Vienna’s Jewish Community Campus Officially Inaugurated by Austria’s Federal President

Austrian Press Agency (12/15/2009)

Fischer: Austria has lost part of its identity through the expulsion of the Jewish people – senior home concludes the building of the complex in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt.

Vienna – The new campus of the Jewish Community in Vienna (IKG) is now in full operation following  the opening of the Maimonides Center, a modern nursing home and home for the elderly located on the previous premises of the Jewish Community elderly home in Döbling. “Today is really a special day,” claimed Austria’s Federal President Heinz Fischer during his official speech. “This center will make it possible for people who were treated wrongly during their lifetime to enjoy the end of their lives with a sense of protection and well being.”

When addressing the survivors of the Holocaust, President Fischer also said that even if one cannot turn back the wheels of history, it is never too late to assume responsibility for that history and try to ease the suffering caused by it: “After having lived an indescribably difficult life journey, you can now find here a safe haven in which you can feel protected and at home.”

The Federal President claimed that Austria had lost a significant part of its identity through the expulsion of the Jewish population. “And Austria took a very long time before it was prepared to confront the dark chapters of its past.” That is why it is even more important that with the new Jewish Community campus a place has been created which allows the past to reunite with the future.

Moreover, there is really no better time to inaugurate such a home as during the current celebration of Chanuka, said Jewish Community President Ariel Muzicant during the ceremony, to which Nobel Prize winner for Medicine Erich Kandel as well as film producer Eric Pleskow sent their greetings. Pleskow expressed his strong criticism of Austrian restitution policy.

Apart from the Maimonides Center, the Zwie-Perez-Chajes School including kindergarten and Hakoah Sport and Recreational Center are also located on the campus, the latter two institutions of which were opened in 2008. The evening was primarily spent reflecting on the last phase of life. Muzicant and actor Peter Matic presented a program entitled “The Magic of Old Age,” including poems, essays and film excerpts from the documentary “Young@Heart,” the same name of the British senior rock group. Finally, Muzicant emphasized that the Maimonides Center is no ordinary home but rather a place with warmth and the kind of feeling that distinguished a Jewish home for the aged.

Moreover, Muzicant emphasized that the opening of the entire campus located in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt was a financial show of strength by the Jewish Community. Following his comments, an excerpt was performed from the comedy about a trio of senior bank robbers, “Now or Never – Time is Money.” Some 30 million Euros were funded by the Jewish Community itself while the remaining amount was funded by loans. An additional 27 million Euros came from the City of Vienna along with various ministries; and 4.5 million Euros came from member donations. According to Muzicant, a total amount of 1.5 million Euros is still lacking.

The location of the campus goes back to the previous site of the Jewish sports club, Hakoah, which was expropriated during the NS regime. The ground was restituted to Hakoah no earlier than 2002 as provided by the Washington Agreement regulating the restitution of property looted by the National Socialists. Afterwards, sorely-needed space was also bought by the Jewish Community.

Pleskow criticized Austria for waiting so long to complete restitution in comparison to other countries which long since had it behind them. It took years to discuss every small step instead of working through the issues expeditiously.

Addendum: In 1994 the psycho-social center Esra was founded together with the Jewish Community and the City of Vienna. Its main task is to deal with the medical, therapeutic and social needs of the victims of the Shoah and their members.

In addition to Esra, the Maimonides Center tries to meet other needs of the Jewish community: This home for senior citizens is not only home to many members of the Jewish community, it also runs a geriatric department, two wards and is also a meeting place for the elderly community members who still live in their own homes. Its aim is to meet the expectations and needs of its inhabitants and those in need of care.

The Maimonides Center Sanatorium unites many functions under one roof: a clinic, day care, old age home, nursing home and two nursing stations. At the heart of all its efforts liesthe fulfillment of the expectations and needs of the healthy residents as well as the sick or the needy.

Spindelegger: One Cannot Imagine Life in Central Europe Without the Jews

Austrian Press Agency (12/15/2009)

“Part of the United Europe” – Foreign Minister at the Opening of the Maimonides Center in Vienna

Vienna – Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger met with the President of the Jewish World Congress (WJC) Roland Lauder and representatives of the German-speaking Jewish Community in Vienna on the occasion of the opening of the Maimonides Center in Vienna. “The new Jewish Community (IKG) campus is not only a human enrichment for Vienna but also the strong sign of an active, self-confident Jewish community in Austria,“ declared Spindelegger according to a press release.

The Center will also serve as a place for Jewish and non-Jewish citizens to meet and exchange information. “Life in Central Europe is unimaginable without the Jewish population, one which is a part of the United Europe and growing stronger.

The Foreign Ministry is cooperating closely in diverse ways with the Jewish Community in an atmosphere of trust within and outside of Austria,“ emphasized Spindelegger. He stated that he is interested in expanding further cooperation in the future and helping to strengthen Jewish life in Vienna as well as in all of Austria.

Among the participants of the event were, among others, Vienna’s president of the Jewish Community (IKG) Ariel Muzicant and the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Charlotte Knobloch.

“The fact that payments by the Austrian Restitution Fund are recognized and valued internationally and particularly in the USA serves as an important indicator that our efforts in meeting the moral responsibility for the victims of National Socialism are being honored. The social benefits awarded the victims is an important gesture made to the survivors of the Holocaust,” said the Foreign Minister.

April 2009

Dear Readers,

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.

Yours sincerely,

Wolfgang Renezeder

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)
Publications, Books
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:

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.

“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:

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:

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


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.

October 2009

Dear Readers,

In June experts and government representatives from forty-nine countries met in Prague to assess the progress made in the areas of looted art and objects of cultural, historical and religious value since the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets. Moreover, further discussions involved new, innovative approaches in education, social programs and cultural initiatives related to the Holocaust. The Austrian delegation was headed by Austrian Minister of Education Claudia Schmied, whose ministry has played a key role in the field of Holocaust education and restitution of looted art. In this regard, a number of recent news articles on restitution have been included in this issue, such as the recent amendment of the Law on Art Restitution and the restitution of valuable historical records seized by Russian troops during WW II which Russia recently returned to Austria.  

Finally, w

Dear Readers,

In June experts and government representatives from forty-nine countries met in Prague to assess the progress made in the areas of looted art and objects of cultural, historical and religious value since the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets. Moreover, further discussions involved new, innovative approaches in education, social programs and cultural initiatives related to the Holocaust. The Austrian delegation was headed by Austrian Minister of Education Claudia Schmied, whose ministry has played a key role in the field of Holocaust education and restitution of looted art. In this regard, a number of recent news articles on restitution have been included in this issue, such as the recent amendment of the Law on Art Restitution and the restitution of valuable historical records seized by Russian troops during WW II which Russia recently returned to Austria.  

Finally, we are happy to provide you with a broad range of articles on recent cultural highlights and news on the Jewish Community Vienna that were published in the Austrian media, such as the 100th Anniversary of the Jewish Club Hakoah. 

Yours sincerely, 

Wolfgang Renezeder

Director of the Press & Information Service

Embassy of Austria  

e are happy to provide you with a broad range of articles on recent cultural highlights and news on the Jewish Community Vienna that were published in the Austrian media, such as the 100th Anniversary of the Jewish Club Hakoah. 

Yours sincerely, 

Wolfgang Renezeder

Director of the Press & Information Service

Embassy of Austria  


1. Current Events, Symposia and Cultural News

One Hundred Years of Hakoah - A Small, Vibrant Jewish Community (Die Presse)
Eruv – Symbolic Enclosure of Vienna’s Inner Districts Delayed (Austrian Press Agency)
“Not Kosher:“ Viennese Jewish Choir Celebrates 20th Anniversary (Austrian Press Agency)
 Hans Eisler Man and the Masses Jewish Museum Vienna
Have You Seen My Alps? A Jewish Love Story Jewish Museum Vienna
Jews and the Alps: Exhibition in Hohenems - Prolonged until November 15 Jewish Museum Vienna
Three New Members in Society for Exile Research (Austrian Press Agency)
Simmering: Commemoration of Victims of National Socialism (Austrian Press Agency)
Jewish Museum Vienna: “typical! Clichés about Jews and Others“ (Jewish Museum Vienna)
School Children Learn Twenty to Thirty Hours About the Third Reich (Austrian Press Agency)
Faymann and Schmied: Set of Measures for Holocaust Education (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
“Yes We Could“ – Peace Camp 2009 Initiative Ended Successfully (Austrian Press Agency)
Mauthausen Memorial Site Honors Film Maker Brauner with Restrospective (Austrian Press Agency)
Wiesenthal Institute Faces Possible End (Der Standard)
Wiesenthal Institute: Entire Board of Directors Resigns (Der Standard)
2. Restitution

Holocaust Conference in Prague on Looted Art (Austrian Press Agency)
Jewish Community Welcomes Amendment of the Law on Art Restitution (Austrian Press Agency)
Amendment to Art Restitution Act (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
Russia Returned Thousands of Historical Records (Austrian Press Agency)
Two New Restitution Cases Involving Six Paintings From Graz’s Joanneum Museum (Austrian Press Agency)
Linz Restitutes Klimt Painting Unanimous Decision of Town Council (Austrian Press Agency)
Austrian National Library Takes Over the Remaining Inventory of the Arthur Schnitzler Library (Austrian Press Agency)
City of Vienna Restitutes “Love Letter“ to Heirs (Austrian Press Agency)
3. Obituaries, Awards

Mourning Paul Grosz (Austrian Press Agency)
Eric Kandel Becomes Honorary Citizen of Vienna (Austrian Press Agency)
Neil Shicoff Receives Austrian Grand Decoration in Tel Aviv (Austrian Press Agency)
Anne Frank’s Aide Miep Gies Receives Grand Decoration from Austria  (Austrian Press Agency)
4. Publications, Books

Memorial Book for the Victims of National Socialism at the University of Vienna in 1938
“Memoirs of a Hitler Refugee“ by Hannah Naiditch

One Hundred Years of Hakoah - A Small, Vibrant Jewish Community

Die Presse (08/22/2009) 

Party at the Tel Aviv Beach, the Jewish club Hakoah celebrates its 100th anniversary and a new community center is built. Is Vienna’s Jewish community experiencing a renaissance? No. Many of the young people among its 7,500 members are leaving.  

Vienna – Marcello loves parties, every day, also on the Sabbath. “I party then too, unfortunately,“ he says with a slight sense of guilt and continues to sip his drink. It is quite normal to go out on a Friday evening.  

At the Tel Aviv Beach, the blue and white beach club situated on the Danube Canal (Donaukanal) is not only a place for many of the Viennese to meet this summer, whether Jewish or non-Jewish. It is also a place where young people, liberal Jews like Marcello happily celebrate in flipflops and beach garb behind large sun glasses. 

That is normal, Tel Aviv in the middle of Vienna. „“That also belongs to the renaissance felt by many Jews that one can be the way one wants to be,“ says Marcello’s friend, twenty-two year-old Philip Feyer. “Not every Jew wears a long black skirt.“  

One can encounter, however those who do wear a black skirt - namely the Orthodox Jews who are from Eastern Europe and have come to Vienna - merely a block away from Tel Aviv Beach in the section of Karmelitermarkt or districts where they live. A breath of Williamsburg - is this also a sign of an ever-growing vibrant Jewish Community? 

Also in Leopoldstadt, a few kilometers outside the city, there are signs of Community life, even if it is currently somewhat more bleak. Behind Prater, on the corner of Simon-Wiesenthal-Straße and Wehlistraße, just before the Danube and far from any inner city building a new Jewish center is coming into play. A school, a home for the elderly and a tenement have been built, and in marking the 100th anniversary of Jewish tradition in Vienna, Hakoah already will be constructed on the newly designated space. The Community is growing, at least when speaking of building sites. But can one speak of a renaissance? 

No, in terms of numbers, certainly not. Much more the contrary, says the Secretary General of the Jewish Community Vienna (IKG) Raimund Fastenbauer. Out of an estimated 10,000 – 15,000 of Jewish citizens residing in Vienna, many of whom are not religious, some 7,500 members presently belong to the Community. 

The Community‘s problem, says Fastenbauer, is that “we have educated and strengthened our children perhaps too well in regards to their Jewish identity. Through our school and contacts within the Community, they learn to want to lead a life like that offered by Israel, or London or New York, where there is a strong sense of belonging to a Jewish Community.“ Consequently, the problem arises - namely finding the right marriage partner in such a small Community like that of Vienna. Through international contacts made during their school or university years, many leave out of love and stay forever, never to return. 

As to the increase in the Jewish Community due to emigrants from Eastern Europe: Before 1938 and the Holocaust, there were more than 210,000 Jews living in Vienna. Some 1,000 survived the persecution by living in the underground or by marrying a non-Jew. After WW II some 4,000 survivors returned to Vienna. In contrast to Germany, there was never a genuine invitation or any concerted efforts toward taking back the former Austrians, said Fastenbauer. The Jewish Community has basically grown because of the large number of emigrants from Eastern Europe – Bucharian Jews from Usbekistan, Sephardic Jews from Georgia and Russian Jews. Almost one-third of today’s Jewish Community is made up of recent arrivals from the East. 

Great efforts were made by the Community to integrate these people; moreover, badly needed was an expansion of infrastructure in the way of additional prayer rooms for those having different rituals. Esra, originally created as service to Holocaust survivors in the way of psychological and social assistance, is involved today in helping newcomers with problems of integrating into their new surroundings of Central Europe. 

However today this increase of new members is on the wane due to the strict laws on foreigners, complains Raimund Fastenbauer. The only possibility of compensation due to the departure of many young people is that “we must speak to the smaller Eastern European Jewish Communities in the EU countries, who themselves are having difficulty surviving on their own. For them, Vienna might appear very interesting. Also, for that reason, the new Hakoah Center has been established,“ argues the Jewish Community’s Secretary General. It is there that school children, seniors and families can come to live and learn. 

The project is, however, not without debate within the Community itself. One hears from people that it is too grandiose for a Community of 7,500 members. It would create a new Jewish ghetto, far from the city. And it costs too much money. Ariel Muzicant, head of Vienna’s Jewish Community, had to turn to his Community members and ask for donations for the new social center. Lacking is a total sum of two-and-a-half million euros, and that alone for security measures.   

Nonetheless, Muzicant brushes aside the criticism: The Community needs a new and larger home for the elderly. There is already a waiting list of twenty-five people alone who urgently need a place in the current Home for Assisted Living with 145 beds, located on Bauernfeldgasse in the 19th district. “One has no idea how many people come to me about getting a bed. The need is increasing dramatically! For Pessach, we had to move beds into the offices,“ said Muzicant recently to the Jewish magazine, “Nu,“ when interviewed. The new Center is “also a place requiring re-socialization,“ claimed Muzicant. “There are so many lonely retirees, forced to the edges of society, who are once again allowed to experience a sense of Community. There they have a school, a kindergarten and housing, allowing them to again join together as a group. When someone brings his child to school, he will more likely also visit the center at the same time as the grandfather who is living there.“ 

As to politics at the beach: People enjoying the Tel Aviv Beach feel emotionally far, far removed from thoughts about a home for the elderly. Last week, for example, not only young people but also ambassadors and even the Mayor of Tel Aviv and his Viennese colleague, Michael Häupl, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the city on the Mediterranean.  

Is it a very usual bar at the beach? Well, not exactly. Even if it is celebrated in an atmosphere of international partying and the organizers avoid speaking about politics. “Here it‘s about Tel Aviv as a city, about Israeli lifestyle,“ said Nuriel Molcho, whose family is responsible for the foods sold. It mimics the beach modeled after Israel‘s beach. That’s important not only for the activists from Gaza Beach, who put up their tents at the beginning of the summer on the other side of the canal’s banks.“ The beach allows people to reflect on what they think about Israel or Tel Aviv.“ But nineteen year-old Marcello Demner answers, “Why should that concern me?“ 

It‘s true that some ten percent of the guests are Jews, and at special events, the percentage is higher,“ said Molcho, but certainly not everyone in the Community comes here to stick their feet here in the sand. Molcho claims that “it bothers the highly religious people that we are observing the Sabbath and are not eating kosher.“ With other Jewish Communities in Vienna, it is a bit more like with neighbors. One knows each other, one greets each other, of course. But, “we would not go together out on the town,“ says Marcello.  

One is primarily not a Jew. Viennese, Israeli, Austrian, Jew or even Italian? In Marcellos, Philips and Nuriel world, there are ultimate possibilities of identity and their sense of belonging is much more open. The three define being Jewish primarily as something cultural since they are not particularly religious. “Praying,“ says Philip, “gets on my nerves.“ Recently they attended some of the Jewish youth organizations and very soon lost their interest. All three of them went to international rather than Jewish schools. Their circle of friends are to a great extent non-Jewish. And yet, to all three of them, particular traditions are very important. For example, on certain holidays such as Jom Kippur, they go to the synagogue. Also marriage is a special matter. In any case, the wife should be Jewish, said Philip and Nuriel. Marcello tends not to think in such absolute terms, but then adds: “It would, however, be better.“ The point is that he is a single child, and the tradition of the Jewish family is at stake.  

Eruv – Symbolic Enclosure of Vienna’s Inner Districts Delayed

Austrian Press Agency (06/03/2009)

Vienna – The Jewish Community’s (IKG) plans for the symbolic “enclosure“ of Vienna’s inner districts has been delayed. “Talks with officials haven‘t been easy,“ explained project head Maurizi Berger, but: “We’re still working on it.“ The idea is to create a so-called “eruv“ that forms natural and real areas of the city, making it considerably easier for Orthodox Jews. 1 

Highly religious Jews are not allowed to carry anything private into public space during the Sabbath (Friday evening to Saturday evening). This also includes using baby carriages or wheelchairs. By creating a symbolic city wall, one is able to circumvent this prohibitive law since an “Eruv“ accounts for the space lying within its borders as belonging to a private area.  

According to Berger, the Viennese project will include a route spanning about thirty-five kilometers. Beginning at the South Railway Station, the virtual border will run along the Ring until Heiligenstadt; from there along the edge of the Danube to the bridge of the Eastern railway, and along the Eastern railway tracks back to the South Railway Station. Various sections of the landscape or buildings - as for example the edge of the Danube or the former city railway arches - will serve as borders. 

Along the route there are some seven kilometers of gaps that have to be closed with synthetic wire. Berger says that herein lies the main reason for the delay because the wire has to be fastened either to street light fixtures or street car masts, and this will require approval. In some spots masts will have to be constructed, involving the Austrian railway system and the agency responsible for preservation of historical monuments, explained the project head: “That is a very complicated matter.“ Negotiations, however, appear positive. 

Berger hopes that the project can be concluded this year. Preparations for the “Eruv“ have been going on for more than three years now. Originally one wanted to submit all finished plans one year ago, but then it was prolonged until end of 2008 as the next deadline. Costs involved will amount to some one million Euros, which the Jewish Community is hoping to achieve through their own finances and donations, claimed a representative of the Jewish Community Vienna. 

The fear that political debate could arise because of the religious contents of the plans have not materialized, says Berger – at least not from any official source: “What people think is another matter.“ He is not aware of any eventual protest among the population in the form of initiatives taken by citizens. An “Eruv“ is not at all new to the Viennese. In fact, before WW II there was one created in Leopoldstadt. Currently there are “Eruvim“ also in Antwerp, parts of London and numerous cities in the United States. 

“Not Kosher:“ Viennese Jewish Choir Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (06/26/2009)

Vienna – A piece of Jewish life embodied in Vienna’s Jewish Choir celebrated its 20th anniversary today in Vienna. Founded by the Smolka family, the choir of forty singers performed their anniversary concert - “A bissele Glik“ (“A Little Bit of Luck“) in the Mozartsaal of Vienna’s Concert House -  under the direction of Roman Grinberg.  Together with their audience, they traced various facets of luck and happiness, offering a wide spectrum of Jewish songs at their best.  

Vienna’s Jewish Choir is an example of cultural exchange depicting the “harmony of cooperation between Jews and non-Jews, between born Austrians and immigrants,“ said president of the choir Timothy Smolka when addressing the audience. In terms of its composition, the Choir is by no means “kosher.“ It is made up of men and women, Jews and non-Jews, “who are bound by a common love of Jewish music and respect of Jewry,“ said Smolka.  

The Choir was founded twenty years ago by Smolka’s daugther Eva, who at the time was searching for an opportunity to offer Jewish culture in Vienna to the public. Initially it was an ensemble of eight singers, practicing in the Smolka family‘s living room. Today the Choir consists of fifty members and has become an indispensable part of Jewish life in Vienna.  

Choir director Roman Grinberg arranged the majority of songs himself. The Choir’s repertoire includes primarily Jewish, Hebrew and English pieces, popular songs and even some more traditional songs that were thought to have been lost. Grinberg maintains exchange with interntional musicians who have survived the Shoa and who have preserved songs that were thought to have been long forgotten. His wish is to have the choir contribute by salvaging the treasure of undiscovered songs and invest them with new life.  

One of the mentors of Vienna’s Jewish Choir is Ukrainian Klezmer musician Arkadi Gendlder. The eighty-seven year-old who was to be present at the anniversary concert as special guest was unable to attend out of health reasons. The highlights of the evening were, apart from the choir‘s soloists, the appearance of Russian violinist Aliosha Biz and Ukrainian panpipe virtuoso Igor Pilyavskiy. 

For further information, see:   

Hans Eisler - Man and the Masses

Jewish Museum Vienna

The composer Hanns Eisler is the subject of the next exhibition in the series "Music in Transition." He was born the son of Viennese philosopher Rudolf Eisler in Leipzig on July 6th, 1898. Returning to Vienna in 1901, Eisler studied with Arnold Schönberg from 1920 on, who acknowledged him as the equal of Berg and Webern. In 1925, he broke with his teacher over politics and moved to Berlin, where he strove to create a proletarian musical language that avoided the shallowness of hit-songs and the incomprehensibility of what he called the "bourgeois avant-garde". In 1933, as a Jew, he fled Nazi Germany while as a known Bolshevik, it was impossible for him to remain in Austria with its newly formed clerical fascist government. Exile turned into a period of political activism that took him from the Spanish Civil War to Moscow and the United States.

His friendship with Bertolt Brecht would develop into a mutually productive creative partnership. In America after 1938, his essays on composing for cinema as well as his many film-scores for Hollywood were innovative. Had his sister Ruth Fischer, a Communist "renegade" turned anti-Stalinist, not denounced him as a Soviet spy leading to his expulsion in 1948, mainstream cinema might have become more provocative. Eisler was dismayed that no Viennese institution would employ him following his return from America. He moved to East Berlin, where he was offered a chair in composition. He also became a member of the Academy of Arts. In the GDR he composed easily understood music that created a mythological distance to the country’s Nazi past; he also composed the East German national anthem. Despite this, he was regarded as unreliable by the authorities resulting in official displeasure in 1953. Eventually rehabilitated, he was celebrated as a national figure while maintaining a privileged "foreigner" status. In 1961, he defended the "necessity" of the Berlin Wall. He was survived by his widow, two former wives and his son Georg, one of Austria’s leading post-war artists upon his death on September 6th, 1962. His work richly contrasts the conflicts of the creative individual surviving in the collective turbulent upheavals of the 20th century.

Curator Michael Haas received the Theodor Koerner Prize 2009 for his work as curator of this exhibition. Prolonged until September 13, 2009. For further information, see:  

“Have You Seen My Alps?” - A Jewish Love Story

Jewish Museum Vienna (website:


“The history of the Alps roughly and succinctly reflects the history of Europe, in other words our civilisation,” wrote Arnold Zweig in Haifa in 1940 in his posthumously published book “Dialectic of the Alps. Progress and Obstacle” (“Dialektik der Alpen. Fortschritt und Hemmnis”). For the Jews of Europe the mountains in the middle of the continent have always been fascinating, challenging and puzzling. This waste of nature, this abundance of beauty, ruggedness and energy had to have a meaning that was surely worth discovering. Thus began a chequered relationship, the story of an often unrequited love.

The exhibition “Have You Seen My Alps? – A Jewish Love Story...” will take visitors on a journey of discovery through time and space, from Hohenems to Vienna, from Vienna to Switzerland and finally to Merano: a journey through the worlds of Jewish Alpinism and the development of the mountains for international tourism, a journey to the intellectual childhood and adult dreams beyond the cities, through the contradictions of assimilation and migration, persecution and reappraisal. The exhibition will relate the stories of people, places and objects that the visitor will discover on this journey, associations across time, with surprising and troubling connotations. The history of the Jews in the Alpine region actually goes back to the expansion of the Roman Empire, although Jewish communities did not settle in Alpine valleys until much later and remained a rarity: Hohenems, Innsbruck and Merano, with Lugano and Lucerne coming later, or the seasonal Jewish life in the spas of Graubünden and Valais. “Have You Seen My Alps?” takes visitors on a fictitious journey of rediscovery of the Alps through idyllic places and miraculous landscapes.

An exhibition by the Jewish Museum Hohenems and the Jewish Museum Vienna.

Jews and the Alps: Exhibition in Hohenems Prolonged until November 15

Jewish Museum Hohenems website (07/25/2009) 

Bregenz/Vienna – Due to strong public interest, the exhibition “Have you Seen My Alps? – A Jewish Love Story“ in the Jewish Museum of Hohenems will be prolonged until November 15. From December 16, 2009 – March 15, 2010, it can be seen at Vienna’s Jewish Museum.  

The exhibition "Have You Seen My Alps? — A Jewish Love Story" highlights for the first time the significance of Jewish mountaineers and artists, tourism pioneers and intellectuals, researchers and collectors as well as their role in the discovery and development of the Alps as a universal cultural and natural heritage.  
The experience of the mountains as places of spirituality and sensuality is linked in multiple ways to the Jewish experience and Jewish entry into Europe’s societies. Ever since Moses, the “first” mountaineer in history, Jews have searched at the threshold between heaven and earth, between nature and spirit for spiritual experiences and for the laws and boundaries of reason.

The exhibition tells about the areas of conflict in Alpinism: – from the significance of the Alps for the Jewish Diaspora to the perception of Jewish Alpinism by the Austrian, German, and Swiss societies – from the tracht controversy to the Aryanization of the Alpine Association and the Austrian Ski Association – about the antagonism between a humanistic perception of Alpine traditions and folklore and an excessive racist nationalism – and about the transformation of the mountains as a place of spiritual experience into a site of persecution and escape in National Socialism. 
“The Alps are no longer ‘Europe’s playground,’ but an army training field, nature’s splendid stage is not a ‘moral‘ but a military institution,“ as the Viennese mountaineer and musician, Josef Braunstein, wrote in 1936, before his emigration to the US. Here, he had more in mind than just the “battle” around the Eiger North Wall. For more information, see:

Three New Members in Society for Exile Research

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (06/12/2009)

Vienna – Chemist, novelist and playwright Carl Djerassi, chemist Alfred Bader and chemist/historian Robert Rosner are new honorary members of the Austrian Society for Research in Exile Studies in Vienna. There are three „representatives of Austrian exiles who, following their expulsion by the National Socialists, have committed themselves to the fields of science, business and culture and have made significant contributions in these fields.  

Exile research will become “all the more indispensable,“ “when those who have experienced persecution and expulsion are no longer alive,“ said Carl Djerassi. It is for that reason that the 85 year-old is demanding finally to secure “public financial backing for the Austrian Society for Exile Research.“  

Chemist and “Father of the Anti-baby Pill,“ author and art collector Carl Djerassi, was born in Vienna in 1923 into a Jewish family of medical doctors. He went into exile in the USA In 1938 via London. He earned a PhD in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, was research director at Syntex S.A. in Mexico and author of numerous scientific and literary publications. Djerassi lives in San Francisco, London and Vienna. 

The chemist, art collector and benefactor Alfred Bader, born in Vienna in 1924 as the son of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, fled to England in 1938 with the so-called “children’s transport.“ He was handed over to Canada as a prisoner of war. Bader studied in Canada and later in the USA at Harvard University in Cambridge. He is a co-founder of the US company Aldrich – today known as Sigma-Aldrich – which belongs to the world’s largest distributor of chemicals used in research. The sponsor of the Ignaz L. Lieben Prize of the Austrian Academy of Sciences lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  

Chemist and historian Robert Rosner, born in Vienna in 1924, fled in 1939 to England with the “children’s transport“ following persecution by the National Socialists. He returned to Vienna in 1946, studied chemistry at the University of Vienna and became researcher and head of the sales division of Loba-Chemie founded in 1952. Following his retirement, Robert Rosner studied political science and history at the University of Vienna. He is vice president of the Society for the Documentation of Science and Technology.  

The Society for Exile Research is organized as a non-profit and founded in 2002. The organization defines itself as a community of researchers interested in the topics of exile, emigration, victims of Fascist persecution by Fascism and National Socialism from Austria along with other fields having an inter-disciplinary nature. 

Simmering: Commemoration of Victims of National Socialism

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (04/28/2009)

Vienna – Jewish residents of the house located in Rinnböckstraße 23 were forced to flee during the NS era, were then deported, and eventually lost their lives. Recently the owners of the building erected a memorial plate in remembrance of these victims of National Socialism. Now volunteers from a group with the district’s museum in Simmering are inviting guests to take part in a commemoration at the site of the building in Rinnböckstraße 23. Head of the 11th district, Renate Angerer, will also participate. 

Accordion Player Plays “the Customs of Viennese Jews“

The Simmering Museum, together with prominent people from the district and the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism have all offered their support of the project. Apart from a representative from the National Fund, the initiator of the project, Daniel Kazan, will also be present. Virtuoso of the accordion Professor Felix Lee will play “Customs of Viennese Jews.“ Members of Simmering’s district museum are often participants in such commemorations, as for example, recently there was a presentation of the book, “Just a Small Handfull of Maccabees,“ which documents the history of the Jewish Community in Simmering from 1848 – 1945 (see: Mandelbaum Publishing,  

Jewish Museum Vienna: “typical! Clichés about Jews and Others“

Jewish Museum Vienna website

The Jewish Museum Vienna (JMW) presents the exhibition “typical! Clichés about Jews and others” (running until October 11, 2009), which was developed jointly with the Jewish Museum Berlin. Visitors are confronted with different clichés and stereotypes from everyday life. It is an exhibition about seeing, perceiving, classifying and associating images and things pertaining to strangers and oneself. With the help of objects, pictures, photos, audio-visual objects and the like, opportunities are offered for overcoming prejudice-ridden classifications and attributes. As the title of the exhibition suggests, not only anti-Semitic prejudices are addressed. As anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism are only one aspect of racism – as Africa expert Walter Schicho stated – the exhibition draws analogies from other cultures. Stereotypes about native Americans, African Americans, Aborigines, etc. are also explored. The parallels are to sensitize the visitors to issues like stereotypes, the image of strangers and prejudices within a more global meaning. Particularly by including anti-Islamic stereotypes, the exhibition demonstrates that clichéd attitudes are a burning issue. This reveals once more to what extent we are entangled in prejudices, which have developed throughout history or are due to current political developments.   

School Children Learn Twenty to Thirty Hours About the Third Reich

Austrian Press Agency (APA)(05/26/2009) 

Vienna – Every child that attends school in Austria learns about National Socialism and its consequences. In the eighth grade one is taught twenty to thirty hours of history about the totalitarian system, the era of Nationalsocialism and Jewish life before and after the Holocaust. In high school the topic is again reviewed. Although teachers approach the topics with empathy and try to make it more understandable by having contemporary witnesses give lectures, “ we are really perplexed as to how we can prevent young people from becoming involved in such things as what happened in Ebensee,“ said Manfred Wirtitsch, head of the section for political education in the Ministry of Education.  

During a commemoration in the former concentration camp of Ebensee, some young people with faces covered in masks caused disturbance  by shouting Hitler greetings, such as “Sieg Heil.“ Only a few weeks earlier some school children were overheard making anti-Semitic remarks during a class trip to Auschwitz. In Wirtitsch’s opinion, the schools are not be given the blame since “I am convinced that enough is being done in the area of formal education.“ What is more of a problem is that in society and politics, there are no clear boundaries“ drawn between so-called “pranks“ and unacceptable behavoir, said Wirtitsch. 

During the fourth grade, twenty to thirty of the seventy hours of history are devoted to the NS era with three segments of topics, each lasting seven to ten hours. One segment concerns the origins and circumstances surrounding dictatorships, modern forms of political extremism as well as ideology, propaganda and mobilization in totalitarian systems, using National Socialism as an example. A second segment involves the development and crisis of democracy in Austria. Moreover, the remembrance of Jewish life before and after the Holocaust is part of the teaching material. Also in schools for the handicapped, these three segments are integrated into the curricula, “but to a lesser extent in consideration for the particular needs of these young people.“  

During the 7th grade of high school, schools focus on the comparison between authoritarian and totalitarian systems, the radicalization of political life and resistance during the Third Reich. Again, some twenty to thirty hours of the entire seventy hours of history during the school year are used for this purpose.  

In terms of methods, nothing is officially designated by the school curriculum. Nonetheless, “numerous suggestions“ are offered to the schools, states Wirtitsch. Since 1978, contemporary witnesses are invited by classes to give lectures and participate in discussions. For those interested, material can be requested from the “Zentrum polis“ and from the webpage: The Ministry for Education has also distributed the publications, “1938 – Beginning of the Shoah,“ along with the “Lexicon of Politics for Young People,“ and supports the association, “March of Remembrance and Hope,“ organizing the commemoration trips of Austrian school children to Poland. 

Faymann and Schmied: Set of Measures for Holocaust Education


In view of the recent neo-Nazi activities of some young people, Chancellor Werner Faymann and Minister of Education Claudia Schmied presented a set of measures on May 29, 2009, to improve political education at school. “We have to convey to the pupils values such as tolerance, humanity and respect for others,“ stressed the Chancellor. We must not keep silent in the face of Fascism and disrespectful treatment of others. “Being vigilant instead of ignoring“ is also Schmied’s motto, as she emphasized. The fact that the new set of measures was presented to the public at the Documentary Archives of the Austrian Resistance (Dokumentationsarchiv des Österreichischen Widerstandes/DÖW) was described by her as a “political statement.“  

As of the school year 2009/10 onwards, all teachers of the compulsory school system are to receive special training in political education during their studies. Compulsory in-service training in this field would also be offered. Events involving contemporary witnesses and discussions are to be increased in vocational schools. Furthermore, Schmied called on the teachers to ensure that all pupils visit a memorial site at least once. Cooperation with the Austrian Mauthausen Committee would be intensified. Other measures consisted of widening the range of seminars for teachers and developing a manual for teachers in cooperation with the platform ““ Starting in autumn 2009, awards such as the Federal Cross of Honour of the Ministry of Education focusing on tolerance, would be granted, explained Schmied. The measures were no guarantee that incidents such as the recent one in Ebensee, where four local boys between the ages of 14 and 16 had insulted the participants in a ceremony held in commemoration of the liberation of the Ebensee concentration camp, can be avoided in the future. But she wanted to optimally support the teachers in their work. Chancellor Faymann promised to increase the budget of the Austrian Mauthausen Committee to ensure “that every pupil would go there at least once.” At present, about 60,000 pupils per year visited the memorial site, but the numbers should be increased to some 100,000 visits per year, said Faymann.  

“Yes We Could“ – Peace Camp 2009 Initiative Ended Successfully

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (07/13/2009)

Website of the Jewish Community Vienna 

Reibers/Wien – Under the motto, “Let’s talk peace in Reibers,“ a group of young people between the ages of fourteen and eighteen from Israel, Palestine, Austria and Hungary met together at a “peace camp“ to search for ways to learn how to resolve conflict peaceably and strive for understanding. “It was the best peace camp there has ever been,“ commented initiator Evelyn Böhmer-Laufer on the sixth meeting of its kind, this time held in Reibers in the district of Waidhofen an der Thaya. The ten-day camp ended with “Show4peace“ in Vienna’s museum sector of the city. 

“Yes We Could“ chanted the participants at the first farewell party in Reibers, where a statement summarizing “Peace Camp 2009“ was read. It emphasized that “we are all born into conflict. Our job is to live as peacefully as possible.“ At the final “Show4peace“ in Vienna’s museum sector, young people presented sequences of a film which they had produced themselves bearing the theme, “Peace,“ and performed a show of dance entitled, “Rhythm and Movement.“ 

The participants, including four youths from Vienna’s Wasagymnasium and Piaristengymnasium, received the European “youth pass“ at the end of the event. As part of a strategy developed by the European Commission to create an environment of learning in an informal setting, young people received certification of having participated in various youth projects. “That which the young people have learned here can be incorporated later on into their professional careers,“ says Böhmer-Laufer and participants will learn to act as “ambassadors of peace“ in the future.  

Böhmer-Laufer showed enthusiasm for the dynamics that developed among the young people and realizes that the reason being, among other things, is a result of the solid preparation before the event: “Each nationality came with a presentation which offers a piece of shared history from a particular perspective,“ she said and pointed to the current day workshops focusing on contemporary history. Both Jews and Palestinians worked on the topic of conflict in their home countries before attending the camp, while Austrians and Hungarians focused on the history of Jews in their countries. 

Psychologist and Psychotherapist Evelyn Böhmer-Laufer founded the Peace Camp. As posted on the website, the goal is to develop “strategies for fighting xenophobia and intercultural conflict.“ Peace means for her “to respect that which is foreign in onself and outside of oneself, coming to reconciliation.“ 

Mauthausen Memorial Site Honors Film Maker Brauner with Restrospective

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (08/17/2009) 

Linz  - Former concentration camp of Mauthausen honors film maker Artur Brauer from August 19 – 22 with a retrospective entitled, “Responsibility as Contemporary Witness.“ The ninety-one year-old survivor of NS Jewish persecution is not only well known for his productions about anti-Semitism, such as “Hitler Youth Salomon“ and “Witness from Hell,“ but also for his films on Karl May and Edgar Wallace.  

“The Last Train“ (August 19),“Babij Jar“ (August 20) and “From Hell to Hell“ (August 21) became a triology. They depict the deporation of Berlin‘s Jews, the massacre of  the Jewish population in the vicinity of Kiew and the pogrom following the liberation on July 1946 in Kielce. The film “Morituri“ will be shown on August 22, made shortly after the liberation, and takes place during the last few days of the National Socialist Regime. The films are based on true events and often include participation of survivors who recall their personal memories.   

Wiesenthal Institute Faces Possible End

Der Standard (10/01/09) 

By Peter Mayr, Nina Weißensteiner 

General meeting to decide whether to continue 

Vienna - The fronts have hardened since the seven-member board of the Wiesenthal Institute resigned out of protest against the Jewish Community Vienna (IKG). Two general meetings in September had to be postponed when they yielded no result. Today, Thursday, another attempt will be made when the assembly meets again.

On the agenda for the third time is the decision whether to vote for a new board to head the Institute for Holocaust studies or whether the young research institution will have to disband before it is fully operational.

Allegations of Censorship

As reported, the Jewish Community refuses to open its archive although, according to the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute board, it has previously made assurances to that effect. The use [of the archive] is for the Wiesenthal Institute a prerequisite for the practical implementation of the projects that were financed long ago, such as the digitization of the archive.

Background: The IKG Archive consists of the world's largest surviving holdings of any Jewish community, containing birth registers, marriage data, meeting protocols, and information about the social services extended to its members.

Oddly enough, a large part of the information has already been made available for some time to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, while in Austria the Jewish Community Vienna (IKG) now insists that the information first needs to be scrupulously vetted by the community itself. In addition, the Wiesenthal Institute should no longer receive the complete holdings for its research work but only selected parts of the archival holdings since 1919, to be decided unilaterally by the IKG.

On Thursday the quarreling parties will try to achieve a judicial solution. Before the meeting, no official from the Community or from the Wiesenthal Institute was willing to go on record. An inside source offered the following: "The conditions amount to censorship and the Wiesenthal Institute would lose its credibility." 

Wiesenthal Institute: Entire Board of Directors Resigns

Der Standard (07/27/2009) 

Because the Jewish Community Vienna blocks access to its archive, the seven-member steering committee lays down its work

Vienna - Uproar in the Wiesenthal Institute. Der Standard newspaper has learned that the entire seven-member board of directors of the contemporary history project that deals with Holocaust studies resigned last week in protest.

Political scientist Anton Pelinka, now de facto former head of the board of directors of the Wiesenthal Institute, confirmed the resignation of other renowned historians, such as Bertrand Perz of the University of Vienna and Brigitte Bailer-Galanda of the Documentary Archives of the Austrian Resistance. "We did not receive access to the Archive of the Jewish Community Vienna as promised, which is a precondition for the implementation of the project," said Pelinka.

Background: The Archive of the Jewish Community (IKG) is probably the largest surviving documentation of any Jewish community worldwide, containing thousands of administrative files, correspondence, card files and registry books. After consultation with the Jewish Community Vienna, the Wiesenthal Institute received confirmation of grant monies from the Austrian Finance Ministry and the City of Vienna to be used, for example, for the digitization of the archive. The needed equipment was purchased and staff was hired for this project. However, the leadership of the Jewish Community Vienna is now refusing to open its archive. According to Pelinka, "it is a matter of financial accountability. We cannot assume responsibility for this situation."

According to an inside source, internal conflicts within the Jewish Community are the reason for the archival logjam. "Apparently some [within the IKG] entertain the absurd notion that someone wants to take something from them," Avshalom Hodik, former Secretary General of the IKG, surmises. A notion that Hodik does not share - he, too, resigned in protest as a member of the VWI's board.

Ariel Muzicant, President of the Jewish Community, is on vacation until the end of August. Until then he does not want to comment on the situation. "We'll discuss this matter after my return," he says.

Will the resignation result in a premature demise of the research center? Currently the Wiesenthal Institute and its staff and offices are in a preparatory phase, the Institute was intended to begin full operations in 2012. Pelinka: "Those agencies that constitute the Wiesenthal Institute need guarantees that the work will be possible in the way that it was agreed. Only then the agencies can appoint a new board of directors."  

Holocaust Conference in Prague on Looted Art

Austrian Press Agency (June 27, 2009) 

Prague – On Saturday more than one hundred experts and government representatives from forty-nine various countries came together for a conference on the Holocaust lasting several days. Above all, they discussed the return of so-called looted art and Holocaust education in schools and universities. The participants hope to establish guidelines for art restitution and found a European Institute in Terezin when adopting the Declaration of Terezin (Theresienstadt). 

Austria was represented by Minister of Culture Claudia Schmied, Secretary General of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria Hannah Lessing, Ambassador Margot Klestil-Löffler and Executive Director of the Jewish Community Vienna Erika Jakubovits. 

Czech European Minister Stefan Füle said that “the conference is one of the most important events of our Presidency of the EU Council.“ One wishes to build on the “Washington Agreement“ of 1998 in which forty-four countries agreed to the foundations of the restitution of unlawfully looted art works. Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said that “the simplest answer after WW II would have been to return the victims‘ money and property.“ 

“One should take a much more concrete, detailed and specific stand on problems related to looted art,“ demanded Georg Heuberger, representative of the Jewish Claims Conference in Germany in an interview with the German press agency. “We cannot seriously estimate how many cases it involves.“ Heuberger refused all suggestions of drawing a final line to the discussion. 

“There can be no limitations on the time period as long as the museums have not lived up to their responsibility of looking extensively and systematically into their inventory, researching provenance….and returning to people what is theirs.“ 

According to an investigation by the Jewish Claims Conference, only about one-third of all countries involved have “developed any noteworthy activity in the area of art restitution. That is staggering and unacceptable. Diplomats, should they refuse to hear, stuff their ears with Oropax.“ Heuberger reminded one that among those submitting claims, it often involves the third generation after the war“ and that it is high time to bring the issue to closure.  

On the margins of the conference, Prague’s Literature House of German-Speaking Authors unveiled a commemorative plaque to the German-Jewish writer Lenka Reinervoa who died one year ago. As the oldest German-speaking author in Prague, Reinerova had committed herself to reconciliation between the Czech Republic and Germany. Shortly before her death the Bundestag read a widely talked about speech by Reinerova when the author was no longer able to attend the session out of health reasons.


Jewish Community Welcomes Amendment of the Law on Art Restitution

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (06/18/2009) 

Vienna – In a press announcement released today, the Jewish Community (IKG) expressed its satisfaction with the government’s agreement to amend the law on art restitution. The “revisions and specifics spelled out in detail of the current law“ proves to what extent it is important to the government that NS looted art and cultural objects, currently in possession of Austria’s Federal museums and collections, be clarified and returned. The consensus reached by the partners of the coalition government in terms of rightful beneficiaries takes into account Austria’s role as a forerunner when coming to terms with the past.  

Amendment to Art Restitution Act

Austrian Federal Chancellery (06/22/2009) 

Based on an agreement by Vice Chancellor and Minister of Finance Josef Pröll and Minister of Culture Claudia Schmied, the Amendment to the Art Restitution Act is favored to be passed by the Council of Ministers on June 23, 2009. According to the draft amendment, the Ministry of Finance will have a voting right on the Advisory Board on Restitution, and the Office of the State Attorneys at the Ministry of Finance will act in an advisory capacity. Apart from works of art, the Federal Republic should also be authorized to return “other movable cultural assets.” In addition to items from the collections of the federal museums or the Federal Furniture Collection, the new law will cover “other federal property.”

The term of the Advisory Board on Restitution is to be extended to three years “to ensure independence.” Moreover, covered will be assets which the NS regime seized outside Austria as well as before 1938. The tasks of the Provenance Research Commission (“the systematic description of the provenance of the federal collections in connection with possible seizures by the NS regime“) are to be stated explicitly in the law.

“Restitution is a historic duty which must be conducted by the Republic of Austria in the most judicious manner. The Amendment to the Art Restitution Act is another important task in the context of indemnification,“ said Schmied. Minister Pröll considers this a “clear step towards a comprehensive restitution of artworks of doubtful origin.”  

Russia Returned Thousands of Historical Records

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (06/23/2009)   

Vienna – A full truckload of files transporting historical records left Moscow for Vienna in mid-June. Russia returned to Austria valuable historical records which Russian troops had looted during WW II. Today Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov handed over two files to his Austrian counterpart Michael Spindelegger as a symbolic gesture representing several tons of freight. The approximately 11,000 “fascicles“ (technical term for “bundles of files“) are by no means all of them. Others are still being kept in Moscow, awaiting restitution.  

The Nazis had confiscated the archives during WW II, had them transported to Berlin and from Berlin to Silesia, where they finally fell into the hands of the Russian troops. As reported by a member of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, Stephan Vavrik, for a long time it was unclear whether the documents still even existed. Not until the 1990s were Austrian historians able to obtain access to the “special archives,“ stored in Moscow, where they were inspected. Gerhard Jagschitz and Stefan Karner published the book, “Beuteakten aus Österreich“ (“Looted Austrian Historical Records“) in 2006. 

Since 2007 Austria and Russia have been in negotiations over restitution. Vavrik stated that the boxes were “ packed and ready for transport“ as early as 2008, but pick-up was delayed. On June 10, the records were handed over in the Austrian Embassy in Moscow, and the truckloads began their journey to Vienna where they will be inspected in the Austrian National Archives. As announced by the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an exhibition has been scheduled for autumn.  

According to Vavrik, there are still “three large blocks“ of material belonging to the Jewish Community (IKG), the Free Masons and those of Paneuropa-Union still awaiting restitution. The IKG, together with experts, have viewed the material and the concluding report is currently available. However, “negotiations are still being conducted“ according to Vavrik. “Politically, it is certainly not a problem,“ and the Foreign Ministry is convinced that there are only technical questions that need to be clarified. The material could most likely be returned by 2010.  

“Two large restitution questions still remain open:“ The first involves the so-called Pehlewi Papyri housed in the National Library; the other concerns the 1,665 books that belonged to the Esterházy Private Foundation which were taken from Eisenstadt in Burgenland and transported to the USSR in 1945. “We have been working on this very sensitive historical issue for years,“ said Vavrik.  

But for the time being, one can feel very happy about the truckload full of files that have been returned, since it was not a “self-understood matter,“ emphasized Vavrik. “Until now there were very few objects which have been restituted by other countries; in fact, this is the first larger inventory of archival records.“ Today’s ceremony, which entailed Lavrov symbolically presenting two documents dating back to the years 1937 and 1938, should serve as a “signal“ with a symbolic effect.  

Two New Restitution Cases Involving Six Paintings From Graz’s Joanneum Museum

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (07/24/2009) 

Distributing paintings from the Albert Pollak and Carl Wollner Collections among heirs proves complicated  

Graz – Resitution representative for Styria’s Regional Museum Joanneum, Karin Leitner-Ruhe, has announced that the museum is currently working on two additional restitution cases involving six works belonging to the collections of Albert Pollak and Carl Wollner. Until now, the pieces of art have not been returned because of incomplete legal documents.  

Among the six works belonging to the Albert Pollak collection is also the watercolor depicting a picturesque scene of Graz, entitled “Landhaushof“ by Ruldolf von Alt, which until now has been on display at the Neue Galerie. There are four other works also in the large collection of artworks owned by Pollak, who because of his Jewish origins was forced in 1940 to sign over his entire possessions to the National Socialists. He died childless in Holland in 1943, making the search for legal heirs complicated. 

The sixth piece of art that is to be restituted by the Alte Galerie is a portrait of a young boy painted by a Spanish master from the 17th Century. It originally belonged to the collection owned by Carl Wollner. The civil servant from Vienna was also forced to sign over his entire property, then emigrated to Chicago where it is unclear as to what happened the latter part of his life. A note written along the margin of one of his works helped experts to trace back his ownership of the art collection.  

In cooperation with Vienna‘s Jewish Community and the Austrian National Fund, some twenty-eight works belonging to various collections from Styria‘s Regional Museum Joanneum have been returned to their heirs over the past ten years. An enormous help in the form of a tool has been the Vugesta account books, deciphered by Karin Leitner-Ruhe. “The account books have in the meantime allowed for clarifying cases appearing at first unsolvable,“ expressed Leitner-Ruhe, who not only is involved with the Museum’s more problematical cases, but also with requests by the Commission on Provenance Research in Vienna. 

After more updated facts were presented, three cases of restitution were completed without relying on the research report produced ten years ago. The most famous case concerned the painting, “Harbor of Triest” (“Hafen von Triest “) by Egon Schiele. Joanneum Director Wolfgang Muchitsch said that “the policy of restitution conducted by Styria’s Regional Museum Joanneum doesn’t restrict itself to solely relying on the research report. Important is that all heirs are returned property that is legally theirs.“



Linz Restitutes Klimt Painting - Unanimous Decision of Town Council

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (06/04/2009) 

Jewish Community (IKG) expresses gratitude 

Linz/Vienna – The City of Linz will return the painting, “Portrait of Ria Munk III,“ currently part of the holdings of Linz’s Lentos Museum. After a preliminary decision had been taken by Mayor Franz Dobusch and Deputy-Mayor Erich Watzl in April, the Town Council gave their unanimous approval.  

The result of provenance research conducted over a longer period of time provided the basis for restitution after having classified the piece of art as having “questionable origins.“ The costly painting is to be returned to the heirs of Aranka Munk, who have already expressed their gratitude. Aranka Munk died during the Holocaust.   

Following the official decision and establishing the procedures involving transfer of ownership, the portrait of the woman is to be handed over to the Jewish Community (IKG), who are serving as restitution representatives. The Jewish Community expressed its thanks for the “constructive and excellent cooperation over the past few years, emphasizing as particularly positive the detailed and orderly manner in which the City of Linz carried out the facts of the case.“  

Austrian National Library Takes Over the Remaining Inventory of the Arthur Schnitzler Library

Austrian Federal Chancellery (07/20/2009)

Vienna – In July, 2009, some 8,000 books from the library of Arthur Schnitzler will be taken over by the Austrian National Library in July. Following the death of Lilly Schnitzler, wife of Arthur Schnitzler‘s son Heinrich, who bequeathed his collection to the Austrian National Library, “the valuable library will be recompiled. Its fate reflects Austria‘s contemporary history,“ as stated in a press release. 

In 1940 the library of the Jewish author, who died in 1931, was confiscated by the Gestapo and, according to a letter written by the Gestapo: “left for use of the National Library at will.“ In 1946 actor and director Heinrich Schnitzler submitted a restitution claim to the National Library. According to the National Library, the restitution case appears typical of the manner in which opportunists viewed their responsibility toward returning property in the years following the war. In other words, it recognized the claim but it reacted slowly and with hesitation, failing to express any understanding of injustice on the part of the claimant,“ admits the Austrian National Library. 

In 1947 those books from his father‘s library which could still be retrieved were returned to Heinrich Schnitzler, but it was said that he“ expressed disappointment over the outrageous handling of the matter on the part of those responsible for returning them.“ Despite the loss of one-third of the library and of the clearly active role in which the National Library had played in the looting of his property, Schnitzler felt, however, indebted to the Austrian National Library. In his will, Heinrich Schnitzler bequeathed the entire library, research material on the theatre, as well as the original manuscript of “Liebelei“ (“Flirtation“) to the Library. Following his death in 1982, about half of the library had already been taken over.  

It took a long time after Heinrich Schnitzler’s death before his assumption was confirmed in that in searching for the confiscated books during the post-war period, there had been inaccuracies when classifying the works. The result of provenance research initiated by Austrian National Library Director General Johanna Rachinger when entering office proved that other objects from Arthur Schnitzler’s library had been discovered. They were returned to Heinrich‘s widow Lilly Schnitzler in 2005. 

City of Vienna Restitutes “Love Letter“ to Heirs

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (06/12/2009) 

Painting was returned today to Haifa 

Vienna  - Upon recommendation of Vienna’s Commission on Restitution, the art work entitled, “The Love Letter,“ which was illegally taken from its owners during the NS era, was returned to its heirs. The case involves a painting by Johann Nepomuk Schödberger that belongs to property owned by Ignaz and Clothilde Schachter. The transfer took place in Haifa where the legal heirs are currently living. 

The painting was personally handed over by Hannah Lessing, Secretary General of the Republic of Austria’s National Fund for Victims of National Socialism. As stated in a press release: “Through restitution, justice is restored to the injured party decades after the illegal expropriation of property. The City of Vienna and the National Fund are particularly happy over the possibility of delivering the painting personally to the claimants.“ The Schachters were able to flee from the Nazis to Palestine.  

Mourning Paul Grosz

Austrian Federal Chancellery (09/07/2009) 

Paul Grosz, President of the Jewish Community Vienna (IKG) from 1987 – 1998 and Honorary President thereafter, died in the early morning hours of August 30, 2009 at the age of 84. 

Born in Vienna as the son of a furrier in 1925, he, together with his father, escaped deportation by the Nazis. He survived by remaining in hiding until the end of the war. After emigrating to the USA in 1950, he returned to Austria in 1955. When he assumed the office of President of the Jewish Community Vienna, Kurt Waldheim was Austria’s Federal President. “I faced a worried community,“ said Grosz. He encouraged its members “to present themselves in a manner reflecting more self-confidence.“ 

As Jewish Community Vienna President, Paul Grosz saw the establishment of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism and the Mauerbach Auction in autumn of 1996. On behalf of the IKG, the auction house Christie’s, auctioned off objects that had been looted by the Nazis and then stored in the Carthusian monastery of Mauerbach for decades.  

In 1992 the Minister of Education at the time, Rudolf Scholten, awarded the President of  the Jewish Religious Community the professional title of “Hofrat“ (“Court Councillor“). In 1999 Paul Grosz received the title of “Citizen of the City of Vienna.“ President Heinz Fischer was shocked when he was informed of the death of the fine, quiet man: “During the twelve years Paul Grosz was the President of the Jewish Community Vienna, he represented the concerns of the Jewish community with a great sense of responsiblity and efficiency, cooperating on an equal footing with the public institutions of our Republic.“  

Eric Kandel Becomes Honorary Citizen of Vienna

Austrian Press Agency (06/02/2009) 

Vienna – Eric Kandel has been designated an “honorary citizen of Vienna“ by Mayor Michael Häupl at a ceremony honoring the seventy-nine year-old Nobel Prize winner in medicine as “a world renowned scientist“ and “warmly welcomed him to his native country.“ Born in Vienna, Kandel was expelled from the country by the Nazis due to his Jewish origins. Together with his family, he emigrated to the USA.  

Kandel explained in his speech that receiving the honorary citizenship is a “bitter, sweet moment“ for him since almost exactly seventy years ago he and his family were expelled from Vienna. He stated that he had a special relationship to the Austrian capital, although the USA is “ one hundred more times“ his home. He explained, however, that “ the yearning to complete my incomplete childhood led me again and again back to Vienna.“  

His reconciliation with Austria was made easier by two statesmen – Mayor Häupl and Federal President Heinz Fischer - both of whom embody democracy “ to the highest degree.“ He was critical, however, of the slogans depicted on posters from the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) in the run up to the EU elections, emphasizing at the conclusion of the ceremony that “the language used is incomprehensible.” He also stated that the disturbance at Ebensee caused by the neo-Nazis was “ unacceptable“ and “insulting“ as well as the anti-Semitic remarks spread at Auschwitz by high school students from Vienna. 

As a Viennese citizen, Kandel hopes to work toward supporting three Austrian research institutes – among them the recently opened research institute, the Institute for Science and Technology Austria –

and encourage talented scientists from home and abroad to “move to Vienna.“ Also, he is on a “moral mission“: “I feel uncomfortable that the University of Vienna is located in a sector of the Ringstraße which is named after Dr. Karl Lueger.“ This was a man who made anti-Semitism his platform. It is Kandel’s wish to one day have it renamed, as for example, “Universtitätsring.“ 

Eric Kandel was born on November 7, 1929. Following his studies of history and literature at Harvard, he turned to medicine. During the 1950s he became one of the world’s leading neuroscientists. His research on the nervous system and brain resulted in the discovery of a protein that plays a key role in learning and memory. In 2000, Kandel received the Nobel Prize for medicine, together with Arvid Calsson and Paul Greengard.  

Neil Shicoff Receives Austrian Grand Decoration in Tel Aviv

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (06/04/2009) 

Vienna – Neil Shicoff was awarded with the Grand Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria in the Austrian Embassy in Tel Aviv. At a ceremonial reception in the New Israeli Opera following the well-attended performance of Georges Bizet’s “Carmen,“ in which Shicoff sang Don Jose, “numerous high ranking public personalities were present, according to  the Embassy‘s press release.  

Ambassador Michael Rendi emphasized in his eulogy, “the most important performances and main roles played by the charismatic star tenor Shicoff,“ and that the decoration was given “in honor of his impressive artistic work and his special bond with Austria. Shicoff also emphasized in his acceptance speech that for the last ten years Austria represents the center of his artistic interests and has “filled his artistic work with meaning and substance.“ Awarding here in Israel an Austrian decoration to a Jewish person from Brooklyn now living in Vienna closes the circle by which the Jewish heritage is bound together with Europe’s difficult past in its deep sympathy with Israel.   

Anne Frank’s Aide Miep Gies Receives Grand Decoration from Austria

Austrian Press Agency (07/31/2009) 

The Hague – The woman who helped and saved Anne Frank‘s diaries, Miep Gies, received the Grand Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria, according to a press release from the Austrian Embassy in The Hague. The one hundred year-old woman not only helped eight other people who had gone into hiding between 1942 and 1944, she saved the famous diariy for later generations. The “Diary of Anne Frank“ has been included into UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, World Heritage Collection.  

To a large extent it is the help provided by Miep Gies, born Hermine Santrouschitz in Vienna in 1909 but today a Dutch citizen, that millions of people are acquainted with the story of Anne Frank. Moreover, it is the continued help she provided to the Jewish family of Anne Frank and other residents by offering them a hiding place in a rear building in Amsterdam that Miep Gies was presented the Grand Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria by Austrian Ambassador to Holland, Wolfgang Paul.  

Between July 1942 and August 1944, Gies risked her own life by caring for the Jewish Frank and van Pels families with food and other necessities, along with dentist Fritz Pfeffer in a rear building in Prinsengracht 267 in Amsterdam, protecting them from the National Socialists. She belonged to a small resistance group and developed a special relatlionship to Anne Frank, serving as one of the most important links to the outside world for over two years. When the Gestapo discovered the eight people in the back building, Gies, who was thirty-years old at the time together with her colleague, Bep Voskuil, sought a way to preserve Anne Frank’s diary.  

The Diary was honored by being added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, included together with a series of other exceptionally valuable documents which serve as “a mirror to the world“ and to its remembrance, and preserved as a “guard against collective amnesia.“  

In order to fight against collective amnesia, Miep Gies spoke a great deal in schools and to the media during the 1960s about what took place in the rear building. Her memories were published in book form in 1987. Gies is the only person still living who knew Anne Frank personally. Presentation of the decoration took place in her home since her currently poor health condition prevented her from traveling to The Hague for the ceremony.  

Anne Frank, born eighty years ago in Frankfurt am Main, fled with her family to Amsterdam after the Nationals Socialists rose to power in 1933. When the Jews began to feel the “race policy“ inflicted on them by the Germans after 1940, the family went into hiding. They lived in the rear building of the company belonging to Anne’s father, Otto Frank. On August 4 they were denounced, arrested by the Germans and deported to Auschwitz where the mother died just days before the liberation of the camp in 1945. The two daughters, Margot and Anne, were sent in 1944 to Bergen-Belsen, where they died of typhus in March 1945, one shortly after the other. The only survivor of the family was the father, to whom Miep Gies gave the diary without having read it. It was through the father’s efforts that the book was published.

Memorial Book for the Victims of National Socialism 

Memorial Book for the Victims of National Socialism

at the University of Vienna in 1938 

As of June 30, 2009, the University of Vienna introduced an online database, “Memorial Book for the Victims of Naional Socialism,“ that includes roughly 2,200 names and short biographies of victims – including professors, lecturers and students - who following the advent of the National Socialist regime in 1938 were persecuted, expelled and/or murdered as Jews out of political reasons. Some 1,770 of the approximately 2,230 expelled students of the university have been identified by name thus far, in addition to the names of 234 graduates whose academic credentials were rendered invalid, and of approximately 200 professors and lecturers who were dismissed. 

The memorial book records all the names known to date, as well as their year of birth and academic faculty. The list of lecturers includes the subject they taught, academic titles rescinded during the NS era, graduation year and their degree.  

In spite of in-depth scientific research, the online database is incomplete and continues as an ongoing project. Those involved hope to discover more names of forgotten NS victims, who will take their place amid their peers in the pages of the memorial book. Thus, it is regarded as an opportunity for expanding scientific knowledge.  

In the Memorial Book’s preamble it is stated that in 2008, seventy years after the so-called “Anschluss,“ (annexation) and the pogroms of what came to be cynically called the „Kristallnacht“ (Crystal Night), the University of Vienna commemorates this injustice and is aware of the amount of shared responsibility it bears for this inconceivable atrocity perpetrated against ist affiliates. For the first time ever, the names of those dismissed, exiled and disenfranchised men and women are chronicled in this memorial book. It contains the names of the lecturers dismissed and students expelled for “racial“ and/or “political reasons“ whose academic titles were rescinded. 

It is of paramount importance that the victims of National Socialist persecution at the University of Vienna (including the Vienna School of Medicine, which in the intervening years became an independent institution) remain part of the collective memory of today’s University.  

The project’s team would be extremely grateful for any relevant information or references. They are painfully aware of the fact that past injustice cannot be expiated by their work. Rather, this is a belated, symbolic initiative, unfortunately destined never to be completed. This document is dedicated to the Present and to the Future, as a memento and a caveat addressed to all affiliates of the University: „Nip evil in the bud.“  

Book - “Memoirs of a Hitler Refugee“


Hannah Naiditch 

A most recent publication of “Memoirs of a Hitler Refugee. Activism and Issues Define my Life“ (Xlibris Publ.) by Hannah Naiditch records an important page in cultural history. The book is a riveting account of Hannah Naiditch’s unforgettable odyssey—from her tranquil childhood in Vienna, to her miraculous escape from the Nazis, to her politically active life in America.  She relates how she endured early separation from her family; harrowing nights spent in London’s underground subway tunnels, as Germany ruthlessly tried to bomb England into submission; and the challenges of starting a new life in America.

During a time when women had limited political expression, Hannah’s experiences led her to a life dedicated to political activism—challenging the core foundations of American domestic and foreign policy with her many influential and controversial articles.  In her fifties, she got an M.A. degree in social psychology and became an ardent op.-ed. writer. These political op-ed articles form a fascinating appendix to her book. 

Hannah’s astute psychological observations offer a unique perspective of life and culture in Europe and America.  As Hannah’s good friend and fellow political activist, Ed Asner, warns, “Any who choose to tilt in logic and reason with Hannah, had best rethink their fatal flaw.  She will always enlighten and reward any listener.  Heed and grow.”

Prof. Emeritus Lee H. Roloff of Northwestern University claims that “writing from the perspective of a richly lived professional and personal life, she documents the tragedy of a despotic time and the triumph of a personal spirit. What she shares of her life must not be forgotten, or, poignantly, misremembered. She has the capacity of putting into perspective the crisis of the mid-twentieth century.” 

He goes on to say that “Hannah Naiditch is a survivor, but more, she has retained the vision necessary to overcome sentimentality for the portraiture of displacement and dislocation. Her story is a remarkable one and worthy of a greater public.“