Tag Archives: history

Die Wiener Zeitung

12 May

I was introduced to the “Wiener Zeitung” (newspaper) by my former partner who is a lawyer and, like all lawyers, had to subscribe because certain official announcements, about new laws, for example, were published by requirement in the “Wiener Zeitung”. He also read the rest of the paper with interest and pleasure, finding it a wonderful source of edification. At some point, I did catch on to the interesting tidbit that it is the oldest daily paper still in print. That will end on June 30th this year after more or less 320 years. (To be precise, the first issue appeared on 8 August 1703 so it’s not a full 320 years, but what do the few weeks matter with a timeframe like that?)

What happened? In April, the National Assembly passed a law that did away with the requirement described thereby pulling the financial rug out from under their feet. It is the way of all things, and it is still sad. I wanted to commemorate it briefly here.

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The Volksgarten has just turned 200

2 Mar

I saw a story on the ORF website this morning that the Volksgarten in Vienna, famous, among other things, for its stunning rose garden, came into being 200 years ago yesterday. It was the first garden in Austria to be designed and created by an emperor specifically for the people. (The emperor at the time was Franz I, great-nephew of Empress Maria Theresia.)

For several years, I apartment sat for friends of my family’s. It was a 200m2 flat in a distinguished old building (took two days to clean those traditional double windows!) right behind the Parliament in Vienna. The Volksgarten was less than a five-minute walk away and I sat there often.

Two other vivid memories: riding past on the tram and seeing the Lippizaners grazing in the Volksgarten (the Hofburg caught fire in 1992 and the horses were led to safety in the park) and sitting on a bench in the rose garden not quite a year ago having gone to Josef-Meinrad-Platz to test my way out of quarantine. I got there only to find that the computers were down and no testing was taking place. It was the first time I had been out of the apartment in over a week, and it was wonderful.

More (in German): https://wien.orf.at/stories/3196759/

Stories from the Trafik

14 Jan

This morning, as on every Saturday I’m not teaching, Maylo and I went to the Trafik on our way home from our morning walk. He got his treats and I got mine (newspaper and instant lottery ticket). Then because it wasn’t busy we got into a chat, quite a heavy chat as it turned out.

The Trafikant, nearing 80, was born in Vienna during the Second World War and told how his mother would wrap him in a blanket and carry him down to the air raid shelter in the cellar.

One of his employees then started talking about her experiences during the war in Bosnia before her family fled to Vienna, how she, too, spent time in bomb cellars. From her accent, I could tell that she wasn’t Austrian born, but we had never talked before about where she came from. (I personally am so allergic to the question “Where are you from?” when I have lived here over half my life that I very rarely ask it of others.)

We had gotten onto the topic of how each time we thought it was the last war in Europe and how the whole misery is being repeated now in Ukraine when another customer came in and Maylo and I left.

I think Trafiks are often microcosms of the world around us.

NYTimes: Robert Clary, Who Took a Tragic Journey to ‘Hogan’s Heroes,’ Dies at 96

20 Nov

Robert Clary, Who Took a Tragic Journey to ‘Hogan’s Heroes,’ Dies at 96 https://nyti.ms/3GwlErL

My brother and I used to sneak “Hogan’s Heroes” because (a) we were limited in how much TV we were allowed to watch and (b) my mother, having grown up in Nazi Germany, objected to making light in any way of what happened. Would she feel differently if she knew that one actor was a concentration camp survivor and three were refugees? Perhaps. Or perhaps the reminders of those years would all still be too painful.

Three refugees, you ask? Robert Clary’s obituary only mentions Wilhelm Klemperer and John Banner. They left out Leon Askin, who played General Burkhalter. He was born Leon Aschkenasy in Vienna and lost both his parents in Treblinka. Ever since I learned that, years ago, I’ve thought how therapeutic it must have been to play the bad-tempered and quite repulsive General.

64,440 Names

13 Nov

I have finally gotten around to creating a blog article I have been meaning to post for over a year. It is in the form of the first, and possibly only, video I have filmed for my blog. Because of the size of the file I am putting a link here for those who wish to take a look. Warning: It is on an emotional topic.

Some links to additional information:
The official website
The ORF report from 9 November 2022
Every name stands for a world that was killed

Schwedenplatz 2020

3 Nov

Yesterday marked the second anniversary of the attacks at Schwedenplatz on that balmy evening that tempted so many people to be out and about on the eve of our third (or was it already our fourth?) lockdown.

So much has happened since then and life feels so different that it seems impossible that it has only been two years.

Austria’s fattest “photo album”

26 Oct

Today, October 26, is a holiday in Austria, commemorating the vote in Parliament that established Austria’s permanent neutrality. (My understanding is that it was the first business enacted by the Parliament after all occupying powers had left Austrian territory after the Second World War. More about the treaty here.)

It is probably no accident, then, that the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation) chose today to draw attention to the special photo and image archive of the Austrian National Library. Here is a taste from the ORF site of the millions of photos stored.

The ORF article is lengthy and only in German, unfortunately. Some of the main points they make: the Imperial Collection created a foundation for the current collection (yes, there is a photo of the enigmatic Empress Elisabeth); the rise of press photography bearing contemporary witness to life vs. studio portraits; the suppression of free media and therefore, of course, photojournalism as well as the banning of Jewish photographers during the Nazi regime and the resurrection of those professions after the Second World War; the role photography played in documenting the Cold War and the images of its major players (one of the most chilling photos for me on the ORF site was of Russian soldiers goose-stepping in Moscow in 1988); and the challenges of maintaining a usable archive in the world of digital photography where photos can be snapped one a second. (In fact, the teaser for the article mentions sinking into Austria’s fattest “photo album”.)

A heads-up: The Austrian National Library is planning for 2023 a retrospective of photos by Yoichi Okamoto who was head of the United States Information Service during the Occupation in Austria and later presidential photographer for Lyndon B. Johnson.

Those who would like to see more photos, I have chosen the link to the digital archive with images of Vienna to share with you here.

Praterwal wird ins Wien Museum gehoben

20 Jul

https://wien.orf.at/stories/3165341/

Here is a nice, light story in a world full of heavy news. A 10-meter whale sculpture that stood in front of a Gasthaus (kind of restaurant), zum Walfisch, in the Prater is being moved to the Wien Museum now that the restaurant it represented is no longer there. It is so big that it is being moved in now while the renovations are still ongoing. Eventually it will be hung from the ceiling.

More about this later, I hope, but now I have to go to work. The curse of the drinking classes, as my father loved to quip, possibly quoting George Bernard Shaw. Curse of the writing classes is more like it! 😉

If you’re interested in the renovation of the Wien Museum, I mentioned it in this post: https://ecbinvienna.com/2019/01/10/wien-museum-vienna-museum/

Lillehammer 1994

2 Apr

Today’s Kurier has an interview with Oksana Baiul, the 1994 Ukrainian gold medalist in women’s figure-skating. (She beat Nancy Kerrigan in the final seconds of her routine, as I remember it, by adding a rotation to a jump.)

Just seeing her name and the photo of her with her pink costume and frizzy 1980s hairstyle reminded me of how, in those days, no one except Ukrainians knew the Ukrainian anthem. The way I remember it, the award ceremony was delayed because they were searching backstage for the music so the anthem could be played. In the interview, Baiul says it was because the organizers couldn’t find a Ukrainian flag.

We are now all familiar with the anthem and the flag. I wish it for different reasons.

April 1st – a significant date for both the last emperor and the last empress of Austria

1 Apr

I always check the ORF headlines on my phone at breakfast. This morning I saw that today is the 100th anniversary of the death of Karl I of Austria — the Habsburg who had the thankless task of assuming the throne after the almost 68-year reign of Franz Josef I. He was ill-prepared, not really having expected to ascend to the throne (Crown Prince Rudolf shot himself, Franz Ferdinand made a morganatic marriage and was, of course, later assassinated in Sarajevo, and Karl’s father died young) and took on the role in the middle of a war he had mixed feelings about. One could say that at least he only had to do the job for two years, from 1916 to 1918 when Austria became a republic, but I suspect he didn’t see it that way.

Reading this reminded me that I was a part of the crowd at Stephansplatz that gathered to see Empress Zita’s funeral procession. What I had forgotten was that this was on 1 April 1989. What I still remember is that I got a very good place to stand because there was an incredible downpour just as I was walking to Stephansplatz, which, I suspect, sent the people who were already gathered there scurrying for cover. I sheltered in the doorway of a shop until the worst was over and then made my way to the square and took up a spot near the doors to St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the front row.

What particularly overwhelmed me as the procession went by was the weight of history summed up in this last imperial funeral in Austria. The funeral coach had already become a museum piece and I had seen it in the Wagenburg (Imperial Carriage Museum) at Schönbrunn. The enormous black horses with their stiff black plumes were like something out of Victorian England, as were the uniforms worn by the staff members of the City of Vienna undertakers. The crowd stretched away from Stephansplatz up Kärntner Straße and off along the Graben, where people hoped to catch a glimpse of the procession as Zita was conveyed from the Cathedral to the Kapuzinergruft, where the Habsburgs are interred in their family vault. The Habsburgs are laid out chronologically and so it happens that Zita’s coffin stands on a pedestal next to that of Franz Josef I. Because of history and human frailty, her husband’s grave is still (and probably now will remain) at Funchal in Madeira, although in the manner of the Habsburgs his heart lies elsewhere (in Switzerland).

What a privilege it was to be able to see that bit of history. Something I will never forget.

If you would like more information, here are two pages from the ORF website, with videos.

About Karl I: https://orf.at/stories/3256669/

On Zita’s funeral: https://tvthek.orf.at/history/Persoenlichkeiten/9501729/Begraebnis-von-Kaiserin-Zita/9573009