April 12, 2009
With the creation of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, the City of Vienna will become a leading location for historical research on the Shoa. The institute named after Simon Wiesenthal, who passed away in 2003 and would have been one hundred years old this year, will serve as a research institute for visiting scholars and as a showcase for themed exhibitions. It will house Holocaust-relevant records of the Jewish Community Vienna, together with the documentation collected by Simon Wiesenthal. The archives will be made accessible for researchers and the interested public. The establishment of the Wiesenthal Institute in Vienna is one of several priorities of the new Austrian government in the field of Holocaust remembrance and restitution included in the program issued by the new government on December 2, 2008.
We are happy to provide you with a broad range of articles on recent cultural highlights and news that were published in the Austrian media.
Director of the Press & Information Service
Embassy of Austria
Current Events, Symposia and Cultural News
Vienna to become the international centre of Holocaust research (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
Vienna’s Center for Shoah Research (Der Standard)
Simon Wiesenthal’s 100th Birthday Commemorated with Ceremonial Act (Austrian Press Agency)
The Legacy of Holocaust Survivors (Austrian Press Agency)
Johannes Mario Simmel (Austrian Press Agency)
Exhibition “Places of Remembrance“ in Währing (Austrian Press Agency)
Kardinal Schönborn Meets with Rabbi Schneier (Austrian Press Agency)
Spots of Light – To be a Woman during the Holocaust (Der Standard)
Spots of Light – To Be a Woman During the Holocaust (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
Taken from “Hell“ Out into the Whole World (Der Standard)
Vienna’s Jewish Museum Presents Exhibition on Composer Hanns Eisler (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
Arnold Schönberg – Who I am (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
“I Have Never Read the Diary“(Die Presse)
“Memorial for victims of the NS Regime erected in St. Pölten (Austrian Press Agency)
A Tour behind the Facades of Linz (Die Presse)
Museum in Vienna’s 15th District: Lecture on the “Jewish Community on the Outskirts of the City” (Austrian Press Agency)
Modern Jewish Women of Vienna (Der Standard)
An Evening in the Epstein Palace with Texts by Anton Kuh (Austrian Press Agency)
Jewish Museum Dedicates Exhibition to Prejudice (Die Presse)
On the Anniversary of the Death of Joseph Roth: The Fallen (Die Presse)
Government Program 2008-20012
“Report on Restitution 2007 (Austrian Press Agency)
Hannah Lessing Receives Second Highest French Decoration (Austrian Press Agency)
Book Review “The Wodaks – Exile and Return. A Double Biography”
Leap into Darkness: Seven Years on the Run in Wartime Europe by Leo Bretholz (Author), Michael Olesker (Author)
Vienna to become the international centre of Holocaust research
Austrian Federal Chancellery (01/05/09)
Before the end of the year the City of Vienna, which has always advocated a Simon Wiesenthal Institute in Vienna, made available the necessary financial funds. The Municipal Council agreed to provide a multi-annual subsidy to the association “Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies”. The City of Vienna will grant the association 1.3 million euros up to 2011 for establishing the Institute. Vienna is to become a leading research location for all topics concerning anti-Semitism, racism and the Holocaust. As from 2012 onwards, the Institute will be accommodated in Palais Strozzi (8th district of Vienna).
Vienna’s Center for Shoah Research
Der Standard (12/31/08 – 01/01/09)
The institute named after Simon Wiesenthal, which is temporarily in operation, will be promoting research on the Shoah.
Vienna –The new institution bearing the name of former “Nazi hunter” Simon Wiesenthal who died in 2003 will be up and running in January. The offices will be initially housed on the premises of the Jewish Community Vienna because Palais Strozzi in the Josefstäder Straße must first be adapted to house the facilities. The Vienna City Council awarded the new institution funding in the amount of 1.3 million Euros.
“Whereas research conducted by institutes in the United States and Israel focused on the search for Nazi perpetrators, the mandate of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies will be rather to create a contact point for Shoah research by bringing renowned researchers to Vienna,” stated Ingo Zechner, newly chosen director of the institute.
Until now such an emphasis was lacking in Austria, said Zechner. Particularly from a central European perspective, one will be able to “connect the research conducted on Nazi perpetrators with that regarding the Shoah and their victims,” added Bertrand Perz from the University of Vienna’s Institute for Contemporary History. The anti-Semitism in Austria which finally led to the annihilation of the Jews during the Nazi era was founded on a pseudo-scientific basis.
There is still a great deal of research material in the archives which lies fallow and until now was used only when processing restitution claims. This includes that portion of the archives of the Jewish Community Vienna transferred to Jerusalem sixty years ago which one wants to bring back to Vienna as microfilm, as well as the “Herklotzgasse” archives, rediscovered in year 2000. In addition, there are documents of the Jewish Community Vienna originating from NS times, mixed together with older material, such as “Sigmund Freund’s evaluation of his religious tax.”
Thus, it is this pool of material, together with the Wiesenthal collection, about 8,000 documents in Vienna including records on NS perpetrators and NS crimes, which are to be merged and consolidated. This was the plan which the man who would have been exactly one hundred years old on December 31 created together with the help of others.
Simon Wiesenthal, born 1908 into a Jewish family in Buczacz in Galicia, studied architecture in Prague. He worked as a civil engineer until 1941 and was arrested by the Germans who were on the march in what is today known as Ukraine and brought to a concentration camp.
Punishing the Perpetrators
Subsequently, he survived twelve concentration camps and swore to himself to assure the perpetrators be prosecuted. After having been freed from the concentration camp Mauthausen, he worked for the “U.S. War Crime Service.” In Linz his office was situated merely two houses away from the residence of Adolf Eichmann, considered one of the main persons responsible for the murdering of six million European Jews. Eichmann later received the death penalty and was executed in Israel.
Wiesenthal succeeded in getting hold of a series of NS perpetrators, among them numerous Austrians. “Official” Austria, influenced by former Federal Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and the Waldheim Affair, avoided him for many years. Only beginning with the 1990s did one honor him. With the founding of the Wiesenthal Institute, it is now time to think about taking further steps, said Perz; namely “about creating a university professorship for Holocaust research.”
Simon Wiesenthal’s 100th Birthday Commemorated with Ceremonial Act
Austrian Press Agency (APA) (01/23/2009)
Muzicant against a one-sided perception of Wiesenthal as ‘Nazi hunter’ – coins and stamps are in the planning
Vienna – The 100th birthday of the late Simon Wiesenthal was honored with a ceremonial act in Vienna. Ariel Muzicant, President of the Israelite Community of Vienna (IKG), expressed his wishes against a one-sided reception of the anniversary: “I have always fought against his being characterized as ‘Nazi hunter.’ In commemoration of his birthday on December 31, plans are being made for a limited edition of a coin and stamp.
“At the beginning I had a rather complex relationship to Simon Wiesenthal,” recalled Muzicant during his welcoming speech at the Vienna Palace of Lower Austria. Very quickly, however one discovered that we were pursuing common goals.
One common goal and special wish, among other things, was to establish a Simon Wiesenthal Institute which was finalized last year with the designation of an appropriate location along with necessary funding, ‘”creating great joy,” said Muzicant.
Israeli journalist Tom Segev, whose biography of Wiesenthal will appear this year in print, gave testimony to Wiesenthal in a lecture entitled, “The Lonely Humanist.” He admitted that for him, Wiesenthal was “a refugee who lost everything in his life except his accent.” The question which was often asked was why Wiesenthal lived, of all things, in Vienna, and the author answered simply: “Because he felt at home here.” What characterized Wiesenthal as humanist was that he never believed in collective guilt but in a “liberal system of law and justice.” He believed, however, also in remorse,” said Segev.
The Legacy of Holocaust Survivors
Austrian Press Agency (01/26/2009)
A “Letter to the Stars“ Presents a Unique Report to the International Holocaust Remembrance Day: ”The Last Witnesses“
Vienna – They were children and young people when they were humiliated, persecuted and expelled, and their families were murdered. Today some forty-five Austrian Holocaust survivors living in the U.S., Israel, England, Australia, South American and Austria, are telling their life stories.
The book, “The Last Witnesses,” which was presented on January 27 on the day the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated, is their legacy: the legacy of the “Last Witnesses.”
Now during their twilight years they tell how they were persecuted in Austria, how they survived the Holocaust in concentration camps, or while fleeing or in exile and how they dealt with the memories afterwards.
Until now hundreds of survivors have told their personal experiences to young people in the project “A Letter to the Stars,” the most substantial project of dealing with contemporary history which was being conducted throughout Austria’s schools. And many of them report that meeting with school children from the country which expelled them, has led for the first time to a feeling of reconciliation with the former country of their roots. “The circle has been closed,” said Dorit B. Whiteman, renowned U.S. psychologist, who was forced to flee in 1938. “The project has taken effect to the point that I can now stop hating Austria and the Austrians,” believe Max Lerner, who as fourteen year-old was able to escape as spies with the U.S. Army returned and arrested the Nazis from behind the lines. Ilse Cranmer, who fled while on a children transport to England, said: “Through engaging with these young people, I could close in peace.”
“The Last Witnesses,” which thanks to the support of Dr. Anton Wais, CEO of the Austrian Post was sent to hundreds of survivors throughout the world. The book is a unique, ambitious documentation.
The book of some 400 pages is a legacy of people still full of life who have learned, based upon their histories, what counts in life and how important it is to remain human. Or, as one survivor of Auschwitz who remained in Austria expressed: “I have learned that each one of us, in every life situation, has the opportunity to be helpful or mean, courageous or cowardly, human or inhuman, observant or ignorant. We must every day re-learn what it is to be human.”
Exhibition “Places of Remembrance“ in Währing
Austrian Press Agency (01/05/2009)
Vienna. The District Museum of Währing (Vienna’s 18th district) opened its doors once again on January 8, 2009 with an elaborate historical collection and special exhibition entitled, “Places of Remembrance.” The special exhibition focuses on Jewish cemeteries in Vienna’s district of Währing as well as Altona in Hamburg. It documents different kinds of approaches to Israelite burial sites. In Hamburg the area has been renovated for a fairly long time wheras the complex in Währing is in dire condition. Impressive photos and texts emphasize the importance of cultural memorials and encourage restoration of the cemeteries in the 18th district. The exhibition, “Places of Remembrance” runs until January 25.
Booklet on “The Jewish Cemetery” Obtainable Through Donation
The exhibition provides an informative, thirty-page booklet issued by the Museum’s Association of Währing. Appearing within the framework of the published series, “Our Währing” (4th booklet, 2008, Vol. 43), it’s entitled “The Jewish Cemetery of Währing (Place of Remembrance and Memorial of a World that Has Ceased to Exist)” and is made available by donation from those interested.
The special exhibition is curated by historian Tina Walzer, who has been involved for years doing research on the Israelite cemetery in Währing. A section of the documentation was offered by the the “Foundation for the Preservation of Historic Memorials in Hamburg.” A comparision drawn between the Jewish cemetery in Vienna’s district of Wahring and that of the cemetery in Hamburg’s Altona, one recognizes a number of parallels. The graves are somewhat the same in number, and both cemeteries suffered shocking destruction during the NS era. Graves of renowned personalities can be found in both cemeteries, as for example the grave of Mendelssohn’s family in Altona and the Hofmannsthal family in Vienna. The exhibition is under the auspices of President of Vienna’s Jewish Community Ariel Muzicant. Over the past few years Tina Walzer has emphasized the importance of restoring the Jewish cemetery in Wahring within the framework of tours and various other initiatives. The honorary team of the district’s Museum of Währing supports the efforts of the historian.
For more information, see: www.bezirksmuseum.at/waehring/
Johannes Mario Simmel
Austrian Press Agency (APA) (01/02/2009)
Best selling author a strong advocate of his political convictions
Vienna – Critics gladly ranked his works with those considered “sophisticated popular fiction” The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung even compared him with Germany’s newspaper, Bild. He tells fairytales of old and repackages them into a contemporary context. Nevertheless, the allegation that he recycles clichés never held true for the best selling author Johannes Mario Simmel, native of Vienna who lived decades in Switzerland, using a socio-critical approach in his literature.
Simmel, himself, characterized his novels as “faction,” containing a mixture of fact and fiction. Using such ingredients, the author was highly successful in selling to his audience some seventy-three million copies of his books for decades throughout thirty-five various countries.
Also outside the field of literature, Simmel was a strong advocate of his political convictions. Writing about neo-Nazis, he said: “Once the main representatives of the “Herrenrasse” either had club feet, like Goebbels, or were fat, morphine-addicts, like Göring. Now they are like small boys with glandular deficiencies, who overcompensate for their anxieties when faced with girls.” In 1996 the author was acquitted from charges of having been maliciously slandering the head of the Freedom Party, Jörg Haider. In 2004 he spoke out against the coalition of the Freedom Party and the Social Democratic Party in Carinthia and broke with the Social Democratic movement in Austria after having supported them for years.
Simmel, who was born on April 7, 1924, in Vienna, spent his childhood in both Vienna and England. His parents came from Hamburg where his father was a chemist and his mother was an editor in film publishing. Many of his relatives on the Jewish side of his father’s family were killed during the Nazi era, whereas his father survived by living in Great Britain. Simmel presented his first series of short novels when his was only seventeen years old with the title, “Encounters in the Fog,” which was published in 1947 by Zsolnay Publishers. After completing his education in chemistry, he worked as an interpreter for the U.S. occupation forces in Vienna after WW II. In 1948 he began writing for the “Welt am Abend” and became one of Austria’s youngest editors on culture. Willi Forst discovered him, using his talents as a writer of film screen plays.
In 1950 Simmel settled in Germany and traveled throughout the world as a reporter for the magazine, “Quick.” Using seven different pseudonyms, such as Robert Faber, Justus Spitzweg and Pinguin, among others, he became a prolific writer whose reports and later on novels were awarded for their detailed research. At that time Simmel was considered the best paid writer for illustrated magazines. From 1950 to 1962 he wrote screenplays, drawn from his own imagination as well as from others’ material, totaling some thirty-six films, including “Stefanie,” “Miracles Happen,” “Diary of One in Love,” “Hotel Adlon” and “Robinson Shouldn’t Die.”
“His great success,” according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine was written in 1960 when Simmel published “It Can’t Always Be Caviar.” The international best seller was filmed with O.W. Fischer and was also produced as a television series. In the same year his piece written for the theater, “The School Friend,” captured the stages at home and abroad, and the drama was filmed with Heinz Rührmann.
Ever since the breakthrough with the series, Simmel’s success was on the rise. It was followed by “To the Bitter End” in 1962, a novel about alcoholism, and personal affliction by the author, himself. “Love is Just a Word” depicts the cheap world of the wealthy and tells of a love that is condemned to fail. In fall of 1971 Simmel reached the top of the German best seller list with “The Caesar Code” and “The Stuff Dreams are Made Of,” along with two other books.
“Hurray we’re still Alive,” a novel about post-war Germany with numerous autobiographic incidents inserted, was filmed in 1983 by Peter Zadek bearing the title, “The Wild Fifties.” During the 1980s and 1990s, Simmel worked on “The Clowns Brought the Tears” and “The Skylarks are Singing for the Last Time in spring,” involving problems of the environment.
In the meantime, the author has succeeded in capturing also the “sublime halls” of research at Boston University where there is a “Johannes Mario Simmel Collection of books and letters by the author, accessible to students of German Language and Literature. He described his motivation for work in the following: “I will continue writing in order to avoid the Armageddon because a miracle could happen. And he who doesn’t believe in miracles is no realist.”
In November 2004 Federal President Heinz Fischer awarded the author the Grand Decoration of Honor in Silver for Services to the Republic of Austria during a celebration held in St. Gallen. The Austrian Head of State stated that he had “always held Simmel in high esteem for his stance, his ethos and clear words.” In March 2005 the author was awarded with the Federal Cross of Merit, 1st Class by the Federal Republic of Germany’s Order of Merit.
Cardinal Schönborn Meets with Rabbi Schneier
Austrian Press Agency (02/06/2009)
Native Viennese rabbi is the founder and head of “Appeal of Conscience Foundation,” which strives toward achieving interreligious dialogue worldwide
Vienna – Cardinal Christoph Schönborn met with Rabbi Arthur Schneier, founder and head of “Appeal of Conscience Foundation.” The Viennese Archbishop is member of the “Appeal of Conscience Foundation,” which tries to achieve interreligious dialogue worldwide. The friendly exchange between Cardinal Schönborn and the rabbi dealt primarily with the issues of Jewish-Christian dialogue.
Rabbi Schneier has been the spiritual head of New York’s Park East Synagogue since 1962. Pope Benedict XVI was a guest of Rabbi Schneier at the Park East Synagogue during his visit to the U.S. in 2008. During the coming week, Rabbi Schneier will travel together with a large Jewish delegation to Rome for a previously long-planned visit. Pope benedict XVI will receive the delegation led by Rabbi Schneier on Thursday.
Spots of Light – To be a Woman during the Holocaust
Der Standard (02/10/2009)
The multi-media exhibition runs from April 1 – 31 in the Nestroyhof Theater
More than three hundred million women and young girls were murdered during the Holocaust. The exhibition, “spots of light,” under the curatorship of Yehudit Inbar, sheds light on the role women played during WW II. NS ideology demanded the extermination of the “entire Jewish race,” with women representing bearers of fertility within the policy of persecution. However the goal of the exhibition is not to retell the mass murder by the Nazis but rather the focus is on the reactions of Jewish women to their lives and situation during the Holocaust.
Having adapted to a patriarchal society, many women found themselves suddenly in the position of head of the family, having to provide food and secure “minimal functions of the family despite the difficult circumstances.” Women possess the ability to function, also under existential pressures,” said Inbar.
Spots of Light – To Be a Woman During the Holocaust
Austrian Federal Chancellery (03/16/2009)
Under the aegis of Federal President Heinz Fischer, the international exhibition “Spots of Light – To Be a Woman During the Holocaust,” curated by Yehudit Inbar of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, is shown at Vienna’s Nestroyhof Theatre –Hamakom (Vienna’s 2nd district, Nestroyplatz 1) from April 1 to May 31, 2009. Jewish women during the Holocaust applied their minds at a place that threatened to deprive them of their minds, brought strength to a place where they had no strength, where they marched all the way to death and invested every additional moment of life with meaning.
The exhibition “Light Spots“ attempts to present the human history concealed behind the historical facts and to create space for the unique voice of women based on forty-five various stories. The visitor should always bear in mind that these events and incidents reflect an abyss of evil reaching unparalleled dimensions. More than three million women and girls were killed during the Holocaust. NS ideology called for the annihilation of the entire Jewish “race”. Women endowed with fertility were a main target of persecution. The forty-five stories of women encompass subjects like love, motherhood, caring for others, life as a partisan, everyday life, friendship, religion, food and art.
Screenings of outstanding films (e.g. by Anja Salomanowitz, Yaron Silberman and Michael Deutsch) accompany the program, presenting the various fates of Jewish women.
Taken from “Hell“ Out into the Whole World
Der Standard (02/10/2009)
One hundred twenty years of Jewish cabaret in Vienna is currently being shown and celebrated in LEO (Letztes Erfreuliches Operntheater)
Vienna – Before the turn of the 20th century, an intellectual Jewish culture blossomed in Vienna which, beginning with enormous artistic energy with the creation of “Hölle” (“Hell”) and “Fledermaus” (“Bat”) conquered the stages of the entire German-speaking region, then finding exile in Paris and Shanghai during WW II. Vienna is celebrating its 120th anniversary of Jewish cabaret with a festival in Vienna’s LEO organized by the Armin Berg Society.
Directors of the Society, Marie-Theres Arnbom and Georg Wacks began already in 2003 researching the old cabaret programs while at the same time revitalizing performances of these largely forgotten works. At that time Wacks and Arnbom discovered an abundance of scores and texts, written by Viennese cabaret artists, which were lying dormant in old archives - works by Armin Berg, Fritz Grünbaum, Heinrich Eisenbach and others.
Yielding the most interesting information is the research material located in the archives of censored works held in Lower Austria’s Regional Archives, says Arnbom: “Every theater that wanted to perform a work had to submit their scores, which underwent meticulous scrutiny. Some of Grünbaum’s texts were discovered having numerous variations.” It’s astonishing “how texts were censored according to different criteria.”
One particularly valuable find for the Armin Berg Society was an index of archives detailing censored works that tells exactly when and where a program was performed, providing an important key as to the everyday lives of artists who often performed in different variety theaters within the same evening - not failing to mention that they often were previously performed in an operetta “I ask myself when they slept because during the day they were writing the scores and sat around in coffee houses!”, said Arnbom who is curator of the exhibition, “One Hundred Twenty Years of Jewish Cabaret” in LEO and at the same time has published a book with the same title.
Georg Wack is responsible for providing the more “practical” side of researching cabaret. He wants to perform the recovered texts “not in the manner of taking on a museum-like quality” but rather finding today’s kind of performance: “I would like to entertain the audience in terms of living the spirit of the times much like the original artist.” To do so means that the texts must be brought into a bit more modern context: daily political references have to be crossed out and sensitive topics have to be presented differently.
Wacks: “There are entire parts of texts which one would find today as racist or anti-Semitic, which reflect how it was and yet was received differently in those days. Jewish cabaret artists often made fun of themselves, along with their in largely Jewish audience. At that time everyone understood that, but today it would be problematical.” To what extent this balancing act is successful can be seen in numerous programs within the framework of the festival which runs until March 12.
Vienna’s Jewish Museum Presents Exhibition on Composer Hanns Eisler
Austrian Federal Chancellery (03/02/2009)
With the exhibition “Hanns Eisler, People and Mass,” the Jewish Museum of Vienna continues its series “Music in Transition,” running until July 12, 2009. It documents Hanns Eisler’s works against the background of the history of three generations of the Eisler family. Eisler’s life and work and his special relationship with Vienna are examined from the perspective of the complexities of European contemporary history. The composer was born as the son of Viennese philosopher Rudolf Eisler in Leipzig in 1898. He lived in Vienna during several different epochs. The last years of the Empire, WW 1, the “Red Vienna” of the 1920s, the beginning of Austro-Fascism, his subsequent exile as well as the post-war years – each of these periods marked a new beginning in the life and work of Eisler - Vienna became a key venue in his biography.
He was only fourteen years old when he studied Socialist and anarchistic theories. After abandoning his studies at the New Vienna Conservatory he studied privately with Arnold Schönberg and also Anton Webern – Eisler formed part of the avant-garde of the music scene.
Eisler broke with Schönberg because he wanted art to have practical effects so as to mobilize the mass politically. He shared this view for example with Bertold Brecht, with whom he started to cooperate closely in the 1930s, later during his exile in the USA and finally in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). He composed more than eighty pieces of music for the cinema and the stage, e.g. for Brecht’s plays including “The Mother” (1932), “Fear and Misery of the Third Reich” (1945), Galileo (1947) and “Schweik in the Second World War” (1957). Up to 1955 Eisler moved frequently between Vienna and East Berlin, where he was appointed professor at the University of Music and was admitted to the Academy of Arts. The composer of the national anthem of East Germany as well as of didactic folk and children’s songs was no undisputed in the GDR. Like Brecht he did not give up his Austrian passport and second home. Hanns Eisler, who had written his most fascinating composition for Arnold Schönberg’s 70th birthday (1941) – an absolutely undidactic quintet: “Fourteen Ways of Describing the Rain” – died in 1962.
Arnold Schönberg – Who I am
Austrian Federal Chancellery (03/16/2009)
The Vienna-based Arnold Schönberg Center (3rd district of Vienna, Schwarzenbergplatz 6) is presenting a multi-media exhibition about the composer (1874-1951) running until the end of the year. What makes “Who I am” so special is the fact that the exhibits are directly related to the life of Schönberg. The exhibition was designed by Nuria Schönberg Nono, daughter of the composer and widow of Luigi Nono.
The exhibition presents, for example, his study in Los Angeles with the original furniture, including pieces designed by himself. Moreover, Schönberg’s living room in Los Angeles, where the family often listened to classical music on the radio and read relevant scores – one of the “most beautiful memories” of Nuria – was reconstructed for the exhibit. Numerous copies of notebooks and manuscripts are available to the visitors for viewing. Highly interesting paintings by Schönberg himself and a recording device Schönberg used way before the invention of the tape recorder are also on display. The audiovisual highlight of the show – the music-video room – offers excerpts of quality listening, including those from Pierrot lunaireop. 21. www.schoenberg.at
“I Have Never Read the Diary“
Die Presse (02/16/2009)
by Helmut Hetzel
Anne Frank. Native Viennese, who saved the young girl from the Nazis, is 100 years old.
Den Haag. “I am now 100 years old. Still in relatively good health, that’s an impressive age which I’ve been lucky enough to live to see. In retrospect, I can safely say that luck was the recurrent theme running throughout my life.”
Those are the words coming from Miep Gies, friend and ally of Anne frank, who celebrated yesterday her 100th birthday. Gies, together with other Dutch friends, helped to conceal Frank for four years in the hiding place behind her house in Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam and brought her and her family and other friends food and drink.
All went well until ‘Anne Frank and the other Jews that had gone into hiding were denounced shortly before the end of WW II and deported to a NS concentration camp. It was there, in Bergen Belsen, that Anne Frank died in April, 1945, shortly before its liberation. Her diary, however, which she wrote in the hiding place in Amsterdam, lives on to this day. It made Anne Frank immortal.
It was Miep Gies who kept the manuscript, “Diary of Anne Frank,” until the end of the war and gave it Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, the only one of the Frank family that survived the Holocaust. Nonetheless, the 100 year-old Gies says today: “ I am not a hero; I only did it for my friend, Anne.”
Hidden in a Building Behind the House
Miep Gies-Santruschitz, her official first name is Hermine, was born February 15, 1909, in Vienna. She came to Holland as an eleven-year-old child in 1920, where she was taken in by the von Laurens Nieuwenburg family. After 1933, she worked as a secretary for Anne Frank’s father, Otto, in his firm, “Opekta.”
Because the persecution of the Jews in Holland, occupied by Nazi Germany in 1942, became worse, Otto Frank asked his secretary to help him and his family. Gies found a suitable address where the family could go into hiding together with other friends.
Memorial for victims of the NS Regime erected in St. Pölten
Austrian Press Agency (APA) (02/02/2009)
Art project should connect three sensitive places – deadline for submitting recommendation ends June 8
St. Polten – Lower Austria and its capital St. Pölten have indicated that they will hold a competition in remembrance of the victims of the NS regime. The memorial is to be erected in St. Pölten’s district of Viehofen. Where today the Viehofner Lake is located was once the site of a forced labor camp for Hungarian Jews as well as a work camp for so-called Eastern workers from 1944 to 1945, reported in a press release by “Art in the Public Domain of Lower Austria.”
“For sixty years the known existence of this camp was kept silent. An art project will now serve to remind one of this forgotten part of St. Pölten’s history,” said the initiators. The future memorial will put three sensitive places in touch with one another. Next to the two concentration camps is a mass grave located in the city’s cemetery. The deadline for submitting drafts for projects will be June 8.
A Tour behind the Facades of Linz
Die Presse (03/12/2009)
Jewish quarter, places of revolution and art of the future: With the “Austria Guide” Linz can be rediscovered
What’s hidden behind the façade? It appears damaged. Strips, both wide and narrow, without any plaster can be seen on the wall of the Brückenkopf building located on Linz’s central square; and beneath the stucco, red brick and grey grout peer through.
Standing in front of the house, Casimir Paltinger blinks from the spring sun. In a beige trench coat he stands in front of the LINZ09 information center, there where the Jewish family Samuely once sold confectionary goods, not very far from their residence, there where Hitler last had the Brückenkopf building built. Paltinger is an “Austria Guide,” a certified tour guide. The tour, which reveals the invisible and basically unknown sides of the city, is called “Linz, Transformed.” Also the house standing at the Brückenkopf will remain as is until the end of the year next to the installation, “Among Us.” Where the façade only apparently is breaking apart, artist Hito Steyerl abstracts the landmarks of expulsion, deportation and return, and let it be chiseled into the plaster. Like no other city, Linz has worked through its NS past. Through LINZ09, this section of history becomes a part of the cityscape, not only “Among Us,” but also the exhibition, “Cultural Capital of the Führer,” in the Schlossmuseum, or the temporary markers of historic sites of NS terror organized by “In Situ” (Dagmar Höss, Monika Sommer, Heidemarie Uhl) reminds one of everyday life during the NS era.
Through the narrow alleys of the old city a path leads to the “old market.” The theme, upon which it currently focuses is ‘red’ Linz, says Paltinger while walking. He means not only social democracy, but rather also the Communist influences in the city. There is still a lot more for him to research. “After the model of the Russian October Revolution, Linz saw workers and soldiers unions in 1918.
City of Fractures and Revolutions
Linz has always been a fractured city and site of revolutions. In the former Hotel Schiff, where “LINZ09 – Resting Place,” with cushions and insulations against noise is an oasis of quietude in the middle of the business sector of the city, civil war took place in February, 1934. Along the walkway, the “hostage columns” remind one of the historic figure, Stephan Fadinger, leader of the rebels during Upper Austria’s Peasant Wars in 1626, who met his death when riding up and down along the city walls until he was hit by a bullet from a guard belonging to the besieged city.
The “old market” lies quietly in the sun; at this time of day there is little hustle or bustle, something usually save for the evenings when people begin filling Linz’s old city’s bars and restaurants. One has to lower one’s view of the colorful facades in order to notice it, says Paltinger. Chiseled into the light colored cobblestones of the pavement is a square area not much larger than the normal size of a sausage stand: “Here stood the first synagogue of Linz.”
Linz has a well known Jewish tradition which reaches far back into history. Since the second half of the 13th century, Jewish families lived in the old city. Until 1420 there was a Jewish quarter, and it was not an isolated ghetto. Then came the years of persecution: Jews could choose between becoming christened or suffering death by fire. In the place of a synagogue dating from the Middle Ages, one built a chapel of the Trinity. It also failed to survive the centuries.
For more information, see: www.linz09.at
Museum in Vienna’s 15th District: Lecture on the “Jewish Community on the Outskirts of the City”
Austrian Press Agency (03/12/2009)
Vienna – The district museum of Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus (Vienna 15, Rosinagasse 4, Ecke Gasgasse) extends an invitation on March 15 to a lecture by Dr. Georg Traska. Within the framework of the series, “Culture and Coffee House,” the speaker lectures on the topic, “A Jewish Community in Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus on the Outskirts of Vienna (1830 – 1939).” Following the lecture guests are allowed to pose individual questions to Dr. Traska. The listeners in the audience receive an abundance of instructive information on the origin and development of the Jewish community in the 15th district. The speaker supplements his stories with video interviews, including with Israelis who grew up in Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus.
Ostracism, Persecution and Flight during the NS Era
Museum Director Dr. Thomas Benesch greets the guests. During the course of the evening the audience hears about which parts of the monarchy the members of the Jewish community in the western sector of Vienna came from. The speaker also goes into the careers of some of these citizens and analyzes in detail the social structure of the Jewish population and the other residents of the worker’s district. Jews living in Israel having Viennese roots recall memories of past times in the video interviews. The audience is confronted with varying, often shocking memories of some of the most important places connected to community life until the ostracism, persecution and flight when the NS era began. A dark chapter of the local history is discussed on an afternoon during a relaxed atmosphere of coffee and cake. Under the motto, “On the 15th in the 15th,” the museum team of honorary volunteers organizes interesting lectures and discussion on a regular basis.
Modern Jewish Women of Vienna
Der Standard (03/14/2009)
In her first novel, “Hashems Lasso,” Alexia Weiss describes how Jewish women in current-day Vienna are living with religious rules
Seven women, seven stories of lives from Vienna, New York and Israel that all cross each other’s paths in Austria. What connects the women is Judaism into which they were born or have deliberately decided for themselves. Their existence, their everyday life determines and is supported by, is influenced and inhibited by religious rules and traditions that often stand in contradiction to modern-day life.
There is Eva, daughter of Desirée. She wants to marry Daniel and it is to be a big, Jewish wedding. A “perfect celebration,” followed by a “perfect life,” as Alexia Weiss ironically writes in her first novel.
There is the Jewish woman Ruth who becomes acquainted with the non-Jew Andreas at a party and falls in love. But the relationship is too much for his and her parents, and ways of thinking and feeling previously unrecognized begin to appear. Slanderous anti-Semitic remarks from the one side, and reproaches that the son-in-law is not Jewish from the other escalate until Ruth concludes: “It’s my life and my decision,” she screams to her mother on the telephone.
Then there is Jennifer, who according to Halacha, is legally not Jewish because only her father is Jewish; the mother doesn’t belong to the religion and for that reason her registered affiliation with the religious community is purely a formality. Jennifer’s boyfriend wants their children to be born as Jews and therefore asks that she convert. But she has some doubts whether she is willing to take upon herself the far-reaching changes to her life that come with having to follow Orthodox rules. Above all, forbidding one to work on the Sabbath is something she struggles with when becoming a pediatrician.
In Search of Identity
Whether it is the rules passed down through the ages alone that determines the core of Judaism, or whether Jewish identity today could be defined other than how it’s defined today in Central Europe is one of the central questions that Weiss poses in her book. The Viennese journalist discovered only when she was eighteen that her mother is Jewish and ten years later she became a member of the Jewish community. The setting of the story takes place in the lively, diverse Jewish community of Vienna , making it special and a unique situation terms of approaching the problem.
What is described here in clear language and creates tension is the everyday life of the Jewish woman in current-day Vienna. Also Claudia, who is an enthusiastic convert to ultra-orthodox Judaism, and Jekaterina, the strongly religious Russian, who suffers from emotional speechlessness in her marriage, contribute to it as well.
The Shoah, with all its traumatic consequences, is not the main focus; in no way does that mean, however, that the story lacks any reference to history. Now enters Hanni, over eighty years old, who fled to the U.S. from the Nazis and travels to Vienna for the wedding of her grandson Daniel who wants to marry Eva. Hanni doesn’t think much of religious ritual. But Hashem, as religious Jews denote God, is prepared to win her over with his lasso of truth.
See: Weiss, Alexia. “Hashems Lasso.” Milena Publishers, Vienna 2009
An Evening in the Epstein Palace with Texts by Anton Kuh
Austrian Press Agency (03/25/2009)
A persecuted and forgotten author rediscovers his audience
Vienna – Anton Kuh was an Austrian author, essayist and feature writer who described events surrounding the fall of the Monarchy with humor and satire and sketched the literary customs and mood of the times between the two world wars. As a native of Vienna with roots in Prague’s Jewry, he lived from 1928 to 1933 in Berlin where he was expelled by the Nazis. Anton Kuh’s life was exemplary for an artist of his time: In 1938 he fled from Hitler’s occupation of Austria and landed in New York where he died in 1941. A reading from the works of the author who was briefly forgotten and then rediscovered was held in the Epstein Palace upon the invitation of President of the National Council Barbara Prammer. The coordinator of the exhibition in parliament, Peter Fritz, gave an introduction to the life and work of the author. Actor Stephan Paryla-Raky’s reciting the highpoints of Anton Kuh’s literary creations were received with much applause by the largely attended audience.
The reading took place in the magnificent Epstein Palace. President Barbara Prammer greeted her guests, putting them in the proper mood for the evening by recalling memories of the building’s history. The Epstein Palace was erected during the 19th century at the request of the private financier, Gustav von Epstein, who was known for his charity and commitment to culture. Every year he distributed a huge sum of money (an equivalent today of some 800,000 Euros) to those in need and organized social evenings in his residence to include lectures, concerts and discussions. After the palace on the Ringstraße served a multitude of purposes for centuries, the Parliament is now using it again, keeping Gustav von Epstein in mind, said President of the National Council with pride. She mentioned Leon Zelman, the founder of the Jewish Welcome Service in Austria, who would surely be happy with currenty-day use of the Epstein Palace, particularly also with the excellent progress of the “democracy workshop,” which found its home in the “Epstein” and has been well received by small children and young people alike.
Like Gustav von Epstein, Anton Kuh came from a German-Jewish family in Prague, said the president of the national council when speaking about the theme for the evening. Anton Kuh belonged to the circle surrounding Peter Altenberg, Egon Friedell and Alfred Polgar, she said, recounting his famous answer to the question: “What is a coffeehouse man of letters?” As a journalistic author, he responded in his typically incisive style: “A coffee house man of letters is a person who has the time to think about everything the man outside fails to experience.”
Anton Kuh also became famous as an extemporaneous speaker, somewhat in response to his literary opponent Karl Kraus at Vienna’s concert hall in 1925. In 1928 Anton Kuh went to Berlin and elated Max Reinhardt’s audience with his spontaneous speeches, which unfortunately, were rarely ever recorded for posterity.
Anton Kuh died in New York in 1941; his last wish to have the opportunity to experience the fall of Nazi Germany was never fulfilled, said President Prammer, expressing her satisfaction, however, with the rediscovery of the author who was persecuted by the Nazi Party.
The coordinator of the exhibition, Peter Fritz, represented Director General of the Austrian State Archive Lorenz Mikoletzky, who was unable to attend, and introduced the audience to the literary program on Anton Kuh.
Anton Kuh was born on July 16, 1890 as the son of the editor, Emil Kuh, from Prague and his wife, Auguste Pelsec, from Vienna. He took up contact with the coffee house men of letters and began writing feature stories for the newspapers, “Prager Tagblatt,” “Der Frieden” and “Der Morgen.” He also worked in Berlin for “Die Weltbühne.” The breadth of his writing is reflected in his volumes of essays, such as “Von Goethe abwärts” (1922), “Der unsterbliche Österreicher” (1930) and the collection of aphorisms, “Physiognomie” (1931). Anton Kuh died on January 18, 1941 in New York. Since the 1980s, his works continue to witness a revival in Austria through publications, memories by contemporaries like Milan Dubrovic or Géz von Cziffra and newspaper articles.
Viennese singer and actor Stephan Paryla-Raky, who recited from Anton Kuh’s work “Mann mit dem Monokel” and was received by the audience with hearty applause, is well known for his appearances in the Volkstheater, Josefstädter Theater, Kabarett Simpl and Graz’s Schauspielhaus, as well as his involvement with the international film productions, “Holocaust” and “Wagner.”
For more information and photo of the event, see: www.parlament.gv.at
Jewish Museum Dedicates Exhibition to Prejudice
Die Presse (03/31/2009)
The nose, the Jesus beard, the wealthy Jew – anti-Jewish resentment tends to take on very diverse forms. Vienna’s Jewish Museum is presenting an exhibition entitled, “Typical! Clichés about Jews and Others,” which hopes to sensitize people as to stereotypes and draw attention to prejudice. The “grand annual exhibition” offers an abundance of display and room for discussion.
The exhibition which could be seen in Berlin and Chicago last year restricts itself not only to anti-Semitic prejudice. “Anti-Semitism is not a unique phenomenon,” claimed chief curator Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek, “but rather goes hand in hand with racism, anti-Islamism and other forms of chauvinism.” For that reason the exhibition tries to combine these clichés in order to illustrate similar models of thinking and visualizing. When conceiving the exhibition, one started with oneself, looking for one’s own stereotypical approach. “Stereotypes help to bring order to the world and to find one’s place within the order,” said Heimann-Jelinek. Decisive, however, is when over-glorification of one’s own self occurs and the cliché upends itself by demonizing others.
“We are all used to mild racism, which we see every evening on the television,” explained Hannes Sulzenbacher, who helped organize the exhibition. For that reason one chose to approach the topic by exposing the viewer to advertising subjects as well as popular music, pithy with such clichés. The exhibition is divided into seventeen triptychs, each based upon a copy of a phenomenon in pop culture, somewhat like Marcel Reich-Ranicki’s figure of “Nörgeli,” having historical and artistic origins. The end of the closely-allied combination of clichés is capped with an installation created by the artist Lisl Ponger.
On the Anniversary of the Death of Joseph Roth: The Fallen
Die Presse (03/31/2009)
Joseph Roth died seventy years ago. The author of the “Radetzky March” is honored on television
One can hardly bear watching this man as he is drinking. He drinks like he writes - incessantly in the coffee houses of Vienna, Berlin and Paris. His ink pen flies over the pages, hectically crossing out passages, and meanwhile always with a hand around the glass. He looks like suicide incarnation. That was the writer Joseph Roth, who came from a middle class Jewish family who lived in the Galician city of Brody. With utmost clear sightedness he documented the fall of the Habsburg Monarchy, the terrors of war and Nazi rule. Very early on he grappled with Hitler in “The Spider’s Web” (1923), and with Stalinism in “The Silent Prophet” (1929).
“That’s who I really am – mad, drunk but clever,” he wrote unsparingly of himself beneath a sketch which Mies Blomsma made of him in November of 1938 in Paris. That is also the title of an excellent, one-hour TV documentary by Karl Pridun, who pursued Roth’s life journey beginning with his childhood on the Eastern border of the Monarchy until his miserable death in a hospital for the poor in Paris in May 1939. Quotations, photos, historic films and film adaptations are cleverly inserted, supplemented by contrived scenes and drawings. Biographer Wilhelm von Sternburg offers expertise (his book was recently published by Kiepenheuer & Witsch”) as well as historians Heinz Lunzer and Victoria Lunzer-Talos, whose magnificently illustrated book on Roth has undergone a new edition. Witness of the times Otto von Habsburg also expressed his reverence to the writer, who saw the decline of the Empire. From Paris, Roth and other enthusiasts of the monarchy wished for its return.
It is not really the political which is the main focus in Roth’s writings, but the experience of uprootedness. He moves from place to place with his wife Friederike, who is afflicted with schizophrenia beginning in 1928. Despite his high fees earned as a star journalist, Roth is always plagued by lack of money. The situation takes on a dramatic turn when his books are forbidden by the Nazis in 1933. He continues to write his most significant works, diligently and obsessed, testimonials of the big crises, both externally and internally, ennobled in a wonderfully clear language documenting the times.
Report on Restitution 2007
Austrian Press Agency (APA) (02/23/2009)
Outstanding development through the discovery of valuable archives at the Federal Historic Preservation Agency – since 2009 its own journal series on provenance research
Vienna – The Federal Ministry for Education, Art and Culture has posted a report on restitution 2007 on its website. Werner Fürsinn, head of the Commission for Provenance Research, together with researchers from individual institutions, have processed 150 applications by NS victims and their families regarding the fate of art works. In twenty-two cases, the restitution advisory board expressed recommendations for return of the works.
Five cases pertained to the Technical Museum of Vienna, four to the Belvedere Palace and the Museum of Ethnology, two to the Museum of Art History, two to the Museum of Theater and Museum of Applied Art/Contemporary Art (MAK). Outstanding developments have taken place regarding the research of restitution in Austria during year 2007, among other things, through the discovery of a valuable archive of files in the Federal Historical Preservation Agency, which since that time has been digitalized. At a workshop at the Technical Museum, a team attempted in March 2007 to match the sources of provenance research with methods and concepts. Also in 2007 Clemens Jabloner replaced Brigitte Böck as chairman of the restitution’s advisory board.
In the meantime, the Commission for Provenance Research began publishing a series of articles - the first volume of which - entitled, “….considerably more cases than had been assumed” (2009) - containd an introduction into the most recent research being conducted between legal and art experts, as well as its development in Austria since 1998.
Hannah Lessing Receives Second Highest French Decoration
Austrian Press Agency (APA) (04/01/2009)
Secretary General of the NS Victim’s Fund becomes “Chevalier dans l’Ordre National du Merite”
Vienna – High honors for the Secretary General of the Republic of Austria’s National Fund and of the General Settlement Fund for Victims of National Socialism, Hannah Lessing. She was designated “Chevalier dans l’Ordre National du Merite” by the French Ambassador. The national service award is considered France’s second highest decoration after membership in the Honored Legion.
The decoration awarded by French President Nicolas Sarkozy was presented in appreciation of Lessing’s services toward Austrian survivors of the Holocaust who are living today in France. Lessing has administered to people who were victims of the NS regimes in Austria and benefitted from the two funds since 1995. She was responsible for the implementation of the Washington Agreement, the goal of which was to take into consideration the material losses which were through previous restitution or indemnification measures never compensated for or were insufficiently compensated for. Of the some 30,000 people who submitted applications, about 300 are currently living in France. Lessing was recently reappointed by President of the National Council Barbara Prammer for the legislative period.
“The Wodaks – Exile and Return A Double Biography”
A book by Bernhard Kuschey with preface by Austrian President Heinz Fischer, Braumüller Publishers (2008)
With this double biography based upon extensive research of historical documents, letters and personal reports by key witnesses, Bernhard Kuschey delineates the personal fate of two people whose lives are fractured by Fascism, war and return to Austria. At the same time the book also offers a highly detailed picture of the political and social background of Austria between and after the war which defined an entire generation shaped by persecution, exile and return home, having also meaning for successive generations until today.
Walter Wodak began his diplomatic career initially in London. Erna Wodak, as wife of the diplomat, gave up her career as chemist. She gave birth in 1950 to an only daughter, Ruth Wodak. As diplomats the Wodaks were posted primarily in the socialist countries of Eastern Europe. During the Hungarian crisis of 1956, they were located in Belgrade while at the time of the invasion of Czechlosovakia in 1968, Wodak served as ambassador in Moscow. At both places they supported the dissidents. While serving as Secretary General of the Foreign Ministry, Walter Wodak suddenly died in 1974. Following the death of her husband, Erna Wodak resumed her work once more as a scientist working together with the Weizmann Institute in Israel, along with other institutions.
Walter Wodak (1908 – 1974), born the son of a religious Jewish manual worker in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt, immersed himself in the activities of Social Democratic organizations with leftist, international socialistic leanings. He suffered through the conflicts of the First Republic, studied law and worked on the so-called Marienthal Study. After the events of February 1934, he changed over to the Austrian Communist Party (KPÖ), started a family and joined the opposition wary of the ever-growing threat of the Anschluss.
Erna Mandel (1916 – 2003), as daughter of a prominent Rabbi in Vienna, was largely exposed to Vienna’s anti-Semitism. With the tragic death of her father, she distanced herself from Jewish tradition and began her studies in chemistry. After the Anschluss she was forced to give up her studies in Vienna and was exiled in 1939 to England, where, as a refugee, she was allowed to study in Liverpool. It was there that she met Walter Wodak.
With the Hitler-Stalin Pact in 1940, Walter Wodak turned his back on the KPÖ and gravitated toward Austrian socialist exile organizations. As a British soldier, together with Marie Jahoda and Stefan Wirlander, among others, he carried out masked propaganda to Vienna by way of the socialist radio, ‘Red Vienna.’
Following her studies, Erna Mandel went into research and worked with Chaim Weizmann, Engelbert Broda and other prominent scientists. Erna Mandel and Walter Wodak married in 1944 in England. Wodak returned to his beloved Vienna and worked in the British section of the Allied Commission, dedicating himself as a committed diplomat to the interests of Austria. His wife, unable to forget Austrians’ anti-Semitism and untrustful of post-war change in tone, never again felt truly at home in Vienna.
Author Bernhard Kuschey highlights the difficult process of finding oneself during exile in England, grasping the general political societal developments of the time reaching far beyond the biography of his protagonists. His depiction opens up interesting perspectives and questions that concerned the relationship of Jewish intellectuals to the social Democratic Party and the history of leftist opposition in Austrian Social Democracy.
Leap into Darkness
SEVEN YEARS ON THE RUN IN WARTIME EUROPE
A book by Leo Bretholz and Michael Olesker
Leap into Darkness is the sweeping memoir of a Jewish boy's survival, who survived the Holocaust by escaping from the Nazis not once, but seven times during his almost seven-year ordeal crisscrossing war-torn Europe.
Leo Bretholz fledhis native city of Vienna, Austria in 1938 at age of 17, when his
motherurgedhim to leave after the Germans' annexation (Anschluss) of Austria.
He swam across the Sauer River to Luxembourg on a chilly October night and
eventuallywas transportedto Antwerp, Belgium, wherehe remained for 18 months. When Belgium was invaded in May 1940,he was arrested as an "enemy alien," and
sent, along with many others, to an internment camp in Southern France.
Heescaped from that camp and was on the run for the next fiveyears,
constantly motivated by fear of being deported to a death camp.
In 1942Leo Bretholz and a friend escaped from a deportation train headed for
Auschwitz, originating in Drancy, the infamous transit camp near Paris.
He arrived in the U.S. in 1947and married in Baltimore, Maryland.
In 1998he wrotehis memoir entitled, "Leap Into Darkness,” co-authored by Michael Olesker. It chronicles the events duringhis years on the run in wartime Europe.
In 1999 the US Holocaust Museum in Washington chosehis book to be used
fortheir fundraising efforts.He ismost rewarded by the fact that numerous
school districts in the country have acquired "Leap Into Darkness" as a teachingtool for European History/Holocaust studies.
In 2005 "Leap Into Darkness" was translated into the German language and published in Vienna by Löcker Verlag under the title of "Flucht In die Dunkelheit."
From Publishers Weekly
Bretholz was 17 when, in 1938, the Germans took over his native Austria. His mother, more realistic than other relatives, saw disaster and insisted that he escape, which is what he did for the next seven years, traveling not only through Germany and Luxembourg but to Belgium, France and, briefly, Switzerland, to jails and numerous internment camps. Bretholz, relying often on his youthful agility and daring to save himself from much worse; escaped from a train headed for Auschwitz in 1942. He spent the last years of the war working for the French Resistance, emigrating in 1947 to Baltimore, where he ran a bookstore (frequented by co-author and Baltimore Sun columnist Olesker). Whether telling of running or hiding, every paragraph in his memoir is harrowing. In one wrenching story, he tells of a young female friend who is menaced by a gendarme while he is forced to stay hidden, "crouched on the floor, helpless, emasculated, sickened." Bretholz is also smartly observant of the Austrians, (“who will call themselves,"'first victims,' when the world loses its memory."); opportunistic Swiss; and the French, so many of whom claimed to be Resistance. In the midst of many improbable escapes, there is also a sense of almost exhilarating determination." I was now a miraculous athlete, a professional escape artist, a young man in perpetual flight. I was indomitable. Also, I was too terrified not to run for my life." For a man who assumed many false identities, the supreme irony came when Bretholz learned his true identity just six years ago, an event that provides a fitting climax to this inspiring and moving book.