Defense Ministers Barak and Darabos: Good Relations between Israel and Austria

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (12/14/2009)

Commitment to an Israeli-Palestinian Two-State Solution  - A meeting of the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Defense with the Federal President/Chancellor and Foreign Minister

Vienna - Israeli Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Defense Ehud Barak and Austrian Minister of Defense Norbert Darabos spoke in Vienna of a two-state solution to solving the Middle East conflict. At a press conference held on the grounds of the Rossau Barracks in Vienna, the two Ministers emphasized the “good relations” between Austria and Israel. Following his talks with Barak, Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger warned of a continued standstill in the Middle East peace process.

During his visit to Austria, Barak will also meet with Federal President Heinz Fischer and Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann. Barak will participate in a reception held by the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Jewish Community (IKG) granting the Nahum Goldmann Medal to Mayor and Governor Michael Häupl.

Austria is trying to take on an active role in the Middle East peace process, said Darabos. It views itself as a “balancing force” between all peace seeking forces since it has traditionally good relations with the Arabic States in the region. According to the words of Darabos, Austria is prepared to offer itself as a place of dialogue for talks on the peace process. “Austria clearly advocates a two-state solution,” said the Federal Minister, who added: “Austria will continue its close bond with Israel.” Austria and Europe have a “significant moral and political responsibility for a just solution of the Middle East conflict.” Austria commits itself “one hundred percent” to the declaration by the EU Foreign Minister on Jerusalem as “the future capital of the two States.” The text explicitly rejects Israel’s unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem.

Barak said that Israel is prepared to go “as far as is necessary” in advancing the peace process. Israel is prepared to establish two States and live side by side in peace. The former prime minister appeared confident that a solution for the Middle East conflict can be found. He praised the “highly effective Austrian Command of the UNDOF mission,” in which 380 Austrian Blue Helmut soldiers are stationed on the Syrian Golan Heights occupied by Israel. According to Barak, the Austrian Commander of the UNDOF mission General Wolfgang Jilke is contributing to stability in the region.

Austria is an important member country of the EU and a close friend of Israel’s said Barak. He mentioned that in the past Austrian-Israeli relations have been characterized by being up and down but are moving forward. A “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) on the cooperation by the ministries of defense in the area of security policy and education were signed at the time during the first visit of an Israeli minister of defense to Austria. According to Darabos, there has been no established bilateral working program.

In response to a question posed by a journalist when the Israeli armed forces would leave the city of Hebron in the West Bank where her house was being occupied, Barak said that it serves as defense against an invasive Arabic attack. Israel is, however, prepared to negotiate and live in peace with the Palestinians.

“The current standstill in the Middle East nourishes hopelessness and plays into the hands of extremists,” said Spindelegger in a press release. “That is why a clear message is being sent to our partner in the region demanding a credible stop in Israel’s illegal policy on settlements; an enduring inner Palestinian understanding and a persuasive renunciation of violence are and remain the indispensable prerequisites for a genuine peace process,” said Spindelegger. No partner in the region can escape from his responsibility. Otherwise threats of a new spiral of violence in the Middle East pervades, said the Foreign Minister.

Spindelegger reinforced Austria’s and the EU’s position on questions regarding settlements. “The partial moratorium on Israeli settlements is a first step in the right direction. The growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem stands as a contradiction to international law and represents massive barriers to the peace process.”

As to Iran, Barak said that Teheran has been delivering contradictory facts in regards to its nuclear program. Needed are “strict sanctions” against the country while at the same time exercising diplomacy. Also the EU should be actively engaged in its efforts against Teheran’s military nuclear program. According to Barak, Iran supports “terror” of Hamas and Hezbollah.

The movement, “Women in Black” held in Vienna-Alsergrund near the Rossau Barracks, held a solemn vigil against the visit of the Israeli defense minister. The Palestinian Community of Austria (PGO) and the group, “Anti-Imperialistic Coordination” (AIK) declared in a press release their support of the vigil. The police spoke of a handful of participants.

Israel’s Minister of Defense Barak Pays Official Visit to Vienna

Austrian Federal Chancellery (12/14/2009)

Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak paid an official visit to Vienna on December 14, 2009, following an invitation by his Austrian counterpart Norbert Darabos. According to the Ministry of Defense, this was the first official visit of an Israeli Defense Minister to Austria. Barak was Prime Minister from 1999 to 2001. The Chairman of the Labour Party has been Minister of Defense in the Likud-led coalition government since 2007.

Barak accepted the return invitation extended by Darabos during his stay in Israel in May 2008. Minister Darabos also accompanied Federal President Heinz Fischer during his state visit to Israel in December of last year. Barak’s official program included talks with Austrian President Heinz Fischer, Chancellor Werner Faymann and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger. At Vienna’s City Hall Barak participated in a reception hosted by the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Vienna Jewish Community (IKG) in honor of Mayor Michael Häupl, who will be awarded the Nahum Goldmann medal.

Israel’s Foreign Minister in Vienna

Austrian Federal Chancellery (10/19/2009)

Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman met with Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger in Vienna on October 14, 2009. In addition to talks on bilateral issues and relations between Israel and the EU, the informal talks also focused on the Middle East conflict and nuclear conflict with Iran. (In November Austria began chairing the UN Security Council).

Minister Spindelegger called on Israel “to stop its policy of illegal settlement, also in East Jerusalem, and to dismantle its outposts” erected illegally on Palestinian territory since 2001.” Israel should also end the “humanitarian misery” in the Gaza Strip. Israel flatly rejected stopping its settlement activities. After the meeting the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that relations between Israel and Austria were “very good” despite differences in opinion.

Czernin Family Seeks Return of Vermeer Painting from Austria

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (09/04/2009)

Heirs of Jaromir Czernin want the painting entitled “Malkunst” (“The Art of Painting”) returned. Lawyer states selling it to Hitler “was the price paid for survival”

Vienna – In a letter written to the Republic of Austria the heirs of Jarmir Czernin asked for restitution of the painting, “Malkunst” (“The Art of Painting”), by Jan Vermeer (1632-1675) housed in Vienna’s Museum of Art History. As the daily newspaper, “Der Standard” reported, the Czernin family claims that Jaromir Czernin sold the painting “under duress” in 1940 to Adolf Hitler for the Führer’s museum planned to be built in Linz. Since 1946 the work which was painted in 1665 is owned by the Museum of Art History.

According to the daily newspaper “Der Standard” the Czernin family commissioned a report, to be conducted by provenance researcher Michael Wladika. Based on his conclusions, the family has suggested restitution with the assistance of their lawyer, Alexander Theiss. In that the family has only “suggested” and currently doesn’t wish to file a suit, the situation is the following, explains Theiss: “We are convinced that Austria will confront the issue openly and honestly so that further steps are not deemed necessary. 

Theiss stated that Czernin had no other choice than to sell the painting. “He had to sell it in order to protect the life of his family,” and “that was the price paid for survival.” According to “Der Standard,” Czernin was the son-in-law of the Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg and his wife, Alix May, and according to the Nürnberg Laws a second grade cross breed. Moreover, in 1935 Hitler was more than anxious to have it.

Restitution requests after the war failed, according to the newspaper. Theiss is convinced that Austria will not subscribe to the “harrowing” argumentation of the post-war era. At the time it was argumented that the sale was “negotiated on equal footing,” that Czernin sold the painting without being under any duress and received an appropriate sales price. “This take on things is shocking. This is how one argued during the Third Reich,” said their lawyer.

“The Art of Painting” was the greatest painting by the Dutch painter, from whom there are only some forty paintings. In this article, “Der Standard” characterized the painting as “the most expensive painting owned by Austria.”

Restitution of Vermeer Painting: Ministry Asks Commission and Advisory Board to Investigate Based on Provisions of the Law on Restitution – A Clear and Transparent Decision

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (09/05/2009)

Vienna – The Ministry of Education and Culture which assumes responsibility for Federal museums will act according to the Law of Restitution by having the Commission on Provenance Research as well as the Restitution Advisory Board investigate the request by the heirs of Jaromir Czernin for return of the painting, “The Art of Painting” by Jan Vermeer housed in Vienna’s Art History Museum. The family’s request will be treated like all others, said the press secretary for Claudia Schmied, Minister of Education and Culture. 

“We are for a very clear and transparent decision,” emphasized the Ministry. The Minister has always said that she is adhering to the recommendations of the Restitution Advisory Board. One cannot currently say how long the proceedings might last.

In a letter submitted to the Republic of Austria, the heirs of the Jaromir Czernin family are requesting the return of the painting. Czernin sold the painting in 1940 to Adolf Hitler for the Führer’s museum planned to be built in Linz. The Czernin family is of the opinion that the decision was made under duress, in reference to a report conducted by provenance researcher, Michael Wladika. The painting which was completed in 1665 hangs in Vienna’s Art History Museum since 1946 and is considered the finest painting by the Dutch painter.

The Children of Maison d’Izieu

Austrian Federal Chancellery (12/14/2009)

Under the aegis of Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann, the photo exhibition, “The Children of Maison d’Izieu,” will be presented at numerous vocational schools across Austria until the end of 2010.

“Maison d’Izieu” – the children’s home in the French city located 80 km from Lyon accommodated more than 100 Jewish children of different nationalities from May 1943 to April 1944, whose parents had already been deported by the Nazis.

On April 6, 1944, 44 children – 7 from Vienna – and their educators were arrested under Klaus Barbie’s command, the head of the Gestapo in Lyon. With the exception of two children and the headmaster, who were shot in Reval (Estonia), the group was deported to Auschwitz. The children and their educators were gassed shortly after their arrival. Only one educator, who had returned from Auschwitz, and one adult, who had escaped upon arrest, survived.

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Restitution: National Library Hands Over Eight Thousand Three Hundred Sixty-Three Books to the National Fund

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (10/03/2009)

Restitution Advisory Board recommends the handover due to provenance research concluding undetermined owners. National Library offers 125,000 Euros for repurchase of the books.

Vienna – The Austrian National Library will hand over 8,363 books of unidentified ownership to the National Fund for victims of National Socialism. The Restitution Abvisory Board recommended the restitution/ handover following the conclusions of the Commission which claimed the impossibility of determining ownership of the books “even when continuing investigation in the future by cross linking material in the archive that might be of relevance.” Subsequently, the ÖNG hopes to repurchase the books for 125,000 Euros.

In 1938 the National Library was allotted thousands and thousands of expropriated books. Those which were kept were marked with the letters “P 38” (P stands for police). In the course of years of provenance research one came across some 8,363 pieces of printed matter with no indication as to their owner. According to provenance research it is impossible to determine the owners, and the Commission advocated handing them over to the National Fund.

As director general of the Austrian National Library Johanna Rachinger stated, handing over the entire pile of printed material, which weighs some four tons, should take place “as soon as possible.” According to the daily newspaper, “Der Standard,” there are an additional unidentified 7,595 more objects in the Austrian National Library holdings that are marked by “P – 38.” A decision about these items has not yet been made. Over the years the Austrian National Library has returned some 35,231 objects.

Provenance Research: Leopold Museum Shows “Good Will“

Austrian Press Agency (12/20/2009)

Financial contributions offered to those concerned – Provenance researchers submit their report

Vienna – Following the final results of provenance research the Leopold Museum Private Foundation wants “to signal a sign of good will regarding those concerned by offering a financial contribution as a way of providing a fair and just solution.” According to a press release, the Foundation will “analyze the results of the provenance research, inform the advisory board of individual, independent experts on how they plan to proceed and of the decisions it will take.” In the upcoming weeks the report, provided by the independent researchers who were assigned the task in 2009 to research the works of the Museum, will be presented.

The debate over restitution of art works has been ongoing for over twelve years. The confiscation of Schiele’s painting “Wally” in New York initiated the debate which led to adopting a Federal Art Restitution Law, (setting an example for Europe), along with the realization that private persons cannot be forced to restitute artworks looted by the Nazis if legally acquired.

For these reasons “the unsatisfactory results together with the many years of waiting blew the issue up out of all proportion for many people,” said the Foundation. Therefore, the Foundation working together with the Federal Government had an independent group of provenance researchers produce a report separately from that produced by the Leopold Museum Foundation in order to come together in a professional manner on the extremely sensitive topic of restitution. The goal was to “arrive at a sound agreement based on substantiated facts rather than on speculation.

“Wiener Blut“ Performed in a Hay Barn

Scharang Teams Up with Strauss and Krisch

Austrian Press Agency (10/16/2009)

A two million Euro production based on a script by Silke Hasseler and Peter Turrini. Currently shooting of the film in Passendorf, Lower Austria

Passendorf/Vienna – At the end of April 1945 thousands of Jewish prisoners and forced laborers from Hungary were driven by small units of SS troops through the Austrian province. The end goal of the death marches was the Mauthausen Concentration Camp, where men, women and children were to be murdered before the Allied troops arrived.

The absurd story of a small group of Hungarian Jews, who were kept at the time in a hay barn and began studying the operetta “Wiener Blut” in order to awaken the sympathy of the farmers, is currently being filmed by Elisabeth Scharang in Passendorf, Lower Austria. Ursula Strauss and Johannes Krisch play the main characters in “Perhaps in Another Life.”

Strauss and Krisch, who performed together also for Götz Spielmann’s film “Revanche” nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film, play this time the rural married couple, Traudl and Stefan Fasching, whose son was killed during the war, reacting speechless when expressing their sorrow.

Also one must be careful on the set “not to be too much absorbed by the horror of events,” said Strauss, bubbling over with excitement in his interview with the Austrian Press Agency when talking about the film and his recent cooperation with Krisch. “We enjoy so much performing together that we feed off each other’s energy.” In addition to Strauss and Krisch are the Hungarian actor and actress Peter Vegh and Orsolya Toth, who were highly praised in Venice for their roles in “Women Without Men.”

In cooperation with the Hungarian Mythberg Film and German Filmline Productions, Silke Hassler and Peter Turrnini wrote the script for the two million Euro production of the Viennese film. As cameraman, Jean-Claude Karrieu contributed to the “optically very poetic dimension” of the film. Filming in Passendorf, an extremely picturesque village of eighteen people, should end in another week. The director hopes for the opening in fall of 2010.

“That, Too, Was Vienna” – Director Wolfgang Glück Turns Eighty

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (11/19/2009)

His film, “38” – That, Too, Was Vienna” was nominated in 1987 for an Oscar – One of Europe’s busiest directors over the past fifty years celebrates his birthday.

Vienna – Wolfgang Glück, with over 100 productions and 80 lengthy- and over 400 short television plays in Germany and Austria, is considered one of Europe’s busiest directors over the past fifty years. On September 25 the Austrian film producer celebrated his 80th birthday. He acquired his international reputation primarily by filming literature pieces from which Torberg’s adaptation of “Student Gerber” stood out. However, the highlight of his career as a director was his highly recognized “38 – That, Too, Was Vienna,” which earned him the nomination in 1987 for an Oscar for best foreign film. 

Wolfgang Glück was born in Vienna in 1929 into an upper middle class family. The father was a publisher and writer and belonged to the intellectual circle surrounding Karl Kraus and Adolf Loos. He remained in Vienna during the war but was unemployed “due to his Jewish background.” After having graduated from the Akademisches Gymnasium, Glück studied Drama and German Studies in Zürich and Vienna. Between 1948 and 1953 he worked as an assistant at Vienna’s Burgtheater with, among others, Berthold Viertel, who soon became a fatherly friend, Oscar Fritz Schuh, Josef Gielen, Ernst Lotaht, Curt Jürgens and Walter Felsenstein. He gathered a significant amount of experience also by working with Fritz Kortner in München. Moreover, he finished his qualifying exam to become an actor.

Following his first work as director, “Arsenic and Old Lace” (1953) at Vienna’s Kellertheater at the Parkring, he received many more offers. At the same time he worked as a radio director with the American station Rotweißrot and as assistant director of film. In 1957 he became the director of the newly-established Austrian television while at the same time directing feature films for the first time.

After the 1960s Glück turned more and more to literature, mainly Austrian, including television pieces by Peter Handke, Arthur Schnitzler, Thomas Bernhard, Peter Henisch, Ingeborg Bachmann and H.C. Artmann, among others. At the same time he worked also for the theaters of Berlin, Hamburg, Dortmund, Frankfurt and from 1969 to 1975 for Vienna’s Burgtheater. In addition, he began at the end of the 1960s staging operas for the Salzburg and Bregenz festivals.

In 1981 Wolfgang Glück succeeded with Friedrich Torberg’s filming of “Student Gerber” with Gabriel Barylli as main actor. Six years later he celebrated his greatest success with material taken from Torberg, “38 – That, Too, Was Vienna” about the love relationship of an actress (Sunnyi Melles) with a Jewish writer (Tobias Engel), which was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film in 1987. In 1989 he was accepted into the “Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences” in Los Angeles, which determines who receives an Oscar from year to year.

From 1971 to 2003 Glück was a lecturer at the Institute of Drama with the University of Vienna. After 1994 he worked also with Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts, and headed the University’s film academy from 1997 to 2001.

Glück lives in Vienna and, following his first marriage with Christiane Hörbiger, has been married with the actress Claudia Sorbas since 1972 and is the father of two daughters. As director, he was awarded the Adolf-Grimme Prize for “Speaking and Let Speak” (1975), the German Federal Film Prize for “Student Gerber” as well as State Prizes for his advertising film. In 2004 he received the “Decoration of Honor in Gold for Services to the City of Vienna.” In 2006, the Year of Mozart’s Anniversary, he produced together with twenty- eight other film makers one minute film clips entitled,“Mozart Minutes.”

New York’s „Klezmatics“ Performing at Vienna’s 6th KlezMore Festival

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (10/08/2009)

Klezmer celebrates its 20th anniversary with an opening gala.

Vienna – The performance of New York’s “Klezmatics” provides a highlight for Vienna’s KlezMore Festival’s 6th anniversary. Form November 7 – 23 performances will take place at various spots throughout the city.

The focus of the program will be Jewish life in Vienna. Regular guests include Daniel Kahn, the Fox Rosen Quintet and newly discovered groups such as the Danish group, “Afenginn,” or the “Queen Esther Klezmer Trio, highlighting the British clarinetist, Emma Stiman.

In addition to the groups performing at various sites such as the 3raum-Anatomietheater, the churches at Gaußplatz and Tabor or the Sargfabrik, the program will offer discussions about Jewish life in Vienna. Tours will be conducted of the exhibition at the Memorial site in the Karajangasse, the Jewish Museum, the Währinger Jewish Cemetery and of the work being conducted by the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance (DÖW) along with lectures on race and the Kabbala.

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KlezMORE Festival in Vienna


The 6th KlezMore festival in Vienna from November 7 – 23, 2009, once again offers a stage for the diverse facets of traditional Yiddish music.

As the title suggests, the Festival is about ‘more Klezmer’ and presents a varied program ranging from traditional performances to contemporary approaches to some bold re-interpretations. KlezMORE provides ample opportunity for a positive, rewarding and discursive exploration of a seemingly ‘foreign’ culture.

Regular Guests and New Friends

In addition to regular guests, such as the incredible DANIEL KAHN and his band PAINTED BIRD with their freely conceived and performed ‘distorted’ Klezmer, the Festival also presents many new discoveries such as HUDAKI, AFENGINN (Denmark) LE TRAIN DE 7h45 (France) and the QUEEN ESTHER KLEZMER TRIO (Britain). This trio, highlighting the British clarinetist Emma ‘Esther’ Stiman, electrifies audiences with its fiery mix of traditional and self-written Yiddish dance music. The appearance of author DORON RABINOVICI and violinist ALIOSHA BIZ on November 16 also promises an exciting evening.

Interactive Side Programs

Besides the musical program, KlezMORE offers a range of events to corroborate its conceptual and intellectual approach aiming at encouraging discourse. As usual Club Tachles provides an inviting environment for spontaneous jam sessions and for reflecting on the Festival’s audiovisual effects.

Two great international concerts will be the final highlights of the Festival. The closing gala at Porgy & Bess on November 22 features Geoff Berner and his band and the “Nifty's” from Austria. These two high-caliber formations share a similar understanding of music that brings so-called ‘world music’ very close to the more eclectic and open approaches of modern pop culture. And, last but not least, the KLEZMATICS from New York will come to Vienna’s Reigen club on November 23 during their 2009 Wonder Wheel tour.

Fritz Schwarz-Waldegg Travels into the Self and the World

Jewish Museum Vienna (

Fritz Schwarz-Waldegg (1889-1942) was one of the pioneers of Expressionist painting in Austria after 1918. Led by modern artists like Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, many young Viennese painters saw this dynamic expressive style as an artistic response to the turbulent era around the end of the First World War.

Their platform was the Hagenbund artists’ association, which was the most important forum for Expressionism and New Objectivity between the wars until it was banned by the Nazis in 1938. Fritz Schwarz-Waldegg, along with Josef Floch, Georg Merkel and Franz Lerch, was one of the main figures in the Hagenbund and was its president in 1924/25.

After the annexation of Austria in 1938 he was forced out of his studio and worked underground until his deportation and death in 1942. The exhibition by the Jewish Museum Vienna is the first retrospective devoted to this largely forgotten inter-war painter.

Stirring and Committed Pictures

The exhibition features some 25 oil paintings and 70 watercolors and drawings, providing a representative cross-section of the life and work of Fritz Schwarz-Waldegg. The first phase of the artist’s activities extends from the early works before the First World War, clearly influenced by the Impressionism of Emil Jakob Schindler and others, to the haunting and vivid portrayals of war on the Russian front and the first eruption of Expressionist painting.

Loans from private collections and the Museum of Military History in Vienna document the artist’s vital and animated handwriting during the war years. Strongly influenced by Oskar Kokoschka and Max Oppenheimer, Fritz Schwarz-Waldegg then transformed the existential turmoil of the year 1918 into a series of large-scale allegories espousing basic human values with a pathos typical of the time. Schwarz-Waldegg’s most well known work and the high point of his oeuvre, the oil painting “Confession” (1920) owned by the Belvedere reflects an interest in psychoanalysis and is part of a group of typical Expressionist themes that includes the paintings “Eternity,” “Source” and “Man and Crystal.”

Cosmopolitan Views

Fritz Schwarz-Waldegg quickly gave the artistic energy of the new beginning in 1919 a cosmopolitan dimension. He travelled extensively and painted everywhere he went: He visited Copenhagen in 1921, Lake Garda and Rome in 1923, and Paris in 1924, where he kept a diary with sketches of several exhibitions.

His travelling companions Lea Jaray-Bondi, owner of the Würthle gallery in Vienna, and the writer Franz Blei were members of the educated modern art milieu of those years that also included Victor Tischler and Josef Floch, who proposed a cultured Francophile painting style relatively free of avant-garde experimentation. Other high points of this cosmopolitan curiosity, which in Schwarz-Waldegg’s art turned repeatedly to genre painting, were visits to Spain (1929) and Bosnia (1933).

During the Ständestaat era (1934-1938) Schwarz-Waldegg continued to live as a well established painter in Vienna and regularly contributed to the Hagenbund exhibitions. The exhibition at the Jewish Museum Vienna documents these years with genre paintings of Austrian rural life and religious and historical themes, which were a new focus of his work.

Death and Legacy

After the annexation by the Nazis in 1938 he was excluded from official art circles and lived with his sister, occupying himself by painting portraits of his few remaining friends and supporters. In 1942 he was deported to Minsk and killed there. His pictures remained initially in the possession of surviving family members and are today in private collections and museums throughout Europe. The last exhibition of his work was organized by Georg Eisler at the Secession in 1968.

Exhibition by the Lauder Chabad School in Vienna-Leopoldstadt

Austrian Federal Chancellery (10/19/2009)

Young people attending the Lauder Chabad School in Leopoldstadt in Vienna’s 2nd district gathered in numerous workshops to reflect on their religious-cultural views and identity through painting, illustration, film and photography.

Through their artistic activities the pupils, ages fifteen to eighteen, improved their individual perceptions and adjusted attitudes influenced by stereotypes. The works of art were shown at a shopping mall at Stadion Center from October 29 – November 11, 2009. The exhibition was organized within the framework of district partnership of Leopoldstadt-Brooklyn, founded in 2007. The exhibits will travel to Brooklyn, New York, while the works created at the partner school in New York will be presented in Vienna.

The history of the stadium named after soccer champion and coach Ernst Happel (1925-1992) has not always been glorious. During the NS period (1938-1945), the stadium was also used as military barracks, a strategic center and a collection site for the deportation of Jewish citizens. In September 1939 Viennese Jews were detained in the stadiums. Some 1,038 prisoners were deported to Buchenwald, where only sixty men survived. Since November 13, 2003, a memorial tablet remains a reminder of the murderous crimes.

Viennale 2009 – Commemorative Plaque and Gala in Vienna for Film Director

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (11/01/2009)

Vienna – One of the most successful European film directors in Hollywood, native born Austrian Fred Zinneman has been honored with a commemorative plaque placed on the building where he once resided in the Weyrgasse 9 in Vienna.

Zinnemanns son, Tim, was present at the unveiling of the plaque organized by the Association of Friends of Vienna’s Jewish Museum as well as by the City of Vienna. A gala presentation was dedicated to the great film maker within the framework of the Viennale.

Born in Vienna, Zinnemann emigrated in 1929 to the USA, where he worked as an assistant in stage direction, director of short films and soon as studio director. Zinneman became well known, above all, through his films, “People on Sunday” (1929), “From Here to Eternity” (1953) and “A Man for All Seasons” (1966).

Zinnemann, who received five Oscars and was nominated six different times, died in 1997 at the age of eighty-nine in London of a heart attack. At the gala in Vienna’s cinema Metrokino the film “The Men” (1950) with Marlon Brando was shown.

Viennale 2009 – Frederic Morton: “Foreigners are the New Jews“

Austrian Press Agency (APA) 10/27/2009

Documentary presented in Vienna by Andrea Eckert on the successful author who emigrated – “When I was 15 I always wanted to be a film star, and at 85, I was one.

Vienna – In February of 1940 Fritz Mandelbaum was forced to flee Vienna from the Nazis. In the USA he became a celebrated author under the name of Frederic Morton.  On the occasion of his 85th birthday, which the Jewish writer celebrated three weeks ago, the documentary film, “Homebound Through the World. The Lifetime Journey of Frederic Morton,” introduced by Andrea Eckert, was presented. “It was a great shock to see myself for the first time on the big screen,” said Morton during a conversation with the Austrian Press Agency (APA). “When I was fifteen, I always wanted to be a film star and now with eighty-five I was one.”

“It is very rare to experience oneself and life story in film. What initially surprised me was how bald I was,” joked the prominent guest at the festival, “but the second impression was how clever Andrea Eckert was in weaving the individual passages together, connecting the interviews with pictures of the city.”

He also learned something about himself in that when he speaks English he is an entirely different person. “I have more authority, am more direct, which probably comes from my thinking and writing in English.” When it concerns an intellectual topic, I have to think very carefully and nuanced when speaking in German – “that is much more difficult.”

Andrea Eckert lets Morton tell his life story, accompanying him through his former native city and speaking with him in his new home of New York, illustrating his words with related pictures. “We met at a dinner party at which time she suggested to me that we do a project together. Then we began shortly thereafter filming during one of my visits in Vienna. At the beginning it was difficult speaking about all the terrible memories in front of the camera,” said Morton. Only when in New York the conversations turned to English and once he knew the crew better he appeared more relaxed.

Today when he comes to Austria he notices the strong impression “of the enormous contrast between Vienna of his childhood and Vienna today. During the 1930s Vienna was so poor that one can hardly imagine it and today it is the most desirable city in the world to live. When I walk on the street and notice how clean everything is and then come back to New York, I have the feeling that New York is a slum - and I have to tell you that I don’t live in a bad area. During those days it was just the opposite.”

Saddening, however, are the signs in the city speaking out against the foreigners. “The foreigners are the new Jews,” reflected Morton. “When one goes through Vienna’s telephone book, one comes across many names of Czech origin.

The FPÖ would say that they have assimilated into the Austrian culture. But the non-Austrians of today would also surely assimilate. I think, the more tolerant the Viennese are of the new immigrants, the more they would take part and integrate into Viennese life – just as the Czechs and Jews contribute to Austrian culture, they will do likewise.”

Morton is considered the master of the uncanny satire and has celebrated his greatest successes with such works as “The Rothschilds: A Portrait of a Dynasty” and the Vienna volumes, “A Nervous Splendor, 1888-1889,” “The Forever Street,” and “Thunder at Twilight 1913/1914.” Today when he looks back, the most important moment was when he met his wife who, unfortunately, has died. “

She united the best qualities of Europe and America,” said the eighty-five year-old who is still very ambitious and hopes that he “can continue living a few more years like he is doing now. My parents lived long, so I have a lot of hope.” His motto is and remains the same: “Principally, I am a pessimist, but it is healthy to act like an optimist.”

Danielle Spera as New Director of the Jewish Museum

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (11/30/2009)

Vienna – Moderator for ORF Daniella Spera (52) will take over as director of the Jewish Museum in Vienna beginning July 1, 1010. As Councillor for Cultural Affairs Andreas Mailath-Pokorny and Deputy-Mayor Renate Brauner officially revealed at a press conference, out of the fourteen persons applying for the position, Spera convinced the selection board with her concept, her personal background and her experience in public relations and journalism.

The Museum should do more to open its doors to a wider public, revealing the real “treasures” of the institution. Her contract runs for five years. “I have followed the development of the Museum with great enthusiasm from its very beginning but was only sad that I was mostly here alone as a visitor,” said the future Museum’s director, who succeeds Karl Albrecht-Weinberger.

With her focus on opening the Museum up for a new public, Spera outrivaled other prominent competitors like filmmaker Ruth Beckermann or director of the new Jewish Museum in München Bernhard Pruin. She fails to bring the experience which the Museum mentioned as desirable in the announcement; however, she will use her high profile in the service of Vienna’s museums,” emphasized Brauner. In the future a visit to the Jewish Museum will “be a self-understood matter,” particularly for tourists.

Spera, for whom Jewry in view of its culture and religion is a “very personal matter,” would first of all like to deliberate with the Museum’s team; moreover, she is already in negotiation over an increase in subsidies from the City of Vienna in terms of the budget (currently at 3.8 million Euros). With its 15,000 objects, the Museum is “a well-sorted bookshop” with an “excellent team of curators” managing the institution but “only unfortunately, almost at the exclusion of the public,” said Spera.

It is “her passion” to change this by attracting new groups of society, particularly those among the non-Jewish population, and allowing them “to experience Jewry,” by “removing their initial fears”, speaking to young people by way of school projects and offering stronger attractions for tourists by creating the opportunity for them “to look for traces and roots” in Vienna. “Tourists looking for Jewish Vienna should not just by chance visit the Museum,” said Spera, who would also like to have more internet coverage, a weblog and have the Museum participate in more social networks.

The journalist, who has “very good contacts” with the Jewish Community in Vienna as well as with that in Miami, Los Angeles and New York, with international Jewish museums is planning for more cooperation. Likewise she would like to work more closely together with the film archive, Ö-1 archive, and with the Zoom Children’s Museum. The motto will be to “not only exhibit objects, but also use the museum for events and discussion as a platform for Jewish life in Vienna. She, herself, wants “her presence felt” in the Museum, explained Spera.

Daniella Spera was born on August 10, 1957 in Vienna as the child of Jewish parents, studied journalism and political science in Vienna, receiving her PhD in 1983, and has been working with ORF since 1978. Following her work as an advisor to the editing staff as well as a foreign correspondent, she became in 1988 a moderator to one of the most influential personalities of “Zeit im Bild.” In addition, she was, among other things, author of the book, “Nitsch – Life and Work,” and journalist for the Jewish cultural magazine, “Nu.”

Congratulations were received, also from the opposition party. Head of the neo ÖVP party Christine Marek was very happy that one “selected a highly competent woman”: I am convinced that she will contribute greatly with her commitment and passion in order to strength a valuable and significant institution in Vienna.”

Los Angeles Holocaust Museum Distinguishes Austrian for Lifetime Work

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (09/26/2009)

Political Scientist Maislinger founded the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service volunteering at Holocaust memorial sites

Vienna – The founder of the international Holocaust Memorial Service “Gedenkdienst”, Austrian Andreas Maislinger, will be honored for his lifetime work by the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum. A press release by the Museum stated that his “ten-year struggle” to establish a Volunteer Holocaust Memorial Service, will finally be distinguished. The award will be officially presented on November 8, 2009.

Maislinger, born in St. Georgen near Salzburg, founded the organization “Gedenkdienst” in 1992 as well as the Verein “Österreichischer Auslandsdienst” (organization “Austrian Service Abroad”), of which he serves as official director. The fifty-four year-old political scientist is the publisher of numerous publications on contemporary history and often heads seminars, such as the Braunau Conference on Contemporary History (“Braunauer Zeitgeschichte Tage”) in Upper Austria. Likewise he is committed to projects promoting highly talented children. He was distinguished by receiving the Medal of Service of the Province of Tyrol and with the Decoration of Honour in Silver for Services to the Republic of Austria.

The “Gedenkdienst” is a politically independent organization, which deals with the causes and consequences of National Socialism and its crimes. Since 1992 it assigns volunteers to countries where Holocaust survivors, who suffered crimes perpetrated by the Nazis and their accomplices, are living today.

During their service young Austrians care for the elderly or work in archives and museums. The service provided by these young men is primarily financed by the Republic of Austria and serves as a substitute for military service. Young Austrian women have the possibility of working with the voluntary service within the framework of the European Voluntary Service (EVS).

The organization “Austrian Service Abroad” is one of the sponsor organizations recognized by the Ministry of the Interior which offer Austrians one year of completing civil service as an alternative to military duty. This can be achieved by volunteering in one of the organizations such as the Holocaust Memorial Service, the Social Service or the Peace Service.

The volunteers volunteering for “Gedenkdienst” work with survivors of National Socialism, particularly Jewish victims of NS persecution. The work at various Holocaust Memorial sites throughout the world involves mainly organizing tours or delivering lectures at universities and schools, as well as conducting talks with contemporaries who witnessed the Holocaust and documenting their stories in order to maintain remembrance for posterity.

Vienna Wiesenthal Institute Makes Progress towards Full Operation

Austrian Federal Chancellery (01/18/2010)

After a turbulent year, the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) is taking an important step towards full operation. In February the go-ahead will be given for digitalization of the documents made available by the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG).

In 2009 a conflict arose between Jewish Community President Ariel Muzikant and the founding head of the Institute, Anton Pelinka, on the use of the archives for research purposes. In the wake of this dispute, the previous Executive Committee resigned. As the new VWI Chairman of the Executive Committee, Georg Graf, recently stressed, the conflict has been resolved.

The members of the Academic Advisory Board, who had also resigned, will be back on board (new appointment in 2010). As the Executive Committee member Bertrand Perz explained, the Jewish Community had agreed to make all the material relevant to the Holocaust available. The new VWI Business Manager is contemporary historian Bela Rasky with a proven track of international experience.

The Vienna Wiesenthal Institute, predominantly financed by the Federal Republic and the municipality of Vienna, is expected to become fully operational at Palais Strozzi in Vienna’s Josefstädterstraße in 2012.

Muzicant: Vienna Jewish Community Working on an Immigration Model for Jews

Austrian Press Agency (09/20/2009)

Vienna – Vienna’s Jewish Community (IKG) is working the next few years on the goal of inviting Jewish citizens from abroad to come to Austria to live. “When the crisis has calmed down somewhat and we again are back to normal economic growth, the religious community will begin trying to provide possibilities for immigration within controlled parameters,” said Jewish Community President Arial Muzicant in an interview with the Austrian Press Agency. The conflict with the Wiesenthal Institute has meanwhile been resolved, and also a solution to the question of Jewish cemeteries is currently within view.

The Jewish Community wants some 500 to 1,000 Jews per year to integrate in Austria. “Today the Jewish Community has 7,000 members and the goal must be to raise the number to 25,000 within a certain time frame. We have the infrastructure”, said Muzicant.

The current dilemma is that “the number of Jews in Austria is decreasing because many are leaving the country. At the same time the number of people who are registered with the religious community is increasing. People appear to feel being represented.” Muzicant bases his assumption on the fact that the number of Jews in Austria during the past twenty years has decreased by some 5,000 whereas the number of Jews who are registered with the religious community increased by some 1,500.

“We are considering models which allow us to bring to Austria people who are easily integrated in the society and, above all, in the economy,” said Muzicant. “That means people who within a short period of time are also in the position to take care of themselves by integrating into the working world.” These people most likely would come from Western- as well as Eastern Europe and would also then become a member of the religious community. Muzicant: “Due to the country’s excellent infrastructure and due to our good reputation there is also a real wish by some living in Europe to come to Austria.” Currently a commission headed by Ilan Knapp is working on the project.

In the case of Vienna’s Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI), the situation has meanwhile calmed down after the resignation of the seven member board. “I regret that there were differences, but I think that it was a mistake on both sides to allow the whole thing to escalate. Basically, it was friends who were arguing.

In terms of the religious community it was never a question whether all or only a part of the Jewish Community’s relevant archives from WW II would be lent out or that researchers, historians and other interested persons would be allowed access to the archives.

The Wiesenthal Institute, however, must be aware of the fact that the Jewish Community has certain security requirements that need to be met when microfilming or digitalizing material, that the Jewish Community is the sole owner of the archive and that it must remain so, no matter if it concerns removing originals from the archive or simply making copies,” explained the Jewish Community president. In any case, no one in Austria would ever understand bringing an early end to the Wiesenthal Institute only because of a dispute over microfilming rights.

As to the renovation of Jewish cemeteries, there has been some progress after a  somewhat lengthy debate. The Jewish Community received last fall an invitation from Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann and Vice Chancellor Josef Pröll to sit together at a roundtable meeting. Muzicant said that “it’s coming to a solution which sees administering the maintenance of all Jewish cemeteries.

This does not, however, mean renovating devastated cemeteries such as Währing. And when money is lacking, then one should take it into consideration next time when balancing the budget,” said Muzicant who referred back to the suggestion made by former Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel. In any case, Minister of the Interior Maria Fekter agreed to security measures for the new center in the Prater. Muzicant: “Progress is in the making.”

The Jewish Community also is moving forward in terms of a project located at Vienna’s Handelskai: there the SC Hakoah will share various amenities such as the sports facilities and kindergarten with the Austrian Trade Union (ÖGB). “We are now neighbors,” said Muzicant. “That means that we will be cooperating with one another, enriching ourselves, and I find that also an excellent development. The ÖGB is indeed a fine neighbor.”