June 2006

Dear Readers,

June, 2006 

Six months have passed since you received the last issue of this newsletter. The trials and tribulations of Austria’s six-month Presidency of the European Union have unfortunately kept us very busy and have distracted us from our editorial tasks. But we hope to make good on the delay by offering you a wide array of articles spanning six months on cultural, historical and political topics. 

For those who plan a visit to Vienna, don’t forget to take along the list of restaurants, bookstores and shops. You will also find an extensive article on the lifestyle of Vienna’s young Jewish community in this issue, and we have included three personal stories: a profile of the last living member of the legendary Viennese Psychoanalytical Institute; a recent research project on a famous cabaret artist, and an interview with a man who escaped the Holocaust by jumping off a train and slipping from arrest for seven years.

Read about the initiative of some Austrian school children, commemorating the victims of National Socialism by placing flowers in front of their former homes; and the creation of the largest archive of a Jewish community in the world. You will also find a report on the General Assembly of the European Jewish Congress in Vienna, and a statement on Austria’s restitution efforts by President Clinton’s Special Representative on Holocaust era-issues. 

Last but not least, I would like to bid farewell to you and thank you for your interest in this newsletter. My family and I will be moving back to Austria in the fall, and I am confident that my successor will continue the tradition of this circular newsletter.

Yours sincerely, 

Christoph Meran
Austrian Press and Information Service


Now is the time to be included in the Registry of Holocaust Survivors at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The Registry seeks the names of all Holocaust survivors whether or not currently living in order to assist survivors and their families in attempts to trace missing relatives and friends, as well as to provide help to historical and genealogical researchers. Inclusion in the Registry assures that the names of survivors will be preserved for historical memory and record.

The Museum honors as survivors any persons, Jewish or non-Jewish, who were displaced, persecuted, or discriminated against due to the racial, religious, ethnic, and political policies of the Nazis and their allies between 1933 and 1945. In addition to former inmates of concentration camps, ghettos, and prisons, this definition includes, among others, people who were refugees or were in hiding.

The Registry’s database contains information on more than 190,000 survivors and their families, and it has developed into one of the main international resources for information on the fates of Holocaust survivors. In addition, the Registry tracks other Holocaust-related name-lists of both survivors and victims worldwide.

Registration forms are available either through the Web site of the Registry of Holocaust Survivors at www.ushmm.org/registry or from the address below. Survivors can be registered posthumously by family members.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW
Washington, DC 20024-2126
Tel 202.488.6130; Fax 202.314.7820
E-mail registry@ushmm.org | www.ushmm.org/registry 

Jewish Life in Vienna

Profil (02/20/06)

Wining and Dining 

Kosher Restaurant 
Classical Eastern European cooking,
Mediterranean specialties exotic dishes
Seitenstettengasse 2 
1010 Vienna
Tel 01/535 25 30 

Museum’s Café Teitelbaum 
Kosher Wines, bagels,
International Jewish newspapers
Dorotheergasse 11
1010 Vienna, 
Tel 01/512/55/45 

Maschu Maschu 1 
Falafel, stuffed pasts, Israeli beer,
Israeli music
Rabensteig 8 
1010 Vienna
Tel 01/533 29 04

Maschu Maschu 2
Restaurant and bar;
Israeli, Austrian and international cooking,
Neubaugasse 25
1070 Vienna
Tel 01/990 47 13

Bahur Tov
Buchara Restaurant
Meat kebobs
Krummbaumgasse 19 and Taborstraße 19
1020 Vienna

Russian-Jewish and Israeli Cooking
Wolfgang-SchmälzGasse 8
1020 Vienna
Tel 01/728 63 77 


Jewish Vienna 
Guide to Vienna with preface from
Robert Schindel and comprehensive
Overview of the history of Vienna’s Jews
By Klaus Lohrmann
Mandelbaum Pbls.
272 pages, €17.80 (euros)

Cultural Map
by Klaus Lohrmann
Jewish Culture edition, map of Vienna 
With information on museums, monuments,
Restaurants, cafés, shopping, etc. available at
Singer’s bookshop
Dorotheergasse 11
1010 Vienna

General Information

Israelite Religious Community (IKG) Vienna
Seitenstettengasse 4
1010 Vienna
Tel 01/531 04

Israelite Religious Community Salzburg
Lasserstraße 8, 5020 Salzburg
Tel 0662/87 22 28

IKG Graz
David-Herzog-Platz 1
8020 Graz
Tel 0316/71 24 68

IKG Innsbruck
Sillgasse 15
6020 Innsbruck
Tel 0512/58 68 92

Or Chadasch
Movement for Progressive Judaism
Robertgasse 2
1020 Vienna
Tel 01/967 13 29

Jewish Groceries
Kosherland, Diner, Milk and Honey
Largest Kosher Assortment in Vienna, 
Typical Jewish groceries, Israeli wines
Kleine Sperlgasse 7
1020 Vienna
Tel 01/212 81 69 

Chez Berl
Traditional diner with meat specialities
from Jewish and Arabic cooking
Mondays: filled cabbage. Tues.: fresh Falafel,
Große Stadtgutgasse 7
1020 Vienna 
Tel 01/214 56 21

Bäckerei Ohel
Jewish and Viennese bakery goods
Lilienbrunngasse 18
1020 Vienna

City of Vienna Searching for Former Owners of Confiscated Art in Israel

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (02/27/2006)

Appeals made by the Austrian Embassy for relevant leads from the people

Tel Aviv - The city of Vienna is turning its search to Israel for former owners of art and cultural objects confiscated during the NS era. In an appeal made by the Austrian Embassy in Tel Aviv, people are being asked to help by offering leads relevant to the search. The statement reads: It is an important matter for the City of Vienna that art objects which were removed and currently continue to be the property of the City, be returned in rem to their legitimate owners.

In the appeal, reference is made to the decision on restitution concluded by the Vienna City Council on April 29, 1999, and to the website of the Museum of the City of Vienna which lists 1,545 objects acquired by the Dorotheum, 550 objects from art dealers, twelve public donations and 212 acquisitions and donations from Julius Fargel, who at the time was art restorer for the City’s collections as well as chief appraiser for the paintings in the Vugesta (the Gestapo Office for the Disposal of the Property of Jewish Emigrants). The owners of these objects at the time of the takeover in Austria by the NS in March 1938 have not yet been identified beyond doubt. According to the appeal, these lists were last updated on July 1, 2005.

Those art objects, whose original owners could no longer be determined, will be transferred to the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism, and will be utilized to the benefit of the victims of the NS regime, said the appeal. This usage, serving as restitution to NS victims, represents, however, only the ultima ratio of restitution efforts. Leads as to the objects and to their former owners and current-day claimants should be directed to Peter Eppel, appointed representative for restitution of the Museum of the City of Vienna at: peter.eppel@wienmuseum.at

Website of the Museum of the City of Vienna: http://www.wienmuseum.at

Shalom Vienna

Profil (02/20/06)
by Sylvia Steinitz

There is a feeling of spring in Vienna’s Jewish Community: how young Jews maintain tradition and at the same time strive to integrate Jewish lifestyle into a multi-cultural society.

Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz cannot shake off his amazement. He came especially from Los Angeles to strengthen the morale of a faint-hearted flock of frightened young people: That’s how the Americans imagine the situation of the Jewish community in Europe. Instead, he finds himself at the Vienna Hilton standing amidst a group of seven hundred people celebrating euphorically. It is the climax of a weekend meeting of young Jews from all over Europe, organized by Vienna’s Israelite Religious Community (IKG) and the largest European Jewish student organization, the European Center for Jewish Students (ECJS). Many young men are wearing the skullcap, the traditional Jewish headpiece, and the live band is playing not only R&B but also Israeli pop songs to which the guests are dancing with arms interlocked. We cannot avoid a few clichés: The Russians are ordering Wodka continuously, the German and the Dutch are the loudest and everyone sings along with Robbie Williams.

At a late hour Rabbi Schwartz dons a pair of paper sunglasses equipped with a special filter. Looking through them at the light, one sees dancing stars of David. He smiles at the thought of these instantly convertible sun glasses. Shlomo Schwartz is of Viennese descent; during WW II his parents fled to the United States where he was born as the youngest. Today he lives in Los Angeles and is, among other things, the personal Rabbi of prominent figures like Richard Dreyfuss or Robin Williams. I really must tell them how much is going on here, he says. Who knows, perhaps a few Hollywood stars will come to Vienna for the next meeting!
The opinion that the Jewish community in Austria consists of a bunch of dispirited, broken people who cannot cast off their memories is still widely spread in America. The current news from their native country that trickle across the Atlantic hardly encourage another image - the lawsuit concerning the return of the Klimt paintings, numerous other contentious cases over confiscated goods, houses and properties, along with opinion polls continue to uphold past stereotypes right into the 21st century. 

Nonetheless, one senses the beginning of a new era within the Jewish community. Jewish life style is finally settling here not as some nostalgic copy of a lost culture but as an integral part of modern multicultural society. 
Achieving this, however, is not any easier today than it was twenty-one years ago when a young man by the name of Ariel Muzicant asked the provoking question: Is the Jewish community in Vienna dying out? and with his young list forged ahead to prevent that from happening. Today Muzicant, the unanimously elected President of the Israelite Religious Community (IKG), is optimistic about laying the foundations of a Jewish community comprising 20,000 to 25,000 members by the year 2008.

The necessary infrastructure is available, which will make some things easier but of course not everything. Jewish life in Austria is still a balancing act between cautious hope for the future and necessary reflection of the past: Do not forget but at some point draw the final line, is how Maxim Slutski describes the attitude of many young Jews. One can sense that particularly among the young people today.

At twenty-six, Slutski personifies the sense of new beginnings for the Israelite Religious Community: As the first representative of the IKG for youth and culture, he has been in office for six months. As such he organized the meeting which Rabbi Schwartz had been so enthusiastic about. In the two years in which I have been in Vienna, so much has been done, claims the young man born in the Ukraine and who until recently lived in New York. The progressive, young-thinking Jews wish to improve upon things in this city. For the coming summer he is planning a one-week event for five hundred participants. It is important and good that something as great as this should be taking place right now in Austria. It conveys a sense of reconciliation and helps to normalize the relations between Jews and non-Jews which we young people so strongly wish.

The Israelite Religious Community in Austria consists of almost seven thousand members with the majority living in Vienna. The Community as such is made up of first or second generations of Jews living in Vienna: immigrants, mostly from the former Soviet Union, whom the local Jewish community along with the few home comers and even fewer survivors have saved from final downfall. Today our community is widely represented, says Slutski. We have Ashkenazy Jews with European roots and Sephardic Jews from regions like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan. Georgia and Azerbaizhan. All have their own cultural backgrounds and mentalities. We try to bring all these groups together at our events. That is also the job of the cultural representative.

Cultural diversity has a long tradition in Vienna. Between 1848 and 1916 about 170,000 Jews came from all parts of the Monarchy to Vienna. What was then a community of approximately 10,000 members, grew to become the second largest community in Europe after that of Warsaw. In 1945 there were some 5,500 Jews living in Vienna; the rest had either fled, been expelled or murdered.

To this day the Israelite Religious Community is aiming at complete restitution and compensation to those owners whose properties were confiscated due to "Aryanization" or whose possessions were destroyed in the November pogrom in 1938. With the money from restitution payments and their own funds totalling some 70 million euros, five Austrian religious communities have been rebuilt in Vienna, Linz, Graz, Salzburg and Innsbruck in addition to some lesser synagogues. Today the religious community supports schools, social institutions, kindergartens, a career training center, the psycho-social center ESRA (in which victims of Nazi persecution and their children find psychological help), the Maimonides center for older citizens as well as three cultural and sports associations. Moreover, there are the Vienna Jewish film festivals and for the last three years a large Jewish street festival in the center of Vienna.

Particularly in the city’s 2nd district one gets an idea of what it looked like and might look like again some day. Except for some intermittent phases (when in 1670 Kaiser Leopold expulsed the inhabitants and renamed the 2nd and parts of the 20th district after himself: Leopoldstadt) the so-called Mazzeinsel has been a traditional Jewish residential area ever since the 17th century, and a whiff of Jewish Life is now returning to it. Here are most of the kosher butchers and bakeries and here one meets orthodox women with their traditional wigs, bearded men in long robes, characteristic side-burns and broad hats. 

The Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews, however, make up a minority of only some two to three thousand people, living and working alongside the official religious community. The majority of the Jewish community lives the cosmopolitan, multi-cultural life of most European cities.

A visit to the youth organization, Hasomer Hazair, in Central Vienna allows young people from different backgrounds to meet and to organize joint excursions and ski courses. The older ones wear blue shirts, some with the Israeli flag and emblem sewed on them. During a group photo they all raise three fingers on their right hand. That stands for the three pillars of our group, explains the sixteen year-old Daliah. Socialism, Zionism and Chaluzinism. The last comes from the Hebrew, "chaluz," meaning pioneer spirit. The Chaluz Movement, apart from the Kibbutz Movement, marked the beginning of the history of current-day Israel. Daliah is Viennese. Her grandparents were expelled by the Nazis, and the family attempted to start a new life during the 1950s. She attends the Wenzgasse Gymnasium in Vienna Hietzing, has Jewish and non-Jewish friends. In school my sister and I are the only Jewish children, tells Daliah. But I have only had good experiences. My schoolmates are very aware of Austria’s historical debate. And they come also to me with questions. I find that good because it shows that we young people are not afraid to approach each other.

Of course other situations occur. My brother was verbally ridiculed in class for asking whether there was anything else to be had other than Schweinsschnitzel. Sometimes she hears people use "Jew" as a swear word. Once she saw in the metro two boys holding their arms stretched in a Hitler greeting. Of course I react differently to such things as a Jew than as a non-Jew, she says, and I ask myself whether they know at all what they are doing or whether they simply enjoy provoking.

No one in the group has experienced an anti-Semitic attack. First of all, we look like all other young people, and secondly, it’s not so bad in Vienna, says seventeen year-old Laura. Daliah adds: In Israel they may think that one cannot live here, but when one actually lives here, it is really quite different.

Actually, compared to other European countries, the number of anti-Semitic attacks in Austria is minimal: From June until August 2005, during the Vienna Forum against anti-Semitism, twenty-eight anti-Semitic incidents were reported, among which were thirteen cases of graffiti. Occasionally some of Vienna’s Orthodox Jews were provoked. 

Nonetheless, the anti-Semitic threats of Iranian President Ahmadinejad, the competition over the Holocaust caricatures and the flaring up of debates about the legality of the State of Israel show that the anti-Semites of the past are visibly being replaced by those of today and tomorrow. The journalist, Hans Rauscher, has touched upon this phenomenon in his book, Israel, Europe and the New anti-Semitism: A form of anti-Jewish propaganda emanating from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict carried out by new leftists, new right wing circles, Islamists and all those for whom the simplest solution has always been best.

Israel as an armed nation is also a topic which nobody in the community likes to speak about, at least not officially. I am tired of being misinterpreted over and over again, says one teenager. As a Jew, whatever one says about the conflict over Israel, it will be misconstrued. Israel for peace peace for Israel is painted on one of the banners which hangs in the lounge of the youth organization, Hashomer Hazair. The banner says more than the young people can express in words. They try, nevertheless. I’m happy to live in Austria and feel at home here, explains the seventeen year-old Niki. But Israel is my spiritual home. It simply gives me a certain security. The fact that his mother happens to be an Israeli helps to reinforce the connection. It is much the same for me, explains Daliah. I prefer to be and to live freely in Vienna knowing that there is a country I can go to at any time and will feel safe in. People in Israel will not understand how we can even think of living in an ex-Nazi country. Some have this radical opinion because they believe that nothing has changed. But when one lives here, one knows that it is quite different.

Avi Yosfan, born in Israel, has experienced this phenomenon: When I moved to Vienna sixteen years ago and saw the same street which I had seen on old photos documenting the Holocaust, emotion overwhelmed me. But that moment passed. The streets are the same, but the times are different. I feel like a real Viennese. Yosfan’s restaurant in the center of the city, Maschu Maschu is a beloved meeting place for Israelis but also for Arabs working at nearby OPEC who are among his regular guests. One gets into stimulating but peaceful discussions about politics or some issue like the debate over the caricatures or even about the weather.

Three years ago Yosfan, together with his friend, Shimon Deutsch, founded a branch of "Maschu Maschu" in the 7th district. His guests provided a colorful mix. "The guys are uncomplicated," says Yosfan. They say: "Aha, Israeli cooking today. Okay, we’ll try it." Older guests ask about it and want to try out different Israeli recipes. I find that good. And if someone absolutely does not want a Falafel he can have a Wienerschnitzel instead. It’s all about feeling good here.

Avi Yosfan compares modern, globalized society with Israeli cooking: Everything is on the move, and progressing continually. People are the ingredients from all over the world. You put everything into a pot, anything from the Yeminite’s sharp zhug sauce to the Pole’s "gefilte fish", experiment around a bit and when it’s all done, something good comes out of it.

Sometimes, however clouds of smoke come billowing out of the pot like in the case of Sonja and Warren Rosenzweig. When the young woman from Carinthia married the New York-born founder of Austria’s Jewish Theater 18 years ago, one part of her family was anything but happy: It came to some bad scenes, Sonja Rosenzweig recalls. I ask myself even today how my husband was able to get over them.

But the Rosenzweigs themselves have their occasional religious differences: At first the question of religion never really arose. But when the children were born, it became a topic. In Judaism, it is namely the mother who is responsible for the children’s religious and cultural upbringing. This is a duty I cannot fulfill because I lack the background, says Sonja Rosenzweig. On the other hand my son can’t go to a purely Jewish school with his mother not being a Jew. The question whether she should convert is something she has been considering for many years.

She has often been on the point of doing so by going to the Rabbi for religious instruction. But I have entirely different roots. The stumbling block for me is that Jesus Christ plays no central part in Judaism. Each Christmas I suffer a mini crisis because it means so much to me. So, for the time being, the topic has been laid aside. I still haven’t decided. But I’m happy that my husband doesn’t try to pressure me. I know one case where a man left his girlfriend because she didn’t want to convert. 

Another Jewish friend is together with a non-Jew. They simply celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. That I find really nice because it’s being honest. Should she, however, convert, then I would perhaps attend a reformed Or-Chadasch religious community. It corresponds more to my modern-day concept of religion. And they accept me for who I am with all my doubts and questions.
Whether to convert or not is a question which concerns very few in Austria. Only some five persons per year convert to the Jewish faith, reports Natalja Najder with the Israelite Religious Community. Those are either people with Jewish roots or women who marry and want to change over to the Jewish faith. In the reformed Or-Chadasch community under Rabbi Irit Shillor, there are currently three young people wanting to convert, who are not happy with Christianity and are looking for new religious paths.

For Sonja Rosenzweig, maiden name Egger, entry into the Jewish world broadened her field of experiences. People reacted to my new surname with ‘Oh, Rosenzweig, what a beautiful name. Are you Jewish? You don’t look at all Jewish. On the whole I experience more curiosity than disapproval. I only had a bad experience once: I was turned down for a job which I felt sure about when the woman in charge heard my name. The marriage of the thirty-nine year-old woman provided her with a lot of material for discussion. "But I am happy about it," she says. Sometimes I think that the Jews are in the world to permanently remind us that we have to learn tolerance. When one enters into this discussion and experiences personal rejection, it’s tough. But it also keeps one alive and inquiring about the different sides of a situation. 

Basically, it’s an unbelievable enrichment. It impresses her that her husband continues to fight for a place for his theater. For years, Warren Rosenzweig tried to get his own house not only for the ‘Jewish Theater Austria’ but generally speaking for a Jewish theater in Austria. His choice would be the former Jewish theater in the Nestroyhof in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt which was aryanized in 1938 and to this day is in the hands of the family which had bought it [from the Nazis]. In the basement of the building Rosenzweig discovered Nazi swastikas on the walls, which were finally removed by the police after having repeatedly and unsuccessfully asked the owner to do it.

It is still unclear whether he will be able to move into the theater. Unfortunately, we’re not getting any cultural promotion. We are told that the financial means are lacking. But we continue to fight.

A Jewish theater in Leopoldstadt, in the same house in which it once existed, that would be the best solution, culturally, economically and politically. It would be good for the Austrian image, the district and the cultural landscape.

Nevertheless, the means are lacking and above all there is a lack of understanding on the part of the owners. They have made it clear to us that perhaps they would accept a theater but not a Jewish one. Those are the grandchildren of people who acquired a lot of real estate through Aryanization and thanks to diverse legal loopholes haven’t had to return the properties. That is also modern-day Vienna.

In Freud’s Waning Shadow

Der Standard (03/02/2006)
 by Christian Eigner

The year of Freud glorification of analysis and the personality cult. Until 1938, Else Pappenheim was trained in psychoanalysis at the Viennese Psychoanalytical Institute located in Vienna’s Bergasse, allowing her to better put Freud’s legend into perspective.

New York/Graz - Freud? He was present only as a shadow in the background. Some of the instructors in analysis adhered to his ideas, whereas many others brought their own ideas into play. Those are claims made by Else Pappenheim, who lives in New York and at the age of ninety-five is the last living member of the legendary Viennese Psychoanalytical Institute which resided in Vienna’s Bergasse until the Anschluß. 

Strictly speaking, she is not saying it but letting it be known through her husband, Stephen Frischauf. Nine years younger than his wife, he answers questions sent to her by e-mail. At the same time he reports how "my Else" is getting along. Her eyesight is declining and she has to be led by the hand. Nonetheless, apart from a broken hip last spring, she is "doing really remarkably well," also mentally capable of remembering her training in Vienna.

Does she also remember Sigmund Freud? No, answers Frischauf for her. She never had the opportunity of meeting Freud. During Else’s training at the Psychoanalytical Institute in 1937, Freud was already so disfigured by cancer of the jaw that he no longer wished to meet any new people.

But her mother, Edith, had often met the father of psychoanalysis. Occasionally invited to tea by Minna Bernay, Freud’s sister-in-law, she remembers meeting Freud there. He would join their group somewhat like a friendly spirit.

Else Pappenheim’s memories do not glorify her assessment of Freud, not even in his celebration year. In her writings, which the Salzburger analyst Bernhard Handlbauer published Else Pappenheim: Hölderlin, Feuchtersleben, Freud. Beiträge zur Geschichte der Psychoanalyse, der Psychiatrie und Neurologie. Nausner & Nausner, Graz 2004, she remains very matter-of-fact, not only in regard to Freud. She neither overemphasizes the importance of the Viennese Psychoanalytical Institute, whose size had been completely exaggerated, nor of Psychoanalysis in general. When one speaks of the Vienna between the two world wars, one has the impression that there must have been hundreds of analysts. But that was not the case - there were no more than about thirty people.

"It was like a sect"
They formed an officially sworn-in community. It was like a religious sect. We students often laughed about it. Although we were full of enthusiasm, we did not go in for the personality cult.

Born in 1911 in Salzburg and having grown up in Vienna, Else Pappenheim had met most of the analysts in that city by the age of fifteen. This was because of her father, Martin Pappenheim, Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry. And he was a member of the Viennese Psychoanalytical Association (WPV), more out of personal interest than as an active analyst. 

That was enough incentive for Else Pappenheim to continue to be in touch with the central figures of the WPV, and to consider them as normal, everyday people. She made her first step into psychoanalysis towards the end of her medical studies, having specialized in Psychiatry and Neurology. She did this in order to become a better psychiatrist.

The End of the Institute
In 1934 she began her own self-analysis under Otto Isakower; three years later she was accepted into the Psychoanalytical Institute and completed her theoretical training. Together with a number of mostly foreign students, she came across such dazzling personalities as Heinz Hartmann, Anna Freud, Paul Federn and Otto Fenichel. The end of the Viennese Institute came in March 1938, during a seminar with Hartman, when one heard the calls of "Heil Hitler" from the street. What that meant for Else Pappenheim is that she wasn’t able to complete her education until after her emigration to the United States. 

Did she find the training she received in Vienna at least helpful for her psychiatric practice later on? "No," she answered by way of e-mail through Stephen Frischauf. That fits together with but also contradicts what she claimed earlier. Else Pappenheim always had an ambivalent relationship to Psychoanalysis. Through analysis one can learn more about a person than in any other manner, quotes Handlbauer Pappenheim in his book. Else Pappenheim, however, let it be known that she holds modern brain research to be equally valuable. Freud himself would have probably valued it highly, since he had always assumed that earlier or later one would find the physiological substratum that governs mental disorders. Does that mean that brain research is the future of Psychiatry? By no means.

Else Papenheim’s hopes still lie in the symbiosis of analysis and brain research. That’s why she still lets it be known through her husband that today’s advances in brain research are fifty years too late - at least fifty years too late for her.

"Grünbaum was Simply More Brilliant"

Die Presse (03/06/2006)

Marie-Theres Arnbom explores the life of the cabaret artist

The book lying on the marble table in front of Marie-Theres Arnbom was published some months ago; yellow strips of transparent markers are sticking to the pages. The jacket cover depicts a gentleman with round glasses surrounded by a crowd of cooing women whom he appears not to notice. His name is Fritz Grünbaum, a legend of cabaret.

Cultural researcher Arnbom, specializing in studies of the middle class, has been tracing his life for the past two years. While working on projects in the past, she often stumbled across Fritz Grünbaum and would have liked to have read a book about him. But since there weren’t any, she decided, without further ado, to write one together with Christoph Wagner-Trenkwitz. The research project - a detailed account of Grünbaum’s works and the times in which he lived is still going on.

The lack of any legacy or collected works on or by him was aggravating for the researchers, but eventually, some things were found in an archive on censorships in Lower Austria. Every text by Grünbaum intended for publication was hoarded away in this archive. Arnbom found earlier texts never seen before and was able to explore an entire body of work by Grünbaum, including ten shootings which Grünbaum made after the 1930s. Three short films, in which the Comedian Harmonists played a part, are considered missing.

At the age of nineteen, Grünbaum moved from Brünn to Vienna in order to study law. After completing his studies, he almost ended up landing a job with the police in Moravia. In October 1906, he made his first appearance in the operetta, Phryne, on the stage of a pub called Hölle, or Hell. After this debut, he stayed on in Vienna. One year later he appeared in the Chat Noir, located in Berlin The cabaret scene in Berlin and Vienna were comparable to each other; the only difference was that considerably more Viennese went to Berlin in order to appear on stage than vice versa. Arnbom: Apart from Fritz Grünbaum, Paul Morgan was also considered a superstar in Berlin, who together with other Viennese, founded the famous ‘Kabarett der Komiker’ in Berlin’s Friedrichstraße.

In Dialogue with Farkas

The cabaret celebrated its first climax in Paris. From there, the trend caught on in Berlin and eventually in Vienna. There it was not only strongly influenced by the French but also by the Hungarian cabaret. Hungarian artists often made their appearances in the Budapester Orpheum in Vienna The famous constellation of the Doppelconference (dialogue between the smart one and the dumb one) for which Grünbaum and Karl Farkas became well-known after 1921, originated in Budapest. With the opening of the Hölle in 1906, which provided a place for cabaret performances in the basement of the Theater an der Wien, cabaret came into its own in Vienna. There were many places where ambitious men talked, where overly wound-up women singers gave their best to performing bizarre chansons. Some of the places had to be closed, others continued. The cabaret, "Simplizissimus," was in existence then, much like the "Ronacher," the "Apollo" and the vaudeville cabaret, "Gartenbau."

The few people who knew Grünbaum described him as a charming contemporary, says Arnbom, but he knew also how to get into a fight. In 1910, when an officer in the audience of the "Hölle" called out anti-Semitic insults, Grünbaum went over to the man and punched him one and then continued the program. The officer demanded, however, a duel, in which Grünbaum, a delicate man, was wounded.

From Enthusiasm over the War to Pacifism

In 1914 the star let himself be won over by the delirium of the war. In 1916 he fought on the Italian front. Disillusioned, he went back to the stage, and the one-time war enthusiast turned to pacifism. Also, the audience had drastically changed. Before WW I the cabaret was almost only for the wealthy. During the war, however, the borders became blurred with the upper echelons sitting next to the workers in the audience, and after 1918, war profiteers conquered nightlife for themselves. Women also took up cabaret not only as girls who decorated the stages with their ivory but also as gaudy and contrived, operetta divas, like Mella Mars with her four-cornered bangs.

Cabaret was always political. The more difficult times became, the more one had to say. Humor took on considerable sophistication, and with razor-edge sharpness, one satirized those in power, quoted Heine, Goethe and Schiller. Thus, Grünbaum was able to fascinate entire ballrooms of people, tore away at the Nazis with his war of words which finally led to his undoing in 1941 in Dachau. What made him better than his colleagues? Arnbom: He was simply more brilliant.

Jumping Off the Deportation Train

Der Standard (11/5-6/05)
by Andreas Feiertag

Leo Bretholz is one of the very few who survived the Holocaust by jumping from a deportation train bound for Auschwitz. He has recaptured some historically significant memories in a book which he presented in Vienna.

Coming to terms with the research compiled on the Holocaust during World War II would hardly be possible were it not for the scrupulously detailed recording of the Nazis and their deeds. Deportation lists compiled by the executioners themselves are historical documents, which helped to at least quantify the Holocaust. 

One of them reveals the following: Exactly sixty-three years ago today on November 6, 1942, a German freight train, Nr. 42, departed from the French internment camp in Drancy. Of the one thousand Jews crowded together in cattle cars, seven hundred seventy-three were gassed upon arrival in Auschwitz or had died on the way. One hundred forty-five men and eighty-two women were used as slave laborers; only four men survived. The Nazis garnished these gruelling numbers of those who were brought to their death with personal data. One small example: Marthe Breitenfeld, Bienfeld, Germany; Leo Bretholz, Vienna, Austria; Abram Bronoff, Novogoriek, Russia.

This list is not quite accurate, says Leo Bretholz during a conversation with The Standard. Born a Jew in Vienna in 1921, he had survived. He belongs to the very few witnesses living today that escaped death by jumping out of the moving deportation train. A leap into another life-threatening uncertainty: His flight from the Nazis forced him to be on the run for years crisscrossing Europe. It was not until 1947 that he landed in the U.S. He lives in Baltimore.

Currently, however, he is visiting Vienna. On Monday he presented his book, Leap into Darkness* - with touching memories in such clear language, evoking painful and gruesome pictures in the reader’s imagination of the past. This book takes its place among the lists of works written by present-day witnesses representing the necessary supplement to historical research and, in so doing, giving the Holocaust a human quality.

Leo Bretholz wishes to have his book viewed as a teaching tool for history instructors as well as for students of history. The author sees himself merely as a footnote in a tragic story. Much like the belief of the American historian, Gordon Alexander Craig, who died this week, what’s important to him is allowing the actors to take precedence over the circumstances; to show people the tormented as well as the tormentor. Both must not be forgotten, and if memory died with the victim, they would be brought to death a second time.

Leo Bretholz offers names and identities. He describes the luck he found in a nurse in France, or in a Catholic nun; he expresses the pain of a mother whose little child was shot by an SS soldier out of boredom; he sketches the doubts shared by many in the camp as well as on the train and the many years of his flight. In 1938, he was sent away by his mother in Vienna, for he should survive. He never saw his mother or sisters again.

Apart from memories of the past, Bretholz hopes to have written a warning for the future: "Hitler is dead, but his thoughts live on," he says and points to the statements against Israel made by the Iranian president, to the plundered Israeli cemeteries and to the swastikas smeared on synagogues.

He also wants to visit the Jewish synagogue in Vienna, not so much out of religious belief since he lost it with time: - when the synagogues were going up in flames, God must have burned inside along with them but more out of memory of the pogrom during the night of November 9-10, 1938, the so-called Reichskristallnacht, which will be commemorated during the coming weeks in Austria.

It was not until 1963 that Leo Bretholz, who ran a bookstore in Baltimore and wrote essays for newspapers, was able to speak about his experiences. It was then that the long journey of coming to terms with the past began. Now he has reached a point whereby he can bear his historical memories to the outside world free of resentment and hatred. 

Bretholz, Leo; Olesker, Michael. Leap into Darkness. Seven Years on the Run in Wartime Europe; Anchor Publ.; 1999; 288 pgs.; ISBN: 0-385-49705-9; $13.95.
Leo Bretholz (mit Michael Olesker) Flucht in die Dunkelheit. Mit einem Vorwort von Doron Rabinovici. Wien 2005 (Löcker). 265 S., € 24,80.

*Exhibition Planned for Los Angeles

Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) (03/16/2006)

The five Klimt paintings were removed on Tuesday from Belvedere

According to the Austrian Gallery Belvedere, the five Klimt paintings, which have been returned to the heirs of the Bloch-Bauer family, were picked up by a shipping company on Tuesday.

They are currently being transported to the United States and will be on display shortly at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Decision Reached in January
The paintings involve Adele Bloch-Bauer I, Adele Bloch-Bauer II, Apfelbaum, Buchenwald/Birkenwald and Häuser in Unterach am Attersee. The legal dispute between the claimants and the Republic of Austria lasted for years. It was decided in January in favor of Maria Altmann and other heirs.
Altmann: Deadline for Purchase Extended
In mid-February, Altmann explained that the heirs which include herself and Francis Gutmann, Trevor Mantle, George Bentley and Nelly Auersperg had again extended the deadline for potential Austrian buyers to purchase one or more of the paintings. 

According to Ms. Altmann it had been Ms. Auersperg who had strongly urged that the paintings not leave Vienna on March 1 as planned but remain in Vienna until the end of March.

Future Remains Undecided
Despite the planned departure of the paintings, the decision as to their future has not yet been made, emphasized Altmann’s lawyer, E. Randol Schoenberg.

We have concentrated all our efforts on shipping the paintings involving complicated issues like packing and insurance, said Schoenberg. For that reason we still haven’t had any time for further discussion over what will finally happen with the paintings.

Efforts Toward a Purchase Continue
The Viennese gallery owner, John Sailer, who started an initiative for a private Austrian cultural foundation emphasized: Our efforts toward purchasing one or more of the paintings, particularly one of the two Bloch-Bauer portraits, will continue.

Sailer: Positive Talks
He had already conducted some very positive talks with banks and firms, said Sailer, despite having had neither a definitive answer nor a list of names.

Even if there is no unlimited time-frame for purchase, he estimates that based upon his conversations with Schoenberg, no immediate decision of a purchase by a third party or of an auction of the paintings is in the offing.

Storming the Doors of the Belvedere
Beginning February, thousands of visitors took advantage of visiting the Belvedere in order to pay their last respects to the five paintings. The Austrian Gallery has never received such record visits requiring that the crowd be admitted in separate groups. After that, the paintings were taken off the walls and examined by restorers. Then they were packed professionally.

Decision by the Council of Ministers
The Council of Ministers decided that Austria would not purchase any of the Klimt paintings under question. The Republic sees no possibility of mustering up 300 million dollars, the estimated price for all of the paintings, confirmed Minister Elisabeth Gehrer (ÖVP). Diverse attempts by third parties to buy back the paintings have, until now, not been successful. 

*Since the time this article was written, the five Klimt paintings have arrived in Los Angeles.

Trivializing National Socialism

Der Standard (02/21/2006)

Is Not Just an Offense When Holding a Certain Opinion

Hans Rauscher

Recently my old German- and History teacher, Herman Lein, died at the age of eighty-five. He wouldn’t have been happy about the discussion among various commentators and lawyers on whether one shouldn’t have done away with the statute that prohibits advocating NS activity (Verbotsgesetz). He had almost died in a concentration camp and spent his time in the years after the war telling a couple of thousand school children something about National Socialism. That was something of an exception in the early 1960s. Hermann Lein was a so-called Innitzer guardsman. As member of a Catholic youth group, he participated in a celebration on October 7, 1938 called forth by Cardinal Innitzer whereby wreaths of roses were placed at the altar of Vienna’s Stephansdom. 

The Cardinal had, incidentally, greeted the Anschluß some time before with "Heil Hitler." About 7,000 young people were demonstrating against NS rule, the only sign of any larger public resistance displayed between the years of 1938 and 1945. Days later the eighteen year-old Lein was arrested due to inciting the crowd and brought to Dachau and then Mauthausen for nineteen months, where he almost died from typhus. 

After the war he became a high school teacher and dedicated himself to educating his class in great detail about the nature and crimes of National Socialism. At that time it wasn’t very usual to offer students political enlightenment of any kind. We had teachers who reported proudly of their heroic deeds in the German Army, who struck up songs of an inappropriate political nature during skiing lessons, who allowed for strange ideas about Herrenmenschen to trickle through their lessons (later, at university, one could hear anti-Semitic overtones during introductory lectures given before hundreds of students in the lecture hall or one could listen to a famous professor who made fun of Sigmund Freud).

Authoritarian, anti-Democratic, racist ideas, particularly those appearing intellectual, have a certain appeal to young people, over and over again. That is why it is absolutely necessary to identify the nature of the greatest crime in the history of mankind committed among us. And it is necessary to prosecute those who deny these crimes. There are some conservative and libertarian commentators who, for lack of other worries, wish to permit the neo-Nazis’ freedom of speech. Even a few old leftists have joined their ranks, and ultra cool young people think that one shouldn’t behave this way. 

All of this proves the fact that these fighters for freedom of speech never have had anything to do with neo-Nazis and they think of them as merely distant oddballs rather than real preachers of hate with a political agenda. The argument so gladly heard - one cannot bar people from committing a crime of odious speechis no real argument.

People who deny the Holocaust, like David Irving, have no opinion. They know exactly, or at least they are capable of knowing, that these incomprehensible crimes happened and how. They want, however, to deny them, to trivialize them, to make them politically acceptable.

That is the decisive point. Whoever plays down National Socialism, not only once but continuously and with considerable argumentative effort, wants to again make it politically viable as a future possibility. That is resuming NS activity, nothing else. This is also what the Supreme Court decided again in 2003. To tolerate this is asking too much from a democracy. And it is shabby asking it from the victims.

Grasser Receives Award from the European Jewish Community

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (03/03/2006)

For his contribution to Jewish Life in Austria

Brussels. Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser is to be awarded by the Center for the European Jewish Community for his contribution and personal involvement in the Jewish community in Austria. Grasser will receive the Jewish Revival Award at a gala dinner this coming Monday, announced the Center on Friday.

During 2001 Grasser assumed a leading role in the name of his government for the restoration of the first Jewish teacher’s academy in Vienna since WW II, explained the organization. The Center based its decision upon the fact that the Finance Minister represented the Austrian Federal Government during its EU Presidency [in the first half of 2006], which had also concluded the agreement on restitution for NS stolen public and private properties. 

Austria, Israel and the Jews: We are on the Right Path

OTS (02/19/2006)

President Khol as Host to the 
European Jewish Congress (EJC) General Assembly

Vienna Tonight, the President of the National Council, Andreas Khol called the relationship between the Jewish community in Austria and the State of Israel as well as the Austrian government a positive one without problems. The Austrian Parliament is a friend of Israel, summarized Khol. During the course of a festive dinner in which Khol invited the European Jewish Congress on the occasion of their 1st General Assembly in Vienna at the Epstein Palace, Kohl also spoke about the current situation. He hopes that the Middle East Road Map will be continued following the victorious elections of Hamas; this is important for us all, emphasized Khol. The President of the National Council then spoke of the conflict surrounding the Mohammed caricatures and termed it a threat to human rights and the respect for the rule of law, and to the right of voicing differences of opinion without violence. All of these values should be protected. Khol appeared happy over the attitude revealed by the Jewish youth towards Austria: They feel secure and take themselves to be a natural part of society. Those are signs that we are on the right path, said President Khol.

Jews feel good and they feel at home in Austria, said President of the European Jewish Congress, Pierre Besnainou, and the relations between Austria and Israel are also good. Two events had shaped the 20th century, continued Besnainou further: the Holocaust and the independence of the State of Israel. Now, however, the Holocaust was being denied by the Iranian President, and Israel was threatened to be destroyed. This demands concrete steps, warned Besnainou: It is unthinkable that someone who calls for genocide should be received by one of the twenty-five countries of the European Union (EU): He can also not imagine that European countries can conduct talks with a terrorist organization like Hamas as long as it invokes the destruction of the State of Israel, violates existing agreements and spreads further terror.

Summarizing his view of things, Ariel Muzicant, President of the Israelite Religious Community, concluded that things have changed. Not all, but many Jews in Austria are no longer sitting on packed suitcases. It is also a good sign for the majority when minorities feel secure, said Muzicant. He showed satisfaction over the solution to the questions of restitution.

Charlotte Knobloch, Vice President of the European Jewish Congress and of the Jewish Wold Congress, began speaking of her experience in Germany after the war. In 1945 her wish was to stay not one day longer in Germany. Fifteen years later, however, following the success of a project of some 57 million euros which was completed with the financial support of the State of Bavaria and the City of Munich and not on the periphery of the city but in the heart of the city - she unpacked her suitcase because the Jewish Community had come home to Munich.

President Khol greeted, among others, Israel’s Ambassador to Austria, Dan Ashbel, Secretary General of the European Jewish Congress, Serge Cwajgenbaum, Secretary General of the Jewish World Congress, Stephen E. Herbits, Chief Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg and Chairman of the Green Party, Alexander Van der Bellen. 

Wolfmayr: Austrian Restitution Law Exemplary

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (01/30/2006)

Calls for change unfounded

Vienna. Austria’s restitution law of 1998 is exemplary worldwide, emphasized Dr. Andrea Wolfmayr today, Spokeswoman for Cultural Affairs of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and member of Parliament. Research on establishing ownership (provenance) is unique, lawfully binding, and tries not only to establish the comprehensive source of new entries into national collections from the year 1938 to 1945 and onward, but also looks for the legal successors of the original owners. Thus, many legitimate claimants could be researched who had no knowledge of their claim, said Ms. Wolfmayr to the statements issued by the Green Party’s Spokeswoman for Judicial Affairs, Ms. Stoisits.

To simply wait until justifiable claims are filed is just wrong. Legitimate claims were actively investigated with help of the Israelite Religious Community (IKG). Compared to restitution procedures internationally, Austria’s are based upon a legal framework. Provenance research and restitution are legally safeguarded, said Wolfmayr. This is different from, let’s say Holland, where there is only a political declaration of intent but no legal obligation regarding restitution of cultural objects. Thus, in contrast to Austria, a change of course regarding intent of return would be possible at a moment’s notice. 

Moreover, Austria has abolished the ban on exports for restituted art objects, which is not the case for Germany and the Czech Republic, where the ban on exports is still valid. The laws governing restitution were also consciously set up in such a way that the claims are processed within the shortest time period possible, said Wolfmayr. Positions taken by the party (party line) would draw out the proceedings. Provenance research cooperates closely together with those concerned and takes into consideration each and every claim.

The "Restitutionsbeirat" (Advisory Council on Restitution) has held thirty-three meetings since 1998 and recommended the return of a total of 5,063 art objects (due date: January 18, 2006), emphasized Wolfmayr. Almost all of the cases submitted to the Council, with very few exceptions, received a positive decision. That shows that Austrian restitution law is exemplary worldwide and is oriented toward the interests of those concerned. Therefore, there appears to be no need for change, concluded Wolfmayr. 

Wolfmayr: Austrian Restitution Law Exemplary

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (01/30/2006)

Calls for change unfounded

Vienna. Austria’s restitution law of 1998 is exemplary worldwide, emphasized Dr. Andrea Wolfmayr today, Spokeswoman for Cultural Affairs of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and member of Parliament. Research on establishing ownership (provenance) is unique, lawfully binding, and tries not only to establish the comprehensive source of new entries into national collections from the year 1938 to 1945 and onward, but also looks for the legal successors of the original owners. Thus, many legitimate claimants could be researched who had no knowledge of their claim, said Ms. Wolfmayr to the statements issued by the Green Party’s Spokeswoman for Judicial Affairs, Ms. Stoisits.

To simply wait until justifiable claims are filed is just wrong. Legitimate claims were actively investigated with help of the Israelite Religious Community (IKG). Compared to restitution procedures internationally, Austria’s are based upon a legal framework. Provenance research and restitution are legally safeguarded, said Wolfmayr. This is different from, let’s say Holland, where there is only a political declaration of intent but no legal obligation regarding restitution of cultural objects. Thus, in contrast to Austria, a change of course regarding intent of return would be possible at a moment’s notice. 

Moreover, Austria has abolished the ban on exports for restituted art objects, which is not the case for Germany and the Czech Republic, where the ban on exports is still valid. The laws governing restitution were also consciously set up in such a way that the claims are processed within the shortest time period possible, said Wolfmayr. Positions taken by the party (party line) would draw out the proceedings. Provenance research cooperates closely together with those concerned and takes into consideration each and every claim.

The "Restitutionsbeirat" (Advisory Council on Restitution) has held thirty-three meetings since 1998 and recommended the return of a total of 5,063 art objects (due date: January 18, 2006), emphasized Wolfmayr. Almost all of the cases submitted to the Council, with very few exceptions, received a positive decision. That shows that Austrian restitution law is exemplary worldwide and is oriented toward the interests of those concerned. Therefore, there appears to be no need for change, concluded Wolfmayr. 

Institute for Holocaust Studies

Die Presse Online (01/31/2006) www.diepresse.at/Artikel.aspxchannel=p&ressort=i&id=536074
Taken from an article in APA

The political scientist, Anton Pelinka, explained: The Institute will provide a worthy framework for the archives and legacy of Simon Wiesenthal.*

An international center for Holocaust research is to be built in Vienna and named after Simon Wiesenthal who passed away last year in September 2005. Initiators of this project to create the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) gave a presentation at the University of Vienna last Monday evening. The political scientist, Anton Pelinka, director of the VWI explained: The institute will provide a worthy framework for the archives and the legacy of Simon Wiesenthal.

Simon Wiesenthal personally took part in the conception of the institute. He wanted the archive to stay in Vienna under certain conditions, said Pelinka. Fulfilling Wiesenthal’s wish, the VWI will devote itself to researching and documenting questions concerning anti-Semitism, racism and the Holocaust. The institute is an offer made to Vienna and Austria, commented Pelinka, emphasizing the importance of research. It would be an institute putting Austria on the map of international Holocaust research.

The main core of the institute will be Wiesenthal’s collection of some 8,000 documents, including written records spanning decades of his search for justice for the crimes committed by National Socialism. The Institute will also contain the archive of the Jewish Religious Community (IKG) in Vienna. 

The IKG supported the applications for restitution submitted by about 14,000 NS victims. To this end it relied upon its historical archive, which is now fully reconstructed, but was partially scattered about during and after the war. Valuable documents, such as files containing names of Jews who were expelled from Vienna during Nazi rule, were discovered in Vienna.

During the 1950s and 60s, large segments of the archive were permanently loaned to the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. The central office in Jerusalem had large segments some 1.3 million single documents put on microfilm, an undertaking which will be completed sometime this year. After that, the largest archive of a Jewish community in the world will be accessible for research in Vienna.

According to the estimates of historians, both collections are one-of-a-kind in terms of their international significance. What is lacking is an appropriate institution that would make public and professional use possible, and the VWI would bridge the gap. Belonging to the organizations supporting the project are, among others, the Archive on the Documentation of Austrian Resistance (DÖW), the Institute for Contemporary History at the University of Vienna and the International Research Center for Cultural Research.

Internationally renowned scientists such as Omer Bartov, Micha Brumlik, Dan Diner and Bertrand Perz are already involved in the project. The VWI will have a very strong outreach program hosting classes, lectures, exhibitions and readings. The IKG has offered to house the institute in a 3,000 sq. ft. area in the center of Vienna. Building costs amount to some 14.5 million euros, while costs for running the institute come to almost 2.5 million euros. 

Currently talks are being conducted on state and national levels. The City of Vienna has already given the signal for financial support along with the federal government. Officials hope for initial results in February. We are assured of a breakthrough and that the necessary political decisions will be made, explained the director of the IKG central office, Ingo Zechner, to the Austrian Press Agency (AOA). Plans for completion are set for 2009/2010.

Austria Comes to Terms With Its Past

Forward (12/16/2005)
by Stuart Eizenstat

Last week, after a federal judge in New York dismissed the last major Holocaust restitution case against the government of Austria and several private Austrian corporations, Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel told President Bush that he was declaring "legal peace." The Austrian leader then called me and said in emotional terms that it was a "moment of great joy."

Austria, Schüssel said, would now be able to immediately pay $210 million into the General Settlement Fund, the last remaining part of a nearly $1 billion Austrian-American agreement that I negotiated with him in the final hours of the Clinton administration almost five years ago. The first payments, he told me, would be made "before Christmas."

That Holocaust victims will finally receive this deserved money is indeed, as Schüssel said, cause for joy. But it is also significant in another regard. At a time of Muslim unrest and lingering anti-Semitism in segments of Europe, it represents a twin triumph: a nation moving from the shadows of long-denied Nazi complicity in World War II into the sunlight of acceptance of its historic responsibility, and a chancellor proving his critics wrong, playing a historic role for his people and striking a blow for the fight against anti-Semitism.

The $210 million payment into the General Settlement Fund will mean that 19,300 claimants from around the world finally will have the chance to prove their claim and divide the sum on a pro-rata basis, with a maximum recovery of up to $2 million each for liquidated businesses; property converted to private use; looted bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mortgages and movable property, and unpaid insurance policies. Even before the chancellor's declaration of "legal peace" last week, the three-person claims committee we created in 2001 already had reached a decision on 2,700 cases. The rest of the 19,300 cases should be decided by the spring of 2007, and Austrian officials have assured me that the oldest claimants will be sent to the front of the line.

"Legal peace" also will activate a part of our agreement that allows victims of Nazi persecution to get back the actual real property confiscated by the Nazis, if it remains in the Austrian government's hands. There are 80 claims pending, and a separate tribunal created under our 2001 agreement already has decided seven cases, three favorably. 

In a delicious irony, one of the successful claims will return looted property that now houses the Vienna offices of the United States Information Agency. The American government will leave the building, which the Austrian government took over after the war and leased for decades to Washington, and it will be returned to its rightful prewar owners.

Last week's decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which opened the door to "legal peace," validates the unique alternative dispute resolution process the Clinton administration developed to settle the major Holocaust restitution cases involving Austria, Germany and France. In dismissing the claims against the Austrian government, the Court of Appeals deferred to the American foreign policy interests that led us to create an international forum to compensate victims outside the American system.

When we were negotiating the agreement, we recognized that with hundreds of thousands of surviving victims, the traditional trial system never would have worked in the victims' lifetime. And indeed, until last week a few lawyers who objected to our agreement, assisted by a federal judge who sat on the case for five years, were able to delay justice to tens of thousands of needy Holocaust survivors and their families. Since we negotiated the agreement, the number of living Austrian Holocaust survivors fell to 13,000 from 21,000.

At least for the survivors still alive today, justice is no longer delayed. Shortly after the Court of Appeals decision the federal district court judge thankfully dismissed the case against the private Austrian corporations, and in the process helped strengthen the Austrian Jewish community. The case's dismissal was based on a stipulation negotiated by Andreas Kohl, president of the Austrian parliament, under which the organized Austrian Jewish community will receive roughly $40 million to support its struggling institutions. The contributions, given equally by the Austrian federal government and the provincial governments, will relieve some of the personal financial burden that has been carried by Ariel Muzicant, head of the organized Austrian Jewish community.

The declaration of "legal peace" also represents a personal vindication for Schüssel, and enhances the moral authority of Austria less than a month before the country assumes the rotating presidency of the European Union.
Following inconclusive parliamentary elections in October 1999, Schüssel, leader of the People's Party, became chancellor by making a controversial pact with Jörg Haider. Schüssel's alliance with the Freedom Party leader an aggressive, xenophobic nationalist who built a political career on the far right by speaking at gatherings of Austrian S.S. veterans and offering apologies for Nazis crimes provoked a diplomatic firestorm. Unprecedented diplomatic sanctions were levied against Austria by its fellow E.U. member states, and the Clinton administration pursued a policy of "restricted contacts" with Vienna.

The chancellor told me, in our first meeting, that his political strategy was to isolate Haider within his own party and to strengthen the moderate elements within the Freedom Party. And it worked: Haider has lost control over his party, and is an increasingly marginal political force in Austria.

Schüssel was a tough but fair negotiating partner whose leadership was indispensable to our agreement. His declaration of legal peace last week places his final stamp on the historic 2001 agreement. 

The declaration represents more than just a financial settlement. It amounts more broadly to Austria, 60 years after the end of World War II, coming to terms with its past and more fully recognizing its responsibilities to the victims of the Third Reich. For decades after the war, Austrians clung to the myth that they had been the "first victims" of Hitler's aggression, rather than his willing accomplices that, as the Viennese coffee house joke went, Austrians believed that the German-born Beethoven was in fact an Austrian and the Austrian-born Hitler was really a German.

It was not until the 1980s that Austria was forced to take a harder look at its wartime record, when the full record of former United Nations secretary general and Austrian president Kurt Waldheim's service in the German army was uncovered by the World Jewish Congress. Gradually, Austria's political leaders began to speak up, but many Austrians still clung to past myths, while justice to its victims was never fully achieved.

With the declaration of "legal peace," Austria now has come full circle, and it will be a stronger nation for its actions. Austria has gone beyond our 2001 agreement, which only required the federal government to return Nazi looted property. Several provinces and cities, including Vienna, are voluntarily agreeing to return looted property they control, and the filing deadline for all cases has been extended until December 2006.
But perhaps no development is more telling than this: In today's Austria, it is not innocent Jews who sit in prison, but the notorious British academic David Irving, jailed on charges of breaking Austria's law against denying the Holocaust. For once in our troubled world, there is good news to report good for Austria, good for Holocaust survivors, good for binding old wounds and good for the cause of fighting anti-Semitism in Europe.

Stuart Eizenstat was President Clinton's special representative on Holocaust-era issues. He negotiated the Holocaust restitution agreement between Austria and the United States in 2001, while serving as deputy secretary of the Treasury.

Flowers in Memory of NS Victims

Der Standard (02/15/2006)(kri) 

Project of commemoration undertaken by school children: 80,000 roses are to give the victims a symbolic home

Vienna .The 80,000 Austrian victims of National Socialism who were robbed, expelled and murdered, were also our neighbors who were violently torn from society. Many individual initiatives have already traced the paths of former residents and have led to the erection of commemorative plaques at places where they once lived. On May 5, the National Day of Commemoration against Violence and Racism, the victims will be symbolically returned to their homes under the project, "Flowers of Memory."

Within the larger framework of "A Letter to the Stars," begun in 2003, school children, together with survivors, will bring 80,000 white roses to places throughout Austria where NS victims lived immediately before their deportation (see: www.lettertothestars.at in German only). This serves to document where racism has led and where xenophobia and intolerance can lead today if one isn’t prepared to learn from history, as Andreas Kuba, one of the initiators emphasized on Tuesday.

Also represented on the prominent support committee is former Styrian Governor, Waltraud Klasnic. She came to the presentation of the project in her new function as head of the Future Fund. Her intention is, said Klasnic, to promote permanent awareness, emphasizing, above all, the meaning of dialogue between generations.

This is an essential part of "Flowers of Memory:" Thousands of school children have researched and documented the personal stories of some 65,000 Holocaust victims and survivors registered in a database established by the Archives on the Documentation of Austrian Resistance (DÖW). The database also allows for survivors as well as relatives of former neighbors to be contacted.

On May 5, the roses which were planted on Stephansplatz will be picked and placed before the house doors. Since many of the persecuted were brought from the provinces and placed in collective housing in Austria’s capital, the majority of addresses were located in Vienna. Altogether some 62,000 addresses were researched and found. For the contemporary witness, Angelika Bäumer, the white rose as a symbol for resistance but also for innocence appears to arouse almost too much pathos.

This is, however, necessary; otherwise such initiatives would not find resonance among the public. Alfred Worm, President of the Support Committee, drew attention to the fact that the current 800 survivors are still waiting to be called to Austria. One hopes that the visits, organized by the Jewish Welcome Service, will be financed by means taken from the Future Fund headed by Klasnic.

Forgotten Camps
On Tuesday was the opening of the exhibit, "We Hadn’t Even Begun to Live", initiated by the Child Psychiatrist Ernst Berger. The exhibit documents the fate of about 3,000 children and young people who were branded as difficult to rear, or characterized as criminal or outsiders to the community, and housed in so-called police youth protection camps. The exhibit on the Lost Camps can be viewed until March 5 in the Volkshochschule Favoriten, and from March 15 to April 7 in Vienna’s Urania.

December 2006

Dear Readers,

December, 2006

It is a great pleasure for me to introduce myself to you. I have recently assumed the position of Christoph Meran, former Director of the Austrian Press & Information Service, who left at the end of September. Over the years I have been working in the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs dealing with Austrian-American and European-American relations. One of the most challenging and rewarding projects involved negotiating and implementing an agreement on the Austrian Reconciliation Fund, which disbursed payments to victims of forced labor under the NS regime. This agreement was concluded in close cooperation with the U.S. administration in 2000. For the last three years I was assigned to the Austrian Embassy in Moscow.

I look forward to continuing the tradition of this Newsletter and keeping you, dear readers of "Jewish News from Austria", informed about cultural, political and historical news covered by the Austrian media in the forthcoming years. I would therefore appreciate your feedback and suggestions, particularly in regard to its content.

We have tried to present a wide array of articles published in the Austrian media in the course of the last six months covering topics, such as the rebirth of the traditional Hakoah sports club, enlarged youth activities of the Israelite Jewish Community as well as the restitution of art expropriated during the NS era and international issues.

This year has been marked by the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Austria and Israel. On December 3, Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik opened a conference in Jerusalem marking this occasion and in the course of this visit met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Also this year, Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, along with other paintings from the Bloch-Bauer collection, were returned to Maria Altmann, the only surviving niece of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer’s brother. Representatives of both sides agreed to submit the case to an arbitration court in Austria. The court finally ruled that the conditions for restitution had been fulfilled based upon the 1998 Austrian federal law on restitution of art.

Research on establishing ownership (provenance) is ongoing. Austria’s National Fund has set up a unique database on art objects containing information on objects of art and of cultural value which are currently held in museums and collections by the Republic of Austria or the City of Vienna and which, according to most recent provenance research, may have been expropriated during the NS era.

Finally, we would like to introduce two new institutions, the Scholarship Foundation and the Future Fund that were created as successor organizations to the Austrian Reconciliation Fund, which concluded its work at the end of 2005. The Future Fund has been established to support research work and projects in remembrance of NS victims and to promote international humanitarian cooperation, respect for human rights and tolerance. Among the projects that have been fostered so far were publications, seminars and research work but also initiatives like the project "Flowers in Remembrance" which we presented in the last issue.

I wish you Happy Hanukkah!

Yours sincerely,

Wolfgang Renezeder
Austrian Press and Information Service

Hakoah Returns Home

Die Gemeinde (The Community) Nr. 588 (07/2006)

During a press conference on June 22, 2006 in the Vienna Community Center, the HAKOAH project was introduced for the first time to the public. This new sports center ushers in a new era of traditional clubs. 

For the first time since 1938 Hakoah will again have their own center for athletes and no longer have to be a “guest” at other gymnasiums and sports clubs. Designed by the architect, Thomas Feiger, a brand new sports club including three gyms, a fitness room, sauna and wellness area, tennis courts, weightlifting rooms, and a 25-meter indoor swimming pool with resting area will be built if the necessary funding can be raised. 

Construction will start in summer and will be completed within the next two years. The Federal government and City of Vienna will make seven million euros available for the building. Markus Rogan will take over as fundraiser for the swimming pool, which costs another 2.5 million euros. “In view of our history, there is no club which deserves more a spectacular center than the Hakoah,” emphasizes Rogan. With this sports club, he sees the chance of reconciling past injustices suffered by the Jewish community. Moreover, “the greatest swimmers in history were Jewish,” said Rogan, pointing out champions such as the nine-time winner of the Olympics, Mark Spitz. Rogan wishes to organize a swimming show for the Hakoah in the fall. His main competitor, Aaron Peirsol, has accepted coming to Vienna for it. 

The club, which once dominated the sports pages, returns home to where it once met with so much success: Initially, in the so-called “Washington Agreement” of 2001, one was able to achieve partial restitution and renovation of the former area constituting the Jewish Sports Club. The following year, the final return was negotiated. The new sports center will be financed by funding from the City of Vienna, the Republic of Austria and private sponsors. 

The street in which the sports center is located will be renamed after Simon Wiesenthal. Currently it is called Ichmanngasse, after Franz Ichmann, a Viennese writer of song lyrics and member of the NSDAP.

The History 
Vienna’s Hakoah (“Strength” in Hebrew) is considered one of the most traditional and most successful sports clubs in Austria. Its history reflects, however, the history of Vienna’s Jews during the twentieth century. 

This Jewish sports club was founded in 1909 and emanated from the rising self-confidence of liberal Jews and their change in attitude toward the human body. A second important reason was that it served as an alternative to Aryan laws at the time which eventually forbade their membership in other sports clubs. Jewish citizens of Vienna grew to be a large community of 180,000, and Hakoah quickly spurred a flock of members. Subsequently, the club opened up new fields of sport such as fencing, football, hockey, light athletics, wrestling and swimming.

Despite difficult economic times following WW I, Hakoah eventually expanded and offered also ice hockey, handball, chess, skiing, tennis, table tennis and water ball. With time, it became a sports club with the strongest membership in all of Austria. Hakoah’s location in Vienna’s Prater developed into a societal center for many of Vienna’s Jews. The stadium in 1922 held 3,500 bystanders, in addition to standing room for 25,000 people more and had a soccer field, running track and jumping area. During the two world wars, enthusiasm for their achievements was rewarded by Hakoah members having won numerous national and international titles, including the Olympics. Particularly legendary was the success enjoyed by the soccer, water ball, wrestling and swimming teams.

After 1933 the political situation worsened and normal activities became evermore restricted. Many Hakoah members left Vienna over the following years and Hakoah’s growth declined. In 1938 Hakoah was seized. The soccer and sports stadium in Krieau was leased to the SA Standarte 90 by the community of Vienna. In 1941, the name, Hakoah, was officially erased from the books in Vienna and what followed was the systematic destruction of the Jewish population.

But shortly after WW II new life was breathed into the Hakoah by a few survivors and returnees (some 6,000). And although the club was never returned, member enthusiasm and dedication brought a number of sports back to life. In the beginning, swimming and light athletics came again into their own, followed by basketball, bridge, soccer, judo, karate, tennis, table tennis and water ball. Unfortunately, not all fields could be continued and were eventually dropped.

Although the number of Jewish athletes in Vienna dramatically sunk after the Holocaust, they went on to achieve numerous national and international titles. Above all, during the Maccabi Games (Jewish Olympics), Hakoah was able to win a number of medals.

Jewish Sports Club Hakoah Returns to Prater in Vienna

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (12/06/2006)

Vienna – The return of the Jewish sports club Hakoah in Prater in Vienna is gradually moving forward. Under bright sunshine, the foundation stone was laid today, Monday, for the new sports facilities on the site which was confiscated in 1938 by the National Socialists. Moreover, the Israelite Religious Community’s (IKG) Zwi Perez Chajes School (ZVC) will be built on the land in the Leopoldstadt district.

Almost seven million euros have been given by the Federal government and City of Vienna for building the sports center, the construction of which began some months ago. Still uncertain remains the financing of the indoor swimming pool. One is confident that the required 2.25 million euros needed could be raised with help of sponsors, said Paul Haber, President of the Jewish sports club Hakoah. This was also confirmed by the fundraiser and swimming star, Markus Rogan.

After demolition of the present buildings and disposal of some 60,000 tons of rubble, a four-level modern building will be built for the Zwi Peres Chajes school center as well as a two-floor modern building for the Hakoah sports facilities on an area designated for sports, a playground, lawn and future development. Completion is planned for beginning 2008.

The ZPC School will be large enough to hold six hundred children and will contain a kindergarten, primary school and high school. It will accommodate also a synagogue and library. The Hakoah sports and recreation center will feature, among other things, a three-part gymnasium along with a spectator capacity for about 260 people as well as areas outside for tennis, track and field and a sunbathing area.

Attending under strict security the laying of the foundation stone were Minister of the Interior Liese Prokop, Vienna Finance Councilor Sepp Rieder and the Federal Speaker for the Greens, Alexander Van der Bellen. This project signified the largest Jewish center in all of Europe, emphasized Ariel Muzicant, President of the Israelite Religious Community (IKG): “There is nothing comparable.”

The sports club Hakoah was founded in 1909. Following aryanization, the athletes fled the country; nonetheless, after the end of the NS terror, new life was breathed into the Hakoah in Vienna. The sports field was returned to the club, however, not until 2002. The basis for the return was the “Washington Agreement” which involved restitution for stolen assets under the Nazis. 

It’s All About JUKO (Commission of Youth), or Isn’t It?

There Must Be a New Youth Organization

Die Gemeinde (The Community) Nr. 591 (10/2006)

Die Gemeinde (The Community) speaks with the director, Rafel Schwarz.

One year ago The Community introduced youth counselor, Maxim Slutski. Since then, what has changed? How does the future look?

We have gotten the youth counselor in the religious community involved in putting more input into working with the young. We have five youth organizations working autonomously. They have more or less members, but at the same time the Israelite Religious Community (IKG) understands that apparently many young people from these organizations don’t feel spoken to. It’s this group for which more needs to be done. As head of JUKO one can do a lot and get things moving. As a working person, however, one is quite limited in terms of time. We have discovered that since we have a youth counselor, we were able to organize many more events and seminars (Leadership/Hadracha Seminars) and international events during the year. That would have been impossible without Maxim Slutski.

What kind of output brought input?
Recently an Ashkenazi boy married a Sephardic girl after having met at an international ball which we had organized. That is the best output there is in a Jewish community in which one is fighting for greater assimilation. Apart from that, the youth counselor is also responsible for motivating the youth organization, helping them, supporting them as well as coordinating their work. In 2006 we coordinated the Hadrach (informal education) Seminar. In 2007 there will be three of them. The short-term output entails surely more motivation on the part of the heads of the organizations since they now have a point of contact and a coordinating office. The long-term output is that there will be more educated Madrichim (leaders), who can be integrated into the IKG as honorary members.

Does JUKO take itself to serve as an umbrella for these youth organizations?
Some years ago JUKO was there to distribute grant money. I think that when the IKG offers subsidies, it should be sure the money is used appropriately, also in the case of the youth organizations. When one coordinates the work, then this money can be better used. 

Are the youth organizations now autonomous or not?
The youth organizations are autonomous in terms of their contents and ideology. Actually if any one of the institutions is subsidized by the IKG, it can be made to feel obligated and one can demand something from them in return. We don’t do that, however, because we are satisfied with the work performed by the youth organizations. When we want to increase the budget reserved for the youth over long term, I hope then that the money will be used appropriately for such things as shared events and educational programs. On the one hand, autonomy; on the other hand, it is the number of members in our community seen in its entirety that is our target group. That is the group we wish to professionally speak to.

In the groups to be targeted, there are differences, however, within the individual member organizations of JUKO. That means that there can be no one seminar for all of them. 
That’s also true. That’s why in the past we had a Hadracha Seminar for the young target group and a Leadership Seminar for the older. Last year it was in cooperation with another organization, and in the coming year we will be able to organize it by ourselves.

The youth organizations suffer from lack of members. Are there any plans being made to correct the problem?
I have spoken with a market researcher on youth in order to hear what he thinks of this phenomenon. He thinks that this is a problem recognized worldwide. It is not only our problem, which makes it, however, not unimportant. Yes, there are fewer members as there used to be and reasons for it vary. What disturbs me is that there must be something to make youth organizations more attractive. We have seen that there is the possibility of reaching the “neutral” Commission for Youth with programs. Events have already been scheduled up to summer 2007, offering various events for various target groups having various interests. The organizations haven’t discarded their values. They all have an ideology which they follow. Fewer and fewer parents want their children to take a concrete direction, whether Zionist or religious or both. In regard to their children, parents are searching for a coming together of all Jews within a neutral context. 

Does that mean establishing a new organization?
I find that it is time to think about whether one shouldn’t create an IKG youth organization. To be specific, I am thinking of an organization for children from age six to twelve having a program on Sundays so as not to conflict with the Sabbath and not to compete with the programs offered by other youth organizations. The substance would involve teaching the basics of Judaism, basics of Jewish history, Israel and the Jewish community.

One should have its own youth organization because that is the basic work of the Jewish community and one cannot be exempted by simply distributing funds. By having a youth organization one can achieve a lot – also among the large immigration group, which our president reminded us of. When people come to Vienna, they will look at what the Jewish community has to offer. Many people from Eastern Europe don’t want to commit themselves to a particular direction. When IKG, and the Zwi Perez Chajes School (ZPC) cannot offer something for their children, then they will look, sooner or later, for alternatives.

This IKG youth organization should be a home for children, whether they have grown up here or immigrated, whether they are Ashkenazi or Sephardic Jews. If we are always speaking about integration, then we also have to do more for after-school hours. A situation has developed whereby there is both an Ashkenazi and a Sephardic youth organization, and I must really praise Benei Akiva because it is really mixed. But once more, it is time that the IKG itself offers something for children and also recruits Madrichim educational leaders and gives them a very good education, there where they can use it. When one is clever, one is capable of integrating everyone into an organization.

In one of the last plenary meetings, it was Identity/Zehut (exploring the meaning of Jewish identity), that was asked for. We still have no IKG children’s organization, but already some two new groups - namely Identity/Zehut and Nefesch Yjehudi - which are working exactly in this direction. Is there another age group being addressed?

Identity is worked out with that of the IKG and the Rabbinate together and will become a “complement” to the Rabbinate. The Chief Rabbi has a very broad and extensive area to work with, but has, however, only one assistant. It is really high time that the team be strengthened.

Does that mean offering more youth religious services, etc.?
Identity speaks mainly to those eighteen years and older; that is, young adults and adults who want to learn about the religion. Identity is also a part of the curriculum at the ZPC School. 

School children would not be addressed?
That should be the task of the IKG youth organization. I mean, this organization should be parve (neutral): Have no one real direction but rather adapt to children and professionally offer everything which one expects from a European Jewish community.

How does one estimate the financial side when considering the IKG budget?
The entire structure has two main pillars: One pillar stands for the five youth organizations which will continue to receive subsidies and will continue to be coordinated by youth counselors. The second pillar needs a youth leader, Madrichim, building space and working material for these children’s organizations. Long term, we will also need a third person to oversee a division which offers information and other material. For this entire project, we need considerably more funds than we presently have.

I didn’t want to be religious director only to be criticized and fight against issues. I have become involved in ZPC work in order to make things better and become active. That’s why I am also looking for a broad support in working for the youth. 

New Self-Awareness in Young Jews

Der Standard (11/09/2006)

Marijana Miljkovic

The life of Jewish young people has many facets. Whereas there are those who emphasize the religious, others are involved with culture

Vienna – Time begins with the beginning of the world. According to the Jewish calendar, this happened exactly 5,767 years ago. Thus, Judaism has also existed as long as this, says Rafael Schwarz, religious director of the Israelite Jewish Community and also director of the Commission for Youth in Vienna. The reason is that one always has held to tradition. He then offers an explanation, reminding us of one’s own history and past. 

Jewish life, lived consciously, is divided into various traditional, secular and religious Zionist directions, explain the four young people, who have taken upon themselves to introduce their organization on an evening in October.

Viewed as such, their organization is, as they see it and symbolically expressed, a small Diaspora. The reason being is that in Vienna there are five different youth groups which orient themselves either around school children, students or young professional Jews. 

Oliver Kratz is in one of the three youth groups for the sixteen- to eighteen-year-olds, the Benei Akiva (Hebrew for “Children of Akivas”). Hashomer Hatzair (“The Youth Guard”) and Jad Be Jad (“Hand in Hand”) are the other two organizations which, however, are not very religious, explains the eighteen-year-old. He wears the Kipa, the skull cap of the religious Jews. 

His group meets regularly on Saturday afternoon, and the topics which the young people bring to the table concern things which affect their daily lives. Nonetheless, it is the topic of religion and belief that is of primary discussion.

Prayer and Celebration
Their conversations about Jewish history and tradition are the main topics, particularly because many young people don’t know much about them. Together they pray and also celebrate. It can often be that these young people find themselves in no real religious surrounding; their parents celebrate, for example, none of the Jewish celebrations and don’t go to the synagogue. 

That’s also one of the reasons given why some of them lack the confidence to go to the synagogue alone. “Celebrating the Sabbath with dinner on Friday, as with all other celebrations, only makes sense within the family,” explains Kratz. Therefore, those youths in whose families religious belief is not practiced are invited by other families so as to celebrate with them together. At the Laubhüttenfest it makes no sense to sit alone, says Kratz. “They should not feel alone in their own religion.”

The “Moadon” (Club), Daniela Kalmar’s group, speaks to the older ones, those already working, who also work with various network trends as well as organize projects, such as tours of the synagogues.

The Jewish high school students have a different program, tells Yvonne Feiger. It is not exclusively directed toward students and is cultural as well as political. Sometimes - and there they must laugh - they are also confronted with prejudice in their daily lives. Whether or not they get into discussions depends on whether the people are asking questions because they don’t know or are simply interested. An example: “Is it true that Jews have crooked noses,” or whether or not they often stir up controversy. “Such things are difficult to talk about,” and throw them off guard.

In Austria, there is a latent, “populist-type anti-Semitism,” said Schwarz. The Israeli conflict is one aspect which many people, who are not anti-Semites, see as a legitimate reason to say something against the Jews, he explained. But in contrast to their parent’s generation, who were intimidated by the persecution of the Jews during World War II, they confess to Judaism and stand to be much more open about their beliefs. “I sense that things are changing,” said Feiger. It is also a sign of a sense of self-awareness which stems from Simon Wiesenthal. 

Remembering and warning of the crimes committed against the Jews is becoming more and more important, emphasizes Schwarz; nonetheless, it cannot be the work of the Jewish community to fight against anti-Semitism. “Sixty years ago six million Jews were killed. That didn’t happen during the Middle Ages; that happened yesterday,” he reminds one. Commemoration events should also be organized by other non-Jewish religious communities. 

Somewhere Between Perpetrator and Victim

Der Standard (06/08/2006)

Andreas Feiertag

It is still unclear whether there will be a Simon Wiesenthal Institute. The debate on the importance of Holocaust research is revealed by the sheer number of ongoing symposia having that as its theme. At the center of the debate: Wiesenthal’s memorandum of 1966 - Austria’s responsibility for the Shoa.

Vienna – More perpetrators or more victims? Research dealing with contemporary Austrian history has so often focused solely on quantifying NS crimes and criminals until the wealth of data has ended up constructing diametrical truths. These data, depending on ideology, are now being used as instruments for political goals.

“The question as to Austria’s responsibility for NS crimes is normally discussed alongside the question of Austria’s share of NS aggressors,” criticized the Vienna historian for contemporary history, Bertrand Perz, during the Wednesday conference entitled “The Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal for Holocaust Studies” at the International Research Center for Cultural Studies (IFK) in Vienna. “From the standpoint of method, the conclusion drawn when considering the share of the population in relationship to societal responsibility is scientifically unacceptable.” Since 1945, the positions on this issue have ranged from wholly negating Austria’s participation in the Holocaust to viewing Austria as having an over-proportional share of NS perpetrators – last but not least, Simon Wiesenthal himself took the latter position in his memorandum to the Austrian government written in 1966. Its core contents were directed at having an efficient Austrian prosecution of NS criminals, which until today continues to be the focal point of this conference. Wiesenthal, known to all as the “Nazi hunter,” clung to the standpoint that out of the six million murdered Jews, Austrians can be blamed for three million of them – “a purely political statement but in no way a scientific one,” explained Perz.

The memorandum’s logic was a result of the sociopolitical thinking of the time: The ‘victim thesis,’ wrongfully applied to society from the viewpoint of international law. It became an accepted truth, a path already prepared by the courts and politics. 

The People’s Courts (Volksgerichte) embodied Austria’s first initiative in attempting to come to terms with its history. It convicted some 13,600 cases, of which thirty-four received a life sentence and forty-three were condemned to death. The last case of amnesty was offered in 1955 to one of the NS perpetrators; after that, all others were integrated back into society. The spirit of the times tended toward reconciliation. Already in the Declaration of Independence of 1945, Austria’s role as victim continued to be defined such as in the Moscow Declaration. 

The Protective Mechanism
With his memorandum, Wiesenthal attempted to break through the protective mechanism with which the Austrian justice system tried to use in covering up collectively all NS perpetrators. But Wiesenthal also argued collectively – politically. That was something very atypical, emphasized the Israeli journalist, Tom Segev, at the conference sponsored by the Vienna Weisenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies and the Institute for Contemporary History at the University of Vienna. For Segev, who is currently writing a biography on Wiesenthal and is weeding through the Wiesenthal collection, “the man who hunted down Eichmann” always fought against claiming any kind of collective guilt: “It was more a matter of personal responsibility.”

Is, therefore, the question as to what extent Austria participated in NS crimes at all acceptable? “It is an indisputable fact that Austria was part of the criminal regime and participated in the Holocaust,” stated Perz. “But the percentage to which they did so is superficial and senseless. Besides, it excuses everyone from looking at it more closely.” 

If one were to divide the number of crimes against humanity into small segments of crime, then there were groups of perpetrators in which the share of Austrians exceeded forty percent as well as those in which the percentage failed to reach even one percent. Perz believes that on the average, Austrian’s share of crimes are equivalent to those of the Germans. Nevertheless, the number explains neither the motive behind the crimes nor anything else.

It is for this reason that creating a Wiesenthal Institute in Vienna, which not only curates his archives but also promotes continual research, is urgently necessary. Then, according to Perz who helped organize the conference, “not so much would happen as one believes” in Holocaust research in Austria: The Historical Commission has already achieved a lot in certain areas, but their research rarely went beyond that of Austria’s borders. “Knowledge as to the background and share of Austrian participation in the Holocaust, for instance, in the Balkans, in Poland or Holland, is still lacking.”

Vienna Names Street in Leopoldstadt After Simon Wiesenthal

Austrian Press Agency (APA)(10/02/2006)

Decision to be taken tomorrow, Tuesday, by the City Council’s Cultural Committee 

Vienna – Tomorrow, Tuesday, a decision will be made as to naming a street after Simon Wiesenthal who died last year. As wished by the Israelite Religious Community (IKG), the current Ichmanngasse in Leopoldstadt will be called Simon-Wiesenthal-Gasse in the future. The decision will be made by the City Council’s Cultural Committee. The date for celebrating the inauguration has not been determined.

There was unanimous recommendation by the subcommittee for the renaming of the street in the 2nd district, announced the office of the City Councillor for Culture, Andreas Mailath-Pokorny. It’s located where a new Jewish center for sports and education is being developed on the restituted area of a sports field, the “Hakoah.” Right next to it will be a home for the aged.

“Together with the Israelite Religious Community, we are happy to have found such a good solution,” said Mailath-Pokorny’s spokesman. Currently the street bears the name of Franz Ichmann, a Viennese writer of song lyrics who, according to the IKG, was a member of the National Socialist Party.

The wish for a Wiesenthal park to be created behind the Alfred Hrdlicka “Memorial Opposing War and Faschism” on Albertinaplatz was turned down by the subcommittee. The reason, among others, is because Wiesenthal, who dedicated his life to pursuing Nazi criminals, decried having it created and instead lobbied for the Rachel Whiteread memorial on Judenplatz. 

The proposal to have a street renamed in commemoration of Wiesenthal was initiated by the Greens only a few days after his death on September 20, 2005. Due to a deadline provided by law (Interkalarfrist), the renaming of something can only take place at the earliest one year after the death of the person concerned. When exactly the new commemorative plaque will be erected has, according to the City Council, not yet been determined.

Twenty-Five Years of Working Toward Reconciliation

Der Standard (04/04/2006)

Jewish Welcome Service celebrates its anniversary. Heinz Fischer congratulates.

Vienna – “It’s everything that I wanted, and it turned out well,” said a visibly moved Leon Zelman Sunday evening while taking stock of the twenty-five years of the Jewish Welcome Service (JWS).

At the ceremony on the anniversary of the organization in a well-attended event in Vienna’s City Hall, Zelman claimed that it was the “moral responsibility” that served as the motor propelling his commitment. It was the duty to point out to people that the persecution of the Jews didn’t begin with the concentration camps but much earlier. And Zelman, who, himself, was haunted by NS terror and survived numerous extermination camps, is proud of his achievements. 

Twenty-five years of JWS included the project, “Welcome to Vienna,” which invited some 4,000 Austrians expelled from Austria during National Socialism back to Vienna. Moreover, the JWS continues to organize exchange programs for young people between Israel, the USA and Austria, and is involved in a number of other special projects. 

Federal President Heinz Fischer thanked Zelman for his life’s work: Through his dedication, he has helped the victims to close in peace with a country that has treated them so badly. Zelman’s commitment helped pave the way toward reconciliation, stressing “that we must take care of those who survived.”

“An Embarrassment”
Fischer then added, emphasizing that it is “an embarrassment” that it took so long when coming to terms with the past and asking for forgiveness. The Federal President held Austria’s politics in the past as responsible for the “simplified black and white version” after the war. Zelman and the JWS contributed considerably over the past twenty-five years to “really getting to the bottom of the problem.”

Vienna’s Deputy-Mayor Sepp Rieder also thanked Zelman for JWS’s “success story.” Through his commitment, Zelman emphasized taking historical responsibility and contributed greatly to reconciliation. 

“Feeling of Solidarity with Israel”

Die Presse (04/12/2006)

Never were relations between Austria and Israel so good as at the moment. Plassnik’s trip to Tzip Livni is the visit to a “friend.”

Jerusalem – They characterize each other as “friends,” telephone regularly and have met now and then outside the realms of protocol. The relationship between Jerusalem and Vienna was probably never so good as now.

As expected, the reception was cordial while Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was preparing the way for her counterpart from Austria. Israel’s journalists presented Ursula Plassnik as a leader who made efforts toward justice, clarity and depth. Thus, the tone was set for a bilateral highpoint and for the real occasion of the visit – the opening of a symposium at Hebrew University honoring fifty years of diplomatic relations between Austria and Israel. 

Plassnik didn’t fail to conceal that they had no simple history: “We recognize the difficulties of the legacy of our past,” emphasized Plassnik. That made the “deep feeling of solidarity” which Austria and Israel enjoy today all the more joyous, especially for someone like her who was born after the Shoa.

Austria, who thought of itself as being Hitler’s first victim, refused for a long time to assume responsibility for Nazi crimes. Only during the course of the Waldheim affair did this illusion become apparent and with Israel at the time also recalling its ambassador in Vienna at the beginning of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) coalition government. The open questions regarding restitution were solved only after 2001.

Israel: Cordial Reception for Plassnik

Die Presse (03/12/2006)

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni greeted her counterpart, Ursula Plassnik, as “friend“ in Jerusalem. Both are committed to peace.

Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik (Austrian People’s Party) was cordially received by her Israeli counterpart, Tzip Livni, in Jerusalem. Livni greeted Plassnik on Sunday as a “friend.” She emphasized the mutual meeting held the previous afternoon which opened the symposium on fifty years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. 

Livni said at a mutual press conference that the first time she had met Plassnik was when Austria held the EU Presidency. “I discovered a leader in Plassnik who found a way to be just and clear and was capable of going into depth when confronted with a very complex situation, particularly in the Middle East. I would like to thank you for that.”

Plassnik replied in similar fashion: “I have come to meet a friend in the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, and the Foreign Minister.” Plassnik emphasized that the relationship between the two countries has become very close and that common efforts are being made in the search for peace. It is important to be concerned and committed to not being indifferent. “I have come to the Middle at a time when hope is urgently needed.”

Israel Places Three Conditions Upon Hamas 
These are very delicate times regarding Israel, Palestinian autonomy and Lebanon,” said Livni. It is not a question of interests or of playing a “zero sum game;” it concerns strengthening forces that are moderate when faced with extremists. One can find the moderates in all three countries – in Israel, in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon. 

When asked a question by one of the journalists, Livni replied that the Israeli government is not interested in a stillstand. But Hamas must accept three conditions (the recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of the agreements) if they hope to help the Palestinian people. Moreover, there is the plan drafted by Ehud Olmert, “political horizon,” which could ease the situation of the Palestinians and could give them hope. “It is the task of President Mahmoud Abbas presiding over the agency for autonomy but also over the international community, to send a strong message to the terrorists and the extremists while at the same time also strengthening the moderates.” 

As to the situation of the ceasefire with the Palestinians, the Israeli Minister said that she wants to talk about it in Parliament and that it is a “delicate time.” “It is important that Israel proceeds with reason because compared to conditions before the ceasefire, times have changed.” 

FM Plassnik: "Leveraging the Strength of Our Trustful Partnership"

Fiftieth Anniversary of Austrian-Israeli Diplomatic Relations

Jerusalem, December 3, 2006 - "Today we are united by an active partnership based on trust and full of multi-faceted emotions connected with a heritage that is painful in many ways. To me as someone who was born after the horrible time of the Shoa, the openness, friendship, mutual interest, and deep feeling of solidarity which unite us today are a special experience," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik in Jerusalem at a conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Austria and Israel.

Foreign Minister Plassnik, who opened this conference together with her Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, also found clear words for the difficult aspects of Austrian-Israeli relations: "Austria acknowledges the heavy burden of its historic legacy. We do everything possible what people can do today, to understand, to mitigate the pain and to pass on the knowledge about what happened".
It was precisely against this background that the strong human components which united the two countries were of special significance, said the Foreign Minister. "A partnership in practice is also always characterized by the persistent commitment and enthusiasm of individuals. It is these tireless bridge-builders that extend their hands - not despite what happened but because of what happened," said Plassnik. In this context the Foreign Minister referred to the manifold measures taken by Austria in recent years for the victims of the Nazi regime such as the establishment of the National Fund and the General Settlement Fund as well as the amendment of the Act on Welfare Provision of Victims and the Social Insurance Act.

On the occasion of her visit to Israel, Plassnik’s program today also included a number of meetings, among them talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Plassnik also laid a wreath in commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust at the Yad Vashem Memorial.
The talks focused on the latest developments in the region and the chances for a revival of the deadlocked Middle East peace process. "Our common search for peace is really the very core of our everyday work on the construction sites of international policy. Today marks a rare opportunity. Only a few days ago Prime Minister Olmert formulated a clear and decisive call for peace which outlined an opportunity for another - better - future for Israel and the Palestinians. Courage and fearlessness are now needed on both sides to seize this opportunity and implement concrete measures," emphasized the Foreign Minister.

Foreign Minister Livni stressed Foreign Minister Plassnik’s special commitment and circumspection with regard to the Middle East, particularly during the Austria’s EU Presidency. Plassnik emphasised the EU’s willingness to provide long-term support for the latest positive moves. "Trust is an indispensable ingredient in any relationship. It takes time, patience, and commitment to re-establish a basis of trust. Nevertheless, it is this work aimed at establishing trust that the Middle East most urgently needs," concluded the Foreign Minister.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs/ Press Department 

Austrian Future Fund and Scholarship Foundation

When the Austrian Reconciliation Fund concluded its work at the end of 2005 - having disbursed payments to 132,000 former forced laborers during the NS regime - two new institutions were created and funded with the remaining money: A Scholarship Foundation and the Future Fund.
The Scholarship Foundation 
This fund promotes programs that offer scholarships to persons from those countries whose citizens suffered particularly from having been recruited as forced laborers during the NS regime. The program, however, is directed not only toward those persons alone, but also toward descendants of forced laborers, who may be living in other countries scattered throughout the world.
All areas of education - degree programs, vocational training, continuing education and advanced professional education - apply. Apart from professional or technical training, scholarship holders will also receive information on corresponding entitlements Austria will offer under the compensation program. Scholarship recipients will, thus, come to serve as “Diplomats of Reconciliation” in their respective home countries. 

The Future Fund
The Future Fund has been established for the purpose of supporting projects in remembrance of NS victims and of the threat posed by totalitarian systems and despotism. Its goal is also to promote international humanitarian cooperation, respect for human rights and tolerance. All research work and projects falling within any of these areas are being fostered by the Future Fund. 
The Fund has also been entrusted with processing claims that were filed with the Austrian Reconciliation Fund (application deadline of which was December 31, 2003), but have not yet been settled. 



Republic of Austria’s National Fund Makes Database on Art Objects Available
October 16, 2006

The National Fund’s art database contains information on objects of art and of cultural value which are currently held in museums and collections by the Republic of Austria or the City of Vienna and which, according to most recent provenance research, may have been expropriated during the NS era. Making the art database available to the public was a cooperative effort of Austrian provenance research and the museums concerned. The measure aims at clarifying whether and to whom the objects should be restituted. Next to each art object entered is information as to its restitution status. 

According to Austrian law, works of art which were confiscated in Austria during the NS regime shall be returned to the original owners or to their legal successors. By providing a database on art objects over the internet, the National Fund hopes to allow for objects which qualify for restitution to be identified before they are to be sold. 

The English version of the art database will be made available in Spring 2007. 


The Righteous of Austria

The Righteous of Austria. Heroes of the Holocaust, 2006. 
(Preface by the editors and the Austrian Foreign Minister)

Since 1953, Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem began documenting the history of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, preserving the memory and story of each of its six million victims. While remembering those who died, Yad Vashem has likewise been determined to remember those who were rescuers - non-Jews, who risked their lives and those of their families to save their Jewish neighbors - and are recognized as the ‘Righteous Among the Nations.’

In a recent book entitled, The Righteous of Austria. Heroes of the Holocaust, the Holocaust memorial institution honors eighty-six non-Jewish Austrians who risked their freedom and safety to help the Jews survive the Shoa by publishing their stories. They were ‘ordinary people,’ young and old alike from various social strata, holding diverse political convictions and religious views. Yet, as Jakob Borut, volume editor and author of the book’s introduction, points out, they were unusual: “What was unusual about these rescuers was their empathy toward persecuted human beings and their human urge to swim against the stream. In extending help….they displayed the finest characteristics of humanity in an historical and geographical context where the display of such characteristics was a rare act and one fraught with much danger.” 

These stories are told because they lived the ancient Talmudic principle of: “Whoever saves one life, it is as if he saved the entire world.” Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, himself a Holocaust survivor, commented on such figures: “We must know these good people who helped the Jews during the Holocaust. We must learn from them, and in gratitude and hope, we must remember them.”

The book was published in 2006 in celebration of fifty years of diplomatic relations between Austria and Israel. It was financed by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria, translated into English and presented in commemoration of the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp by the Allied Forces on May 5, 1945.

Fourteen Memorial Stones in Remembrance of NS Victim in Mödling

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (08/14/2006)

Monument for executed nun, Maria Restituta Kafka

Mödling –Fourteen memorial stones have been laid today in the township of Mödling. According to a latest new broadcast, they are to remind one of the victims of National Socialism and were placed at each of the last residences of those murdered. The project, Stolpersteine (“Stumbling over Stones”), was initiated by the German sculptor, Günter Demnig from Cologne, who was awarded with a medal of honor by the Federal Republic of Germany the previous year.

One of such stones inscribed with the words, “Here Lived” in Mödling was to remind others of Maria Restituta Kafka, who was executed in 1943 and beatified by the Church in 1998. The aim is to commemorate the victims of National Socialism “who were persecuted and murdered out of racist, political or religious reasons.”

Demnig has laid already 7,000 such Stolpersteine in Germany. The first stone memorials in Austria were placed in 1997 for two farmers, Johann and Matthias Nobis from St. Georgen in Salzburg, due to their being conscientious objectors.

Making School Children Aware of NS “Yay Sayers”

Der Standard (11/13/2006)

by Irene Brickner

In Wiener Neustadt discussions held on educating schools and universities about the NS – Searching for Ways out of the “perpetrator-victim dilemma”

Wiener Neustadt – The history of Wiener Neustadt during the NS era is representative for the program of events, claims teacher and historian, Peter Niedermair: “The Allied bombings before the end of the war leveled a major portion of the city. The sorrow over the devastation made it impossible for those concerned to confront the previous NS crimes against the Jews in the region,” explained the co-organizer of this year’s main seminar on how to deal with the topic of “National Socialism and the Holocaust” in domestic education. 

This taboo lasted throughout succeeding decades, longer than anywhere else in Austria. It was not until some fifteen years ago did one begin to talk about the flourishing Jewish communities that existed in 1938 in Wiener Neustadt and Baden, the consequences of an insufficient confrontation with the “perpetrator-victim dilemma.” 

This proven dilemma – an apparently unsolvable contradiction of value judgments – is the core subject of the meeting of experts and interested parties, which took place from Friday to Sunday in Wiener Neustadt. 

Apart from lectures by high-profile historians such as Ernst Hanisch, Winfried Garscha, Gabriele Anderl, Eleonore Lappin and others, excursions are planned to “Jewish Baden” or “Jewish Wiener Neustadt.” Like the four main seminars previously, the events will be financed by the Ministry of Education. A part of the entire project of remembrance, an annual excursion of teachers to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Israel, is being organized.

Promoting Empathy
There are many areas of life, according to Niedermair, where dilemmas of value exist also today. These areas are totally accesible to today’s school children and students. One of the areas to be checked off within the modern-day educational system is that of National Socialism: “Basically it concerns developing the preparedness to feel with others, to have empathy.” 

This ability can make one immune - to name one current example - to the NS praising “yay sayer” à la Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ) neo-parliamentarian, Wolfgang Zanger, along with the game of rightist political circles “denying the Nazi era and their talk about it.” Otherwise, there is the danger that the statement made by Zanger praising NS economic policy, despite his eventually being alienated, continues to resound. That is to say, as a “signal for the like-minded.” 

Historical Commission Appointed by Bank Austria/Creditanstalt Submits Final Report

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (11/29/2006)

History of the Bank Austria/Creditanstalt (BA-CA) during the NS era and after the war

Vienna – The Historical Commission, which was appointed in year 2000 by Bank Austria/Creditanstalt as a result of a U.S. class action suit involving victims of aryanization, submitted their final report on Wednesday. The two volumes consisting of about 2,000 pages include research on Bank Austria/Creditanstalt during the NS era and following the war. Under investigation were the Creditanstalt Bankverein, the Creditanstalt Regional banks, Länderbank and Zentralsparkasse. Moreover, an archive containing original documents was also created.

After five years of researching archives in Austria and Europe, historians came to the conclusion that with the exception of the Zentralsparkasse in Vienna, the parent institutions of today’s Bank Austria and Creditanstalt were controlled by German establishments. Creditanstalt-Bankverein found itself under majority control of the Deutsche Bank, the Länderbank was an affiliate of Dresdner Bank, for example, but they had considerable room for maneuver. Head of the Historical Commission, Gerald D. Feldman from UC Berkeley, found that the German dictates limited themselves to certain basic conditions within which the banks, however, dictated their own policy.

In addition, Feldman maintains that “throwing out” the Jews happened not only in their own branch banks but also in the industrial plants in which the banks had holdings. Moreover, it was discovered that a strong expansionist movement began in the direction of Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia and Poland. Vienna was considered the economic and political hub for the East. One attempted to reestablish the conditions of the k. u. k. era. The military conquest paved the way for the financial institutions: “Where the army was, were the banks.” The branch in Cracow conducted, with the help of an arrangement made with the SS, its own section for customers living in concentration camps. The funds from those who died remained with the bank. The political co-management of the financial institutions was also found in the granting of credit to, for example, weapons firms. Some interesting details on the side: also the Sudeten German, Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of many Jews, had an account with the CA.

Also, after 1939 the higher echelons of management within the Zentralbank underwent “cleansing;” that is, replaced by 1942 at the latest, they were clearly earmarked for National Socialists. According to one of the Commission’s members, Theodor Venue, Lecturer at the University of Vienna, the saving banks (Sparkassen) were in terms of the statutes closely coupled with the NS regime, the consequences of which allowed the Nazis to penetrate Vienna’s municipal bodies as well as the Sparkasse. 

Concerning denazification after WW II, Oliver Rathkolb from the Institute for Contemporary History at the University of Vienna believed that first of all the Reich’s Germans were removed from the three banks followed by the members of the NSDAP. Later during the times of compensation, the Creditananstalt and the Länderbank refrained from taking any own initiative and held rather closely to state regulations. Subsequently, bank account holders partially had to wait until 1961 for the “Abgeltungsfondsgesetz” (Compensation Fund’s Act). Thus, over the course of many years, there was a “wide range of stagnant accounts.” 

Ulrike Zimmerl, historian and project coordinator of the Commission, was responsible for the documentation archive of the BA-CA. The source of the material used by the Historical Commission, consisting of documents measuring one and one-half kilometers long, will be made available to the public. The results of the researchers have been published by C.H. Beck Publishers under the title, “Österreichische Banken und Sparkassen im Nationalsozialisumus und in der Nachkriegszeit” and will soon be translated into English. 

Caught in the Net of NS History

Der Standard (11/29/2006)
by Renate Graber

The Historical Commission appointed by Bank Austria/Creditanstalt is involved with the role of the banks during the NS era. One result: Austria’s institutes followed their own policy of expansionism

Actually it is due to the activities of U.S. class-action attorney, Ed Fagan, that those interested in contemporary history now have been presented with two volumes containing 2,019 pages on the role of Austrian banks during the NS era. The authors researched the activities of the Creditanstalt-Bankverein, regional banks, Länderbank and the Zentralsparkasse. The independent Historical Commission appointed by Bank Austria/Creditanstalt (BA-CA) included Gerald D. Feldman, Oliver Rathkolb, Theodor Venus and Ulrike Zimmerl. On Wednesday, Director of BA-CA, Johann Strobl, presented their work in Vienna.

The largest Austrian bank became ensnarled in its own NS history in 1998. Ed Fagan made the lawsuit involving millions of dollars pending on behalf of the 30,000 surviving Holocaust victims who saw themselves as affected by, for example, having their accounts frozen or aryanized. The BA-CA found itself forced to enter settlement discussions over restitution payments. In January 2000, the U.S. court approved the “Holocaust Settlement” involving the BA-CA and agreed with the Nazi victims. The bank paid 40 million dollars (at the time 38.6 million euros), and committed itself to allowing independent researchers to shed light upon their NS history. 

Important Results
Head of the Commission, U.S. university professor, Feldman, claimed that the most important result was “the assumption that the fault lay totally with the Germans was proved wrong. Austria’s banks followed their own policy of expansionism. One wanted to have it allied to the time before 1919.” According to Venus, also the Zentralbank had surprisingly expanded. Because, however, the business of making loans fell apart, head of the Zentralbank, Walther Schmidt, tried “to find a way out because he had to of course earn the interest. He found a way via the Reich’s bonds.

Historian Feldman found a direct involvement with business being made with the concentration camps in the CA in Cracow, from which money flowed in 1941 for prisoners. Conflicting revelations were to be found throughout the entire history of the banks, depicted also in the example of Oskar Schindler, “savior of the Jews,” who also had a CA account in Cracow.

Denazification after 1945 was made up of two phases, as everywhere in Austria: Initially “fast and intensive” (Rathkolb), followed by being subject to the laws of amnesty, and then highly slowed down.”