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.