April 2007

Dear Readers,

April, 2007

With this issue of Jewish News from Austria, we are happy to be able to provide you with a broad selection of articles which have appeared in the Austrian media since the beginning of the year.

We would also like to point out to all readers of Jewish News from Austria an important change:  Since January 2007 you will find actual news items, information on events, publications as well as useful links on a regular basis on our new website: www.jewishnews.at   Thus, by offering you a broader coverage, in addition to our regularly appearing newsletter, we try to keep you well informed.

Since our last issue, we have also attempted to update the list of e-mail addresses of subscribers to Jewish News from Austria. In particular the list of organizations receiving the newsletter was updated and enlarged. We would be very grateful for your support in the outreach of this newsletter by informing us of people you know who might be interested in Jewish News from Austria. Moreover, we would send a hard copy by mail to those who are interested but have no access to the internet.

I would appreciate very much your response.

Yours sincerely,

Wolfgang Renezeder
Director of the Press & Information Service
Embassy of Austria

P.S. If you no longer wish to receive the electronic newsletter, please send us a short note to that effect

Lively Jewish Culture in Vienna

Die Presse (03/19/2007)

Judith Lecher

Conference from March 19 – 22: International scholars present the most recent research results on Jewish life in Vienna from 1900 to 1938.

“What I am trying to do is to comprise the history of Vienna’s Jews in relationship to the life of this entire city; that is, to recognize what Vienna meant and means for them, thereby clarifying the peculiarity of this piece of West European Jewry,” wrote Hans Titze in 1933, author of a standard work on the topic. The quotation is at the same time the motto of the international conference, “Vienna and the Jewish Experience – Acculturation, anti-Semitism and Zionism.”
(see: www.univie.ac.at/zeitgeschichte/veranstaltungen/a-07-03-1.pdf)

“When looking at Jewish history, one should not allow persecution of the Jews and the Shoa to overshadow the rich, cultural experiences and tradition,” emphasizes Frank Stern from the Institute for Contemporary History at the University of Vienna. He organized the conference, the timing of which was intentional. “Before we recall 1938, the year of persecution, expulsion and murder of the Viennese Jews, it is important to understand the 1920s and 30s.”

“We want to show to what extent the Viennese Jews were an integral part of society before WW II, with emphasis on the period between the two wars, thus shedding light on their life during this time,” said Stern. The picture of Arthur Schnitzler, taken in 1931 with him riding in a convertible rather than a taxi, illustrates this point much like the classic film, City without Jews.

The conference will not only discuss distinct personalities and works, but also include Austrian-Jewish daily life – how the Jews influenced scientific, cultural and societal life and how they themselves were influenced by life in Vienna. That is reflected in the title of the opening lecture being offered by Steven Beller entitled, “What isn’t Stated in Baedeker: Jews and other Austrians in Vienna between the Two World Wars.” Emphasis of the conference will be contemporary history as well as cultural history; lecture topics range from the education of rabbis to the education of Jewish youth- and women’s movements.

Eleven Percent of the Viennese were Jews
According to a census taken in the year 1923, over 200,000 Jews lived in Vienna. They comprised eleven percent of the city’s inhabitants. After Warsaw, Vienna had the largest Jewish community, which was as heterogeneous as the rest of the population. Jews were represented by all strata of society. “And not all stood out because of their scientific or cultural contributions.” The participants, among which are many young scholars, hope to overcome stereotypes. Stern: “This conference is considered a kind of intellectual event which one accidentally stumbles upon; it is definitely not meant to be ‘ivory-tower.’ Reservations are not required and entrance is free.

“In those days, the situation was marked by extreme ambivalence. There was a reciprocal effect and real exchange,” says Stern and then cites an example in Viennese dialect: The word, Beisl, which really is the hebraic word for house, comes from “Beit.” On the other hand, there was also a sense of distance and averseness towards the Jews.” Among the many possible reactions to anti-Semitism was one directed toward Zionism. But between the two wars, the concept hardly took on the meaning among Viennese Jews that Theodor Herzl would have wished. It was more frequently the case that the Jews reacted by exhibiting a kind of biting humor, laughing about the stupidity of anti-Semitism in theater or cabaret performances.

Lively Cultural Scene in the 1920s
The 1920s and 30s were the most active years for the intimate, Jewish theater scene, which was an important mouth piece for the Jewish community. At that time many Jewish artists experienced their most productive phase, says Stern, not during the fin de siècle (1890-1914), clearly more marked by science. During the conference, many diverse personalities stemming from the areas of culture and science will be touched upon: Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schönberg, Felix Salten and Joseph Roth, as well as Sigmund Freud.  The very first to be quoted will be Arthur Schnitzler: At the opening of the conference, Elisabeth Orth will read from Schnitzler’s novel, “Der Weg ins Freie” (English: “The Road to the Open”).

University Holds Conference on History and Culture of Viennese Jews

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

The conference, “Vienna and the Jewish Experience from 1900 to 1938: Acculturation, anti-Semitism, Zionism,” organized by the Department of Contemporary History under the Faculty of Historical and Cultural Studies at the University of Vienna will take place from March 19 – 22. The aim of the conference is to inform the general public on current research and studies of culture.

The venues of the conference will be Vienna’s City Hall, the University of Vienna, the Jewish Museum of the City of Vienna as well as the Metro cinema, run by the Austrian Film Archives. Scholars and artists are invited to lectures, film screenings and readings. An opening statement will be given by the author, Steven Beller, on March 19 within the context of “Vienna Lectures.”  Beller wrote several books on Austrian and Jewish History; he lives in Washington, D.C.

Future House” Opened for Jewish Community in Vienna

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (02/18/2007)

Hahn: “Lively center for conversation and dialogue”

Vienna – On Sunday afternoon the Jewish community opened the “Future House,” located in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt. Across the street is the Lauder Chabad Campus, which was devastated last November out of anti-Semitic motives. “It often comes, unfortunately, to setbacks of the most unworthy and inhuman kind,” said Minister of Science Johannes Hahn in his opening speech.

Hahn’s expectations from the new Jewish cultural center are that it will serve as a “lively center for conversation and dialogue, as well as a place to come together. It is important that Austria be seen as a country with an open society. “I wish the house a lot of room for dialogue and exchange and a strong integrating roof, giving all generations an important home,” said Hahn.

A round of applause followed the statement made by the City Councillor for Women’s Issues and Integration, Sonja Wehsely: “Broad mindedness is the opposite of narrow mindedness.” Vienna is a broad-minded city because every third Viennese has a background of having migrated from somewhere else. Wehsely: “That’s obvious when one thumbs through the telephone directory.” For her, it is particularly meaningful “that I am able to witness how the Jewish community in this city is becoming strong again.”

Another speaker at the celebration was Vienna’s former Mayor, Helmut Zilk, who emphasized his own contribution towards supporting the Jewish Community in Vienna. “Over the past few years we have tried to right the wrongs,” referring to Vienna’s past during the NS era. “Among the many groups, I am deeply interested in the welfare of the Jews– that is Vienna.”

The “Future House” will provide, above all, educational programs for women and young people. Five floors are occupied by cultural and recreational areas as well as a café for seniors citizens and an international library. Financial support was provided for by the Republic of Austria, the City of Vienna and especially the industrial magnate, Lev Leviev. Also present at the opening were City Councillor of Culture Andreas Mailath-Pokorny and the President of the Israelite Cultural Community (IKG), Ariel Muzicant.


School Project Searches for “Last Witnesses” of National Socialism

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (01/25/2007)

“A Letter to the Stars” enters its fifth year

Vienna – The large-scale project on contemporary history, “A Letter to the Stars” enters its fifth year. Having as motto, “Ambassadors of Remembrance,” some 15,000 pupils will contact Holocaust survivors throughout the world and document their life stories. As the organizers of the project, Josef Neumayr and Andreas Kuba, said at a press conference, a database comprising 2,500 “last witnesses” has been established for this purpose.

The first time “A Letter to the Stars” received news coverage was in 2003, when school children sent 80,000 white balloons containing letters up into the air at an event commemorating the victims of National Socialism on Vienna’s Heldenplatz. Since then 40,000 pupils have participated in the project, according to statistics offered by the association, “Learn from Contemporary History.” In May of 2006, some 80,000 white roses were placed at the doorsteps of former residences of Austrian NS victims.

Today students who are interested will take up contact through e-mail, letters or telephone with Austrian NS survivors living abroad. Moreover, thirty selected youths will visit witnesses in New York in April and in London in the fall. Reports of their experiences will be published on the homepage: http://www.lettertothestars.at.

Minister of Education Claudia Schmied (Social Democratic Party) characterized the project on Thursday as “a diamond in the reform of our educational system” and praised “the invaluable cooperation” between teachers, pupils and parents.

Peace Camp 2007: Imagine Peace

Die Gemeinde (March 2007)

Association for the Promotion of Political Maturity

Israeli, Palastinian, Hungarian and Austrian Youths
Explore Their Indentity and Confront Problems of Their Time

July 2 – 12 in Reibers, Waldviertel

Peace Camp 2007: Imagine Peace is a sequel to the projects, Peace Camp 2004, 2005 and 2006, all promoted by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture and the Karl Kahanel Foundation, the latter two of which are also supported by the EU Youth Program.

Context and Motivation
“As a child of Holocaust survivors, I have always felt the wish and obligation to take part in forming and maintaining a peaceful world. Already during my childhood I was impressed by the idea of a world without borders in which all nations are equal in rank and everyone is equal. The fall of the Iron Curtain and the creation of the European Union, obliterating borders between countries, made a childhood dream come true. They symbolize the idea that wishes, however utopian in nature, can actually be realized if one can convince enough people to be committed to a matter in which they truly believe.

As psychologist and psychoanalyst I was particularly interested in the question how one can make people immune against becoming insensitive, brutal  or seduced by evil, how one can sharpen the feeling of responsibility of the individual for the world in which we live. I am convinced that a healthy society stands on two pillars – the capability to resist the evil in ourselves and the preparedness, to participate positively and constructively in maintaining a peaceful world. To this end, it is necessary to offer young people at the earliest age opportunities to sharpen their critical thinking, their ability to be open for dialogue and their sense of justice.

Adolescence is the time in which values offered by their parents are tested; following  a few answers, one searches for the eternal questions of the history of humanity. There is no better time to confront people with the difficult, seemingly unsolvable problems of society: Adolescents are daring and are not so easily afraid as we adults to confront the “sheer impossible.”  They are more capable than we to grow above and beyond the limits we view as absolute, as well as their own personal limits. Where we adults have perhaps already resigned, they are there ready and able to look for new ways and new solutions. It is worth supporting them in their efforts to make the world better. Soon they are adults and responsibility overshadows the “true” life; decisions have to be made and the world influences yours and our children.

We are obligated to sometimes make it more difficult for young people by offering them no final answers, by helping them to live with open questions, to withstand uncertainties, to come to terms with themselves and others and to bear the responsibility for their own actions”.

Peace Camp 2007: Imagine Peace brings four youth groups together and enables them to explore their own historical, national, religious and cultural context.

Goal of Coming Together is to enable the youth
•    To measure and to question possible prejudices held against others through actual encounter with “others” or “foreigners.”
•    To explore ways of understanding, cooperation and peaceful forms of controlling conflict through accomplishing something together, coming to terms with different ways of looking at a problem, and by way of dialogue
•    To overcome borders between nations and religions marked by war, hostility and resentment and to build bridges of understanding through accomplishing something together

•    Daily Art Workshops: Daily arts workshops, instructed by artists and presented to the public, are to be a last day event
•    Daily outdoor activities confronting youths with exciting mission impossible-type tasks, which are solved by developing a strategy together.
•    Group analytical rounds of discussion are to offer the opportunity to get to the bottom of conscious and unconscious factors which can make it difficult for people and groups to constructively get along with each other; perhaps ways and strategies can be found to solve these difficulties and find ways to promote understanding and cooperation
•    Team supervision
•    Last day event: On the last day of being together, the participants should offer the results of their encounters to a real public. Planned is a multi-media event with exhibit on how peace camp came to be, a presentation of music and dance, open workshops, etc. This cultural event will be open to the public, so that people walking by can also be present at this event (ex: Augarten in Vienna).

Participants in Peace Camp 2007 will be divided into four groups of ten youths each from the ages of fifteen to seventeen coming from Israel, Palestinian areas, Hungary and Austria. The Austrian participants are high school students from the Gymnasium am Parhammerplatz, 1170 Vienna. Each youth group will be led and accompanied by two adults as well as one artist or art instructor. The analytical group discussions and the supervision of teams will be headed by two psychotherapists or group analysts present at Peace Camp 2007.

For further information, see: http://peacecamptexts.blogger.de/

First Jewish Theater Festival in Vienna

ORF online (Austrian Radio and Television Broadcasting Corporation) (03/29/2007)

Bearing the title, “Tikun Olam,” there is currently a festival of international Jewish theater taking place for the first time. Artists from fifteen various countries are guests in Vienna.

Foundations for Dialogue
The seven day festival, organized by “Jewish Theater of Austria” and the “Association for Jewish Theater,” should provide the foundations for dialogue and peaceful exchange between Jews and non-Jews.

“We are pursuing the matter of what it means to be Jewish – to be Jewish in today’s world and in Vienna,” said the artistic director of the Jewish Theater of Austria, Warren Rosenzweig.

Rosenzweig characterized the program as refreshing and provocative and emphasized: “The primary function of Jewish theater is to show people outside the mainstream as having different experiences. We are revealing the motives behind being different.”

“Healing the Broken”
“Tikun Olam” means “healing that which is broken.” This very old call for a positive new beginning drawn from past experiences is a central wish of the Jewish Theater of Austria since its founding in 1999 and is symbolized in its logo by a broken pencil.

Fifteen Thousand Jewish Theaters Worldwide
There are fifteen thousand Jewish theaters throughout the entire world. In order to get to know the diversity of Jewish art of acting, one most generate discussion with those involved with Jewish theater.

This happens within the context of the “World Congress of Jewish Theater,” which took place for the first time outside of North America and for the first time partly open to everyone.

Rosenzweig: “We also want to share Vienna’s Jewish culture. The program is a kind of tour across the entire city of Vienna to a historical place. Many of the Jewish visitors are for the first or second or even last time in Vienna.”

Remembrance at Kreuzstadl

Kurier (03/26/2007)

Rechnitz – Some 150 people participated in the ceremony on Sunday afternoon in remembrance of the victims of South Eastern Defensive Wall construction

“The chapter should never be closed on responsibility and forgetting!” In his speech given at Kreuzstadl in Rechnitz on Sunday afternoon, the author, Robert Menasse, spoke against remaining silent and called for freedom of democracy and social welfare.

For the past ten years, victims of the South Eastern Defensive Wall construction (Südostwallbau) are remembered each March. These were victims who lost their lives and were killed during the last months of the war in 1945; above all, the 180 Jewish-Hungarian forced laborers, who within a single night, were massacred by the Nazis and whose last resting place was never established until today. Some 150 people participated in the ceremony on Sunday. Among the group was the representative of the Vienna Israelite Religious Community, the Zalaegerszeg (Hungarian) Israelite Community, the Catholic- and Evangelical Church, a member of the regional government, Michaela Reseta (People’s Party), and Regional Managing Director of the Social Democratic Party, Georg Pehm.

Vilmos Siklosi, as representative of Hungary, unveiled a stone plaque which is to remind one of what happened. “The text, chiseled into the granite, should be a warning that this must never happen again,” said Siklosi as he bowed his head before those Jews murdered in Rechnitz.

The ceremony is organized every year by the association, RE.F.U.G.I.U.S. (Rechnitzer Refugee and Remembrance Initiative and Foundation), who had invited authors to a symposium on National Socialism and the Holocaust, which took place in the City Hall in Oberwart.

Austria Welcomes UN Resolution Against Denying the Holocaust

Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs (Press Release)

Plassnik: "International outcry against denial of holocaust"

Foreign Minister on International Holocaust Remembrance Day
Vienna, 27 January 2007 - "This resolution is an outcry against any attempt to deny the horrors of the Shoa," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik following the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in which the community of states clearly condemns any denial or belittlement of the holocaust.

The wording of the resolution had been formulated with committed Austrian participation against the background of the so-called "holocaust conference" held in Iran last year.

"This event and the completely unacceptable statements made by Iranian President Ahmadinejad prove that there are repeated attempts to deny the systematic obliteration of 6 million Jews and other severely affected groups of victims, their persecution, mass killings, deportation and death camps. We must emphatically counter this frightening expression of intolerance, anti-Semitism and racial hatred," emphasised Plassnik.
"We have the obligation to heighten awareness of the greatest genocide in history, pass on the memory and educate our young generation to be tolerant and respect human rights. We must encourage them not to evade the traces of the past," continued the Foreign Minister.

In this context Plassnik referred to the Fund of the Future administered by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. This fund promotes projects and academic work in the interests and in commemoration of the victims of the Nazi regime, recalling the threat posed by totalitarian systems and despotism. She also referred to the longstanding cooperation between Austria and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem in the further training of Austrian teachers and innovative measures in the field of historical and political education such as the "www. erinnern.at" project for teachers and the "Political Education Days".

"Our international commitment is especially underlined by Austria’s membership in the International Holocaust Task Force, which comprises 24 states and to which we contribute by developing and implementing programmes relating to education, commemoration and research. These programmes also enable us to explain the Austrian efforts on behalf of victims of the Nazi regime to a public that has become more sensitive to this issue," concluded the Foreign Minister.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Press Department
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549. 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213

Jewish Museum Vienna Presents "Oskar Strnad 1879-1935"

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

Oskar Strnad was one of the most brilliant architects, stage designers and theoreticians of the early 20th century. Together with Josef Frank, he founded the "Vienna School" of architecture, which distanced itself from the aestheticism of Wiener Werkstätte and was close to Adolf Loos in its basic approach free from dogmatism. As almost all Loos disciples, the founders and early members of the "Vienna School" came from a Jewish liberal middle-class background. Strnad's main focus was housing. His aim was to "shape without rigid forms" and to create "no dungeons but open worlds". He realized for example, the villa of the writer Jakob Wassermann presented in the exhibition, a semi-detached building in Vienna's Werkbundsiedlung and several flats in social housing complexes. Besides water colours and ceramic objects, Strnad also created furniture (e.g. for Hugo von Hofmannsthal); a drinking glass series made from mousellin glass can also be admired.

In 1909 Strnad led the architecture class at the Wiener Kunstgewerbeschule (Vienna’s College of Arts and Crafts). The drawings, photos and publications exhibited are a tribute to his pedagogical work as well as to his disciples and assistants, who passed into oblivion after their emigration. Typescripts, books and magazines introduce Strnad's theoretical work.

Another important section of the exhibition is devoted to Strnad's theatre, stage and film designs. It shows the plans for a "simultaneous theatre" with three stages, the Leopoldskron Palace Theatre, a theatre tent for New York as well as plans and a model of a theatre with a circular stage (designed together with Max Reinhardt), a theatre and cinema for the Ortmann-Pernitz workers' colony and a model of the Royaards Theatre in Amsterdam. Strnad excelled also as a stage designer, creating the sets for the spectacular premiers of Ernst Krenek's "Jonny spielt auf" ("Jonny Strikes Up the Band") and Alban Berg's "Wozzeck" in Vienna. Moreover, he was credited for the sets of "Masquerade" and "Episode," two famous films starring Paula Wessely.

The first comprehensive exhibition on this outstanding artist will be held at the Jewish Museum Vienna until 24 June 2007.

Freud Museum: On the Couch - Cartoons from The New Yorker

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

Sigmund Freud made several scientific analyses of the ‘joke’. His book, "Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious," was published in 1905. The Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna now shows psychoanalysis-related cartoons from "The New Yorker" magazine. Curator Michael Freund selected 80 drawings. In 1928 the first of countless caricatures of psychoanalysis appeared in the influential magazine.
The complete exhibition, initiated in 2006 with the support of the Department of the Arts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is shown for the first time in Austria. The exhibition was previously displayed at the Museum of the City of New York, the Freud Museum in London, the Dream Museum in St. Petersburg and the Austrian Cultural Forum in Prague.

Klagenfurt: Premiere of "Jedem das Seine" by Turrini and Neuwirth

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

In spring 1945 about 100,000 Hungarian Jews were driven to Mauthausen concentration camp. Only 20,000 survived. Silke Hassler and Peter Turrini describe the fate of 20 of them waiting in a barn to continue their march in “Jedem das Seine“ (“To Each His Own”). Roland Neuwirth, the founder of the music group “Extremschrammeln“ (blending traditional Viennese “Schrammel” music with contemporary elements), wrote the music for this “popular operetta,“ as the subtitle of the work implies.

The artist describes his music as the “tonality of the people.” They are disfigured sounds echoing the waltzes of Johann Strauß from a distance, sweet and light, harsh and bitter. “Vienna Blood” is performed as a Klezmer version on the violin by Aliosha Biz. When WWII was drawing to a close in late April 1945, the half-starved people were provided with food by the peasant woman Traudl Fasching in her barn. To thank her, opera singer Lou Gandolf – brilliantly enacted by Alexander Kaimbacher – wants to perform an operetta for the music-loving farmer.
The project becomes increasingly fascinating, even to Traudl’s alcoholic husband and the Nazi, Stefan Fasching. At the end the war is over, Hitler is dead and the prisoners believe that the horror has finally come to an end. But the barn is boarded up and set on fire. After it burned down, the entire ensemble stands for several minutes in the dark at the edge of the stage – probably the most touching moment of Michael Sturminger’s production at the City Theater of Klagenfurt (Stadttheater Klagenfurt). Then the actors collapse and the orchestra led by Guido Mancusi performs once more this strange waltz-like music.

The play has been conceived as a present to the outgoing theatre manager of City Theater of Klagenfurt, Dietmar Pflegerl. The actors, authors and the composer were given standing ovations on the first night of March 8, 2007, e.g. by Minister for Culture Claudia Schmied and the Director General of the Austrian National Library, Johanna Rachinger.

Vienna Pays Homage to Leon Askin

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

Vienna gets a “Leon Askin Square.“ The square near the last stop of tram line 52 in Vienna’s district Penzing will be named after the actor and director who died in 2005. Askin, born Leon Aschkenasy in Vienna in 1907, studied at the Vienna Academy of Music and the Performing Arts. He won international renown as a political cabaret artist in Vienna, Düsseldorf and Paris in the 1930s. In 1938 he fled to Paris. In 1940 he moved to the USA, where he first became a successful theatre actor (production of Goethe’s “Faust“ on Broadway in 1949) and started his film career in Hollywood in 1952. In 1960 he played a role in the film “One, Two, Three“ directed by Billy Wilder and in 1972 he participated in “Hammersmith Is Out,“ with Peter Ustinov as the film director. In 1994 he finally returned to his native city Vienna, where he impressed the audience with his stage acting even at a very old age.

Ruth Beckermann’s Documentary "Zorro’s Bar Mitzva" is a Hit

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

Viennese documentary filmmaker Ruth Beckermann earned a doctorate at the University of Vienna in 1977 after studying journalism and art history. Together with Josef Aichholzer and Franz Grafl, with whom she produced the film “Arena Besetzt,“ she founded the film distributing company “filmladen” in 1978, where she remained for seven years while producing films and writing numerous books. Beckermann’s splendid documentaries include: “East of War,“ “A Fleeting Passage to the Orient,“ “Return to Vienna“ and “Paper Bridge.“

Her latest masterly work is the documentary, “Zorro’s Bar Mitzva,“ which has been widely popular in Vienna since mid-December. Beckermann accompanied four 12-year-olds of Jewish origin during their preparation for the bar mitzva, the Jewish initiation ritual into the world of grown-ups. The sensitive and humorous film not only shows the difficulties of young people growing up and maturing but also the difficulties parents have with their offspring. Moreover, the documentary gives insight into the vibrant Jewish culture and tradition in Vienna.

Kramer Prize Goes Posthumously to Austrian Exile Author Jakov Lind

 News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

It was announced on February 5, 2007 that the Theodor Kramer Prize 2007 would go to the Austrian exile author, painter and actor, Jakov Lind, who celebrated his 80th birthday on February 10, 2007. Due to his poor health, the prize was to be presented by Georg Stefan Troller to relatives of Lind at the Vienna Jewish Museum on March 13. An awards ceremony was to take place in Krems (Lower Austria) in late May. On February 17, 2007 Jakov Lind died in London; his funeral was held merely one day later.

Jakov Lind was born in 1927 in Vienna to a family of Eastern European Jews. With the help of a refugee organization, he escaped along with his sister to Holland in 1938. He found refuge with a family, while making plans to live in Palestine. Having forged his documents, Lind went underground in Germany. As Jan Gerrit Overbeek, he signed up on a towboat in 1943 to cross the Rhine. He survived the war in Hamburg. After the war he held various jobs and tried his luck as an actor in Israel and Vienna. In 1954 he left for London. In 1968 he published his book, “Soul out of Wood,” which was acclaimed enthusiastically in the English-speaking countries; he was compared to Kafka and Beckett. German critics remained reserved, obviously failing to come to terms with Lind’s perspective of the “practial boisterous joker,” (Marcel Reich-Ranicki), refusing to assume the victim’s role.

In 1966 he published the grotesque allegory, “A Better World.” The stage adaptation of the book bearing the title, “Ergo,” was successfully premiered in New York in 1968. The play was performed for the first time in German in 1997 at Vienna’s Volkstheater. In “The Trip to Jerusalem” (1972), he criticizes the official version of Zionism. In 1997 Lind received the Golden Medal of Honor of the City of Vienna.

Austria’s Future Fund

Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs (Press Release)

Positive Report on the Fund’s First Year of Performance
Klasnic: Eighty projects amounting to a total of approximately. 2.5 million euros
Vienna – Commenting at a press conference on the Future Fund’s first year, the Chairman of the Board of the Republic of Austria’s Future Fund, former Provincial Governor Waltraud Klasnic, and the Fund’s Secretary General, Ambassador Dr. Richard Wotava, submitted a positive report on the Fund’s first year of performance.

“So far we have processed 120 project applications, 80 of which have been approved, amounting to a total of 2.5 million euros,” said the Chairman of the Board. The Future Fund, which is financed from funds remaining after the former Austrian Reconciliation Fund concluded its work at the end of 2005, is in a position to support projects of up to 2 million euros annually,” said Secretary General Wotava.
Most of the projects approved deal with the Nazi regime and its consequences, but there were also interesting projects on the threat posed by other totalitarian systems, emphasized Klasnic.

The Chairman drew special attention to the efficient, swift and unbureaucratic work of the members of the Board and of the Project Promotion Council who all work on an honorary basis, volunteering a considerable part of their leisure time to study the sometimes very extensive project documentation.

Wotava explained that the meetings of the two bodies are held jointly every month, while as a rule the Board takes its decisions on the applications within three months of their submission.
“Because of the variety of interesting projects and the excellent cooperation exhibited by colleagues at the Fund, I am looking forward to my future activities as Chairman of the Future Fund’s Board,” concluded Klasnic.

Contact for further inquiries:
Secretary General Ambassador Dr. Richard WOTAVA
Future Fund of the Republic of Austria
PO Box 90
1014 Vienna
Tel. +43/1/ 513 60 16 10
Fax: +43/1/513 60 16 15
E-Mail: info@zukunftsfonds-austria.at

Restitution Dispute Over Kremser Schmidt: Historian Advocates Return

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (02/18/2007)

Streibel: City responsible for how it deals with problems of the past

Krems – The Kremser historian, Robert Streibel, advocates a “return of the aryanized works by Kremser Schmdit to their legal heirs.” In no way does the city bear guilt of what happened in the past; it is, however, indeed responsible for how it presently deals with the problems of the past.

The paintings were confiscated in 1938. In 1952 the former owner delivered a waiver renouncing them. Now his living heirs in the USA wish to have the art treasures returned. “In the case of both paintings by Martin Johann Schmidt it also deals with honoring those persons against whom wrong was committed,” emphasizes Streibel. He regrets that the city in this case simply “disappeared from the scene throughout a period of five years.”

As to the history and reputation of Krems referred to as a city with a Nazi past, the historian stated that Krems was the first city in Austria which had a Nazi mayor. After an assassination attempt in Krems, the Nazi party was forbidden throughout all of Austria and Krems was at that time the capital of the illegal NS movement.

Streibel says that he has committed himself for more than twenty years to working through the history of the city during NS times: “Krems was the first small city in which the history of the Jews was documented in this form. Krems has a few monuments and a homepage (http://www.judeninkrems.at) with the only Jewish cemetery which also can be viewed online.” Futhermore, an exhibit was initiated in cooperation with the highschool, appearing in twenty various shops.

In 1998 Mayor Franz Hölzl had the holdings of the city museum inspected for questionable acquisitions during the years 1938 to 1945. One discovered two paintings by Martin Johann Schmidt (“Saint Florian” and “Barock Priest with Chapel”). The Commission for Provenance Research discovered the existence of a waiver from 1952, placing the city now in a dispute over restitution. As a private citizen, he would have had the paintings returned, but as mayor, he is obligated to the city’s legal jurisdiction, said Hölzl a short time ago. He hopes to come to a reasonable consensus and an agreement out of court with the Friedrich Neumann heirs.

Symposium on “Art Looting and Restitution” Held at Vienna’s Urania

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

On January 18, 2007 a symposium on “Art Looting and Restitution” was held at Vienna’s Urania. Experts discussed the practice and future of art restitution. Predictions as to when research on the provenance of art works and restitution will be concluded cannot be made at this point, stated researcher on restitution and co-organizer, Michael Wladika.

Among the subjects discussed was the provenance research currently being conducted at the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), on 420 objects of art, comprising 20% of the acquisitions of the NS period, which has yet be determined. According to Monika Mayer, provenance researcher at the Österreichische Galerie, the current status of about 600 paintings and sculptures is still unclear. Hannah Lessing presented the art database established by the National Fund for the Victims of National Socialism launched in October 2006 and containing some 8,000 objects of art. One half comes from Federal museums and the other half from museums belonging to the City of Vienna. Walter Hellmich, Chairman of the Vienna Restitution commission, gave an overview of the activities in Vienn and illustrated the dimension of the work undertaken: 40,000 objects of the municipal library as well as 24,300 acquisitions by museums had to be classified as “dubious” just based on the date of acquisition.

“Highest Priority” for Waehring Cemetery

Der Standard (03/13/2007)

Speaker Prammer criticizes delays over the past years: “I don’t have an explanation”

Vienna – The rescue of the Jewish cemetery in Vienna’s district of Waehring seems more and more likely. After positive signals coming from Vienna’s city hall, Speaker of the Austrian parliament, Barbara Prammer, has joined the chorus. “We not only have a basic responsibility to maintain the Jewish cemeteries in particular; there also exists a legal commitment”, Prammer told Der Standard, admitting at the same time that there” has been no coordinated approach” to the issue over the past few years. For Prammer, who also heads the Board of Trustees of the National Fund, the Waehring cemetery has “highest priority”: ”It has to be the focal point of our attention.”

Acid Rain, Freezing, Rank Growth

This is exactly where the focal point hasn’t been for a long time. The cemetery presents itself accordingly: Closed to the public –public access would be a safety issue- uncontrolled plant growth, acid rain and freeze have been destroying the last existing tombs.

A working group will now be established “as soon as possible”, says Prammer; creating a concept for the upkeep of all Jewish cemeteries in Austria across the federal, state, and local level. “My goal is to create a list of priorities.”

If Prammer has her way, the cemetery project will be financed through the National Fund; the correct appropriation of funds would be guaranteed through the Austrian Court of Audit. This would only be possible with additional funding for the National Fund. Initial talks with the Federal Minister of Finance already took place, said the Speaker. In the case of Waehring, talks with the city of Vienna shall now take place as soon as possible.

Condition “Is Not Unknown”

Why the cemetery has been neglected for so long Prammer can’t answer either. “I don’t have an explanation, and I say that very openly. It has after all been known that the cemetery looks like it looks, but now it would be important to avoid any further waste of time”.

Due to its bad condition, the Waehring cemetery is the center of attention. Overall, the concept includes 66 cemeteries. “I don’t see such big problems anywhere else, so we can postpone other projects for a little bit, explained Prammer”. “Many cemeteries are well taken care of by the communities, and this has been going on without any commotion.”

The 2002 “White book On Status Quo and Renovation Requirements of Jewish Cemeteries”, produced by the Jewish Community mentions “different ways of implementing the established norms of upkeep”. “In sum”, the report reads further, “the ongoing upkeep has room for improvement”. In Germany, an agreement between the federal, state, and local level on the upkeep of Jewish cemeteries has been in place since the 1950s. (Peter Mayr)

Two New Brochures Inform About Jewish Life in Vienna

Die Presse (01/04/2007)

Vienna – Where can one shop for kosher items? How is the Israelite Religious Community organized? And what are the origins of the name, Leopoldstadt?

The City of Vienna brought out beginning of 2007 a new issue of the free brochure, “Jewish Vienna,” in cooperation with the Jewish Welcome Service Vienna. The new publication claims to not only offer historical information but more up-to-date, useful information.

Thus, a concise summary covering the Middle Ages until the Present is complemented by an extensive overview of various Jewish organizations, museums, restaurants, services offering advice as well as contact addresses on questions of restitution. A city map explains geographic places of Jewish history (the City Temple, Palais Epstein). The brochure is published in German and English.

Newly included in the brochure is also a small booklet on the city’s district offices. It also offers individuals as well as businesses a survey of their services and expertise: i.e. passports/visas, lost and found, parking, sidewalk cafés, as well as such things as the exhibit on hunting postcards or help in the fight against the pigeon scourge.

According to the city, the reason for reissuing the brochure was to announce the change in hours of operation for agencies – partly lengthened, partly shortened – initiated in December 2007.

Both brochures can be obtained via a telephone hotline (01 277 55) or directly over the internet.

See: www.wien.gv.at/index/bestellen.htm  www.wien.at/bma/