April 2007

Dear Readers,

April, 2007

With this issue of Jewish News from Austria, we are happy to be able to provide you with a broad selection of articles which have appeared in the Austrian media since the beginning of the year.

We would also like to point out to all readers of Jewish News from Austria an important change:  Since January 2007 you will find actual news items, information on events, publications as well as useful links on a regular basis on our new website: www.jewishnews.at   Thus, by offering you a broader coverage, in addition to our regularly appearing newsletter, we try to keep you well informed.

Since our last issue, we have also attempted to update the list of e-mail addresses of subscribers to Jewish News from Austria. In particular the list of organizations receiving the newsletter was updated and enlarged. We would be very grateful for your support in the outreach of this newsletter by informing us of people you know who might be interested in Jewish News from Austria. Moreover, we would send a hard copy by mail to those who are interested but have no access to the internet.

I would appreciate very much your response.

Yours sincerely,

Wolfgang Renezeder
Director of the Press & Information Service
Embassy of Austria

P.S. If you no longer wish to receive the electronic newsletter, please send us a short note to that effect

Lively Jewish Culture in Vienna

Die Presse (03/19/2007)

Judith Lecher

Conference from March 19 – 22: International scholars present the most recent research results on Jewish life in Vienna from 1900 to 1938.

“What I am trying to do is to comprise the history of Vienna’s Jews in relationship to the life of this entire city; that is, to recognize what Vienna meant and means for them, thereby clarifying the peculiarity of this piece of West European Jewry,” wrote Hans Titze in 1933, author of a standard work on the topic. The quotation is at the same time the motto of the international conference, “Vienna and the Jewish Experience – Acculturation, anti-Semitism and Zionism.”
(see: www.univie.ac.at/zeitgeschichte/veranstaltungen/a-07-03-1.pdf)

“When looking at Jewish history, one should not allow persecution of the Jews and the Shoa to overshadow the rich, cultural experiences and tradition,” emphasizes Frank Stern from the Institute for Contemporary History at the University of Vienna. He organized the conference, the timing of which was intentional. “Before we recall 1938, the year of persecution, expulsion and murder of the Viennese Jews, it is important to understand the 1920s and 30s.”

“We want to show to what extent the Viennese Jews were an integral part of society before WW II, with emphasis on the period between the two wars, thus shedding light on their life during this time,” said Stern. The picture of Arthur Schnitzler, taken in 1931 with him riding in a convertible rather than a taxi, illustrates this point much like the classic film, City without Jews.

The conference will not only discuss distinct personalities and works, but also include Austrian-Jewish daily life – how the Jews influenced scientific, cultural and societal life and how they themselves were influenced by life in Vienna. That is reflected in the title of the opening lecture being offered by Steven Beller entitled, “What isn’t Stated in Baedeker: Jews and other Austrians in Vienna between the Two World Wars.” Emphasis of the conference will be contemporary history as well as cultural history; lecture topics range from the education of rabbis to the education of Jewish youth- and women’s movements.

Eleven Percent of the Viennese were Jews
According to a census taken in the year 1923, over 200,000 Jews lived in Vienna. They comprised eleven percent of the city’s inhabitants. After Warsaw, Vienna had the largest Jewish community, which was as heterogeneous as the rest of the population. Jews were represented by all strata of society. “And not all stood out because of their scientific or cultural contributions.” The participants, among which are many young scholars, hope to overcome stereotypes. Stern: “This conference is considered a kind of intellectual event which one accidentally stumbles upon; it is definitely not meant to be ‘ivory-tower.’ Reservations are not required and entrance is free.

“In those days, the situation was marked by extreme ambivalence. There was a reciprocal effect and real exchange,” says Stern and then cites an example in Viennese dialect: The word, Beisl, which really is the hebraic word for house, comes from “Beit.” On the other hand, there was also a sense of distance and averseness towards the Jews.” Among the many possible reactions to anti-Semitism was one directed toward Zionism. But between the two wars, the concept hardly took on the meaning among Viennese Jews that Theodor Herzl would have wished. It was more frequently the case that the Jews reacted by exhibiting a kind of biting humor, laughing about the stupidity of anti-Semitism in theater or cabaret performances.

Lively Cultural Scene in the 1920s
The 1920s and 30s were the most active years for the intimate, Jewish theater scene, which was an important mouth piece for the Jewish community. At that time many Jewish artists experienced their most productive phase, says Stern, not during the fin de siècle (1890-1914), clearly more marked by science. During the conference, many diverse personalities stemming from the areas of culture and science will be touched upon: Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schönberg, Felix Salten and Joseph Roth, as well as Sigmund Freud.  The very first to be quoted will be Arthur Schnitzler: At the opening of the conference, Elisabeth Orth will read from Schnitzler’s novel, “Der Weg ins Freie” (English: “The Road to the Open”).

University Holds Conference on History and Culture of Viennese Jews

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

The conference, “Vienna and the Jewish Experience from 1900 to 1938: Acculturation, anti-Semitism, Zionism,” organized by the Department of Contemporary History under the Faculty of Historical and Cultural Studies at the University of Vienna will take place from March 19 – 22. The aim of the conference is to inform the general public on current research and studies of culture.

The venues of the conference will be Vienna’s City Hall, the University of Vienna, the Jewish Museum of the City of Vienna as well as the Metro cinema, run by the Austrian Film Archives. Scholars and artists are invited to lectures, film screenings and readings. An opening statement will be given by the author, Steven Beller, on March 19 within the context of “Vienna Lectures.”  Beller wrote several books on Austrian and Jewish History; he lives in Washington, D.C.

Future House” Opened for Jewish Community in Vienna

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (02/18/2007)

Hahn: “Lively center for conversation and dialogue”

Vienna – On Sunday afternoon the Jewish community opened the “Future House,” located in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt. Across the street is the Lauder Chabad Campus, which was devastated last November out of anti-Semitic motives. “It often comes, unfortunately, to setbacks of the most unworthy and inhuman kind,” said Minister of Science Johannes Hahn in his opening speech.

Hahn’s expectations from the new Jewish cultural center are that it will serve as a “lively center for conversation and dialogue, as well as a place to come together. It is important that Austria be seen as a country with an open society. “I wish the house a lot of room for dialogue and exchange and a strong integrating roof, giving all generations an important home,” said Hahn.

A round of applause followed the statement made by the City Councillor for Women’s Issues and Integration, Sonja Wehsely: “Broad mindedness is the opposite of narrow mindedness.” Vienna is a broad-minded city because every third Viennese has a background of having migrated from somewhere else. Wehsely: “That’s obvious when one thumbs through the telephone directory.” For her, it is particularly meaningful “that I am able to witness how the Jewish community in this city is becoming strong again.”

Another speaker at the celebration was Vienna’s former Mayor, Helmut Zilk, who emphasized his own contribution towards supporting the Jewish Community in Vienna. “Over the past few years we have tried to right the wrongs,” referring to Vienna’s past during the NS era. “Among the many groups, I am deeply interested in the welfare of the Jews– that is Vienna.”

The “Future House” will provide, above all, educational programs for women and young people. Five floors are occupied by cultural and recreational areas as well as a café for seniors citizens and an international library. Financial support was provided for by the Republic of Austria, the City of Vienna and especially the industrial magnate, Lev Leviev. Also present at the opening were City Councillor of Culture Andreas Mailath-Pokorny and the President of the Israelite Cultural Community (IKG), Ariel Muzicant.


School Project Searches for “Last Witnesses” of National Socialism

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (01/25/2007)

“A Letter to the Stars” enters its fifth year

Vienna – The large-scale project on contemporary history, “A Letter to the Stars” enters its fifth year. Having as motto, “Ambassadors of Remembrance,” some 15,000 pupils will contact Holocaust survivors throughout the world and document their life stories. As the organizers of the project, Josef Neumayr and Andreas Kuba, said at a press conference, a database comprising 2,500 “last witnesses” has been established for this purpose.

The first time “A Letter to the Stars” received news coverage was in 2003, when school children sent 80,000 white balloons containing letters up into the air at an event commemorating the victims of National Socialism on Vienna’s Heldenplatz. Since then 40,000 pupils have participated in the project, according to statistics offered by the association, “Learn from Contemporary History.” In May of 2006, some 80,000 white roses were placed at the doorsteps of former residences of Austrian NS victims.

Today students who are interested will take up contact through e-mail, letters or telephone with Austrian NS survivors living abroad. Moreover, thirty selected youths will visit witnesses in New York in April and in London in the fall. Reports of their experiences will be published on the homepage: http://www.lettertothestars.at.

Minister of Education Claudia Schmied (Social Democratic Party) characterized the project on Thursday as “a diamond in the reform of our educational system” and praised “the invaluable cooperation” between teachers, pupils and parents.

Peace Camp 2007: Imagine Peace

Die Gemeinde (March 2007)

Association for the Promotion of Political Maturity

Israeli, Palastinian, Hungarian and Austrian Youths
Explore Their Indentity and Confront Problems of Their Time

July 2 – 12 in Reibers, Waldviertel

Peace Camp 2007: Imagine Peace is a sequel to the projects, Peace Camp 2004, 2005 and 2006, all promoted by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture and the Karl Kahanel Foundation, the latter two of which are also supported by the EU Youth Program.

Context and Motivation
“As a child of Holocaust survivors, I have always felt the wish and obligation to take part in forming and maintaining a peaceful world. Already during my childhood I was impressed by the idea of a world without borders in which all nations are equal in rank and everyone is equal. The fall of the Iron Curtain and the creation of the European Union, obliterating borders between countries, made a childhood dream come true. They symbolize the idea that wishes, however utopian in nature, can actually be realized if one can convince enough people to be committed to a matter in which they truly believe.

As psychologist and psychoanalyst I was particularly interested in the question how one can make people immune against becoming insensitive, brutal  or seduced by evil, how one can sharpen the feeling of responsibility of the individual for the world in which we live. I am convinced that a healthy society stands on two pillars – the capability to resist the evil in ourselves and the preparedness, to participate positively and constructively in maintaining a peaceful world. To this end, it is necessary to offer young people at the earliest age opportunities to sharpen their critical thinking, their ability to be open for dialogue and their sense of justice.

Adolescence is the time in which values offered by their parents are tested; following  a few answers, one searches for the eternal questions of the history of humanity. There is no better time to confront people with the difficult, seemingly unsolvable problems of society: Adolescents are daring and are not so easily afraid as we adults to confront the “sheer impossible.”  They are more capable than we to grow above and beyond the limits we view as absolute, as well as their own personal limits. Where we adults have perhaps already resigned, they are there ready and able to look for new ways and new solutions. It is worth supporting them in their efforts to make the world better. Soon they are adults and responsibility overshadows the “true” life; decisions have to be made and the world influences yours and our children.

We are obligated to sometimes make it more difficult for young people by offering them no final answers, by helping them to live with open questions, to withstand uncertainties, to come to terms with themselves and others and to bear the responsibility for their own actions”.

Peace Camp 2007: Imagine Peace brings four youth groups together and enables them to explore their own historical, national, religious and cultural context.

Goal of Coming Together is to enable the youth
•    To measure and to question possible prejudices held against others through actual encounter with “others” or “foreigners.”
•    To explore ways of understanding, cooperation and peaceful forms of controlling conflict through accomplishing something together, coming to terms with different ways of looking at a problem, and by way of dialogue
•    To overcome borders between nations and religions marked by war, hostility and resentment and to build bridges of understanding through accomplishing something together

•    Daily Art Workshops: Daily arts workshops, instructed by artists and presented to the public, are to be a last day event
•    Daily outdoor activities confronting youths with exciting mission impossible-type tasks, which are solved by developing a strategy together.
•    Group analytical rounds of discussion are to offer the opportunity to get to the bottom of conscious and unconscious factors which can make it difficult for people and groups to constructively get along with each other; perhaps ways and strategies can be found to solve these difficulties and find ways to promote understanding and cooperation
•    Team supervision
•    Last day event: On the last day of being together, the participants should offer the results of their encounters to a real public. Planned is a multi-media event with exhibit on how peace camp came to be, a presentation of music and dance, open workshops, etc. This cultural event will be open to the public, so that people walking by can also be present at this event (ex: Augarten in Vienna).

Participants in Peace Camp 2007 will be divided into four groups of ten youths each from the ages of fifteen to seventeen coming from Israel, Palestinian areas, Hungary and Austria. The Austrian participants are high school students from the Gymnasium am Parhammerplatz, 1170 Vienna. Each youth group will be led and accompanied by two adults as well as one artist or art instructor. The analytical group discussions and the supervision of teams will be headed by two psychotherapists or group analysts present at Peace Camp 2007.

For further information, see: http://peacecamptexts.blogger.de/

First Jewish Theater Festival in Vienna

ORF online (Austrian Radio and Television Broadcasting Corporation) (03/29/2007)

Bearing the title, “Tikun Olam,” there is currently a festival of international Jewish theater taking place for the first time. Artists from fifteen various countries are guests in Vienna.

Foundations for Dialogue
The seven day festival, organized by “Jewish Theater of Austria” and the “Association for Jewish Theater,” should provide the foundations for dialogue and peaceful exchange between Jews and non-Jews.

“We are pursuing the matter of what it means to be Jewish – to be Jewish in today’s world and in Vienna,” said the artistic director of the Jewish Theater of Austria, Warren Rosenzweig.

Rosenzweig characterized the program as refreshing and provocative and emphasized: “The primary function of Jewish theater is to show people outside the mainstream as having different experiences. We are revealing the motives behind being different.”

“Healing the Broken”
“Tikun Olam” means “healing that which is broken.” This very old call for a positive new beginning drawn from past experiences is a central wish of the Jewish Theater of Austria since its founding in 1999 and is symbolized in its logo by a broken pencil.

Fifteen Thousand Jewish Theaters Worldwide
There are fifteen thousand Jewish theaters throughout the entire world. In order to get to know the diversity of Jewish art of acting, one most generate discussion with those involved with Jewish theater.

This happens within the context of the “World Congress of Jewish Theater,” which took place for the first time outside of North America and for the first time partly open to everyone.

Rosenzweig: “We also want to share Vienna’s Jewish culture. The program is a kind of tour across the entire city of Vienna to a historical place. Many of the Jewish visitors are for the first or second or even last time in Vienna.”

Remembrance at Kreuzstadl

Kurier (03/26/2007)

Rechnitz – Some 150 people participated in the ceremony on Sunday afternoon in remembrance of the victims of South Eastern Defensive Wall construction

“The chapter should never be closed on responsibility and forgetting!” In his speech given at Kreuzstadl in Rechnitz on Sunday afternoon, the author, Robert Menasse, spoke against remaining silent and called for freedom of democracy and social welfare.

For the past ten years, victims of the South Eastern Defensive Wall construction (Südostwallbau) are remembered each March. These were victims who lost their lives and were killed during the last months of the war in 1945; above all, the 180 Jewish-Hungarian forced laborers, who within a single night, were massacred by the Nazis and whose last resting place was never established until today. Some 150 people participated in the ceremony on Sunday. Among the group was the representative of the Vienna Israelite Religious Community, the Zalaegerszeg (Hungarian) Israelite Community, the Catholic- and Evangelical Church, a member of the regional government, Michaela Reseta (People’s Party), and Regional Managing Director of the Social Democratic Party, Georg Pehm.

Vilmos Siklosi, as representative of Hungary, unveiled a stone plaque which is to remind one of what happened. “The text, chiseled into the granite, should be a warning that this must never happen again,” said Siklosi as he bowed his head before those Jews murdered in Rechnitz.

The ceremony is organized every year by the association, RE.F.U.G.I.U.S. (Rechnitzer Refugee and Remembrance Initiative and Foundation), who had invited authors to a symposium on National Socialism and the Holocaust, which took place in the City Hall in Oberwart.

Austria Welcomes UN Resolution Against Denying the Holocaust

Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs (Press Release)

Plassnik: "International outcry against denial of holocaust"

Foreign Minister on International Holocaust Remembrance Day
Vienna, 27 January 2007 - "This resolution is an outcry against any attempt to deny the horrors of the Shoa," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik following the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in which the community of states clearly condemns any denial or belittlement of the holocaust.

The wording of the resolution had been formulated with committed Austrian participation against the background of the so-called "holocaust conference" held in Iran last year.

"This event and the completely unacceptable statements made by Iranian President Ahmadinejad prove that there are repeated attempts to deny the systematic obliteration of 6 million Jews and other severely affected groups of victims, their persecution, mass killings, deportation and death camps. We must emphatically counter this frightening expression of intolerance, anti-Semitism and racial hatred," emphasised Plassnik.
"We have the obligation to heighten awareness of the greatest genocide in history, pass on the memory and educate our young generation to be tolerant and respect human rights. We must encourage them not to evade the traces of the past," continued the Foreign Minister.

In this context Plassnik referred to the Fund of the Future administered by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. This fund promotes projects and academic work in the interests and in commemoration of the victims of the Nazi regime, recalling the threat posed by totalitarian systems and despotism. She also referred to the longstanding cooperation between Austria and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem in the further training of Austrian teachers and innovative measures in the field of historical and political education such as the "www. erinnern.at" project for teachers and the "Political Education Days".

"Our international commitment is especially underlined by Austria’s membership in the International Holocaust Task Force, which comprises 24 states and to which we contribute by developing and implementing programmes relating to education, commemoration and research. These programmes also enable us to explain the Austrian efforts on behalf of victims of the Nazi regime to a public that has become more sensitive to this issue," concluded the Foreign Minister.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Press Department
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549. 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213

Jewish Museum Vienna Presents "Oskar Strnad 1879-1935"

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

Oskar Strnad was one of the most brilliant architects, stage designers and theoreticians of the early 20th century. Together with Josef Frank, he founded the "Vienna School" of architecture, which distanced itself from the aestheticism of Wiener Werkstätte and was close to Adolf Loos in its basic approach free from dogmatism. As almost all Loos disciples, the founders and early members of the "Vienna School" came from a Jewish liberal middle-class background. Strnad's main focus was housing. His aim was to "shape without rigid forms" and to create "no dungeons but open worlds". He realized for example, the villa of the writer Jakob Wassermann presented in the exhibition, a semi-detached building in Vienna's Werkbundsiedlung and several flats in social housing complexes. Besides water colours and ceramic objects, Strnad also created furniture (e.g. for Hugo von Hofmannsthal); a drinking glass series made from mousellin glass can also be admired.

In 1909 Strnad led the architecture class at the Wiener Kunstgewerbeschule (Vienna’s College of Arts and Crafts). The drawings, photos and publications exhibited are a tribute to his pedagogical work as well as to his disciples and assistants, who passed into oblivion after their emigration. Typescripts, books and magazines introduce Strnad's theoretical work.

Another important section of the exhibition is devoted to Strnad's theatre, stage and film designs. It shows the plans for a "simultaneous theatre" with three stages, the Leopoldskron Palace Theatre, a theatre tent for New York as well as plans and a model of a theatre with a circular stage (designed together with Max Reinhardt), a theatre and cinema for the Ortmann-Pernitz workers' colony and a model of the Royaards Theatre in Amsterdam. Strnad excelled also as a stage designer, creating the sets for the spectacular premiers of Ernst Krenek's "Jonny spielt auf" ("Jonny Strikes Up the Band") and Alban Berg's "Wozzeck" in Vienna. Moreover, he was credited for the sets of "Masquerade" and "Episode," two famous films starring Paula Wessely.

The first comprehensive exhibition on this outstanding artist will be held at the Jewish Museum Vienna until 24 June 2007.

Freud Museum: On the Couch - Cartoons from The New Yorker

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

Sigmund Freud made several scientific analyses of the ‘joke’. His book, "Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious," was published in 1905. The Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna now shows psychoanalysis-related cartoons from "The New Yorker" magazine. Curator Michael Freund selected 80 drawings. In 1928 the first of countless caricatures of psychoanalysis appeared in the influential magazine.
The complete exhibition, initiated in 2006 with the support of the Department of the Arts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is shown for the first time in Austria. The exhibition was previously displayed at the Museum of the City of New York, the Freud Museum in London, the Dream Museum in St. Petersburg and the Austrian Cultural Forum in Prague.

Klagenfurt: Premiere of "Jedem das Seine" by Turrini and Neuwirth

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

In spring 1945 about 100,000 Hungarian Jews were driven to Mauthausen concentration camp. Only 20,000 survived. Silke Hassler and Peter Turrini describe the fate of 20 of them waiting in a barn to continue their march in “Jedem das Seine“ (“To Each His Own”). Roland Neuwirth, the founder of the music group “Extremschrammeln“ (blending traditional Viennese “Schrammel” music with contemporary elements), wrote the music for this “popular operetta,“ as the subtitle of the work implies.

The artist describes his music as the “tonality of the people.” They are disfigured sounds echoing the waltzes of Johann Strauß from a distance, sweet and light, harsh and bitter. “Vienna Blood” is performed as a Klezmer version on the violin by Aliosha Biz. When WWII was drawing to a close in late April 1945, the half-starved people were provided with food by the peasant woman Traudl Fasching in her barn. To thank her, opera singer Lou Gandolf – brilliantly enacted by Alexander Kaimbacher – wants to perform an operetta for the music-loving farmer.
The project becomes increasingly fascinating, even to Traudl’s alcoholic husband and the Nazi, Stefan Fasching. At the end the war is over, Hitler is dead and the prisoners believe that the horror has finally come to an end. But the barn is boarded up and set on fire. After it burned down, the entire ensemble stands for several minutes in the dark at the edge of the stage – probably the most touching moment of Michael Sturminger’s production at the City Theater of Klagenfurt (Stadttheater Klagenfurt). Then the actors collapse and the orchestra led by Guido Mancusi performs once more this strange waltz-like music.

The play has been conceived as a present to the outgoing theatre manager of City Theater of Klagenfurt, Dietmar Pflegerl. The actors, authors and the composer were given standing ovations on the first night of March 8, 2007, e.g. by Minister for Culture Claudia Schmied and the Director General of the Austrian National Library, Johanna Rachinger.

Vienna Pays Homage to Leon Askin

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

Vienna gets a “Leon Askin Square.“ The square near the last stop of tram line 52 in Vienna’s district Penzing will be named after the actor and director who died in 2005. Askin, born Leon Aschkenasy in Vienna in 1907, studied at the Vienna Academy of Music and the Performing Arts. He won international renown as a political cabaret artist in Vienna, Düsseldorf and Paris in the 1930s. In 1938 he fled to Paris. In 1940 he moved to the USA, where he first became a successful theatre actor (production of Goethe’s “Faust“ on Broadway in 1949) and started his film career in Hollywood in 1952. In 1960 he played a role in the film “One, Two, Three“ directed by Billy Wilder and in 1972 he participated in “Hammersmith Is Out,“ with Peter Ustinov as the film director. In 1994 he finally returned to his native city Vienna, where he impressed the audience with his stage acting even at a very old age.

Ruth Beckermann’s Documentary "Zorro’s Bar Mitzva" is a Hit

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

Viennese documentary filmmaker Ruth Beckermann earned a doctorate at the University of Vienna in 1977 after studying journalism and art history. Together with Josef Aichholzer and Franz Grafl, with whom she produced the film “Arena Besetzt,“ she founded the film distributing company “filmladen” in 1978, where she remained for seven years while producing films and writing numerous books. Beckermann’s splendid documentaries include: “East of War,“ “A Fleeting Passage to the Orient,“ “Return to Vienna“ and “Paper Bridge.“

Her latest masterly work is the documentary, “Zorro’s Bar Mitzva,“ which has been widely popular in Vienna since mid-December. Beckermann accompanied four 12-year-olds of Jewish origin during their preparation for the bar mitzva, the Jewish initiation ritual into the world of grown-ups. The sensitive and humorous film not only shows the difficulties of young people growing up and maturing but also the difficulties parents have with their offspring. Moreover, the documentary gives insight into the vibrant Jewish culture and tradition in Vienna.

Kramer Prize Goes Posthumously to Austrian Exile Author Jakov Lind

 News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

It was announced on February 5, 2007 that the Theodor Kramer Prize 2007 would go to the Austrian exile author, painter and actor, Jakov Lind, who celebrated his 80th birthday on February 10, 2007. Due to his poor health, the prize was to be presented by Georg Stefan Troller to relatives of Lind at the Vienna Jewish Museum on March 13. An awards ceremony was to take place in Krems (Lower Austria) in late May. On February 17, 2007 Jakov Lind died in London; his funeral was held merely one day later.

Jakov Lind was born in 1927 in Vienna to a family of Eastern European Jews. With the help of a refugee organization, he escaped along with his sister to Holland in 1938. He found refuge with a family, while making plans to live in Palestine. Having forged his documents, Lind went underground in Germany. As Jan Gerrit Overbeek, he signed up on a towboat in 1943 to cross the Rhine. He survived the war in Hamburg. After the war he held various jobs and tried his luck as an actor in Israel and Vienna. In 1954 he left for London. In 1968 he published his book, “Soul out of Wood,” which was acclaimed enthusiastically in the English-speaking countries; he was compared to Kafka and Beckett. German critics remained reserved, obviously failing to come to terms with Lind’s perspective of the “practial boisterous joker,” (Marcel Reich-Ranicki), refusing to assume the victim’s role.

In 1966 he published the grotesque allegory, “A Better World.” The stage adaptation of the book bearing the title, “Ergo,” was successfully premiered in New York in 1968. The play was performed for the first time in German in 1997 at Vienna’s Volkstheater. In “The Trip to Jerusalem” (1972), he criticizes the official version of Zionism. In 1997 Lind received the Golden Medal of Honor of the City of Vienna.

Austria’s Future Fund

Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs (Press Release)

Positive Report on the Fund’s First Year of Performance
Klasnic: Eighty projects amounting to a total of approximately. 2.5 million euros
Vienna – Commenting at a press conference on the Future Fund’s first year, the Chairman of the Board of the Republic of Austria’s Future Fund, former Provincial Governor Waltraud Klasnic, and the Fund’s Secretary General, Ambassador Dr. Richard Wotava, submitted a positive report on the Fund’s first year of performance.

“So far we have processed 120 project applications, 80 of which have been approved, amounting to a total of 2.5 million euros,” said the Chairman of the Board. The Future Fund, which is financed from funds remaining after the former Austrian Reconciliation Fund concluded its work at the end of 2005, is in a position to support projects of up to 2 million euros annually,” said Secretary General Wotava.
Most of the projects approved deal with the Nazi regime and its consequences, but there were also interesting projects on the threat posed by other totalitarian systems, emphasized Klasnic.

The Chairman drew special attention to the efficient, swift and unbureaucratic work of the members of the Board and of the Project Promotion Council who all work on an honorary basis, volunteering a considerable part of their leisure time to study the sometimes very extensive project documentation.

Wotava explained that the meetings of the two bodies are held jointly every month, while as a rule the Board takes its decisions on the applications within three months of their submission.
“Because of the variety of interesting projects and the excellent cooperation exhibited by colleagues at the Fund, I am looking forward to my future activities as Chairman of the Future Fund’s Board,” concluded Klasnic.

Contact for further inquiries:
Secretary General Ambassador Dr. Richard WOTAVA
Future Fund of the Republic of Austria
PO Box 90
1014 Vienna
Tel. +43/1/ 513 60 16 10
Fax: +43/1/513 60 16 15
E-Mail: info@zukunftsfonds-austria.at

Restitution Dispute Over Kremser Schmidt: Historian Advocates Return

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (02/18/2007)

Streibel: City responsible for how it deals with problems of the past

Krems – The Kremser historian, Robert Streibel, advocates a “return of the aryanized works by Kremser Schmdit to their legal heirs.” In no way does the city bear guilt of what happened in the past; it is, however, indeed responsible for how it presently deals with the problems of the past.

The paintings were confiscated in 1938. In 1952 the former owner delivered a waiver renouncing them. Now his living heirs in the USA wish to have the art treasures returned. “In the case of both paintings by Martin Johann Schmidt it also deals with honoring those persons against whom wrong was committed,” emphasizes Streibel. He regrets that the city in this case simply “disappeared from the scene throughout a period of five years.”

As to the history and reputation of Krems referred to as a city with a Nazi past, the historian stated that Krems was the first city in Austria which had a Nazi mayor. After an assassination attempt in Krems, the Nazi party was forbidden throughout all of Austria and Krems was at that time the capital of the illegal NS movement.

Streibel says that he has committed himself for more than twenty years to working through the history of the city during NS times: “Krems was the first small city in which the history of the Jews was documented in this form. Krems has a few monuments and a homepage (http://www.judeninkrems.at) with the only Jewish cemetery which also can be viewed online.” Futhermore, an exhibit was initiated in cooperation with the highschool, appearing in twenty various shops.

In 1998 Mayor Franz Hölzl had the holdings of the city museum inspected for questionable acquisitions during the years 1938 to 1945. One discovered two paintings by Martin Johann Schmidt (“Saint Florian” and “Barock Priest with Chapel”). The Commission for Provenance Research discovered the existence of a waiver from 1952, placing the city now in a dispute over restitution. As a private citizen, he would have had the paintings returned, but as mayor, he is obligated to the city’s legal jurisdiction, said Hölzl a short time ago. He hopes to come to a reasonable consensus and an agreement out of court with the Friedrich Neumann heirs.

Symposium on “Art Looting and Restitution” Held at Vienna’s Urania

News from Austria (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

On January 18, 2007 a symposium on “Art Looting and Restitution” was held at Vienna’s Urania. Experts discussed the practice and future of art restitution. Predictions as to when research on the provenance of art works and restitution will be concluded cannot be made at this point, stated researcher on restitution and co-organizer, Michael Wladika.

Among the subjects discussed was the provenance research currently being conducted at the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), on 420 objects of art, comprising 20% of the acquisitions of the NS period, which has yet be determined. According to Monika Mayer, provenance researcher at the Österreichische Galerie, the current status of about 600 paintings and sculptures is still unclear. Hannah Lessing presented the art database established by the National Fund for the Victims of National Socialism launched in October 2006 and containing some 8,000 objects of art. One half comes from Federal museums and the other half from museums belonging to the City of Vienna. Walter Hellmich, Chairman of the Vienna Restitution commission, gave an overview of the activities in Vienn and illustrated the dimension of the work undertaken: 40,000 objects of the municipal library as well as 24,300 acquisitions by museums had to be classified as “dubious” just based on the date of acquisition.

“Highest Priority” for Waehring Cemetery

Der Standard (03/13/2007)

Speaker Prammer criticizes delays over the past years: “I don’t have an explanation”

Vienna – The rescue of the Jewish cemetery in Vienna’s district of Waehring seems more and more likely. After positive signals coming from Vienna’s city hall, Speaker of the Austrian parliament, Barbara Prammer, has joined the chorus. “We not only have a basic responsibility to maintain the Jewish cemeteries in particular; there also exists a legal commitment”, Prammer told Der Standard, admitting at the same time that there” has been no coordinated approach” to the issue over the past few years. For Prammer, who also heads the Board of Trustees of the National Fund, the Waehring cemetery has “highest priority”: ”It has to be the focal point of our attention.”

Acid Rain, Freezing, Rank Growth

This is exactly where the focal point hasn’t been for a long time. The cemetery presents itself accordingly: Closed to the public –public access would be a safety issue- uncontrolled plant growth, acid rain and freeze have been destroying the last existing tombs.

A working group will now be established “as soon as possible”, says Prammer; creating a concept for the upkeep of all Jewish cemeteries in Austria across the federal, state, and local level. “My goal is to create a list of priorities.”

If Prammer has her way, the cemetery project will be financed through the National Fund; the correct appropriation of funds would be guaranteed through the Austrian Court of Audit. This would only be possible with additional funding for the National Fund. Initial talks with the Federal Minister of Finance already took place, said the Speaker. In the case of Waehring, talks with the city of Vienna shall now take place as soon as possible.

Condition “Is Not Unknown”

Why the cemetery has been neglected for so long Prammer can’t answer either. “I don’t have an explanation, and I say that very openly. It has after all been known that the cemetery looks like it looks, but now it would be important to avoid any further waste of time”.

Due to its bad condition, the Waehring cemetery is the center of attention. Overall, the concept includes 66 cemeteries. “I don’t see such big problems anywhere else, so we can postpone other projects for a little bit, explained Prammer”. “Many cemeteries are well taken care of by the communities, and this has been going on without any commotion.”

The 2002 “White book On Status Quo and Renovation Requirements of Jewish Cemeteries”, produced by the Jewish Community mentions “different ways of implementing the established norms of upkeep”. “In sum”, the report reads further, “the ongoing upkeep has room for improvement”. In Germany, an agreement between the federal, state, and local level on the upkeep of Jewish cemeteries has been in place since the 1950s. (Peter Mayr)

Two New Brochures Inform About Jewish Life in Vienna

Die Presse (01/04/2007)

Vienna – Where can one shop for kosher items? How is the Israelite Religious Community organized? And what are the origins of the name, Leopoldstadt?

The City of Vienna brought out beginning of 2007 a new issue of the free brochure, “Jewish Vienna,” in cooperation with the Jewish Welcome Service Vienna. The new publication claims to not only offer historical information but more up-to-date, useful information.

Thus, a concise summary covering the Middle Ages until the Present is complemented by an extensive overview of various Jewish organizations, museums, restaurants, services offering advice as well as contact addresses on questions of restitution. A city map explains geographic places of Jewish history (the City Temple, Palais Epstein). The brochure is published in German and English.

Newly included in the brochure is also a small booklet on the city’s district offices. It also offers individuals as well as businesses a survey of their services and expertise: i.e. passports/visas, lost and found, parking, sidewalk cafés, as well as such things as the exhibit on hunting postcards or help in the fight against the pigeon scourge.

According to the city, the reason for reissuing the brochure was to announce the change in hours of operation for agencies – partly lengthened, partly shortened – initiated in December 2007.

Both brochures can be obtained via a telephone hotline (01 277 55) or directly over the internet.

See: www.wien.gv.at/index/bestellen.htm  www.wien.at/bma/

August 2007

Exhibition, “Ordnung Muss Sein” (Order Has to Be)

Jewish Museum in Vienna (07/03/2007)

The Archive of the Jewish Community of Vienna
In year 2000, employees of the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG) made a startling discovery. In a vacant apartment in one of the community's tenement buildings in Vienna's 15th district they came upon dozens of wooden cabinets containing index cards, a pile of large-sized books reaching from the floor to the ceiling and 800 cardboard boxes filled with files and documents from IKG holdings. On closer inspection, some 500,000 pages were identified as dating from the National Socialist era in Austria. They were mixed with younger material but also with older material from the 19th and early 20th century. A long-forgotten part of the IKG archival holdings had been found again.

In cooperation with the Holocaust Victims' Information and Support Center of and with the support of the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem, the Jewish Museum Vienna will be staging an exhibition for the first time on the IKG archive in summer 2007.
The archive was officially founded in 1816, but the oldest documents date back to the 17th century. The archive was professionally organized and classified during the 19th century.

The IKG holdings, which are unique in terms of scope and completeness, span 300 years from the beginning of the Viennese Jewish community to the post-Holocaust period, documenting the community's organization, its religious, educational, scientific, cultural and philanthropic facilities and providing information about its officials and members. Unlike other disbanded Jewish communities in Germany and Austria, the IKG continued to exist during the Nazi era until the end of October 1942 when it was finally replaced by a "Judenrat" (Council of Jews). From May 1938 it took care of tens of thousands of Jews and organized their emigration; from February 1941 it was forced to participate in the deportation of the remaining Jewish population. The reports, letters, emigration and financial documents, deportation lists, card indexes, books, photographs, maps, and charts from that era detail the final years of the once-largest German-speaking Jewish community in Europe before and during the Holocaust. After 1945, and once more since the rediscovery of the archival holdings, the card indexes and files kept during the Nazi era provided the basis for investigating the fate of Jews who had been expelled or killed and also helped survivors and the descendants of victims to assert claims for compensation and restitution of property.

In the 1950s it came to a short halt when most of the archive was lent to the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. By microfilming the documents in Jerusalem, by preserving, organizing, categorizing and microfilming the documentation that remains in Vienna, and by combining the holdings and making them accessible in the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) planned for the future, the IKG is attempting 50 years later to reconstruct its institutional memory and restore to Austria a piece of its history.
The exhibition not only shows important aspects of the history of the Jewish Community of Vienna on the basis of historical documents, but also examines the notion of the archive as a place of remembrance and the problem of organizing and classifying historical information.
The exhibit runs from July 4 – October 21, 2007 in the Palais Eskeles, Vienna.


Vienna’s Jewish Museum Exhibits Sensational Archive Discovery

Der Standard (07/03/2007)

New insight into the Holocaust: Documents missing over decades can be viewed for the first time within the framework of the exhibit, “Ordnung Muss Sein.”

The discovery in Year 2000 is Causing a Sensation
The exhibition in cooperation with the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG) and the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem displays materials for the first time which go back to the sensational discovery of an archive in year 2000. At that time significant acts and documents were found in an abandoned building in Vienna belonging to the IKG, containing a dozen index cards, books and some 800 cardboard boxes.

New Insights into the Holocaust
The archival holdings confirm the 300 year-old history of a Jewish community from their beginning until the post-Holocaust period. Based on historical documents, the exhibition reveals essential aspects of the history of Vienna’s Jewish community. Moreover, it is concerned with the question of the archive as a place of memory. Numerous exhibits, among them deportation lists, warrants, pleas as well as hand-produced graphic material - such as running statistics on deaths and births of Jews in Vienna (from 1938 to 1941) - offer information on the fate of the IKG, forced during the NS era to organize emigration and deportation based upon their own documentation.

The Bureaucracy Imposed upon the Victims

Profil (07/02/2007)

Marianne Enigl

Contemporary History. The Jewish Community of Vienna was the only one that recorded their own expulsion and deportation up until the end of the NS regime. The documents missing for decades are now being exhibited for the first time in Vienna. They are historically unique finds which offer new insights into the Holocaust.

How must it have felt to them? What was the experience like of yearning for the opportunity to flee the country, symbolized by the tickets which they held in their hands, entitling them to board the ship, Royal Mail Lines?

What was going through the minds of Hugo S. and his family who left Vienna in February, 1930 to cross the ocean with the British line to far-away Bolivia? Or Emil S., when he stepped off the boat onto land in Buenos Aires? Or Dr. Max R. who received permission to leave the country and board the ship with his wife and two children headed for Montevideo?

Each individual ticket booking for the Royal Mail Lines was fastidiously recorded and filed away and remains to this day in its original ledger. Only the paper clips which now have become rusty over the many years have been replaced in the meantime in order to protect the paper. Those pieces of paper upon which the Cunard White Star confirmed their passage to New York begin to fall apart when one touches them.

The documents contain numerous stamps and signatures. Some of them were signed by four various representatives from the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG), confirming that part of the of travel costs would be paid by the emigrant aid offered by the Religious Community.

In spring of 1939, the passage across the Atlantic to Cuba cost just under 1,000 Reichsmark, which is about 4,000 Euros today. Each little subsidized amount had to be calculated because there was strong pressure to emigrate and because the necessary sum was tremendous. At the beginning of 1939, 117,979 people, to be exact, belonging to Vienna’s Jewish community had made a reservation.

Most of them had lost their work since the NS takeover in March, 1938, and many of them sold their belongings in order to survive. Salomon K. named North America as his destined goal. His bicycle shop had been confiscated on the day after the Nazis marched into Vienna, and he had been arrested. He said that his family had nothing more to take with them from Vienna than three suitcases and a bale of sheets.

And what awaited the twenty children who on February 22, 1939 climbed onto the train in Vienna headed for Antwerp, Belgium? A yellowed invoice upon which is written 8.4 Reichsmark for breakfast for the children, two Reichsmark for an invitation to coffee for the Belgian nuns, and five Reichsmark which were spent for a tiny mishap involving a ‘windowpane’ occuring on the way from Köln to Aachen bore witness to their trip.

The bureaucracy involved in Jewish persecution was recorded in detail; for example, “provisions” accompanying the children “had to be kept to the bare minimum.” Their parents had to swear under oath “that the children in no way possessed any assets and that also the parents had not given them any assets nor had they transferred any to them.” The permission obtained for registering each and every child for the so-called ‘transport of children’ was like having to jump over hurdles. And after their departure the Gestapo demanded again an exact report. Up until the beginning of the war on September 1, 1939, almost 3,000 children were successful in leaving Austria with support of the Religious Community.

Thousands of petitions, emigration files, telegrams, protocols concerning negotiations with the NS in command were found in 2000 in one of the IKG buildings in Vienna’s district Fünfhaus. What began as clearing the building led to the discovery of 500,000 pages of treasured documents depicting the Austrian Jews’ fight for survival.

Also found was an old wooden box containing index cards, which meanwhile have become a symbol of remembrance, meaning that memories of those years have has not been wiped away. Its unimposing exterior served as a protective covering, hiding the personal data of countless numbers of people. It contains many small pieces of paper, each one detailing the age, profession, country of emigration and financial support given to the persecuted.

The finds are historically unique because the majority of Jewish historical sources throughout all of Europe were systematically destroyed by the Nazis.

Beginning this week, parts of the finds will be shown in an exhibit at the Jewish Museum Vienna open to the public under the ambiguous title, “Ordnung Muss Sein  (There Must be Order) – The Vienna Israelite Religious Community’s Archive.”

Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek, head curator of the Vienna Jewish Museum, points out two significant aspects of the unique historical value of the tradition passed down by the Vienna Israelite Religious Community:

•    The archive covers a span of 300 years – from the beginning of Vienna’s Jewish community until the post-Holocaust period. According to current research, nothing comparable exists in terms of its completeness and scope.
•    And it is the only archive in which the commissioning of people’s expulsion and deportation has been documented in such a painstakingly “orderly” manner.

The IKG was the only community within the German-speaking territory – despite formerly referred to under a different name – which existed until 1945, whereby the personal data of every single individual was recorded in detail during the NS regime.

Shortly before the end of the war the valuable holding was almost destroyed by a bomb dropped in the middle of the Religious Community located in the center of Vienna. With hands crippled by gout, Abraham Singer, the IKG’s librarian, dug up the buried papers from the crater left by the bomb. After the 1950s the major part – about three million pages from NS times – was lent to Jerusalem on permanent loan. “The Vienna Israelite Religious Community sent the old archive, which tells the story of Vienna’s Jews, to Israel so that it can be protected forever,” said IKG’s president at the time, Ernst Feldsberg.

Apart from the countless number of documents of over 17.5 million victims of the NS regime, which were released over the past few years by the International Search Service in Bad Arolsen, the IKG’s archive strikes continued interest. Paul Shapiro from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.: “Until now the history of Jewish persecution was almost entirely based on written documents left behind by the Nazis.” What a Jewish community suffered through now becomes alive.” The New York Times wrote in a preliminary report of the exhibition in Vienna that it is here “the lost Holocaust history of a nation” is brought to light.

Nontheless, the idea that what was lost will suddenly unfold before one’s eyes is an illusion. Curator Heimann-Jelinek: “There will be no history told because the history is fragmented; we can no longer piece it together; no tampering with the proof can “heal” it.

A large space was filled with hundreds of boxes filled with archives which are not to be opened. Heimann-Jelinek: “The viewer has no access to the contents of what was once Jewish Vienna. One can only imagine it from the outside.” Also since the IKG’s archive in Vienna belonged not only to Jewish but Austria’s memory, one wants to remind the viewer that dealing with such memory requires a certain sensitivity.

Many thousands of pages serve as testaments. Salom K., who emigrated to North America and wanted to do “any work offered to him” was deported in May of 1942 to Minsk, and on the day after his arrival, he was exterminated. In his last letter written to the IKG he had expressed hope to be accepted on the Lloyd Triestino for passageway to Shanghai.

His name is on the list of forty-eight transports of deported people which was also “forgotten” and found in the newly discovered holdings in Vienna. The file scarcely takes up half a meter of space on the shelf and contains the name of more than 48,000 people. The exhibition shows the covers of notebooks, upon which date and destination of deportation is written by hand with the sixth transport noting the entry, “15. X. 1941, Litzmannstadt, Lodz.” Merely three weeks later 5,000 people were deported to the ghetto in Lodz; those who survived were exterminated in gas wagons in Kulmhof.

“Births of Jews.”
Head of IKG’s archive, Lothar Hölbling, refers sarcastically to the huge survey map bearing the heading, “Jewish Migration from the Ostmark,” as “representing Eichmann’s dream.” “On one side is written, 180,000 Jews in the Ostmark” at the start of May, 1938, wheras on the other side is written, “39,984 Jews in the Ostmark” end of March 1941. (Note: In 1938 there were some 206,000 people considered Jews by the Nuremberg Laws on racial policy who lived in Austria.)

Running statistics entitled “Death of Jews in Vienna,” conceal also many suicides such as that of author Egon Friedell who committed suicide on March 16, 1938. Another is entitled, “Births of Jews in Vienna” – it shows the fast, steep incline – beginning 1941 when there was only one Jewish child born in any given month in Vienna.

Migration is depicted as an intertwining net of necessary paths through a jungle of bureaucracy that had to be taken. The “Path of the Jews” is broken down into two lines, a darker blue one indicating “Bureaus Designated for the Jews” and a lighter blue one indicating “Bureaus only Conditionally Designated for the Jews.”

After being exhibited in Vienna, the chart will go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. for three years.

Under whose charge this macabre view of deportation was commissioned is not clear. It is certain, however, that the Israelite Religious Community, itself, produced the charts because there are also drafts of the individual illustrations found in their archive. The historian, Jonny Moser, Holocuast survivor after having fled Austria for Hungary, was an assistant to the Swedish diplomat, Raul Wallenberg,* and considered one of the most  knowledgeable on IKG history. He suspects it was Adolf Eichmann, chief NS organizer, who commissioned the extermination of the Jews. Moser: “The use of charts involving statistics as they are depicted on this map, was frowned upon by the Nazis because it was thought to be a Jewish invention.” Eichmann, nevertheless, liked it.

To what extent Vienna served as a model for the NS expulsion of the Jews after March 1938 is often written about. The wild looting of Jewish shops and residences as well as the violent assaults were considered what triggered the extremely severe actions taken by the NS in comparison to that what happened in the Old Reich in Germany.

Following their discussion on hatred for the Jews in Vienna, the historians, Hans Safrian and Hans Witek, came to the conclusion: “Due to the stronger pressure exerted from below and due to the excesses of local pogroms by anti-Semites, it had become necessary for the Nazi bureaucrats in Vienna, much earlier than in Germany, to contain the riots by finding pseudo legal methods and forms of organizing the implementation of terror in a “methodical and orderly fashion.”

A correspondent from the New York Times reported from Austria back in March 23, 1938: “One thing is clear. Wheras the first victims of the Nazis were the leftist parties – Socialists and Communists – in Vienna it were the Jews. In fourteen days they succeeded in subordinating the Jews to an continually severe regime, whereas in Germany it took one year.”

The Vienna Religious Community placed hope in cooperating with the new people in power. The historian and author, Doron Rabinovici, wrote in his excellent examination of the sensitive and painful history of the Jewish functionaries: “In comparison to the hostile mobs or to the anti-Semitic riots in March of 1938, the NS officials appeared initially to the Jewish functionaries to be more temperate and willing to negotiate.”

Three days after the takeover of power by the National Socialists, an NS troupe managed to enter the Israelite Religious Community in Vienna’s Seitenstettengasse. On March 18 the official building was searched and occupied during an extensive crackdown. Among other items found was a receipt for a donation intended to contribute to a referendum planned by Federal Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg. In effect, it was a welcomed pretext for the Nazis to arrest the head of the Jewish Community and to impose a 500,000 Reichsmark fine. Soon thereafter, the head of the Religious Community, Stieglitz, committed suicide.

A Trap.
Josef Löwenherz, official director of the IKG, had already been given a slap on the face by Adolf Eichmann during their first meeting. The Religious Community was closed, and on May 2, 1938, again opened but forced to assume a fully different structure. Rabinovici: “In the meantime, however, all of the Jewish interest groups were debilitated and beheaded.”

Eichmann ordered the Jewish functionaries to come to the empty Palestine office and let them stand there while spoken to. He refused to shake hands with the Jewish representatives “out of ideological reasons,” ridiculed and threatened them. Rabinovici: “The Community fell into a trap. The horrible conditions created by the Nazis forced those being persecuted to accept subordination.”

On May 8, 1938 Eichmann reported from Berlin: “You can believe me - I brought the leadership to an absolute trot….tomorrow I will again control the IKG and the Zionists. I will do this at least once a week every week. I have them completely in my hands, and they don’t dare to make a step without consulting me first.”

Apecial command of the “Department concerning the Jews,” within the SS’s security section headed by Eichmann, began implementing his perfidious concepts: The Jewish Community should become his tool. The IKG’S large organizational structure was put completely under his control, with Josef Löwenherz appointed director of the bureau.  The IKG should see to a smooth running of compulsory measures, thereby shielding the real perpetrator of Jewish victims. Löwenherz was ordered to the “Central Office for Jewish Migration” and installed in the occupied Rothschild Palace to receive his instructions. He was to pass these on to the Jewish population. He had to report back to Eichmann and later to SS strongman, Anton Brunner, every week.

The Austrian Historical Commission revealed how the Religious Community was put under pressure to demand donations from foreign Jewish aid organizations to help implement forced migration. Eichmann declared in June of 1939: “The Jewish functionaries were given instructions to ask for 100,000 dollars in cash on a monthly basis from Jewish financial institutions for the purpose of moving Jews out of the Ostmark.” The historians, Gabriele Anderl and Dirk Rupnow, document that a total of 4.2 million dollars in foreign currency was raised for Jewish migration. The Religious Community was forced to sell the money to those leaving. With the proceeds they took thousands of needy emigrants under their arm and fed them.

Raul Hilberg, who originated from Vienna and became the doyen of Holocaust research, found among the yellowed papers documents from his family. His father wrote that he “had very little means” for the purpose of migrating. The family fled in March 1939 by way of Cuba to New York. In his most recent book, “Sources of the Holocaust,” Hilberg wrote: “The reality of events cannot be reconstructed. The relentless search for knowledge continues; may it continue to  be so extensive and time consuming that nothing gets lost or is forgotten.”

Holocaust Studies Conference: “Labor and Extermination“

Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (06/27/2007)

Well-known researchers of National Socialism and the Holocaust invited as guests in Vienna for a conference held by the Vienna Chamber of Labor  and the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) from June 27 – 29.

From June 27 - 29, 2007 the Vienna Chamber of Labor (AK Wien) together with the soon-to-be Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) are organizing an international conference entitled “Work and Extermination.” The event is under the auspices of Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer and will be opened by Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. It will take place in close cooperation with the University of Vienna’s Institute for Contemporary History and the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG) which is also responsible for concept and content.

Over the last few years public debate over the issue of NS forced labor was closely allied with the question of compensation for survivors consisting of some ten million people with foreign citizenship who were dragged into forced labor for the German Reich. In contrast, the conference strongly concentrates on the interconnection of economic exploitation and racist-motivated mass extermination during the National Socialist regime that was primarily directed at Jews, Sinti and Roman, Soviet war prisoners, but also partly at political enemies and groups of people stigmatized as being “asocial” and “criminal.” Special focus is on topics such as “extermination through labor,” extermination of people who were considered “unfit for work” and “unworthy of living,” “extermination as work,” and the hope of victims for “survival through work.”

Over a period of three days, twenty reputable experts from both within and outside of Austria will present and discuss latest insights gathered from research on the topic of National Socialism and the Holocaust, whereby a particular wish of the organizers is to reach the broadest audience possible. Simultaneous translation into German will be offered for lectures given in English.

The conference will be held in the training center of the Vienna Chamber of Labor located in Vienna’s 4th district in the Theresianumgasse 16 – 18, which housed one of the NS “aryanized” agencies in the Rotschild Palace.  A new brochure printed for the conference informs the Vienna Chamber of Labor that important sections of NS bureaucracy – namely logistics and organization – were housed in the building, from where much of the terror was carried out.

Those unable to attend the conference can go to website of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute at: www.vwi.ac.at where the event will be carried live and individual contributions and discussions will be accessible by way of the video archive.

Salzburg: Remembering the “Wandering Jews“

Der Standard (06/15/2007)
Thomas Neuhold

In summer 1947 some 5,000 Jews succeeded in crossing the Krimmler Tauern into Italy. “Alpine Peace Crossing” will commemorate this historical event.

Salzburg – “There were poor people who didn’t even have a rucksack; there were small children who were carried in wooden crates on peoples’ backs, and the house was often full. During the night I cooked flour mixed with water for the poor children...” These were the memories which Liesl Geisler, innkeeper of the Krimmler-Tauernhaus, wrote down on paper before she died in 1985 describing what many native people in the area called euphemistically, the “Wandering Jews” - the flight of thousands, mainly East European Jews, across the Krimmler Tauern mountain pass.

These were the emaciated survivors of the concentration camp who, empty handed and unequipped, were collected in a camp in Saalfelden, Pinzgau, and came every second night in a truck to Krimm. From there they began the upward climb to Tauernhaus which lay over 1,600 meters above sea level. The following day they camped in and around Tauernhaus; it was used to collect their strength before the nightly crossing. Historians estimate that in the summer of 1947, some 5,000 such people managed to cross the 2,634 meter-high pass over into Italy. From Italy they continued on to Palestine.

Flight of a Quarter Million People
Altogether in the years between 1945 and 1948, about a quarter of a million East European Jews, driven by anti-Semitic riots, fled to the Western zones. Half of them made their way to Tyrol and Italy through Salzburg. When French officials in Tyrol began at the end of 1946 to send the illegal Jewish groups of refugees back, the Jewish refugees aid organization, Bricha, decided for the more difficult solution of crossing the Krimmler Tauern pass in Southern Tyrol’s Ahrntal.

Sixty years after the exodus, there will be a commemoration of the Alpine Peace Crossing from June 28 - 30. Upon the initiaitve of Ernst Löschner, who was born in Pinzgau and is the Director of BNP Paribas Austria Bank, about 200 participants will make their way across the Tauern, among them also contemporary witnesses who had already surmounted the crossing in 1947. As an overture to the crossing, a commemorative stone in Saalfelden will be unveiled: the point of departure for the flight of “displaced persons” over the mountains was the camp, Givat Avoda, located on the grounds of today’s Wallner barracks.

Broad Support
Support for Löschner’s initiative is wide-spread. It will take place under the auspices of Federal President Heinz Fischer and the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. The honorary committee is composed of members coming from all of Austria’s religious groups, representatives of the federal government, contemporary witnesses as well as artists, journalists and representatives of numerous industrial and economic firms in the region.

Apart from commemorating the refugees’ ordeals, Löschner wishes to have the event serve as a warning for the present: “It is a crossing dedicated to all people today who are fleeing political, racist or religious persecution wherever it is manifested in the world.”

NS Suspects: Berger Doesn’t Exclude Further Rewards

Austrian Press Agency (07/12/2007)

“Should we receive concrete proof, we are prepared”

Vienna – Minister of Justice Maria Berger doesn’t exclude offering additional rewards for information leading to the capture of alleged NS criminals still at large. “Should we receive concrete proof, we are prepared to offer further incentives” she said on Friday in a side note before journalists at the reopening of the Palace of Justice. Berger emphasized that the search for the former concentration camp doctor, Aribert Heim, and former SS official, Alois Brunner, is very important to her personally.

“I strongly wish to take action by using the opportunities available to us as a Ministry of Justice,” said Berger. This is important as long as the two men sought are still alive, and there is reason to believe that they are. Heim was last sighted in South America. It could not be said as to the extent of the crimes Heim and Brunner are suspected of: “More research is necessary.” She also didn’t wish to judge whether enough has been done after the war in regards to the search. “It is very important to me that this step be taken.”

Berger also emphasized that the reward of 50,000 euros for relevant clues which could lead to arresting the two fugitives will only be paid to private persons. Moreover, the Minister of Justice wants to up-date relevant laws in accordance with EU standards. In complying with the anti-racism framework resolution, not only will denying the Holocaust but also denying international crime classified as genocide be punishable in the future.

Salzburg Wants Memorials

Der Standard (06/17/2007)

To Bow Before and Acknowledge the Victims
Thomas Neuhold

The artist, Demnig, engraves the inscriptions of Nazi victims into metal plaques embedded into stone and then places the stone blocks in front of the last-known residence of the victim.

Until now, Gunter Demnig, an artist from Cologne, has placed some 12,000 “Stumbling Blocks” with information engraved onto brass plates about those persecuted during the NS regime. A committee of local people wishes to implement this form of memorial also in Salzburg.

Salzburg – “A person is not forgotten until his name is forgotten.” With this motto, the artist, Gunter Demnig, from Cologne has been laying his ongoing work, “Stumbling Blocks,” ever since 1993. The concrete squares, upon which are plaques made of brass, measure about four inches. By striking  letters into the metal, Demnig engraves information about the victims of  Nazi terror into the metal plaque and then paves the concrete blocks into the sidewalk in front of the last-known place of residence or place of work of the persecuted as a form of personalized remembrance. One doesn’t physically stumble over the skillfully laid stone, one stumbles “with head and heart,” as Demnig circumscribes the goal of his work. And whoever wants to read the inscription has to inevitably bow before, thereby acknowledging  the victims.”

Twelve Thousand “Stumbling Blocks”
He has already laid some 12,000 such “stumbling blocks” – most of them in Germany, a few in Hungary and some thirty in Austria – in Braunau as well as Mödling. The concept includes all groups of victims – Jews, Roma, victims of euthanasia, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christians, Social Democrats and Communists. Demnig’s idea was born out of a feeling of “uneasiness”, which overcame him while looking at anonymous, centralized monuments. Naming a person by name is the exact opposite of the methods used by the NS, who had tattooed numbers into the prisoners of the concentration camps. Surprising detail from Demnig’s experiences until now: Against all expectations, the “stumbling blocks” have scarely been objects of vandalism. From the 12,000 placed stones, only about fifty have been splashed with paint or removed.

Dispersed Memorials
Some time after August, this form of memorial will be implemented in Salzburg. The initiative was started by an independent committee of local prominence. Among them, for example, is the writer Karl-Markus Gauß, head of the Israelite Religious Community Marko Feingold, Director of the Chamber of Labor Gerhart Schmidt as well as historians Helga Embacher and Gerd Kerschbaumer, and city councilmen from the Social Democratic and the Austrian People’s parties. Those responsible for the mandate were still able make the necessary decisions in the community council before summer, thereby preventing a repetition of previous long and agonizing debates surrounding other memorials in remembrance of Salzburg’s  NS past.

Private Sponsors
The organization of the project has been taken over by the umbrella association, Salzburger Kulturstätten. How many stones can be placed as memorials for those murdered by the Nazis depends on the people of Salzburg themselves. The entire project, amounting to 95 euros per stumbling block, will be financed entirely by private sponsors. (Notartreuhandbank AG, BLz. 31500, Account Number: 806 05 052 808).

Knick Knack, Kitsch and Cheese

Profil (04/30/2007)
Marianne Enigl

Vorarlberg. The Jewish Museum in Hohenems is considered one of the most innovative in Europe. Now it is on a new course.

There are no Jewish citizens living here any more and yet the former Jewish district in a city consisting of 14,000 residents is considered today one-of-a-kind in Central Europe. There is the synagogue, the poor house, the school, the ritual bath house, the houses of the peddlers, the merchants and factory owners, and it is relatively complete because after the obliteration of the Jewish Community during National Socialism, it was simply left for decades to deteriorate instead of being torn down.Somewhat differently than in Vienna, the Jewish settlement 400 years ago had not been restricted to a ghetto. Together with the former Christenstraße (referred to todays as Markstrße), the houses in the Kudengasse (called Schweizer Straße today) formed the urban core of the city. After a broad discussion of the city’s future, essential parts of the Jewish area are now protected and preserved as historic sites.

Aron Tänzer, Rabbi and avant-gardist, gave some thought to Darwin’s teachings on evolution. That’s why the only single, orthodox member of the community of Hohenems was in 1903 head of an “Israelite Community descendant of Monkeys.”

Harry Weil, cantor of the Jewish Religious Community, established a workers’ song association, called the “Nibelungen Treasure,” and was considered the radical socialist in the area. After having fled to the U.S., he made a career as representative of Rupp Cheese. On a photo from Vorarlberg made while on holidays he wrote, “Memories of our trip home in 1966,” although his return request to his lost home had been denied: “That he wanted to continue his service as organist of the Israelite Religious Community is indeed an illusion because there is no Israelite Religious Community any longer.

Traces of life stories in the century-old Jewish community of the Vorarlberger city are the contents of a new, permanent exhibit by the Jewish Museum of Hohenems which opened last weekend. However, the project conceived by Hannes Sulzenbacher has nothing to do with conservation. Museum director, Hanno Loewy, speaks about a change in paradigms: “Jewish museums are coming closer in their approach to people. They are no longer only museums which offer private instruction in Jewish tradition, where non-Jews speak about the Jews.” Instead of society’s majority viewing Jewish history from the outside, it is about being confronted with individual, life sketches and ways to become a part of society with its Christian majority.” Loewy: “We are looking at Jewish history from the experience of migration and international life styles and asking questions about the present day.” The question as to whether and under which circumstances societies with different cultures have a place in Europe is permanently present in the border triangle characterized by migration movements. Not far from the Jewish cemetery in Hohenems is a burial place in Altach for the Muslims in the area.

The Jewish Museum in Hohenems, located in the villa of the former Heimann-Rosenthal factory bought up by the city, has attracted interest from the beginning. One year after its opening, it was distinguished by having been presented with the Austrian Museum Prize in 1992. Forward, a Jewish newspaper in New York, described it as one of most innovative Jewish museums in Europe.” One showed the highly acclaimed exhibition, “The Wonderful World of Jewish Kitsch,” and presented anti-Jewish knick knack - pipe holders and canes topped with the distorted physiognomy found in popular “pictures of Jews,” provoking a discussion on anti-Semitism, philo-Semitism and conspiracy theories.

Hanno Loewy, who established the renowned Fritz Bauer Institute in Frankfurt, sees in his larger, more spatial surroundings the freedom of choice absent in Jewish museums located in larger cities. “Here we are not so pressured by interests. That allows us, when dealing with history, to include all the inconsistencies with great candidness and in a relaxed atmosphere.”


Jewish Museum Vienna: The Female Dimension in Judaism and Goldman

Austrian Federal Chancellery

From May 16 to November 18, 2007 the Jewish Museum Vienna (JMW) presents the exhibition, “Best of All Women. The Female Dimension in Judaism,” exploring the role of the Jewish woman in religious, economic, social and cultural contexts. The exhibit demonstrates how female and male perspectives often lead to completely different perceptions of historical events. The parochet, by whose story the exhibition title is inspired, will also be displayed.

Zwi Hirsch Todesco had donated the Thora curtain to the City Temple in Vienna when his daughter Nina married in 1833. In his dedication he praised his wife Fanny as the “best of all women.” The acquisition and restoration of the parochet had been supported by the insurance company UNIQA. In its branch on Judenplatz the Jewish Museum Vienna presents a “Tribute to Paul Goldman. Photographs 1943-1965.“ This exhibition focuses on outstanding press photos, showing, for example, the arrival of Holocaust survivors in Palestine and everyday life in Israel at that time.


Parliament: Solemn Ceremony Against Violence and Racism

Austrian Federal Chancellery

The focus of this year’s commemorative ceremony against violence and racism held in the Austrian Parliament on May 4, 2007 was on resistance against the National Socialist regime. Speaker of Parliament Barbara Prammer delivered a speech to honor the memory of the resistance fighters. Witnesses of the period launched an appeal to stay alert, and former resistance fighters warned the youth against “seducers.” The ceremony in Parliament was opened by the Ensemble Klesmer Vienna playing Jewish melodies. Besides the members of government led by Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Vice-Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer, numerous representatives from both chambers of Parliament and the leaders of the parliamentary groups of the five political parties were among the attendees. The event was held in commemoration of the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp on May 5, 1945.

Cafe Centropa and Its Unassuming Heroes

Die Gemeinde (July, 2007)
Marta S. Halpert

Ed Serotta, an American in Vienna, created the first virtual Museum of Jewish Everyday History in Central- and Eastern Europe

You wish to visit Cafe Centropa? Although it lies in the center of the city in Vienna, it is not easy to find. It exists only one time per month for four hours in a koscher restaurant called  Alef Alef in the Judengasse. During this very short period of time, it becomes a normal coffeehouse.

A colorful, happy band of people – very few of them are under 80 years of age – enjoying apple strudel fresh out of the oven and the crispy chocolate pastry and chatting lively above the clanging of coffee cups.

An entirely normal meeting of senior citizens?  Only on the outside. Even if Lilli Tauber, Erwin Landau and Max Uri could meet their small circle of friends elsewhere, a man by the name of Ed Serotta, an American in Vienna, keeps them from doing so.  These older people have told and entrusted him and a host of interviewers with stories about their lives, stories which took place during a very moving European century.  In so doing, invaluable records are being left for posterity.

The magic word is “Centropa.” It is named for a unique institution located in Vienna which highlights and chronicles the really normal, everyday life of Austrian Jewish men and women in the former territories of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. In order to outsmart the threat of times being forgotten, oldest methods with latest techniques are combined. In interviews lasting hours, everything is recorded which is associated with the fascinating, long-term memories of this generation. These irretrievable treasures of oral history will be made accessible through Centropa over the internet to the entire world. This virtual museum exists primarily from yellowed, personal photos which have never been published. When totally engrossed with the portraits, the holiday photos and village scenes, one senses and gets a glimpse into the history of Central- and Eastern Europe during the last 150 years. The unique online archive has contains already some 25,000 scanned photos and over 1,500 interviews from eight different countries.

Breakfast in Centropa’s Kitchen
In an apartment located in an older building in the Pfeilgasse in Vienna’s district Josefstadt, all of the large, white French doors are left wide open. A mix of languages greets the visitor. Here young historians, computer geeks, students and photographers speak with one another in English, French, Hungarian, Hebrew, and Serbo-Croatian. A giant black-and-white portrait of the Galpert family from Mukachevo in the Ukraine hangs in the narrow office entryway and shows the way to Serottas’ favorite place - a long, narrow Ikea table. Here he invites guests for breakfast such as Austrian politicians, civil servants in high administrative positions, ambassadors from throughout Europe and American sponsors, who then receive not always the lightest fare. They have all heard the creed espoused by the founder of Centropa: “There are many people and institutions who are involved with documenting the Holocaust, and rightly so. I have tried, however, on my many trips from the Baltic States to the Balkans to bridge that terrible horror by discovering how the Jews have lived and how they are living today – not how they died.”

The charming collector soon found others interested in his project, but funding was not so easy. Why should one promote in Vienna documentation of Eastern European Judaism?

Centropa’s initial support came from that of reporters in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria. Serotta insisted “Vienna is the best place.” For many years Austrian State Secretary Hans Winkler took interest in the project. Then the National Fund of the Republic of Austria and other institutions followed. The circle of promotors soon spread. He was successful in attracting the attention of many private foundations in the USA where Serotta went on lecture tours or put himself up for hire as a tour guide for Eastern Europe. “As soon as he had someone sitting in front of him for breakfast and in front of the camera, this person was trapped,” recalled a former cohort.

Centropa is achored in Vienna but when using the German-speaking internet pages at: http://at.centropa.webxpert.at/, one is geographically in a very diverse world. Tips  regarding individual countries where Centropa is active - such as in Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, the Ukraine, Slovakia and the Czech Republic - one finds also special topics regarding “Sephardic Jews” or “Soviet-Jewish Soldiers.” Those who don’t wish to research their ancestors can download Jewish recipes or travel tips.

But nothing attracts one more nor fails to take one’s breath away as the memories of some fifty Austrians. Tanja Eckstein, former bookseller, who came to Vienna in 1984 from East Germany, conducted the majority of interviews and after many years continues to remain in contact with the older people. “Some really blossom, become young again when they recall that which was positive and beautiful in their younger years,” says Eckstein, who also is idolized by those with whom she is chatting.

For more information, see: http://www.centropa.org
CEC- Center for Research and Documentation of Jewish Life in Eastern- and Central Europe.
Pfeilgasse 8/15
1080 Vienna
Tel: +43 1 409 09 71

Head of the Jewish Welcome Service Has Passed Away

Der Standard (07/11/2007)

Leon Zelman 1928 - 2007

Polish-Austrian journalist Leon Zelman passed away in a hospital in Vienna at the age of 79 following a grave illness

Vienna – Head of the Jewish Welcome Service Vienna Dr. Leon Zelman has passed away in a hospital in Vienna at the age of 79 following a prolonged illness.

Leon Zelman was presented in 2001 the ‘Ring of Honor’ by the City of Vienna and plans were in the making for awarding him honorable citizen in the fall. As co-founder of the “Jewish Welcome Service Vienna,” he committed himself to making it possible for thousands of exiled Jewish Austrians to renew their ties with their former homeland – now, the new Vienna – thereby contributing toward reconciliation with the past.

The funeral will be held on Friday, July 13, 2007 in Vienna’s Central Cemetery at 12.30 p.m.

Survived the Concentration Camp
Zelman was born in 1928 in Szczekociny, Poland.  He survived the Auschwitz and Mauthausen-Ebensee concentration camps, where he was freed in May of 1945 by the Americans. He studied Journalism at the University of Vienna. During his studies, he was a leading contributor to the Jewish student group at the University. In 1963, Leon Zelman took over as head of Reisebüro City of the Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro  (Austrian Tourism Office) for the purpose of developing tourism with Israel.

The Year 1980 saw the founding of the non-profit organization, Jewish Welcome Service Vienna. Since its beginning, the Jewish Welcome Service succeeded in inviting thousands of Austrians to Vienna expelled in 1938 by the NS under the program, “Welcome to Vienna.” Moreover, the Jewish Welcome Service organized youth exchange programs between Israel, the USA, and Austria, in addition to many other   projects.

A Life in Service of Remembrance

Der Standard (07/12/2007)

The head of Vienna’s Jewish Welcome Service has passed away. As bridge-builder and as an exceptional figure, he is praised by all sides

The elegant, almost eighty year-old man, who could often be seen crossing  Stephansplatz from his office on the way to Café Europe, was often greeted by many people he didn’t know. “Professor Zelman, many years ago you held a lecture at my school which I have never forgotten,” the Holocaust survivor was told.

After having been liberated from a concentration camp close to Mauthausen in 1945, Leon Zelman fought his entire life against forgetting. And he tried to build bridges of reconciliation between people of the country from which so many of the persecutors had their origins and the survivors among those who were persecuted. Tuesday evening Leon Zelman passed away in the Barmherzige Brüder Hospital in Vienna following a grave illness.

Remembrance as Mission
Up until a few months ago, he could’nt stand still. In cafes around Vienna he explained to journalists his latest project of trying to convince politicians of establishing a “House of History” located next to Parliament to represent and research racism and intolerance. He failed in his attempt, but Zelman didn’t fail in directing criticism at the Social Democrats who had become a substitute family and home to the boy from the Polish Stetl Szczekociny orphaned by the Shoa.

There were three principles which Zelman repeated over and over again: First, as a survivor, he saw his life’s mission in keeping remembrance of the Shoah alive. Second, “Auschwitz didn’t begin in Auschwitz,” that one has to remain alert to all forms of hatred toward minorities. Third, something which Zelman emphasized equally often - is one must not overlook the fact that Hitler’s regime, by murdering the mentally ill, “also committed crimes against its own people.”

The idea of collective guilt was something fully foreign to him. And because Zelman delivered his message to many with such engaging cordiality, he was received positively at a time when  paralyzing silence clouded all discussion of the NS era.

The journal, Das Jüdische Echo, (1951), which Zelman edited until recently, had its beginnings as a newsletter for university students and developed into a “European cultural forum” appearing annually. Highly respected intellectuals such as Friedrich Heer and Hilde Spiel wrote many of its articles, and in most recent times renowned politicians and journalists contributed to it as well.

In the Ghetto of Lodz
One time the son of the former NS mayor of Lodz wrote movingly of his experiences as an adult when revisiting the city where so much suffering was caused by a ghetto erected by the Nazis. Leon Zelman, together with his parents and two-year-younger brother, Schajek, was imprisoned in this ghetto. The father was killed, his mother starved to death, and Leon took over the responsibility of raising his younger brother. Later, while in Auschwitz, he added two years to his age to ensure his survival as someone fit to work, (even after 1945 his date of birth was stated as being 1926). One morning Schajek was gone. The Nazis had sent him to the gas chambers.

The severely shocked Leon landed in the death march on the way to Ebensee, one of the sub-concentration camps belonging to the “Archipel Mauthausen,” as he describes  in his memoirs, “Ein Leben nach dem Überleben,” published in English as “After Survival.” He was liberated on May 6, 1945, measuring 178 centimeters in height and weighing only 38 Kilos. Zelman often told others that he had basically wanted to emigrate to the USA, but he suffered from tuberculosis and was, therefore, refused entry.

Thus, he went to Vienna, repeated courses in order to graduate with a Matura and studied journalism. During a visit to the hospital, he met Peter Strasser - at that time head of the Socialist Youth and later member of the National Council until his early death in 1962 and considered a hopeful candidate for the Austrian Social Democrat Party. The circle surrounding Strasser, to which Heinz Nittel also belonged, accepted Zelman as one of their own. He learned to appreciate a prejudice-free Austria and never stopped praising Vienna as being open to the world, defending the country everywhere he went, including the USA and Israel. In 1980, with support of the City of Vienna, he began the “Jewish Welcome Service,” initially promoting tourism with Israel.

The Bridge Broke
Time appeared ripe for Zelman to promote Austria’s coming to terms with the past. In 1984 he was the initiatior of the Vienna exhibition, “Sunken World,” which displayed  the stetl he knew during his childhood. But in 1985 the bridge cracked when the Minister of Defense, Friedhelm Frischenschalger, shook hands with the war criminal, Walter Reder, after being released from prison - something which received worldwide protest. During the following years, with the Waldheim affair and the rise of Jörg haider the world began breaking. But instead of giving up, he brought more and more Jewish survivors and their children for short visits to Vienna in order to show them a different Austria.

His last project, the “House of History,” which he pushed for being housed in the Ringstraße’s Palais Epstein, was turned down despite all efforts. But for someone from the stetl whom the Nazis wanted to get rid of, he gratefully accepted numerous honors toward the end of his life. The Grand Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria was one of them, also an honorary doctoral degree which was bestowed upon him by the University of Vienna.  He confronted issues head on and was hard to stop, even using the occasion of such events to deliver the message “that we must continue to fight against Hitler because we cannot allow that also remembrance be destroyed.”

Zelman Has Passed Away

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (07/11/2007)

Leaving a “Painful Gap” says Federal President Fischer

Zelman’s role cannot “be valued highly enough”

Vienna - With the death of Leon Zelman, a personality has left us, “who one can characterize as exceptional,” said Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer in an initial reaction on Wednesday to the passing of the head of Vienna’s Jewish Welcome Service. Zelman’s role in helping to confront our past during the years of 1938 to 1945 and coming to terms with post-War history cannot “be valued highly enough;” his passing leaves behind a “deep and painful gap.”

Zelman turned his suffering experienced as a Jew and as witness to concentration camps into “activity, love and zest for action,” said Fischer of the deceased. The Federal President recalled Zelman’s fight against every form of anti-Semitism, his love of Vienna and Austria, as well as his boundless energy in founding the Jewish Welcome Service which allowed many NS victims to visit their former homeland. His death is “an occasion for genuine mourning and will leave behind a deep and painful gap,” claimed Fischer in a broadcast from the office of the President.


Franz Alt: A Late Token of Appreciation

Die Gemeinde (06/2007)
Peter Weinberger

“When I studied mathematics in Vienna, the emphasis was on quite abstract subjects: on foundations of mathematics and mathematical logic; on fields like graph theory and combinatorial typology, and things like that. That was the atmosphere at that time, and these were the interesting subjects. Schlick was there in logic and philosophy, and Carnap was there. Goedel, whom we now call the foremost logician, was a student in Vienna, and he was a few years older than I. ”

Franz Alt is the last member of the Vienna Mathematical Colloquium, a group of scientists including Kurt Gödel, Oskar Morgenstern, Karl Menger and Abraham Wald, who, along with the Vienna Circle (and in close association to), did pioneer work during the 1930s in various areas of logic, topology and economics.

Franz, as he is fondly called by everyone, was born in Vienna on November 30, 1910. His father was a reputable lawyer, but Franz didn’t want to take over his father’s law firm “I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I rebelled  ” and studied mathematics at the University of Vienna, where he received his PhD in 1932: “I, instead, decided to study something else. Somewhere in high school, we had a very inspiring teacher of mathematics, and that inspired me to get into mathematics.”

Like many others, he found no regular employment in Vienna and had to eke out a living on part-time jobs, such as offering private tutoring along with Oskar Morgenstern at the Austrian Institute for Economic Research where, for the cost of 50 pennies, one could learn mathematics geared for national economists.

Upon arrival of the Anschluß, Franz had to leave Austria on the spur of the moment with his newly wedded wife. I’m not a practicing Jew, just ethnically by German definitions, by Nazi definitions. Becoming newly wedded happened something like this: Vienna was now under control of the Nazis,…nobody knew who was in charge, who could even issue a marriage certificate…One day, my future wife called me at the office on the phone and said, “I have just heard from Rabbi Schwartz….He’s still permitted to perform marriage, and it would be recognized. So if you want to, we could get married this afternoon.” I said, “All right.” I hadn’t given it any thought before then. “I’ll meet you at three o’clock after your office hours are over at such-and-such corner in Vienna,” and we walked over to see him at his synagogue.

After a short stay in Switzerland, they left directly for the USA, where his wife had relatives. When we arrived by boat in New York, one of my wife’s cousins was on the pier to receive us. We waved “hello” to him.

Only some time later was he offered employment: For three months, I was unemployed. I think I had 60 letters of introduction. I wrote letters to all of these people, and I got 58 refusals. Then, however, he did find work - with the Econometric Institute in New York – which was shortly interrupted by his two-year military service with the U.S. Army. I volunteered for the American Army early ’42 and was turned down because I was an enemy alien, theoretically. They didn’t do any harm to me. They didn’t intern me as they did the Japanese, but they didn’t allow me to enter the Army until I was drafted the following year. In ’43, I was drafted. Then while I was in the Army, I got my American citizenship, a little early being a soldier. …As soon as I was drafted, I volunteered for the ski troops because I felt that me, coming from Austria – Austria, if you don’t know, is a country in the high mountains, and we were all skiers. I wasn’t even a terribly good skier, but by American standards, I thought I would be able to do a good job.

During his military service, he familiarized himself with the first computer, working on development and programming before it was finished being built. After 1946 he continued to be involved with computers beginning in 1948 at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). I was dumped into computing. I knew nothing about it. The subject had never occurred to me as something to study. The word had never come up. “I got some reading to do, first of all,” I thought…They were enormously large computers. The ENIAC was a room full of computing devices, just for that one machine. We can’t imagine that today. Nowadays, a computer fits on a table. They were typically a roomful. I remember von Neumann once explaining ENIAC and saying every time you turned it on, you’d blow two tubes. As deputy director of the computing center (1948-52) and then for the department of Applied Mathematics (1952-67), he was responsible for installing the first computer at the NBS as well as other places connected with the U.S. government, involved with research in numeric analysis, statistics, and generally speaking, applied mathematics.

In 1967 he changed over to the American Institute of Physics (AIP) in New York. There he was significantly involved with constructing a digitalized system of information for a journal dealing with physics, which included classification, index and bibliography.

Since his retirement in 1973, he works as a volunteer with peace and human rights organizations. He is honorary member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM, currently consisting of 80,000 members), which he helped found and for which he served as its third president.

Franz Alt is one of the pioneers of the digital computer involving applied mathematics. Today he lives together with his second wife, Annice, in Manhattan, close to the Cloisters in an apartment stuffed with books, original editions of mathematic seminars and a wonderful view of the Hudson River. He still enjoys his favorite hobby of music. With age 96 he still plays in a quartet. He even has two groups in which he participates. One of his partners is a daughter of Courant, one of the most renowned mathematicians of the last century whose interest in applied mathematics led to the decision to leave Göttingen, Germany, following Hitler’s takeover of power. Franz Alt’s other hobby is hiking, something which has become more and more difficult for him to enjoy during the last few years.

As he tried to assure me, he didn’t believe that he was really entitled to the upcoming tribute which he was about to receive. It is fascinating to listen to his stories – about people who have helped shape the 20th century, their families and children, stories about the beginnings of the computer, of institutions which were once famous or continue to be, or about Kurt Gödel, whose ‘spirits’  he tried lifting in 1938.

In any case, I am happy that Franz Alt - late but nonetheless - will receive the Austrian honorary award for science and art from the Federal Chancellor. I am happy even more that the former high school where he received his degree has established a Franz Alt prize – one for theoretical and natural science and one for human rights. Both mean a great deal to him.

Kreisky Prize: Chancellor Gusenbauer Pays Homage to Lerner

Austrian Federal Chancellery

Gerda Lerner, a researcher specialzed in women’s history, received the Bruno Kreisky Prize for her life-time achievements and the 2006 political book of the year. Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer paid homage to the professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin (USA) in the festive hall of the Austrian National Library in Vienna. He praised her not only as a “doyenne and pioneer of women’s historiography” but as “the person devoting most efforts to the academic recognition and institutionalization of women’s historiography”.

The “godmother of women’s history” – the Chancellor quoted from the New York Times – was known far beyond academia and had always considered her activities for “others,” - those on the fringes of society - to be of high political relevance. Discrimination against women in history was only one but “significant form of discrimination” since women were “the group stigmatized as “others” or the longest period in history,” stated Gusenbauer. Lerner was born to Jewish parents in Vienna in 1920. Together with her parents she fled the National Socialists.

She was able to become a “recognized citizen and scholar only in the U.S.A.“. In 1972 Lerner had succeeded in establishing the first study program for women’s history in the U.S.A.  in 1972 and a PhD programme in 1980. Society owed it to the laureate that the “environment for women in science and the humanities had changed.” After her “generations of women had followed her example and were able to rely on her support.” Through her work Gerda Lerner finally gave “the oppressed majority of women the history which male history had denied them for such a long time.” She realized “before others that social discrimination was complex and that exploitation, oppression, discrimination were the effects of historical processes.”

By way of conclusion, the Chancellor stated that it was a great pleasure to him “to award this very important prize to the most active and brightest historian at the beginning of the new women’s historiography.” Among Gerda Lerner’s most outstanding works are “The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle Ages to 1810 (Oxford University Press, 1994). The German translation was published by dtv in Munich in 1998.

Prammer Makes Plans to Restore the Jewish Cemetery in Waehring

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (13/07/2007)

Vienna – Saving Vienna’s Jewish Cemetery in Waehring appears to be moving closer to the day when it becomes reality. President of National Council Barbara Prammer said on the occasion of a visit to Israel that the board of trustees of the National Fund, responsible for NS restitution, will pave the way for the preliminary stage of the project this coming October.

“To me it is fully clear that the Waehring Cemetery has priority, that something fundamental has to be done,” said Prammer, who also heads the board of trustees. She confirmed that the Federation will have to take a lot of the funding into its own hand: Fourteen million Euro for restoration is a realistic amount, she said, and special financing is also necessary. The entire project should take at least six, perhaps even ten years, according to experts.

The first step involves, however, a preliminary stage which will take two years or more and will amount to about 200,000 euro at the cost of the National Fund. There are already preliminary studies being done, such as that undertaken by the historian, Tina Walzer, but now also the Federal Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments will have its restorers  submit an appraisal. The City of Vienna’s Office for Gardens and Parks will deal with the problem of the tree population, which is getting out of hand. Work involving initial restoration will run alongside the other projects.

“I don’t want to have to wait patiently. I want the investigations to begin now. In the foreseeable future – two to three years – a complete project proposal can then be entrusted to the Federal government so that fundamental restoration can be carried out,” said Prammer. At the same time, financing should also be secured: “I assume that then the work can be smoothly carried out.”

Vienna will also have to meet its obligations, particularly concerning the work on the garden area as well as maintenance and supervision after restoration has been completed, explained the President of the National Council. Currently this is continually being taken care. Regarding the recent clearing of the area by members of the U.S. Embassy, including also the Marines, Prammer appeared “puzzled.” No matter who gives the orders, “I consider that to have been basically unnecessary.”

The struggle over restoring of the Jewish Cemetery Waehring, which belongs today to the district, Döbling, has been going on for a year. Until now very little has to be done, and the enclosed area in use from 1784 until 1879 is increasingly threatened by decay. Responsible for the restoring and maintaining of Jewish cemeteries in Austria is the Federation, according to the 2001 Washington Agreement. Vienna’s Community Council demanded unanimously in March that it should fulfill its duties of maintaining the cemetery. Thereupon, Prammer promised to make the cemetery the “burning issue and main focus of our attention.”

Where the Books Come From

Profil (06/11/2007)

The University of Vienna is investigating its role during the NS era. One aspect of it consists of making an inventory of their books stored in the book stacks.

What gave provenance research of Austrian libraries a push was the Federal law passed in 1998 regarding restitution of art objects. The Austrian National Library (ÖNB) led the way by searching through their book stacks for looted books. At the end of 2003 the National Library delivered a report, which contained the precise list of almost 150,000 books in print and over 11,000 objects from collections regarded unlawfully acquired in accordance with the law governing art restitution and left no doubt that the National Library had enriched itself “by depriving those persecuted or forced to emigrate of their property on a large scale.” In the meantime, one knows that the number of unlawful acquisitions is greater than previously assumed. “Meanwhile based upon the files of the National Library, some 300,000 suspected cases need to be researched, and the total number could increase to 500,000, says Christiane Köster, who has worked on researching the systematic looting of books during the NS era.

The National Library, under Director General Paul Heigl, a fervent supporter of the NSDAP, made particularly aggressive efforts to acquire “secured” holdings of books. At the same time, other libraries filled their book stacks gladly with books in print which were seized by the Gestapo. Vienna’s city and regional libraries have already scanned their bookshelves for holdings having suspected origins.

The University of Vienna took a somewhat longer time. “Legally, we are not obligated but certainly morally,” says Vice Rector Johann Jurenitsch. Not until the fall of 2004 was there any available funding, and the provenance researchers set to work also on the Alma Mater Rudolphina. Now, that the books have been made accessible, said library director, Maria Seissl, we will not stop “until we really have researched everything.” Critical inventory is one aspect of the research work regarding the history of the University of Vienna during NS times and will last until next year. In March 2008, a conference entitled, “Libraries During the NS Era,” will present the results.

A Large Chunk

Profil (06/11/ 2007)

Edith Meinhard

Restitution. Researchers found thousands of looted books in the huge book stacks of the University of Vienna. Now the search begins for heirs.

“More next time.” With these words, Professor of Romance Languages and Literature Elise Richter ended her lecture in March of 1938, one which proved to be her last. Two weeks later, the swastika hung on the façade of the Alma Mater Rudolphina. And “Miss Richter,” as the Neue Freie Presse once called the first woman ever to have received a PhD from an Austrian university, was expelled.

The Jewish scholar lived another four years with her sister Helene in Vienna’s Cottageviertel. Both of them had dedicated themselves to a life characterized by “the merry world of scholarship,” that was also the motto of the exlibris in all of their textbooks. But hardship set in and made life oppressive. In 1941 they considered even selling their fine library.  Elise did an inventory and came up with 8,000 volumes. “A really quite beautiful collection,” she noted in her diary in 1941.

The University and City Library of Cologne offered 4,000 Reichsmark for the voluminous romance titles. So, in April 1942, fourteen crates headed in the direction of Germany; the Richter sisters, however, never saw a single Reichsmark in exchange for the books. On March 12, 1942, they settled into a Jewish nursing home and seven months later were deported to Theresienstadt. Helene survived only one month while her sister, Elise, died on June 21, 1943.

For the first time, part of the collection was found among the six and a half million books in print in the University of Vienna’s library. Peter Malina, a historian of contemporary history, had been looking for the last two years for NS looted items in the enormous book stacks filled with books. He and his colleagues sorted through more than 100,000 volumes, rummaging through stacks of acquisition documents and files and interviewing witnesses. “Every little hint of suspicion is being recorded,” he says. Preliminary results reveal 33,000 volumes - the origins of which are now being researched - have been sorted out and separated from the rest. How many will have to be restituted in the end cannot be determined. Malina estimates that “it could be between 8,000 and 10,000 volumes.”

The search for heirs is archeological, heavy labor. Exlibris, dedications and notes scribbled on paper are the only traces which have a connection to the past, but they often end up leading nowhere. Nevertheless, there are also cases which are very clear-cut. Sometimes Malina has only to open a couple of pages in a book in order recognize that it was acquired illegally: some 862 books written in French were given to the University Library as a “gift” from the Gestapo between 1942 and 1944.

Without any Owner
Beginning in the 1950s, the University Library accepted 107,864 books in print, known as the “Tanzenberg Collection, which date from the past century.” Forty percent of this holding went to the National Library in Jerusalem, and the rest remained in Vienna. Provenance researchers discovered in the meantime some 4,712 volumes stamped with “Tanzenberg Collection 1951.” The wherabouts of the rest is to this day not clear.

The Collection belonged to the “Hohe Schule,” the name given to the NSDAP party’s college. Their library contained books they had stolen from sources throughout all of Europe. From September 1944 to May 1945, the booty was stored in the former Olivetaner monastery, located in Tanzenberg, Carinthia. Toward the end of the war, the British occupation tried to return many of the books. But even at that time it could not be explained to whom they belonged. After 1949, the “unowned” property landed in the National Library where “books were sorted out,” where the remaining Tanzenberger holdings soon mixed together with parts of Vienna’s Gestapo library as well as holdings from the Dorotheum and the National Library. That which didn’t fit into any particular category was distributed among Austria’s libraries. As of today, Malina has identified 4,600 volumes from the “Tanzenberg Collection 1951” in the university’s book stacks. According to historical records kept by the Gestapo, the University Library received another 2,932 volumes, of which Malina and his group have found only 236.

The longer the search continues of the book stacks, the clearer it becomes, that “our attempts are too short-reaching,” says the library’s director, Maria Seissel. In March 2006 Seissl included the 49 specialized libraries into the provenance project. Two-thirds of the material has already been secured, about 65,000 volumes inspected, among which the head of the project, Markus Stempf, has discovered to this day 1,300 cases of restitution. In a few libraries not a single looted book was found, whereas others proved to reveal “large chunks.” Some 150 books owned by the psychologist couple, Karl and Charlotte Bühler, were in any case acquired illegally.

Both taught at the university until their emigration. On March 23, 1938, he institute founded by Karl Bühler in 1922 was sealed. The Nazis accused the professor of having acted “philo-semitic,” and took him into “protective custody.” As a result the Bühlers dissolved their household and sold their private library containing approximately 5,000 volumes. The works were nonetheless looted because “the sale took place under pressure and is classified as illegal,” says Christiane Köstner, expert for coming to terms with organized NS looting of books.

Charlotte fled to Norway. With help from friends, she managed to have her husband set free from prison. This research couple also never saw any money from the sale of the library. On November, 1938 a librarian from the University Library estimated the value of their 900-volume part of the library at 500 Reichsmark. The Insitute for Psychology transferred 400 Reichsmark onto a blocked account, which Charlotte and Karl Bühler were unable to access. The 150 works from their estate, which have been tracked down, are now to be returned as soon as possible. Currently University Library colleagues are looking for their legal heirs.

Scouring the University’s book stacks will last until 2008. Until then the role of University Library should be investigated in more detail. The Gestapo’s “secured” books in prints were distributed throughout the entire area under German control by the office responsible for book usage in Vienna’s Dorotheum. The National Library officially snapped up the bargain. In comparison, the University Library reacted reluctantly. Nevertheless, it proves to Malina to be “all the more a nightmare that the University Library was also a beneficiary of the NS system of systematic looting throughout all of Europe.”

Restitution of the Minne Sculptures?

Der Standard (06/01/2007)

Restitution Advisory Council studies also the case of Gotthilf-Miskolczy

There is a lot of work awaiting the Restitution Advisory Council which last met in November, 2006. According to Werner Fürnsinn, head of the Commission for Provenance Research, some 35 dossiers have been presented to him for a decision. Ten to twelve cases are being reviewed today.

In regards to the two Kniende Knaben (Kneeling Boys) (1898/1900) by Georges Minne, it could be that the Council revises its decision made in November, 2004, - and now will recommend restitution. Until the Anschluß, there were two such marble sculptures by the Belgian artist which decorated the staircase of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer’s palace. Presumably, it is this pair of sculptures which were acquired in 1942 by the Austrian Gallery for 6,000 Reichsmark in the “aryanized” auction house located in the Kärtnerstraße because access was available to the seized palace.

The Council also has decisions to make concerning two other art works from the Belvedere. In the case of Max Roden there is Porträt Frau Z. (Portrait of Mrs. Z) by Franz Wiegele, and in the case of Ernst von Gotthilf-Miskolczy, there is Friedrich von Amerling’s painting, Mädchen mit Strohhut (Girl in a Straw Hat). Gotthilf-Miskolczy, architect of the main building of the Austrian Bank Creditanstalt was forced to emigrate to England in 1939. Under the duress of persecution he was forced to liquidate his art collection. Among other items, he offered the Anmerling portrait to the Austrian Gallery – but, unsuccessfully. The painting was acquired some time later by the Austrian Gallery at an auction by the Weinmüller Auction House.

The cases to be processed concern ethnographic objects from the Museum of Ethnology – furniture pieces and glass objects from the MAK as well as instruments, archive material and, in the Causa Rosa Glückselig, a Fiat 522C from Turin from the Museum of Technology.

September 2007

Dear Readers,

With this issue of Jewish News from Austria, we are happy to provide you with a broad selection of articles which have appeared in the Austrian media in the course of the last three months.
Within the framework of a joint project by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG), a collection of valuable archival holdings, highly significant for Holocaust research, were found in an abandoned building of the Jewish Community of Vienna in 2000 and are being recorded and microfilmed. Altogether two million pages have been currently microfilmed and categorized. As we now know, it involves one of the largest, most complete holdings of any Jewish community - covering a period of 300 years. Among the finds were also deportation lists, emigration applications and many other documents which offer insight into the fate of the victims of the Holocaust.
The previous month was also marked by the sad news of the passing of Leon Zelman, co-founder and head of the Jewish Welcome Service. The focus of his tireless efforts was the program, "Welcome to Vienna," through which some 4,000 Austrians, expelled from Austria in 1938 after the Anschluss, were invited together with their families for a visit to their former homeland.
Finally, we want to remind all readers of Jewish News from Austria that you can find actual news items, information on events, publications as well as useful links on a regular basis on our website: www.jewishnews.at

Yours sincerely,

Wolfgang Renezeder
Director of the Press & Information Service
Embassy of Austria

Chancellor Gusenbauer paid visit to Israel and Palestinian regions

Israel was the first stop of the three-day Middle East trip of Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. On 2 September 2007 he paid a visit to the City Hall in Tel Aviv, where Prime Minister Ytzhak Rabin was assassinated in November 1995. Gusenbauer laid a wreath at his memorial in the presence of the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, as well as Rabin’s children.
In the evening the Honorary Fellowship of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Centre, a renowned Israeli private university, was bestowed on the Chancellor. In his thank-you statement he underlined Austria’s moral responsibility in view of the crimes committed against the Jews. “Many perpetrators of the Holocaust were Austrians. Many Austrians formed part of the Nazi machinery bringing death, suffering and destruction to Europe. Many Austrians preferred to look away when their Jewish neighbours were killed and suffered“, explained Gusenbauer. It had taken Austria many years to recognise its moral responsibility for the “darkest period in our history“. said Gusenbauer.
As far as the Iranian nuclear programme was concerned, the European position was clear. Europe was ready to engage in a dialogue if Iran was prepared to meet its obligations: “A nuclear Iran is not acceptable.“ Gusenbauer stressed the humanitarian disaster in the whole region and especially in Iraq, with two million refugees above all in Syria and Jordan.
Like the EU, Austria considered a two-state model the only solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “This does not give room for interpretations on Israel’s right of existence“, stressed Gusenbauer. “Fair“ solutions were also necessary for Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugee problem.
On the second day of his trip to Israel the Austrian Federal Chancellor visited the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, where he laid a wreath and, deeply moved, stressed the need to be alert to anti-Semitism and racism. Gusenbauer wrote in the guest book of Yad Vashem that the memorial reminded of the “incredible horror of Holocaust“ and the responsibility to “learn from the past“.
After visiting the memorial, the Federal Chancellor held talks with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and politicians of the opposition.
Israel appreciated the “clear position of Austria“ against the phenomenon of terror and the nuclear ambitions of Iran, stated Israeli President Peres, who also underlined the “excellent relations” with Austria. An invitation to visit Israel was extended to Federal President Heinz Fischer in Vienna.
Gusenbauer described the talks of the Israeli government with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a “great hope“. An agreement of Israel with the moderate Fatah would strengthen its position among the Palestinians and weaken the radical Hamas.
Prime Minister Olmert described Austria as a “central country in Europe” and as a country of “central significance” for shaping the Middle East policy in the EU. Both heads of government underlined the close economic, cultural and political cooperation between Israel and Austria. The Austrian Chancellor invited Olmert to Austria.
Gusenbauer concluded his Middle East trip on 3 September 2007 in Ramallah (West Bank), where he met with Palestinian President Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as well as chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. He welcomed the direct bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians also on this occasion. Moreover, he proposed to invite Syria and the Lebanon to the planned international Middle East conference in November.
The Federal Chancellor emphasised the “profound solidarity” of Austria with the Palestinians. Austria was aware of the suffering of the Palestinian people and supported the peace process. Gusenbauer laid a wreath at the tomb of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

© Federal Chancellery

Austria mourns for Leon Zelman

Leon Zelman, the head of the Jewish Welcome Service, died aged 79 at Wilhelminenspital in Vienna on 11 July 2007. Born in Szcekociny (Poland) in 1928, he lost his father after the occupation by German troops in September 1939. His mother starved in the ghetto of Lodz. In 1944 he was deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp together with his younger brother, who was killed there. Leon escaped the gas chamber because he pretended to be two years older. After detention in different concentration camps he was liberated in Ebensee in 1945. After three years of a difficult recovery, he studied journalism at the University of Vienna and became active in the Jewish Students’ Association. He founded “Jüdische Echo“, which to date is one of Austria’s most important periodicals. His historic achievement was the foundation of the “Jewish Welcome Service Vienna“ (JWS), an organisation that builds bridges between the displaced Austrian Jews (and their descendents) and their former mother country, encouraging them to visit Vienna. Since 1980 the JWS has invited about 4,000 persons expelled by the Nazis to visit Austria. Until his death Zelman considered it a crucial political task to raise the awareness of young people. He received high official awards, such as the “Great Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service to the Republic of Austria” and the Ring of Honour of the City of Vienna. On 13 July 2007 Leon Zelman was buried in a tomb of honour of the City of Vienna in the Jewish section of Vienna’s Central Cemetery. Leading representatives of the state and government paid tribute to the deceased. President Heinz Fischer described Leon Zelman as “an exceptional personality” and stressed his achievements in the framework of the JWS, a non-profit organisation wishing to contribute to a better understanding between Jews and non-Jews. Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Finance Wilhelm Molterer mourned for the “activist and bridge builder“. In his speech held in the Hall of Ceremonies of the Jewish Religious Community at the Central Cemetery Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer emphasised that Zelman had never tired of standing up against anti-Semitism and building a culture of remembrance. “He wanted the world to become a better place and overcame evil with good“, said the Chancellor. This places him in the elite company of personalities like Nelson Mandela. Vienna’s Mayor Michael Häupl also dedicated very personal words to Zelman. With Leon Zelman and his cheerful, sometimes “rough” character, an irreplaceable person had been lost who had survived the unsupportable without “surrendering himself to vengeance or hatred”. In a low voice Häupl added: “I do not know how such a wonderful person could develop from the unsupportable“.

© Federal Chancellery

Speaker of Parliament Prammer in Israel

During her official visit to Israel (9 to 14 July 2007) Speaker of the Austrian Parliament Barbara Prammer also met with newly elected President Shimon Peres. She handed over a letter of Federal President Heinz Fischer and conveyed his “best wishes and regards“. Like all other EU Member States, Austria was represented by its ambassador at the inauguration of President Peres (15 July 2007).
Prammer also held talks with her counterpart Daliah Itzik, whom she had met at an event of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in New York.
Prammer stated that she visited Israel in her capacity as the chairwoman of the National Fund for NS Victims and the General Settlement Fund. As the National Fund had to approve each individual project it was very important to obtain information in situ about the projects to be co-financed by the National Fund, stated Prammer.

© Federal Chancellery

Reward for information on NS criminals

The Ministry of Justice has offered a reward for information leading to the arrest of two alleged NS criminals. 50,000 euros will be paid for information contributing to the “identification, arrest and conviction“ of concentration camp doctor Aribert Heim and Gestapo officer Alois Brunner, explained Minister of Justice Maria Berger (www.bmj.gv.at).

© Federal Chancellery

Jewish Museum Vienna: first presentation of the archives

The Jewish Museum Vienna (JMW) stages its first presentation of documents from the archives of the Jewish Religious Community (IKG), which were officially established in 1816. The show titled “Ordnung muss sein“ (“Proper documentation is needed”) runs until 21 October 2007. The oldest documents archived date back to the 17th century.

© Federal Chancellery

Leon Zelman, head of Austria's Jewish Welcome Service, dies aged 81


zelmann.jpgVienna (dpa) - Holocaust survivor Leon Zelman, head of the Jewish Welcome Service, died aged 81 at a Vienna hospital on Wednesday morning after a prolonged illness, Vienna's city administration said in a press release.
Zelman, who survived the concentration camps in Auschwitz and Mauthausen, was born 1928 in Poland. After WWII, Zelman, a prominent journalist, worked on developing travel between Austria and Israel.

The Jewish Welcome Service, a non-profit organization founded in 1980, works to promote Jewish culture in Austria, in order to "improve understanding between Jews and non-Jews."

A major focus of the body is organizing visits to Austria by Jews who were driven out by the Nazi regime in order take away their initial fears about visiting their old home.

Up to now, more than 4,000 displaced Austrian Jews and their families have been invited back by the organization.

President Fischer congratulated Israel’s new President Peres

Federal President Heinz Fischer congratulated newly elected Israeli President Shimon Peres on 13 June 2007. In his letter of congratulation the Austrian President praised his “extensive and extensive political experience” as well as his “untiring efforts to promote dialogue and reconciliation”, especially in the Middle East. This had won Peres great international recognition, which was symbolised by the Nobel Peace Prize. “I am looking forward to a close cooperation with a view to further developing the good relations between our countries based on our long-standing good personal contacts and numerous common political concepts”, Fischer was quoted in a press release.

© Federal Chancellery


June 27 to June 29, 2007  

Under the auspices of: Federal President Heinz Fischer
Opening: Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer

Venue: Grosser Saal AK-Bildungszentrum (training center of the Chamber of Labour of Vienna), Theresianumgasse 16-18, 1040 Vienna
Live Internet broadcast: www.vwi.ac.at

The topic of this conference will be the interconnections between economic exploitation and racist-motivated mass extermination during the National Socialist regime that was primarily directed at Jews, Sinti and Roma, Soviet prisoners of war but partly also at political enemies and groups of people stigmatized as "antisocial" and "criminal". What were the relationships between "extermination through labour", the "extermination of so-called 'life unfit for work' and 'life unworthy of living'", "extermination as labour" and the victims' hope for "survival through labour"? Geographically, a special focus will be on the regions in Eastern Europe that were occupied by Nazi Germany.
Conference languages:
German and English


Wednesday, 27 June, 2007
Opening Evening

Address of Welcome
Herbert Tumpel
President of the Chamber of Labour of Vienna

Anton Pelinka
Chairman of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI)

Charlotte Knobloch
President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Vice President
of the European Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress

Conference Opening
Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer

Introduction and Moderation
Bertrand Perz

Opening Lecture
Ulrich Herbert
„Arbeit und Vernichtung“:
Über Konvergenzen und Widersprüche nationalsozialistischer Politik
Thursday, 28 June, 2007

Moderation: Johanna Gehmacher
Dieter Pohl
Judenverfolgung und Zwangsarbeit im besetzten Osteuropa (in German)
Elizabeth Harvey
‘Womanly work’ in Nazi-occupied Poland:
gender, labour and Germanization (in English)
Lunch Break

Moderation: Brigitte Bailer-Galanda
Patricia Heberer
‘Arbeitsfähigkeit’ and the ‘Euthanasia’ Action (in English)
Florian Freund
Roma, Sinti, „Zigeuner“: Ausgrenzung, Zwangsarbeit und Vernichtung (in German)
Coffee Break
Moderation: Gerhard Botz
Manfred Grieger
Industrie und Holocaust: Zwangsarbeit und „Vernutzung“ in der deutschen Rüstungswirtschaft (in German)
Harald Welzer
Tötungsarbeit (in German)
18:30     End
Friday 29 June, 2007

Moderation: Hans Safrian
Christian Streit
Die Arbeitsausbeutung und Massentötung sowjetischer Kriegsgefangener (in German)
Andrej Angrick
Ausbeutung und Vernichtung im nationalsozialistisch besetzten Lettland (in German)
 Lunch Break
 Moderation: Karl Stuhlpfarrer
Andrea Löw
„Unser einziger Weg ist Arbeit“: Zwangsarbeit und Überlebensstrategien im Ghetto am Beispiel Łódź (in German)
Gustavo Corni
Zwangsarbeit in den osteuropäischen Ghettos aus der Sicht der Opfer (in German)
Coffee Break
Eleonore Lappin
Zwangsarbeit und Todesmärsche ungarischer Jüdinnen und Juden in Österreich (in German)
Moderation: Siegfried Mattl
Frank Stern
Jiskor – Visuelle Erinnerungen im Spielfilm seit 1944 (in German)
End of Conference
Conception: Bertrand Perz (Institute for Contemporary History at the University of Venna), Ingo Zechner (Jewish Community VIenna)
Overall Project Management : Brigitte Pellar und Sabine Lichtenberger, Institut zur Erforschung der Geschichte der Gewerkschaften und Arbeiterkammern in der AK Wien (Institut für Gewerkschafts- und AK-Geschichte). phone: +43-1-501 65-2393, cellphone: +43-664-501 83 15

Organization: Institut für Gewerkschafts- und AK-Geschichte (AK Wien), section.a art.design.consulting

Kreisky Prize: Chancellor Gusenbauer pays homage to Lerner

Gerda Lerner, a researcher specialised in women’s history, received the Bruno Kreisky Prize for her life-time achievements and the political book of the year 2006. Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer paid homage to the professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin (USA) in the festive hall (“”) of the Austrian National Library in Vienna. He praised her not only as a “doyenne and pioneer of women’s historiography” but also the as “the person devoting most efforts to the academic recognition and institutionalisation of women’s historiography”. The “godmother of women’s history“ – the Chancellor quoted from the New York Times – was known far beyond academia and had always considered her activities for the “others”, those on the fringes of society, to be of high political relevance. The discrimination against women in history was only one but a “significant form of discrimination” since women were “the group stigmatised as “others” for the longest period in history“, stated Gusenbauer. Lerner was born to Jewish parents in Vienna in 1920. Together with her parents she had to flee the National Socialists. She was able to become a “recognised citizen and scholar only in the USA“. In 1972 Lerner had succeeded in establishing the first study programme for women’s history in the USA in 1972 and a PhD programme in 1980. Society owed it to the laureate that the “environment for women in science and the humanities had changed“. After her “generations of women had followed her example and were able to rely on her support“. Through her work Gerda Lerner finally gave “the oppressed majority of women the history which the male history had denied them for such a long time”. She had realised “before the others that social discrimination was complex and that exploitation, oppression, discrimination were the effects of historical processes”. By way of conclusion the Chancellor stated that it was a great pleasure to him “to award this very important prize to the most active and brightest historian at the beginning of the new women’s historiography”.Among Gerda Lerner’s most outstanding works are “The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle Ages to Eighteen-seventy (Oxford University Press, 1994). The German translation ““ was published by dtv in Munich in 1998.

© Federal Chancellery

Parliament: solemn ceremony against violence and racism

The focus of this year’s commemorative ceremony against violence and racism held in the Austrian Parliament on 4 May 2007 was on resistance against the National Socialist regime. Speaker of Parliament Barbara Prammer delivered a speech to honour the memory of the resistance fighters. Witnesses of the period launched an appeal to stay alert and former resistance fighters warned the youth against “seducers”. The ceremony in Parliament was opened by the Ensemble Klesmer Vienna with Jewish melodies. Besides the members of government led by Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Vice-Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer, numerous representatives of both chambers of Parliament and the leaders of the parliamentary groups of the five political parties were among the attendees. The event was held in commemoration of the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp on 5 May 1945.

© Federal Chancellery

Jewish Museum Vienna: the female dimension in Judaism and Goldman

From 16 May to 18 November 2007 the Jewish Museum Vienna (JMW) presents the exhibition “Best of All Women. The Female Dimension in Judaism“ exploring the role of the Jewish woman in religious, economic, social and cultural contexts. The show demonstrates how female and male perspectives often lead to completely different perceptions of historical events. The “parochet” in whose story the exhibition title is inspired will also be displayed. Zwi Hirsch Todesco had donated the Thora curtain to the City Temple in Vienna when his daughter Nina married in 1833. In his dedication he praised his wife Fanny as the “best of all women”. The acquisition and restoration of the parochet had been supported by the insurance company UNIQA. In its branch on Judenplatz the Jewish Museum Vienna presents a “Tribute to Paul Goldman. Photographs 1943-1965“. This exhibition turns the spotlight on outstanding press photos, showing for example the arrival of Holocaust survivors in Palestine and everyday life in Israel at that time.

© Federal Chancellery

Austria commemorates the 62nd anniversary of the Second Republic

On 27 April 2007 Austria celebrated the 62nd anniversary of the Second Republic. On 27 April 1945 Karl Renner’s provisional government had signed the Austrian Declaration of Independence. After the wreath-laying ceremony in the consecration room and the crypt of Burgtor, the entrance to Hofburg, the government held a special Council of Ministers.
In his statement Gusenbauer did not only thank the generation of the post-war reconstruction era but also reminded of the victims of the NS regime and Austria’s co-responsibility for the crimes of National Socialism. A lasting political and social consensus had been the foundation for Austria’s success story. The Chancellor referred to the EU as a peace project “which we will support and promote to the best of our ability“.

© Federal Chancellery

Commemorating Mauthausen

At this year’s ceremony at the former Maut-hausen concentration camp on 6 May 2007 tribute will be paid to scholars and artists imprisoned by the Nazis. Besides survivors, witnesses of the time and guests from all over the world, Chancellor Gusenbauer and Interior Minister Platter will be among the attendees.

© Federal Chancellery

New virtual exhibition on Austrian contemporary history

The Austrian Media Library of Vienna’s Technical Museum recently presented a new web exhibition titled “Acoustic Records 1900 to 2000“. The project comprises more than 1500 sound and video documents of the Austrian history. The files can be accessed in a user-friendly way by clicking on a time bar. In the next years the scope of the archives is to be expanded up to the present. Documents of the 19th century will be integrated and more in-depth information will be provided on specific themes. The spectrum ranges from the oldest sound document of Emperor Francis Joseph in 1900 and the speech of Joseph Goebbels on the eve of the plebiscite on the annexation of Austria in 1938 to a “Wochenschau“ report on Thomas Bernhard’s theatre play “Heldenplatz“ in 1988 and a recording of Nobel Prize laureate in literature Elfriede Jelinek.

© Federal Chancellery Austria


The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., invites to a roundtable discussion:
Rescuing the Evidence: The Archive of the Jewish Community Vienna

When: June 7, 2007; 3 - 5 p.m.

Where: USHMM, Helena Rubinstein Audiotorium, Lower Level

During a routine inspection in 2000 of one of its older buildings, officials of the Jewish Community Vienna (IKG) found a vacant apartment filled with documents in wooden cabinets and 800 cardboard boxes, covered with decades of dirt, dust, and mold. Some of these materials are part of a cache of approximately two million pages of Holocaust-era documents.These reports, letters, emigration and financial documents, deportation lists, card files, books, photographs, maps, and charts detail the final years of the Viennese Jewish community.They represent a substantial and long-forgotten part of the archive of what was once the largest German-speaking Jewish community in Europe. In 2002, the Museum and the IKG agreed to jointly rescue these materials and make them available to the public in Vienna and at the Museum in Washington.

Learn more about this archival collection at http://www.ushmm.org/research/center/.

This roundtable discussion is supported by the Helena Rubinstein Foundation.

Collage depicting forced emigration from Austria to various
countries in the world, inluding the United States,
ca. 1940 (detail). USHMM



Rescuing the Evidence: The Archive of the Jewish Community Vienna
Panelists highlight the discovery, rescue, and subsequent dissemination of this archive; its impact on the lives of survivors; its importance for the scholarly field of Holocaust studies at the Museum and at a planned Vienna Wiesenthal Institute; and preparations for an exhibition scheduled to open at the Jewish Museum Vienna (Austria) later this year.

Welcome: Paul Shapiro, Director, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM)

Roundtable Chair: Suzanne Brown-Fleming, Senior Program Officer, University
Programs Division, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, USHMM

Panel Participants:
Ingo Zechner, Director, Holocaust Victims’
Information and Support Center,Vienna, Austria
Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek, Chief Curator,
Jewish Museum Vienna, Austria
Anatol Steck, Program Officer, International
Archival Programs Division, Center for
Advanced Holocaust Studies, USHMM
Walter B. Feiden, Holocaust survivor from Vienna currently living in New York, NY, and recently featured on the CBS 60 Minutes broadcast “Revisiting the Horrors of the Holocaust”

“Never Again" – Viennese Pupils In Silent March In Auschwitz

About 10,000 young people from all over the world will participate in the commemorative event “March of Remembrance and Hope“ (14 to 17 April) also this year. Marching for example from Auschwitz to Birkenau they will follow the same route that led thousands of prisoners of concentration camps into annihilation more than 60 years ago. For the first time Austrian pupils participate, about 300 of them coming from Vienna. In their voyage through the past in Poland they will visit former Jewish communities and places that stand for something that should never be repeated.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

Mourning For Photographer Harry Weber

Austrian photographer Harry Weber died aged 85 in the night to 10 April 2007 after suffering from a heart disease.
Weber was born in the town of Klosterneuburg (Lower Austria), fled from the Nazis to Palestine and returned to Vienna after WWII. He was one of the most eminent representatives of Austrian photo- journalism. As the chief photographer of the magazine “Stern” for Austria, Weber shaped the discipline of documentary photography for many years. He soon also won renown as a photographer of music and theatre productions. In 2002 he was awarded the Great Austrian State Prize for Artistic Photography and the professional title “professor”. Being a modest personality, he always refused to be referred to as an “artist”. Nevertheless, he is considered to belong to the Austrian elite of classical photography – together with Inge Morath, Franz Hubmann und Erich Lessing. Weber published several excellent photo volumes, e.g. “Wien bei Nacht“ (Vienna By Night), “Wien – Gesichter einer Stadt“ (Vienna – Faces of a City) and “Salzburg im Licht“ (Salzburg in the Light), “Die Wiener Philharmoniker“ (The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) and “Jerusalem“.
In 1994 the Historical Museum of the City of Vienna presented his photo series “The Others“. In 1996 the Jewish Museum Vienna staged the show “Today in Vienna. Photographs Documenting Contemporary Jewish Life by Harry Weber“. In 2001 an homage was paid to him with “A Life in Photographs“ at Palais Harrach in Vienna.
Federal President Heinz Fischer showed himself deeply moved by the death of the photographer and praised in particular his documentary work, from the photos illustrating the process leading to the Austrian State Treaty to the Hungarian Revolution in 1956.
Minister of Culture Claudia Schmied stated in a press release that Harry Weber’s photos depicted “cruelty and every-day life in a condensed reality”. Nevertheless, he had been one of “the kindest persons in the hectic environment of photo-journalism“.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

Jewish Museum Vienna Presents "Oskar Strnad 1879-1935"

Oskar Strnad was one of the most brilliant architects, stage designers and theoreticians of the early 20th century. Together with Josef Frank, he founded the "Vienna School" of architecture, which distanced itself from the aestheticism of Vienna Werkstätte and was close to Adolf Loos in its basic approach free from dogmatism. As almost all Loos disciples, the founders and early members of the "Vienna School" came from a Jewish liberal middle-class background. Strnad's main focus was housing. His aim was to "shape without rigid shapes" and to create "no dungeons but open worlds". He realised for example the villa of the writer Jakob Wassermann presented in the exhibition, a semi-detached building in Vienna's Werkbundsiedlung and several flats in social housing complexes. Besides water colours and ceramic objects, also furniture created by Strnad (e.g. for Hugo von Hofmannsthal) and a drinking glass series made from mousellin glass can be admired.

In 1909 Strnad led the architecture class at the Kunstgewerbeschule (arts and crafts college). The drawings, photos and publications exhibited are a tribute to his pedagogical work as well as to his disciples and assistants, who passed into oblivion after their emigration. Typescripts, books and magazines introduce to Strnad's theoretical work.

Another important section of the exhibition is devoted to Strnad's theatre, stage and fim designs. It shows the plans for a "simultaneous theatre" with three stages, the Leopoldskron Palace Theatre, a theatre tent for New York as well as plans and a model of a theatre with a circular stage designed with Max Reinhardt, a theatre and cinema for the Ortmann-Pernitz workers' colony and a model of the Royaards Theatre in Amsterdam. Strnad excelled also as a stage designer, creating the sets for the spectacular premiers of Ernst Krenek's "Jonny spielt auf" ("Jonny Strikes Up the Band") and Alban Berg's "Wozzeck" in Vienna. Moreover, he was credited for the sets of "Masquerade" and "Episode", two famous films starring Paula Wessely.

The first comprehensive exhibition on this outstanding artistic creator is held at the Jewish Museum Vienna until 24 June 2007.

© Federal Chancellery Austria

Freud Museum: On The Couch - Cartoons From The New Yorker

Sigmund Freud made several scientific analyses of the joke. His book "Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious" was published in 1905. The Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna now shows - fully consciously - psychoanalysis-related cartoons from "The New Yorker" magazine. Curator Michael Freund selected 80 drawings. In 1928 the first of countless caricatures of psychoanalysis appeared in the influential magazine.
The complete exhibition initiated in 2006 with the support of the Art Department of the then Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is shown for the first time in Austria. The exhibition was previously displayed at the Museum of the City of New York, the Freud Museum London, the Dream Museum in St. Petersburg and the Austrian Cultural Forum in Prague.

© Federal Chancellery Austria