May 2008

Dear Readers,

In Austria, the past few months have been marked by events in observance of the Anschluss seventy years ago and the following years of the NS terror regime which signified the beginning of persecution, displacement and murdering of Austrian Jews in the Shoah. Numerous events, including those held in the Austrian Parliament, marked the remembrance of the many victims of the Holocaust. 

Contemporary witnesses participated actively in lectures and academic events and many schools dedicated events to this topic.  A particularly valuable contribution in this field  is the high school project, “Letter to the Stars,” which provided the opportunity for high school students to meet with Holocaust survivors over the last few years. Recently, some 200 Holocaust survivors throughout the entire world were invited to Austria for the 'Year of Commemoration' in order to relate their memories to young people and attend the commemoration event in remembrance of the 63rd year of the liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp.

We are happy to provide you with a broad range of articles that were published in the Austrian media. Topics include also the recent opening of the newly built Hakoah Sports Center, as well as cultural events and restitution issues.

Yours sincerely,

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


1.   Current Events, Symposia and Cultural News
•    Austria Commemorates 70th Anniversary of the “Anschluss” (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
•    School Children Receive Holocaust Survivors at Heldenplatz (Austrian Press Agency)
•    Profuse Words and Silent Remembrance (Der Standard)
•    Commemorating the Liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
•    Government Announces Wiesenthal Center (Der Standard)
•    State Secretary Hans Winkler on Austria’s Assuming the Chairmanship of the International Holocaust Task Force(Austrian Foreign Ministry)
•    In Remembrance of the Children’s Rescue Operation) (Profil)
•    “Only one Photo! Only a Photo!” (Die Presse)
•    “Listen, Israel“ in Burgenland during Roman Times (Die Presse) 
•    The Expulsion of the Intellectuals (Profil)
•    Sports Center Hakoah: Coming Home After Seventy Years (Der Standard)
•    From Feeling Ashamed to Loving Vienna (Die Presse) An Enthusiastic Admirer of the Führer (Die Presse)
•    A Contemporary Witness for All Alike (Die Presse)
•    Berggasse 19, Salzgries 16: It’s All about Freud! (Die Presse)
•    The Vienna Project on Austrian Jews in Buenos Aires (Austrian Press Agency)

2.   Publications, Books
•    Vienna Lectures and Book Remember “Annihilation of the Intellect” (Austrian Press Agency)
•    “Expedition from Herzl to Hakoah” (Der Standard)

3.    Restitution
•    Amendment to Restitution Law to be Adopted Before Summer (Austrian Federal  Chancellery)
•     “Clearly Stolen Art!” (Die Presse)

4.    Austrian – Israeli Relations
•    Austria and Israel Strengthen Research Cooperation (Austrian Federal  Chancellery) 
•    Foreign Minister on 60th Anniversary of the Foundation of the State of Israel (Austrian Foreign Ministry)

Austria Commemorates 70th Anniversary of the “Anschluss”

Austrian Federal Chancellery (03/17/2008)

On March 12, 1938, German troops crossed over the borders into Austria thereby annexing Austria to Hitler Germany. Under the pressure of a German ultimatum, Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg had already resigned on the eve of the event.  On March 15, 2008, Hitler delivered his notorious speech to a cheering crowd of 250,000 people at Vienna’s Heldenplatz and announced that the “Ostmark” (Eastern areas to be taken over by Germany, i.e. Austria) would become part of the German Reich. The invasion of German troops marked the beginning of an unprecedented terror implemented against all Jews and dissidents. Based on estimates, no less than 70,000 to 80,000 people were arrested during the first six months.

On March 12, 2008, leaders of the Second Republic commemorated the events of 70 years ago in the historic Grand Hall of the Reichsrat in Parliament and agreed upon the historical analysis that Austrians were both victims and perpetrators of the NS regime. Numerous speakers also emphasized the context of today’s history and the current atmosphere of the coalition government. The events which took place during the two World Wars should be viewed as a warning for today’s generations. 
Chancellor Gusenbauer reminded the audience that the annexation, NS dictatorship and the loss of Austria’s sovereignty had been a prelude to World War II, involving persecution, exploitation as well as misery for millions of people. The head of government warned against fighting “political duels” as well as “lacking tolerance and readiness for dialogue.” It was “internal disintegration“ and “political failure“ during the First Republic that had led to the “Ständestaat” (corporative state) and finally surrender to the Nazis. “Dark phases of our history have shown where the use of offensive language can lead to,” said Gusenbauer, admitting that in the past few months, “words” had not been selected very carefully. One should be more careful so as not to undermine the credibility of politics, warned the Chancellor.  President Heinz Fischer demanded that Austria address history and come to terms with it. Austria had been a victim of Nazi “military aggression“ under international law, but this had been facilitated by a “considerable number of fanatic National Socialists” in Austria. Fischer asked that in the political arena “more energy be used for constructive work.” 

School Children Receive Holocaust Survivors at Heldenplatz

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (05/05/2008)

Project “A Letter to the Stars” Remembers the Liberation of Mauthausen

Vienna – Participants in the project, “A Letter to the Stars,” held a commemoration on Monday at Heldenplatz in remembrance of the 63rd year observance of the liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp. According to the organizer, 10,000 visitors were present to give the victims of NS terror “a voice and a face.” Following the commemoration, some 200 survivors were invited to visit Parliament to meet with Austrian school childen.  Federal President Heniz Fischer, Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Deputy-Chancellor Wilhelm Moleterer also participated.

The highlight of the event was the installation - socalled “Denk.Mal-Werke” - erected by those participating in the project, “A Letter to the Stars.” Music, film and excerpts from texts accompanied the event. Mounted posters were unveiled depicting survivors as “last witnesses” who offered their personal message and legacy to Austrian youth. Afterwards, the survivors - who through the project were connected with numerous school children - were met by their hosts and led to the commemorative posters and to the hosts of the school classes. Many school children, who had travelled from various parts of the country, had the opportunity of speaking with their guests undisturbed in rooms especially organized for that purpose. 

Profuse Words and Silent Remembrance

Der Standard

A day of speeches in Parliament, followed by a ”night of silence“ on Heldenplatz: Wednesday marks Austria’s  70th year observance of the “Anschluss.” The government approved of building a Simon Wiesenthal Center in Vienna.

Vienna – Austria’s annexation by Germany merely 70 years ago was commemorated through the night until early morning with 8,000 candles lit for 80,000 known victims. Contemporary witnesses of the Holocaust and National Socialism reported that it was on Vienna’s Heldenplatz where Adolf Hitler declared “the integration of my homeland into the German Reich” before masses of jubilant people. Until 6:00 a.m. the next morning 80,000 names were projected continuously onto a screen in silent remembrance. 

The Federal government commemorated the events of March 12, 1938 in Parliament with a decision taken by the Council of Ministers to build a Simon Wiesenthal Center. The Institute will move into the Strozzi Palace in the Josefstädter Straße by 2011. The costs will be shared by the Federation and the City of Vienna. 

Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer (SPÖ) spoke about the significant contribution of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to Holocaust research, and Vice Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer considered it a memorial to “never again“ and to “never forgetting.” Both emphasized that Austria viewed itself too long only as a victim of National Socialism.

During the commemoration, President of the National Council Barbara Prammer warned against the claim that what happened in the past is over with. It was especially the “prevailing anti-Semitism in Austria” at the time which drew many to accept the National Socialists, she emphasized. Apart from Prammer, Gusenbauer and Molterer, President Heinz Fischer also held a speech.

According to a survey made in 2007, some 82% of all Austrians see their country today as an independent nation; 7% reject the idea of an Austrian nation and 8% see a development heading in that direction. Opinion polls as to a national consciousness were first made in 1956. At that time those for and against were of equal number. Since the 1980s, German nationalism is “no longer a topic,” says the pollster, Peter Ulram. According to Ulram, it is a “small minority” consisting of 17% of supporters of the “third parties” (FPÖ, BZÖ), that question the idea of an Austrian nation.   

Commemorating the Liberation of Mauthausen Concentration Camp

Austrian Federal Chancellery (05/13/2008)

Leading personalities of the Republic of Austria commemorated the youngest victims of the Nazi regime under the motto, “I have never been a child“ and celebrated the Memorial Day against Violence and Racism on May 5, 2008. The ceremony held in commemoration of the 63rd Anniversary of the Liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp took place in the festive hall (“Reichsratssitzungssaal”) of the Houses of Parliament. Among the attendees were not only President Heinz Fischer, members of the government and Parliament and representatives of the religious communities, but also numerous Holocaust survivors.
In her statement Speaker of Parliament Barbara Prammer reminded the audience of the fact that Austria had confronted its past only at a very late stage and “upon international request.” President of the Federal Council Helmut Kritzinger stressed that those still having to live with NS crimes should be supported. However, violence and racism were not “phenomena of the past“. 

The victims of National Socialism were commemorated also at Heldenplatz in Vienna, where Holocaust survivors and their families who had been invited by Austrian pupils in the framework of the school project, “A Letter to the Stars,“ gathered. Contemporary witnesses reminded one of the horrors of displacement. President Fischer, Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Vice-Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer praised the commitment of the pupils and the willingness of the victims to share their painful memories with young people. In 1945 Austria had been re-built by the people who had sworn “Never again”, Gusenbauer stated. But most importantly, Israel had been erected from the moral debris of the Holocaust and celebrated its 60th birthday this year. “I am happy and proud that you continue to live this idea 63 years after the end of WWII and the liberation. I congratulate the state of Israel,“ the Chancellor said.

Government Announces Wiesenthal Center

Der Standard (03/12/2008)

After many years of reluctance and postponement, the Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies will move into Vienna’s Strozzi Palace. Costs will be shared by the Federation, City of Vienna and the organization responsible for establishing the Center. 

Vienna – For years requests have been made for a Wiesenthal Center, but until now the government remained vague in terms of its possible financing and postponed its decision. But now the time has actually come. Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Vice Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer announced on Wednesday, following a meeting of the Council of Ministers, that Austria will soon have a Simon Wiesenthal Center. Head of Austria’s Social Democratic Party spoke of an essential contribution to Holocaust research, while the Head of the People’s Party spoke of a “warning for ‘never again,’ for ‘never forgetting.’

Financing Details Still Open
The Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies will be housed in the Strozzi Palace located in Vienna’s Josefstädterstraße, and the costs for financing the organization will be taken over by the Federation, the City of Vienna and the organization responsible for establishing the Center, each sharing one-third of the total amount. Association head Anton Pelinka spoke of taking a “large step toward a day imbued with symbolical significance.”  The details of financing the Center are, however, still open. Originally one assumed that yearly costs for running the organization would total 2.5 million euros.

Both heads of government emphasized that Austria viewed itself all too long as solely a victim of National Socialism. Many had, however, cheered the Anschluss and actively participated in crimes against humanity, emphasized Gusenbauer. Also Molterer said that for a long time Austria refused to admit having been more than just a victim, thereby making everyone responsible as perpetrator.   

State Secretary Hans Winkler on Austria’s Assuming the Chairmanship of the International Holocaust Task Force

Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs (03/14/2008)

Vienna,– "What we need is a genuine culture of remembrance, a targeted and exemplary remembrance of the causes and sheer unthinkable consequences of National Socialism. In addition to an unbiased engagement with the facts of the past, it is also necessary to show all victims and cases of injustice due respect and sympathy. We must become aware of our history and learn for the present and the future," said State Secretary Hans Winkler, commenting on Austria’s assuming the Chairmanship of the International Holocaust Task Force. 

In 2001, Austria became a member of the International Holocaust Task Force, a task force founded at the initiative of Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson for international cooperation in the field of education, research and remembrance of the holocaust. The ITF currently comprises 25 member states, including Israel and the USA, and almost all European countries affected by the holocaust. They all are committed to the Stockholm Declaration and advocate the implementation of national policies and programs to support education and research on the holocaust and its commemoration. Numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations are also members of the Task Force. 

"We want to emphasize and strengthen our commitment to raising awareness of the holocaust, which is also highly acknowledged at the international level, by taking over the chair of the Holocaust Task Force ten years after it was founded. In spite of all efforts a lot still remains to be done as far as the public is concerned," Winkler stressed. 
Offering cooperation to countries that want to develop holocaust education or research programs is one of the International Holocaust Task Force’s major activities. To this end it is possible to carry out long-term liaison projects with the International Holocaust Task Force. 

The State Secretary also presented the team making up Austria’s chair, namely Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff, Chairman and Head of the International Law Office, Hannah Lessing, Head of Delegation and Secretary General of the Austrian National Fund, other representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the Federal Ministry of Education, Art and Culture, the Austrian National Fund, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance and the "" project. "The chairmanship is a challenge both in terms of content and organization, and Austria is taking up this challenge with great commitment and pleasure. Changes can only be effected by a strong and committed team, and these are changes which have to take place in people’s minds," concluded the State Secretary. 

Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs 
Katharina Swoboda
Office of the State Secretary
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3469 

In Remembrance of the Children’s Rescue Operation

Christa Zöchling 

Profil (03/17/2008)

When memories of her childhood in Vienna’s district Leopoldstadt leaves her melancholic, Sara Schreiber takes out a list which she always keeps with her in her purse. Written on it are the names and birthdays of all her great grandchildren – fifty of them in all. That is her way of standing up to the world.  

At the end of June 1939 during the wee hours of the morning, one week after her 16th birthday, Sara Weinstock boarded a train at Vienna’s railway station Westbahnhof heading for Great Britain. Her mother cried; her father stayed at home. An orthodox rabbi, recognizable from afar as a Jew, didn’t dare allow himself to be seen during these times in Vienna without being in danger.  

The Weinstocks were already trembling for their lives after the pogrom in November of 1938. The little temple in their house had been destroyed, and roles of the Thora and Betschemel had been thrown into the fire. The shop of knitted goods run by the Mother no longer belonged to them. The family lived from the sale of household belongings and from what the daughter earned from her sewing and needlework.  

It was difficult for the sixteen year-old Sara to find a guest family. Her younger brother, who had already made it to London, went from house to house begging for help. People, themselves bitterly poor, took pity on him. 

Sara Schreiber never saw her parents again. “They no longer made it,” says the eighty-six year-old in a very quiet voice. After her experiences in Vienna, she never wanted to go back. Since Friday a bronze sculpture in the hall of Vienna’s railway station Westbahnhof has been erected In remembrance of the Kindertransport (Children’s Rescue Operation) during the war. It depicts a small young boy sitting on a suitcase. The Londoner sculptress, Flor Kent, had the figure designed to resemble one of Schreiber’s great grandchildren, ten year-old Sam Morris.

Otto Tausig, retired but untiring actor with the Burg Theatre, who spends his entire income on social projects, recites a poem by Walter Lindenbaum, “Jews at the Staircase.”  Some sixty-nine years ago, Otto Tausig (1922) stood one bitterly cold night in January of 1939, together with one hundred other children, with only a small suitcase in his hand and without any money. The Nazis were unrelenting: Written on the façades of Vienna’s houses was: “Jews must leave; their money stays here.”  Otto Tausig barely made it because four weeks later, he would have been seventeen, too old for joining the Kindertransport.

Tausig was a talented child, somewhat overly zealous, and supporter of the cult of geniuses with an inborn yearning for the podium. He read Schiller, Goethe and Rilke. He handed in his homework for German class written in verses. His father was a Social Democrat and lawyer, who had it in him to become a brilliant defendant if he hadn’t returned home from WW I half deaf.  As a businessman, however, he lacked  talent.  “For that he was too weak-hearted. Toward the end of his life he ran a sausage stand next to the labor department and gave away everything he owned.  And mother ranted and raved whenever another Persian rug disappeared from the apartment,” recalls Tausig.  

When Hitler came, the father was brought by the SA to a pub where they had him entertain the crowd by performing “stunts.” A block warden gathered up all the family silver. Even the son was picked up once by the SA, pushed onto a truck loaded with old iron and, together with other Jews, forced to load and unload the iron from one side to the other for hours at a time. 

The sixteen year-old Otto Tausig actually felt liberated as he boarded the train in those days. “I was intoxicated with joy at the idea of leaving – an adventure,” says Tausig. His parents would naturally follow him, he thought.  Tausig was unlucky. His British benefactor turned out to be a crook. Tausig soon became independent and found work on a chicken farm. But more than anything, he worked toward saving his parents. They could look for work as a butler couple for aristocrats. “My father was a bit clumsy but he learned how one cleans shoes without a brush and only with bare hands,” says Tausig. But nothing became of it. Tausig’s father died later in Shanghai from consumption. And when his Mother returned to Vienna in 1946, neither of them recognized the other when greeting at the railway station. When the actor speaks about it, his voice becomes raspy and halting.

Otto Tausig had turned Communist in Great Britain. He wanted to change the world and make it better. That’s something he continues to want to this day, even though no longer having the Communist party in mind. In Lower Austria’s Hirtenberg, he finances a home for refugee children, who were left stranded here without any parents. “I know how that is,” he claims. He has named the home after his Grandmother, Lisa Garter, who died in the gas chambers in Treblinka.

Siegfried Gruber, whom Otto Tausig got to know during his exile in London and later played together with on stage, hadn’t coped as well with the idea of leaving Austria in those days. For a sixteen year-old at that time, he felt deeply hurt in having to leave his country. On December 16, on the way to the railway station Westbahnhof, he took one last look at his area of the city Brigittenau. His father’s warning “not to forget your home,” buried itself into his heart.

Gruber had grown up in an assimilated family in Brigittenau. They had many friends who were not Jewish. When the National Socialists were already in power and Siegfried Gruber’s best friends from childhood days signed up with the Hitler Youth, they still thought that they could continue as always. The Grubers were Social Democrats with an ineradicable love for the Emperor. Why they named their son Siegfried with middle name Herbert is something even Siegfried Gruber still doesn’t understand. “They were not really enthusiastic Wagner fans,” says Gruber. His nickname was Fredi.

The father was a public official with the bank, gifted in foreign languages, and a decorated soldier from the war; the mother was a bookkeeper at Gerngroß. They paid strict attention to giving their son a first-class education. The mixed branch of family relatives was well off, owned a villa in Rodaun and drove American cars. The Grubers belonged to the upper middle class. In 1938 that all suddenly changed. His mother lost her work, and his father soon retired. They searched in British and American telephone books for people with names similar to theirs, whom they wished to ask for help. Nothing became of it.

One day Siegfried Gruber was asked to try his luck at drawing a lot held  by the Vienna Jewish Community, the results of which he still had no guest family but a place in the Kindertransport. Gruber was placed in a children’s camp, then sent to Oxford and put in a college. Through complicated channels he discovered that his father had died in fall of 1939 from a gallbladder disorder, and his mother worked in the Rothschild Hospital as a nurse. At the age of eighteen, Gruber registered with the British Army. He escaped being sent to the front. Later he received news that his mother had been deported. “What that meant was something which I totally repressed. Otherwise, I probably could not have survived,” says Gruber.

In December of 1946, Gruber put on the British uniform, married and returned to Vienna. He discovered that his mother had died in a concentration camp close to Minsk. He was member of the British Commission on the Investigation of War Criminals. The property in Weidling that his parents had bought for him remained unclaimed. So Gruber built a house on the grounds, which served as a small gratification. He shuttled between London and Vienna. Since 1979 he lives with his wife in Austria. Gruber used to be somewhat sceptical of his native country and still is.     

“Only one Photo! Only a Photo!”

Norbert Mayer 

Die Presse (03/19/2008)

Jewish Museum. “Life!” – a colorful cross-section through contemporary history of Jewish Vienna.

The exhibition, “Life! Jews in Vienna after 1945,” which can be seen as of this Wednesday until June 22 in the Jewish Museum, is layed out like a garden. Some 2,000 private photos are exhibited, most of them in color, and they are like an undulating garden of flowers. Every individual picture is attached to a support anchored into the floor; diverse groups and sub-groups offer the effect of a blooming aggregate – the prominent, the orthodox, newcomers from the former Soviet Union and from countries belonging to the former Habsburg Empire - who came to Vienna after 1945 to rebuild. It is seldom to see so much joy and character in such concentrated form. The pictures are so natural and personal that one feels a bit like a voyeur. 

All of these photos were taken by Margit Dobronyi (today aged 95), who began photographing in Vienna after fleeing Hungary in 1956. It is said that not a single Jewish celebration or occasion went by without being photographed. “In those days one was happy that there was a Jewish photographer because such events allowed one to dance and sing without feeling observed by someone who didn’t belong,” says Jonas Zahler recalling the ever-present Frau Dobronyi. “Only one photo! Only a photo,” she would cry. Until 2000, some 150,000 pictures grew to become an entire collection, which the Museum purchased in 2004.

What Happened before 1945 was Omitted
Ruth Beckermann combed through the mass of photos and created a preliminary, all-encompassing installation. What happened before the Shoa is omitted, says the renowned documentary filmmaker and author: “This exhibition is about the Jews who are alive; in other words, the survivors.” After the war, they were fulfilled by a lust for life. Most of them stayed in Vienna, the city that embodied their nostalgia; the idea of leaving was deferred to the next generation. 

One sees people who are celebrating their wedding or Bar Mizvah, or are enjoying their holiday, posing in their new car, standing proudly in front of their new shop, sitting in a coffeehouse or simply expressing joy. Paparazza Dobronyi appeared whenever something special was happening. These pictures, although claiming no particularly artistic value, exude a sense of renewal. In general, however, they are becoming part of a first-class historical collection, says curator Werner Hanak-Lettner.  

Based on the number of the picture, one can look up the names of those photographed on the computer. The exhibitors also hope that the exhibits’ visitors will offer more information so as to determine more precisely who was in contact with whom at a particular place in time – the Wiesenthals or the Hellers, with Kahane, Schlaff, Deutsch or Beckermann. “One simply knew one another,” says one visitor, whose parents managed to come from Czernowitz to Vienna. This exhibition focuses on details.  

“Listen, Israel“ in Burgenland during Roman Times

Daniela Tomasovsky 

Die Presse (03/12/2008)

Austria’s oldest Jewish find - an amulet made of gold, dating back to the 3rd Century A.D. and imprinted with a Hebrew blessing, was found in an ancient burial ground by Halbturn.

In an ancient child’s grave in Halbturn, archeologists made a sensational find: an amulet made of gold, upon which is written a Hebrew blessing. It dates back to the early 3rd Century A.D., making it Austria’s oldest Jewish find. It is a clear indication that people with Jewish faith lived in our region already during the time of the Roman Empire.

“Listen Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one,” reads the inscription written in Greek letters and Hebrew text. “The quote comes from 5 Moses 6.4 and is part of the “Listen Israel,” which Jews spoke  as a crucial avowal” during the 3rd Century as well as today, says Jewish scholar Armin Lange. “It emphasizes the unity of God vis-à-vis the Polytheism of Antiquity and the belief in the Trinity of the Christianity. Judaism meant and still means that God is one! The “Listen Israel” can be found in Jewish prayer sayings and in the Mezuzot. Those are sayings which in ancient times were mounted on the doors of Jewish households. They were to protect one from all harm and any demons.”  

Made by a Jewish Sorcerer  
He who reads the text of the “Listen, Israel” doesn’t think about warding off demons. “The amulet’s text could only have had meaning for Jews who during ancient times hung small tablets with the saying at their doors,” explains Lange. He presumes that the amulet from Halbturn was made by a Jewish sorcerer for a Jew. “Other Greek amulets were found in the vicinity of Carnuntum (the origin of an important Roman army camp located close to Vienna), indicating that the sorcerer had lived in Carnuntum. The amulet from Halbturn is, thus, the oldest object bearing witness to the existence of Jewish life in Austria. Whether the child’s grave is a Jewish grave is something we can only presume but not prove.” 

Until now the presence of Jews on Austrian soil, beginning initially with the 9th Century, can be attested to by texts from the Middle Ages. “During Antiquity, Jews had lived already in parts of the province of Pannonia (ancient province of the Roman Empire), which belongs today to Hungary, Croatia and Serbia,” explains Hans Taeuber:  “Gravestones and small finds, above all, imprinted texts which mention synagogues or prayer houses, testify to this fact.” Amulets, like this one, were very usual throughout the entire Roman Empire – they were used to protect against illnesses and threats. ”One has also found amulets in Carnuntum. One of them called for the goddess Artemis to intervene in fighting off the migraine demon, Antaura.”

In 1986 the field of gravestones was discovered accidentally. “A field hand working at Wittmannshof (a vineyard area located close to the Castle of Halbturn), had torn  open a grave stone out of the ground while plowing. Burgenland’s Regional Museum quickly organized an excavation and dug up two of the graves. The procedure left no damage,” explains head of the project Falko Daim, today executive director of the Roman-Germanic Central Museum of Mainz in Germany.

Spanning Three Hundred Years Ago Three Hundred Graves
Daim realized that there may be other finds and commissioned a project to be carried out by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). “From 1988 until 2002 we excavated three hundred graves. The field of graves lies to the west of a Roman estate. With help of the most modern methods of exploring archeological sites without excavation (as for example by measuring ground resistance), we were able to draw exact plans of its buildings. The villa proves to have been a self-sustaining, agricultural farm, which secured its survival through crop production and animal husbandry,” says Daim.

The field of graves were “in use” for about three hundred years – from the middle of the 2nd to the middle of the 5th Century. “The graves, with all of their configurations, reveal a well, thought-out system, which designated a place of burial for each person,” explains archaeologist Nives Doneus. Dead infants or the handicapped were not burned, meaning that they were not fully integrated into the community. “Also the child, to whom the amulet belonged, was not burned. It is the skeleton of a one to two-year old child, which was buried in a wooden casket. Next to the amulet we found the usual belongings of a grave: a coin, a clay pot, a glass pot, and a lamp made of clay. These are the items which the survivors considered the dead would need,” says Doneus.

What was striking was the elaborate form of the grave. “The grave is huge – three times as large as the child. The question is: Why did one put so much effort into it? It had probably something to do with how it was valued. One could speculate that it was a wealthy family that had enough money to acquire such an amulet.  But, as has already been said, that would only be speculation.” 

The Expulsion of the Intellectuals

Robert Buchacher 

Profil (03/10/2008)

Contemporary History. In May of 1938 the search for “Jewish” or “politically unreliable” researchers escalated. Many top scientists were forced to emigrate and after 1945 not invited to return.

The Viennese family of Weiser Varon had just gathered together for a Sabbath meal. It was on this very Friday, March 11, 1938 that Federal Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg declared his historical “God protect Austria” over the radio, followed by the music of Haydn’s Kaiserquartett. Benno Weiser Varon, who in March 1938 was preparing to take his final medical school exams, looked at the faces of his relatives and asked himself what would become of his family. 

Weiser Varon’s memories of March 1938 are part of a book entitled, “Anschluss und Ausschluss” (Annexation and Exclusion) which appeared during the year of Commemoration.” It sheds light on the National Socialist takeover of power in Austria, which to this day has scarcely been researched and targets the fate of those expelled studying at the University of Vienna. The book is the preliminary product of an entire series of research results on the topic, “the expulsion of science,” which is being compiled and published under the direction of the head of the Vienna Institute for Contemporary History, Friedrich Stadler.

Ilse Aschner, another such person quoted in the book, was a student of German Language and Literature Studies and Psychology at the University of Vienna in March of 1938. She, too, sat in front of the radio with her family on the night of March 12. The excitedly high-pitched voice of the  reporter competed with the rattle of rolling tanks and hysterical shrieks of the people on the curbs of the street. It was on this very night that the student, baptized as evangelical, found out for the first time that she had four Jewish grandparents and, therefore, according to the “Nuremberg Laws on Race,” was considered “fully Jewish.” A few days later she was stopped in front of the University by a young man in SA uniform and asked to prove her Aryan identity, which she didn’t have.

Jewish students were from then on no longer allowed to enter the University, no longer permitted to register for classes nor take exams, not even if they were just about ready to graduate. They were no longer allowed to enter the library, the holdings of which the Nazis declared thousands of works as “corruptive and undesirable” and threw thousands of works onto the street and burned them while people stood around in jubilation. Like their professors who were persecuted out of political reasons or for being Jewish, Jewish students were ostracized and rejected.

From March 16 – 25, 1938, there was a wave of house searches in Vienna of university professors who were on the list of the Gestapo, either out of “racist” or for “political” reasons. Felix Ehrenhaft, Director of the III. Physical Institute of the University of Vienna, was assaulted in his apartment by a group of armed Gestapo men, robbed and finally locked up in the bathroom of a Vienna regional court. When he requested to speak with officials, one locked him in a telephone booth with the telephone removed. On March 21, Ehrenhaft was suspended from his post.

Persecuted Researcher
Hans Thirring, Director of the Institute for Theoretical Physics, and witness to the assault, was one of the first victims of the purge carried out by the Gestapo on Austria’s universities. His writing desk was sealed because of suspicion of NS critical activity. He was forced to leave his post as director and to offer it to a colleague from the Vienna Technical University.  

By March 15, the swearing-in of public officials in Austria took place legally and solely by order of the “Führer of the German Reich and People, Adolf Hitler.” Because of the 1935 Nuremberg Laws on Race, Jewish public officials were not admitted to any swearing-in. And whoever was not sworn-in under the name of the Führer could no longer be a public official and, therefore, also no longer be a university professor.  

Five weeks after the takeover by the National Socialists in Austria, the office of the dean had to compile a list of all those who were suspended or dismissed. Dismissed from the University of Vienna were 132 professors or lecturers of medicine out of a total of 197; nine out of 28 professors in Physics, ten out of 20 in Chemistry, five out of 14 in Mathematics, five in Zoology and Biology as well as individual instructors in many other fields. In addition, some 500 engineers throughout all of Austria were let go. 

A considerable number of those university professors who were dismissed immigrated to the U.S. or Great Britain. Among chemists, it was 40%; among physicists and mathematicians, it was more than 21%, respectively. Up until the end of 1938, thirty-two out of 153 staff members of the University of Innsbruck were discharged or forced to retire from their functions out of “racist” or for “political reasons.” Professor for Organic Chemistry, Hans Weiss, born in Vienna and active professor at the University of Prague, was abducted and put into the concentration camp in Theresienstadt and later died there.

Three Nobel Prize winners were expelled from the University of Graz. The pharmacologist, Otto Loewi, Nobel Prize winner in 1936, was arrested together with his two sons. With help from the Nobel Foundation’s prize money, he was able, however, to buy himself free. Loewi went to New York, where he died in 1961. Victor Franz Hess, who in 1936 won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of cosmic rays, was discharged for political reasons. He immigrated to the U.S. where he was able to continue his work at Fordham University in New York. And finally, Erwin Schrödinger, who after suffering from a strong conflict of loyalty with the Nazis in 1938, immigrated to England. 

Nonetheless, the question which is asked again and again by researchers of contemporary history is this: Was the violence which occurred in March 1938 an unforeseeable, one-of-a-kind happening, set in motion on its own? Or was it much more the contrary - like Friedrich Stadler, researcher of contemporary history, believes - namely, a strong and certainly in terms of its dimension, a unique, pendular outbreak in Austria during a certain point in time, that reached from the Counter Reformation via an uncompleted Enlightenment and lack of bourgeois revolutions up to the present day? 

The sociologist, Josef Langer, sees Austria as a country in which Capitalism took much longer to assert itself compared to most countries in Northwestern Europe. The country was situated on the periphery of the ring of European cities which stretched between northern Italy and the Netherlands. “At the end of the 19th Century, the Danube Monarchy lagged decades behind Northwestern Europe in its industrial development,” says Langer. The contradiction between urgent economic problems and a highly confident power structure led to a frustrated society. 

One only needed the continual movement of migrants, primarily from the Eastern parts of the Donau Monarchy to upset the inner balance. The Jews became the ideal target upon which to project one’s own deficits. And those who became the objects of this projection were, again, those with new, innovative and modern ideas, who stood in strong contrast to the representatives of the more traditional schools of thought.   

Suspicious Thinkers
The “Vienna Circle,” a group of innovative thinkers of logical empiricism, discussed multidisciplinary approaches to philosophy and logic and propagated a scientifically-based philosophy.  Since this thinking worked outside the more traditional framework, and many of the protagonists were grounded by a more liberal or leftist view of the world, the new movement appeared to other academics belonging to Catholic, German-national and frequently anti-Semitic camps like a Jewish-Marxist conspiracy. Therefore, they did everything to distance themselves from the existential grounds of other competitors. 

In June 1936 Moritz Schlick, the guiding spirit of the “Vienna Circle,” was shot on the steps of the University of Vienna by a former student. The same perpetrator, acting out of paranoid hallucination, tried after March 1938 to make the death appear as an act committed in the fight for National Socialist ideas and to use it to his advantage. 

Similar to those of the “Vienna Circle,” there were many different currents of thought, such as those coming out of Sociology or Psychoanalysis, whose representatives were claimed as villains by the Nazis for “defraying the soul.” Typical of the method of defamation was the racist NS claim that the new schools of thought involved “Jewish corruption of the people.” Thus, the flood of anti-Semitism forced the protagonists of new scientific schools of thought to emigrate, among them the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, the psychologist, Alfred Adler, and the sociologist, Paul Lazarsfeld. They immigrated to Great Britain or to the U.S., where their work was accepted with great interest and usually also highly valued because they enriched science and research considerably.

Sports Center Hakoah: Coming Home After Seventy Years

Marina Stemmer 

Der Standard

The traditionally-rich Jewish Hakoah Sports Club finally has its own site. Next week the super modern sports gymnasium will be officially opened.

Vienna – Construction shacks, gravel roads, wire fences, signs warning “No Trespassing on Construction Site” – the entrance to the new sports center in the Simon-Wiesenthal-Gasse hardly appears very welcoming. “We’re still suffering a bit from being under construction,” says Hakoah’s General Manager, Ronald Gelbard. “But that’s something we’ll have to put up with for awhile.” That, however, has not seemed to have affected the joy Gelbard takes in the new sports center, in addition to the new Jewish school and elderly home being built on the grounds next to it.

Justifiably so since the modern building’s interior exudes a warmth that even the most stubborn, non-athletic person would be tempted to jump onto the treadmill, throw a few basketballs into the net or climb up and down on the wall bars. The new Hakoah home is, however, not only a place to toughen up the body but also a place to relax, either in the sauna or the steam bath.

Some two-and-a-half years ago, through restitution, the City of Vienna provided the Jewish Community with a comparable piece of property in the green area of Prater to the traditional Jewish Sports Club for the rebuilding of Hakoah. On Tuesday Mayor Michael Häupl and Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer will officially open the Hakoah gymnasium. Construction costs for building the new Hakoah – whose football and sports stadium were seized after the Anschluss  in 1938 and never returned - were estimated at some 7.2 million euros and were split between the federal and provincial governments.  “The 7.2 million were, unfortunately, not enough,” says Gelbard. “We have to try raising funds from the private sector.” He who helps us financially to get off the ground will have his name engraved into the “Wall of Fame” at the entrance of the sports center, directly next to the wall of running water, upon which a white star with the letter “H” in the middle is set against a blue background.

SC Hakoah has currently some 300 members. The club was established in 1909, resulting from an increasing rise in self confidence felt by Vienna’s liberal Jews on the one hand, and on the other hand, due to the sudden enactment of an “Aryan law,” which excluded Jews from other sports clubs. Initially what proved of great success were football, water ball, wrestling and swimming. 

A Wide Diversity of Sports Offered
 After 1933, Hakoah increasingly lost its members. The name Hakoah (Hebrew for “strength”) was officially obliterated. A few years after the end of the war a handful of survivors breathed new life into the club. The athletes, however, always had to train in other sports clubs. Today the sports center offers everything from physical fitness to table tennis to basketball to boxing. “Our main emphasis lies with team sports,” says manager Ronald Gelbard, who initiated karate at the end of the 1990s.

Only the swimmers have to continue training elsewhere. Despite the heavy engagements of swimming professional, Markus Rogan, one was unable to raise the 2.2 million euros necessary for building an indoor swimming pool. “I, myself, was quite surprised, but even Rogan wasn’t able to help us find funding,” says Gelbard. Nonetheless, one has left a place free on Hakoah’s grounds “should the case arise.”

From Feeling Ashamed to Loving Vienna

Judith Lecher 

Die Presse (02/01/2008)

Report from a contemporary witness. As a sixteen year-old, Hertha Lowy was forced to flee from the Nazis to London. Austrian school girl Katrin Muckenhammer tells of her fate.

London/Vienna. “That is my Schnitzerl, isn’t she lovely?” Hertha Lowy proudly shows the pictures of one of her grandchildren. “I call her Schnitzerl because that is her favorite dish,” explains the 86 year-old exhilarated woman and shows more photos of her daughter Evy and her son Peter. “I remember when I came to London at the age of sixteen. I was all alone. Now I have a large family, and we are all very close.”

Many things in the Londoner apartment in the Swiss Cottage district reminds one of Austria. The pantry is full of Knorr and Maggi soup packages, or the ‘Paprika edelsüß’ from Kotanyi. “And my daughter-in-law is a genuine Viennese,” she tells laughing, while Katrin Muckenhammer accompanies her from one room to the next. 

The fifteen year-old is one of twelve school children who have come to London as ambassadors of remembrance through the project, ‘Letter to the Stars,’ in order to document the life story of Austrian Holocaust survivors.

Hertha Lowy rummaged through her old school grades. Almost every entry is marked with ‘very good’ in a script, long faded. She shows the tournament cup which she won playing bridge. She still continues to play on a regular basis, she says. Then her voice becomes hushed. “That is the last photo I have of my Father.” It is a still pose taken of him in black and white, a documentation of a concentration camp in which her father was exterminated. Also her Mother and her sister lost their lives during the NS era.

Hertha Lowy was the only one who was fortunate to escape. Alone, she had to fight her way through to London. She describes how the whole time she thought Hitler’s invasion was only a bad joke. The Anschluss to Hitler Germany, and afterwards the following restrictions enforced upon the Jewish population in every day life, not as important as her old romance. “My Peter”, she utters the name of her former boyfriend in a tone as if still enraptured.

“At the time I was not aware of how dangerous the situation was,” tells Hertha Lowy. So very little that she, herself, was captivated and joined the crowd in cheering Hitler as he marched into the city. “I stood among the crowd and cheered with the rest.” She shakes her head as if hardly believing it herself. “At the time our family didn’t see Hitler as a threat. My father said nothing can happen to us because we are Viennese; he had fought also in WW I and used to proudly show his medal of bravery.

A Stranger’s Visa 
And so, it was also less the fear for her life as youthful audacity which caused her to get a visa for Great Britain. Finally, she wanted to emigrate together with her friend, Peter. Lowy then looked in the telephone book for the address of a man who shared the same family name. She wrote him a letter, addressing him with Dear Uncle, and proceeded to point out the political situation and begged him to get a visa for her. “At the time I was really very brash,” she said.

And indeed, Mr. Lowy from Great Britain sent a permit to the unknown girl. Her parents knew nothing about it.

For the Jewish population the situation in Vienna was becoming more and more unbearable.” I can still see my father scrubbing the cobblestone streets with a toothbrush, she recalled. Her parents planned to escape to Czechlosovakia. But when they arrived at the border, Hertha ran away, back to Vienna to Peter.

Insolence as a Life Saver
In search of her father, a member of NS women brought her to her family in Prague. Apart from her diaries, which she had kept since she was thirteen, she packed nothing in her suitcase. “No shoes, no socks. That’s how I was at the time.”

In Prague Hertha Lowy was “deathly unhappy without my Peter.” When the Nazi Party annexed the Sudentenland in 1938, she decided to get also a travel clearance from the Gestapo to leave.

While the line of “Aryans” waiting before the office was becoming shorter day by day, that of the Jews was becoming longer. “And then I thought to myself: I will simply stand in the non-Jew line,” tells Hertha Lowy. Her audacity and her courage proved to work also in this case; despite the big red “J,” distinguishing the Jews’ passports from those of the others, she was able to get a clearance.

Although her worried mother tried to stop her from doing so, Hertha Lowy got on the train where she was to meet her friend. “My Mother fainted as the train left the station. It was the last time I saw my family.” Her mother, father and sister were deported to the concentration camp. Hertha Lowy had little idea what that meant at the time. “In those days none of us knew about the gas chambers.  We only heard about it after the war had ended.”

As for her first love, Peter, Hertha Lowy never saw him again. A meeting planned  many years later, however, never came to fruition. Peter was a short time before killed in an auto accident.

“This woman is unbelievable,” Katrin Muckenhammer repeatedly blurted out, after she said goodbye to Hertha Lowy. “She evokes so much joy of life. I was really nervous before meeting her.”

Some time later the office of ‘Letter to the Stars’ in Vienna received a letter from Hertha Lowy in which she thanks Katrin Muckenhammer for her visit. “I sense the  awakening of a new Austria, that I again could again be proud of being Viennese. English or not, I am still always a Viennese. In the past I often felt ashamed to have so much yearning for Vienna. Today I’m allowed to!”

An Enthusiastic Admirer of the Führer

Norbert Mayer 

Die Presse (03/14/2008)

Commemoration. On March 12, 1938, the National Socialists also took over power of the Burgtheater. Seventy years later the theatre commemorates the dramatic changes since then with “Never again. How safe is the European peace project?” 

March 12, 2008 in the Burgtheater. The house is sold out. A letter from Paula Wessley is read: “As an artist who was always committed to giving  expression to the culture of her Austrian homeland and, thus, bringing the essence of what is German on the Donau to all Germans, I deeply welcome the reunification of Austria with the old German Reich.” The crowd begins whispering; some of the older people in the audience groan at the thought of being confronted with this chapter of Austrian history of theatre, which was still considered taboo in many places.

Another letter is read, this time by Attila Hörbiger. “We artists are happy and proud to be able to work together on great, new German works and will unanimously endorse our Führer on April 10!” Some in the audience moan, writhe in their seats; most of them look shocked. Sitting on the stage is Elisabeth Orth, appearing composed and serious. She is one of the members of the ensemble of the Burgtheater commemorating the events following Annexation. At this moment, however, one thinks of her primarily as the daughter of two legendary figures who let themselves be seduced by Hitler. Some probably thought secretly about what was written in those days when the Nazis took over power.

The commemorative event is dubbed “Never Again!”  Director Klaus Bachler, thus, made an important political event possible, carrying one back to the religious origins of the Theater. It is to be a cleansing ritual, and through expression, evil will be banned. 

The Names of Those Murdered and Expelled
In addition to Orth and the director (who represents contemporary witness Otto Tausig who is ill), Birgit Minichmayr, Johannes Krisch and Klaus Maria Brandauer perform readings on the stage. Included in the collage of readings, one hears “The Return of a New Reich” (a text selected by Sebastian Humber and Rita Czapk) from hard liners like author Jelusich, who regularly worked his way up the ladder to be on the board of directors, and from denouncers like Otto Hartmann, who was responsible for many death sentences. One hears about the unspeakable production of the “Merchant of Venice” by Lothar Müthel with Werner Krauß playing the main role. One hears about Rosa Albach-Retty, reeling from the idea of annexation: “Like everyone, I am naturally an enthusiastic admirer of the Führer, but I take pride in being particularly close to him.” She gushes about meetings with Hitler in Berchtesgaden, while many colleagues from the theatre are being fired, denounced and are fearing for their lives.

When the names of the victims are read out loud, when portraits of actors and actresses who had been expelled were projected onto a screen, it becomes silent: Ernst Arndt, Fritz Blum, Karl Eidlitz, Josef Gielen, Nora Gregor, Ernst Haeussermann, Lilly Karoly, Fritz Lehmann, Tini Senders, Lilly Stepanek, Fritz Strassni, Hans Wengraf, Else Wohlgemuth and Karl Zeska.

Former Minister Rudolf Scholten reads the statement by Jorge Semprún who was ill and unable to attend, and Bulgarian author Dimitré Dinev sheds light on the present. “How secure is the European peace project?” is the other question. On March 11, 1938, Sigmund Freud entered two Latin words into his diary, writes Semprún: “Finis Austriae.” He could have also written “Finis Europae.” How, however, does one save Europe? Decisive for Semprún is not the question of roots - that would be narrow-minded - but the question of critical intellect. He quotes Edmund Husserl, who in 1935 demanded heroics of reason. “Europe’s biggest danger is fatigue.” That was enough warning. 

A Contemporary Witness for All Alike

Patricia Käfer 

Die Presse (03/26/2008)

Concentration camp survivor Rudolf Gelbard visits places spent during his life in Vienna, along with Theresienstadt.

Today people live where the concentration camp of Thereisenstadt once stood. Children are riding bicycles on its former streets that have now been repaired. Rudolf Gelbard was also once such a child in 1942. He was twelve years old. He remembers that during a street fight with members of the Hitler youth, he was called a “Jew boy” and given a “kick from behind” so that Gelbard would be aware of his place within the hierarchy. He also had to wear the yellow star.

Due to the progress made in schools today in terms of education, one can assume that every Austrian child knows what is meant by the yellow star. But what everyone doesn’t know is that everyone who was Jewish was given an additional name, such as “Israel” for the men and “Sarah” for the women; that they were forbidden to go to the cinema, outdoor swimming pools or use public transportation; that they were not allowed to own pets or own bicycles. As a present-day witness, Gelbard has to remind the many children who no longer have a living grandfather or great grandfather of the horror of such harassment.

The documentary made by Kurt Brazda shows Gelbard visiting various places of his life history, including that of the concentration camp at Theresienstadt. When the street car stops at Karlsplatz-Oper, he is reminded of the time when university professor Taras Borodajkevic had held lectures on National Socialist ideas, the results of which led to the death of former concentration camp prisoner Ernst Kirchweger, who was killed during a protest.

When cuts are made between Gelbard’s tales of the original scenes of historical photo material, one fully believes to be a part of the events described. Also scenes taken from today’s everyday life help illustrate that even during that time people lived their lives as usual, even if it was next to the concentration camp or in Leopoldstadt. In a radio report following the November pogrom of 1938 and destruction of the Jewish Temple in the 2nd district, a reporter claimed: “The Jews took to their heels, escaping in time,” followed by: “But that won’t be the case next time.”  

The film documentary by Kurt Brazda is entitled, “The Man on the Balcony.” 

Berggasse 19, Salzgries 16: It’s All about Freud!

Thomas Kramer 

Die Presse (03/12/2008)

Vienna – The five treatment rooms are not furnished with the traditional couch in oriental pattern but rather very simple beds, and  the lecture hall has only a very plain  chair. The new Psychoanalytical Center in Vienna’s Salzgries 16 was ceremoniously opened on Monday. The year was doubly historical in that 1908 marked the founding of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Association and 1938 the expulsion of psychoanalysis from Austria by NS terror. 

Mayor Michael Häupl spoke of an “enormous intellectual bloodletting:” It is a very ambitious goal of this city government to restore the unique intellectual life of Vienna. In the area of “Life Sciences,” this has already happened; now one must “remember Freud, Schumpeter and Kelsen.” 

Martin Engelberg of the Psychoanalytical Academy praised “the reestablishment of psychoanalysis in Vienna,” which will be headed by two organizations that will share the Center – the Vienna Psychoanalytical Association (WPV) and the Vienna Working Group for Psychoanalysis (WAP), established in 1947. It is rare thing that, in light of their divisions during the rich history of psychoanalysis, the two groups have come together after having quarrelled for many years. 

Excluded from the picture is the private, Sigmund Freud University of Vienna which has conflicted with WAP. Their founder, Alfred Pritz, refused to even attend the Center’s opening.  Inge Scholz-Strasser, however, director of the Sigmund Freud Private Foundation, who runs the museum in Freud’s home in the Berggasse 19, did come. At least between the museum and WPV, some peaceful, friendly coexistence appears finally to prevail. 

The rooms of the Wilhelminian-style house in the Salzgries appear quiet and friendly. The cabinets are white, and the walls are hung with sketches of the unorthodox, French analyst Jacques Lacan, whom director of WAP August Ruh holds in high esteem, much to the disliking of the WPV. In one of the treatment room therapists and/or patients can look at Egyptian scenes with hieroglyphics and drafts. At the entrance, a model of one of Peter Kogler’s brains is displayed.  

Central to the program of events (info: are the traditional Freud lectures. On April 4 Bettina Reiter will speak on “It’s All about Freud;” on May 16-17 there will be a discussion held on Lacan; and on May 28 Diane O’Donoghue talks about Freud’s “Topographical Constructions.” One will commemorate the founding of the WPV at a festive event to take place on April 15; a book by Andrea Bronner published by Brandstätter depicts the first 100 years. 

Deathly ill and a mere two-and-a-half months before Freud left Austria, which in the meantime had turned hostile, Freud reacted to the news of Schuschnigg’s abdication on March 1938 with a laconic, “Finis Austriae.”  Seventy years later it has made more room possible for his teachings than ever before. 

The Vienna Project on Austrian Jews in Buenos Aires

Austrian Press Agency (04/23/2008)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vienna Lectures and Book Remember “Annihilation of the Intellect”

Austrian Press Agency (03/04/2008)

Lectures, books and exhibitions on the annexation of Austria seventy years ago 

Vienna – On the occasion of the annexation of Austria to Hitler Germany seventy years ago, a series of events are being held in remembrance of the explusion of reason. A seven-part series of lectures beginning on March 13 and entitled, “Departure 1938,” will highlight the flight of many intellectuals and scientists from Austria.  A new book by Vienna contemporary historians will analyze how the University of Vienna dealt with Jewish students following the annexation.

As a prelude to the “Vienna Lectures,” sponsored by the International Research Center for Cultural Studies (IFK), and to the series entitled, “Departure 1938 – The Annihilation of Intellectual Vienna,” initiated by the Vienna Library, ret. Professor of German Literature Egon Schwarz, who was expelled in 1938, will hold the opening lecture in Vienna’s City Hall. In addition, Carl and Charlotte Bühler, who fled Vienna for Norway and became pioneers in Child Psychology, Experimental Psychology and the Theory of Language, will speak about the years following annexation.

During the course of the series lasting until November, sociologist Gerhard Sonnert and Vienna-born historian and physicist Gerald Holton from Harvard University will present the German edition of their book (2007), “What Happened to the Children Who Fled Nazi Persecution,” by LIT publishers on June 24. The book highlights the paths taken by the children and youths who fled the National Socialists from Germany and Austria during the 1930s and 1940s for the U.S.

Furthermore, within the framework of this series, German Studies specialist and Holocaust survivor Ruth Klüger (“Studies and Use of the German Language Following the Shoah”) and Graz sociologist Christian Fleck, together with Marie Jahoda, will speak about current-day thoughts on employment and unemployment. On October 30, there will be a conference entitled, “The Dangers of Diversity,” covering the “life and work of Friedrich Torberg (1909-1979).”

An analysis of how the University of Vienna dealth with Jewish students following the annexation is contained in the newly published book, “Annexation and Exclusion 1938 - Students from the University of Vienna Who Were Expelled or Remained” by contemporary historians Herbert Posch, Doris Ingrisch and Gert Dressel. It will be presented on March 12 within the framework of “Dies Academicus” in the small ballroom of the University. In addition, Walter Sokel, ret. professor at the University of Virginia and contemporary witness, looks back on the events between 1936 and 1938 when he was a student expelled from the university.

In cooperation with the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance, a team at the University of Graz working together with Helmut Konrad from the Institute of History is currently researching the practice of NS rule in Styria. The project concentrates primarily on persecution and resistance. According to the University of Graz, a conference as well as an exhibition is planned for September 2008 to be held in Graz’s City Musem in cooperation with the Association for Historical and Educational Work, “Clio.”

“Expedition from Herzl to Hakoah”

Der Standard (05/19/2008)

Vienna is Jewish; Vienna was always Jewish and Vienna will also always be linked with Jewish history

Whoever does his shopping on a Saturday at Karmelitermarkt in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt district notices that Vienna, as we know it today, is clearly defined by Jewish history and tradition. Whether Orthodox Jews with black hats and sidelocks are discussing on the corner or whether names such as Café “Tachles,” located not far from Karmeliterplatz, remind one of Jewish culture…..

In her book entitled, Jewish Vienna, Expedition from Herzl to Hakoah, Birgit Schwaner offers an overview of life in a city whose citizens are frequently unaware of the fact that the “Masl” and the Haberer,” of which one so often talks about, is derived from the Hebrew “masol” (lucky star) and “havarim” (friend). 

History and the First “Viennese Gesera” 
In Jewish Vienna, the author touches upon many areas of history and of people who were repeatedly invited to Vienna to serve the princes of the City or to stimulate commercial transport, only later to be expelled under false pretenses.  

Beginning approximately with the middle of the 13th Century, the Babenberger wanted to revive trade and made it easy for Jews from the Rheinland and Bohemia, who had once been expelled from Vienna, to return. There where today the Jewish Museum is located once flourished a unique, segregated “Jewish city,” which contained a hospital, a kosher butcher, ritual baths and a meeting house.

The first expulsion of the Jews from Vienna took place between 1420 and 1421. Reasons for the pogrom – sometimes referred to as “Gesera,” meaning “fate or persecution” in Hebrew - was based upon a collective claim against Jews as serving as enemies of the Catholic Church. Many of the Viennese Jews were either set out to sea -  in this case the Danube - on boats without a rudder or were forced to undergo baptism. Thousands committed suicide in the synagogue in order to avoid being baptized. 

A Lively Jewish City 
The fact that what is Jewish Vienna today can be found mainly in the 2nd district is illustrated by numerous contributions, such as articles on the Sports Club Hakoah, which takes on a new home in the form of a sports center. The association, which was founded in 1909 under the highly promising name of “Strength” and held in high esteem before WW II because of its international success, was forbidden in 1941.

Back at Karmelitermarkt, Saturday shoppers again and again “come across” brass plates which offer insight into aryanized stands. The path of remembrance winding through Leopoldstadt commemorates the biographies of Viennese Jews, who were either expelled from their homes or murdered during the Third Reich.

Beginning with Tempelgasse, Birgit Schwaner’s book relates some thirty different places of Jewish history as a fascinating expedition through Jewish Vienna.

Amendment to Restitution Law to be Adopted Before Summer

Austrian Federal Chancellery 

Minister of Culture Claudia Schmied and Chairman of the Advisory Board on Restitution Clemens Jabloner presented the measures planned by the Federal Republic on March 26, 2008 to improve restitution. “Restitution of seized assets is an historic obligation which is being met by the Republic of Austria,” stated the Minister. “My aim is to establish clear policy rules regarding restitution by the Leopold Foundation.“ As a first step, provenance research has to be conducted by the Federal Republic. By the end of April, two restitution researchers, financed by the Federal Republic, are to start investigations of the Leopold Museum. There is “already a clear majority by the Managing Board in favor of this opening up”, said Schmied, who also interpreted statements by art collector Rudolf Leopold as a “highly positive and constructive signal.“ In an interview with the daily newspaper, “Die Presse,“ the head of the museum stated: “We will have independent experts examine the facts. I will certainly not ignore the origin of paintings against my better judgment.” However, in this interview Leopold also explained that he felt to be the target of unfair criticism.
The plan of action presented by Schmied and Jabloner included concrete measures. For example, the law should not refer explicitly to the restitution of “works of art” but rather to the restitution of “movable objects”. The future law should not only apply to “federal museums and collections” but entire “federal assets“ should come under its scope. The Act on the Restitution of Works of Art should also cover assets which had previously been subject to a formal restitution procedure. The period in respect to which restitution claims can be filed will be extended, covering the years from 1933 to 1945 (previously 1938 to 1945). Assets that were not confiscated on the territory of present-day Austria but in regions controlled by the Third Reich will also have to be returned in the future. To speed up restitution procedures, recognition of heirs will be based on the Austrian law of succession. Thus time-consuming expert opinions under international private law usually not leading to new findings will become superfluous. The exception for restitution assets from the Monumental Protection Act, which requires permits for the export of specific assets, will be effective for a period of 25 years as from the handing-over of the object and will also apply to the restitution by the Länder (States) and municipalities. The term of office of the members of the Advisory Board on Restitution will be extended to three years so as to ensure their independence.
The cooperation between the Ministry, the Advisory Board on Restitution and the Provenance Research Committee is being re-structured. The Committee is afforded a legal status and has legal capacity in specific areas. A special statute clearly defines the independence of the provenance researchers. A member – or deputy member – of the Advisory Board on Restitution will be entrusted with developing a triennial program for the Provenance Research Committee and bringing research to fruition. This task was assigned to Eva Blimlinger in the Advisory Board meeting on 7 March 2008.
All these steps form part of a process already initiated by Minister of Culture Claudia Schmied in 2007. By appointing President of the Administrative Court Clemens Jabloner chairman of the Advisory Board on Restitution and by creating a special department for restitution affairs within the Federal Ministry of Education, Art and Culture, decisive steps have been taken to improve the restitution procedures of the Federal Republic. 

“Clearly Stolen Art!”

Barbara Petsch 

Die Presse (03/11/2008)

Leopold Museum. The Jewish Community (IKG) presents more official reports reflecting expert opinions on “expropriated works of art.” IKG President Ariel Muzicant is demanding that a law be established to settle the matter. Austrian Minister of Education Claudia Schmied promises it.

How much was Rudolf Leopold aware of?  “Is that stolen art or not?” “Will  provenance research conducted by the Leopold Foundation be censured by its executive board?” It was a heated debate on Monday during two press conferences held by the IKG and by the Leopold Foundation. 

Georg Graf, University Professor for Civil Law and Philosophy of Law at the University of Salzburg, identified eleven works as so-called “expropriated paintings” in dry legal terms in his official report commissioned by the IKG. It involves Schiele’s painting, entitled “Wally,” part of a collection lent to New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) ten years ago by the Leopold Museum and put on exhibition, after which it was seized and is still in America. It also involves other works, including Schiele’s “Häuser am Meer,” “Romako’s “Nike mit Kranz,” “Die Quelle,” as well as “Akt eines jungen Mädchens,” Schiele’s „Frau in Unterwäsche, sich links aufstützend,” and ”Die Bergmäher“ by Egger-Lienz and four other Schiele drawings.

Official Report: “Wally” Doesn’t Belong to Leopold
“It can be assumed that, when acquiring these paintings, Rudolf Leopold knew that they were originally owned by people who had been persecuted by the National Socialists,” writes Graf. “Therefore, Leopold had to expect that there was a possibility  it involved paintings which were stolen from their owners.” Should the scope of the 1998 law on art restitution be expanded to to the extent that it includes the paintings still held by the Leopold Stiftung, “the Foundation would be under a legal obligation to restitute,” says Graf. Based upon this point of view, “Wally” doesn’t belong to Leopold, according to Graf. In other words, the painting still belongs to the “heirs of Lea Bondi, who are allowed to demand it be returned by the Foundation based upon claim of ownership.”

Regarding the three Romako paintings, “the possibility that expropriated paintings still belong to the heirs of the original owner is not only a given but a reality,” finds Graf. In terms of the four Schiele drawings, however, strong reasons speak for the fact “that they belong to the Republic of Austria because, based upon Article 22 of the State Treaty, they were purchased by the German Reich.”

“It’s crystal clear,” says IKG President Muzicant: “There’s no need for discussion  about each individual painting. It is clear that the Leopold Collection has an abundance of paintings that can be explicitly considered stolen art.” It is now up to the Republic of Austria to take the next steps.

“It is my political goal to establish a law which, like the law on restitution regarding State museums, applies to the Leopold Collection and clearly governs the Foundation’s matters of restitution,” explains Minister Schmied. “The complexity of legal questions demands excellent preparation and examination.”

Previous to the Graf report, the IKG had presented a report by Salzburg’s constitutional lawy expert Walter Berka, which which provides for the possibility ot  apply the law on art restitution to the Leopold Foundation.

“The Berka report impressed me,” said Clemens Jabloner, President of the Superior Administrative Court and head of the Commission on Art Restitution: “It offers good arguments supporting neither unconstitutionality nor a breach of human rights. In any case, one can expect an amendment. Principally, every piece of art whose provenance remains unclear should be dealt with, like the requirements established by the law on art restitution.” If the Federal Chancellery’s legal office gives the green light, “one can begin working on a law,” says Jabloner. He also believes that even if there are elections, another new federal government will make an amendment to the law on art restitution.

He doesn’t understand IKG’s “zig zag” course, said lawyer Andreas Nödl, board member of the Leopold Foundation. First the IKG speaks about an amendment to the law on art restitution, and now it speaks about legal actions.

How Many Claims Are Still to Come?
Furthermore, Nödl emphasizes that among the altogether 5,500 works of the Leopold Collection, the number of contentious exhibits is in the area of one-tenth-of-a-percent. This,  however, could be the main concern of the 82 year-old collector, Rudolf Leopold: in case he should give in out of ethical reasons, as was discussed at the press conference, more and more new claims will pop up. Nödl didn’t wish to say what the prognosis might be if the Leopold Foundation is included in the law: “We’ll cross over that bridge once we’re there.” The biggest mistake committed by the Graf report is that it restricts itself to the facts presented by the IKG: “Even Leopold, himself, was not questioned.” When everything stands outside of the law, one perverts the course of justice; there is no display of “moral responsibility” when giving things away. The Foundation continues the costly law suit over “Wally.” But a decision is, however, in the offing.

Austria and Israel Strengthen Research Cooperation

Federal Chancellery (04/14/2008)

Austria and Israel will strengthen cooperation in the field of science and research. This is the outcome of an official visit to Israel by Minister of Science Johannes Hahn. The main goals are to increase the mobility of students, graduates and fledgling researchers as well as to promote cooperation in basic research. To this end, an Austro-Israeli Science Day is to be held this year in Vienna. 

Foreign Minister on 60th Anniversary of the Foundation of the State of Israel

Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs (05/03/2008)

"Like no other state, Israel has been called into question and challenged from the day of its foundation. Between Galilee and Negev, generations of Israelis have contributed impressively to the development of the country and led it to outstanding achievements in many areas. During all my stays I have been impressed by Israel’s cultural wealth, traditions and creative power,” stated Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Foundation of the State of Israel on 8 May 2008. 

“Austria was and remains a state of Jewish fate and Jewish fates. It was Austrian Theodor Herzl in Vienna who formulated the vision of a “homeland for the Jewish people” in Palestine at the turn of the century. Sixty years ago the dream of a Jewish state came true,” continued Plassnik.“ But relations between Austria and Israel also carry a special historical burden. Many Austrians participated actively in the appalling crime and break with civilization that was the Shoah, in the malign spirit of displacing the spiritual. For a long time our relations were overshadowed by the crimes of Nazi terror and the very late assumption of responsibility for the persecution, displacement and murdering of Austrian Jews in the Shoah,” stated Plassnik. 

“In recent years there have been many changes in the way we deal with history. Our sincere commitment to Austria’s responsibility for the victims of the Nazi regime has had a positive impact on Austrian-Israeli relations. It marked the beginning of a new chapter. Today we are linked by ties of trustful partnership and strong friendship,” emphasized Plassnik. 

“Our history has resulted in our determination and commitment to the conviction of “never again.” Today, we – Israelis and Austrians - can work on our future together in freedom. What we want is peaceful co-existence in Austria, Europe and in the world, characterized by mutual acknowledgement, tolerance and respect. And this is the key challenge: to make this new Europe a permanent positive image countering the bitterest experience of our past. What started as a European peace project must become a worldwide pillar of peace in the 21st century,” stated Plassnik. 

“Today, as a partner in the European Union and the United Nations, we are making our contribution on the path to peace and security for Israel, Palestine and the entire region. It is a thorny path, calling for courage, but also endurance and persistence. Yet it is clear that sustainable peace will only be possible on the basis of a two-state solution and with full respect for Israel’s right to exist. Austria will not strike any compromises in this respect,” Plassnik stressed. “It is our responsibility as a neighbor and friend to provide active support to both Israelis and Palestinians in their quest for peace and to do so persistently on the basis of solidarity. We shall continue to bear this responsibility in the future,” concluded Plassnik. 

December 2008

Dear Readers,

December 24, 2008

In Austria, the past few months have been marked by events in observance of the Kristallnacht seventy years ago, which saw the destruction of synagogues and the ransacking of thousands of Jewish businesses and homes and marked the beginning of the Holocaust, the NS terror regime and the murdering of thousands of Austrian Jews. We present a number of articles on the numerous events that marked the remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust.

Furthermore, we are happy to provide you with a broad range of articles that were published in the Austrian media on such topics as the 15th Anniversary of the Jewish Museum Vienna, the recent inauguration of Austria’s largest Jewish school, on cultural events, symposia and recent publications, on restitution-related topics and on Federal President Fischer’s and Foreign Minister Spindelegger's recent visit to Israel.

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 new website:
I wish you Happy Hanukkah!
Yours sincerely,


Wolfgang Renezeder
Austrian Press and Information Service


Current Events, Symposia and Cultural News

• Parliament commemorates November pogroms 70 years ago (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
• Vienna: Council of Europe and Holocaust Task Force will cooperate (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
• Year of Commemoration Focusing on November Pogrom in the Graz City Museum (Austrian Press Agency)
• Vienna‘s Jewish Museum Elated over 1.2 Million in Visitors in Fifteen Years (Austrian Press Agency)
• 15 years of Jewish Museum Vienna (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
• Austria’s Largest Jewish School (Die Presse)
• Seisenbacher’s Ambition, Hakoah’s Good Fortune (Der Standard)
• NS Crimes Against the „Inferior“ (Austrian Press Agency)
• Exhibition at Steinhof Reopened (Austrian Press Agency)
• Music from Theresienstadt Performed (Austrian Press Agency)
• First Chamber Music Festival Schloss Laudon (Austrian Press Agency)
• Involuntary Passage to Mauritius (Die Presse)
• Keep on Traveling, Away from Death (Die Presse)
• House of History Looks to U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as Model (Die Presse)
• Remembrance of the NS Era in Film (Austrian Press Agency)
• Summer Cinema at Schloss Hartheim (Austrian Press Agency)
• Remembrance of the NS Era in Film (Austrian Press Agency)
• Summer Cinema at Schloss Hartheim (Austrian Press Agency)
• Jewish Welcome Service of Vienna (Austrian Press Agency)
• Visit of Expelled Jewish Citizens Austrian Press Agency)
• Poet with a Flash of Genius and Correspondence Artist (Der Standard)
• Vienna’s Central Cemetery is the Second Largest Graveyard in Europe (Der Standard)
• Some 330,000 graves containing three million dead (Austrian Press Agency)
• Vienna’s Faculty of Law Addresses the Impact of the Anschluss (Austrian Press Agency)
• MAK Exhibition, “Recollecting” The Journey from Plunder to Restitution MAK Catalogue, (Austrian Press Agency)
• RECOLLECTING” Looted Art and Resitution


• Honoring Jahoda – Prammer: Witness to Austrian History (Austrian Press Agency)
• Late homage: Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel becomes honorary citizen of Vienna (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
• Jewish people remember their Vienna in the 20th century(Austrian Federal Chancellery)
• Campaign of the City of Vienna: free copies of book by Ruth Klüger (Austrian Federal Chancellery)
• The Impossibility of Being Kafka (Der Standard)
• Becoming Edith. The Education of a Hidden Child. Edith Mayer Cord.


• Amendment to the Art Restitution Law Being Reviewed (Austrian Press Agency)
• Dorotheum Auctions Off Restituted Amerling-Paintings from Belvedere (Austrian Press Agency)
• Jewish Community Takes Legal Action Against the Federation (Die Presse) 
• Dark Figures (Profil)
• Amendment to Restitution Law to be Adopted Before Summer (Austrian Federal Chancellery)

Austrian – Israeli Relations

• Federal President Fischer pays visit to Israel and Palestinian territories (Austrian Federal Chancellery
• Heinz Fischer emphasizes joint responsibility of Austria with regard to NS-crimes (Austrian Press Agency)
• Israeli leaders meet Austrian president, discuss ties, peace talks BBC Monitoring Middle East (Jersualem Post)

Historical Portraits

• The Impossibility of Being Kafka (Der Standard)
• The Brief Life of Dr. Suess (Der Standard)

Parliament commemorates November pogroms 70 years ago

Austrian Federal Chancellery (11/17/2008)

Parliament commemorates November pogroms 70 years ago 

On 9 November 2008 the Austrian Parliament commemorated the November pogroms 70 years ago in a ceremony held at Palais Epstein. The events of the “Reichskristallnacht“ – the “Night of Broken Class” – on 9 November 1938 had marked the climax of a year of anti-Semitic riots. In her speech Speaker of Parliament Barbara Prammer vehemently called for an end of further debates about the abolishment of the “Prohibition Act”. “More than ever” this Act was to be considered a constitutional reaction to Austria’s role during the NS period, and as a clear no to the belittlement of the Nazi atrocities it was of a high symbolic value. “This should not and must not be called into question in Austria“, Prammer underlined.

In 1938 the hostility towards Jews in Austria had clearly exceeded that in Germany. “Even if many Austrians do not like to hear that“, Prammer stated in the presence of more than 100 guests, among them Israeli Ambassador to Austria, Dan Ashbel, Secretary of State Andreas Schieder and the Vice-President of the Constitutional Court, Brigitte Bierlein. Prammer emphasised that the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism would not be “dismantled“.

The President of the Jewish Religious Community (IKG), Ariel Muzicant, demanded that a “clear line“ had to be drawn from right-wing extremism. Muzicant thanked the “official Austria that young people could learn about the past in more than 1000 events commemorating the November pogroms throughout Austria.

In the early morning hours of 10 November 1938 in Austria alone 30 Jews were killed, 7,800 were arrested and 4,000 were immediately deported from Vienna to the Dachau concentration camp.

Seventy Years November Progrom

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (07/23/08)

Seventy Years November Progrom
Spindelegger. Collective Responsibility

Vienna – Austria is characterized, justifiably so, as the first victim of National Socialism. This will not change anything about the fact that we have to admit “that our people bear the responsibility for all those having taken part in that time, “ stated Spindelegger, who will participate on Sunday in a commemoration of the Vienna Jewish Community in the City temple.

Like Federal President Fischer and Foreign Minister Plassnik previously claimed, the Second National Council President viewed the so-called “Reichskristallnacht” as a shameful prelude to an historical unprecedented annihilation of people.” There must be a consensus among all of the political parties “to do everything to forbid anything like that from happening in the future.” Spindelegger reminded one that many Austrians participated in the progrom: “the night of the progrom in 1938 was not solely organized by Nazi commandos. Many people from the civilian population participated in the attacks and brutality directed against Jews.”

November 9, 1939, is probably one of the darkest days in Austrian history. The November progrom remains in one’s memory as the atrocious beginning of systematic persecution of Austria’s Jews, which shortly thereafter ended in the Holocaust carried out on European Jews,” explained head of the Green Party Eva Glawischnig. Glawischnig spoke of a “duty to remain vigilant” based upon the events of that time: “We must do everything also in 2008 that right-wing extremism doesn’t infiltrate the core of society, but rather has no place in society.”

According to the head of the Green Party, Jewish heritage in Austria has been abandoned and left to decay. “It is overdue to draw one’s attention to the deteriorating Jewish cemeteries. According to the Washington Agreement, Austria is responsible for renovating and maintaining the cemeteries. “What has been possible with the war graves has to be possible for Jewish cemeteries,” stated Glawischnig.

Vienna: Council of Europe and Holocaust Task Force will cooperate

Austrian Federal Chancellery (11/17/2008)

Vienna: Council of Europe and Holocaust Task Force will cooperate

The Council of Europe and the International Holocaust Task Force (ITF) signed a declaration of intent to team up in the combat against anti-Semitism at European level on 10 November 2008. Terry Davis, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, and Ferdinand Trauttmannsdorff, ITF Chairman, signed the agreement that is to become a model for Europe.

According to Trauttmannsdorff, the negotiations would start still this year as Austria was holding the ITF chair. First concrete results were expected by 2010. Davis mentioned a planned campaign against racism in key media at European level, which was to be more focused than the campaigns of the past years. As Hans Winkler, Secretary of State in the Foreign Ministry, explained, there was a “moral duty to ensure that future generations understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect on the consequences“.
Moreover, Terry Davis was awarded the Grand Golden Medal of Honour with Ribbon for Meritorious Service to the Republic of Austria in Vienna on 10 November 2008 by Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. “He has contributed decisively to the success of the Council of Europe in promoting its goals on our continent”. The Council of Europe provided an all-European institutional framework for the further development of democracy and the rule of law as well as the protection of human rights.

In the night from 9 to 10 November 1938 pogroms against Jewish citizens had taken place in all regions occupied by the Nazis. In Austria alone 30 Jews were killed, 7,800 were arrested and about 4,000 were deported immediately from Vienna to the Dachau concentration camp. The pogroms are considered by many historians as the beginning of the Shoa, the systematic annihilation of the Jewish population.

Vienna: Council of Europe and Holocaust Task Force will cooperate

Austrian Federal Chancellery (11/17/2008)
Winkler: "Current forms of anti-Semitism should be increasingly addressed"

DateWednesday, December 24, 2008 at 10:35AM

Austrian Ministry of European and International Affairs

Winkler: "Current forms of anti-Semitism should be increasingly addressed"
State Secretary Hans Winkler at an international round table on

Vienna, 10 November 2008 – "Anti-Semitism is still a social problem that needs to be taken seriously. It has not remained a historical phenomenon, but can, unfortunately, still be repeatedly observed today. No country is immune to revisionism, anti-Semitism and extremism," said State Secretary Hans Winkler at a high-calibre round table discussion at the Hofburg Palace on "Lessons learnt? Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism in 2008". The meeting was organised by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the International Holocaust Task Force (ITF) to mark the 70th anniversary of the anti-Semitic November pogroms.

"Due to its unprecedented nature the holocaust will be of universal significance for all time. However, we must not restrict ourselves to the discussion of historical forms of anti-Semitism, but must critically address current forms of anti-Semitism in academic and social terms as well. We all have the moral obligation to see to it that future generations also understand the causes of the holocaust and think about its consequences. This requires endeavours at all levels and in all areas, ranging from politics to civil society. Without any doubt, an indispensable prerequisite for this is easier access to information, studies and findings; information that has to be made available to an interested audience through the different media. In this context the work with contemporary eyewitnesses is of immeasurable value," stated Winkler, highlighting the work of the International Holocaust Task Force and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Austria currently chairs the ITF.

Winkler reminded his audience that when joining the ITF, the members declared their commitment to the "Stockholm Declaration", which, among other things, provides for the implementation and increased promotion of national policies and programmes in support of education and research in the field of the holocaust and its commemoration. "Prospects are good that things can be changed. But we have to act in concert and acknowledge the appalling truth of the holocaust vis-à-vis all those who deny it," stated Winkler. As the State Secretary explicitly emphasised: "The Austrian law banning Nazi activities is and remains an indispensable part of our legal system. It does not serve to restrict freedom of opinion but must be understood in the light of our own historical experience. Never again must we allow an ideology to circulate that aims at the humiliation, dehumanisation and, ultimately, the extinction of a population group."

Federal Ministry for European
and International Affairs
Mag. Katharina Swoboda
Office of the State Secretary
Tel.: +43 (0) 50 1150-3469


International Holocaust Task Force (
Austrian Chairmanship

Combating anti-Semitism

High-level round table on 10 November 2008 in Vienna
VIENNA, 10 November 2008
In the night of 9th to 10th November 1938 pogroms were carried out by the Nazi regime with popular support all over the territories of then Nazi Germany. Almost a hundred Jews were killed, roughly 30.000 Jews were deported to concentration camps and countless synagogues were burnt or destroyed all over todays Germany and Austria.
In order to commemorate these events, a high-level round table entitled “Lessons learned?
Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism in 2008”was held in the Vienna
Hofburg on 10 November 2008. Upon invitation of the Austrian Chairmanship of the
International Holocaust Task Force (ITF) and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights representatives of various International Organisations introduced their activities in the field of Holocaust Remembrance and the fight against Antisemitism.
Professor Yehuda Bauer, Honorary Chairman of the ITF, opened the event with an
impressive keynote speech on the historical background of the November progroms. He
concluded:” There are repetitions that hark back to the genocide of the Jews. The Shoah was unprecedented. But it was a precedent, and that precedent is being followed. We should do everything we can to stop that”
Further statements were given by:
• Ambassador Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff, Austrian Chair of the Holocaust Task Force
• Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, Director of the OSCE/ODIHR
• The Right Hon Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
• Morten Kjærum, Director of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency
• Maher Nasser on behalf of Prof. Francis Deng, UN Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide
• Marcello Scarone Azzi, Programme Specialist, Division of Human Rights, Human
Security and Philosophy, UNESCO.
This round table was regarded as very helpful, as it brought together, for the first time, high level representatives of these organizations to exchange information but also to express their commitment to enter into closer cooperation in this field.
As a first step a letter of intent was signed by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Right Hon. Terry Davies and the Chair of ITF. The letter and the following Memorandum of Understanding shall ensure close co-operation between the two international institutions on the issues of Holocaust remembrance and fighting Anti-Semitism, xenophobia and extremism and on ensuring human rights.

Vienna: Council of Europe and Holocaust Task Force will cooperate

The Council of Europe and the International Holocaust Task Force (ITF) signed a declaration of intent to team up in the combat against anti-Semitism at European level on 10 November 2008. Terry Davis, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, and Ferdinand Trauttmannsdorff, ITF Chairman, signed the agreement that is to become a model for Europe.

According to Trauttmannsdorff, the negotiations would start still this year as Austria was holding the ITF chair. First concrete results were expected by 2010. Davis mentioned a planned campaign against racism in key media at European level, which was to be more focused than the campaigns of the past years. As Hans Winkler, Secretary of State in the Foreign Ministry, explained, there was a “moral duty to ensure that future generations understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect on the consequences“.
Moreover, Terry Davis was awarded the Grand Golden Medal of Honour with Ribbon for Meritorious Service to the Republic of Austria in Vienna on 10 November 2008 by Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. “He has contributed decisively to the success of the Council of Europe in promoting its goals on our continent”. The Council of Europe provided an all-European institutional framework for the further development of democracy and the rule of law as well as the protection of human rights.

In the night from 9 to 10 November 1938 pogroms against Jewish citizens had taken place in all regions occupied by the Nazis. In Austria alone 30 Jews were killed, 7,800 were arrested and about 4,000 were deported immediately from Vienna to the Dachau concentration camp. The pogroms are considered by many historians as the beginning of the Shoa, the systematic annihilation of the Jewish population.

Austrian Ministry of European and International Affairs

Winkler: "Current forms of anti-Semitism should be increasingly addressed"
State Secretary Hans Winkler at an international round table on

Vienna, 10 November 2008 – "Anti-Semitism is still a social problem that needs to be taken seriously. It has not remained a historical phenomenon, but can, unfortunately, still be repeatedly observed today. No country is immune to revisionism, anti-Semitism and extremism," said State Secretary Hans Winkler at a high-calibre round table discussion at the Hofburg Palace on "Lessons learnt? Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism in 2008". The meeting was organised by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the International Holocaust Task Force (ITF) to mark the 70th anniversary of the anti-Semitic November pogroms.

"Due to its unprecedented nature the holocaust will be of universal significance for all time. However, we must not restrict ourselves to the discussion of historical forms of anti-Semitism, but must critically address current forms of anti-Semitism in academic and social terms as well. We all have the moral obligation to see to it that future generations also understand the causes of the holocaust and think about its consequences. This requires endeavours at all levels and in all areas, ranging from politics to civil society. Without any doubt, an indispensable prerequisite for this is easier access to information, studies and findings; information that has to be made available to an interested audience through the different media. In this context the work with contemporary eyewitnesses is of immeasurable value," stated Winkler, highlighting the work of the International Holocaust Task Force and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Austria currently chairs the ITF.

Winkler reminded his audience that when joining the ITF, the members declared their commitment to the "Stockholm Declaration", which, among other things, provides for the implementation and increased promotion of national policies and programmes in support of education and research in the field of the holocaust and its commemoration. "Prospects are good that things can be changed. But we have to act in concert and acknowledge the appalling truth of the holocaust vis-à-vis all those who deny it," stated Winkler. As the State Secretary explicitly emphasised: "The Austrian law banning Nazi activities is and remains an indispensable part of our legal system. It does not serve to restrict freedom of opinion but must be understood in the light of our own historical experience. Never again must we allow an ideology to circulate that aims at the humiliation, dehumanisation and, ultimately, the extinction of a population group."

Federal Ministry for European
and International Affairs
Mag. Katharina Swoboda
Office of the State Secretary
Tel.: +43 (0) 50 1150-3469


International Holocaust Task Force (
Austrian Chairmanship

Combating anti-Semitism

High-level round table on 10 November 2008 in Vienna
VIENNA, 10 November 2008
In the night of 9th to 10th November 1938 pogroms were carried out by the Nazi regime with popular support all over the territories of then Nazi Germany. Almost a hundred Jews were killed, roughly 30.000 Jews were deported to concentration camps and countless synagogues were burnt or destroyed all over todays Germany and Austria.
In order to commemorate these events, a high-level round table entitled “Lessons learned?
Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism in 2008”was held in the Vienna
Hofburg on 10 November 2008. Upon invitation of the Austrian Chairmanship of the
International Holocaust Task Force (ITF) and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights representatives of various International Organisations introduced their activities in the field of Holocaust Remembrance and the fight against Antisemitism.
Professor Yehuda Bauer, Honorary Chairman of the ITF, opened the event with an
impressive keynote speech on the historical background of the November progroms. He
concluded:” There are repetitions that hark back to the genocide of the Jews. The Shoah was unprecedented. But it was a precedent, and that precedent is being followed. We should do everything we can to stop that”
Further statements were given by:
• Ambassador Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff, Austrian Chair of the Holocaust Task Force
• Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, Director of the OSCE/ODIHR
• The Right Hon Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
• Morten Kjærum, Director of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency
• Maher Nasser on behalf of Prof. Francis Deng, UN Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide
• Marcello Scarone Azzi, Programme Specialist, Division of Human Rights, Human
Security and Philosophy, UNESCO.
This round table was regarded as very helpful, as it brought together, for the first time, high level representatives of these organizations to exchange information but also to express their commitment to enter into closer cooperation in this field.
As a first step a letter of intent was signed by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Right Hon. Terry Davies and the Chair of ITF. The letter and the following Memorandum of Understanding shall ensure close co-operation between the two international institutions on the issues of Holocaust remembrance and fighting Anti-Semitism, xenophobia and extremism and on ensuring human rights.

Year of Commemoration Focusing on November Pogrom in the Graz City Museum

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (07/23/08)

Year of Commemoration Focusing on November Pogrom
in the Graz City Museum

Four Exhibitions on NS Rule, Resistance and Persecution beginning September 10

Graz – On the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the November Pogrom in 1938, the Graz City Museum is focusing on a commemorative event which reflects the years of the Anschluß and the period after. The exhibition, “Un:sichtbar,” (“In:visible”), will serve as the core of the event and target NS rule, persecution and resistance in Styria.

“The exhibition will ask the question how visible or invisible was prior history, history and the aftermath of National Socialism in Styira,” says Heimo Halbrainer from the Graz Historical Association Clio, who together with other historians conceptualized the exhibition. Emphasis will be on resistance and persecution but also the question as to how the State, based on rule of law, handled the successors of NS culture after 1945; in other words, how did something like a public culture of remembrance develop.

Installed in a room in the basement of the City Museum will be an installation by Carinthian artist Ernst Logar entitled, “Execution of the Glance,” in remembrance of the fate of his grandfather who was executed during the last days of NS regime. Also beginning September 10, biographies of Graz’s politicians who were active between 1934 and 1945 can be viewed in the Landhaushof located in the Herrengasse.
After November 5 one will be able to listen to “Stories of Survival,” depicting life stories and stories of survivors of the Jewish people of Graz who were persecuted during the time of National Socialism.

For further information, see: or

Vienna‘s Jewish Museum Elated over 1.2 Million in Visitors in Fifteen Years

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (11/17/2008)

Vienna‘s Jewish Museum Elated over 1.2 Million in Visitors in Fifteen Years

Vienna’s Jewish Museum, located in the city’s center, is currently celebrating fifteen years of existence. Since its opening by former mayor Helmut Zilk and his Jerusalem colleague, Teddy Kollek, some 1.2 million visitors have visited the museum. Director Karl Albrecht-Weinberger revealed that the museum has presented some 150 exhibitions. During the course of the anniversary week, apart from special programs, the bicycle of Theodor Herzl can be viewed on the occasion of the anniversary program, which will take place from November 18 – 23. Moreover, there will be special tours, free-of-charge, as well as an evening with Michael Heltau on November 20 who will read from the novel, “Radetzkymarch” by Joseph Roth.

At the same time the program for the 2009 season was introduced, whereby focus will be on diverse topics. Among other things, there will be an exhibit on the expelled composer Hanns Eisler (“Man and Matter”), a cultural and historical discussion with the Jewish Alpinism (“Have You Seen my Alps?”) as well as a multimedia work on stereotypes (“typical! Clicheés of Jews and Others”). Moreover, the Torberg exhibit will be extended to about one more month, namely until March 8, 2009.

In a 160-page memorial publication one will be able to read about which exhibits have been presented by the museum over the last fifteen years. It contains also a lengthy and detailed description of the museum and its history.


Fifteen years of Jewish Museum Vienna

Federal Chancellery (12/01/08)

Fifteen years of Jewish Museum Vienna

The Jewish Museum situated in Vienna’s city centre is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. The premises in Palais Eskeles were inaugurated on 18 November 1993 by Vienna’s recently deceased former Mayor Helmut Zilk and his counterpart from Jerusalem Teddy Kollek. In his overview of the past on 17 November 2008 Director Karl Albrecht-Weinberger stated that since the opening about 1.2 million visitors had been welcomed to 150 exhibitions.

The programme of the anniversary week (17 to 23 November 2008) comprises a number of special projects and events, including an Open Day. A commemorative publication has also been issued. A new permanent loan can be admired for the first time: the bicycle of Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism.
Herzl’s “Velociped“ had been made available to the Jewish Museum by the Altaussee Literature Museum, explained Museum head Albrecht-Weinberger. He described the exhibition rooms as an important place of commemoration and remembrance.
Vienna’s Executive Councillor for Culture Andreas Mailath-Pokorny pointed out that in the opening year 1993 there had only been “an emerging awareness of Austria’s role in National Socialism”. The Jewish Museum was a visible sign of the efforts to find a different approach towards history. “The history of the culture of this city would be inconceivable without the Jewish contribution“, Mailath-Pokorny stated.
The Museum’s treasures predominantly come from collections of the Jewish Religious Community (IKG), including exhibits of the first Jewish Museum (which was forcefully closed in 1938) as well as objects from those synagogues and houses of prayer in Vienna that were still existing after the November pogrom. A selection was displayed during the anniversary week. On 20 November 2008 Michael Heltau read from Joseph Roth’s novel “Radetzky March“.

The annual programme for the season 2009 will – just like in the past – cover a wide range of themes. Among the projects are a show about the displaced composer Hanns Eisler (“Individualist and Collectivist“), a cultural-historical analysis of Jewish Alpinism (“Have you seen my Alps?“) as well as a multimedia confrontation with stereo-types (“typical! Clichés about Jews and Others“). The current Torberg exhibition has been extended until 8 March 2008.

Austria’s Largest Jewish School

Die Presse (09/18/2008)

Austria’s Largest Jewish School

Opening. The Perez-Chajes School with 600 children opened their doors.

Vienna – Children are running through the halls, others are sitting in their classrooms studying while a teacher rushes by. Daily routine has settled in at the Zwi-Perez-Chajes School (ZPC) in the 2nd district, recently inaugurated by Federal President Heinz Fischer.

The private Jewish school, offering instruction to children in kindergarten, elementary school and high school, can accommodate up to 600 school children. That makes it the largest Jewish school in Austria and “largest of its kind in Europe,” explained president of the Vienna Jewish Community Ariel Muzicant.

Currently enrolled in the Zwi-Perez-Chajes School are some 380 children who, due to lack of space, were forced to relocate from the Castellezgasse in the Augarten to Simon-Wiesenthal-Gasse near the Prater stadium. The number of school children attending the school is expected to increase to 500 within the next two years.

Apart from required subjects such as mathematics and German, children are instructed in the Jewish tradition. “Children begin learning at the age of three,” says Muzicant. Kosher food is served; Jewish holidays are observed and the boys wear the Kippa or skullcap; school uniform is mandatory; instruction is partly in Hebrew; and coursework is often interdisciplinary, with comparisons drawn to Jewish history. “The school children are to be taught a sense of Jewish pride and self-confidence. We teach Judaism without forcing it on a child.”

The cost of the modern building, consisting of 28,000 square meters and made of steel and glass, is some 16 million euros. Four million came from the Federation, four million from the City of Vienna, 4.57 million from the Vienna Jewish Community and the rest was raised through donations and grants.

The Jewish school, open to children between the ages of one-and-a-half to 18, is not the only sign of a new Jewish identity observed in the 2nd district. The Jewish sports club Hakoah shares its sports field with the school. Also currently under construction is the Jewish home for assisted living, the Maimonides Center.

Seisenbacher’s Ambition, Hakoah’s Good Fortune

Der Standard (09/27-28/08)

Seisenbacher’s Ambition, Hakoah’s Good Fortune
Fritz Neumann

Judo is a magnificent example of the comeback of Hakoah, located in Vienna’s Prater district. Two-time Olympic winner Peter Seisenbacher, for whom the competitive sport was “only an episode,” is ready and willing to go.
Vienna – “What was that all about, Aaron?” Aaron doesn’t quite know himself. “You’re not supposed to be touch slightly your opponent with your foot.” Aaron throws a quizzical look. “You’re supposed to pull back his legs – like this!” Suddenly little Aaron feels himself grabbed by the neck; he feels how one positions his leg from behind, how big, strong hands are placed at his back. Now Aaron has an idea what is meant.

The person commenting and demonstrating how it should be done is a second-time Olympic winner. With Peter Seisenbacher committed to the Hakoah Sports Club, one really has succeeded in making the right decision. Ever since the new Hakoah Center in Vienna’s Prater district opened its doors half a year ago, Seisenbacher couldn’t wait to start. Many school children from his old domain in the Blattgasse in Vienna’s 3rd district followed him, and new school children are still coming. Training is from Monday through Thursday; some come one time per week; others four times per week. The beginners start in the afternoon; practice for the advanced group often goes until the early part of the evening. The gymnasium, which also serves for basketball practice, can be separated into three individual spaces.

The Little Fighters

Judo is not a popular sport of the masses. Seisenbacher’s gold medals in 1984 in Los Angeles and in 1988 in Seoul have changed nothing. “But among children,” he says, “the sport is very popular.” Many clubs are cooperating with schools. Many parents hope that their children get all the energy out of their systems and don’t have to be convinced about having to go to bed at night. Hakoah offers Judo to children beginning at pre-school age. Seisenbacher calls it the “Judo playground.” For one-half hour the children romp about, then work on coordination, learning to roll and fall properly. “Real combat begins at the elementary school level.”

“It has to sound like a bang!” “Give it all you have!” “Don’t fall asleep!” Coach Seisenbacher gives it all he has. After having resigned from his athletic career, he was secretary general of Sporthilfe assistance before working with Hakoah. His Vienna “Budoclub” was founded in 1984. This club, located in the Budo center, still serves as an alternative to fall back on. Where does the forty-eight year-old get his will and ambition twenty years later for training children, when he knows that ninety-nine percent of the sport falls by the wayside? He says that the competitive sport is “only an episode in the life of the Judoka,” and that it’s about “wanting to give something back.”

If one looks at the last twenty-five years, then Judo is the most successful of all local summer sports. Apart from the two gold medals earned by Seisenbacher, there were two silver medals during the Olympics in 2004 (Claudia Heill), and in 2008 (Ludwig Paischer) and one bronze medal in 1984 (Josef Reiter). What’s lacking in making it a national sport? Seisenbacher says “Judo is not tennis.” Adults find it much more difficult than children to be thrown over and fall down on one’s back. Moreover, Judo cannot possibly fascinate the broad masses of people. “Two experts face off with each other. One wants to surprise the other. And when he succeeds, then often only the second combatant understands the reasons for it. And not a single person watching ever saw what happened or understood why.

Big Plans

Nevertheless, S.C. Hakoah has a lot of plans for the future, also for Judo. In the planning for November is a mutual tournament between the two countries of Austria and Israel. Seisenbacher can imagine putting together a group that will apply to join the national league and then will climb up to the Federal league. Until today, Hakoahner have made a name for themselves as individual combatants in various divisions. A club, however, which is fighting in club tournaments needs to have fighters in all weight classes.

NS Crimes Against the „Inferior“

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (07/02/2008)

NS Crimes Against the „Inferior“
Exhibition at Steinhof Reopened

Hospital was the center of NS medicine in Vienna aimed at killing

Vienna – The permanent exhibition, “The War Against the Inferior,” in Vienna’s Otto Wagner Hospital on “The History of NS Medicine in Vienna” was inaugurated. It depicts the killing of 7,500 people in the hospital, which was a mental institution and became Vienna’s center for NS medicine aimed at murder. It was there in the hospital ward, “Am Spiegelgrund,” where 800 children and young people were killed.

With displays, photos and exhibits – sealed under two glass display cabinets in which children’s brains were kept decades long for research purposes provides documentation in Pavillon V of how NS medicine took over the excision of “inferior” humans. A provisional exhibit has been in existence since 2002, created during the burial of 600 victims of “child euthanasia,” but was never meant to be permanent.
At the opening of the exhibition, Health Minister Sonja Wehsely spoke of the inhuman role medicine played during the NS era. It is the “biggest wound,” which physician and head of Spiegelgrund Heinrich Gross made a career out of after the war. He died before he would be convicted. Wehsely offered a special welcome to the survivor of the “killing machine,” Friedrich Zawrel, who contributed by assuring that this crime didn’t remain forgotten.

City Counsellor for Culture Andreas Mailalth-Pokorny spoke of the difficulties in dealing with “absolute evil.” The exhibition is not about revenge or reconciliation but rather about “belated remembrance.”

Hannah Lessing of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism emphasized that the “Spiegelgrund children” were not only repressed for years but were really forgotten victims up until the 1990s.

The exhibition reflects the latest stand on research, claimed Brigitte Bailer of the Documentation Archives of Austrian Resistance. Documented is also the role of science, particularly Anthropology. It reveals the killing of 3,200 patients during “AktionT4” in Hartheim and the “euthanasia” that ensued due to neglect and malnutrition of 3,500 people who fell victim to the hospital.

The reopening of the exhibition cost some 50,000 Euros. Currently it is open during the week and consideration is being paid to extending hours to weekends.

Music from Theresienstadt Performed

Austrian Press Agency (06/17/2008)

Music from Theresienstadt Performed
First Chamber Music Festival in Schloss Laudon

Works from the concentration camp by expelled composers will be presented over the course of five evenings from August 11 – 17

The simple answer to the question why there should be another summer program of concerts in Wien-Penzing: “Because in Vienna there is nothing being performed in August.” While summer festivals prefer to take place outside the city and because Vienna is overflowing with “tourist concerts,” the aron quartett invites one to a series of concerts with “great but intentionally-forgotten music from August 11 -17 in the Wasserschloss Laudon in the western part of Vienna, emphasized the initiator Peter Weinberger during a press conference today.

He is referring to the chamber music by composers who were either expelled or murdered by the Nazi regime. They form the heart of the festival and will be juxtaposed in the form of a “deliberate cultural restitution” from the classics of concert literature. Hanns Eisler, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart start off the series with Finnish pianist, Henri Sigfirdsson, also invited by the aron quartett. Under the title, “America” they will dedicate the evening to Austrian composers who found a new home in Los Angeles, performing works by Eric Zeisl and Korngold, contrasted with those written by Arnold Schönberg and Antonin Dvorak.

At the center of the program is the evening, “Theresienstadt,” in which the aron quartett, together with pianist Manfred Wagner-Artzt and tenor Alexander Kaimbacher, will perform works by Viktor Ullmann, Hans Krasa, Gideon Klein and Pavel Hass written in the concentration camp. The history of Ullmann’s ‘String Quartett Nr. 3’ serves as an example of the fate of this music. It was composed only a few months before the deportation and murder of Ullmann in Auschwitz-Birkenau, kept against the will of the composer who wanted to have his works destroyed. There are many more works, such as the quartets one and two from Ullmann, which we don’t know at all,” said the violist Georg Hamann. Important to emphasize is that it is not so much the tragic fate of the composers that make these piece worth hearing but rather the fact that this “great music would have survived if history hadn’t intervened.”

The festival is also striving to offer reflection on the artistic works that were created in Theresienstadt by including a conversation with a survivor of Theresienstadt, Rudolf Gelbard. “It deeply saddens me that there is still today a pseudo, ‘kitchig’ picture of Theresienstadt held also among people of good will,” said Gelbard, who tries to “make adjustments to the myth of concentration camp culture.” It is natural to recognize that the prisoners escaped their fate through music and philosophy, that they “live on” through their music; one must never forget, however, the reality of the Holocaust. “Theresienstadt can only be seen in connection with the annhiliation of European Jewry,” warned Gelbard, also and particularly when wishing to honor the quality of the music.

Involuntary Passage to Mauritius

Die Presse (06/17/2008)

Involuntary Passage to Mauritius
Norbert Mayer

”Boarding Pass to Paradise“ – An exemplary exhibition on the exodus during WW II

It is a sad story. “I will hang up my marionettes,” said Fritz Haendel on January 7, 1945 to his friends Béda and Hanna Mayer, together with whom he managed to flee the Nazis in 1940. They had hoped to reach Palestine, which was at the time administered by the British, but wound up in Mauritius. Haendel takes some strong wire and leaves his workshop, recall his friends. Shortly thereafter they discover he had hung himself. “He made sketches of funny little pictures, thinking all the while about death,” writes Hanna.

The caricaturist, graphic artist and performer of marionettes Fritz (Bedrich) Haendel (1910-1945) and the painter Peretz Béda Mayer (1906-2002) are not world famous artists, but their fate is exemplary of the exodus resulting from terror perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews in Europe. The two friends have documented their journey from Pressburg/Bratislava via the Donau to Mauritius like a diary. Their notes and pictures reflect the noticeable fear but also the unconditional will to survive and the humor that emerged from time to time even during such precarious times.

The poignant exhibition “Boarding Pass to Paradise,” (curator, Elena Makarova) can be seen until the end of July in the Schifffahrtszentrum. Dominating the exhibition are the artistic works of the refugees which cast off from Vienna in September 1940 on the overcrowded “Schönbrunn,” and with the help of two other steamboats, brought 1,500 passengers to the Black Sea. In addition photographs, files and personal objects help to illustrate the adventurous voyage. It was on the “Schönbrunn” that Mayer and Haendel met and fostered a friendship. From Tulcea they sailed further on the “Atlantic,” which then headed for the port of Haifa. The British, however, refused the Jews’ request to remain in Palestina and shipped them to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. It was no paradise for the refugees who remained in internment until 1945.

The pictures of Mayer, who made a living as kindergarten teacher, carpenter and painter, remind one of Chagall’s later paintings, such as “Man with the Head of a Bird” or “Birth and Death” have something threatening about them. Again and again also self-portraits and masks: “I and My Shadow” is the name of one such morbid work. Offering an explanation of his paintings, the aging artist claims that he is painting dreams.

Distraction from Despair

In contrast, Haendel’s sketch books appear light and ironic. He makes fun of the gruff Greek captain and the many spontaneous marriages. A fitting satire in the form of a cartoon deals with “Motke Blitz,” whose humor comes from his stolid, greedy character. The puppet show distracts from feelings of doubt. At the end of 1943 Haendel writes to his brother that for more than half a year he almost never sketches anymore. “That expresses best the psychic condition in which I find myself.”

Keep on Traveling, Away from Death

Die Presse (06/17/2008)

Keep on Traveling, Away from Death
Barbara Petsch

Jewish Museum. “Modernists on the Run“ focuses on artists who were expelled by the Nazis. Another exhibition is dedicated to the Hakoah Sports Club, to which Friedrich Torberg also belonged.

Erika Mann appears as a tourist guide. In a short film sequence (1932), Thomas Mann’s daughter speaks in glowing terms of an adventure she had in Morocco. Beaming, she reports about the voyage and having come across a caravan. Despite the exuberance, there was something uncanny about the advertising spot: The exhibition shown in the Jewish Museum is called “Modernists on the Run.” When Erika exclaims, “keep traveling!,” the viewer knows that many of these travels took place under circumstances in which lives were imperiled.

Michael Curtiz’s famous melodrama “Casablanca,” filmed in 1942 with Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, was not only a U.S. propaganda film against the Nazis, but also featured the many refugees at that time. A scene taken from the film is part of the exhibition: A glamorous woman asks the waiter whether he can persuade Rick, owner of the coffee house played by Bogart, to come join her at her table. No, says the waiter. Rick never drinks with guests. Even not with an important banker? No, they are sitting around here a dime a dozen, says the waiter…..

Otto Bauer, Walter Bondy, Willy Eisenschitz, Lisette Model, Trude Fleischmann, Lilly Joss Reich – many of the names today have been forgotten. Not all of them fled to France because of the Nazis but emigrated because of the arts scene. With NS occupation, the country soon lost its charm and was no longer able to offer any security. There were very few artists that devoted their art to confronting the catastrophe. One exception was Lilly Steiner and her apocalyptical painting of the Anschluß. Under a dull and dismal sky, a woman is suddenly confronted with flaming red poppies jumping out at her; in the background stands Stephansdom. The painting is entitled, “Baroque Composition,” from the year 1938.

The Best Are the Photos

The selection of paintings and artists appears somewhat arbitrarily. Human fate touches one more than the paintings. It is the photographs that captivate the viewer the most. Art creates freedom for the woman in Steiner’s painting. Dora Kallmus painted famous portraits of Franz Werfel, Karl Kraus, the dancer Anna Pawlowna, as well as the bestseller (“Gigi”) Colette (1837-1954), who with tightened lips and unkempt hair stares mask-like into the camera, creating an especially bizarre-like effect. After the war Kallmus made poignant photographs of refugees and their despair and produced a series of strange slaughterhouses.

In a ghost-like black and white painting, Hans Popper depicted the Hippodrome in Prater. Edmund Engelmann photographed Sigmund Freund’s study taken from Vienna’s Freud Museum in the Berggasse. From occupied France, many succeeded in fleeing to the U.S., such as Lisette Model, who caused a furor over her strange photos, like the one of a dry, harsh-looking lady with veil taken in San Francisco in the year 1949, or that of a grotesque 150 kilo woman from Nice taken in 1934.

Paintings reflect trends of the time and one of the most famous artists is the surrealist, Wolfgang Paalen. Like many of his colleagues, he comes from an upper middle class milieu. Together with Marcel Duchamp, Paalen put together an exhibition entitled ‘International Surrealism,’ held in the Galerie des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1938. A huge black hill fills the painting, “Forbidden Country” (1936/37); on top of a range of mountains is perched a gaunt female bird and a green stalagmite. On the other side of the mountain are flaming bullets hurling through the air. Following an odyssey which leaves its impression on many of the biographies presented in the exhibition, Paalen committed suicide in 1959. Very few artists returned to Vienna after the war.

Painter Robert Kohl died in one of the Auschwitz concentration camps; Walter Bondy, depicted in a melancholic self-portrait, died in 1940 after refusing to take insulin for diabetes. Out of fear of being arrested by France’s police, he slept in bed with his clothes on.

Saved by the Foreign Legion
Among the more or less prominent personalities captured in the catalogue is also that of a very simple Jewish shoemaker named Leon Österreicher. He sought asylum in France, worked on farms, joined the Foreign Legion, eked out a living by becoming a miner and was finally interned, an event that ruined his health. He was only forty-one years old when he died in Lyon in 1951.

Another exhibition held in the Jewish Museum is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Jewish Sports Club, Hakoah (meaning “strenghth” in Hebrew). During the years when the first Austrian team of Hakoah football players went to the U.S. tournament in 1926 and 1927, the club offered training for all types of sports. To this day Hakoah plays a very important role in community life. One of the most important members was writer and critic Friedrich Torberg (1908-1979). Beginning September 17, 2008 until February 1, 2009, the Jewish Museum will dedicate an exhibition celebrating his 100th anniversary.

House of History Looks to U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as Model

Austrian Press Agency (07/21/08)

House of History Looks to U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as Model

Vienna – Lengthy discussion surrounding Austria’s “House of History” (“Haus der Geschichte”) now has an international standard after which to model itself. According to the call for bids announcing the concept to be implemented which was presented to the Austrian Press Agency, the project will look to orienting itself toward the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The award procedure which begins in June is already in the second phase, until January 2009 when a final concept is presented.

Furthermore, the Federal Chancellery states that the “smaller federal museums” might provide the project size. Among those are the MAK Vienna or the MUMOK. According to statistics, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has some 1.7 million visitors each year. Since its establishment in 1993, about 23 million people have visited the museum, among which eight million are schoolchildren, states the homepage ( In terms of financing, its extremely difficult to offer a comparison since the model in the U.S. lives a great deal from private donations.
Until September 15, every firm that made into the second round should present a basic concept. The applications are international, says the Federal Chancellery. How many there are one is not allowed to say due to the situation of the competition. End of April of this year, the the Federal Government agreed in the Council of Ministers to commission a museum’s advisory firm with detailed planning for the House of History. “Professional developers of museums should not only evaluate and recommend potential locations, but also produce the museum’s content and didactic concepts.

Remembrance of the NS Era in Film

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (08/21/2008)

Remembrance of the NS Era in Film
Summer Cinema at Schloss Hartheim

Four evenings shed light on the role of medicine during National Socialism and Post-war Austria

Linz – This year’s summer cinema at the “Place of Learning and Remembrance” in Schloss Hartheim in Upper Austria will dedicate its movie screenings from August 25 – 29 to the theme of medicine in NS and post-war film. Screenings of “Paracelsus” (Germany, 1942/43) and “The Murderer Among Us” (Germany, 1946) will be commented on by well-known researchers. The cinema exists since the 2005 Year of Remembrance and is organized by the association “im-fokus.”

On four separate evenings, films will be presented from the years 1939 to 1946, having medicine and the position of physicians as theme. The film will depict the diverse representation and approach taken by physicians at the time to the medical career through means of historization and heroization. The films don’t deal with NS propaganda material promoting destruction of “invaluable life;” rather, they are classical feature films, said the organizer.


Jewish Welcome Service of Vienna

Austrian Press Agency (08/28/2008)

Jewish Welcome Service of Vienna
Visit of Expelled Jewish Citizens

Vienna – The Jewish Welcome Service in Vienna is inviting a group of former Viennese who were expelled by the National Socialists to a one-week visit to Vienna from August 31 to September 7, 2008. The guests come from the USA, Australia, Canada, England, Israel as well as Argentina and Uruguay. Most of the guests are being accompanied by their children and grandchildren. Altogether some seventy people will be in Vienna this week upon invitation from the Jewish Welcome Service. This year marks the fourth largest group invited by the service. Financing in 2008 came with support of the Federal Chancellery as well as the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria. The Jewish Welcome Service has organized an extensive visitor’s program including visits with Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer and a tour of Vienna’s City Hall.

Jewish Welcome Service Founded in 1980

The organization was founded in 1980 upon initiative of former mayor Leopold Gratz and city counsellor Heinz Nittel, together with Leon Zelman who died in July, 2007. Current president is the mayor of the City of Vienna; the work of Leon Zelman has been continued by Susanne Trauneck as Secretary General. The Jewish Welcome Service has extended the program of inviting expelled Austrian Jewish citizens, in addition to second and third generation Shoah survivors, for over twenty-five years. Moreover, the organization maintains numerous projects in the field of child and adult education as well as an information office for visitors to Vienna. In 2008 the Jewish Welcome Service is supporting, among other projects, the Servitengasse 1938 in the 9th district, Herklotzgasse 21 in the 15th district and the remembrance project in the Radetzkyschule in the 3rd district.
For information, see:

Poet with a Flash of Genius and Correspondence Artist

Der Standard (9/16/2008)

Poet with a Flash of Genius and Correspondence Artist
Daniela Strigl

The title of the exhibition is “The Dangers of Versatility,” which Vienna’s Jewish Museum has chosen to honor Friedrich Torberg. One hundred years ago today the author, feature writer and critic was born in Vienna.

Vienna – The matinee performance in the Theater in der Josefstadt was sold out. Its organizer, Miguel Herz-Kestranek, would give a dacapo – let him. It wasn’t the theater which organized the reading; the actor had to lease the theater. There is apparently a discrepancy between Friedrich Torberg’s degree of popularity with the public and his official reputation. The Burgtheater has forgotten the former national prize winner; the Jewish Museum is doing an exhibition, naming it, however, somewhat disrespectively “The Dangers of Versatility,” because Torberg was critical enough to attest to the same things about himself.

Native-born, passionate Viennese, who caused a fury in 1930 with the grandiose debut of his novel, “Der Schüler Gerber hat absolviert”, was also a lyricist, feature writer, sports commentator, writer of cabaret, translator, critic, impersonator and theater critic with an unrivaled flash of genius. Like he said, because he “never failed to be convincing,” he kept juggling his many talents until the end of his life in 1979. Moreover, Torberg wrote some 50,000 letters – “organically untreatable short letters” – which is proof of a rare art of correspondence. The highly amusing exchange of letters with Marlene Dietrich (the two had a close, fond, but platonic friendship) and with Ephraim Kishon have just now appeared on the market, making Torberg popular as translator in German-speaking countries.

In the eyes of younger readers, however, this all fades - even the flourishing figure of “Tante Jolesch” (1975) fades before the “Brecht Boycott.” From 1953 to 1958, none of Bertold Brecht’s pieces were played in Austria because Friedrich Torberg and Hans Weigel wanted it so. The Social Democrat Torberg meant this to be an expression of his commitment to speaking out against totalitarianism, in which Austria during the coldest period of the Cold War was dangerously near during Soviet occupation: “I am not against Brecht. I am against Brechtococcus.”

Wit and Water Polo

As publisher of the excellent monthly mazagine, “FORVM,” indirectly financed by the CIA, he confessed to the cultural war directed against genuine and imaginable Communists, (Thomas Mann, Hilde Spiel), criticized and set about scheming out of personal conviction. As an informer, he certainly didn’t allow himself to be villainized with impunity.

Marcel Atze and Marcus G. Patka, neither in their exhibition nor in their comprehensive catalogue, devalued the many good sides of Friedrich Torberg. Thus, the “last German-Jewish writer” lets himself be newly discovered according to one’s own view, whether as a language virtuoso with sharp wit or as successful water polo player, who was the checoslovakian champion in 1928 with Hagibor-Prag.

In 1921 the son of the businessman Alfred Kantor moved to Prague, where he failed his high school studies. With help of Kafka’s friend, Max Brod, he began his literary career under the pen name Torberg. He was accepted in Vienna in Karl Kraus’ illustrious circle. His emigration took him to Hollywood and New York. With his return to Austria in 1951, he wrote to the all-too-conciliatory Hans Weigel that he was prepared “to look upon the balance sheet as zero,” provided he is welcome to those who stayed behind as an Austrian and a Jew

Torberg had no illusions about anti-Semitism, one of the “integral characteristics of the Austrian nature” and is still the example of an all-round successful remigration. He severely criticized the mildness of which Justice meted out punishment of NS criminals, at the same delved again into the world of the k.u.k Monarchy, whereby he allowed for the staging of the “Decline of the West in Anecdotes” with striking reminiscence and perfect punch lines.

Biographer David Axmann writes that as a true giant of literature, the confessed conservative doesn’t belong “in second class, but sits certainly way up front.” His books written in exile, Hier bin ich, mein Vater and Mein ist die Rache deal stirringly with the problem of individual morals during the time of NS dictatorship.

The novel, Die Mannschaft, and the short novel, Der letzte Ritt des Jockeys Matteo, the highpoint of Herz-Kestranek’s brilliant reading, are model examples of sportsman’s literature. They are all worth reading.

Vienna’s Central Cemetery is the Second Largest Graveyard in Europe

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (11/04/2008)

Vienna’s Central Cemetery is the Second Largest Graveyard in Europe

Some 330,000 graves containing three million dead

Vienna – The central cemetery, opened in year 1874, where Vienna’s former mayor Helmut Zilk was buried on Saturday, is the second largest cemetery in Europe according to surface size. Hamburg-Ohlsdorf, 3.9 square kilometers, is considerably bigger. But Vienna’s cemetery contains three million dead, considerably more that that of Northern Germany’s cemetery with 1.7 million.

Vienna’s central cemetery, containing 330,000 graves was designed as an interdenominational cemetery, in which next to the Catholic portion, also the majority of other recognized religions have their particular areas. There is an old and a new Jewish cemetery, an evangelical cemetery and Islamic section as well as Romanian, Russian, Greek, Syrian and Coptic Orthodox. Since 2003 an area has been designated for Buddhists.

Vienna’s central cemetery is not only famous for its graves honoring some one thousand well-known personalities. An honorary grave represents in Vienna the highest decoration which the City can award beyond one’s death. Among others are composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven, members of the Strauß dynasty, Franz Schubert, Arnold Schönberg, as well as Falco. Among writers, there are Johann Nestroy, Franz Werfel and Karl Kraus. Architect Adolf Loos and also legendary actors Curd Jürgens, Paul Hörbiger and Hans Moser have also found their lasting peace at the cemetary. The same can be said for Federal presidents since 1945, who have been buried in their own crypts.

The central cemetery was constructed after the strong growth of the city in 1850. When the municipal cemeteries were deemed too small, the community council decided upon the location of the central cemetery to be in the district of Simmering and was opened on November 1, 1874.

Today the most excpetional architectural piece is Max Hegele’s Church of Saint Karl Borromäus, which was opened in 1910. In the vernacular, it is considered the most important Jugendstil church structure, often referred to as the Lueger-Kirche because beneath the main alter lies the crypt of the famous mayor, Karl Lueger. Architecturally interesting is also the fire hall of Simmering, opened in 1922 and built according the plans of Clemens Holzmeister.

Due to its size, the cemetery can be accessed by car for a minor fee. Moreover, since 1971, public transportation is available with bus number 106.

Vienna’s Faculty of Law Addresses the Impact of the Anschluss

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (11/25/2008)

Vienna’s Faculty of Law Addresses the Impact of the Anschluss

Exhibition “Erinnerungen im Exil – Exiled Memories” until December 12 in the Juridicum – Series of lectures planned for summer semester

Vienna – The Faculty of Law at the University of Vienna also experienced a “personal intrusion” at the time of the Anschluss in 1938, as head of the Institute for Philosophy of Law Richard Potz stated when speaking with the Austrian Press Agency. A “surprisingly large” number of official university staff had either to flee or lost their positions during the Nazi regime. The exhibition “Erinnerung im Exil – Exiled Memories” recalls what happened, the “intellectual loss” and the impact it had on the Faculty of Law in Vienna in those days. The exhibit is part of “Expelled Law,” which opened on Tuesday and will run until December 12 in the Juridicum at the University of Vienna.

Exhibited are installations by Karen Frosting, art historian and artist living in the USA. She is the daughter of Benjamin Frostig, an alumnus of the Faculty of Law who fled in 1938. After the death of the last of three Holocaust survivors in her family in 2004, she received, according to the University of Vienna, a pile of sixty-eight letters written by her grandparents who died in a concentration camp. Frostig’s grandparents wrote to their son, Benjamin Frostig, who received a doctorate of law and business from the Faculty of Law at the University of Vienna in 1936 and lived in exile in Cuba after 1938.

During the course of filing restitution applications to the Republic of Austria, Karen Frostig began to reconstruct her family story. Alongside the fate of her murdered grandparents, she began to research the expulsion of her father, Benjamin Frostig, (at the time a young lawyer) following his arrest in November 1938. “The contact with Austria, which was not always without friction, began to intensify.” In the meantime Frostig has taken on Austrian citizenship.

Frostig’s installation includes twelve panels. With the help of digitalization techniques, three of the panels consist of layered excerpts of letters, photos and motifs depicting mass executions, giving rise to a journey in time from 1938, the beginning of family exile, until 2008,” explained the University of Vienna.

According to the head of the institute, Potz, plans are being made for a series of lectures for summer semester 2009 which will highlight in detail the impact of National Socialism on individuals. It will be dedicated to the history of the faculty at the Institute of Law between 1938 and 1945. “What happened after 1945?” This is a question Potz would like to focus on in conclusion of the lecture series.

MAK Exhibition, “Recollecting”

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (12/02/2008)

MAK Exhibition, “Recollecting”
The Journey from Plunder to Restitution

Historical stations along the way track the history of art objects and their owners – contemporary artists contribute to the exhibition, “aktuelle Blicke”

Vienna – Looted art. What do these two words have in common? It is not a genre, it has no special style and belongs to no particular tradition. What the two words have in common is the unique fate of the human being from whom they have stolen, and that of the heirs, to whom that which was stolen will be returned; that is, in the best but not always the most frequent of cases. That is the “lender’s main focus and point of departure and,” said MAK director Peter Noever at today’s guided tour for the press when speaking about the exhibition, “Recollecting,” which will open tomorrow and run until February 15 in Vienna’s MAK center for art. “It cannot be compared to any other exhibit at this institution.”

A stride through the halls in search of art enjoyment is impossible since the “historical stations” build a kind of a labyrinth, depicting restituted works of art, such as paintings, porcelain, rugs, buttons, etc., next to documentation of the long and sad journey. The path from plunder to restitution is paved with bureaucracy – from official notifications to “Aryization,” by way of letters in which museum directors write of “unique opportunities,” or particularly low cost acquisitions, or requests for permission to export the art objects after the war.

Television screens which have been installed at each station along the way remind one that the exhibit is less about a documentary on historical crime than it is about its victims. “I am not an expert on art; I only know what I like,” said one of the heirs of Philipp Gomperz during an interview. Lucas Cranach’s “Madonna and Child in a Landscape” is exhibited once again in Vienna. The Imperial Governor of Vienna, Baldur von Schirach, took the paintings; his wife admitted after the war that it was burned when in fact its sale can be traced back to the U.S. in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The exhibition didn’t spare from retelling stories. It is an exhibition with a lot to read about and to understand that the current of history never ceases. It concerns only a selection of stories which never find their ending, because many cases that have been unresolved. For example, there is Richard Neumann, who is fighting for two valuable altar panels which were hanging in the Kunsthistorische Museum. His grandfather could have bought them back after the war only if they stayed within the country – and thus, he entrusted them to the museum under very unfavorable conditions. The exhibition is not always about valuable paintings; for example, there are glasses and porcelain elephants, button and cars, books, letters and textiles about which much is unknown; sometimes portions of a collection were signed over to the museum in exchange for the permission to take the rest out of the country or were put on permanent loan in the museum.

Finally, the exhibit is very much an historical documentation. For example, the Mauerbach auction, in which “unidentified property” from impoverished Holocaust survivors was auctioned off in 1966, hosted by MAK. For decades the Republic of Austria had stored the objects in the Kartause Mauerbach; in only very few cases were the objects restituted. Clues as to the owners of the unidentified property were not sufficiently followed up, revealing the fact that until now the researcher on restitution, Sophie Lillie, has had only photos to rely on when searching for the true owners. Years after the auction, (which was carried out by the Jewish Community Vienna together with Christie’s), it was considered too late, however.

For an exhibition to take place there where an Amerling painting once again slipped into the hands of others is something ironic about it. Nonetheless, the heirs of Wilhelm Freund, made their restituted “Medea” by Anselm Feuerbach available. Many more of the contemporary works here are a follow-up to the Mauerbach auction. Thus, Arye Wachsmuth and Sophie Lillie depict in one installation the reverse side of the objects, revealing crucial clues as ‘endless repetition’. The artist group, “Klub Zwei” show a video, “Too Little, Too Late.”

The artists, among them also Ines Doujak, Lisl Ponger and Maria Eichhorn, “committed themselves where they wanted to be,” and tried to offer a “real glimpse,” explained guest curator Alexandra Reininghaus. Sometimes this real glimpse is very simple and clear: Rainer Ganahl photographed the exhibited art objects which had already been restituted in their new and old home – as for example, above the bedroom chest, in a narrow hallway, or in the middle of a wall full of family photos, and in doing so, fulfills Peter Noever’s aim of giving a “signal against the renaissance of forgetting.” This exhibition cannot be about looking back at an historical phenomenon, but is rather a documentation of a certain time in history.

“Recollecting. Looted Art and Restitution” runs from December 15 – February 15, at the MAK Exhibition Hall. For more information, see:


MAK Catalogue,
Looted Art and Resitution
(12.03.2008 – 02.15.2009)
The show entitled “RECOLLECTING” presents art and everyday objects from Jewish possession and their history between robbery and restitution. Especially for the exhibition, new artworks were created which put this issue of controversial topicality in a present-day perspective.

The significance that restitution has for the heirs is linked with questions of cultural identity, history policy, individual recollection and the collective memory.

The show also casts light on exemplary aspects of the Nazi bureaucracy and its continuities in the Austrian restitution policy after 1945 as well as on the present-day practice of provenance research and active search for heirs as is currently being conducted by a number of Austrian museums and institutions.

The exhibition features both restituted objects and pieces whose rightful owners are still being searched. The about 100 loans come from private possession in Austria, Great Britain, Switzerland, and the USA as well as from museums and institutions in Austria and abroad and comprise pieces from former collections of paintings and porcelain, but also everyday items such as furniture, books, photographs, and even a car.

At the same time, 14 art projects informed by the restitution cases represented in the show will reflect subjects such as the Nazi bureaucracy of robbery, collection and family histories, and the present-day awareness of restitution.
Artists participating are Carola Dertnig, Ines Doujak, Arnold Dreyblatt, Maria Eichhorn, Vera Frenkel, Rainer Ganahl, Klub Zwei, Michaela Melián, Christian Phillip Müller, Lisl Ponger, Silke Schatz, Till Velten, Arye Wachsmuth/Sophie Lillie.

The MAK particularly qualifies as the venue of this exhibition since even before the Art Restitution Act was passed in 1998 the museum actively addressed the problem of unrightfully acquired and inventoried items in its collections and their restitution. Moreover, the MAK also hosted the 1996 “Mauerbach Benefit Sale” organized by the London-based auction house Christie’s on behalf of the Federal Association of Jewish Communities of Austria, and thus the museum took a clear political stance early on.

Honoring Jahoda – Prammer: Witness to Austrian History

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (12/10/2008)

Honoring Jahoda – Prammer: Witness to Austrian History

Grand Decoration in Silver for one expelled in 1939 – Representative of the Claims Conference: Austria has two faces

Vienna – The eighty-two year-old native Viennese, Hans Jahoda, was awarded by the President of the National Council, Barbara Prammer with the Grand Decoration in Silver for Services to the Republic of Austria. At a celebration in Parliament, Prammer said that Jahoda is “a witness to Austria’s and Europe’s history during the 20th century.” Expelled from Austria in 1939, he assumed later on dual Austrian-Israeli citizenship, and served as a representative of the Jewish victim organization, Claims Conference in Austria, in matters of restitution payments, Jahoda explained that for him, Austria has “two faces.”

The one face is that of those unwilling to come to terms with their own past and the question why so many people were willing to support the extermination of 65,000 Austria Jews, whereas the second face is made up of good, courageous people who have asked these kinds of questions – and these are no small minority.

Jahoda, born on May 11, 1926 in Vienna, was a witness to the “Anschluss” and the Reichskristallnacht in 1938 before going into exile in Palestine with the help of a children’s transport. His parents and his sister were sent to Theresienstadt and murdered in Auschwitz. In view of Jahoda’s work in Israel for victims of the Shoah, Prammer hopes that the descendants of Israeli-Austrian dual citizens will be able to obtain dual citizenship.

Attending the celebration were former Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, former Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, President of the Jewish Community Vienna Ariel Muzicant, President of the Administrative Court Clemens Jabloner and ombudsman Terzija Stojsits.

Late homage: Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel becomes honorary citizen of Vienna

Austrian Federal Chancellery (10/20/08)

Late homage: Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel becomes
honorary citizen of Vienna

7 October 2008 the Municipal Council Committee on Culture and Science adopted a unanimous decision to appoint 79-year-old neuro-scientist and Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel “honorary citizen of the City of Vienna“. He was born into a Jewish family in this city in 1929, who was driven out by the Nazis to the USA in 1939. He spent his remaining elementary school years at the Yeshiva in New York’s neighbourhood Flatbush, until he changed to Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn in 1944, where he became interested in history and literature – the subjects he later studied at Harvard University. In 1952 he started to study psychiatry at New York University. He became increasingly interested in the biological processes of the brain and started to work in the lab of neurobiologist Harry Grundfest at Columbia University. Kandel became a pioneering brain researcher, after gaining fundamental insights in tests with the Califonia sea slug, a marine mollusk, in Paris in 1962. Later he became active at the Department of Physiology and Psychiatry of the New York Medical School, where he helped to establish the Department of Neurobiology and Behavioural Sciences. He conducted epoch-making research on the short and long-term memory. Evidence was finally provided for Eric Kandel’s assumption that specific learning mechanisms may be observed in all living beings.

In 2000 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine together with the Swede Arvid Carlsson and the American Paul Greengard for pioneering “discoveries concerning the signal transmission in the nervous system“.

Vice-Mayor and Research City Councillor Renate Brauner stated on the occasion of the homage in Vienna: “The title awarded is a tribute to the life-time achievements of Eric Kandel. Despite the irremediable and painful expulsion from Vienna, his activities have been and are being influenced by the idea of understanding and the things in common . For this we pay him the deepest respect in his native city“. In the past years many steps have been taken to strengthen the ties between Eric Kandel and Vienna. He participates regularly in Vienna’s academic life; since 2007 he has been a member of the board of trustees of the newly founded Institute of Science and Technology Austria. The German-Austrian TV documentary “Auf der Suche nach dem Gedächtnis – Der Hirnforscher Eric Kandel“ (“Searching for the Memory – Brain Researcher Erich Kandel”) had been subsidised substantially by the Vienna Film Fund and was premiered in Vienna.

Jewish people remember their Vienna in the 20th century

Austrian Federal Chancellery (11/17/2008)

Jewish people remember their Vienna in the 20th century

About 200 Jewish citizens were invited to the presentation of the book “Wie wir gelebt haben. Wiener Juden erinnern sich an ihr 20. Jahrhundert“ (“How we lived. Viennese Jews remember their 20th century”), edited by Tanja Eckstein and Julia Kaldori and published by Mandelbaum-Verlag, in Vienna’s City Hall on 11 November 2008. About 70 guests contributed as witnesses of the time numerous photos and the pertinent memories to the wonderful book enshrining unique short stories, “from the little comedies of daily life in the 1920s and the horror of the late 1930s and 1940s, which they escaped only narrowly, to their settling down in post-war Vienna and founding their own families”, as Edward Serotta, Head of Centropa (Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation) stated in his preface. Centropa was founded in 1999. One of its goals is to preserve the memories of older Jewish people – to whom we owe today’s flourishing Jewish life in Vienna – for future generations. Other texts in the book were authored by superb writers such as Joachim Riedl, Barbara Tóth or Doron Rabinovici.

Minister of Education Claudia Schmid and Vienna’s Executive Councillor for Culture Andreas Mailath-Pokorny contributed to the success of the memorable evening moderated by actress Konstanze Breitebner and excellently organised by Milli Segal’s PR agency by delivering speeches in which they highlighted the great achievements of Vienna’s Jewish community benefiting the city and Austria as a whole. Last but not least, they clearly rejected all forms of xenophobia.

Campaign of the City of Vienna: free copies of book by Ruth Klüger

Austrian Federal Chancellery (11/17/2008)

Campaign of the City of Vienna: free copies of book by Ruth Klüger

As from 19 November 2008, 100,000 free copies of Ruth Klüger’s memories “Weiter leben. Eine Jugend“ (“Continue Living: My Youth”) are distributed to avid readers in Vienna. The author born in Vienna in 1931 was ostracised as a child during the Nazi dictatorship and later deported to concentration camps. Klüger read from her work at a book presentation on the premises of Vienna’s district-heating company (“Fernwärme Wien”) on 20 November 2008. This is already the seventh year that the free-book campaign has been organised by Echo-Medienhaus. Ruth Klüger was lucky and survived the Holocaust. Later she studied in the USA and became a recognised literary scholar. She lives in Irvine (California). Recently, she became a guest professor in Tel Aviv. Klüger has received numerous prizes and awards, in Austria the Austrian State Prize for Literary Criticism (1997) and the Bruno Kreisky Prize for the Political Book (2002).

On 24 November 2008, homage will be paid to the author at a gala at Vienna’s City Hall hosted by Mayor Michael Häupl.

Becoming Edith. The Education of a Hidden Child. Edith Mayer Cord.

Becoming Edith. The Education of a Hidden Child. Edith Mayer Cord.
The Wordsmithy, LLC publishers. New Milford, New Jersey, 2008.

Edith Mayer Cord is a successful financial advisor who fled from the Nazis during her childhood in Austria. Born in Vienna between the wars, her parents struggled to raise their children and then had to run for their lives – first to Italy and then to France. Edith’s father and brother were caught and murdered in Auschwitz.

Edith and her mother struggled to survive in hiding. After the war, Edith needed to overcome a dysfunctional family life while coming to terms with the Holocaust. She dedicated herself to pursuing her education under any and all circumstances. As she says, “My life is my triumph, and if I can overcome, so can others.”

A mother of three and a grandmother of seven, Edith is now retired and devotes herself to writing and speaking about her experiences in order to inspire others.

“In her inspiring memoir, Becoming Edith, Ms. Mayer Cord shows how the greatest difficulties in life can be overcome with courage and determination. This story describes the life of a young girl in Nazi Europe as she flees from her persecutors. Her mother is so traumatized and embittered by the loss of husband and son that she makes Edith’s life even more difficult.”

“Deciding that getting a solid education is the only way she will ever be able to break free of her circumstances, she pursues her goal and ultimately attains it. In her quest to find meaning in life, she is liberated spiritually and is able to transcend hatred, ultimately becoming herself, a confident, intelligent, caring person who achieves professional success and a fulfilling personal life.”
Ted Brenig, survivor

Amendment to the Art Restitution Law Being Reviewed

Austrian Press Agency (07/01/08)

Amendment to the Art Restitution Law Being Reviewed

Deadline ends September 1 – The advisory board’s term of office is extended to three years; the Law will be expanded to incorporate a broader spectrum

Vienna – An amendment to the Art Restitution Law is being reviewed. In the future not only art objects but also “other moveable objects of cultural value” can be returned by the Federation. Furthermore, in the future the Law should include not only inventory objects from Federal museums or from Federal collections of moveable property but also “other Federal assets.” According to a press release on Tuesday, the term of office for members of the Advisory Board for Restitution should be extended to three years. Likewise, also included will be objects found outside of Austria as well as those seized before 1938 by the NS regime.

The deadline for the amendment to be reviewed is set for September 1. According to the announcement made by Minister of Culture Claudia Schmied, the amendment was originally to be concluded before the summer. The suggested changes to be worked out “in close cooperation with Clemens Jabloner and in negotiation with experts from the Ministry of Finance” should articulate more precisely and concretely the “legal basis for restitution of questionable objects possessed by the Federal Republic.”

According to the press release, individual provisions of the Art Restitution Act adopted in 1998 are defined too narrowly to meet the standards for complete restitution of questionable art objects as well as other moveable cultural objects in possession of the Federation.” Now, among other things, not only the tasks of the Commission on Provenance Research should be specified but also the Advisory Council’s independence should be strengthened and ensured by extending their term of office.

Another point which is often disputed should be clarified: In the past restituted art objects of those formerly persecuted by the NS and sold to the Federation under pressure because of their being prohibited for export, were not included. Now all those objects returned to the owners after NS rule, which again were sold back to the Federation out of pressure, can be restituted. The reason being is that toward the end of the war many returned objects could not be brought out of the country by their legal owners since these objects were prohibited from being exported; they, therefore, went again back to the Federal State of Austria in exchange for the right to export other artworks. Should these objects now be restituted according to the amendment of the Art Restitution Law, then, received payments of money (or other equivalent) would have to be taken into account.

This amendment does not address the question whether and to what extent the Leopold Collection will be subject to the Art Restitution Act, as the Ministry explained when asked by the Austrian Press Agency. These are issues Schmied has been keeping separate from one another.

Jewish Community Takes Legal Action Against the Federation

Die Presse (07/26/2008)

Jewish Community Takes Legal Action Against the Federation
Judith Lecher

Restitution. Since 2001 Austria is obligated to maintain the Jewish cemeteries. But neither the Federation nor the Regional Governments want to pay.
Vienna. Since 2001 the Federation, Regional Governments and Communities are fighting over who is responsible for maintaining the Jewish cemeteries in Austria. To this day there is no overall concept. The Jewish Community Vienna’s (JCV) patience has been tried and now it wants to take legal action against the Federation. “Our attorneys have already been authorized,” says JCV President Ariel Muzicant to die Presse.
The basis of the lawsuit: In year 2001, Austria and the USA concluded the so-called Washington Agreement. According to this agreement under international law, Austria committed itself to symbolical compensation payments to Jewish victims’ organizations, including the maintenance of more than sixty Jewish cemeteries.

“Austria is trying to shirk its responsibilities in that it does a little bit here, a little bit there,” says Muzicant. Maintaining all Jewish graves is not, however, something that has been guaranteed, in contrast to the graves of SS soldiers. The country is “morally responsible and since 2001 is also bound by contract,” to take care of the 350,000 Jewish graves. “Austria is defaulting,” summarizes Muzicant. Beginning in the fall, the JCV will begin “taking a series of steps.”

What are the effects such a lawsuit could have? In the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which since 2001 has agreed to the implementation of the Washington Agreement, one considers it to have very little or no effect at all. Ultimately it concerns an agreement under international law, the implementation of which “can only be contested in the USA,” comes the answer to the questions posed by die Presse. Moreover, in connection with the Washington Agreement, it was agreed upon that should there be any additional lawsuits relating to questions of restitution, the USA will decide in favor of Austria. “It is too early to seriously make a prognosis. First of all we have to wait whether or not legal action will actually be taken.

When pursuing this case, Muzicant is anticipating an agreement between the Federation and Regional Governments within the next few years. According to the wish of President of the National Council Barbara Prammer, the jurisdiction to be taken should be based upon the exemplary case of the Jewish cemetery of Währing.

All preliminary research on issues of restoration will begin in the fall. Historian Tina Walzer, who did an inventory of 8,000 graves in the Biedermeier cemetery for over two years, will claim which work is deemed necessary and significant. The 300,000 euros designated for the preliminary project comes from the National,- and Future Fund, which are both supported by Federal funds. According to the JCV, restoration itself will cost some 14 million euros.

Graves Are Sinking into the Soil
According to historian Tina Walzer, some of the historical and most valuable graves already lay in ruins. Apart from having been exposed to the elements, the vegetation is not conducive for preserving them: decaying branches have fallen onto the graves, tenacious roots from the prevalent “Götterbaume” have raised up the gravestones.

In the meantime the Federal Historic Preservation Office (BDA) is becoming actively involved. A landscape architect will study the original construction of the cemetery, the level of which is meanwhile fifteen centimeters higher than when it was erected in 1748. Vienna conservationist of the BDA Friedrich Dahm explains that “the graves are sinking into the soil.”

Dark Figures

Profil (08/11/08)
Dark Figures

Restitution. Vienna’s Leopold Museum continues to dispute being in possession of NS looted art. Now explosive documents have surfaced regarding the source of three pictures by Albin Egger-Lienz.

His works mirrored the personal taste of the Führer. Until his death in November of 1926, Albin Egger-Lienz painted romantic mountain landscapes, farmers eating at midday and men with angular bodies mowing the wheat fields with scythes. In the prologue to the catalogue that accompanied an exhibition by the NS organization, “Kraft durch Freude” (Strength through Joy) in Berlin, it is said of Egger-Lienz that “no other Austrian artist transcended painting as he did to create and establish Germany’s artistic importance.

The East Tyrolean expressionist’s paintings of the horrors of mass destruction (“Den Namenlosen”) and the suffering of those left behind (“Kriegsfrauen”) had depicted so unsparingly the First World War like no other artist at the time. But the Nazis concentrated on the heavy rural subjects of the vain and easily irritated artist: Egger-Lienz was praised posthumously as the blood-and-earth painter par excellence
The NS carried on unscrupulously. After Hitler’s takeover in 1938, the national socialists began looting private collections of Vienna’s Jews. Paintings were seized or owners were pressured into selling at give-away prices. Written in a letter by the Mayor of Linz in 1939 to Vienna’s Reichsstatthalter, it states: “We have just learned that a certain Therese Neumann owns some Egger-Lienz paintings. Understandably, we have the greatest interest in incorporating these paintings into our holdings.”

The functionaries grabbed up dozens of paintings right from under one’s nose. The Egger-Lienz painting, “Waldinneres” landed in the provincial museum of Carinthia; the “Totentanz” (5th edition, 1809) went to the Museum Schloss Bruck; “Mann und Frau” was given to Adolf Hitler on his 50th birthday; and ‘”Die Bergmäher” disappeared into the private collection of Armin Huber, member of NS Vermögensverkehrsstelle (NS Property Transfer Office).

Although after the end of the NS regime, between 1947 to 1954, the former owners and their heirs had the opportunity to submit an application for restitution of the artworks, many of the stolen paintings remained in the possession of the Austrian State, or simply disappeared. However, last February the debate over looted art flared up, gaining momentum. Vienna’s Leopold Museum held an exhibition celebrating the 140th anniversary of Egger-Lienz, which president of the Vienna Jewish Community Ariel Muzicant branded as “probably the largest presentation of looted art in Austria for many years.”

Since then evidence has been multiplying that there must be more Egger-Lizenz paintings in the possession of the Leopold Foundation which are classified as NS looted art. Even Minister of Culture Claudia Schmied demanded that museum director Rudolf Leopold finally shed light on the past in regards to the holdings in his collection. Two independent provenance researchers commissioned by the Ministry are currently sifting through the archives of the museum.

Apparently there is a lot to retrieve. For example, Leopold entered into his provenance database that the picture, “Mittagessen” (2nd Edition, 1910) had been bought from the Viennese art heir Leopold Hauer in the year 1968. But as actual research revealed, Hauer had the 90 x 140 cm oil painting auctioned off back in 1920 at Vienna’s Wawra. Listed as number 31 in the auction catalogue, the “Mittagessen”, according to the Tiroler Anzeiger, brought 90,000 Kronen.

Therefore, if the painting was sold by Hauer in 1920, how could Rudolf Leopold then have purchased it from Hauer in 1968?

This is a question, among many others, that the Foundation was unable to answer. The experts of the house claimed to be on vacation. In the coming weeks, one will try to get some explanation. What needs to be clarified is also the “Bergmäher” (first edition, 1907), which came into the Leopold private collection in 1970. As was verified, the oil painting was confiscated from Therese and Oscar Neumann during NS dictatorship.

Profil searched NS documents which indicate that the art work was in the private collection of Nazi functionary at that time Armin Huber who, as member of the Vermögensverkehrsstelle, (NS Property Transfer Office) was for “Aryzation.” Following the war Huber was brought to trial for “unjustified enrichment,” among other things, but “Die Bergmäher” remained nowhere to be found. Throughout the 1960s there was no trace of the painting, according to the publication of the Egger-Lienz catalogue of artworks (Hammer/Kollreider, 1968).

The Museum’s data as to the provenance of the “Bergmäher” are extremely contradictory. While Huber is still designated as the previous owner in the online database of the Leopold house, the Foundation emphasized during the course of the Egger-Lienz exhibition last February that Huber can in no way be the previous owner of the painting. It is claimed that the “textile industrialist Huber” possessed “another version of the painting,” referring to a new, unpublished information.

Albin Egger-Lienz was actually an obsessive tinkerer. Searching for perfection, the artist painted many of his subjects more than once (see below *). There are twenty-four variations of “The Mittagsessen;” replicas and partial replica have been handed down; also there are many editions of the “Bergmäher.” In the list compiled by the Nazis, it is often not mentioned which edition it concerned– something which makes restitution investigation doubly difficult.

For that reason it led to a trial in 2001. The Canadian Vera Gara, daughter of art collector and salami manufacturer Moric Pick who was murdered in 1945 in a concentration camp, filed a suit again the Leopold Foundation demanding restitution of the painting, “Der Dengler.” Egger-Lienz painted the motif also in oil in 1910 and also in color in 1912. It was disputed before Austria’s highest court whether Garas’ father actually possessed the oil edition which hangs today in Leopold’s exhibition rooms. The Foundation won the trial. Now, however, hints are increasing that Picks’ and Leopold’s painting could be the same painting.

For the first time, Egger-Lienz worked in casein color in 1908. The artist was so attracted to the effects of the material that he painted almost all of his large format paintings in casein until the year 1916. Despite all, it soon turned out that, in terms of preservation of the artworks, it was a fatal mistake. Casein paintings are significantly more fragile than oil paintings – and therefore also clearly worth a lot less.

The difference in value between casein and oil could now help with clarification. The Moric Pick collection was appraised in 1938 by experts from Vienna’s Dorotheum. “Der Dengler,” which is by far the most valuable piece in the collection, was priced at 2,500 Reichsmark. For a casein painting, it was too high a price says Eva Blimlinger, research coordinator of the Austrian Commission for Provenance Research: “The estimated value of 2,500 Reichsmark is a strong indication that it concerns the oil edition.”

The trial surrounding “Der Dengler” could now be rolled out anew. Three weeks ago Vera Gara brought renewed legal action against Leopold. As it was made know by actual investigation (Profil 26/08), Leopold, according to his own statement, unknowingly acquired the oil paintings in 1963 from a former Nazi. In 1946 the seller was convicted on charges of high treason due to having violated the Prohibition Act (constitutional law of 1947 banning Nazi activities) and condemned to two years in prison. That “Der Dengler” was taken from Moric Pick comes close to the truth.

Rudolf Leopold, however, is not obligated to restitute. As a foundation, his museum doesn’t fall under the Art Restitution Law. As long as a collector cannot prove that he knew that it was NS looted art when acquiring a painting, there is no legitimate claim on the part of the heirs – and that includes also “Die Bergmäher” or “Der Dengler.” As for the dark past surrounding the artworks, it changes nothing.

*Albin Egger-Lienz (1868 to 1926) strived for perfection. The East Tyrolean artist painted many of his subjects in numerous variations. He painted a danse macabre six times; as for Die Bergmäher, he left behind 41 partial replicas, studies and final editions. This makes not only the work of the provenance researchers difficult, it also narrows Egger’s value in the art market. Due to his penchant toward repetition, the interest of the buyer is diminished. With “Mittagessen,” from which there are twenty-four editions, replicas and partial replicas, the price ranges from 67,500 euros (Karl & Faber, 1984) to 526,721 euros (Galerie Hassfurther, 2006).

Austrian Federal Chancellery (12/15/08)

Federal President Fischer pays visit to Israel and Palestinian territories

Federal President Heinz Fischer and his wife Margit started their four-day state visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories on 14 December 2008. Among the members of the delegation accompanying them are Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, Minister of Defence Norbert Darabos, Minister of Education Claudia Schmied and the Vice-President of the Economic Chamber Austria, Richard Schenz. The subjects for debate are the Middle East peace efforts and intensified cooperation between Israel and Austria.

The programme includes meetings with leading politicians in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ramallah, including Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Other items on the agenda are a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem, the Wailing Wall as well as the Austrian hospice in Jerusalem. Besides, an honorary doctorate of the University of Tel Aviv will be conferred on Fischer. In Tel Aviv the Federal President will open an economic forum.

Office of the Federal President


Austrian Press Agency

Heinz Fischer emphasizes joint responsibility of Austria with regard to NS-crimes
Federal President also commemorates resistance fighters during speech at the University of Tel Aviv – receives honorary doctorate

Tel Aviv – Federal President Heinz Fischer emphasized Austria’s joint responsibility with regard to NS-crimes during a speech at the University of Tel Aviv entitled “90 Years of the Republic of Austria” while commemorating the resistance movement. The president also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Tel Aviv. President Fischer talked about important Jewish citizens and the Austrian Israeli relations. Regarding National Socialism, he said: “Altogether, too many Austrians played an important and unforgiveable role. There were, however, also those who risked their lives in the resistance movement and were persecuted by the Nazis with brutality and ruthlesness. (...) More than 90.000 Austrians were arrested for political reasons during the NS-regime and roughly 5.000 were executed as fighters in the resistance or for political reasons, in addition to the 65.000 Jewish victims.

Fischer commented on the time after World War II and the reconstruction of Austria as follows: “An intelligent human being couldn’t regret the time before 1945. Yet many were tempted to downplay their entanglement in the structures of the NS-regime and to depict National Socialism as force majeure that came about the country similar to a natural disaster.

Concerning the relations between Austria and Israel, he reminded the audience that Austria recognized Israel in 1949 and that the remains of Theodor Herzl were transported from Vienna to Jerusalem. Full diplomatic relations were established in 1956.

“Bruno Kreisky’s Middle East policy, in particular his advocacy for the recognition of the PLO and for the rights of the Palestinians as well as the issues revolving around Kurt Waldheim were reasons for significant debates and cast a dark shadow on the bilateral relations,” Fischer stated. “Nevertheless, the increasing coming to terms with the past, the rising awareness of guilt and responsibility and possibly also the fact that between 1968 and 1986 more than 270.000 Jews from the former Soviet Republic emigrated to Israel via Austria were connecting elements and helped overcome some of the difficulties.

Today, we can speak of “very good relations and a position of trust” President Fischer stressed “and we will do everything to keep it that way in the future. “The current government” he added, “has a clear position regarding the NS-crimes” and “will fight every form of anti-Semitism.” It is now possible to “deal with delicate matters from the past in an appropriate way”. The knowledge about the Holocaust results in the responsibility for the “Never Again.”

Jerusalem Post


Israeli leaders meet Austrian president, discuss ties, peace talks BBC Monitoring Middle East
Text of report in English by privately-owned Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post website on 16 December, 2008
[Report by Greer Fay Cashman: "Austrian President Vows To Bring up Schalit Case With Assad"]

Austrian President Heinz Fischer was received by President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on Monday [15 December], where the two discussed issues ranging from peace talks with the Palestinians, the fate of kidnapped soldier Gil'ad Shalit, and efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The visit, only the second by an Austrian president, brought Fischer full circle after he first came to Israel in 1963 to volunteer at Kibbutz Sarid, where he picked apples and worked in the chicken coop. In the 45 years that have passed since his first visit, Fischer has been to Israel several times and has "followed developments closely and with great interest."
Just as he is no stranger to Israel, he is no stranger to Peres, who in greeting him said that aside from the formalities of the visit, he was happy to welcome an old friend whom he has known "since we were both Social Democrats." Referring to the highs and the lows in Israel's relationship with Austria, Peres singled out as one of the high points the fact that Austria's longest serving chancellor Bruno Kreisky, had allowed Soviet Jews en route to Israel to pass through Vienna when other European countries denied them entry permits.
Peres did not mention one of the low points, the Nazi past of one of Fischer's predecessors in office Kurt Waldheim, who had been a Wehrmacht Intelligence officer. Nonetheless, Austria's dishonourable history during the Holocaust hung heavy in the air, and Fischer made no effort to evade the issue or to downplay it. "Austria must speak openly of such problematic subjects and draw the relevant conclusions," he said.
Fischer, who will also visit Palestinian [National] Authority President Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah, where he will place a wreath on the grave of Yasir Arafat, asked Peres to review the progress of peace negotiations with the Palestinians and the situation in Gaza. He also pledged to bring up the issue of Shalit with Syrian President Bashar Asad during the latter's upcoming visit to Vienna, and talked about international sanctions that should be taken against Iran. Peres and Fischer also discussed rising and racial Europe.
Peres reminded Fischer that Israel had voluntarily disengaged from Gaza. "No one forced us to do it," he said. "We decided to leave. We want to see Gaza flourishing and developing. We do not want to see Gaza burning. We don't want to see the people of Gaza suffering." Peres urged that Europe puts its shoulder to the wheel to help fuel the Palestinian economy and to convince the Palestinians that they cannot achieve their goals with terrorism.
On the issue of Iran, Fischer concurred with Peres that war is not a solution for problems between countries. It was, he said, "the strong united wish" of the international community, anti-Semitism prejudice in the United Nations Security Council and the European Union that Iran must not threaten another country - particularly Israel - with atomic weapons. Fischer did not offer an explanation as to how this should be done.
From Bet Hanasi the two presidents went to Yad Vashem accompanied by members of the Austrian delegation, which included Austrian Foreign Minister Dr Michael Spindelegger, Defence Minister Norbert Darabos, who was in Israel earlier this year, and Minister of Education, Art and Culture, Dr Claudia Schmeid. In the Hall of Remembrance, Vienna's Chief Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg recited the memorial prayer El Maleh Rahamim for the souls of Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
[A Jerusalem 15 December press release by Government Press Office in English adds: "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, this afternoon (Monday), 15.12.08, met with Austrian President Dr Heinz Fischer and the ministers who are accompanying him on his visit to Israel. The two men discussed economic, commercial and cultural cooperation and expressed their desire to enhance bilateral ties. Prime Minister Olmert briefed Austrian President Fischer on the diplomatic process and emphasized the need to enforce the existing sanctions against Iran in order to assist in halting its nuclear programme. Prime Minister Olmert noted that on 9.11.08, Israel, Germany and Austria marked Kristallnacht, and said that if the world had been aware of the signs and statements then, perhaps the disaster that followed could have been prevented. 'We must draw the lessons and certainly not allow a situation in which a leader of a state addresses the UN, calls for the destruction of another state and is met with applause.'"]

The Impossibility of Being Kafka

Der Standard (07/03/2008)
The Impossibility of Being Kafka

July 3 is the anniversary of Franz K. for the 125th time. Reiner Stach has been working for thirteen years on a comprehensive biography consisting of three volumes, two of which are now currently available. He tells Sebastian Fasthuber of his approach to finding the real Kafka.
Standard: You quoted in your book, “Kafka. The Decisive Years,” an essay taken from an American journal: ”The Impossibility of Being Kafka.“ For a long time it appeared impossible to write a credible Kafka biography. How did you first become involved with him?
Reiner Stach: Under very normal circumstances. As a young man I read his works. What initially triggered my interest was when at the end of my twenties I saw his Diaries and Letters to Milena and to Felice Bauer for the first time. There was a phase when I fully identified with the author, also with the people he wrote about.
Standard: Which actually was…..
Stach: … terms of dealing with Kafka not very beneficial, of course. I believe in the meantime, however, that one has to go through such a phase once in his life in order to be able to work on a biography about him. After my dissertation I took a break from Kafka, and had to work in order to earn some money.
Standard: What was the real motivation behind it?
Stach: I made a suggestion in 1995 to S. Fischer publishing company. The timing was good. Apart from the out-of-print Wagenbach biography of Kafka’s youth, there was nothing in German, except for the letters. At the time the critical edition had already been published, and the literary estate was held by Max Brod. For the first time one could observe exactly how the man worked. One has to do that with Kafka because the separation between his works and his diary entries overlap.
Standard: It is unusual that you began your biography of Kafka, “The Decisive Years “(2002) in the middle of his life when he wrote most of his texts on paper.
Stach: The main problem was how to depict his early years. There was no real correspondence, no strong love relationship and, above all, no diary. He had destroyed everything that was written during that time. Therefore, all we could do was wait until the literary estate held by Max Brod/heirs was made available, or think of another entirely different solution and begin in the middle. To this day I am happy with the decision. I am still waiting for the Brod literary estate to be released; and for the reader, it is ever more exciting because it begins with the core of Kafka’s literary existence.
Standard: As for the second volume, “The Decisive Years,” covering up until Kafka’s death, you worked on it for some six years. Where lay the difficulties?
Stach: In order to piece together and present a coherent picture, one has to dig into many various sources. It tends to crumble in one’s fingers if one doesn’t establish some kind of leitmotif from the beginning. For example, it was very difficult to offer a true picture of the political background of the times. Original sources dating back to those years tend to either fabricate, embellish or censor the truth. Take for example the chapter dealing with the last days in Prague. before the downfall of the Monarchy. During this time the Spanish flu surfaced at the same time. However, the newspaper reported nothing about it although it concerned a worldwide pandemic which took more victims with it than the war. I suspect that Kafka had already recovered from tuberculosis and for him the Spanish flu presented the real threat.
Standard: To what extent has your picture of Kafka changed after having dealt with it over a longer period of time?
Stach: I used to think that he was a fragile figure. The more it became clear to me that he lived during very catastrophic times, the more I was astonished over where he got his strength. Always at that moment when he had reached the absolute bottom did he suddenly mobilize his strength and start again. He wrote the Landarzt stories under unbelievable conditions, living in a tiny, unheated room in the Hradschin district. While all of Prague was dirty and suffering from freezing temperatures, he worked overtime because his office colleagues were off fighting the war. There he sits above the city in Hradschin and manages to write such prosaic gems.
Standard: So phases of weakness alternate with those of strength?
Stach: Exactly. After recovering, he again collapses and enters a Sanatorium where he actually lives under very good conditions and does nothing the entire day, he doesn’t even read the newspaper. These long phases of recovery were apparently the reward. Kafka also makes himself appear insignificant because that belongs to his defensive strategy. By doing so he hoped to avoid being attacked. But when he was attacked, then he was able to muster up tremendous strength.
Standard:You also rid history of the myth that Kafka lived in an ivory tower, estranged from the real world.
Stach: One was always of the impression that he registered the outside world only minimally and concentrated on his writing. But he was not like that at all. No one was able to escape WW I. Prague of 1914, compared to that of 1918, was unrecognizable. That was something that generated in Kafka the feeling of deep estrangement. He sensed that he didn’t belong there anymore. There was also increasing aggression directed toward the Jews. When the Czechs took over power, a pogrom was felt to be near.
Standard: You have surely dealt with the question why we continue to feel his texts to be modern and relevant.
Stach: That is one of the great puzzles. One must compare it with contemporaries like Thomas Mann, whose texts were always in need of explaining, whereas with Kafka, that is not the case. One reason has to do with the phenomenon that no one can really know himself completely. That has something bizarre about it because one has the feeling that there is something in the back of the mind that cannot be controlled, just like one can never really see the back of his own head. .That creates in every human a slight sense of uneasiness. It was this subtle fear that Kafka put into words. It remains always with us and is something that runs through all cultures. For that reason, Kafka can be understood in Asia.
A second reason has to do with fear of the power of fate; it has us in its hands but which we can’t actually see it. This sense of fear is something that he focused on. As he writes in The Trial: “What the highest authority really thinks is something we cannot know; and don’t even want to really know exactly” Therein lies a truth which every person is aware of.
Standard: Your narrative technique has elicited a lot of praise as well as some criticism. You use samples from the novel and from the film.
Stach: But criticism came only from critics in Germany, not in the United States or in Spain, where the book also appeared. A biography is allowed to work with means taken from the novels. My wish is that the reader feels drawn into the historical framework. Others write more for academicians and add a quote from Nietzsche or Foucault on every page. I’m not one of those, but I am a literary scholar.
Standard: At the same time, you also run a website:
What do you think Kafka would have thought of the internet?
Stach: The internet generates exhibitionism and voyeurism, neither of which Kakfa would have felt comfortable with. For him it was extremely important that the personal and the intimate be used to maintain a picture of dignity. Sometimes I pretend that Kafka is alive today and one would set him out in real life. He would be completely shocked by the fast pace and noise, but he would also recognize some things.
Standard: When will the last volume covering his childhood and adolescent years be published?
Stach: By no means will it be another six years. Meanwhile the heiress to Max Brod has died, and her two daughters have agreed that Kafka’s literary estate be released in the German-speaking world. Currently they are still in Israel, however.
Standard: Are there also phases when you are tired of Kafka?
Stach: No, there are inevitably times when one return to researching medical or military history. It is clear that Kafka no longer lies on the night table next to my bed. Otherwise, it would turn into a marathon. One must not be fixated only on the final goal.

The Brief Life of Dr. Suess 

Der Standard (11/06/2008)

Andrea Hurton and Hans Schafranek

How a talented young man fell into the hands of the Nazis and perished because of it: An historic case study for the 70th year of remembrance of the “Reichskristallnacht.”

Walter Suess was a man of many talents. Born 1912 in Vienna, he earned an M.D. degree in medicine at the age of twenty-four. At the same time he studied at the Academy of Music and passed the exam as ensemble master. Music was his passion and he dedicated himself to it with commitment and enthusiasm; in fact, he was drawn to it more than medicine. Suess gave concerts and also conducted.

Sometime in February 1937, the Vienna Concert Orchestra gave a symphony concert in the Großen Ehrbarsaal in the Mühlgasse 30 of the 4th district under his direction. On May 4 at 7:30 in the evening, there was a chamber concert taking place in the same room, in which along with the singer, Felice von Antburg, Dr. Walter also performed, improvising a “Passacaglia und Fugue on an Open Theme.” In August of 1937 he conducted a symphony concert with the orchestra of Badgastein benefitting the Gastein Research Institute. Included on the program was the “Academic Festival Overture” by Brahms; Schubert’s Symphony Nr. 5 in B Flat; Mendelssohn’s Piano Concert Nr. 1 and Smetana’s “Moldau.” Also in the year 1937, when his life was still basically intact, Walter Suess held a lecture with slides in Vienna’s Urania on the “Physiology of Conductors,” in which he used himself as example in order to explain the anatomical and functional makeup of a conductor. 

It was a grave mistake that destroyed his future plans with a single blow and led to exclusion from the Reich’s Chamber of Music in 1938 (“because he failed to meet the criteria of the Reich’s laws governing the cultural requirements of conductors dictated by the National Socialists), and was prohibited from appearing publicly at any musical performance of any kind.

Walter Suess, whose father was a Jew, was branded a “Mischling 1. Grades” in the words used by the National Socialists. His plans of being a music director were destroyed in a single blow by Nazi racial policy. There was nothing more he could do than to turn to medicine and to begin living his life the best he could. In 1938 he was offered the opportunity to open a practice as a dentist. He bought expensive equipment and became once again the victim of NS arbitrariness and brutality. Later Walter Suess wrote: “Since I am a crossbreed, I inquired at the office responsible for policy whether I could open a practice. Everywhere I went I was informed that this was fully acceptable. (…) When I opened my practice in Badgastein, I had very few patients at the beginning because those in the profession treated me with hostility. Nontheless, after some time more and more patients began coming, offering me hope of being able to make a living. During the night of November 8, 1938, my practice was ravaged by those attacking the Jews, meaning that I should leave Badgastein forever.”

“Mob Anger in Disguise”
On November 7, 1938, the seventeen year-old Polish Jew, Herschel Grynszpan, having heard of his parents deportation, killed the secretary to the Legation in Paris, Ernst vom Rath, who belonged to the NS Party. The NS in power used the assassination as a pretense in order to carry out an anti-Jewish mobilization in the disguise of “mob anger.” Actually the pogroms were controlled and operated by those at a high level but carried out by the SA or SS. 
The pogroms in November of 1938, characterized by the Nazis with the euphemism, “Reichskristallnacht,” marked a radical change, which meant a decisive turning point in racial policy aimed at Jewish residents of Germany and Austria. 
According to official data, ninety-one people were killed in Germany from the brutal riot; ten thousand Jews were taken away to concentration camps, numerous businesses were damaged or demolished, and their owners intimidated and harassed.
On November 10, 1938, the Salzburger Landeszeitung, Amtliches Blatt des Gaues Salzburg der NSDAP and numerous government agencies brought on November 10, 1938 extensive reports of the “riots in the city and province of Salzburg:” “In Salzburg the first round aimed at indignation against the synagogues. Shortly after news was reported in the city of the death of the attaché, von Rath, an enraged crowd marched in front of the Jewish temple and destroyed its windows, furnishings and Jewish cultural objects. It is no wonder that all of Salzburg’s businesses, which still belong to Jews today, came to feel the anger of the people. Among others, the perfume shop of the Jew, Rudolf Fürst in the Linzergasse, the Jewish shop, “Zum Touristen,” also in the Linzergasse, the Singer shoe shop in the Dreifaltigkeitsgasse, then Pollak’s rummage shop in the Franz-Josef-Straße and Speigel’s antique shop –all felt its effects (…)

Fear of Sanctions
The report written by the head of security services of the subsection Salzburg and sent to the Social Democrat head of the SS upper section of Donau in Vienna concerning the “Reichskristallnacht” in Salzburg on November 10, 1938, described the destruction of furnishings and objects of Jewish businesses and in the synagogue. The some thirty to fifty perpetrators, belonging almost without exception to the SA, broke into the shops with various types of equipment, demolished the inventory and destroyed it almost completely. In the Jewish synagogue of Salzburg in the Lasserstraße, they destroyed the interior. Numerous Jews in Salzburg were taken by the state police into protective custody. 
Walter Suess, who following threats by the NS party’s local group, feared sanctions should he stay in Gastein, relocated to Vienna, together with his wife who was a prospective singer and actress. In mid November 1938 he worked in the practice of his “Aryan” mother who was a dentist. The practice was located in the family’s apartment in the Molkereistraße 7 in the 2nd district.
Suess expressed bitterness over the incident in Badgastein, particularly since there was no one from whom he could seek damanges and he couldn’t demand damages and because of the destruction of expensive equipment for which he was still highly in debt. He had planned to leave Austria and to emigrate to Argentina with his wife.
When he finished all arrangements for leaving the country, he received a note from the military office that he was not allowed to leave because he had to serve in the military. The young man who two years earlier was full of hope had to watch how his life suddenly slid off course and all plans for the future were completely destroyed.
While waiting in his prison cell to be executed, he added in his appeal for clemency, “(…) that in 1938 I lost my entire financial existence; at the same time I was refused permission from the military to emigrate so that I was faced with a future fully without hope (…).”

“Never a Marxist”
In the summer of 1939 Walter Suess came into contact with the Communist movement, whose members lived in great danger due to their involvement with underground work. He justified his contact with the Communists not out of political conviction but rather due to continual humiliation, racist suppression and having the inmost wish to not have to answer to the dictatorship. Later, in his appeal he wrote: “Neither during my entire upbringing nor in the surroundings of my parent’s home was I ever a Marxist.” My pursuits were always entirely directed toward art and science. I was steered onto this course through adverse circumstances and through persuasion by a third party.” To Martha Zäuner, one of his Jewish patients, who visited Walter Suess in his practe in the Molkereistrasße in the 2nd district shortly before she was forced to emigrate in July 1939, he expressed for the first time his willingness to be active in the resistance. Through Zäuner, the Communist district functionary Otto Kubak approached him and through him came into contact with Rober Kurz (“Burli”), head of the district’s group in Leopoldstadt.
Since Suess was from a political standpoint completely an unwritten page, he was initially unbound to any activities, although he was prepared to donate his support to political prisoners. After one had convinced him of being a loyal believer, Suess offered his apartment between October 1939 and February 1940 for conspiratorial activities. Should ever a meeting be suddenly interrupted, those present were said to be dental patients seeking treatment.

Political Reorientation
The main objective of these discussions was, above, all political reorientation, which was the conclusion drawn for the Communist movement by the German-Soviet ‘Non-Aggression Pact.’ Participating in these meetings were some top Communist officials, such as Leopold Fritzsche, Leopold Blauensteiner and Lothar Dirmhirm, all of whom were later on executed. In January of 1940, with Suess’s approval, Kurz arranged for Suess’s apartment to be used as a drop-off place for boxes filled with the Red Flag and the Communist Party’s Newsletter, designated for the second district and later picked up by Margarethe Gebauer. Suess’ wife and mother were most likely uninformed about this matter. In order to shield them from his involvement, he would give them tickets to attend a concert or theater piece on those evenings when meetings were held.
On May 1940 the Gestapo arrested district leader Robert Kurz, who despite severe mishandling, refused to give his colleagues away so that the arrest ended up being a failure and the group remained intact. Suess and his comrades, however, refrained from all underground activity for about two months. 
However, through previous observances of Kurz’s surroundings the Gestapo was apparently able to find out about some of his contact persons and sent two ombudsmen (who were in reality police informers) to convict them and blow the whistle. Initially Franz Pachhammer (alias “Lux”) discovered the plan. He was an agitator with an extreme need for self-importance, who beginning in 1940 had served voluntarily with the Gestapo as an informer, unlike the usual ombudsman.
“Lux” talked first of all to Gertrude Fischer, who used to work for Kurz and was an acquaintance of Suess, and finally took up contact in July 1940 with Suess himself, whom he made believe that he was from the “county” and was ordered to reorganize the 2nd district. At first, Suess was skeptical, expressed his lack of willingness, whereupon “Lux” accused him of being a coward. 

Well Informed
Since the spy was also apparently well informed about Kurz, he was successful in diverting his victim’s attention from feeling any qualms. He “unfurled a series of tirades and brought one suggestion after another,” claimed Suess later in a report to the People’s Court. Focusing on that of producing and distributing illegal newspapers and pamphlets stood in his favor, in that he was up until now providing material from the “authorities;” in other words from the head of the Communist Party. 
Pachhammer gave the innocent resistance fighter a typewriter and a duplicating machine and asked him to write a newspaper to be called, Hammer and Sickle, Nr. 1. He instructed him as to the contents; “also I had to give him every draft for producing a template, apparently to be reviewed by the County’s Ombudsman. Suess wrote from his prison cell in the Vienna Criminal District Court.

Gestapo Agitator
The Gestapo was, thus, not only involved in the distribution of illegal publications but also in its production. Suess gave the agitator hundreds of copies of the newspaper, which he ordered him to do beginning of September with the production of Nr. 2. 
Some twenty to forty copies were sent to Communist official Karl Ficker, and the rest Suess gave to “Edi Hofer”, with whom Suess became acquainted through Pachhammer. The cover name of “Edi Hofer” only concealed the real person, namely, Eduard Pamperl (born 1919), a school friend of Pachhamer, who also joined the Gestapo, serving as a spy.
“Lux” tried to win Suess over training Communist organizations involved with sabotage and terror, which, however, Suess refused. On the contrary, Suess tried establishing an illegal Communist organization for physicians, however, this attempt remained unsuccessful. Various comrades warned him, advising him to put a damper on Pachhammer’s overzealousness, which Suess took to be simply “youthful enthusiasm.” 
Between April 5 and April 7, 1941, the Gestapo arrested Walter Suess, his wife, Karl Ficker and ten other people who received illegal material from the ombudsman. In June of 1941 Otto Kubak, Erwin Kritek and many other colleagues working for the district head were pursued and caught. For the first time also Robert Kurz confessed.

Special Type of Cynicism
After almost seventeen months in prison, Suess received the indictment, which inferred that the role “Lux” played was that of the initiator of illegal activity of the accused after June 1940, qualifying the Gestapo agitator, however ,as “Communist functionary.” Suess then wrote in a report and submitted it to the People’s Court – a thoroughly remarkable document in which the prisoner revealed with intricate details the role “Lux” played as spy. In the meantime, it was actually possible for Suess to find out the real name of “Lux,” that of Franz Pachhammer.
He was also aware of the fact that the ombudsman joined the army in March 1941 and was sent from Vienna to Altmünster am Traunsee. Suess didn’t let this prevent him from mentioning this fact during the main hearing on November 4, 1942, whereby the Gestapo had the secretary to the criminal police force testify that “Lux” was not a ombudsman but rather remained an unknown Communist. The People’s Court added to this lie by resorting to a special kind of cynicism; namely, they discovered that the pamphlets written by Suess were distributed to other Communist functionaries as well, something which an ombudsman of the Gestapo would certainly never have done!

Walter Suess, Robert Kurz and Otto Kubak were sentenced to death due to “preparing to commit high treason.” Erwin Kritek received a sentence of eight years imprisonment. The letter of goodbye that Suess wrote to his mother from prison was not delivered, fearing that the family could use the letters “for propaganda purposes.” The thirty-one year-old Suess and those accused along with him were executed on January 28, 1943 in the People’s Court in Vienna. “The execution was carried out flawlessly,” as stated in the file by the People’s Court. As to what to do with the bodies, a note was added that the Anatomical Institute at the University of Vienna should be taken into consideration. 
Karl Ficker, who also was condemned to die, was able to escape prison in November 1942 and remained in hiding until the end of the war in 1945.