Tails From the Vienna Woods



History Lessons

A compilation. In the Spring Tony and I took a day trip to the former Reichswerke Hermann Göring in Linz, now in part the Vöestalpine Museum of Contemporary History. Over the summer Jack and I had occasion to drop in on the little-known Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance in Vienna; and, disappointed by a new French cafe that was way oversold, found ourselves one afternoon wandering the Servitenviertel neighborhood of Vienna’s 9th district, rich in Jewish history.

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Manufactured Landscapes

August’s weather has not been terribly kind. Blistering hot during the week, to the point where the city prohibited use of the Grillplätze in its parks; thank goodness those of us with gardens could heat up the Weber and not our kitchens on the hot days. Rain washed away two sets of long weekend plans, and nearly ruined this past weekend. But I digress.

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Gemeindebau in Brigittenau

Brigittenau, Vienna’s 20th district, lies to the northeast of the Inner Stadt, on the old island between the Danube Canal and River.  As city districts go, I found my walkabout here to contain a higher concrete-green space ratio than other districts (rebuilds following WWII destruction); that, combined with the overcast skies, made the district seem a bit forlorn. I should perhaps return on a cheerier weather day.

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A new branch of the Public Library just opened near our house, and it was difficult to not notice the Stolpersteine at the entrance. The building once was home to a famous Austrian poet and writer, Erich Fried, who fled to London in 1938 after the Gestapo murdered his father. Four other persons in the building were also Holocaust victims.

Idling Away a Saturday

“The plan” had been Munich, to cheer on our favorite Lady Knight and the team, in the first of the two season final tournaments. Alas, Mother Nature conspired against us in the form of cold temperatures and rain, and it being the only shelter at MIS is for the athletes, we canceled our hotel and remained in Vienna.

 To temper my surliness at missing yet another of Anna Grace’s events, Tony suggested I guide him through the fabulous Russian avant-garde art exhibit at the Albertina followed with a walkabout and lunch. As usual, his plan was just what I needed.
Resting fiakers across from the Albertina.

"There must be a Jew buried here."

This is Mariahilfestraße, one of Vienna’s main shopping streets.
And, this being Europe, one can find everything from ball gowns to, well, other stuff here.

Mariahilfestraße also has “stumbling blocks,” or Stolpersteine. These concrete blocks covered with brass commemorate the last residence or workplace of both those who survived and those who were murdered under Nazi consignment to concentration and extermination camps. 

The Stolpersteine Project is the creation of Gunter Demnig, a German artist-scientist. Information about the survivors and victims comes through witnesses and research databases, and his work is funded by a variety of personal and commercial contributions. Each stone is graced with the name, date of birth and the fate, along with the deportation date, destination, and death, if known.

Begun in 1992 to mark 50 years since Himmler’s decree to deport Sintis and Romas to extermination camps, there are approximately 48.000 stones across 18 countries in Europe; many, like this one going seemingly unnoticed.

So why are the memorials called, “stumbling blocks?”  As history has it, before the Holocaust, when a non-Jewish German stumbled over a stone on a walkway it was the custom to say, “There must be a Jew buried here.”

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