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Bombs

27 Mar

One thing that strikes me is how many reminders of the World Wars there still are in this part of Europe. Beyond the memorials, there are daily reminders that 80 years ago or so (or just over a hundred years ago) mines were being laid and bombs were being dropped.

There’s an article in today’s Kurier about the bomb squad, whose responsibilities include defusing bombs left over from the wars. Apparently, the squad gets three to four calls a day(!) to take care of old explosive devices.

It reminded me of the time, only three years ago or so, I almost missed the last Vienna-bound flight out of the Cologne airport because the highway was closed and traffic was being rerouted to give a wide berth to the site where an enormous bomb from the Second World War was being defused.

That reminded me of the story a German client told me. His company was in an area of Germany where a lot of bombs got dropped randomly as the RAF planes were on their way home. (This, apparently, was a common practice on both sides. I’m sure there’s a counterpart in the U.K. that defuses old Luftwaffe bombs on a daily basis.)

When my client company was breaking ground for a new plant, they came across one of the bigger bombs and called in the bomb squad. This, of course, delayed progress. When the (U.K.-based) parent company wanted to know why the project was no longer on track, my German client, with some relish (there were some of the usual tensions between parent company and subsidiary), relayed the information that they had been delayed by a British bomb. The head office was attuned to the irony of this and took some of the pressure off.

How easy it is in this peaceful Europe to forget that the E.U. grew out of a desire to never fight neighbors again. And how helpful to have these reminders.

Lehar recording from 1901 discovered

22 Jul

A nice change from the dire news coming in from around the world – someone has found what is believed to be the oldest recording of a Lehar piece, a march recorded by the Imperial Infantry in 1901. We won’t be able to hear it, though, until the end of the month.

https://ooe.orf.at/stories/3058905/

A little history lesson

3 May

As we struggle with the coronavirus, let us not forget that 75 years ago the Second World War was ending. In Austria alone, as the Kurier reported this morning, the timeline looked like this:

29 March 1945 – Soviet troops entered Austria in Burgenland; members of the SS rolled boulders off the rim of the quarry in St. Margarethen onto the forced laborers who had been driven together in the quarry below, causing a blood bath; massacres of forced laborers took place in Deutsch-Schuetzen and Bad Deutsch-Altenburg; a death march from the southeast towards the concentration camp Mauthausen near Linz (approximately 300 km away) were started

6 April 1945 – There is a massacre, called the “Krems Rabbit Hunt” (Kremser Hasenjagd), as the concentration camp Krems-Stein is being evacuated. In this massacre, prisoners who tried to escape, including the freedom figher Alois Westermeier, were caught and executed.

8 April 1945 – The freedom fighters Major Karl Biedermann, Captain Alfred Huth, and First Lieutenant Rudolf Raschke were executed at the Florisdorfer Spitz in Vienna for trying to negotiate with the Red Army a peaceful transfer of Vienna.

13 April 1945 – The battle for Vienna ends. St. Stephen’s Cathedral stands in flames.

17 April 1945 – Theodor Koerner is appointed interim mayor of Vienna.

27 April 1945 – Declaration of independence and founding of the Second Republic.

28 April 1945 – U.S. American troops approach Tirol and Upper Austria. The last of three death march groups reach the camp in Gunskirchen, Upper Austria. Thousands of those people do not survive the next few days.

29 April 1945 – Last murder by gassing of prisoners in the concentration camp, Mauthausen. French troops enter Austrian soil in Vorarlberg.

30 April 1945 – In Vienna, at the orders of Interim Mayor Theodor Koerner, street signs with National Socialist names are taped over. Hitler commits suicide in his bunker in Berlin.

6 May 1945 – British troops cross the Carinthian border into Austria. The concentration camp [actually Aussenlager”] Ebensee is liberated by U.S. American troops.

8 May 1945 – Eight days after Hitler’s suicide, the Third Reich capitulates unconditionally and the war in Europe is over.

A Viennese Moment

20 Apr

Anyone who has seen “The Third Man” has seen the famous Austrian actor, Paul Hörbiger. He played the concierge who witnessed Harry Lime’s accident and who says one of my favorite lines in the film. When Holly Martins, Lime’s friend, asks questions about the accident, Hörbiger says brusquely and full of fear, “Und jetzt gehen Sie sonst verliere ich meinen Wiener Charme” (“And now get out or I’ll forget my Viennese charm”).

In today’s Kurier there’s a short piece about a documentary on Hörbiger’s life in which the journalist, Georg Markus, tells a story he experienced with Hörbiger in 1979 in Prague, when Hörbiger was about 85 years old. They entered a restaurant where piano music was playing. As often happened, all the other patrons of the restaurant gave Hörbiger an ovation. The pianist, Arnos Vrana, stopped playing what he was playing and started instead to play an old, popular Czech song, “Pisnička Česka”. When he finished, he and Hörbiger fell weeping into each other’s arms.

The song had been composed by one of Hörbiger’s friends, Karel Hašler, who was killed in a concentration camp because he was Jewish. The song was outlawed by the Nazis and because Hörbiger, who already knew about his friend’s fate, was present when it was played by that same pianist in Prague in 1940 he, Hörbiger, was arrested for the first time by the Gestapo. Almost forty years later the pianist had recognized Hörbiger and played the song.

Link to the article: https://kurier.at/kultur/geschichten-mit-geschichte/ein-unerwarteter-anruf-hier-spricht-paul-hoerbiger/400472047

At it again

7 Oct

Austria cleaned up at the EuroSkills competition (for people learning trades and crafts) for the fourth time in a row with a total of 21 medals. Russia (a rather larger country than Austria, if I may point that out) came in second with a total of 19. The Russians did have more gold medals (nine to Austria’s four), but still. I’m so glad there are still countries that promote and reward the trades!

The Anschluss – 80 years on | ecbinvienna

12 Mar

10 years ago I wrote the text linked below. Reading it again, I am struck by how quickly we have moved to just such a situation historians and survivors warned about then. Let us remain active and keep lighting those candles, every day.

https://ecbinvienna.com/2013/03/13/the-anschluss-75-years-on/

Boxing

3 Jun

As usual, I am reading the Kurier at Saturday breakfast and am learning something. Boxing is not a sport I associate with Austria, and indeed there is only one professional female boxer in the whole country, Eva Voraberger-but she is the world champion in the light bantamweight class, which means she weighs 52 kgs (about 114 lbs) or less(!). Who would have thought?