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December 23, 1988 - Image 92

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-23

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Michael's Gate, one of the baroque vestiges of a bygone Vienna.

Living With
Eichmann And Mozart

How it feels to be
a Jew living in Vienna




any times in the
course of the last
year I have said that
I am not afraid to live here in
For a year I have been
again in the city where I was
born and where my family liv-
ed for centuries. Almost 150
years ago one of my ances-
tors, together with the Roths-
child family, built the first
railroad in Austria. He was
honored by the emperor with
knighthood, and even today a
bust of him stands in the
lbchnical Museum in Vienna.
A hundred years later my
family was exiled and mur-
dered, down to a few
members. Both stories belong
to the history of Vienna, both
belong to my history in this
city. After seven years abroad
I came back to this city, full
of misgiving, all the more so
at this point in time.
But I came into a city
that received me with
friendliness, even though I
am a Jew, yet with a peculiar
combination of warding off
and drawing near, of affection
and suspicion, a mixture of
hatred of Jews and tolerance,
possible only in this city.
Naturally, they are no long-
er here, all the people who at
the turn of the century made
Vienna into what it is proud
of today. If Stefan Zweig said
at that time that nine-tenths
of Viennese culture originated
from Jews, perhaps he even
But whoever knows this ci-
ty accurately, whoever wand-
ers slowly through the old
streets and little lanes and pa-
tiently sips his little cup of
coffee in one of the few old
coffeehouses still preserved,
that person still feels it and
smells it, that Jewish Vienna.
All of a sudden you bump in-
to someone out of a Joseph
Roth novel, into that farcical
mixture of German and Sla-
vic. Migrating from the ghet-
to in the East, having already
read Schiller, and expecting
great freedom, they remained

Excepted from an article in the
German magazine, Der Spiegel,
with the author's permission. A
native and currently a resident
of Vienna, Peter Sichrovsky has
examined the post World War
II generation of Germans and
Austrians in Born Guilty:
Children of Nazi Families,
published by Basic Books in
March. His article was
translated into English by
Joseph F Carey, of Quincy,

in Vienna, a city that even
now seems somewhat the way
Lemberg must have once
Of course I am fooling my-
self. All that is not true; it is
an illusion. The reality is
otherwise. But that also is
nothing new. It was always
otherwise here in Vienna —
the actuality. But Vienna had
for centuries a population
that was taught it is better to
enjoy than to think. And this
aesthetic is a question of en-
joyment, of joy, and of embell-
ishment for their own sake.
And a Jew from Vienna is al-
so a Viennese. He enjoys the
restaurants, the cafes, and
"congeniality," a Gemutlich-
keit that offers itself in place
of intellect and is gladly
Are we lying to ourselves,
we Jews in Vienna? Are they
lying to themselves, the Rus-
sian Jews who remain here
and do not move on to Israel?
They have opened dozens of
little cobbler shops and in the
evening they play their old
songs. The strictly observant
Jews, who pray to their God
mornings and evenings in
almost twenty little prayer
rooms, often hidden in rented
apartments scattered
throughout the city: All this
is here again in Vienna, with-
out grandiose opening cere-
monies. -
Four Jewish kindergartens,
from strictly orthodox to re-
form. A grammar school and
high school for the strictly
observant. A Jewish college
preparatory school — where
is there anything like that in
In the second district, sep-
arated from the noble center
by the Danube Canal; and
where most of the Jews lived
even before the war, are
springing up Talmudic
schools, Hassidic groups such
as Chabad-Lubavitcher, a
society for the spread of
Torah learning. At Mex-
ikoplatz are located little
shops with all sorts of knick-
knacks, in which a customer
does best speaking Yiddish.
A few months ago there was
a Chassidic wedding in a fac-
tory parking lot (they must
take place outdoors) with
more than a hundred men and
women, who in their tradi-
tional dress would fit in bet-
ter in the Mea Shearim dis-
trict of Jerusalem than in
Here they have their kosher
restaurants, the butcher, the
baker, even their own super-
market. There are still (or




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