Book: The Austrian National Fund – Anniversary Publication

A recent two-volume publication was presented at a commemoration of the 15th Anniversary of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism hosted by the Embassy of Austria in Washington, D.C. on May 13, 2010.

The publication provides a comprehensive overview of Austria’s National Fund, which was established in 1995 to provide a symbolic gesture of reconciliation to Austrian Holocaust survivors throughout the world by in the way of one-time payments to former victims and their heirs. Meanwhile the Fund has gone beyond its original mandate and expanded its goals by sponsoring projects for scientific research and commemoration, care and pension benefits to Holocaust survivors living in poverty, restoration of Jewish cemeteries as well as restitution of art works.

Volume I, entitled, “National Fund,” covers the history, origins and development, function and impact, views by dignitaries of the Fund, together with a section on the General Settlement Fund.

Volume II, entitled, “Lives Remembered,” is a collection of life stories of Holocaust victims who, in the fact of persecution, loss of family members, physical and psychological brutality, were remarkably resilient and went on to lead lives of renewal and achievement.

Survivor Tells Story in “War Came to Me”

Cleveland Jewish News (03/12/2010)


Life in Vienna as the Broessler family knew it came to an end March 13, 1938, when the Third Reich annexed Austria. With the Anschluss came dramatic and harsh changes in the lives of Jews, who lost their property, bank accounts, jobs and places in schools. Jews faced random roundups and deportations to concentration camps; those left behind were banned from parks, streetcars and communal buildings and often were forced to carry humiliating signs and scrub the streets.

It was a “reign of terror” designed to make Jews emigrate, writes Lakewood resident Eva Broessler Weissman and Gregory Moore in the recently published The War Came to Me: A Story of Endurance and Survival. The 100-page book, published by University Press of America, succinctly places Weissman’s compelling story into historical context, explaining how her struggle was typical of the persecution and horrors Jews faced. However, her survival and subsequent reunion with her family in America was anything but typical.

Two months after the Kristallnacht in November 1938, Eva, 16, and her sister Ruth, 7, fled to Holland, where two different families of Dutch Jews – the Simonses and the Isaacs – looked after the girls.

When the Nazis invaded The Netherlands in 1940, the Isaacs, Ruth’s foster family, took her with them on a perilous escape to Switzerland. Eva ended up in hiding in Amsterdam with a Christian relative of the Simonses, carrying forged identity papers and becoming a courier for the Dutch Resistance.

Meanwhile, the girls’ parents, Thekla and Gustav, managed to obtain visas and flee to England in September 1939, one month before war broke out in Europe. Weissman, who is active in nonprofit work and recently received a lifetime achievement award from the Huntington’s Disease Association, had been urged by friends for years to write a book about her life. She met co-author Moore, associate professor of history and political science at Notre Dame College, when she spoke there about her Holocaust experiences.

She and her sister, now Ruth Newmark and living in California, provided an enormous amount of reference material, including their unpublished memoirs and videotaped interviews, to Moore, who wrote the six chapters of the book. Weissman penned the introduction and epilogue. Her friend Dr. Alan Tartakoff, a professor of pathology at Case Western Reserve University, describes the Eva he knows in the foreword.

The book contains a wealth of family photos and a helpful brief genealogy of the Jewish families involved. Also included is a thoughtful reflection Weissman wrote on her abbreviated but excellent education at a gymnasium in Vienna.

Appended is the letter Weissman wrote to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, praising Erika G.L. Simons and Simons’s mother Johanna, the Dutch Christians who sheltered her and other Jews at great personal risk. Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum, subsequently honored both for their deeds.

Vivid, personal anecdotes make the book more engaging. Particularly telling is the story of a pillow that Weissman selflessly gave to her younger sister when they were interned at a camp in Holland. To this day, whenever Weissman wants her sister to do something, she jokingly says, “You owe me. Remember the pillow.”

Her escape and survival Weissman attributes to luck and perhaps an instinct for self-preservation. But she’s proudest of what she calls her “noble deed.”

When the Nazis invaded Holland, the Simons family, like many other Jews, tried to flee. The Dutch family went to the harbor to find passage to England. Eva refused to accompany them because she had promised her parents, already in England, that she would take care of her little sister. At the time, she didn’t know that Ruth had already escaped to Switzerland.

Weissman also relates how, during her years in hiding in Amsterdam, she carried the identity card of a Johanna Cornelius Meijer, substituting her own photo for that of the Christian girl.

She never knew who Meijer was. Or if the Dutch Resistance, which provided her with the document, forced or asked Christians to deliberately misplace their identification, so that the “lost” ones could be used to help Jews. Fortunately, Weissman was never stopped and asked to produce her identity card.

“Had I been caught, I doubt that story would have held up. But the card was a security blanket for me,” she says.

When she talks to groups about her wartime experiences, Weissman says she stresses that even in bad times, “there were some good people.” Moore noted at a recent book signing that from a statistical point of view, it was almost a miracle that all four members of the Broessler family survived independently of each other.

Now that the book is published, Weissman is adamant that she will not spend the rest of her life talking about her past. Still, when she visits Vienna – she was last there a year and a half ago – she finds the city very enjoyable and more beautiful than ever.
Ten years ago, Austria invited its persecuted Jews to regain their citizenship, Weissman notes. She’s very ambivalent about doing so.

“I am so deeply rooted now in America. Certain things in Austria I remember kindly, and I respect the new generation. But am I not more obligated to America?”

But at times she thinks she should accept Austria’s very belated offer. “They deprived us of the most elementary rights of a citizen. They owe it (citizenship) to me.”

Book: “The War Came to Me“

Eva Broessler Weissman and Gregory Moore

A recent autobiography entitled, “The War Came to Me: A Story of Endurance and Survival,” by Eva Broessler Weissman and Gregory Moore, published by the University Press of America (2009) is a testament to the many persons throughout Europe that risked their lives to save Jews from the extermination effort by the Nazis. This book tells the story of the courageous and compassionate Dutch citizens who helped two young Austrian sisters avoid deportation to the death camps where they almost certainly would have perished.

The sisters, Eva and Ruth, were sent by their parents to The Netherlands in order to escape the increasing persecution of Jews in their homeland. They would endure years of separation from their parents and each other, before the family was eventually reunited. Through the daring efforts of these Dutch families, Eva and Ruth were able to escape Nazi persecution and survive the war.

Holocaust survivor Eva Broessler Weissman escaped from Vienna, Austria, to the Netherlands in 1939. With the help of a family that removed her from danger, she avoided arrest and acted as a courier in the Dutch resistance until the end of the Nazi occupation. After World War II, she moved to the United States, where she devoted her life to working with nonprofit organizations. She and her sister, now Ruth Newmark, provided an enormous amount of reference material, including their unpublished memoirs and videotaped interview, to associate professor of history and political science at Notre Dame College, Gregory Moore, who wrote the six chapters of the book.

In 2005, as a former student at the High School Billrothstraße in the 19th district of Vienna until 1938, Weissman contacted the Austrian National Fund requesting assistance in finding former classmates. With the support of the Fund, as well as members of her former school, she was able to connect with some of them living as far away as Australia. Since that time she has visited Vienna and friends several times. In the recent publication issued in 2010 in commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism, Eva Weissman was honored as one of the examples of successful reunions of families and friends.  

Austrian Teachers Travel to Yad Vashem

Austrian Press Agency (03/16/2010)

Seminar project with Holocaust memorial is being continued

 Vienna/Jerusalem –Seminars for Austrian teachers held in the Israeli Holocaust Memorial site, Yad Vashem, which have been conducted over the past ten years are being continued. Minister for Education Claudia Schmied signed an agreement during her visit to Israel. Since fall of 2000 until August 2009, a total of 358 Austrian teachers have participated in cooperation with Yad Vashem.

“Generations of students have profited from the impression and knowledge gained by teachers,” exclaimed the Minister for Education in a press release. The seminars last thirteen days - including one weekend prior and one weekend following – and serve as required preparation before the teachers embark on their trip. They consist of historical lectures and workshops, introduced by educational material, as well as opportunity for participants to speak with survivors of the Shoah.

 For those interested in detailed information on Austria’s program on Holocaust Education, see:

Vice Chancellor Pröll in Israel

Austrian Federal Chancellery (06/07/2010)

The talks held by Vice Chancellor and Minister of Finance Josef Pröll during his official visit to Israel on May 25 to 26, 2010 focused on the international financial crisis and the sanctions against Iran. Pröll was accompanied by a delegation including the President of the Jewish Religious Community, Ariel Muzicant.

In Jerusalem Pröll met for example with President Shimon Peres and his Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz. He laid wreaths at the tomb of Theodor Herzl ("Father of Zionism") and at the Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem. Pröll stated that especially this site had made a "deep impression" on him. It was the task of all following generations to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to "do their utmost" to prevent crimes of this kind in the future, warned Pröll.

Josef Pröll agreed with Minister Steinitz to strengthen the economic relations between Israel and Austria, notably in the high-tech sector and "green technology".

Chancellor Faymann Visits Israel

Austrian Federal Chancellery (07/05/2010)

Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann will pay an official visit to Israel from June 23 - 24, 2010. His political meeting agenda will include talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and opposition leader Tzipi Livni.

The key issue for debate is the peace process in the Middle East, which is a priority in Austria's foreign policy. In Jerusalem Faymann will visit the tomb of Theodor Herzl, the "father of Zionism", and the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, where he will meet with pensioners born in Austria.

During his short visit to the Palestinian autonomous territories, talks with President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will take place in Ramallah.

Faymann Travels to Israel and Palestinian Region

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (06/21/2010)

A meeting with Peres, Netanyahu, Abbas and Fayyad – Visit of Yad Vashem – Peace process in the Middle East as main topic.

Vienna/ Jerusalem – The peace process in the Middle East is the main focus of a two-day visit, which Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann will complete in Israel and the Palestinian autonomous region. Meetings with numerous high-level politicians are scheduled in Jerusalem and Ramallah. Israeli and Palestinian counterparts will include Israel’s president Shimon Peres, head of government Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and prime minister Salam Fayyad.

Israel was a main focus of attention and international criticism in the media during the past few weeks due to the brutal military attack on the “Gaza Solidarity Fleet” with numerous Turkish passengers on board the “Mavi Marmar. Nine activists were killed during the incident on May 31 and dozens injured. Worldwide protest led to the Israeli government announcing an easing of the Gaza strip blockade.

Faymann expressed “shock” over the attack on the Gaza Fleet, and demanded “a comprehensive examination and complete explanation of the incident,” requiring also international participation. Israel’s decision to establish a fact-finding commission is viewed as a “positive step.” The meeting will also touch upon the role of the EU and Austria in the peace process.

Faymann’s visit is, according to the Chancellor’s office, the first visit of a head of government in Israel “since the incident with the “aid fleet.” The visit takes on a special significance because Austria remains a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council until the end of 2010. In mid June, the United National criticized the Israeli government’s policy in Gaza as having failed. The country needs new and positive strategy, said the UN Special Envoy for the Middle East, Robert Serry.

Faymann was asked by the Islamic and pro-Palestinian organizations, as well as by head of the municipal council of the Social Democratic party, Omar al-Rawi, to cancel the Israel trip. Although it never came to that, the originally planned four-day trip was shortened to two days, and the “political emphasis strengthened,” stated the chancellor’s office. Faymann will, thus, meet with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Minister of Justice Yaakov Neeman and Social Minister Yitzhak Herzog. A talk with the former foreign minister and current head of opposition, Tzipi Livni (Kadmia party) is also scheduled.

Apart from the international scope of the visit, emphasis will also be placed on its bilateral character. At the start of his visit, Faymann will lay a wreath at the grave of Theodor Herzl. Commemorating the “Father of Zionism,” who was born 150 years ago on May 2, 1960, has been recently more emphasized in Israel. Five years ago his birth date was declared a national holiday, according to the Jewish calendar, the 10th lyar.

In the presence of young Austrian Gedenkdiener, the Austrian federal chancellor will visit the Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem, as well as Austrian pensioners (The Central Committee of Jews from Austria in Israel). Faymann will be accompanied by the president of Vienna’s Jewish Community, Ariel Muzicant, together with the designated director of the Jewish Museum in Vienna, former ORF moderator Danielle Spera.

It was emphasized before the visit that the Middle East is considered one of the main focuses of Austria’s foreign policy. Faymann, himself, visited Syria shortly before Christmas last year, where he met with Austria’s blue helmet soldiers stationed on the Golan Heights, as well as with Syria’s president Basher al-Assad. Assad expressed the wish for a unified EU position in the Middle East peace process. At the time, Faymann emphasized that the EU always stood for solutions based on negotiations.

Government representatives previously visited the Middle East – Vice Chancellor/ Finance Minister Josef Pröll at the end of May, and Michael Spindelegger in mid-February. Pröll discussed at that time with President Peres and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz issues involving the international finance crisis as well as sanctions against Iran. The Vice Chancellor emphasized that Austria is “in line with Israel concerning sanctions against Iran.” In addition, Spindelegger visited the Palestinian region, Lebanon and Syria.

Faymann’s predecessor, Alfred Gusenbauer, had visited Israel in September, 2007, after there had been no Chancellor visit to the Jewish state during the era of the black-blue, black-orange government.

Gusenbauer spoke in Jerusalem also about Austria’s moral responsibility for NS crimes committed against the Jews: “ Many collaborators of the Holocaust were Austrians.” In December 2008, Federal President Heinz Fischer made a state visit to Israel.

Conference on the Return of Art from Austrian Federal Museums and Collections in New York March 4 – 5, 2010

Austrian Press Agency (02/26/2010)

New York – With art fairs taking place every year in New York during the first week of March, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York is organizing a two-day symposium on the return of art works and objects stolen during the Nazi era, in close cooperation with the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Arts, and Culture and the Israelite Religious Community (IKG) in Vienna.

By adopting the 1998 Law on Art Restitution and its amendment in 2009, the Republic of Austria created the possibility of restituting art objects stolen during the Nazi era now found in Federal museums and collections to their lawful owners or heirs. The adoption of this law and its implementation is just one example of several measures introduced by the Republic of Austria in recent years. The return of stolen art objects, which began in 1998, is remarkable viewed in international comparison.

Experience from cooperation with the lawyers of former owners of art objects or their heirs in the USA has demonstrated the need for precise information on the legal case and restitution laws in post-war Austria. This symposium aims to provide an opportunity to deal with the problems and issues attributable to different historical backgrounds and disparate legal systems. 

The first day of the symposium is dedicated to American experts and lawyers dealing with the topic. The Austrian speakers, Dr. Christoph Bazil of the Federal Ministry for Education, Arts, and Culture, Professor Georg Graf of the Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, Professor Michael John of the University of Linz, and Leonhard Weidinger of the MAK Museum of Applied Arts will describe the legal framework and concrete measures.

On the second day, Dr. Christoph Bazil and Leonhard Weidinger will inform once displaced Austrians and their heirs on the activities and programs of the Republic of Austria.

Decision Postponed on Schiele’s ”Mother with Two Children III“

Der Standard (03/19/2010)

Decision Postponed on Schiele’s ”Mother with Two Children III“
Restitution Advisory Board finds additional inquiries necessary.

Vienna – The Restitution Advisory Board has postponed its decision on Egon Schiele’s painting, “Mother with Two Children III,” deeming additional inquiries by the Commission for Provenance Research as necessary.

The painting was formerly owned by Jenny Steiner. The National Socialists seized all assets, the apartment was aryanized and the art collection sold. After WW II, Jenny Steiner fled to New York, leaving many paintings behind, among them was “Mother with Two children III.” Since she was not granted an export license, Steiner sold the painting in 1951 to Austria’s Belvedere gallery for 20,000 Schillings.

In 2000 the Restitution Advisory Board recommended that the painting is not to be restituted. However, in fall of 2009, the Law on Restitution was amended, allowing for  works that were paid a selling price after 1945 to also be restituted. Alfred Noll, the lawyer for the heirs, reckons with restitution in exchange for return payment of the former sum for which it was sold. The Restitution Advisory Board wants now, however, to obtain further information on the export proceedings.

It also postponed the decision on a still life of fruit by Jakob van Es from the former Robert Schwarz collection. As for restitution, it recommended each of the two silver candlesticks from MAK be returned to Emil Iwnicki and Anna Kutscher.

Hunting for a Bargain

Der Standard (02/04/2010)

Emile Zuckerkandl wants to reclaim Klimt’s painting, “Mohnwiese“ (“Poppy Meadow“) from Belvedere that he sold to Rudolf Leopold after the war.

According to Attorney Alfred Noll, the case fulfills the conditions of the Law on Restitution.

Vienna / Los Angeles – For the Zuckerkandl family, there remained no other alternative than to flee: In 1938 the Westend Sanatorium in Purkersdorf designed by Josef Hoffmann with all its art objects were aryzanized and sold to a member of the Nazi Party, Hans Gnad. Emile Zuckerkandl, who was born in Vienna in 1922 as the son of the former owner of the Westend Sanatorium, Fritz Zuckerkandl lives today in Los Angeles and is still fighting for the return of property.

After WW II, the family was granted some of the art works, among them, “Poppy Meadow,” painted by Gustav Klimt in 1907. However, the federal agency responsible for the preservation of historical monuments refused to allow them to be exported. Reason: “Interest in Klimt’s paintings is increasing, particularly among the Austrian public who have a right to see the landscapes of their native painter, Gustav Klimt.”

Zuckerkandl’s appeal was defeated by the Ministry of Education. It was well known that Austria’s Belvedere gallery had a strong interest in acquiring the oil painting and that the Zuckerkandl family received the recommendation to contact the Belvedere gallery, which they did. In July 1949, the Austrian gallery informed the Zuckerkandl family that it was prepared to pay 15,000 Schilling for it.

Emile Zuckerkandl answered that he was assured that the value of the painting was worth much more and asked for 20,000 Schilling – “a price, that according to specialists, is still very modest indeed.” Nevertheless, Belvedere refused to discuss the matter and also turned down Zuckerkandl’s offer of compromise of 17,500 Schilling.

A few years later, in 1955, the Viennese ophthalmologist, Rudolf Leopold, expressed his interest. Zuckerkandl took a risk and asked for an “exorbitant” price. At the end of 1956 Leopold recommended a compromise: “Since your painting would fit very well into my collection, I am prepared to pay you an extraordinary price of 30,000 Schilling.” In January of 1957, Zuckerkandl agreed to accept the offer.

One Klimt for Two Schiele

Leopold didn’t really want to acquire the painting for his collection because a few days later, he turned around and offered Austria’s Belvedere gallery the painting, “Poppy Meadow,” in exchange for two works by Egon Schiele, which interested him much more – “Cardinal and Nun,” as well as “Two Crouching Women” from the former Rieger Collection.

Belvedere agreed since it considered the two immoral paintings as inappropriate for exhibition. The result was a real bargain since the two Schiele paintings were acquired for 11,500 Schilling and received in turn for a Klimt painting, for which Leopold had paid 30,000 Schilling. Moreover, Leopold was required to add on “Dutch Landscape” by Rudolf Ribarz together with “Holy Aegydius.” Leopold quickly struck the deal on February 16. Today Egon Schiele’s “Cardinal and Nun” are considered his main piece of art work, and it is more valuable than Klimt’s “Poppy Meadow.”

Emile Zuckerkandl would like, however, to have the painting back. In 2003 his attorney, Alfred Noll, turned to Ernst Bacher, the former head of the Commission on Provenance Research. In Bacher’s view, based on the Law of Restitution, the facts of the case excluded right of return.

In November 2009, however, the law was amended. Since then, not only art works previously prohibited by federal law from being exported that were acquired by the Republic of Austria are to be returned without charge, but also all works of art that became objects of restitution procedures. Noll is convinced that “Poppy Meadow” must therefore be returned.

Group of Artists Challenge Rudolf Leopold to Restitution

Der Standard (04/15/2010)

Vienna – Numerous galleries are focusing on submitting artwork for an event entitled, “Vienna Paintings.” The Leopold Museum is participating as well. On the occasion of the exhibition, “Hidden Treasures of Austrian Water Color Paintings,” painters of water color have been invited to participate in a competition. Deadline for submitting their works is April. As main prize, the winner will be offered the opportunity of having five of his/her art works purchased.

The “fifty best paintings,” selected by a jury, will be presented in the atrium of the Leopold Museum. The private viewing, however, was postponed at the last minute until May 5. Arye Wachsmuth who, under the motto, “first pay, then paint,” animated twelve of his friends to participate, who are highly curious as to whether one of their paintings will be recognized as being worthy of exhibition or worthy of even being purchased at all.

As Wachsmuth commented to der Standard, by submitting art work, the artists are making an issue of how one has dealt thus far with NS confiscated art. In an accompanying letter, a challenge was sent to director Rudolf Leopold to “return Egon Schiele’s “Wally” painting to the heirs of Lea Bondi-Jaray and “Houses At the Sea” to the heirs of Jenny Steiner! There should be no dealing-making involved when restituting seized art!”

Press speaker Klaus Pokorny assured that “all of the submitted works would be dealt with equally,” signaling understanding for the criticism. All twenty-four of the works submitted by Georgia Crimer, Titanilla Eisenhart, Mina Mohandes and Franz Schubert, among others, will be shown on Facebook under “first pay, then paint.” One hopes for active participation of many more artists. 

Portrait of Wally Returns to Vienna

Leopold Museum Private Foundation website (www.

Statement by the Leopold Museum Private Foundation on the successful conclusion of settlement negotiations

On July 29, 2010, settlement was reached between the Leopold Museum Private Foundation (LMPF) and the Estate of Lea Bondi-Jaray with regard to the painting, “Portrait of Wally,” by Egon Schiele. According this arrangement, the Foundation will pay nineteen million dollars and have the portrait returned. As it is widely known, the painting had been seized by a New York district court following an exhibition of LMPF-owned works at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1998. The more than twelve years since that time have seen the work embroiled in a legal battle. Now, the painting will be returning to the Leopold Museum, where it forms a triptych of sorts with Schiele’s “Self-portrait with Lampion Fruit” and the similarly iconic work, “Cardinal and Nun.”

In any event, collector and foundation founder Rudolf Leopold viewed the painting both as an independent work and as part of this secular triptych, and the fact that Leopold did not live to see Wally finally return to his museum adds an additional bitter aspect to this painting's long history.
The settlement by LMPF with the Estate of Lea Bondi-Jaray will surely not remain a unique, exceptional case, but shall rather set a certain precedent for future actions.Each side, LMPF and the heirs of Bondi-Jaray, was and remains of the opinion that it would have eventually won the lawsuit—not today, not tomorrow, but only after an arduous procedure which would have dragged on for several more years. This prospect would have been unbearably costly for both sides in terms of time and financial resources. Dr. Leopold always believed himself to be in the right regarding this case, and up to his final moment, he remained optimistic that justice would ultimately prevail.

Those who give close study to the relevant history, documentation and witness testimony will thoroughly understand the way in which the collector acted, arriving at the conclusion that he had acquired the work in justifiably good faith.

At the same time, Rudolf Leopold was aware that his strength and health were failing. He desired to see the painting returned to Vienna during his own lifetime, and therefore initiated settlement negotiations of his own accord.

Today, I would like to once again call attention to the fact that Rudolf Leopold had desired a compromise settlement from the very beginning. In 1998, such a settlement would have cost around two million dollars—as signaled to him at the time by Ronald Lauder. But the Austrian Federal Government’s representation on the board of the LMPS urged Leopold to grant his permission to engage in the legal battle that ensued—a battle during which court and legal fees were to consume over twice the original compensation sum. The other side had an easier time of it: their role in the proceedings was assumed for them by the U.S. Government.

The present settlement is also about recognizing and appreciating the positions and achievements on each side. It acknowledges and expresses empathy for the tragic history of Jews in Austria during the twentieth century, while also recognizing the achievements of the private collector and worldwide Schiele promoter.

As part of the settlement negotiations, the two sides—the LMPS and the group of heirs—have arrived at a mutual formulation of the painting’s ownership history. This is a rather important point in such settlements, resulting in positive long-term effects. This mutually formulated history will appear in writing next to the painting when it is once again displayed in Vienna.

The financial aspect—nineteen million US dollars—cannot be allowed to overshadow the aspect of mutuality described above. Even so, the LMPS has gone to the absolute limits of its financial possibilities in settling this case. The fact that the Republic of Austria has so far refrained from participating in this settlement remains a discordant note and will certainly affect the relationship of the LMPF with the Austrian Federal Government for some time to come.

The Austrian Federal Government contributed no more than eighty million Euros to the Foundation—this amounts to around one tenth of its present-day value, or—put differently—the value of just one of those several Leopold Collection artworks which are of central significance to art history. Therefore, it would have been immanently appropriate for the Federal Government to bear some of the costs of the legal battle which was, after all, initiated upon its explicit recommendation. Regardless of this unfortunate fact, the LMPF was willing to make this settlement payment alone, exclusively from its own funds. This should also be publicly stated and acknowledged.

Therefore, one cannot stress often enough that the LMPS has undertaken its efforts towards settlement of cases of wrongfully expropriated Jewish property voluntarily and upon the basis on its own deliberations and decisions. In a purely legal sense, the LMPF is not obligated to take action; in fact, the Foundation’s statues make it exceptionally difficult to enter into such a settlement.

Even so, the LMPS shall act out of its moral responsibility to do justice to the history of Austria and of its Jewish citizens, and shall take steps to reach settlements that satisfy the claims and expectations of both sides.

At the same time, the LMPF views it as its duty to ensure for the Republic of Austria that important artworks remain accessible to the general public.

In this double responsibility—regarding both history and the preservation of artworks for public edification—the LMPF is deliberately embarking upon a path that represents a new one for Austrian private foundations. In contrast to Austria’s Federal Museums, it can act voluntarily and autonomously, and it will not forego this opportunity to act in a free and self-responsible manner. The basis for our action shall be the quest for historical truth and societal responsibility, rather than the pursuit of particular interests.

Art as a Passion – On the Death of Private Collector Rudolf Leopold

Federal Chancellery (07/05/2010)

Austria's most important private collector and director of the Leopold Museum at the Museums-Quartier (MQ) in Vienna, Rudolf Leopold, died at age 85 at a hospital in Vienna on June 28, 2010.

Rudolf Leopold was born in Vienna in 1925. In 1953 he earned his medical degree. During his medical studies, he used to attend art history lectures and collected paintings and art objects – predominantly by the almost forgotten Expressionist painter at the time, Egon Schiele.

Leopold presented an exhibition on modern Austrian art in Amsterdam in 1955. Attracting a lot of attention, the exhibition made Schiele known to a larger audience. Following this success, Leopold organized other Schiele exhibitions in Innsbruck, London and New York.

In 1972 Rudolf Leopold published a comprehensive monograph as a critical catalogue raisonné accurately documenting Schiele’s works. From 1989 to 1991 the exhibition, “Egon Schiele and his Time" was successfully presented in Zurich, Vienna, Munich, Wuppertal and London. Numerous other international exhibitions followed. Schiele's works could be admired also at the Expo 2000 in Hannover.

With the support of the Republic of Austria and the Austrian National Bank, Rudolf Leopold incorporated his collection into the Leopold Museum Private Foundation, comprising about 5,300 works of art. Leopold received about one third of the estimated value of his collection and became director for life of the museum. In 2001 the Leopold Museum was opened at MQ. Since then, the valuable private collection of Austrian classical modernism has been presented as a permanent exhibition.

In 1997 Rudolf Leopold was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art in recognition of his achievements.

The opening of the museum marked the beginning of discussions on "Aryanized" works of art contained in the collection. The two Schiele works, "Bildnis Wally" ("Portrait of Wally") – former owner: Lea Bondi-Jaray – and “Tote Stadt III (“Dead City III“) – former owner: Fritz Grünbaum – were confiscated in New York in 1998. The latter work was returned to the museum in 1999 as the plaintiffs were not the legitimate heirs of Fritz Grünbaum.

In 2000 a Canadian citizen submitted a legal claim for restitution of the painting, "Der Dengler" ("The Scythe Sharpener"), by Albin Egger-Lienz. However, the case was dismissed in all stages of appeal and in 2003 by the Supreme Court in Vienna.

Finally, there is the unsettled claim submitted by the heirs of Jenny Steiner for restitution of the Schiele painting, "Häuser am Meer" ("Houses on the Sea").

The Leopold Museum is the only Austrian museum making its provenance database accessible via the Internet, but the provenance stated is partly questionable. The collection contains numerous works of art of dubious provenance that originally belonged to persons persecuted by the NS regime: Oskar Reichel, Fritz Grünbaum, Heinrich Rieger, Karl Mayländer, Jenny Steiner and others.

As a private foundation, the Leopold Museum is not subject to the Restitution Act (Federal Law Gazette 181/1998), even though the case "Wally" (confiscation of the painting from the Leopold collection in New York in 1998) was the reason for adopting this law and stirred discussion. The Restitution Act authorizes the federal minister to restitute works of art held by the federal museums.

The court case involving "Portrait of Wally" has been pending for ten years. In 2008 a scandal erupted around an Albin Egger Lienz exhibition, whereby fourteen paintings – including twelve exhibits on loan from different Austrian museums – were presented that were suspected of having been looted during the NS period.

The Leopold Museum Private Foundation agreed to the proposal of the Federal Ministry of Education, Art and Culture to establish two independent provenance researchers at the museum who are paid by the Republic of Austria. On December 21, 2009, the researchers presented eleven reports on seventeen various works of art.

Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann stated on the death of Rudolf Leopold that the discussions on the provenance of some works would be continued and come to a dignified end. But it was also necessary to keep a sense of proportion and to recognize the lifetime achievements of Rudolf Leopold: "A man passed away who made us familiar with Viennese Modernism and, in particular, the works of Egon Schiele. His passion for art and his unwavering eye provided us with a private art collection which today is accessible to the general public. Even though the authorized group of experts were very cautious in judging the works by Schiele, Klimt, Kokoschka or Kubin for many years, Rudolf Leopold’s opinion ultimately prevailed – thanks to numerous exhibitions, significant research and his personal perseverance."

Minister of Culture Claudia Schmied also paid tribute to Rudolf Leopold as "someone who was obsessed in the best sense of the word, someone who – with a clear understanding of art movements and Zeitgeist – observed, recognized and shaped the development of the art market throughout the past few decades. As the director of' 'his' Leopold Museum, "he was "always firmly committed to making the treasures of Austria’s largest private art collection accessible to a wide audience."

Albertina Director Klaus Albrecht Schröder praised the deceased collector for his "unerring sense of quality, which never failed when judging artists and works of art that were not represented in his collection." Moreover, we also owe it to Rudolf Leopold that today Richard Gerstl's work is held in high esteem.

The Return of “Wally”: The Mona Lisa of the 20th Century

Die Presse (07/26/2010)

Twelve years ago Schiele’s “Portrait of Wally,” held by the Leopold Foundation, was seized in New York on suspicion that it was “stolen.” For 15 million Euros the painting will now be returned. “Justice has been served,” said the heirs.

After more than twelve years of legal dispute, there has been an agreement reached in the case of “Wally.” Egon Schiele’s painting, “Portrait of Wally,” which was part of the holdings of the private Leopold Foundation and seized in 1998 in New York on suspicion of it being “stolen,” will return to Vienna. Shortly before going to trial in Manhattan on July 26 in New York, the parties involved, including the Leopold Foundation and the heirs of art dealer Lea Bondi-Jaray, came to an agreement outside of court. “Wally” is considered a key work among Schiele’s paintings.

As confirmed by the Managing Director of the Vienna Leopold Museum Peter Weinhäupl, the Leopold Museum Private Foundation will pay $19 million (€14.8 million) to the heirs of art dealer Lea Bondi-Jaray: “We are happy to announce that the painting, “Wally” will return to Austria.

Raiffeisen Assumes the Prepayment 

The interim financing of the $19 million will be taken over by the Raiffeisen Landesbank of Vienna-Lower Austria in exchange for five of Schiele’s gouache. Which painting was to be sold was determined by art collector Rudolf Leopold himself who recently died. “In a process of days and weeks” he selected the paintings for sale, the final list of which will be compiled by the foundation’s board of directors. An auction is, however, not under consideration.

In the past there were numerous attempts at coming to an agreement, said Diethard Leopold; however, the financial bids made to the foundation were insufficient. The accumulated lawyers’ costs involved three to three and one-half million Euros.

“The Mona Lisa of the 20th Century”

Diethard Leopold finds the $ 19 million, which will be issued by the bank as soon as the painting has been also physically transferred, to be proportionate to the value of the painting since “Wally” has become one of the well known paintings. In fact, “there are also people who say that the painting is the ‘Mona Lisa’ of the 20th century. They said that also about Klimt’s ‘Adele.’

The paintings, “Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” also known as the “Golden Adele,” are also involved in a legal dispute. The painting was restituted in 2006 to Maria Altmann, the heiress of Ferdinand Block-Bauer and sold the same year for $ 135 million (€ 106.7 million). The Republic of Austria abstained from the option to acquire it.

Top Record for an Auctioned Painting: One Hundred Million 

Rudolf Leopold fought his entire life to regain the Schiele painting. “The painting would not be the same without it,” said Weinhäupl when explaining the obstinacy behind the attempt to retrieve it.

Elisabeth Leopold emphasized not only the aspect of historical art but also the emotional significance of the painting for the Leopold Collection (“We also loved it dearly!”) and regretted that one couldn’t have dealt with Lea Bondy-Jaray herself directly. “The generation, to whom it was really meaningful, has died.”

“Past Injustice Has Finally Been Acknowledged”

According to a blog in the New York Times, the heirs of Lea Bondi-Jarray commented that “justice has been served.” “After more than seventy years, the wrongs suffered by Lea Bondi-Jaray are at last being acknowledged, and to some degree, corrected.” Before the painting returns to Vienna, it will be exhibited at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York until August 18, 2010.

The Austrian National Library Restitutes Publications Looted by the National Socialists to the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism (06/04/2010)

On  June 1, 2010, during a commemorative ceremony at the Austrian National Library, the President of the National Council Mag. Barbara Prammer, as Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the National Fund, symbolically accepted three of 8,363 books seized during the National Socialist era, the previous owners of which had not been able to be traced. For this reason, the works were handed over to the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism in compliance with the Art Restitution Law.

 “Today is a special day for the National Fund,” Secretary General Mag. Hannah Lessing stated in her speech: “Since the enactment of the Art Restitution Law twelve years ago in 1998, art objects are now being transferred to the National Fund for the first time, the proceeds of which can been used to benefit the victims of National Socialism.”

The transferred books were subsequently repurchased by the National Library for 135,000 Euros. Secretary General Hannah Lessing announced that “the proceeds from these one-time looted objects will be received by those people who are most entitled to them: those people who – like the former owners of these books – were persecuted by the National Socialist regime. Those who, unlike the former owners, were lucky enough to survive, particularly require our assistance in their old age.”

The publications which were transferred are “objects which without exception bear no indication as to the identities of their former owners,” the National Library stressed in a press release. The provenance report, which was completed in December 2003, listed 52,403 objects which had been acquired by the National Library during the National Socialist regime.

On the basis of this report and of the examination by the Art Restitution Advisory Board, 35,217 individual objects have been restituted in recent years to the rightful heirs of the persecuted former owners, according to General Director Dr. Johanna Rachinger at the ceremony. Rachinger described the transfer of around 8,000 heirless books to the National Fund, and the simultaneous repurchase of the publications by the National Library as a “milestone in our efforts towards a comprehensive restitution of all books and collections unlawfully taken into the holdings of the National Library.”

The main priority of the National Fund has always been to reach as many of the original owners or their heirs as possible. In order to come closer to achieving this goal, in 2006 the National Fund set up its own art database at, which enabled a targeted online search for art and cultural objects, today located in the museums and collections of the Republic of Austria or the City of Vienna which, according to the current status of the provenance research, were possibly seized during the National Socialist era.

“In searching for the original owners or their heirs, it was of particular importance to us that we not only do that which is required by the law but that we really make the best and most efficient possible use of all means of publication available to us. No heirloom, which is usually also of personal value, should be withheld from its entitled owner. In each case, the transfer to the National Fund and subsequent utilization of the artistic and cultural objects should therefore be the last resort,” stressed Secretary General Hannah Lessing at the ceremony.

President of the National Council Barbara Prammer reported that since the beginning of the year, the holdings of the parliamentary library have also been subject to examination with regards to their provenance and potential restitution. This is being carried out in implementation of an amendment to the Art Restitution Law of 2009, in order that not only art objects in Museums but all movable artistic and cultural works owned by the Federation (Bund) are examined.  

National Library: Symbolically Handing Over and Repurchasing NS Looted Property

Austrian Press Agency (06/01/2010)

Some 8,363 publications are handed over to the National Fund and repurchased. Rachinger says, “It is sad and shameful that so much time had to pass”

Vienna – Restitution of looted books and all types of printed matter from the Austrian National Library is approaching its conclusion. During today’s ceremony, Director General Johanna Rachinger handed over 8,363 books that had been looted during the NS era to the Austrian National Fund for Victims of National Socialism. The past number of years has witnessed the return of property to their orginal owners or legal heirs. Now so-called “heirless” looted property is being restituted – and directly repurchased.

As a symbolic gesture, President of the National Council Barbara Prammer was given three looted books from the collection, while at the same time expressing the promise to have also all of the books housed in the Parliament’s library researched as to their origins.

“It is sad and shameful that so much time had to pass - 65 years – until the last of the NS looted material contained in the Austrian National Library collection could be identified,” said Rachinger. “At the same time, however, I feel relieved that the unfortunate chain of active entanglement and complicity during the NS era, the conscious failures and delays, have all finally come to an end.” She further emphasized that an institution like the Austrian National Library, a place of national memory, is willing at least to accept the dark chapters in its own history.

As to the volumes of printed matter, it involves exclusively objects that offer no hint as to their former owners. In the majority of cases, they are books from small, private libraries of Viennese Jews who emigrated or were deported; books which, without being catalogued, the Gestapo delivered at the time by truck to the National Library.

It was not until year 2000 that the National Library began to systematically examine numerous acquisitions during the NS period; since then some 35,217 single items could be returned to their legal owners. The collection of books, for which no heirs could be found, were handed over to the National Fund and repurchased for 135,000 Euros. Most of the collection contained children books, standard works pertaining to science, as well as theological critiques dating back to the 17th century.

“Consciously conceived as a commemoration,” accompanied by chamber music written by Jewish composers, the event was organized around the words of President of the National Council Prammer: “For those hundreds or thousands of people, whose fates, after extensive research,” could not be traced.

At the same time, Prammer emphasized that Austrian museums, which had exhibited looted art works “up until the 21st century,” profited from the NS robbery. In this regard she announced the next project, which is to research all the books of the library of the Parliament as well, expecting initial concrete results to be ready sometime this year.

Jelinek’s ‘Rechnitz:’ The Horror of Silence

The Vienna Review (06/01/2010)

At the Wiener Festwochen, a powerful ensemble theater piece takes another step in Austria’s reconciliation with the past

While others may debate whether art is, or should be, political, Austrian Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek has never been in doubt. Through much of her work, she portrays the pathologies she saw in a post-war Austria suffocating under a conspiracy of silence, an inability to confront its role in the horrors of National Socialism.

This society-wide denial leads to a litany of emotional distortions, as reflected by her play title, “Greed and Lust.” Human perversity, Jelinek tells us, is a direct result of self deception, of a flight from reality, and the explosion of unresolved inner conflicts in people living with unspoken, intolerable truths.
Rechnitz (Der Würgeengel), the extraordinary theater piece that premiered in Austria May 23 at Theater Akzent as part of the Wiener Festwochen, is surely among Jelinek’s most successful works for the stage.

It relates the events of one ghastly night of March 24 - 25, 1945 at the Schloss Rechnitz in eastern Burgenland near the Hungarian border. A certain Countess Margit von Batthy hosted a crazed soiree of drinking and debauchery, the highlight of which was the slaughter of 180 Jews exhausted from forced labor being held prisoners in a shed on the property.

All in fun, you understand, just a little carnival act to entertain the guests, including two dozen of the countess’s titled neighbors, several SS officers -- at least one of which was a lover of the Countess -- and a pack of other Nazi gunmen. Two of the Jews were forced to dig mass graves for the bodies, before they, themselves, were murdered the next day.

Originally a prose essay, Jelinek’s text has been reworked as the reports of five “messengers,” who speak in alternating voices of aristocrats, officers and servants, relating the horrific events of that night as participating witnesses whose moral compass has come unpinned. It was created and first performed by the Münchner Kammerspiel in 2008. Threats of harassment prevented Jelinek form authorizing performance in Austria until now.

It was the mix of lust and violence that disturbs Jelinek the most: To show these dissolving boundaries, the actors gradually disrobe to lingerie and long johns, blithely unfolding their tale while stroking an arm here or a thigh there, nibbling on slices of pizza, crowning the banal absurdity of the proceedings.
“What made this massacre so monstrous,” Jelinek said in a recent interview, “was its link to the orgiastic. The drunken pumped-up murderers get undressed and then fire on the unprotected victims as if it were target practice.”

The greatest horror of the Nazi era is perhaps the recognition that moral systems in human beings are relative -- this is how we are made, it is a survival skill to be able to adapt. We define sanity in the West as having a clear grasp of the reality that everyone in our group, in our society, has agreed on.
To be an outsider, an independent thinker, is to be at risk, and after a certain point such a person inevitably meets the standard of what it means to be insane. If we reject everyone else’s reality, we are, by definition, insane.

In our adaptability, we are all capable of dividing the world between “we” and “they;” in fact, we do it every day as members of any group that exclude others -- which is all of them, every institution, political party or sports team, every family or group of friends. Knowing what we are not is how we know what we are.

So how do we do this essential thing -- building an identity -- without also doing the intolerable, without deconstruction into bestiality. How can we be sure we won’t forget where to stop?

Jelinek’s answer is to talk about it, to get a conversation going, and keep it going. The conversation is essential, she suggests, to invite the correction we need to stay honest. In Rechnitz this conversation was completely lacking for decades after the event. Evidence was destroyed and many of the central figures emigrated to far off lands. The mass graves were never found. “Then,” writes author Robert Misik, “a blanket of forgetfulness as heavy as lead, fell over the land.” Shoulder to shoulder, the residents kept their secret.

“The Jews have their wailing wall,” one Rechnitz was quoted as saying. “We have our wall of silence.”
At the end of the 1960s, then suddenly some of the bodies of the victims were found, quite by accident -- 18 corpses were exhumed and moved to a Jewish cemetery in Graz. For a brief time, researchers reconstructed the story, tried to find evidence. Then the trail died for another 30 years, finally revived by a documentary film, “Stecken, Stab und Stangl,” by Erne/Heinrich, and book by David R.L. Litchfield.
This play is an important correction. And while conversation is no guarantee of resolution -- which no one understands better than Jelinek herself -- healing is probably impossible without it.

New Memorial Stones as Reminder of the Fate of Jewish Residents in Leopoldstadt

Austrian Press Agency (04/27/2010)

Vienna – The residents of a residential building placed “memorial stones” before the City of Vienna’s renewal project located at Große Stadtgut-Gasse.

City renewal usually has an historical context and deals with the structure or architectural aspects of a building or, as with the city’s renewal project, Große Stadtgut Gasse 14 in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt, with the history of the former residents of a building complex.

In poor structural condition, the apartment building located at Große Stadtgut-Gasse 14 was considered a few years ago still to be one of the most rumored “problemetical building complexes” in Vienna. Only after the building was purchased by GEWOG property development, which together with its subsidiary at-home Real Estate, could the complicated economic and legal problems be resolved and the complex turned into a new development project with livable housing space.

Not only the structural history of the property had its dark chapters, but also much more the history of the Jewish residents who, during the NS era, were housed in the former apartment complex in so-called “Sammelwohnungen” (collection depot) under terrible conditions which served as a transit station before being deported and murdered.

The new residents of the Große Stadtgut-Gasse created an initiative, whereby two memorial stones were financed by the buildings’ residents as well as GEWOG. These “memorial stones,” which were set into the sidewalk, stem from a tradition which Elisabeth ben David-Hindler initiated in Vienna. “For many relatives of Jewish victims of the Holocaust, these “memorial stones” serve an essential function of remembering family members.”

 The inscription reads: “In remembrance of the nineteen Jewish women and men who lived here and were murdered by the Nazis.” Mentioned are the names of Siegfried Feigl, Stella Feigl, Helene Feigl and Maria Kohn, representing these people.

Jewish Museum Vienna: Ernst Toch’s Life as Geographical Fugue

Jewish Museum Austria (

The exhibition, “Ernst Toch. Life as a Geographical Fugue,” will be shown at the Jewish Museum Vienna from June 23 – October 31, 2010.

Born in Vienna in 1887, Toch was one of the most performed composers in Germany in the 1920s. Along with Paul Hindemith he was one of the main representatives of musical development within New Objectivity, and his works were a regular feature of German avant-garde festivals.

Together with Hindemith he was described by the New York Times at the 1930 Berlin Music Festival as “the protagonist of the new German scene” and enjoyed a successful tour of the USA in 1932. Toch’s Geographical Fugue, a “spoken chorus,” performed at the Berlin Music Festival, exerted a fascination on a young American musician by the name of John Cage.

A few years later, after Toch had fled from the Nazis to the USA, Cage conducted his translation of the Fugue. In spite of this support, Toch’s American exile turned into a disaster on both a personal and musical level. The publication and distribution of his works were thwarted. Despite three Oscar nominations, his financial needs required him to support numerous relatives in exile and condemned him to a grueling existence in Hollywood.

After World War II, Toch’s life itself became increasingly similar to his “geographical fugue.” On a restless odyssey between his old and new home, he wrote seven symphonies in fewer than fifteen years. His 3rd symphony won the Pulitzer Prize.

This  exhibition is a musical journey through the places where Ernst Toch, modernist and cosmopolitan, lived and worked. The numerous musical excerpts provide a new insight into the impressive oeuvre of one of the most important Austrian composers of the twentieth century.

Jewish Cemetery as a Field of Learning

Austrian Press Agency (05/21/2010)

An event within the series, “Speaking about the Holocaust,” in the Jewish Museum

Vienna – An initiative called, “Tour with Garden Clippers,” has been carried out at Vienna’s main cemetery for some years with school children and other interested people.

Following an introduction to the history of the old Jewish section of the main cemetery and an overview of the grave stone of important personalities, the visitors remove ivy from covered graves in order to make its history again readable.

Dr. Robert Streibel, director of the high school in Hietzing, introduced the concept in a series entitled, “Speaking about the Holocaust,” in the Jewish Museum in Vienna. Its purpose is to allow young people to learn and discuss issues regarding the Holocaust.