The Vienna Project on Austrian Jews in Buenos Aires

Austrian Press Agency (04/23/2008)

A two-week cultural event takes place in Argentina in Fall – Coming to terms with the past through contributions by Austrian artists

Vienna – In Argentina’s capital city of Buenos Aires, the image of Austria as being a breeding ground for anti-Semitism is still widely spread. That’s the feeling conveyed   by private initiators of the project, “Lost Neighborhood Buenos Aires – Vienna 2008,” during a press conference when presenting the project. In order to correct this notion and to further coming to terms with the past surrounding the ‘Night of the Pogrom’ or so-called ‘Kristallnacht’ in 1938, there will be two weeks of literary and musical events in Buenos Aires  from October 26 – November 9 in attempt at achieving reconciliation.

Estimates reveal that 2,000 to 4,000 Austrian Jews immigrated to Argentina  following the NS “Kristallnacht” in 1938. Some 350 of them are still living in Buenos Aires, according to the data of project director, Georg Schönfeld. These Jews could not imagine returning to Vienna because they remember having seen “too many terrible things,”   said Schönfeld.

In cooperation with Argentinian Jewish associations, the Austrian Embassy as well as  Austrian representatives from Art, Culture and Science, plans are being made  for a series of lectures, talks, films, stories and evenings of music and exhibits. In addition, there will be contributions from fields of current scientific research.

Two sectioned pictures of the façade of Vienna’s synagogue located in Neudeggergasse - used already by the initiators for the project, “Lost Neighborhood – the Synagogue in the Neudeggergasse,” ten years ago in Vienna - will be on display. During the entire time, permanent video and audio coverage of the event will be transmitted from a coffee house in Buenos Aires and from a coffee house in Vienna with the idea of connecting the two cities.  Planned is also for the Star of David to be projected with laser beams onto the sky at Vienna’s Heldenplatz during the night. The organizers estimate the entire cost of the project at about 70,000 euros and will be financed by the City of Vienna, the Federal Chancellery, Federal Ministries, the University of Vienna, Vienna’s University of Technology and private sponsors. “Many have promised donations, and currently some 170,000 euros have been contributed,” said project director Schönfeld.

Austrian supporters of the projects include President of the National Council Barbara Prammer, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, Argentina’s Ambassador to Austria Eugenio Maria Curia, President of the Israelite Community (IKG) Ariel Muzicant, author Erich Hackl and political scientist Anton Pelinka.

During ‘Kristallnacht’ on November 9-10 in 1938, Jewish citizens throughout the entire German Reich were mistreated, abducted and killed; synagogues were set on fire and Jewish cemeteries were destroyed. In reaction, thousands of Jews fled the country.