This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
I’m leaving today to teach at a Peace Studies program in Innsbruck. More formally known as a MA Program in Peace, Development, Security and International Conflict Transformation. It’s a mouthful. Like Biblical Israel on its sociologically defined mission to create a socially egalitarian decentralized tribal confederacy. Sometimes you arrive and there’s more that you expected at the titled/described place. Other times there’s less.
I’ve taught here before – four years ago to be precise. It was quite interesting, international students galore. As in any of these international gatherings the students are diverse in their ambition. There’s genuine interest in the topics at hand. There’s career climbing as well. Mixed bag.
Yes, I know, the controversial “Das Auto” advert I referred to a few days ago. Or rather my controversial comments on how I wished such commercials weren’t aired were I am living. The Nazi-past thing, I continue to dwell in it. I wouldn’t say it’s healthy. Better to forget?
Austria was a Nazi haven and the Innsbruck Jewish world, well its day in the sun closed quickly. The best thing is to get it out of the way with a short description of the situation then:
In March of 1938, the illusion of a peaceful coexistence for all Jewish communities in what had now become the “Eastern March” were shattered. Jewish students were excluded from their school classes, business licenses were withdrawn, rent contracts were cancelled, and stores and businesses were “aryanized”. During the so-called Reichsprogromnacht on the night of November 9 – 10, 1938, most of the Jewish Community’s board members were murdered by SS men dressed in civilian clothing. The prayer room in the Sillgasse was destroyed. The last Tyrolean rabbi, Elimelech Rimalt, had managed to leave Innsbruck only a short time before. By the middle of 1939, nearly all Jews had been forced to leave the “Tyrol and Vorarlberg” district. At least two hundred Tyrolean and Vorarlberg Jews did not live to see 1945. The cause of their deaths range from the desperate suicides of March 12th, 1938, to those left dead in the Night of Broken Glass, to children who were murdered as late as mid-1944 in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. About three hundred Jews are known to have survived abroad or even in concentration camps. But the fates of over 70 people from Tyrol and Vorarlberg who were victims of racial persecution remain unknown to this day.
OK, let’s move on now. Beyond the Aryanized property, the suicides and the murders. Yes, there was also opposition to the Nazis in Austria. I know also that when times get tough almost everyone hunkers down and takes care of themselves. Human nature – the true believers, career climbers, bystanders, resisters. Another wheel of life.
The Sigmund Freud was born in Vienna. They note his absence with a museum. It is also where Edward Said was supposed to deliver a lecture – “Freud and the Non-European.” It didn’t happen. The invitation was withdrawn after Said threw a rock in Lebanon. Yes, the story, as usual, is involved. Apparently the thrown rock didn’t have any particular destination. In general it was thrown toward Israeli forces that, evidently, were so far away the rock throwing, Said couldn’t see them.
With the invitation revoked, Said was invited to deliver his lecture at the Freud Museum in London. This is the city where Freud’s “absence” in Vienna forced him to flee and where he died. His last writings revolved around that non-European, Moses.
Vienna is also the birthplace of Martin Buber who attended the University of Vienna. He was forced out of Germany in the late 1930s and landed in Jerusalem. I lectured at the Jewish Studies Center there some years ago. The handful of people who showed up included my two sons who were along for my lecture tour. At the center, I had a rough “discussion” with its head since it was obvious they hadn’t advertised my appearance and worse, once they found out who I was, actively downplayed it. That was after they withdrew their invitation for me to speak which was countermanded by the higher-ups at the university. If memory serves, the head of the center was non-Jewish German. Ironic, don’t you think?
Think about it. Edward Said lecturing on Freud, me lecturing at the university where Buber attended, both of us pushed around for being too out there on contemporary Jewish life issues. Freud and Buber were way out figures on the issues of their time. Freud was dubious about Zionism and Buber actively campaigned against the creation of the state of Israel. Today conformity is the watchword.
But it is quite something, Said commenting on Freud. It’s published in a book and you can even check the endnotes where Said cites my work. My small claim to fame.
Full disclosure. Yes, I don’t want to leave him out. Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, also lived in Vienna, went to university and practiced law there before moving to Paris. Of course, this was pre-Nazi times.
Nonetheless a vibrant Jewish world in Vienna that disappeared during the Nazi era.
Wait, one more, one of my favorites, Ivan Illich, with a crazy patchwork background. Wikipedia begins its section on him with the following: “Illich was born in Vienna to a Croatian, Catholic father—engineer Ivan Peter Illich and Sephardic Jewish mother—Ellen née Regenstreif-Ortlieb. His maternal grandmother was from Texas. Illich had Italian, Spanish, French, and German as native languages. He later learned Croatian, the language of his grandfathers, then Ancient Greek and Latin, in addition to Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, English, and other languages He studied histology and crystallography at the University of Florence (Italy) as well as theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in the Vatican (from 1942 to 1946), and medieval history in Salzburg. “
Illich was a fascinating character, a father of the Catholic Left, founding the Centro Intercultural de Documentación (CIDOC, or Intercultural Documentation Center) at Cuernavaca in Mexico in the 1960s. He wrote books galore including Deschooling Society which analyzed, well, the educational industrial complex, and how modern education didn’t educate at all. In his bio, notice the Catholic/Jewish parentage and his maternal grandmother being from Texas! Among his many languages, one is missing, at least according to a source who has written a biography of him – Yiddish. When I wrote about him a few years ago, I referred to this great Catholic radical as Yiddish Illich.
Yiddish Illich, amusing. He was expelled from school for having Jewish background after the Nazis came to power in Austria. He spent the last years of World War II in Rome. Did he visit the Jewish ghetto that was emptied while he was there? Lots of interesting stuff to unearth here.
Holocaust baggage to be carried through the airport. Yes, and I’m flying Lufthansa. Das Auto in the air? Check this Wikipedia entry for the carrier who will be checking me through security:
1950s: Post-war reformation
Lufthansa traces its history back to 1926 when the Deutsche Luft Hansa was formed in Berlin, an airline that served as flag carrier of the country until 1945 when all services were suspended following the defeat of Germany in World War II. The new Lufthansa was formed on January 6, 1953 as Aktiengesellschaft für Luftverkehrsbedarf, a company for air traffic demand, and was renamed Deutsche Lufthansa Aktiengesellschaft and relaunched as an airline on August 6, 1954. While Lufthansa claims DLH’s history as its own, it is important to note that it is not the legal successor of the company founded in 1926. On April 1, 1955 Lufthansa launched scheduled service within Germany using the Convair 340. International operations started on May 15, 1955, with flights to points in Europe, followed by services to New York City from June 8 of that year using Lockheed Super Constellations aircraft, and on South Atlantic routes from August 1956.
Interesting what is said and what isn’t. Lufthansa traces its history back to 1926, under the Deutsche Luft Hansa company. DHL served as Germany’s national airline until 1945 – through the unmentioned Nazi era. Lufthansa was formed or “relaunched” in 1954. Lufthansa “claims DHL’s history as its own” but – note this! – it is not the “legal successor” of DHL. It is and isn’t. Claims history but not legally. To avoid the difficult questions, as to what it was involved in during the Nazi era?
Just looked it up. Again Wikipedia:
A German 1936 stamp commemorating the 10th anniversary of Deutsche Lufthansa.
Even though the early years of the decade saw a difficult financial situation due to the Great Depression, Deutsche Luft Hansa further expanded its international route network in South America, and launched scheduled flights from Germany to the Middle East. Politically, the company leaders were linked to the rising Nazi Party; an aircraft was made available to Adolf Hitler for his campaign for the 1932 presidential election free of any charge. Erhard Milch, who had served as head of the airline since 1926, became a high-ranking official at the Aviation Ministry when Hitler came to power in 1933.
Wow – notice the Swastika on the plane’s tail. The company’s leaders, early Hitler supporters. Campaign contribution for Hitler – free plane. Now I wonder if the plane carrying Hitler filmed in the opening minutes of “The Triumph of the Will” was provided by DHL. Seems obvious.
Stamps are interesting and informative.
The world is different. Yes. History has to leave the stage. Sure. Shall I inform the Lufthansa personnel of their claim – not legally binding! – history?