heirs has, indeed, proven to be a difficult task; nonetheless, she encourages everyone to register and follow up on their claims. The estimated fair market value of art works that Austria has restituted amounts to about 250 million US Dollars (192 million Euros). When speaking about restitution, it is not the money, however, which is the most important thing but justice, emphasized Pleyer.
Robert Holzbauer, head of the office researching the origins of art works for the Leopold Museum in Vienna, said the results of his investigation are as follows: Until now there have been very few art objects which have presented a "problematic situation." The Leopold Museum has published all of the research results of the research conducted on their origins over the Internet. The Leopold couple, who acquired thousands of works for their private collection, has not, however, had the best talent for organization at their disposal. Finally, it has not been the researchers but rather the museum’s board of directors that made the decisions about restitution.
Michael Franz informed the audience about the German project http://www.lostart.de In a mutual project conducted by the German federal government and the federal states, a survey has been made of cultural objects that disappeared, were displaced, or particularly in the case of Jewish owners, were confiscated during Nazi persecution. Without substantial information, it is impossible to achieve justice, emphasized the attorney.
Nancy Yeide of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., maintained that those in the U.S. were not participants or profiteers of Nazi stolen art. But what happened in Austria with the Mauerbach auction as well as the seizure of two Schiele paintings from the Leopold Collection in 1998 in New York (Bildnis Wally and Tote Stadt III), the American museums should have undertaken a better evaluation of their holdings and issued stricter guidelines on researching the origins of art works. Even the National Gallery, itself, returned a still life by Franz Snyder in 2001.
When discussing the Bloch-Bauer case, a law suit that has been pending for years over the return of six valuable Klimt paintings claimed by the Bloch-Bauer heiress, Maria Altmann, discussion was animated. Although the case contains elements of stolen art, it originally involved, however, a will written in 1923 by Adele Bloch-Bauer, said the Austrian Ambassador to the United States, Eva Nowotny. Ruth Pleyer, however, sees the dispute as a "test case" for the Austrian government. As a displaced person, the heiress of the Bloch-Bauer family, Maria Altmann, feels treated unfairly by Austria, much like other families. Pleyer remained confident that a solution will be found during the lifetime of the eighty-eight year-old claimant.
"... Cannot Allow Them to March in Again"
Der Standard (04/08/05)
Thursday evening Hugo Portisch presented his new ORF four-part series, "The Second Republic - An Amazing Story." He promised Harald Fidler that nothing about the times leading up to its National Socialist history was left out.
Standard: May one try to question the icon, Hugo Portisch?
Portisch: Please, not an icon, no legendary figure, nothing at all but a very normal journalist.
When did you begin practicing critical journalism?
I hope, the entire time. But, of course, one was able to storm the barricades in Der Kurier, but that’s not possible on public television. I truly believe that Der Kurier was one of the most critical newspapers during the time I was editor-in-chief. Der Kurier de facto got rid of Taras Borodajkewycz because of his anti-Semitic comments made at the University for World Trade. And the first of the politically dead during the Second Republic, Ernst Kirchweger, died defending the Kurier-Ecke when up against the Nazi students. We initiated the referendum in order to depoliticize the broadcasting station and, in doing this, rebelled against both big parties. You always believe that you invented critical journalism.
We are trying to practice it. In your production the main emphasis in on you. How many people do you have researching such documentaries?
Alone fourteen people worked as my crew on this project.
You appear particularly proud of a virtual archive in your new documentary. What are we allowed to conjure up in our minds?
That was created by our producer, Paul Sedlacek. The audience sees me standing in a bright room with levels as if made of glass. When I call for a particular picture, a document, a film or a witness, they back out. We have created something that allows me to call forth people, so to speak, from the after life. If we didn’t have the virtual archive as a resource, how else could we depict that?
With cuts, for example. The way documentaries are usually made.
But then we would have the dead suddenly appearing among the living. We have created something completely new in television, technically speaking.
Virtual studios are nothing new.
Studios perhaps not but archives from which things are drawn.
Can one imagine your new four-part series as a Reader’s Digest version of Austria II?
In no way. That would be too simple. When the documentary, Austria II, was made in the eighties, one had no access to important archives, neither in Austria nor the Soviet Union. In the meantime, a large number of historians have accessed material. Two-thirds of the audience viewing Austria II remember having experienced the end of the war. We now have a new view of things, we have a new presentation, and we speak to a new generation. But I cannot allow, of course, the Russians to march into Vienna again or chase Karl Renner across the Rathausplatz. Important historical material naturally reoccurs.
You begin with the last days of the war and end with the State Treaty. If I remember correctly, you cut out from Austria II what occurred before that time.
That’s entirely not true. We have sixteen episodes of Austria I and Austria II on this topic, and eight episodes alone are dedicated to the Holocaust, Hitler, and the Nazis. The criticism that there was only rejoicing and embraces in Austria is constantly made. And one asks: ‘Austria, what happened to Peymann? Where is Jelinek?’ Well, we included all of them, also Thomas Bernhard.
Have you included the times leading up to National Socialism in the new four-part series?
The four parts are intended to illuminate the two big dates being celebrated. So, I unfortunately cannot begin 1920 with the anti-Semitic demonstration of Mr. Hunschak. However, we are keeping this viewpoint strongly in mind. When I speak of construction works at the Südostwall, I am mentioning, of course, Hungarian Jews, and death marches. When we say, the freeing of Mauthausen, it is self-understood that what is meant are all of the concentration camps in Austria and their witnesses as well. In the first,- second- and third parts, there is a thread throughout the series highlighting what the Republic of Austria failed to address during the Nazi times. Part IV looks back at the year 1938, on aryanization and pogroms. And I emphasize that long after the signing of the State Treaty, Austria still owed us something: the confession of shared responsibility. I do my best possible in four times one hundred minutes.
The Affirmation of the Negation
Der Standard (02/15/05)
Joshua Sobol’s "Eyewitness - The Case of Jägerstätter," playing at the Linzer Landestheater, puts the martyrdom of a resistance fighter into sober perspective: An impressive evening about the power of saying no.
Linz - On time for the national year of remembrance, the Linzer Landestheater places its finger on one of the open legal and moral wounds in the consciousness of the native republic. In the play, The Case of Jägerstätter, the failures of coming to terms with the so-called deserters of the Nazi regime is coming to the surface; failures and inconsistencies in post-war jurisdiction and in the church, and also contradictions in the so-called healthy feelings of the people.
Are the conscientious objectors of today and of tomorrow’s politics of injustice nothing other than criminals or, on the contrary, saints? The Israeli dramatist, Joshua Sobol, asked these highly unpleasant, almost heretical questions in his play, The Case of Jägerstätter, performing before the Palestinian background of his home country and now playing for the first time in Austria.
In the short, and in every respect, calm and sober version of the stage director, Christian Wittmann, and script advisor, Brigitte Heusinger, Sobol’s intention to create an anti-documentary "martyrologium" of sorts comes through very clearly. Nonetheless, the simple son of St. Radegrund, with all his human weaknesses, is judged as the holiest of purest waters but behaves, nonetheless, as none other than the preceding cohorts of the heavenly.
He says "no" without consideration of himself or others. Like all the rest, he bears no tricks of the life saving self-betrayal at the altar of the worshipped, and be it only the symbolic gesture of putting on a uniform. Sobol uses simple and precise language to characterize the hero and his "being different" from everybody else. His Case of Jägerstätter has nothing to do with turning resistance into heroism or realistic contemporary theatre.
Franz Jägerstätter takes aback the people around him, as for example, a Catholic soul mate, because he, as a simple eyewitness from the countryside, has faith in his senses and is not willing to make the least amount of compromise with the unjust regime and their bloodhounds.
Disapproval of the Masses
Such radical figures always had to be eliminated and have always stirred up the disapproval of the pliable masses. Appearances of this kind become the trauma of all fraternities and brotherhoods, such as one can find also today in considerable numbers. The "no" to any kind of embrace makes for loneliness - and also that is what the Linzer performance demonstrates so impressively.
The actor Joachim Rathke and his imaginary quintet of threatening personalities involved with execution machinery move in a minimalistic cubic space out of neon bulbs.
Plays and productions such as this one oppress by insisting on the essentials - through an austerity which lets us forget the staging orgies at larger city theatres. The intended beatification of a "questionable" historical figure will show how strong the shadows of the past still are today.