Exhibition, “Ordnung Muss Sein” (Order Has to Be)
Jewish Museum in Vienna (07/03/2007)
The Archive of the Jewish Community of Vienna
In year 2000, employees of the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG) made a startling discovery. In a vacant apartment in one of the community's tenement buildings in Vienna's 15th district they came upon dozens of wooden cabinets containing index cards, a pile of large-sized books reaching from the floor to the ceiling and 800 cardboard boxes filled with files and documents from IKG holdings. On closer inspection, some 500,000 pages were identified as dating from the National Socialist era in Austria. They were mixed with younger material but also with older material from the 19th and early 20th century. A long-forgotten part of the IKG archival holdings had been found again.
In cooperation with the Holocaust Victims' Information and Support Center of and with the support of the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem, the Jewish Museum Vienna will be staging an exhibition for the first time on the IKG archive in summer 2007.
The archive was officially founded in 1816, but the oldest documents date back to the 17th century. The archive was professionally organized and classified during the 19th century.
The IKG holdings, which are unique in terms of scope and completeness, span 300 years from the beginning of the Viennese Jewish community to the post-Holocaust period, documenting the community's organization, its religious, educational, scientific, cultural and philanthropic facilities and providing information about its officials and members. Unlike other disbanded Jewish communities in Germany and Austria, the IKG continued to exist during the Nazi era until the end of October 1942 when it was finally replaced by a "Judenrat" (Council of Jews). From May 1938 it took care of tens of thousands of Jews and organized their emigration; from February 1941 it was forced to participate in the deportation of the remaining Jewish population. The reports, letters, emigration and financial documents, deportation lists, card indexes, books, photographs, maps, and charts from that era detail the final years of the once-largest German-speaking Jewish community in Europe before and during the Holocaust. After 1945, and once more since the rediscovery of the archival holdings, the card indexes and files kept during the Nazi era provided the basis for investigating the fate of Jews who had been expelled or killed and also helped survivors and the descendants of victims to assert claims for compensation and restitution of property.
In the 1950s it came to a short halt when most of the archive was lent to the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. By microfilming the documents in Jerusalem, by preserving, organizing, categorizing and microfilming the documentation that remains in Vienna, and by combining the holdings and making them accessible in the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) planned for the future, the IKG is attempting 50 years later to reconstruct its institutional memory and restore to Austria a piece of its history.
The exhibition not only shows important aspects of the history of the Jewish Community of Vienna on the basis of historical documents, but also examines the notion of the archive as a place of remembrance and the problem of organizing and classifying historical information.
The exhibit runs from July 4 – October 21, 2007 in the Palais Eskeles, Vienna.
Vienna’s Jewish Museum Exhibits Sensational Archive Discovery
Der Standard (07/03/2007)
New insight into the Holocaust: Documents missing over decades can be viewed for the first time within the framework of the exhibit, “Ordnung Muss Sein.”
The discovery in Year 2000 is Causing a Sensation
The exhibition in cooperation with the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG) and the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem displays materials for the first time which go back to the sensational discovery of an archive in year 2000. At that time significant acts and documents were found in an abandoned building in Vienna belonging to the IKG, containing a dozen index cards, books and some 800 cardboard boxes.
New Insights into the Holocaust
The archival holdings confirm the 300 year-old history of a Jewish community from their beginning until the post-Holocaust period. Based on historical documents, the exhibition reveals essential aspects of the history of Vienna’s Jewish community. Moreover, it is concerned with the question of the archive as a place of memory. Numerous exhibits, among them deportation lists, warrants, pleas as well as hand-produced graphic material - such as running statistics on deaths and births of Jews in Vienna (from 1938 to 1941) - offer information on the fate of the IKG, forced during the NS era to organize emigration and deportation based upon their own documentation.
The Bureaucracy Imposed upon the Victims
Contemporary History. The Jewish Community of Vienna was the only one that recorded their own expulsion and deportation up until the end of the NS regime. The documents missing for decades are now being exhibited for the first time in Vienna. They are historically unique finds which offer new insights into the Holocaust.
How must it have felt to them? What was the experience like of yearning for the opportunity to flee the country, symbolized by the tickets which they held in their hands, entitling them to board the ship, Royal Mail Lines?
What was going through the minds of Hugo S. and his family who left Vienna in February, 1930 to cross the ocean with the British line to far-away Bolivia? Or Emil S., when he stepped off the boat onto land in Buenos Aires? Or Dr. Max R. who received permission to leave the country and board the ship with his wife and two children headed for Montevideo?
Each individual ticket booking for the Royal Mail Lines was fastidiously recorded and filed away and remains to this day in its original ledger. Only the paper clips which now have become rusty over the many years have been replaced in the meantime in order to protect the paper. Those pieces of paper upon which the Cunard White Star confirmed their passage to New York begin to fall apart when one touches them.
The documents contain numerous stamps and signatures. Some of them were signed by four various representatives from the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG), confirming that part of the of travel costs would be paid by the emigrant aid offered by the Religious Community.
In spring of 1939, the passage across the Atlantic to Cuba cost just under 1,000 Reichsmark, which is about 4,000 Euros today. Each little subsidized amount had to be calculated because there was strong pressure to emigrate and because the necessary sum was tremendous. At the beginning of 1939, 117,979 people, to be exact, belonging to Vienna’s Jewish community had made a reservation.
Most of them had lost their work since the NS takeover in March, 1938, and many of them sold their belongings in order to survive. Salomon K. named North America as his destined goal. His bicycle shop had been confiscated on the day after the Nazis marched into Vienna, and he had been arrested. He said that his family had nothing more to take with them from Vienna than three suitcases and a bale of sheets.
And what awaited the twenty children who on February 22, 1939 climbed onto the train in Vienna headed for Antwerp, Belgium? A yellowed invoice upon which is written 8.4 Reichsmark for breakfast for the children, two Reichsmark for an invitation to coffee for the Belgian nuns, and five Reichsmark which were spent for a tiny mishap involving a ‘windowpane’ occuring on the way from Köln to Aachen bore witness to their trip.
The bureaucracy involved in Jewish persecution was recorded in detail; for example, “provisions” accompanying the children “had to be kept to the bare minimum.” Their parents had to swear under oath “that the children in no way possessed any assets and that also the parents had not given them any assets nor had they transferred any to them.” The permission obtained for registering each and every child for the so-called ‘transport of children’ was like having to jump over hurdles. And after their departure the Gestapo demanded again an exact report. Up until the beginning of the war on September 1, 1939, almost 3,000 children were successful in leaving Austria with support of the Religious Community.
Thousands of petitions, emigration files, telegrams, protocols concerning negotiations with the NS in command were found in 2000 in one of the IKG buildings in Vienna’s district Fünfhaus. What began as clearing the building led to the discovery of 500,000 pages of treasured documents depicting the Austrian Jews’ fight for survival.
Also found was an old wooden box containing index cards, which meanwhile have become a symbol of remembrance, meaning that memories of those years have has not been wiped away. Its unimposing exterior served as a protective covering, hiding the personal data of countless numbers of people. It contains many small pieces of paper, each one detailing the age, profession, country of emigration and financial support given to the persecuted.
The finds are historically unique because the majority of Jewish historical sources throughout all of Europe were systematically destroyed by the Nazis.
Beginning this week, parts of the finds will be shown in an exhibit at the Jewish Museum Vienna open to the public under the ambiguous title, “Ordnung Muss Sein (There Must be Order) – The Vienna Israelite Religious Community’s Archive.”
Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek, head curator of the Vienna Jewish Museum, points out two significant aspects of the unique historical value of the tradition passed down by the Vienna Israelite Religious Community:
• The archive covers a span of 300 years – from the beginning of Vienna’s Jewish community until the post-Holocaust period. According to current research, nothing comparable exists in terms of its completeness and scope.
• And it is the only archive in which the commissioning of people’s expulsion and deportation has been documented in such a painstakingly “orderly” manner.
The IKG was the only community within the German-speaking territory – despite formerly referred to under a different name – which existed until 1945, whereby the personal data of every single individual was recorded in detail during the NS regime.
Shortly before the end of the war the valuable holding was almost destroyed by a bomb dropped in the middle of the Religious Community located in the center of Vienna. With hands crippled by gout, Abraham Singer, the IKG’s librarian, dug up the buried papers from the crater left by the bomb. After the 1950s the major part – about three million pages from NS times – was lent to Jerusalem on permanent loan. “The Vienna Israelite Religious Community sent the old archive, which tells the story of Vienna’s Jews, to Israel so that it can be protected forever,” said IKG’s president at the time, Ernst Feldsberg.
Apart from the countless number of documents of over 17.5 million victims of the NS regime, which were released over the past few years by the International Search Service in Bad Arolsen, the IKG’s archive strikes continued interest. Paul Shapiro from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.: “Until now the history of Jewish persecution was almost entirely based on written documents left behind by the Nazis.” What a Jewish community suffered through now becomes alive.” The New York Times wrote in a preliminary report of the exhibition in Vienna that it is here “the lost Holocaust history of a nation” is brought to light.
Nontheless, the idea that what was lost will suddenly unfold before one’s eyes is an illusion. Curator Heimann-Jelinek: “There will be no history told because the history is fragmented; we can no longer piece it together; no tampering with the proof can “heal” it.
A large space was filled with hundreds of boxes filled with archives which are not to be opened. Heimann-Jelinek: “The viewer has no access to the contents of what was once Jewish Vienna. One can only imagine it from the outside.” Also since the IKG’s archive in Vienna belonged not only to Jewish but Austria’s memory, one wants to remind the viewer that dealing with such memory requires a certain sensitivity.
Many thousands of pages serve as testaments. Salom K., who emigrated to North America and wanted to do “any work offered to him” was deported in May of 1942 to Minsk, and on the day after his arrival, he was exterminated. In his last letter written to the IKG he had expressed hope to be accepted on the Lloyd Triestino for passageway to Shanghai.
His name is on the list of forty-eight transports of deported people which was also “forgotten” and found in the newly discovered holdings in Vienna. The file scarcely takes up half a meter of space on the shelf and contains the name of more than 48,000 people. The exhibition shows the covers of notebooks, upon which date and destination of deportation is written by hand with the sixth transport noting the entry, “15. X. 1941, Litzmannstadt, Lodz.” Merely three weeks later 5,000 people were deported to the ghetto in Lodz; those who survived were exterminated in gas wagons in Kulmhof.
“Births of Jews.”
Head of IKG’s archive, Lothar Hölbling, refers sarcastically to the huge survey map bearing the heading, “Jewish Migration from the Ostmark,” as “representing Eichmann’s dream.” “On one side is written, 180,000 Jews in the Ostmark” at the start of May, 1938, wheras on the other side is written, “39,984 Jews in the Ostmark” end of March 1941. (Note: In 1938 there were some 206,000 people considered Jews by the Nuremberg Laws on racial policy who lived in Austria.)
Running statistics entitled “Death of Jews in Vienna,” conceal also many suicides such as that of author Egon Friedell who committed suicide on March 16, 1938. Another is entitled, “Births of Jews in Vienna” – it shows the fast, steep incline – beginning 1941 when there was only one Jewish child born in any given month in Vienna.
Migration is depicted as an intertwining net of necessary paths through a jungle of bureaucracy that had to be taken. The “Path of the Jews” is broken down into two lines, a darker blue one indicating “Bureaus Designated for the Jews” and a lighter blue one indicating “Bureaus only Conditionally Designated for the Jews.”
After being exhibited in Vienna, the chart will go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. for three years.
Under whose charge this macabre view of deportation was commissioned is not clear. It is certain, however, that the Israelite Religious Community, itself, produced the charts because there are also drafts of the individual illustrations found in their archive. The historian, Jonny Moser, Holocuast survivor after having fled Austria for Hungary, was an assistant to the Swedish diplomat, Raul Wallenberg,* and considered one of the most knowledgeable on IKG history. He suspects it was Adolf Eichmann, chief NS organizer, who commissioned the extermination of the Jews. Moser: “The use of charts involving statistics as they are depicted on this map, was frowned upon by the Nazis because it was thought to be a Jewish invention.” Eichmann, nevertheless, liked it.
To what extent Vienna served as a model for the NS expulsion of the Jews after March 1938 is often written about. The wild looting of Jewish shops and residences as well as the violent assaults were considered what triggered the extremely severe actions taken by the NS in comparison to that what happened in the Old Reich in Germany.
Following their discussion on hatred for the Jews in Vienna, the historians, Hans Safrian and Hans Witek, came to the conclusion: “Due to the stronger pressure exerted from below and due to the excesses of local pogroms by anti-Semites, it had become necessary for the Nazi bureaucrats in Vienna, much earlier than in Germany, to contain the riots by finding pseudo legal methods and forms of organizing the implementation of terror in a “methodical and orderly fashion.”
A correspondent from the New York Times reported from Austria back in March 23, 1938: “One thing is clear. Wheras the first victims of the Nazis were the leftist parties – Socialists and Communists – in Vienna it were the Jews. In fourteen days they succeeded in subordinating the Jews to an continually severe regime, whereas in Germany it took one year.”
The Vienna Religious Community placed hope in cooperating with the new people in power. The historian and author, Doron Rabinovici, wrote in his excellent examination of the sensitive and painful history of the Jewish functionaries: “In comparison to the hostile mobs or to the anti-Semitic riots in March of 1938, the NS officials appeared initially to the Jewish functionaries to be more temperate and willing to negotiate.”
Three days after the takeover of power by the National Socialists, an NS troupe managed to enter the Israelite Religious Community in Vienna’s Seitenstettengasse. On March 18 the official building was searched and occupied during an extensive crackdown. Among other items found was a receipt for a donation intended to contribute to a referendum planned by Federal Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg. In effect, it was a welcomed pretext for the Nazis to arrest the head of the Jewish Community and to impose a 500,000 Reichsmark fine. Soon thereafter, the head of the Religious Community, Stieglitz, committed suicide.
Josef Löwenherz, official director of the IKG, had already been given a slap on the face by Adolf Eichmann during their first meeting. The Religious Community was closed, and on May 2, 1938, again opened but forced to assume a fully different structure. Rabinovici: “In the meantime, however, all of the Jewish interest groups were debilitated and beheaded.”
Eichmann ordered the Jewish functionaries to come to the empty Palestine office and let them stand there while spoken to. He refused to shake hands with the Jewish representatives “out of ideological reasons,” ridiculed and threatened them. Rabinovici: “The Community fell into a trap. The horrible conditions created by the Nazis forced those being persecuted to accept subordination.”
On May 8, 1938 Eichmann reported from Berlin: “You can believe me - I brought the leadership to an absolute trot….tomorrow I will again control the IKG and the Zionists. I will do this at least once a week every week. I have them completely in my hands, and they don’t dare to make a step without consulting me first.”
Apecial command of the “Department concerning the Jews,” within the SS’s security section headed by Eichmann, began implementing his perfidious concepts: The Jewish Community should become his tool. The IKG’S large organizational structure was put completely under his control, with Josef Löwenherz appointed director of the bureau. The IKG should see to a smooth running of compulsory measures, thereby shielding the real perpetrator of Jewish victims. Löwenherz was ordered to the “Central Office for Jewish Migration” and installed in the occupied Rothschild Palace to receive his instructions. He was to pass these on to the Jewish population. He had to report back to Eichmann and later to SS strongman, Anton Brunner, every week.
The Austrian Historical Commission revealed how the Religious Community was put under pressure to demand donations from foreign Jewish aid organizations to help implement forced migration. Eichmann declared in June of 1939: “The Jewish functionaries were given instructions to ask for 100,000 dollars in cash on a monthly basis from Jewish financial institutions for the purpose of moving Jews out of the Ostmark.” The historians, Gabriele Anderl and Dirk Rupnow, document that a total of 4.2 million dollars in foreign currency was raised for Jewish migration. The Religious Community was forced to sell the money to those leaving. With the proceeds they took thousands of needy emigrants under their arm and fed them.
Raul Hilberg, who originated from Vienna and became the doyen of Holocaust research, found among the yellowed papers documents from his family. His father wrote that he “had very little means” for the purpose of migrating. The family fled in March 1939 by way of Cuba to New York. In his most recent book, “Sources of the Holocaust,” Hilberg wrote: “The reality of events cannot be reconstructed. The relentless search for knowledge continues; may it continue to be so extensive and time consuming that nothing gets lost or is forgotten.”
Holocaust Studies Conference: “Labor and Extermination“
Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (06/27/2007)
Well-known researchers of National Socialism and the Holocaust invited as guests in Vienna for a conference held by the Vienna Chamber of Labor and the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) from June 27 – 29.
From June 27 - 29, 2007 the Vienna Chamber of Labor (AK Wien) together with the soon-to-be Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) are organizing an international conference entitled “Work and Extermination.” The event is under the auspices of Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer and will be opened by Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. It will take place in close cooperation with the University of Vienna’s Institute for Contemporary History and the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG) which is also responsible for concept and content.
Over the last few years public debate over the issue of NS forced labor was closely allied with the question of compensation for survivors consisting of some ten million people with foreign citizenship who were dragged into forced labor for the German Reich. In contrast, the conference strongly concentrates on the interconnection of economic exploitation and racist-motivated mass extermination during the National Socialist regime that was primarily directed at Jews, Sinti and Roman, Soviet war prisoners, but also partly at political enemies and groups of people stigmatized as being “asocial” and “criminal.” Special focus is on topics such as “extermination through labor,” extermination of people who were considered “unfit for work” and “unworthy of living,” “extermination as work,” and the hope of victims for “survival through work.”
Over a period of three days, twenty reputable experts from both within and outside of Austria will present and discuss latest insights gathered from research on the topic of National Socialism and the Holocaust, whereby a particular wish of the organizers is to reach the broadest audience possible. Simultaneous translation into German will be offered for lectures given in English.
The conference will be held in the training center of the Vienna Chamber of Labor located in Vienna’s 4th district in the Theresianumgasse 16 – 18, which housed one of the NS “aryanized” agencies in the Rotschild Palace. A new brochure printed for the conference informs the Vienna Chamber of Labor that important sections of NS bureaucracy – namely logistics and organization – were housed in the building, from where much of the terror was carried out.
Those unable to attend the conference can go to website of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute at: www.vwi.ac.at where the event will be carried live and individual contributions and discussions will be accessible by way of the video archive.
Salzburg: Remembering the “Wandering Jews“
Der Standard (06/15/2007)
In summer 1947 some 5,000 Jews succeeded in crossing the Krimmler Tauern into Italy. “Alpine Peace Crossing” will commemorate this historical event.
Salzburg – “There were poor people who didn’t even have a rucksack; there were small children who were carried in wooden crates on peoples’ backs, and the house was often full. During the night I cooked flour mixed with water for the poor children...” These were the memories which Liesl Geisler, innkeeper of the Krimmler-Tauernhaus, wrote down on paper before she died in 1985 describing what many native people in the area called euphemistically, the “Wandering Jews” - the flight of thousands, mainly East European Jews, across the Krimmler Tauern mountain pass.
These were the emaciated survivors of the concentration camp who, empty handed and unequipped, were collected in a camp in Saalfelden, Pinzgau, and came every second night in a truck to Krimm. From there they began the upward climb to Tauernhaus which lay over 1,600 meters above sea level. The following day they camped in and around Tauernhaus; it was used to collect their strength before the nightly crossing. Historians estimate that in the summer of 1947, some 5,000 such people managed to cross the 2,634 meter-high pass over into Italy. From Italy they continued on to Palestine.
Flight of a Quarter Million People
Altogether in the years between 1945 and 1948, about a quarter of a million East European Jews, driven by anti-Semitic riots, fled to the Western zones. Half of them made their way to Tyrol and Italy through Salzburg. When French officials in Tyrol began at the end of 1946 to send the illegal Jewish groups of refugees back, the Jewish refugees aid organization, Bricha, decided for the more difficult solution of crossing the Krimmler Tauern pass in Southern Tyrol’s Ahrntal.
Sixty years after the exodus, there will be a commemoration of the Alpine Peace Crossing from June 28 - 30. Upon the initiaitve of Ernst Löschner, who was born in Pinzgau and is the Director of BNP Paribas Austria Bank, about 200 participants will make their way across the Tauern, among them also contemporary witnesses who had already surmounted the crossing in 1947. As an overture to the crossing, a commemorative stone in Saalfelden will be unveiled: the point of departure for the flight of “displaced persons” over the mountains was the camp, Givat Avoda, located on the grounds of today’s Wallner barracks.
Support for Löschner’s initiative is wide-spread. It will take place under the auspices of Federal President Heinz Fischer and the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. The honorary committee is composed of members coming from all of Austria’s religious groups, representatives of the federal government, contemporary witnesses as well as artists, journalists and representatives of numerous industrial and economic firms in the region.
Apart from commemorating the refugees’ ordeals, Löschner wishes to have the event serve as a warning for the present: “It is a crossing dedicated to all people today who are fleeing political, racist or religious persecution wherever it is manifested in the world.”
NS Suspects: Berger Doesn’t Exclude Further Rewards
Austrian Press Agency (07/12/2007)
“Should we receive concrete proof, we are prepared”
Vienna – Minister of Justice Maria Berger doesn’t exclude offering additional rewards for information leading to the capture of alleged NS criminals still at large. “Should we receive concrete proof, we are prepared to offer further incentives” she said on Friday in a side note before journalists at the reopening of the Palace of Justice. Berger emphasized that the search for the former concentration camp doctor, Aribert Heim, and former SS official, Alois Brunner, is very important to her personally.
“I strongly wish to take action by using the opportunities available to us as a Ministry of Justice,” said Berger. This is important as long as the two men sought are still alive, and there is reason to believe that they are. Heim was last sighted in South America. It could not be said as to the extent of the crimes Heim and Brunner are suspected of: “More research is necessary.” She also didn’t wish to judge whether enough has been done after the war in regards to the search. “It is very important to me that this step be taken.”
Berger also emphasized that the reward of 50,000 euros for relevant clues which could lead to arresting the two fugitives will only be paid to private persons. Moreover, the Minister of Justice wants to up-date relevant laws in accordance with EU standards. In complying with the anti-racism framework resolution, not only will denying the Holocaust but also denying international crime classified as genocide be punishable in the future.
Salzburg Wants Memorials
Der Standard (06/17/2007)
To Bow Before and Acknowledge the Victims
The artist, Demnig, engraves the inscriptions of Nazi victims into metal plaques embedded into stone and then places the stone blocks in front of the last-known residence of the victim.
Until now, Gunter Demnig, an artist from Cologne, has placed some 12,000 “Stumbling Blocks” with information engraved onto brass plates about those persecuted during the NS regime. A committee of local people wishes to implement this form of memorial also in Salzburg.
Salzburg – “A person is not forgotten until his name is forgotten.” With this motto, the artist, Gunter Demnig, from Cologne has been laying his ongoing work, “Stumbling Blocks,” ever since 1993. The concrete squares, upon which are plaques made of brass, measure about four inches. By striking letters into the metal, Demnig engraves information about the victims of Nazi terror into the metal plaque and then paves the concrete blocks into the sidewalk in front of the last-known place of residence or place of work of the persecuted as a form of personalized remembrance. One doesn’t physically stumble over the skillfully laid stone, one stumbles “with head and heart,” as Demnig circumscribes the goal of his work. And whoever wants to read the inscription has to inevitably bow before, thereby acknowledging the victims.”
Twelve Thousand “Stumbling Blocks”
He has already laid some 12,000 such “stumbling blocks” – most of them in Germany, a few in Hungary and some thirty in Austria – in Braunau as well as Mödling. The concept includes all groups of victims – Jews, Roma, victims of euthanasia, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christians, Social Democrats and Communists. Demnig’s idea was born out of a feeling of “uneasiness”, which overcame him while looking at anonymous, centralized monuments. Naming a person by name is the exact opposite of the methods used by the NS, who had tattooed numbers into the prisoners of the concentration camps. Surprising detail from Demnig’s experiences until now: Against all expectations, the “stumbling blocks” have scarely been objects of vandalism. From the 12,000 placed stones, only about fifty have been splashed with paint or removed.
Some time after August, this form of memorial will be implemented in Salzburg. The initiative was started by an independent committee of local prominence. Among them, for example, is the writer Karl-Markus Gauß, head of the Israelite Religious Community Marko Feingold, Director of the Chamber of Labor Gerhart Schmidt as well as historians Helga Embacher and Gerd Kerschbaumer, and city councilmen from the Social Democratic and the Austrian People’s parties. Those responsible for the mandate were still able make the necessary decisions in the community council before summer, thereby preventing a repetition of previous long and agonizing debates surrounding other memorials in remembrance of Salzburg’s NS past.
The organization of the project has been taken over by the umbrella association, Salzburger Kulturstätten. How many stones can be placed as memorials for those murdered by the Nazis depends on the people of Salzburg themselves. The entire project, amounting to 95 euros per stumbling block, will be financed entirely by private sponsors. (Notartreuhandbank AG, BLz. 31500, Account Number: 806 05 052 808).
Knick Knack, Kitsch and Cheese
Vorarlberg. The Jewish Museum in Hohenems is considered one of the most innovative in Europe. Now it is on a new course.
There are no Jewish citizens living here any more and yet the former Jewish district in a city consisting of 14,000 residents is considered today one-of-a-kind in Central Europe. There is the synagogue, the poor house, the school, the ritual bath house, the houses of the peddlers, the merchants and factory owners, and it is relatively complete because after the obliteration of the Jewish Community during National Socialism, it was simply left for decades to deteriorate instead of being torn down.Somewhat differently than in Vienna, the Jewish settlement 400 years ago had not been restricted to a ghetto. Together with the former Christenstraße (referred to todays as Markstrße), the houses in the Kudengasse (called Schweizer Straße today) formed the urban core of the city. After a broad discussion of the city’s future, essential parts of the Jewish area are now protected and preserved as historic sites.
Aron Tänzer, Rabbi and avant-gardist, gave some thought to Darwin’s teachings on evolution. That’s why the only single, orthodox member of the community of Hohenems was in 1903 head of an “Israelite Community descendant of Monkeys.”
Harry Weil, cantor of the Jewish Religious Community, established a workers’ song association, called the “Nibelungen Treasure,” and was considered the radical socialist in the area. After having fled to the U.S., he made a career as representative of Rupp Cheese. On a photo from Vorarlberg made while on holidays he wrote, “Memories of our trip home in 1966,” although his return request to his lost home had been denied: “That he wanted to continue his service as organist of the Israelite Religious Community is indeed an illusion because there is no Israelite Religious Community any longer.
Traces of life stories in the century-old Jewish community of the Vorarlberger city are the contents of a new, permanent exhibit by the Jewish Museum of Hohenems which opened last weekend. However, the project conceived by Hannes Sulzenbacher has nothing to do with conservation. Museum director, Hanno Loewy, speaks about a change in paradigms: “Jewish museums are coming closer in their approach to people. They are no longer only museums which offer private instruction in Jewish tradition, where non-Jews speak about the Jews.” Instead of society’s majority viewing Jewish history from the outside, it is about being confronted with individual, life sketches and ways to become a part of society with its Christian majority.” Loewy: “We are looking at Jewish history from the experience of migration and international life styles and asking questions about the present day.” The question as to whether and under which circumstances societies with different cultures have a place in Europe is permanently present in the border triangle characterized by migration movements. Not far from the Jewish cemetery in Hohenems is a burial place in Altach for the Muslims in the area.
The Jewish Museum in Hohenems, located in the villa of the former Heimann-Rosenthal factory bought up by the city, has attracted interest from the beginning. One year after its opening, it was distinguished by having been presented with the Austrian Museum Prize in 1992. Forward, a Jewish newspaper in New York, described it as one of most innovative Jewish museums in Europe.” One showed the highly acclaimed exhibition, “The Wonderful World of Jewish Kitsch,” and presented anti-Jewish knick knack - pipe holders and canes topped with the distorted physiognomy found in popular “pictures of Jews,” provoking a discussion on anti-Semitism, philo-Semitism and conspiracy theories.
Hanno Loewy, who established the renowned Fritz Bauer Institute in Frankfurt, sees in his larger, more spatial surroundings the freedom of choice absent in Jewish museums located in larger cities. “Here we are not so pressured by interests. That allows us, when dealing with history, to include all the inconsistencies with great candidness and in a relaxed atmosphere.”
Jewish Museum Vienna: The Female Dimension in Judaism and Goldman
Austrian Federal Chancellery
From May 16 to November 18, 2007 the Jewish Museum Vienna (JMW) presents the exhibition, “Best of All Women. The Female Dimension in Judaism,” exploring the role of the Jewish woman in religious, economic, social and cultural contexts. The exhibit demonstrates how female and male perspectives often lead to completely different perceptions of historical events. The parochet, by whose story the exhibition title is inspired, will also be displayed.
Zwi Hirsch Todesco had donated the Thora curtain to the City Temple in Vienna when his daughter Nina married in 1833. In his dedication he praised his wife Fanny as the “best of all women.” The acquisition and restoration of the parochet had been supported by the insurance company UNIQA. In its branch on Judenplatz the Jewish Museum Vienna presents a “Tribute to Paul Goldman. Photographs 1943-1965.“ This exhibition focuses on outstanding press photos, showing, for example, the arrival of Holocaust survivors in Palestine and everyday life in Israel at that time.
Parliament: Solemn Ceremony Against Violence and Racism
Austrian Federal Chancellery
The focus of this year’s commemorative ceremony against violence and racism held in the Austrian Parliament on May 4, 2007 was on resistance against the National Socialist regime. Speaker of Parliament Barbara Prammer delivered a speech to honor the memory of the resistance fighters. Witnesses of the period launched an appeal to stay alert, and former resistance fighters warned the youth against “seducers.” The ceremony in Parliament was opened by the Ensemble Klesmer Vienna playing Jewish melodies. Besides the members of government led by Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Vice-Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer, numerous representatives from both chambers of Parliament and the leaders of the parliamentary groups of the five political parties were among the attendees. The event was held in commemoration of the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp on May 5, 1945.
Cafe Centropa and Its Unassuming Heroes
Die Gemeinde (July, 2007)
Marta S. Halpert
Ed Serotta, an American in Vienna, created the first virtual Museum of Jewish Everyday History in Central- and Eastern Europe
You wish to visit Cafe Centropa? Although it lies in the center of the city in Vienna, it is not easy to find. It exists only one time per month for four hours in a koscher restaurant called Alef Alef in the Judengasse. During this very short period of time, it becomes a normal coffeehouse.
A colorful, happy band of people – very few of them are under 80 years of age – enjoying apple strudel fresh out of the oven and the crispy chocolate pastry and chatting lively above the clanging of coffee cups.
An entirely normal meeting of senior citizens? Only on the outside. Even if Lilli Tauber, Erwin Landau and Max Uri could meet their small circle of friends elsewhere, a man by the name of Ed Serotta, an American in Vienna, keeps them from doing so. These older people have told and entrusted him and a host of interviewers with stories about their lives, stories which took place during a very moving European century. In so doing, invaluable records are being left for posterity.
The magic word is “Centropa.” It is named for a unique institution located in Vienna which highlights and chronicles the really normal, everyday life of Austrian Jewish men and women in the former territories of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. In order to outsmart the threat of times being forgotten, oldest methods with latest techniques are combined. In interviews lasting hours, everything is recorded which is associated with the fascinating, long-term memories of this generation. These irretrievable treasures of oral history will be made accessible through Centropa over the internet to the entire world. This virtual museum exists primarily from yellowed, personal photos which have never been published. When totally engrossed with the portraits, the holiday photos and village scenes, one senses and gets a glimpse into the history of Central- and Eastern Europe during the last 150 years. The unique online archive has contains already some 25,000 scanned photos and over 1,500 interviews from eight different countries.
Breakfast in Centropa’s Kitchen
In an apartment located in an older building in the Pfeilgasse in Vienna’s district Josefstadt, all of the large, white French doors are left wide open. A mix of languages greets the visitor. Here young historians, computer geeks, students and photographers speak with one another in English, French, Hungarian, Hebrew, and Serbo-Croatian. A giant black-and-white portrait of the Galpert family from Mukachevo in the Ukraine hangs in the narrow office entryway and shows the way to Serottas’ favorite place - a long, narrow Ikea table. Here he invites guests for breakfast such as Austrian politicians, civil servants in high administrative positions, ambassadors from throughout Europe and American sponsors, who then receive not always the lightest fare. They have all heard the creed espoused by the founder of Centropa: “There are many people and institutions who are involved with documenting the Holocaust, and rightly so. I have tried, however, on my many trips from the Baltic States to the Balkans to bridge that terrible horror by discovering how the Jews have lived and how they are living today – not how they died.”
The charming collector soon found others interested in his project, but funding was not so easy. Why should one promote in Vienna documentation of Eastern European Judaism?
Centropa’s initial support came from that of reporters in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria. Serotta insisted “Vienna is the best place.” For many years Austrian State Secretary Hans Winkler took interest in the project. Then the National Fund of the Republic of Austria and other institutions followed. The circle of promotors soon spread. He was successful in attracting the attention of many private foundations in the USA where Serotta went on lecture tours or put himself up for hire as a tour guide for Eastern Europe. “As soon as he had someone sitting in front of him for breakfast and in front of the camera, this person was trapped,” recalled a former cohort.
Centropa is achored in Vienna but when using the German-speaking internet pages at: http://at.centropa.webxpert.at/, one is geographically in a very diverse world. Tips regarding individual countries where Centropa is active - such as in Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, the Ukraine, Slovakia and the Czech Republic - one finds also special topics regarding “Sephardic Jews” or “Soviet-Jewish Soldiers.” Those who don’t wish to research their ancestors can download Jewish recipes or travel tips.
But nothing attracts one more nor fails to take one’s breath away as the memories of some fifty Austrians. Tanja Eckstein, former bookseller, who came to Vienna in 1984 from East Germany, conducted the majority of interviews and after many years continues to remain in contact with the older people. “Some really blossom, become young again when they recall that which was positive and beautiful in their younger years,” says Eckstein, who also is idolized by those with whom she is chatting.
For more information, see: http://www.centropa.org
CEC- Center for Research and Documentation of Jewish Life in Eastern- and Central Europe.
Tel: +43 1 409 09 71
Head of the Jewish Welcome Service Has Passed Away
Der Standard (07/11/2007)
Leon Zelman 1928 - 2007
Polish-Austrian journalist Leon Zelman passed away in a hospital in Vienna at the age of 79 following a grave illness
Vienna – Head of the Jewish Welcome Service Vienna Dr. Leon Zelman has passed away in a hospital in Vienna at the age of 79 following a prolonged illness.
Leon Zelman was presented in 2001 the ‘Ring of Honor’ by the City of Vienna and plans were in the making for awarding him honorable citizen in the fall. As co-founder of the “Jewish Welcome Service Vienna,” he committed himself to making it possible for thousands of exiled Jewish Austrians to renew their ties with their former homeland – now, the new Vienna – thereby contributing toward reconciliation with the past.
The funeral will be held on Friday, July 13, 2007 in Vienna’s Central Cemetery at 12.30 p.m.
Survived the Concentration Camp
Zelman was born in 1928 in Szczekociny, Poland. He survived the Auschwitz and Mauthausen-Ebensee concentration camps, where he was freed in May of 1945 by the Americans. He studied Journalism at the University of Vienna. During his studies, he was a leading contributor to the Jewish student group at the University. In 1963, Leon Zelman took over as head of Reisebüro City of the Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro (Austrian Tourism Office) for the purpose of developing tourism with Israel.
The Year 1980 saw the founding of the non-profit organization, Jewish Welcome Service Vienna. Since its beginning, the Jewish Welcome Service succeeded in inviting thousands of Austrians to Vienna expelled in 1938 by the NS under the program, “Welcome to Vienna.” Moreover, the Jewish Welcome Service organized youth exchange programs between Israel, the USA, and Austria, in addition to many other projects.
A Life in Service of Remembrance
Der Standard (07/12/2007)
The head of Vienna’s Jewish Welcome Service has passed away. As bridge-builder and as an exceptional figure, he is praised by all sides
The elegant, almost eighty year-old man, who could often be seen crossing Stephansplatz from his office on the way to Café Europe, was often greeted by many people he didn’t know. “Professor Zelman, many years ago you held a lecture at my school which I have never forgotten,” the Holocaust survivor was told.
After having been liberated from a concentration camp close to Mauthausen in 1945, Leon Zelman fought his entire life against forgetting. And he tried to build bridges of reconciliation between people of the country from which so many of the persecutors had their origins and the survivors among those who were persecuted. Tuesday evening Leon Zelman passed away in the Barmherzige Brüder Hospital in Vienna following a grave illness.
Remembrance as Mission
Up until a few months ago, he could’nt stand still. In cafes around Vienna he explained to journalists his latest project of trying to convince politicians of establishing a “House of History” located next to Parliament to represent and research racism and intolerance. He failed in his attempt, but Zelman didn’t fail in directing criticism at the Social Democrats who had become a substitute family and home to the boy from the Polish Stetl Szczekociny orphaned by the Shoa.
There were three principles which Zelman repeated over and over again: First, as a survivor, he saw his life’s mission in keeping remembrance of the Shoah alive. Second, “Auschwitz didn’t begin in Auschwitz,” that one has to remain alert to all forms of hatred toward minorities. Third, something which Zelman emphasized equally often - is one must not overlook the fact that Hitler’s regime, by murdering the mentally ill, “also committed crimes against its own people.”
The idea of collective guilt was something fully foreign to him. And because Zelman delivered his message to many with such engaging cordiality, he was received positively at a time when paralyzing silence clouded all discussion of the NS era.
The journal, Das Jüdische Echo, (1951), which Zelman edited until recently, had its beginnings as a newsletter for university students and developed into a “European cultural forum” appearing annually. Highly respected intellectuals such as Friedrich Heer and Hilde Spiel wrote many of its articles, and in most recent times renowned politicians and journalists contributed to it as well.
In the Ghetto of Lodz
One time the son of the former NS mayor of Lodz wrote movingly of his experiences as an adult when revisiting the city where so much suffering was caused by a ghetto erected by the Nazis. Leon Zelman, together with his parents and two-year-younger brother, Schajek, was imprisoned in this ghetto. The father was killed, his mother starved to death, and Leon took over the responsibility of raising his younger brother. Later, while in Auschwitz, he added two years to his age to ensure his survival as someone fit to work, (even after 1945 his date of birth was stated as being 1926). One morning Schajek was gone. The Nazis had sent him to the gas chambers.
The severely shocked Leon landed in the death march on the way to Ebensee, one of the sub-concentration camps belonging to the “Archipel Mauthausen,” as he describes in his memoirs, “Ein Leben nach dem Überleben,” published in English as “After Survival.” He was liberated on May 6, 1945, measuring 178 centimeters in height and weighing only 38 Kilos. Zelman often told others that he had basically wanted to emigrate to the USA, but he suffered from tuberculosis and was, therefore, refused entry.
Thus, he went to Vienna, repeated courses in order to graduate with a Matura and studied journalism. During a visit to the hospital, he met Peter Strasser - at that time head of the Socialist Youth and later member of the National Council until his early death in 1962 and considered a hopeful candidate for the Austrian Social Democrat Party. The circle surrounding Strasser, to which Heinz Nittel also belonged, accepted Zelman as one of their own. He learned to appreciate a prejudice-free Austria and never stopped praising Vienna as being open to the world, defending the country everywhere he went, including the USA and Israel. In 1980, with support of the City of Vienna, he began the “Jewish Welcome Service,” initially promoting tourism with Israel.
The Bridge Broke
Time appeared ripe for Zelman to promote Austria’s coming to terms with the past. In 1984 he was the initiatior of the Vienna exhibition, “Sunken World,” which displayed the stetl he knew during his childhood. But in 1985 the bridge cracked when the Minister of Defense, Friedhelm Frischenschalger, shook hands with the war criminal, Walter Reder, after being released from prison - something which received worldwide protest. During the following years, with the Waldheim affair and the rise of Jörg haider the world began breaking. But instead of giving up, he brought more and more Jewish survivors and their children for short visits to Vienna in order to show them a different Austria.
His last project, the “House of History,” which he pushed for being housed in the Ringstraße’s Palais Epstein, was turned down despite all efforts. But for someone from the stetl whom the Nazis wanted to get rid of, he gratefully accepted numerous honors toward the end of his life. The Grand Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria was one of them, also an honorary doctoral degree which was bestowed upon him by the University of Vienna. He confronted issues head on and was hard to stop, even using the occasion of such events to deliver the message “that we must continue to fight against Hitler because we cannot allow that also remembrance be destroyed.”
Zelman Has Passed Away
Austrian Press Agency (APA) (07/11/2007)
Leaving a “Painful Gap” says Federal President Fischer
Zelman’s role cannot “be valued highly enough”
Vienna - With the death of Leon Zelman, a personality has left us, “who one can characterize as exceptional,” said Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer in an initial reaction on Wednesday to the passing of the head of Vienna’s Jewish Welcome Service. Zelman’s role in helping to confront our past during the years of 1938 to 1945 and coming to terms with post-War history cannot “be valued highly enough;” his passing leaves behind a “deep and painful gap.”
Zelman turned his suffering experienced as a Jew and as witness to concentration camps into “activity, love and zest for action,” said Fischer of the deceased. The Federal President recalled Zelman’s fight against every form of anti-Semitism, his love of Vienna and Austria, as well as his boundless energy in founding the Jewish Welcome Service which allowed many NS victims to visit their former homeland. His death is “an occasion for genuine mourning and will leave behind a deep and painful gap,” claimed Fischer in a broadcast from the office of the President.
Franz Alt: A Late Token of Appreciation
Die Gemeinde (06/2007)
“When I studied mathematics in Vienna, the emphasis was on quite abstract subjects: on foundations of mathematics and mathematical logic; on fields like graph theory and combinatorial typology, and things like that. That was the atmosphere at that time, and these were the interesting subjects. Schlick was there in logic and philosophy, and Carnap was there. Goedel, whom we now call the foremost logician, was a student in Vienna, and he was a few years older than I. ”
Franz Alt is the last member of the Vienna Mathematical Colloquium, a group of scientists including Kurt Gödel, Oskar Morgenstern, Karl Menger and Abraham Wald, who, along with the Vienna Circle (and in close association to), did pioneer work during the 1930s in various areas of logic, topology and economics.
Franz, as he is fondly called by everyone, was born in Vienna on November 30, 1910. His father was a reputable lawyer, but Franz didn’t want to take over his father’s law firm “I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I rebelled ” and studied mathematics at the University of Vienna, where he received his PhD in 1932: “I, instead, decided to study something else. Somewhere in high school, we had a very inspiring teacher of mathematics, and that inspired me to get into mathematics.”
Like many others, he found no regular employment in Vienna and had to eke out a living on part-time jobs, such as offering private tutoring along with Oskar Morgenstern at the Austrian Institute for Economic Research where, for the cost of 50 pennies, one could learn mathematics geared for national economists.
Upon arrival of the Anschluß, Franz had to leave Austria on the spur of the moment with his newly wedded wife. I’m not a practicing Jew, just ethnically by German definitions, by Nazi definitions. Becoming newly wedded happened something like this: Vienna was now under control of the Nazis,…nobody knew who was in charge, who could even issue a marriage certificate…One day, my future wife called me at the office on the phone and said, “I have just heard from Rabbi Schwartz….He’s still permitted to perform marriage, and it would be recognized. So if you want to, we could get married this afternoon.” I said, “All right.” I hadn’t given it any thought before then. “I’ll meet you at three o’clock after your office hours are over at such-and-such corner in Vienna,” and we walked over to see him at his synagogue.
After a short stay in Switzerland, they left directly for the USA, where his wife had relatives. When we arrived by boat in New York, one of my wife’s cousins was on the pier to receive us. We waved “hello” to him.
Only some time later was he offered employment: For three months, I was unemployed. I think I had 60 letters of introduction. I wrote letters to all of these people, and I got 58 refusals. Then, however, he did find work - with the Econometric Institute in New York – which was shortly interrupted by his two-year military service with the U.S. Army. I volunteered for the American Army early ’42 and was turned down because I was an enemy alien, theoretically. They didn’t do any harm to me. They didn’t intern me as they did the Japanese, but they didn’t allow me to enter the Army until I was drafted the following year. In ’43, I was drafted. Then while I was in the Army, I got my American citizenship, a little early being a soldier. …As soon as I was drafted, I volunteered for the ski troops because I felt that me, coming from Austria – Austria, if you don’t know, is a country in the high mountains, and we were all skiers. I wasn’t even a terribly good skier, but by American standards, I thought I would be able to do a good job.
During his military service, he familiarized himself with the first computer, working on development and programming before it was finished being built. After 1946 he continued to be involved with computers beginning in 1948 at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). I was dumped into computing. I knew nothing about it. The subject had never occurred to me as something to study. The word had never come up. “I got some reading to do, first of all,” I thought…They were enormously large computers. The ENIAC was a room full of computing devices, just for that one machine. We can’t imagine that today. Nowadays, a computer fits on a table. They were typically a roomful. I remember von Neumann once explaining ENIAC and saying every time you turned it on, you’d blow two tubes. As deputy director of the computing center (1948-52) and then for the department of Applied Mathematics (1952-67), he was responsible for installing the first computer at the NBS as well as other places connected with the U.S. government, involved with research in numeric analysis, statistics, and generally speaking, applied mathematics.
In 1967 he changed over to the American Institute of Physics (AIP) in New York. There he was significantly involved with constructing a digitalized system of information for a journal dealing with physics, which included classification, index and bibliography.
Since his retirement in 1973, he works as a volunteer with peace and human rights organizations. He is honorary member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM, currently consisting of 80,000 members), which he helped found and for which he served as its third president.
Franz Alt is one of the pioneers of the digital computer involving applied mathematics. Today he lives together with his second wife, Annice, in Manhattan, close to the Cloisters in an apartment stuffed with books, original editions of mathematic seminars and a wonderful view of the Hudson River. He still enjoys his favorite hobby of music. With age 96 he still plays in a quartet. He even has two groups in which he participates. One of his partners is a daughter of Courant, one of the most renowned mathematicians of the last century whose interest in applied mathematics led to the decision to leave Göttingen, Germany, following Hitler’s takeover of power. Franz Alt’s other hobby is hiking, something which has become more and more difficult for him to enjoy during the last few years.
As he tried to assure me, he didn’t believe that he was really entitled to the upcoming tribute which he was about to receive. It is fascinating to listen to his stories – about people who have helped shape the 20th century, their families and children, stories about the beginnings of the computer, of institutions which were once famous or continue to be, or about Kurt Gödel, whose ‘spirits’ he tried lifting in 1938.
In any case, I am happy that Franz Alt - late but nonetheless - will receive the Austrian honorary award for science and art from the Federal Chancellor. I am happy even more that the former high school where he received his degree has established a Franz Alt prize – one for theoretical and natural science and one for human rights. Both mean a great deal to him.
Kreisky Prize: Chancellor Gusenbauer Pays Homage to Lerner
Austrian Federal Chancellery
Gerda Lerner, a researcher specialzed in women’s history, received the Bruno Kreisky Prize for her life-time achievements and the 2006 political book of the year. Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer paid homage to the professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin (USA) in the festive hall of the Austrian National Library in Vienna. He praised her not only as a “doyenne and pioneer of women’s historiography” but as “the person devoting most efforts to the academic recognition and institutionalization of women’s historiography”.
The “godmother of women’s history” – the Chancellor quoted from the New York Times – was known far beyond academia and had always considered her activities for “others,” - those on the fringes of society - to be of high political relevance. Discrimination against women in history was only one but “significant form of discrimination” since women were “the group stigmatized as “others” or the longest period in history,” stated Gusenbauer. Lerner was born to Jewish parents in Vienna in 1920. Together with her parents she fled the National Socialists.
She was able to become a “recognized citizen and scholar only in the U.S.A.“. In 1972 Lerner had succeeded in establishing the first study program for women’s history in the U.S.A. in 1972 and a PhD programme in 1980. Society owed it to the laureate that the “environment for women in science and the humanities had changed.” After her “generations of women had followed her example and were able to rely on her support.” Through her work Gerda Lerner finally gave “the oppressed majority of women the history which male history had denied them for such a long time.” She realized “before others that social discrimination was complex and that exploitation, oppression, discrimination were the effects of historical processes.”
By way of conclusion, the Chancellor stated that it was a great pleasure to him “to award this very important prize to the most active and brightest historian at the beginning of the new women’s historiography.” Among Gerda Lerner’s most outstanding works are “The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle Ages to 1810 (Oxford University Press, 1994). The German translation was published by dtv in Munich in 1998.
Prammer Makes Plans to Restore the Jewish Cemetery in Waehring
Austrian Press Agency (APA) (13/07/2007)
Vienna – Saving Vienna’s Jewish Cemetery in Waehring appears to be moving closer to the day when it becomes reality. President of National Council Barbara Prammer said on the occasion of a visit to Israel that the board of trustees of the National Fund, responsible for NS restitution, will pave the way for the preliminary stage of the project this coming October.
“To me it is fully clear that the Waehring Cemetery has priority, that something fundamental has to be done,” said Prammer, who also heads the board of trustees. She confirmed that the Federation will have to take a lot of the funding into its own hand: Fourteen million Euro for restoration is a realistic amount, she said, and special financing is also necessary. The entire project should take at least six, perhaps even ten years, according to experts.
The first step involves, however, a preliminary stage which will take two years or more and will amount to about 200,000 euro at the cost of the National Fund. There are already preliminary studies being done, such as that undertaken by the historian, Tina Walzer, but now also the Federal Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments will have its restorers submit an appraisal. The City of Vienna’s Office for Gardens and Parks will deal with the problem of the tree population, which is getting out of hand. Work involving initial restoration will run alongside the other projects.
“I don’t want to have to wait patiently. I want the investigations to begin now. In the foreseeable future – two to three years – a complete project proposal can then be entrusted to the Federal government so that fundamental restoration can be carried out,” said Prammer. At the same time, financing should also be secured: “I assume that then the work can be smoothly carried out.”
Vienna will also have to meet its obligations, particularly concerning the work on the garden area as well as maintenance and supervision after restoration has been completed, explained the President of the National Council. Currently this is continually being taken care. Regarding the recent clearing of the area by members of the U.S. Embassy, including also the Marines, Prammer appeared “puzzled.” No matter who gives the orders, “I consider that to have been basically unnecessary.”
The struggle over restoring of the Jewish Cemetery Waehring, which belongs today to the district, Döbling, has been going on for a year. Until now very little has to be done, and the enclosed area in use from 1784 until 1879 is increasingly threatened by decay. Responsible for the restoring and maintaining of Jewish cemeteries in Austria is the Federation, according to the 2001 Washington Agreement. Vienna’s Community Council demanded unanimously in March that it should fulfill its duties of maintaining the cemetery. Thereupon, Prammer promised to make the cemetery the “burning issue and main focus of our attention.”
Where the Books Come From
The University of Vienna is investigating its role during the NS era. One aspect of it consists of making an inventory of their books stored in the book stacks.
What gave provenance research of Austrian libraries a push was the Federal law passed in 1998 regarding restitution of art objects. The Austrian National Library (ÖNB) led the way by searching through their book stacks for looted books. At the end of 2003 the National Library delivered a report, which contained the precise list of almost 150,000 books in print and over 11,000 objects from collections regarded unlawfully acquired in accordance with the law governing art restitution and left no doubt that the National Library had enriched itself “by depriving those persecuted or forced to emigrate of their property on a large scale.” In the meantime, one knows that the number of unlawful acquisitions is greater than previously assumed. “Meanwhile based upon the files of the National Library, some 300,000 suspected cases need to be researched, and the total number could increase to 500,000, says Christiane Köster, who has worked on researching the systematic looting of books during the NS era.
The National Library, under Director General Paul Heigl, a fervent supporter of the NSDAP, made particularly aggressive efforts to acquire “secured” holdings of books. At the same time, other libraries filled their book stacks gladly with books in print which were seized by the Gestapo. Vienna’s city and regional libraries have already scanned their bookshelves for holdings having suspected origins.
The University of Vienna took a somewhat longer time. “Legally, we are not obligated but certainly morally,” says Vice Rector Johann Jurenitsch. Not until the fall of 2004 was there any available funding, and the provenance researchers set to work also on the Alma Mater Rudolphina. Now, that the books have been made accessible, said library director, Maria Seissl, we will not stop “until we really have researched everything.” Critical inventory is one aspect of the research work regarding the history of the University of Vienna during NS times and will last until next year. In March 2008, a conference entitled, “Libraries During the NS Era,” will present the results.
A Large Chunk
Profil (06/11/ 2007)
Restitution. Researchers found thousands of looted books in the huge book stacks of the University of Vienna. Now the search begins for heirs.
“More next time.” With these words, Professor of Romance Languages and Literature Elise Richter ended her lecture in March of 1938, one which proved to be her last. Two weeks later, the swastika hung on the façade of the Alma Mater Rudolphina. And “Miss Richter,” as the Neue Freie Presse once called the first woman ever to have received a PhD from an Austrian university, was expelled.
The Jewish scholar lived another four years with her sister Helene in Vienna’s Cottageviertel. Both of them had dedicated themselves to a life characterized by “the merry world of scholarship,” that was also the motto of the exlibris in all of their textbooks. But hardship set in and made life oppressive. In 1941 they considered even selling their fine library. Elise did an inventory and came up with 8,000 volumes. “A really quite beautiful collection,” she noted in her diary in 1941.
The University and City Library of Cologne offered 4,000 Reichsmark for the voluminous romance titles. So, in April 1942, fourteen crates headed in the direction of Germany; the Richter sisters, however, never saw a single Reichsmark in exchange for the books. On March 12, 1942, they settled into a Jewish nursing home and seven months later were deported to Theresienstadt. Helene survived only one month while her sister, Elise, died on June 21, 1943.
For the first time, part of the collection was found among the six and a half million books in print in the University of Vienna’s library. Peter Malina, a historian of contemporary history, had been looking for the last two years for NS looted items in the enormous book stacks filled with books. He and his colleagues sorted through more than 100,000 volumes, rummaging through stacks of acquisition documents and files and interviewing witnesses. “Every little hint of suspicion is being recorded,” he says. Preliminary results reveal 33,000 volumes - the origins of which are now being researched - have been sorted out and separated from the rest. How many will have to be restituted in the end cannot be determined. Malina estimates that “it could be between 8,000 and 10,000 volumes.”
The search for heirs is archeological, heavy labor. Exlibris, dedications and notes scribbled on paper are the only traces which have a connection to the past, but they often end up leading nowhere. Nevertheless, there are also cases which are very clear-cut. Sometimes Malina has only to open a couple of pages in a book in order recognize that it was acquired illegally: some 862 books written in French were given to the University Library as a “gift” from the Gestapo between 1942 and 1944.
Without any Owner
Beginning in the 1950s, the University Library accepted 107,864 books in print, known as the “Tanzenberg Collection, which date from the past century.” Forty percent of this holding went to the National Library in Jerusalem, and the rest remained in Vienna. Provenance researchers discovered in the meantime some 4,712 volumes stamped with “Tanzenberg Collection 1951.” The wherabouts of the rest is to this day not clear.
The Collection belonged to the “Hohe Schule,” the name given to the NSDAP party’s college. Their library contained books they had stolen from sources throughout all of Europe. From September 1944 to May 1945, the booty was stored in the former Olivetaner monastery, located in Tanzenberg, Carinthia. Toward the end of the war, the British occupation tried to return many of the books. But even at that time it could not be explained to whom they belonged. After 1949, the “unowned” property landed in the National Library where “books were sorted out,” where the remaining Tanzenberger holdings soon mixed together with parts of Vienna’s Gestapo library as well as holdings from the Dorotheum and the National Library. That which didn’t fit into any particular category was distributed among Austria’s libraries. As of today, Malina has identified 4,600 volumes from the “Tanzenberg Collection 1951” in the university’s book stacks. According to historical records kept by the Gestapo, the University Library received another 2,932 volumes, of which Malina and his group have found only 236.
The longer the search continues of the book stacks, the clearer it becomes, that “our attempts are too short-reaching,” says the library’s director, Maria Seissel. In March 2006 Seissl included the 49 specialized libraries into the provenance project. Two-thirds of the material has already been secured, about 65,000 volumes inspected, among which the head of the project, Markus Stempf, has discovered to this day 1,300 cases of restitution. In a few libraries not a single looted book was found, whereas others proved to reveal “large chunks.” Some 150 books owned by the psychologist couple, Karl and Charlotte Bühler, were in any case acquired illegally.
Both taught at the university until their emigration. On March 23, 1938, he institute founded by Karl Bühler in 1922 was sealed. The Nazis accused the professor of having acted “philo-semitic,” and took him into “protective custody.” As a result the Bühlers dissolved their household and sold their private library containing approximately 5,000 volumes. The works were nonetheless looted because “the sale took place under pressure and is classified as illegal,” says Christiane Köstner, expert for coming to terms with organized NS looting of books.
Charlotte fled to Norway. With help from friends, she managed to have her husband set free from prison. This research couple also never saw any money from the sale of the library. On November, 1938 a librarian from the University Library estimated the value of their 900-volume part of the library at 500 Reichsmark. The Insitute for Psychology transferred 400 Reichsmark onto a blocked account, which Charlotte and Karl Bühler were unable to access. The 150 works from their estate, which have been tracked down, are now to be returned as soon as possible. Currently University Library colleagues are looking for their legal heirs.
Scouring the University’s book stacks will last until 2008. Until then the role of University Library should be investigated in more detail. The Gestapo’s “secured” books in prints were distributed throughout the entire area under German control by the office responsible for book usage in Vienna’s Dorotheum. The National Library officially snapped up the bargain. In comparison, the University Library reacted reluctantly. Nevertheless, it proves to Malina to be “all the more a nightmare that the University Library was also a beneficiary of the NS system of systematic looting throughout all of Europe.”
Restitution of the Minne Sculptures?
Der Standard (06/01/2007)
Restitution Advisory Council studies also the case of Gotthilf-Miskolczy
There is a lot of work awaiting the Restitution Advisory Council which last met in November, 2006. According to Werner Fürnsinn, head of the Commission for Provenance Research, some 35 dossiers have been presented to him for a decision. Ten to twelve cases are being reviewed today.
In regards to the two Kniende Knaben (Kneeling Boys) (1898/1900) by Georges Minne, it could be that the Council revises its decision made in November, 2004, - and now will recommend restitution. Until the Anschluß, there were two such marble sculptures by the Belgian artist which decorated the staircase of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer’s palace. Presumably, it is this pair of sculptures which were acquired in 1942 by the Austrian Gallery for 6,000 Reichsmark in the “aryanized” auction house located in the Kärtnerstraße because access was available to the seized palace.
The Council also has decisions to make concerning two other art works from the Belvedere. In the case of Max Roden there is Porträt Frau Z. (Portrait of Mrs. Z) by Franz Wiegele, and in the case of Ernst von Gotthilf-Miskolczy, there is Friedrich von Amerling’s painting, Mädchen mit Strohhut (Girl in a Straw Hat). Gotthilf-Miskolczy, architect of the main building of the Austrian Bank Creditanstalt was forced to emigrate to England in 1939. Under the duress of persecution he was forced to liquidate his art collection. Among other items, he offered the Anmerling portrait to the Austrian Gallery – but, unsuccessfully. The painting was acquired some time later by the Austrian Gallery at an auction by the Weinmüller Auction House.
The cases to be processed concern ethnographic objects from the Museum of Ethnology – furniture pieces and glass objects from the MAK as well as instruments, archive material and, in the Causa Rosa Glückselig, a Fiat 522C from Turin from the Museum of Technology.