Tag Archives: history

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.

A particularly Austrian solution

20 Dec

Seems a particularly Austrian solution to me. It is against the law for descendants of aristocratic families to use their titles and has been since 1918. The maximum penalty? 14 cents. 🙂

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.

The view from the 2nd district to the 22nd

6 Dec


The photo didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted, but I found the view an interesting representation of some of the major changes in Vienna over the last 100 years or so with one of the original Gemeindebauten on the other side of the U2 tracks and the UN and everything that has grown up around it in the background. On the right you can catch a glimpse of the Danube.

NYTimes: ‘The Hare With Amber Eyes’ Comes Home

14 Nov

‘The Hare With Amber Eyes’ Comes Home https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/12/arts/design/hare-with-amber-eyes-vienna-edmund-de-waal.html

And I’m going to the exhibit at the Jewish Museum in Vienna on Sunday with the friend who recommended Edmund de Waal’s book. Lucky me. 🙂

Marathon world record in Vienna Prater

12 Oct

Eliud Kipchoge did it! He ran the classic marathon distance in under two hours (1:59:40). And he did it in the Prater in Vienna. I’ve never seen him so happy. 😁

https://sport.orf.at/stories/3054515/

Happy End – WIENzig

4 Oct

According to this, Emperor Josef II decreed that all plays had to have a happy ending. This meant (pretty major, if you ask me) re-writes for plays like “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet”. These happy endings became known in the German speaking world as “Viennese endings”. Apparently, Apfelstrudel and other delicacies weren’t enough to keep the population happy. 😉

https://www.wienzig.at/happy-end/

“Gruß Gott!”

29 Sep

“Gruß Gott!” is still a common greeting in Austria, or at least in Vienna. Today, reading an interview in the Kurier with Thomas Schäfer-Elmayer, owner of the number one dancing school in Vienna and the Emily Post certainly of Austria if not of the entire German-speaking world, I learned something of the history and associations of the phrase.

He didn’t feel the need to explain but I do: The phrase (word-for-word translation “Greet God!”) is short for “God greet you.” (“Grüß Sie / dich Gott!”) He told a story, though, in which he was speaking at a technical / vocational high school and a student called him on using it because the student considered the greeting too closely associated with the ÖVP or Austrian People’s Party (a.k.a. the Conservatives).

To his credit, Schäfer-Elmayer looked into this claim and discovered that between the world wars it truly was a sign to others that one belonged to the People’s Party. His research showed that during this time–with what amounted to a civil war being waged in the streets of  Vienna–the hate between the Social Democrats (the Reds) and the People’s Party (the Blacks) was so great, people chose to signal their allegiance immediately in how they greeted other people. “Grüß Gott” for the Conversatives; “Guten Tag” for the Social Democrats.

The civil servants, who sought to remain neutral, as good civil servants the world over do, adopted–Schäfer-Elmayer said–the term “Mahlzeit” (usually said before a meal and then taking the place of “Guten Appetit”). This is an interesting take on the greeting, as I always assumed “Mahlzeit” had a similar function as the French “Rebonjour”. In current usage, you say “Guten Morgen” when you first run into someone in your place of work–in the morning–and “Mahlzeit” afterwards to indicate that you remember greeting them the first time. (Apparently, in French companies it is a rather large faux pas to use “Bonjour” twice in one day to the same person. I read that it is tantamount to considering the person so inconsequential that you don’t remember greeting them the first time. Source: Schneider and Barsoux, “Managing across Cultures”)

From 1938 to 1945,  apparently, “Mahlzeit” took on another use. People who wished to avoid saying “Heil Hitler” said “Mahlzeit” instead. I hear my mother–born in Berlin and raised there during the Second World War–saying, “Berliners just kept saying ‘Guten Morgen’.” Her comment is supported by Christabel Bielenberg’s incomparable memoirs, which I am currently re-reading, of living in Berlin as an Englishwoman under the Nazis. Even more of an aside here: that Berliner habit got my grandmother–my German grandmother, that is, not my English grandmother (complicated family)–into trouble when she visited her parents in their small town in Thuringia.

And so a bit of culture and history on this Sunday.

For German speakers, links to the Kurier interview and to the Wikipedia entry on some of the uses of “Mahlzeit” below:

https://kurier.at/freizeit/thomas-schaefer-elmayer-gesteht-ich-mache-auch-viel-falsch/400613615

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahlzeit

 

Rooseveltplatz

26 Jul

What a concise reminder of bits of Viennese and Austrian history, all in one sign at the Institute for Social Sciences of the University of Vienna. They are located at what I have always known as Rooseveltplatz. Obviously, it has had different names over the years, reflecting eras and events in Austrian history.

I can guess at most (all) of them. Maximilian was Emperor Franz Josef’s brother, who had the nearby Votiv Church built. Freiheitsplatz (Freedom Square) probably expresses the hopes of the new democracy after the First World War. Dollfuss was the Austrian chancellor assassinated by National Socialists in July 1934. Hermann-Göring-Platz is sadly self-explanatory. And then Freiheitsplatz again until it was named after the U.S. President Roosevelt.

Interesting!