In Austria, the past few months have been marked by events in observance of the Anschluss seventy years ago and the following years of the NS terror regime which signified the beginning of persecution, displacement and murdering of Austrian Jews in the Shoah. Numerous events, including those held in the Austrian Parliament, marked the remembrance of the many victims of the Holocaust.
Contemporary witnesses participated actively in lectures and academic events and many schools dedicated events to this topic. A particularly valuable contribution in this field is the high school project, “Letter to the Stars,” which provided the opportunity for high school students to meet with Holocaust survivors over the last few years. Recently, some 200 Holocaust survivors throughout the entire world were invited to Austria for the 'Year of Commemoration' in order to relate their memories to young people and attend the commemoration event in remembrance of the 63rd year of the liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp.
We are happy to provide you with a broad range of articles that were published in the Austrian media. Topics include also the recent opening of the newly built Hakoah Sports Center, as well as cultural events and restitution issues.
Director of the Press & Information Service
Embassy of Austria
1. Current Events, Symposia and Cultural News
• Austria Commemorates 70th Anniversary of the “Anschluss” (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
• School Children Receive Holocaust Survivors at Heldenplatz (Austrian Press Agency)
• Profuse Words and Silent Remembrance (Der Standard)
• Commemorating the Liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
• Government Announces Wiesenthal Center (Der Standard)
• State Secretary Hans Winkler on Austria’s Assuming the Chairmanship of the International Holocaust Task Force(Austrian Foreign Ministry)
• In Remembrance of the Children’s Rescue Operation) (Profil)
• “Only one Photo! Only a Photo!” (Die Presse)
• “Listen, Israel“ in Burgenland during Roman Times (Die Presse)
• The Expulsion of the Intellectuals (Profil)
• Sports Center Hakoah: Coming Home After Seventy Years (Der Standard)
• From Feeling Ashamed to Loving Vienna (Die Presse) An Enthusiastic Admirer of the Führer (Die Presse)
• A Contemporary Witness for All Alike (Die Presse)
• Berggasse 19, Salzgries 16: It’s All about Freud! (Die Presse)
• The Vienna Project on Austrian Jews in Buenos Aires (Austrian Press Agency)
2. Publications, Books
• Vienna Lectures and Book Remember “Annihilation of the Intellect” (Austrian Press Agency)
• “Expedition from Herzl to Hakoah” (Der Standard)
• Amendment to Restitution Law to be Adopted Before Summer (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
• “Clearly Stolen Art!” (Die Presse)
4. Austrian – Israeli Relations
• Austria and Israel Strengthen Research Cooperation (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
• Foreign Minister on 60th Anniversary of the Foundation of the State of Israel (Austrian Foreign Ministry)
Austria Commemorates 70th Anniversary of the “Anschluss”
Austrian Federal Chancellery (03/17/2008)
On March 12, 1938, German troops crossed over the borders into Austria thereby annexing Austria to Hitler Germany. Under the pressure of a German ultimatum, Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg had already resigned on the eve of the event. On March 15, 2008, Hitler delivered his notorious speech to a cheering crowd of 250,000 people at Vienna’s Heldenplatz and announced that the “Ostmark” (Eastern areas to be taken over by Germany, i.e. Austria) would become part of the German Reich. The invasion of German troops marked the beginning of an unprecedented terror implemented against all Jews and dissidents. Based on estimates, no less than 70,000 to 80,000 people were arrested during the first six months.
On March 12, 2008, leaders of the Second Republic commemorated the events of 70 years ago in the historic Grand Hall of the Reichsrat in Parliament and agreed upon the historical analysis that Austrians were both victims and perpetrators of the NS regime. Numerous speakers also emphasized the context of today’s history and the current atmosphere of the coalition government. The events which took place during the two World Wars should be viewed as a warning for today’s generations.
Chancellor Gusenbauer reminded the audience that the annexation, NS dictatorship and the loss of Austria’s sovereignty had been a prelude to World War II, involving persecution, exploitation as well as misery for millions of people. The head of government warned against fighting “political duels” as well as “lacking tolerance and readiness for dialogue.” It was “internal disintegration“ and “political failure“ during the First Republic that had led to the “Ständestaat” (corporative state) and finally surrender to the Nazis. “Dark phases of our history have shown where the use of offensive language can lead to,” said Gusenbauer, admitting that in the past few months, “words” had not been selected very carefully. One should be more careful so as not to undermine the credibility of politics, warned the Chancellor. President Heinz Fischer demanded that Austria address history and come to terms with it. Austria had been a victim of Nazi “military aggression“ under international law, but this had been facilitated by a “considerable number of fanatic National Socialists” in Austria. Fischer asked that in the political arena “more energy be used for constructive work.”
School Children Receive Holocaust Survivors at Heldenplatz
Austrian Press Agency (APA) (05/05/2008)
Project “A Letter to the Stars” Remembers the Liberation of Mauthausen
Vienna – Participants in the project, “A Letter to the Stars,” held a commemoration on Monday at Heldenplatz in remembrance of the 63rd year observance of the liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp. According to the organizer, 10,000 visitors were present to give the victims of NS terror “a voice and a face.” Following the commemoration, some 200 survivors were invited to visit Parliament to meet with Austrian school childen. Federal President Heniz Fischer, Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Deputy-Chancellor Wilhelm Moleterer also participated.
The highlight of the event was the installation - socalled “Denk.Mal-Werke” - erected by those participating in the project, “A Letter to the Stars.” Music, film and excerpts from texts accompanied the event. Mounted posters were unveiled depicting survivors as “last witnesses” who offered their personal message and legacy to Austrian youth. Afterwards, the survivors - who through the project were connected with numerous school children - were met by their hosts and led to the commemorative posters and to the hosts of the school classes. Many school children, who had travelled from various parts of the country, had the opportunity of speaking with their guests undisturbed in rooms especially organized for that purpose.
Profuse Words and Silent Remembrance
A day of speeches in Parliament, followed by a ”night of silence“ on Heldenplatz: Wednesday marks Austria’s 70th year observance of the “Anschluss.” The government approved of building a Simon Wiesenthal Center in Vienna.
Vienna – Austria’s annexation by Germany merely 70 years ago was commemorated through the night until early morning with 8,000 candles lit for 80,000 known victims. Contemporary witnesses of the Holocaust and National Socialism reported that it was on Vienna’s Heldenplatz where Adolf Hitler declared “the integration of my homeland into the German Reich” before masses of jubilant people. Until 6:00 a.m. the next morning 80,000 names were projected continuously onto a screen in silent remembrance.
The Federal government commemorated the events of March 12, 1938 in Parliament with a decision taken by the Council of Ministers to build a Simon Wiesenthal Center. The Institute will move into the Strozzi Palace in the Josefstädter Straße by 2011. The costs will be shared by the Federation and the City of Vienna.
Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer (SPÖ) spoke about the significant contribution of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to Holocaust research, and Vice Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer considered it a memorial to “never again“ and to “never forgetting.” Both emphasized that Austria viewed itself too long only as a victim of National Socialism.
During the commemoration, President of the National Council Barbara Prammer warned against the claim that what happened in the past is over with. It was especially the “prevailing anti-Semitism in Austria” at the time which drew many to accept the National Socialists, she emphasized. Apart from Prammer, Gusenbauer and Molterer, President Heinz Fischer also held a speech.
According to a survey made in 2007, some 82% of all Austrians see their country today as an independent nation; 7% reject the idea of an Austrian nation and 8% see a development heading in that direction. Opinion polls as to a national consciousness were first made in 1956. At that time those for and against were of equal number. Since the 1980s, German nationalism is “no longer a topic,” says the pollster, Peter Ulram. According to Ulram, it is a “small minority” consisting of 17% of supporters of the “third parties” (FPÖ, BZÖ), that question the idea of an Austrian nation.
Commemorating the Liberation of Mauthausen Concentration Camp
Austrian Federal Chancellery (05/13/2008)
Leading personalities of the Republic of Austria commemorated the youngest victims of the Nazi regime under the motto, “I have never been a child“ and celebrated the Memorial Day against Violence and Racism on May 5, 2008. The ceremony held in commemoration of the 63rd Anniversary of the Liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp took place in the festive hall (“Reichsratssitzungssaal”) of the Houses of Parliament. Among the attendees were not only President Heinz Fischer, members of the government and Parliament and representatives of the religious communities, but also numerous Holocaust survivors.
In her statement Speaker of Parliament Barbara Prammer reminded the audience of the fact that Austria had confronted its past only at a very late stage and “upon international request.” President of the Federal Council Helmut Kritzinger stressed that those still having to live with NS crimes should be supported. However, violence and racism were not “phenomena of the past“.
The victims of National Socialism were commemorated also at Heldenplatz in Vienna, where Holocaust survivors and their families who had been invited by Austrian pupils in the framework of the school project, “A Letter to the Stars,“ gathered. Contemporary witnesses reminded one of the horrors of displacement. President Fischer, Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Vice-Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer praised the commitment of the pupils and the willingness of the victims to share their painful memories with young people. In 1945 Austria had been re-built by the people who had sworn “Never again”, Gusenbauer stated. But most importantly, Israel had been erected from the moral debris of the Holocaust and celebrated its 60th birthday this year. “I am happy and proud that you continue to live this idea 63 years after the end of WWII and the liberation. I congratulate the state of Israel,“ the Chancellor said.
Government Announces Wiesenthal Center
Der Standard (03/12/2008)
After many years of reluctance and postponement, the Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies will move into Vienna’s Strozzi Palace. Costs will be shared by the Federation, City of Vienna and the organization responsible for establishing the Center.
Vienna – For years requests have been made for a Wiesenthal Center, but until now the government remained vague in terms of its possible financing and postponed its decision. But now the time has actually come. Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Vice Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer announced on Wednesday, following a meeting of the Council of Ministers, that Austria will soon have a Simon Wiesenthal Center. Head of Austria’s Social Democratic Party spoke of an essential contribution to Holocaust research, while the Head of the People’s Party spoke of a “warning for ‘never again,’ for ‘never forgetting.’
Financing Details Still Open
The Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies will be housed in the Strozzi Palace located in Vienna’s Josefstädterstraße, and the costs for financing the organization will be taken over by the Federation, the City of Vienna and the organization responsible for establishing the Center, each sharing one-third of the total amount. Association head Anton Pelinka spoke of taking a “large step toward a day imbued with symbolical significance.” The details of financing the Center are, however, still open. Originally one assumed that yearly costs for running the organization would total 2.5 million euros.
Both heads of government emphasized that Austria viewed itself all too long as solely a victim of National Socialism. Many had, however, cheered the Anschluss and actively participated in crimes against humanity, emphasized Gusenbauer. Also Molterer said that for a long time Austria refused to admit having been more than just a victim, thereby making everyone responsible as perpetrator.
State Secretary Hans Winkler on Austria’s Assuming the Chairmanship of the International Holocaust Task Force
Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs (03/14/2008)
Vienna,– "What we need is a genuine culture of remembrance, a targeted and exemplary remembrance of the causes and sheer unthinkable consequences of National Socialism. In addition to an unbiased engagement with the facts of the past, it is also necessary to show all victims and cases of injustice due respect and sympathy. We must become aware of our history and learn for the present and the future," said State Secretary Hans Winkler, commenting on Austria’s assuming the Chairmanship of the International Holocaust Task Force.
In 2001, Austria became a member of the International Holocaust Task Force, a task force founded at the initiative of Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson for international cooperation in the field of education, research and remembrance of the holocaust. The ITF currently comprises 25 member states, including Israel and the USA, and almost all European countries affected by the holocaust. They all are committed to the Stockholm Declaration and advocate the implementation of national policies and programs to support education and research on the holocaust and its commemoration. Numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations are also members of the Task Force.
"We want to emphasize and strengthen our commitment to raising awareness of the holocaust, which is also highly acknowledged at the international level, by taking over the chair of the Holocaust Task Force ten years after it was founded. In spite of all efforts a lot still remains to be done as far as the public is concerned," Winkler stressed.
Offering cooperation to countries that want to develop holocaust education or research programs is one of the International Holocaust Task Force’s major activities. To this end it is possible to carry out long-term liaison projects with the International Holocaust Task Force.
The State Secretary also presented the team making up Austria’s chair, namely Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff, Chairman and Head of the International Law Office, Hannah Lessing, Head of Delegation and Secretary General of the Austrian National Fund, other representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the Federal Ministry of Education, Art and Culture, the Austrian National Fund, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance and the "erinnern.at" project. "The chairmanship is a challenge both in terms of content and organization, and Austria is taking up this challenge with great commitment and pleasure. Changes can only be effected by a strong and committed team, and these are changes which have to take place in people’s minds," concluded the State Secretary.
Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs
Office of the State Secretary
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3469
In Remembrance of the Children’s Rescue Operation
When memories of her childhood in Vienna’s district Leopoldstadt leaves her melancholic, Sara Schreiber takes out a list which she always keeps with her in her purse. Written on it are the names and birthdays of all her great grandchildren – fifty of them in all. That is her way of standing up to the world.
At the end of June 1939 during the wee hours of the morning, one week after her 16th birthday, Sara Weinstock boarded a train at Vienna’s railway station Westbahnhof heading for Great Britain. Her mother cried; her father stayed at home. An orthodox rabbi, recognizable from afar as a Jew, didn’t dare allow himself to be seen during these times in Vienna without being in danger.
The Weinstocks were already trembling for their lives after the pogrom in November of 1938. The little temple in their house had been destroyed, and roles of the Thora and Betschemel had been thrown into the fire. The shop of knitted goods run by the Mother no longer belonged to them. The family lived from the sale of household belongings and from what the daughter earned from her sewing and needlework.
It was difficult for the sixteen year-old Sara to find a guest family. Her younger brother, who had already made it to London, went from house to house begging for help. People, themselves bitterly poor, took pity on him.
Sara Schreiber never saw her parents again. “They no longer made it,” says the eighty-six year-old in a very quiet voice. After her experiences in Vienna, she never wanted to go back. Since Friday a bronze sculpture in the hall of Vienna’s railway station Westbahnhof has been erected In remembrance of the Kindertransport (Children’s Rescue Operation) during the war. It depicts a small young boy sitting on a suitcase. The Londoner sculptress, Flor Kent, had the figure designed to resemble one of Schreiber’s great grandchildren, ten year-old Sam Morris.
Otto Tausig, retired but untiring actor with the Burg Theatre, who spends his entire income on social projects, recites a poem by Walter Lindenbaum, “Jews at the Staircase.” Some sixty-nine years ago, Otto Tausig (1922) stood one bitterly cold night in January of 1939, together with one hundred other children, with only a small suitcase in his hand and without any money. The Nazis were unrelenting: Written on the façades of Vienna’s houses was: “Jews must leave; their money stays here.” Otto Tausig barely made it because four weeks later, he would have been seventeen, too old for joining the Kindertransport.
Tausig was a talented child, somewhat overly zealous, and supporter of the cult of geniuses with an inborn yearning for the podium. He read Schiller, Goethe and Rilke. He handed in his homework for German class written in verses. His father was a Social Democrat and lawyer, who had it in him to become a brilliant defendant if he hadn’t returned home from WW I half deaf. As a businessman, however, he lacked talent. “For that he was too weak-hearted. Toward the end of his life he ran a sausage stand next to the labor department and gave away everything he owned. And mother ranted and raved whenever another Persian rug disappeared from the apartment,” recalls Tausig.
When Hitler came, the father was brought by the SA to a pub where they had him entertain the crowd by performing “stunts.” A block warden gathered up all the family silver. Even the son was picked up once by the SA, pushed onto a truck loaded with old iron and, together with other Jews, forced to load and unload the iron from one side to the other for hours at a time.
The sixteen year-old Otto Tausig actually felt liberated as he boarded the train in those days. “I was intoxicated with joy at the idea of leaving – an adventure,” says Tausig. His parents would naturally follow him, he thought. Tausig was unlucky. His British benefactor turned out to be a crook. Tausig soon became independent and found work on a chicken farm. But more than anything, he worked toward saving his parents. They could look for work as a butler couple for aristocrats. “My father was a bit clumsy but he learned how one cleans shoes without a brush and only with bare hands,” says Tausig. But nothing became of it. Tausig’s father died later in Shanghai from consumption. And when his Mother returned to Vienna in 1946, neither of them recognized the other when greeting at the railway station. When the actor speaks about it, his voice becomes raspy and halting.
Otto Tausig had turned Communist in Great Britain. He wanted to change the world and make it better. That’s something he continues to want to this day, even though no longer having the Communist party in mind. In Lower Austria’s Hirtenberg, he finances a home for refugee children, who were left stranded here without any parents. “I know how that is,” he claims. He has named the home after his Grandmother, Lisa Garter, who died in the gas chambers in Treblinka.
Siegfried Gruber, whom Otto Tausig got to know during his exile in London and later played together with on stage, hadn’t coped as well with the idea of leaving Austria in those days. For a sixteen year-old at that time, he felt deeply hurt in having to leave his country. On December 16, on the way to the railway station Westbahnhof, he took one last look at his area of the city Brigittenau. His father’s warning “not to forget your home,” buried itself into his heart.
Gruber had grown up in an assimilated family in Brigittenau. They had many friends who were not Jewish. When the National Socialists were already in power and Siegfried Gruber’s best friends from childhood days signed up with the Hitler Youth, they still thought that they could continue as always. The Grubers were Social Democrats with an ineradicable love for the Emperor. Why they named their son Siegfried with middle name Herbert is something even Siegfried Gruber still doesn’t understand. “They were not really enthusiastic Wagner fans,” says Gruber. His nickname was Fredi.
The father was a public official with the bank, gifted in foreign languages, and a decorated soldier from the war; the mother was a bookkeeper at Gerngroß. They paid strict attention to giving their son a first-class education. The mixed branch of family relatives was well off, owned a villa in Rodaun and drove American cars. The Grubers belonged to the upper middle class. In 1938 that all suddenly changed. His mother lost her work, and his father soon retired. They searched in British and American telephone books for people with names similar to theirs, whom they wished to ask for help. Nothing became of it.
One day Siegfried Gruber was asked to try his luck at drawing a lot held by the Vienna Jewish Community, the results of which he still had no guest family but a place in the Kindertransport. Gruber was placed in a children’s camp, then sent to Oxford and put in a college. Through complicated channels he discovered that his father had died in fall of 1939 from a gallbladder disorder, and his mother worked in the Rothschild Hospital as a nurse. At the age of eighteen, Gruber registered with the British Army. He escaped being sent to the front. Later he received news that his mother had been deported. “What that meant was something which I totally repressed. Otherwise, I probably could not have survived,” says Gruber.
In December of 1946, Gruber put on the British uniform, married and returned to Vienna. He discovered that his mother had died in a concentration camp close to Minsk. He was member of the British Commission on the Investigation of War Criminals. The property in Weidling that his parents had bought for him remained unclaimed. So Gruber built a house on the grounds, which served as a small gratification. He shuttled between London and Vienna. Since 1979 he lives with his wife in Austria. Gruber used to be somewhat sceptical of his native country and still is.
“Only one Photo! Only a Photo!”
Die Presse (03/19/2008)
Jewish Museum. “Life!” – a colorful cross-section through contemporary history of Jewish Vienna.
The exhibition, “Life! Jews in Vienna after 1945,” which can be seen as of this Wednesday until June 22 in the Jewish Museum, is layed out like a garden. Some 2,000 private photos are exhibited, most of them in color, and they are like an undulating garden of flowers. Every individual picture is attached to a support anchored into the floor; diverse groups and sub-groups offer the effect of a blooming aggregate – the prominent, the orthodox, newcomers from the former Soviet Union and from countries belonging to the former Habsburg Empire - who came to Vienna after 1945 to rebuild. It is seldom to see so much joy and character in such concentrated form. The pictures are so natural and personal that one feels a bit like a voyeur.
All of these photos were taken by Margit Dobronyi (today aged 95), who began photographing in Vienna after fleeing Hungary in 1956. It is said that not a single Jewish celebration or occasion went by without being photographed. “In those days one was happy that there was a Jewish photographer because such events allowed one to dance and sing without feeling observed by someone who didn’t belong,” says Jonas Zahler recalling the ever-present Frau Dobronyi. “Only one photo! Only a photo,” she would cry. Until 2000, some 150,000 pictures grew to become an entire collection, which the Museum purchased in 2004.
What Happened before 1945 was Omitted
Ruth Beckermann combed through the mass of photos and created a preliminary, all-encompassing installation. What happened before the Shoa is omitted, says the renowned documentary filmmaker and author: “This exhibition is about the Jews who are alive; in other words, the survivors.” After the war, they were fulfilled by a lust for life. Most of them stayed in Vienna, the city that embodied their nostalgia; the idea of leaving was deferred to the next generation.
One sees people who are celebrating their wedding or Bar Mizvah, or are enjoying their holiday, posing in their new car, standing proudly in front of their new shop, sitting in a coffeehouse or simply expressing joy. Paparazza Dobronyi appeared whenever something special was happening. These pictures, although claiming no particularly artistic value, exude a sense of renewal. In general, however, they are becoming part of a first-class historical collection, says curator Werner Hanak-Lettner.
Based on the number of the picture, one can look up the names of those photographed on the computer. The exhibitors also hope that the exhibits’ visitors will offer more information so as to determine more precisely who was in contact with whom at a particular place in time – the Wiesenthals or the Hellers, with Kahane, Schlaff, Deutsch or Beckermann. “One simply knew one another,” says one visitor, whose parents managed to come from Czernowitz to Vienna. This exhibition focuses on details.
“Listen, Israel“ in Burgenland during Roman Times
Die Presse (03/12/2008)
Austria’s oldest Jewish find - an amulet made of gold, dating back to the 3rd Century A.D. and imprinted with a Hebrew blessing, was found in an ancient burial ground by Halbturn.
In an ancient child’s grave in Halbturn, archeologists made a sensational find: an amulet made of gold, upon which is written a Hebrew blessing. It dates back to the early 3rd Century A.D., making it Austria’s oldest Jewish find. It is a clear indication that people with Jewish faith lived in our region already during the time of the Roman Empire.
“Listen Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one,” reads the inscription written in Greek letters and Hebrew text. “The quote comes from 5 Moses 6.4 and is part of the “Listen Israel,” which Jews spoke as a crucial avowal” during the 3rd Century as well as today, says Jewish scholar Armin Lange. “It emphasizes the unity of God vis-à-vis the Polytheism of Antiquity and the belief in the Trinity of the Christianity. Judaism meant and still means that God is one! The “Listen Israel” can be found in Jewish prayer sayings and in the Mezuzot. Those are sayings which in ancient times were mounted on the doors of Jewish households. They were to protect one from all harm and any demons.”
Made by a Jewish Sorcerer
He who reads the text of the “Listen, Israel” doesn’t think about warding off demons. “The amulet’s text could only have had meaning for Jews who during ancient times hung small tablets with the saying at their doors,” explains Lange. He presumes that the amulet from Halbturn was made by a Jewish sorcerer for a Jew. “Other Greek amulets were found in the vicinity of Carnuntum (the origin of an important Roman army camp located close to Vienna), indicating that the sorcerer had lived in Carnuntum. The amulet from Halbturn is, thus, the oldest object bearing witness to the existence of Jewish life in Austria. Whether the child’s grave is a Jewish grave is something we can only presume but not prove.”
Until now the presence of Jews on Austrian soil, beginning initially with the 9th Century, can be attested to by texts from the Middle Ages. “During Antiquity, Jews had lived already in parts of the province of Pannonia (ancient province of the Roman Empire), which belongs today to Hungary, Croatia and Serbia,” explains Hans Taeuber: “Gravestones and small finds, above all, imprinted texts which mention synagogues or prayer houses, testify to this fact.” Amulets, like this one, were very usual throughout the entire Roman Empire – they were used to protect against illnesses and threats. ”One has also found amulets in Carnuntum. One of them called for the goddess Artemis to intervene in fighting off the migraine demon, Antaura.”
In 1986 the field of gravestones was discovered accidentally. “A field hand working at Wittmannshof (a vineyard area located close to the Castle of Halbturn), had torn open a grave stone out of the ground while plowing. Burgenland’s Regional Museum quickly organized an excavation and dug up two of the graves. The procedure left no damage,” explains head of the project Falko Daim, today executive director of the Roman-Germanic Central Museum of Mainz in Germany.
Spanning Three Hundred Years Ago Three Hundred Graves
Daim realized that there may be other finds and commissioned a project to be carried out by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). “From 1988 until 2002 we excavated three hundred graves. The field of graves lies to the west of a Roman estate. With help of the most modern methods of exploring archeological sites without excavation (as for example by measuring ground resistance), we were able to draw exact plans of its buildings. The villa proves to have been a self-sustaining, agricultural farm, which secured its survival through crop production and animal husbandry,” says Daim.
The field of graves were “in use” for about three hundred years – from the middle of the 2nd to the middle of the 5th Century. “The graves, with all of their configurations, reveal a well, thought-out system, which designated a place of burial for each person,” explains archaeologist Nives Doneus. Dead infants or the handicapped were not burned, meaning that they were not fully integrated into the community. “Also the child, to whom the amulet belonged, was not burned. It is the skeleton of a one to two-year old child, which was buried in a wooden casket. Next to the amulet we found the usual belongings of a grave: a coin, a clay pot, a glass pot, and a lamp made of clay. These are the items which the survivors considered the dead would need,” says Doneus.
What was striking was the elaborate form of the grave. “The grave is huge – three times as large as the child. The question is: Why did one put so much effort into it? It had probably something to do with how it was valued. One could speculate that it was a wealthy family that had enough money to acquire such an amulet. But, as has already been said, that would only be speculation.”
The Expulsion of the Intellectuals
Contemporary History. In May of 1938 the search for “Jewish” or “politically unreliable” researchers escalated. Many top scientists were forced to emigrate and after 1945 not invited to return.
The Viennese family of Weiser Varon had just gathered together for a Sabbath meal. It was on this very Friday, March 11, 1938 that Federal Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg declared his historical “God protect Austria” over the radio, followed by the music of Haydn’s Kaiserquartett. Benno Weiser Varon, who in March 1938 was preparing to take his final medical school exams, looked at the faces of his relatives and asked himself what would become of his family.
Weiser Varon’s memories of March 1938 are part of a book entitled, “Anschluss und Ausschluss” (Annexation and Exclusion) which appeared during the year of Commemoration.” It sheds light on the National Socialist takeover of power in Austria, which to this day has scarcely been researched and targets the fate of those expelled studying at the University of Vienna. The book is the preliminary product of an entire series of research results on the topic, “the expulsion of science,” which is being compiled and published under the direction of the head of the Vienna Institute for Contemporary History, Friedrich Stadler.
Ilse Aschner, another such person quoted in the book, was a student of German Language and Literature Studies and Psychology at the University of Vienna in March of 1938. She, too, sat in front of the radio with her family on the night of March 12. The excitedly high-pitched voice of the reporter competed with the rattle of rolling tanks and hysterical shrieks of the people on the curbs of the street. It was on this very night that the student, baptized as evangelical, found out for the first time that she had four Jewish grandparents and, therefore, according to the “Nuremberg Laws on Race,” was considered “fully Jewish.” A few days later she was stopped in front of the University by a young man in SA uniform and asked to prove her Aryan identity, which she didn’t have.
Jewish students were from then on no longer allowed to enter the University, no longer permitted to register for classes nor take exams, not even if they were just about ready to graduate. They were no longer allowed to enter the library, the holdings of which the Nazis declared thousands of works as “corruptive and undesirable” and threw thousands of works onto the street and burned them while people stood around in jubilation. Like their professors who were persecuted out of political reasons or for being Jewish, Jewish students were ostracized and rejected.
From March 16 – 25, 1938, there was a wave of house searches in Vienna of university professors who were on the list of the Gestapo, either out of “racist” or for “political” reasons. Felix Ehrenhaft, Director of the III. Physical Institute of the University of Vienna, was assaulted in his apartment by a group of armed Gestapo men, robbed and finally locked up in the bathroom of a Vienna regional court. When he requested to speak with officials, one locked him in a telephone booth with the telephone removed. On March 21, Ehrenhaft was suspended from his post.
Hans Thirring, Director of the Institute for Theoretical Physics, and witness to the assault, was one of the first victims of the purge carried out by the Gestapo on Austria’s universities. His writing desk was sealed because of suspicion of NS critical activity. He was forced to leave his post as director and to offer it to a colleague from the Vienna Technical University.
By March 15, the swearing-in of public officials in Austria took place legally and solely by order of the “Führer of the German Reich and People, Adolf Hitler.” Because of the 1935 Nuremberg Laws on Race, Jewish public officials were not admitted to any swearing-in. And whoever was not sworn-in under the name of the Führer could no longer be a public official and, therefore, also no longer be a university professor.
Five weeks after the takeover by the National Socialists in Austria, the office of the dean had to compile a list of all those who were suspended or dismissed. Dismissed from the University of Vienna were 132 professors or lecturers of medicine out of a total of 197; nine out of 28 professors in Physics, ten out of 20 in Chemistry, five out of 14 in Mathematics, five in Zoology and Biology as well as individual instructors in many other fields. In addition, some 500 engineers throughout all of Austria were let go.
A considerable number of those university professors who were dismissed immigrated to the U.S. or Great Britain. Among chemists, it was 40%; among physicists and mathematicians, it was more than 21%, respectively. Up until the end of 1938, thirty-two out of 153 staff members of the University of Innsbruck were discharged or forced to retire from their functions out of “racist” or for “political reasons.” Professor for Organic Chemistry, Hans Weiss, born in Vienna and active professor at the University of Prague, was abducted and put into the concentration camp in Theresienstadt and later died there.
Three Nobel Prize winners were expelled from the University of Graz. The pharmacologist, Otto Loewi, Nobel Prize winner in 1936, was arrested together with his two sons. With help from the Nobel Foundation’s prize money, he was able, however, to buy himself free. Loewi went to New York, where he died in 1961. Victor Franz Hess, who in 1936 won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of cosmic rays, was discharged for political reasons. He immigrated to the U.S. where he was able to continue his work at Fordham University in New York. And finally, Erwin Schrödinger, who after suffering from a strong conflict of loyalty with the Nazis in 1938, immigrated to England.
Nonetheless, the question which is asked again and again by researchers of contemporary history is this: Was the violence which occurred in March 1938 an unforeseeable, one-of-a-kind happening, set in motion on its own? Or was it much more the contrary - like Friedrich Stadler, researcher of contemporary history, believes - namely, a strong and certainly in terms of its dimension, a unique, pendular outbreak in Austria during a certain point in time, that reached from the Counter Reformation via an uncompleted Enlightenment and lack of bourgeois revolutions up to the present day?
The sociologist, Josef Langer, sees Austria as a country in which Capitalism took much longer to assert itself compared to most countries in Northwestern Europe. The country was situated on the periphery of the ring of European cities which stretched between northern Italy and the Netherlands. “At the end of the 19th Century, the Danube Monarchy lagged decades behind Northwestern Europe in its industrial development,” says Langer. The contradiction between urgent economic problems and a highly confident power structure led to a frustrated society.
One only needed the continual movement of migrants, primarily from the Eastern parts of the Donau Monarchy to upset the inner balance. The Jews became the ideal target upon which to project one’s own deficits. And those who became the objects of this projection were, again, those with new, innovative and modern ideas, who stood in strong contrast to the representatives of the more traditional schools of thought.
The “Vienna Circle,” a group of innovative thinkers of logical empiricism, discussed multidisciplinary approaches to philosophy and logic and propagated a scientifically-based philosophy. Since this thinking worked outside the more traditional framework, and many of the protagonists were grounded by a more liberal or leftist view of the world, the new movement appeared to other academics belonging to Catholic, German-national and frequently anti-Semitic camps like a Jewish-Marxist conspiracy. Therefore, they did everything to distance themselves from the existential grounds of other competitors.
In June 1936 Moritz Schlick, the guiding spirit of the “Vienna Circle,” was shot on the steps of the University of Vienna by a former student. The same perpetrator, acting out of paranoid hallucination, tried after March 1938 to make the death appear as an act committed in the fight for National Socialist ideas and to use it to his advantage.
Similar to those of the “Vienna Circle,” there were many different currents of thought, such as those coming out of Sociology or Psychoanalysis, whose representatives were claimed as villains by the Nazis for “defraying the soul.” Typical of the method of defamation was the racist NS claim that the new schools of thought involved “Jewish corruption of the people.” Thus, the flood of anti-Semitism forced the protagonists of new scientific schools of thought to emigrate, among them the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, the psychologist, Alfred Adler, and the sociologist, Paul Lazarsfeld. They immigrated to Great Britain or to the U.S., where their work was accepted with great interest and usually also highly valued because they enriched science and research considerably.
Sports Center Hakoah: Coming Home After Seventy Years
The traditionally-rich Jewish Hakoah Sports Club finally has its own site. Next week the super modern sports gymnasium will be officially opened.
Vienna – Construction shacks, gravel roads, wire fences, signs warning “No Trespassing on Construction Site” – the entrance to the new sports center in the Simon-Wiesenthal-Gasse hardly appears very welcoming. “We’re still suffering a bit from being under construction,” says Hakoah’s General Manager, Ronald Gelbard. “But that’s something we’ll have to put up with for awhile.” That, however, has not seemed to have affected the joy Gelbard takes in the new sports center, in addition to the new Jewish school and elderly home being built on the grounds next to it.
Justifiably so since the modern building’s interior exudes a warmth that even the most stubborn, non-athletic person would be tempted to jump onto the treadmill, throw a few basketballs into the net or climb up and down on the wall bars. The new Hakoah home is, however, not only a place to toughen up the body but also a place to relax, either in the sauna or the steam bath.
Some two-and-a-half years ago, through restitution, the City of Vienna provided the Jewish Community with a comparable piece of property in the green area of Prater to the traditional Jewish Sports Club for the rebuilding of Hakoah. On Tuesday Mayor Michael Häupl and Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer will officially open the Hakoah gymnasium. Construction costs for building the new Hakoah – whose football and sports stadium were seized after the Anschluss in 1938 and never returned - were estimated at some 7.2 million euros and were split between the federal and provincial governments. “The 7.2 million were, unfortunately, not enough,” says Gelbard. “We have to try raising funds from the private sector.” He who helps us financially to get off the ground will have his name engraved into the “Wall of Fame” at the entrance of the sports center, directly next to the wall of running water, upon which a white star with the letter “H” in the middle is set against a blue background.
SC Hakoah has currently some 300 members. The club was established in 1909, resulting from an increasing rise in self confidence felt by Vienna’s liberal Jews on the one hand, and on the other hand, due to the sudden enactment of an “Aryan law,” which excluded Jews from other sports clubs. Initially what proved of great success were football, water ball, wrestling and swimming.
A Wide Diversity of Sports Offered
After 1933, Hakoah increasingly lost its members. The name Hakoah (Hebrew for “strength”) was officially obliterated. A few years after the end of the war a handful of survivors breathed new life into the club. The athletes, however, always had to train in other sports clubs. Today the sports center offers everything from physical fitness to table tennis to basketball to boxing. “Our main emphasis lies with team sports,” says manager Ronald Gelbard, who initiated karate at the end of the 1990s.
Only the swimmers have to continue training elsewhere. Despite the heavy engagements of swimming professional, Markus Rogan, one was unable to raise the 2.2 million euros necessary for building an indoor swimming pool. “I, myself, was quite surprised, but even Rogan wasn’t able to help us find funding,” says Gelbard. Nonetheless, one has left a place free on Hakoah’s grounds “should the case arise.”
From Feeling Ashamed to Loving Vienna
Die Presse (02/01/2008)
Report from a contemporary witness. As a sixteen year-old, Hertha Lowy was forced to flee from the Nazis to London. Austrian school girl Katrin Muckenhammer tells of her fate.
London/Vienna. “That is my Schnitzerl, isn’t she lovely?” Hertha Lowy proudly shows the pictures of one of her grandchildren. “I call her Schnitzerl because that is her favorite dish,” explains the 86 year-old exhilarated woman and shows more photos of her daughter Evy and her son Peter. “I remember when I came to London at the age of sixteen. I was all alone. Now I have a large family, and we are all very close.”
Many things in the Londoner apartment in the Swiss Cottage district reminds one of Austria. The pantry is full of Knorr and Maggi soup packages, or the ‘Paprika edelsüß’ from Kotanyi. “And my daughter-in-law is a genuine Viennese,” she tells laughing, while Katrin Muckenhammer accompanies her from one room to the next.
The fifteen year-old is one of twelve school children who have come to London as ambassadors of remembrance through the project, ‘Letter to the Stars,’ in order to document the life story of Austrian Holocaust survivors.
Hertha Lowy rummaged through her old school grades. Almost every entry is marked with ‘very good’ in a script, long faded. She shows the tournament cup which she won playing bridge. She still continues to play on a regular basis, she says. Then her voice becomes hushed. “That is the last photo I have of my Father.” It is a still pose taken of him in black and white, a documentation of a concentration camp in which her father was exterminated. Also her Mother and her sister lost their lives during the NS era.
Hertha Lowy was the only one who was fortunate to escape. Alone, she had to fight her way through to London. She describes how the whole time she thought Hitler’s invasion was only a bad joke. The Anschluss to Hitler Germany, and afterwards the following restrictions enforced upon the Jewish population in every day life, not as important as her old romance. “My Peter”, she utters the name of her former boyfriend in a tone as if still enraptured.
“At the time I was not aware of how dangerous the situation was,” tells Hertha Lowy. So very little that she, herself, was captivated and joined the crowd in cheering Hitler as he marched into the city. “I stood among the crowd and cheered with the rest.” She shakes her head as if hardly believing it herself. “At the time our family didn’t see Hitler as a threat. My father said nothing can happen to us because we are Viennese; he had fought also in WW I and used to proudly show his medal of bravery.
A Stranger’s Visa
And so, it was also less the fear for her life as youthful audacity which caused her to get a visa for Great Britain. Finally, she wanted to emigrate together with her friend, Peter. Lowy then looked in the telephone book for the address of a man who shared the same family name. She wrote him a letter, addressing him with Dear Uncle, and proceeded to point out the political situation and begged him to get a visa for her. “At the time I was really very brash,” she said.
And indeed, Mr. Lowy from Great Britain sent a permit to the unknown girl. Her parents knew nothing about it.
For the Jewish population the situation in Vienna was becoming more and more unbearable.” I can still see my father scrubbing the cobblestone streets with a toothbrush, she recalled. Her parents planned to escape to Czechlosovakia. But when they arrived at the border, Hertha ran away, back to Vienna to Peter.
Insolence as a Life Saver
In search of her father, a member of NS women brought her to her family in Prague. Apart from her diaries, which she had kept since she was thirteen, she packed nothing in her suitcase. “No shoes, no socks. That’s how I was at the time.”
In Prague Hertha Lowy was “deathly unhappy without my Peter.” When the Nazi Party annexed the Sudentenland in 1938, she decided to get also a travel clearance from the Gestapo to leave.
While the line of “Aryans” waiting before the office was becoming shorter day by day, that of the Jews was becoming longer. “And then I thought to myself: I will simply stand in the non-Jew line,” tells Hertha Lowy. Her audacity and her courage proved to work also in this case; despite the big red “J,” distinguishing the Jews’ passports from those of the others, she was able to get a clearance.
Although her worried mother tried to stop her from doing so, Hertha Lowy got on the train where she was to meet her friend. “My Mother fainted as the train left the station. It was the last time I saw my family.” Her mother, father and sister were deported to the concentration camp. Hertha Lowy had little idea what that meant at the time. “In those days none of us knew about the gas chambers. We only heard about it after the war had ended.”
As for her first love, Peter, Hertha Lowy never saw him again. A meeting planned many years later, however, never came to fruition. Peter was a short time before killed in an auto accident.
“This woman is unbelievable,” Katrin Muckenhammer repeatedly blurted out, after she said goodbye to Hertha Lowy. “She evokes so much joy of life. I was really nervous before meeting her.”
Some time later the office of ‘Letter to the Stars’ in Vienna received a letter from Hertha Lowy in which she thanks Katrin Muckenhammer for her visit. “I sense the awakening of a new Austria, that I again could again be proud of being Viennese. English or not, I am still always a Viennese. In the past I often felt ashamed to have so much yearning for Vienna. Today I’m allowed to!”
An Enthusiastic Admirer of the Führer
Die Presse (03/14/2008)
Commemoration. On March 12, 1938, the National Socialists also took over power of the Burgtheater. Seventy years later the theatre commemorates the dramatic changes since then with “Never again. How safe is the European peace project?”
March 12, 2008 in the Burgtheater. The house is sold out. A letter from Paula Wessley is read: “As an artist who was always committed to giving expression to the culture of her Austrian homeland and, thus, bringing the essence of what is German on the Donau to all Germans, I deeply welcome the reunification of Austria with the old German Reich.” The crowd begins whispering; some of the older people in the audience groan at the thought of being confronted with this chapter of Austrian history of theatre, which was still considered taboo in many places.
Another letter is read, this time by Attila Hörbiger. “We artists are happy and proud to be able to work together on great, new German works and will unanimously endorse our Führer on April 10!” Some in the audience moan, writhe in their seats; most of them look shocked. Sitting on the stage is Elisabeth Orth, appearing composed and serious. She is one of the members of the ensemble of the Burgtheater commemorating the events following Annexation. At this moment, however, one thinks of her primarily as the daughter of two legendary figures who let themselves be seduced by Hitler. Some probably thought secretly about what was written in those days when the Nazis took over power.
The commemorative event is dubbed “Never Again!” Director Klaus Bachler, thus, made an important political event possible, carrying one back to the religious origins of the Theater. It is to be a cleansing ritual, and through expression, evil will be banned.
The Names of Those Murdered and Expelled
In addition to Orth and the director (who represents contemporary witness Otto Tausig who is ill), Birgit Minichmayr, Johannes Krisch and Klaus Maria Brandauer perform readings on the stage. Included in the collage of readings, one hears “The Return of a New Reich” (a text selected by Sebastian Humber and Rita Czapk) from hard liners like author Jelusich, who regularly worked his way up the ladder to be on the board of directors, and from denouncers like Otto Hartmann, who was responsible for many death sentences. One hears about the unspeakable production of the “Merchant of Venice” by Lothar Müthel with Werner Krauß playing the main role. One hears about Rosa Albach-Retty, reeling from the idea of annexation: “Like everyone, I am naturally an enthusiastic admirer of the Führer, but I take pride in being particularly close to him.” She gushes about meetings with Hitler in Berchtesgaden, while many colleagues from the theatre are being fired, denounced and are fearing for their lives.
When the names of the victims are read out loud, when portraits of actors and actresses who had been expelled were projected onto a screen, it becomes silent: Ernst Arndt, Fritz Blum, Karl Eidlitz, Josef Gielen, Nora Gregor, Ernst Haeussermann, Lilly Karoly, Fritz Lehmann, Tini Senders, Lilly Stepanek, Fritz Strassni, Hans Wengraf, Else Wohlgemuth and Karl Zeska.
Former Minister Rudolf Scholten reads the statement by Jorge Semprún who was ill and unable to attend, and Bulgarian author Dimitré Dinev sheds light on the present. “How secure is the European peace project?” is the other question. On March 11, 1938, Sigmund Freud entered two Latin words into his diary, writes Semprún: “Finis Austriae.” He could have also written “Finis Europae.” How, however, does one save Europe? Decisive for Semprún is not the question of roots - that would be narrow-minded - but the question of critical intellect. He quotes Edmund Husserl, who in 1935 demanded heroics of reason. “Europe’s biggest danger is fatigue.” That was enough warning.
A Contemporary Witness for All Alike
Die Presse (03/26/2008)
Concentration camp survivor Rudolf Gelbard visits places spent during his life in Vienna, along with Theresienstadt.
Today people live where the concentration camp of Thereisenstadt once stood. Children are riding bicycles on its former streets that have now been repaired. Rudolf Gelbard was also once such a child in 1942. He was twelve years old. He remembers that during a street fight with members of the Hitler youth, he was called a “Jew boy” and given a “kick from behind” so that Gelbard would be aware of his place within the hierarchy. He also had to wear the yellow star.
Due to the progress made in schools today in terms of education, one can assume that every Austrian child knows what is meant by the yellow star. But what everyone doesn’t know is that everyone who was Jewish was given an additional name, such as “Israel” for the men and “Sarah” for the women; that they were forbidden to go to the cinema, outdoor swimming pools or use public transportation; that they were not allowed to own pets or own bicycles. As a present-day witness, Gelbard has to remind the many children who no longer have a living grandfather or great grandfather of the horror of such harassment.
The documentary made by Kurt Brazda shows Gelbard visiting various places of his life history, including that of the concentration camp at Theresienstadt. When the street car stops at Karlsplatz-Oper, he is reminded of the time when university professor Taras Borodajkevic had held lectures on National Socialist ideas, the results of which led to the death of former concentration camp prisoner Ernst Kirchweger, who was killed during a protest.
When cuts are made between Gelbard’s tales of the original scenes of historical photo material, one fully believes to be a part of the events described. Also scenes taken from today’s everyday life help illustrate that even during that time people lived their lives as usual, even if it was next to the concentration camp or in Leopoldstadt. In a radio report following the November pogrom of 1938 and destruction of the Jewish Temple in the 2nd district, a reporter claimed: “The Jews took to their heels, escaping in time,” followed by: “But that won’t be the case next time.”
The film documentary by Kurt Brazda is entitled, “The Man on the Balcony.”
Berggasse 19, Salzgries 16: It’s All about Freud!
Die Presse (03/12/2008)
Vienna – The five treatment rooms are not furnished with the traditional couch in oriental pattern but rather very simple beds, and the lecture hall has only a very plain chair. The new Psychoanalytical Center in Vienna’s Salzgries 16 was ceremoniously opened on Monday. The year was doubly historical in that 1908 marked the founding of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Association and 1938 the expulsion of psychoanalysis from Austria by NS terror.
Mayor Michael Häupl spoke of an “enormous intellectual bloodletting:” It is a very ambitious goal of this city government to restore the unique intellectual life of Vienna. In the area of “Life Sciences,” this has already happened; now one must “remember Freud, Schumpeter and Kelsen.”
Martin Engelberg of the Psychoanalytical Academy praised “the reestablishment of psychoanalysis in Vienna,” which will be headed by two organizations that will share the Center – the Vienna Psychoanalytical Association (WPV) and the Vienna Working Group for Psychoanalysis (WAP), established in 1947. It is rare thing that, in light of their divisions during the rich history of psychoanalysis, the two groups have come together after having quarrelled for many years.
Excluded from the picture is the private, Sigmund Freud University of Vienna which has conflicted with WAP. Their founder, Alfred Pritz, refused to even attend the Center’s opening. Inge Scholz-Strasser, however, director of the Sigmund Freud Private Foundation, who runs the museum in Freud’s home in the Berggasse 19, did come. At least between the museum and WPV, some peaceful, friendly coexistence appears finally to prevail.
The rooms of the Wilhelminian-style house in the Salzgries appear quiet and friendly. The cabinets are white, and the walls are hung with sketches of the unorthodox, French analyst Jacques Lacan, whom director of WAP August Ruh holds in high esteem, much to the disliking of the WPV. In one of the treatment room therapists and/or patients can look at Egyptian scenes with hieroglyphics and drafts. At the entrance, a model of one of Peter Kogler’s brains is displayed.
Central to the program of events (info: www.psychoanalyse-wien.at) are the traditional Freud lectures. On April 4 Bettina Reiter will speak on “It’s All about Freud;” on May 16-17 there will be a discussion held on Lacan; and on May 28 Diane O’Donoghue talks about Freud’s “Topographical Constructions.” One will commemorate the founding of the WPV at a festive event to take place on April 15; a book by Andrea Bronner published by Brandstätter depicts the first 100 years.
Deathly ill and a mere two-and-a-half months before Freud left Austria, which in the meantime had turned hostile, Freud reacted to the news of Schuschnigg’s abdication on March 1938 with a laconic, “Finis Austriae.” Seventy years later it has made more room possible for his teachings than ever before.
The Vienna Project on Austrian Jews in Buenos Aires
Austrian Press Agency (04/23/2008)
A two-week cultural event takes place in Argentina in Fall – Coming to terms with the past through contributions by Austrian artists
Vienna – In Argentina’s capital city of Buenos Aires, the image of Austria as being a breeding ground for anti-Semitism is still widely spread. That’s the feeling conveyed by private initiators of the project, “Lost Neighborhood Buenos Aires – Vienna 2008,” during a press conference when presenting the project. In order to correct this notion and to further coming to terms with the past surrounding the ‘Night of the Pogrom’ or so-called ‘Kristallnacht’ in 1938, there will be two weeks of literary and musical events in Buenos Aires from October 26 – November 9 in attempt at achieving reconciliation.
Estimates reveal that 2,000 to 4,000 Austrian Jews immigrated to Argentina following the NS “Kristallnacht” in 1938. Some 350 of them are still living in Buenos Aires, according to the data of project director, Georg Schönfeld. These Jews could not imagine returning to Vienna because they remember having seen “too many terrible things,” said Schönfeld.
In cooperation with Argentinian Jewish associations, the Austrian Embassy as well as Austrian representatives from Art, Culture and Science, plans are being made for a series of lectures, talks, films, stories and evenings of music and exhibits. In addition, there will be contributions from fields of current scientific research.
Two sectioned pictures of the façade of Vienna’s synagogue located in Neudeggergasse - used already by the initiators for the project, “Lost Neighborhood – the Synagogue in the Neudeggergasse,” ten years ago in Vienna - will be on display. During the entire time, permanent video and audio coverage of the event will be transmitted from a coffee house in Buenos Aires and from a coffee house in Vienna with the idea of connecting the two cities. Planned is also for the Star of David to be projected with laser beams onto the sky at Vienna’s Heldenplatz during the night. The organizers estimate the entire cost of the project at about 70,000 euros and will be financed by the City of Vienna, the Federal Chancellery, Federal Ministries, the University of Vienna, Vienna’s University of Technology and private sponsors. “Many have promised donations, and currently some 170,000 euros have been contributed,” said project director Schönfeld.
Austrian supporters of the projects include President of the National Council Barbara Prammer, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, Argentina’s Ambassador to Austria Eugenio Maria Curia, President of the Israelite Community (IKG) Ariel Muzicant, author Erich Hackl and political scientist Anton Pelinka.
During ‘Kristallnacht’ on November 9-10 in 1938, Jewish citizens throughout the entire German Reich were mistreated, abducted and killed; synagogues were set on fire and Jewish cemeteries were destroyed. In reaction, thousands of Jews fled the country.
Vienna Lectures and Book Remember “Annihilation of the Intellect”
Austrian Press Agency (03/04/2008)
Lectures, books and exhibitions on the annexation of Austria seventy years ago
Vienna – On the occasion of the annexation of Austria to Hitler Germany seventy years ago, a series of events are being held in remembrance of the explusion of reason. A seven-part series of lectures beginning on March 13 and entitled, “Departure 1938,” will highlight the flight of many intellectuals and scientists from Austria. A new book by Vienna contemporary historians will analyze how the University of Vienna dealt with Jewish students following the annexation.
As a prelude to the “Vienna Lectures,” sponsored by the International Research Center for Cultural Studies (IFK), and to the series entitled, “Departure 1938 – The Annihilation of Intellectual Vienna,” initiated by the Vienna Library, ret. Professor of German Literature Egon Schwarz, who was expelled in 1938, will hold the opening lecture in Vienna’s City Hall. In addition, Carl and Charlotte Bühler, who fled Vienna for Norway and became pioneers in Child Psychology, Experimental Psychology and the Theory of Language, will speak about the years following annexation.
During the course of the series lasting until November, sociologist Gerhard Sonnert and Vienna-born historian and physicist Gerald Holton from Harvard University will present the German edition of their book (2007), “What Happened to the Children Who Fled Nazi Persecution,” by LIT publishers on June 24. The book highlights the paths taken by the children and youths who fled the National Socialists from Germany and Austria during the 1930s and 1940s for the U.S.
Furthermore, within the framework of this series, German Studies specialist and Holocaust survivor Ruth Klüger (“Studies and Use of the German Language Following the Shoah”) and Graz sociologist Christian Fleck, together with Marie Jahoda, will speak about current-day thoughts on employment and unemployment. On October 30, there will be a conference entitled, “The Dangers of Diversity,” covering the “life and work of Friedrich Torberg (1909-1979).”
An analysis of how the University of Vienna dealth with Jewish students following the annexation is contained in the newly published book, “Annexation and Exclusion 1938 - Students from the University of Vienna Who Were Expelled or Remained” by contemporary historians Herbert Posch, Doris Ingrisch and Gert Dressel. It will be presented on March 12 within the framework of “Dies Academicus” in the small ballroom of the University. In addition, Walter Sokel, ret. professor at the University of Virginia and contemporary witness, looks back on the events between 1936 and 1938 when he was a student expelled from the university.
In cooperation with the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance, a team at the University of Graz working together with Helmut Konrad from the Institute of History is currently researching the practice of NS rule in Styria. The project concentrates primarily on persecution and resistance. According to the University of Graz, a conference as well as an exhibition is planned for September 2008 to be held in Graz’s City Musem in cooperation with the Association for Historical and Educational Work, “Clio.”
“Expedition from Herzl to Hakoah”
Der Standard (05/19/2008)
Vienna is Jewish; Vienna was always Jewish and Vienna will also always be linked with Jewish history
Whoever does his shopping on a Saturday at Karmelitermarkt in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt district notices that Vienna, as we know it today, is clearly defined by Jewish history and tradition. Whether Orthodox Jews with black hats and sidelocks are discussing on the corner or whether names such as Café “Tachles,” located not far from Karmeliterplatz, remind one of Jewish culture…..
In her book entitled, Jewish Vienna, Expedition from Herzl to Hakoah, Birgit Schwaner offers an overview of life in a city whose citizens are frequently unaware of the fact that the “Masl” and the Haberer,” of which one so often talks about, is derived from the Hebrew “masol” (lucky star) and “havarim” (friend).
History and the First “Viennese Gesera”
In Jewish Vienna, the author touches upon many areas of history and of people who were repeatedly invited to Vienna to serve the princes of the City or to stimulate commercial transport, only later to be expelled under false pretenses.
Beginning approximately with the middle of the 13th Century, the Babenberger wanted to revive trade and made it easy for Jews from the Rheinland and Bohemia, who had once been expelled from Vienna, to return. There where today the Jewish Museum is located once flourished a unique, segregated “Jewish city,” which contained a hospital, a kosher butcher, ritual baths and a meeting house.
The first expulsion of the Jews from Vienna took place between 1420 and 1421. Reasons for the pogrom – sometimes referred to as “Gesera,” meaning “fate or persecution” in Hebrew - was based upon a collective claim against Jews as serving as enemies of the Catholic Church. Many of the Viennese Jews were either set out to sea - in this case the Danube - on boats without a rudder or were forced to undergo baptism. Thousands committed suicide in the synagogue in order to avoid being baptized.
A Lively Jewish City
The fact that what is Jewish Vienna today can be found mainly in the 2nd district is illustrated by numerous contributions, such as articles on the Sports Club Hakoah, which takes on a new home in the form of a sports center. The association, which was founded in 1909 under the highly promising name of “Strength” and held in high esteem before WW II because of its international success, was forbidden in 1941.
Back at Karmelitermarkt, Saturday shoppers again and again “come across” brass plates which offer insight into aryanized stands. The path of remembrance winding through Leopoldstadt commemorates the biographies of Viennese Jews, who were either expelled from their homes or murdered during the Third Reich.
Beginning with Tempelgasse, Birgit Schwaner’s book relates some thirty different places of Jewish history as a fascinating expedition through Jewish Vienna.
Amendment to Restitution Law to be Adopted Before Summer
Austrian Federal Chancellery
Minister of Culture Claudia Schmied and Chairman of the Advisory Board on Restitution Clemens Jabloner presented the measures planned by the Federal Republic on March 26, 2008 to improve restitution. “Restitution of seized assets is an historic obligation which is being met by the Republic of Austria,” stated the Minister. “My aim is to establish clear policy rules regarding restitution by the Leopold Foundation.“ As a first step, provenance research has to be conducted by the Federal Republic. By the end of April, two restitution researchers, financed by the Federal Republic, are to start investigations of the Leopold Museum. There is “already a clear majority by the Managing Board in favor of this opening up”, said Schmied, who also interpreted statements by art collector Rudolf Leopold as a “highly positive and constructive signal.“ In an interview with the daily newspaper, “Die Presse,“ the head of the museum stated: “We will have independent experts examine the facts. I will certainly not ignore the origin of paintings against my better judgment.” However, in this interview Leopold also explained that he felt to be the target of unfair criticism.
The plan of action presented by Schmied and Jabloner included concrete measures. For example, the law should not refer explicitly to the restitution of “works of art” but rather to the restitution of “movable objects”. The future law should not only apply to “federal museums and collections” but entire “federal assets“ should come under its scope. The Act on the Restitution of Works of Art should also cover assets which had previously been subject to a formal restitution procedure. The period in respect to which restitution claims can be filed will be extended, covering the years from 1933 to 1945 (previously 1938 to 1945). Assets that were not confiscated on the territory of present-day Austria but in regions controlled by the Third Reich will also have to be returned in the future. To speed up restitution procedures, recognition of heirs will be based on the Austrian law of succession. Thus time-consuming expert opinions under international private law usually not leading to new findings will become superfluous. The exception for restitution assets from the Monumental Protection Act, which requires permits for the export of specific assets, will be effective for a period of 25 years as from the handing-over of the object and will also apply to the restitution by the Länder (States) and municipalities. The term of office of the members of the Advisory Board on Restitution will be extended to three years so as to ensure their independence.
The cooperation between the Ministry, the Advisory Board on Restitution and the Provenance Research Committee is being re-structured. The Committee is afforded a legal status and has legal capacity in specific areas. A special statute clearly defines the independence of the provenance researchers. A member – or deputy member – of the Advisory Board on Restitution will be entrusted with developing a triennial program for the Provenance Research Committee and bringing research to fruition. This task was assigned to Eva Blimlinger in the Advisory Board meeting on 7 March 2008.
All these steps form part of a process already initiated by Minister of Culture Claudia Schmied in 2007. By appointing President of the Administrative Court Clemens Jabloner chairman of the Advisory Board on Restitution and by creating a special department for restitution affairs within the Federal Ministry of Education, Art and Culture, decisive steps have been taken to improve the restitution procedures of the Federal Republic.
“Clearly Stolen Art!”
Die Presse (03/11/2008)
Leopold Museum. The Jewish Community (IKG) presents more official reports reflecting expert opinions on “expropriated works of art.” IKG President Ariel Muzicant is demanding that a law be established to settle the matter. Austrian Minister of Education Claudia Schmied promises it.
How much was Rudolf Leopold aware of? “Is that stolen art or not?” “Will provenance research conducted by the Leopold Foundation be censured by its executive board?” It was a heated debate on Monday during two press conferences held by the IKG and by the Leopold Foundation.
Georg Graf, University Professor for Civil Law and Philosophy of Law at the University of Salzburg, identified eleven works as so-called “expropriated paintings” in dry legal terms in his official report commissioned by the IKG. It involves Schiele’s painting, entitled “Wally,” part of a collection lent to New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) ten years ago by the Leopold Museum and put on exhibition, after which it was seized and is still in America. It also involves other works, including Schiele’s “Häuser am Meer,” “Romako’s “Nike mit Kranz,” “Die Quelle,” as well as “Akt eines jungen Mädchens,” Schiele’s „Frau in Unterwäsche, sich links aufstützend,” and ”Die Bergmäher“ by Egger-Lienz and four other Schiele drawings.
Official Report: “Wally” Doesn’t Belong to Leopold
“It can be assumed that, when acquiring these paintings, Rudolf Leopold knew that they were originally owned by people who had been persecuted by the National Socialists,” writes Graf. “Therefore, Leopold had to expect that there was a possibility it involved paintings which were stolen from their owners.” Should the scope of the 1998 law on art restitution be expanded to to the extent that it includes the paintings still held by the Leopold Stiftung, “the Foundation would be under a legal obligation to restitute,” says Graf. Based upon this point of view, “Wally” doesn’t belong to Leopold, according to Graf. In other words, the painting still belongs to the “heirs of Lea Bondi, who are allowed to demand it be returned by the Foundation based upon claim of ownership.”
Regarding the three Romako paintings, “the possibility that expropriated paintings still belong to the heirs of the original owner is not only a given but a reality,” finds Graf. In terms of the four Schiele drawings, however, strong reasons speak for the fact “that they belong to the Republic of Austria because, based upon Article 22 of the State Treaty, they were purchased by the German Reich.”
“It’s crystal clear,” says IKG President Muzicant: “There’s no need for discussion about each individual painting. It is clear that the Leopold Collection has an abundance of paintings that can be explicitly considered stolen art.” It is now up to the Republic of Austria to take the next steps.
“It is my political goal to establish a law which, like the law on restitution regarding State museums, applies to the Leopold Collection and clearly governs the Foundation’s matters of restitution,” explains Minister Schmied. “The complexity of legal questions demands excellent preparation and examination.”
Previous to the Graf report, the IKG had presented a report by Salzburg’s constitutional lawy expert Walter Berka, which which provides for the possibility ot apply the law on art restitution to the Leopold Foundation.
“The Berka report impressed me,” said Clemens Jabloner, President of the Superior Administrative Court and head of the Commission on Art Restitution: “It offers good arguments supporting neither unconstitutionality nor a breach of human rights. In any case, one can expect an amendment. Principally, every piece of art whose provenance remains unclear should be dealt with, like the requirements established by the law on art restitution.” If the Federal Chancellery’s legal office gives the green light, “one can begin working on a law,” says Jabloner. He also believes that even if there are elections, another new federal government will make an amendment to the law on art restitution.
He doesn’t understand IKG’s “zig zag” course, said lawyer Andreas Nödl, board member of the Leopold Foundation. First the IKG speaks about an amendment to the law on art restitution, and now it speaks about legal actions.
How Many Claims Are Still to Come?
Furthermore, Nödl emphasizes that among the altogether 5,500 works of the Leopold Collection, the number of contentious exhibits is in the area of one-tenth-of-a-percent. This, however, could be the main concern of the 82 year-old collector, Rudolf Leopold: in case he should give in out of ethical reasons, as was discussed at the press conference, more and more new claims will pop up. Nödl didn’t wish to say what the prognosis might be if the Leopold Foundation is included in the law: “We’ll cross over that bridge once we’re there.” The biggest mistake committed by the Graf report is that it restricts itself to the facts presented by the IKG: “Even Leopold, himself, was not questioned.” When everything stands outside of the law, one perverts the course of justice; there is no display of “moral responsibility” when giving things away. The Foundation continues the costly law suit over “Wally.” But a decision is, however, in the offing.
Austria and Israel Strengthen Research Cooperation
Federal Chancellery (04/14/2008)
Austria and Israel will strengthen cooperation in the field of science and research. This is the outcome of an official visit to Israel by Minister of Science Johannes Hahn. The main goals are to increase the mobility of students, graduates and fledgling researchers as well as to promote cooperation in basic research. To this end, an Austro-Israeli Science Day is to be held this year in Vienna.
Foreign Minister on 60th Anniversary of the Foundation of the State of Israel
Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs (05/03/2008)
"Like no other state, Israel has been called into question and challenged from the day of its foundation. Between Galilee and Negev, generations of Israelis have contributed impressively to the development of the country and led it to outstanding achievements in many areas. During all my stays I have been impressed by Israel’s cultural wealth, traditions and creative power,” stated Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Foundation of the State of Israel on 8 May 2008.
“Austria was and remains a state of Jewish fate and Jewish fates. It was Austrian Theodor Herzl in Vienna who formulated the vision of a “homeland for the Jewish people” in Palestine at the turn of the century. Sixty years ago the dream of a Jewish state came true,” continued Plassnik.“ But relations between Austria and Israel also carry a special historical burden. Many Austrians participated actively in the appalling crime and break with civilization that was the Shoah, in the malign spirit of displacing the spiritual. For a long time our relations were overshadowed by the crimes of Nazi terror and the very late assumption of responsibility for the persecution, displacement and murdering of Austrian Jews in the Shoah,” stated Plassnik.
“In recent years there have been many changes in the way we deal with history. Our sincere commitment to Austria’s responsibility for the victims of the Nazi regime has had a positive impact on Austrian-Israeli relations. It marked the beginning of a new chapter. Today we are linked by ties of trustful partnership and strong friendship,” emphasized Plassnik.
“Our history has resulted in our determination and commitment to the conviction of “never again.” Today, we – Israelis and Austrians - can work on our future together in freedom. What we want is peaceful co-existence in Austria, Europe and in the world, characterized by mutual acknowledgement, tolerance and respect. And this is the key challenge: to make this new Europe a permanent positive image countering the bitterest experience of our past. What started as a European peace project must become a worldwide pillar of peace in the 21st century,” stated Plassnik.
“Today, as a partner in the European Union and the United Nations, we are making our contribution on the path to peace and security for Israel, Palestine and the entire region. It is a thorny path, calling for courage, but also endurance and persistence. Yet it is clear that sustainable peace will only be possible on the basis of a two-state solution and with full respect for Israel’s right to exist. Austria will not strike any compromises in this respect,” Plassnik stressed. “It is our responsibility as a neighbor and friend to provide active support to both Israelis and Palestinians in their quest for peace and to do so persistently on the basis of solidarity. We shall continue to bear this responsibility in the future,” concluded Plassnik.