VIENNESE IN EXILE IN BOLIVIA 1938-1948

Bolivia is still one of the poorest countries in South America and in the 1930s it was a developing country that was definitely not the desired destination of refugees from Vienna like the United States, Brazil, Argentina or Chile, where the living conditions were similar to Central Europe. But Bolivia ended up as a refuge for many who did not have any other choice and who were desperate to grab any visa available to be able to flee the Nazi terror. You sometimes had to bribe the diplomatic personnel at the embassies to get visas that later turned out to be faked, but even after a stop to immigration, Bolivia handled the issue flexibly and all those with visas, genuine or faked, were allowed into the country, most of them on agricultural visas, although they had no idea of farming. Fortunately for the refugees did Bolivia not annul faked visas, in contrast to other Latin American countries. The country that offered the refugees from Nazi terror rescue was riddled with economic crises, unrests and military coups and had lost a large part of its territory in the “Chaco War” against Paraguay. The German community that had settled in Bolivia before 1938 was under the influence of the NSDAP, led by the German ambassador. Therefore the possibilities for making a living were very limited for the Austrian and German Jewish immigrants; they were restricted by the German community, the Bolivian administration and the Bolivian professional associations. Only few joined agricultural projects, like those of the mining entrepreneur Mauricio Hochschild, most resorted to small retail trade and craftsmanship, where they competed with the local population and thereby triggered some resentment. Within three years the approximately 7,000 to 8,000 refugees to Bolivia formed the largest foreign community there, but most of them moved on to other countries, such as the United States, Chile, Argentine and Uruguay as soon as it was possible. In 1945 around 4,800 Jewish immigrants still lived in Bolivia. The tropical and sub-tropical climate and the extreme altitude were a huge challenge to the immigrants, but the country saved the lives of many refugees from persecution of the “Third Reich” – it accepted the largest numbers of Jewish refugees from Europe of all Latin American countries relative to its inhabitants and my relatives always preserved a loving memory of the beauty of the country and its colourful population mix.

Karl Elzholz, my great-uncle, husband of my great-aunts Mitzi and later Käthe, two of the three sisters of my grandmother

My great-uncle Karl Elzholz, a mechanic at the Vienna tramways, was married to the youngest sister of my grandmother, Marianne (Mitzi), who was several years younger than him. She was his much loved second wife, after his first wife had died young from a lung disease. They had no children and decided rather late that they had to flee Vienna when Hitler invaded Austria in March 1938. Karl was an enthusiastic socialist and a dedicated patriot of the young Austrian republic. As most of the possible destinations had already closed their borders, he managed to procure a visa for Bolivia as an agricultural worker. Karl was a skilled mountain hiker and they fled Austria across the Alps in the winter 1938/39. The last message that my great-grandparents and my grandparents in Vienna received from them was a postcard from Hermagor in Carinthia with the following message:

Dearest parents, Don’t worry and don’t get excited. We are very well. We eat, drink and wait. We have passed the border without problems. There is a lot of room in the train, so we will sleep well. It is half past six and we are already at the border. Many, many kisses, yours Mitzi. Greetings Karl

Postcard of Hermagor in Carinthia at the border to Italy, January 1939

“DANUBE FOOTBALL” – VIENNA’S IDENTIFICATION WITH FOOTBALL – AND THE “DANUBE MAIDENS” – VIENNA’S FEMALE SWIMMING CHAMPIONS (until 1938)

1st Professional Austrian Football Champion 1924/25, bottom row: third from the left: Norbert Katz

Norbert Katz, the husband of my great-aunt Agi, was a very talented and successful professional footballer in Vienna until he had to emigrate in 1938. As a very young player he became champion of the Austrian second league in 1919/20 with his team Hakoah Vienna and was Austrian Champion in the season 1924/25 with Hakoah Vienna. Later in England he was employed as a bank clerk, but continued to work as sports trainer and football functionary. This fact offers the chance to investigate the significance of football for the city of Vienna as a vehicle of identification with the young Austrian state. May great-aunt, Agi, was a free water Danube swimmer for the sports club Hakoah, one of the “Danube Maidens”,  before she married Norbert. Swimming, just as football, was a very popular and internationally successful sport in Vienna in the 1920s and 1930s.

At the end of the 19th century the English sport football was introduced in Graz, Prague and Vienna, but Vienna soon took the lead because football was directly introduced by Englishmen in Vienna, whereas the clubs in Graz and Prague were subsidiaries of Frankfurt clubs. At that time many English people worked and lived in the Habsburg Empire’s capital city. They introduced the ethics of sport and its benefits for health  and mind in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The gasworks in Simmering, for example, were an English subsidiary and the British company brought many English engineers, skilled workers and white collar staff to Vienna and they started to play football at the “Jesuitenwiese” in the Vienna Prater. Other important British companies that had established businesses in Vienna were Clayton & Shuttleworth, which produced agricultural machines and typewriters, Thomas Cook & Son, the travel agent, and several British sanitary firms. Gandon of the gas works, Gramlick, the owner of a British sanitary firm, Shires, a salesman of the “Underwood” typewriter, Blackey, the director of Clayton & Shuttleworth, Reverend Hechler of the Anglican Church in Vienna, Blyth of Stone & Blyth and Loew, director of the Viennese hat factory Böhm, these were the men who introduced football to Vienna. In 1892 they founded the “Vienna Cricket Club”, but cricket could not find enough players and spectators in Vienna, so the club decided to introduce football in Vienna, too, and in 1894 they changed the club’s name to “Vienna Cricket and Football club” (later “Austria Wien”). Just a few days earlier another group of Englishmen had registered the “First Vienna Football Club” with the imperial administration in 1984, which means the “Vienna” was the first Viennese football club in the city. The two clubs “First Vienna Football Club”, called “Vienna” and the “Vienna Cricket and Football Club”, called “Cricketer” (later FK Austria Wien) were based in Döbling and Heiligenstadt and their first players were the gardeners who Baron Nathaniel Rothschild had brought to Vienna to tend his gardens at the “Hohe Warte”. “Vienna” was the first Viennese football club that also accepted Austro-Hungarian players and was not exclusively managed by Englishmen. Franz Joli, son of the inspector of the Rothschild gardens was enthusiastic about football after his stay in England and he and his brother Max Joli boosted the enthusiasm for the new game among the local population. They started to play with the English gardeners in the Rothschild gardens. So, father Joli had to look for an appropriate football ground outside the gardens in order not to have the lovingly tended meadows of the Rothschild gardens devastated. The first football ground of the “Vienna” was an unused plot at the Heiligenstädterstraße, later the “Kuglerwiese”. The founding assembly took place at the inn “Zur schönen Aussicht” at the “Hohe Warte” on 22 August 1894 and the colours chosen for the club were blue and yellow, the colours of the Rothschild horses competing at the race course in Freudenau. The club was founded under the patronage of the director of the Rothschild bank in Vienna and Baron Rothschild paid for the rent of the football ground and subsidised the club. The first club pub was “Bittners Restaurant” at the Heiligenstädter Pfarrplatz. On the 15 November 1894 the first football match between the two rivalling clubs took place at the Kuglerwiese and the “Cricketer” won 4:0. This was the birth of the Viennese football sport.

SUCCESS STORIES OF RECENT MIGRATORY MOVEMENTS TO VIENNA

“Brunnenmarkt”, street market in Vienna’s 16th district

After the disasters of the first half of the 20th century, First World War, Great Depression, Second World War, disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austro-Fascism and Nazi regime, holocaust and ethnic cleansing, Vienna, the former 2-million multi-ethnic capital of a 50-million peoples’ empire, had turned into a provincial town, capital of a 7-million country, with a decreasing, rather homogenous population. Since the middle of the 1960s the lack of much needed workforce at the times of the economic boom years led to a change of attitude towards labour migration in Austria. The census of 1961 registered 7,074,000 inhabitants in Austria; 102,000 of them foreigners, most of them German citizens, the lowest number ever.

In 1961 the first recruitments abroad for the construction industry took place. Of the agreed 7,300 persons only 1,800 arrived, mostly from Italy. In 1962 a recruitment agreement with Spain under the fascist regime of Franco was unsuccessful. Between 1962 and 1964 37,000 “guest workers” were invited annually, but those numbers of migratory workers never arrived in Austria. Austria did not seem to be an attractive destination at that time. Finally in 1964 a recruitment agreement was signed with Turkey and an official Austrian recruitment office was opened in Istanbul, which was closed nearly 30 years later in 1993. In 1966 such a recruitment agreement was signed with Yugoslavia, too, together with a social agreement that regulated the claims of the workers with respect to health, accident and pension insurance. An official Austrian recruitment office was opened in Belgrade. In 1969 a similar social agreement was negotiated with Turkey. In general, recruitment offices were of minor importance because most migrants entered Austria via tourist visa and their stay was later legalised after they had worked here for some time. The status of these migratory workers was precarious, as the two following examples show: In 1965 Yugoslav workers at the company Iso-Span in Obertrum, Salzburg, went on strike because they received lower wages than agreed. As a consequence the strikers were taken in custody pending deportation. The same happened in 1966, when Yugoslav workers in a construction company in Admont, Styria, went on strike.

Political crises in neighbouring countries also had an effect on migratory movements in Austria. When the dissatisfaction of the Hungarian population with the Soviet domination culminated in the Hungarian revolution of 1956, approximately 180,000 Hungarians fled to Austria and took residence here temporarily. In 1968 160,000 Czech and Slovak refugees settled in Austria for some time due to the revolution in Prague that was crushed by the Soviets as well. After the military coup-d’état In Turkey in 1980 – one of several coup-d’ètats there – the Turkish refugees in Austria received “guest worker” status and that’s why their exact number is not known. When in 1980 martial law was imposed on Poland, more than 35,000 Polish refugees came to Austria, most of which remained here permanently. When in 1991 the war in Yugoslavia started Austria welcomed approximately 90,000 refugees from ex-Yugoslavia over the next four years.

REFORMS OF THE EUROPEAN WELFARE STATE MODEL

Eger, Hungary

In 1942 William Beveridge, a British academic and civil servant, published his blueprint of a welfare state for Great Britain in his account of the “Five Giants”: disease, idleness, ignorance, squalor and want. He proposed new benefits for the retired, disabled and unemployed, a universal allowance for children and a nationwide health service. Polls found that majorities of all social classes backed these proposals. The blueprint was translated into 22 languages and the Royal Air Force dropped summaries on Allied troops and behind enemy lines. Such zeal for the welfare state is rare nowadays. Liberals such as Beveridge believed that people should take more responsibility for their own lives, but that government should support them. They did not see it as industrialised charity, but as a complement to free-market capitalism. In the second half of the 19th century the rise of unfettered markets brought demands for protection against its effects. Charity and churches were seen as failing to cope with poverty, as mass urbanisation weakened traditional bonds. Pressure came from socialists, but liberals responded, too. “New liberals” such as John Stuart Mill and Leonard Hobhouse argued that freedom meant ensuring that people had the health, education and security to lead the life they wanted. The development of welfare states was then hastened by the Great Depression and World War II. The war fostered a sense of unity and as middle classes shared the risks, their demands for support meant the welfare state became about more than just looking after the poor. The post-war government in Britain implemented most of Beveridge’s plan and similar reforms soon followed elsewhere in Europe. Welfare states have always differed from country to country, but from the 1970s on approaches diverged further. In the 1990s the Danish sociologist Esping-Anderson distinguished three varieties of “welfare capitalism”. First were the “social democratic” versions in Scandinavian countries with high public spending, strong trade unions, universal benefits and support for women to stay in the workplace. Second, “conservative” welfare states, such as Germany’s were built around the traditional family and had a strong contributory principle. Third, the “Anglo-American” welfare states, which put greater emphasis on guaranteed minimums than on universal benefits as in Britain.

Perhaps the most common charge against European mature welfare states is that they have created a culture of dependency. So policy makers have made programmes more “conditional”, forcing recipients to look for work, for example; and to help them, many countries expanded “active labour market policies”, such as retraining. The wide-spread notion that the welfare state is mainly about redistribution from rich to poor is a myth. Nowadays its role is more to allow people to smooth consumption over their lifetimes, in effect shifting money from their younger selves to their older selves. As countries become wealthier, public spending increases as a share of GDP. Spending on social protection, like pensions, health care and benefits, in OECD countries has increased from 5 per cent in 1960 to 15 per cent in 1980 to 21 per cent in 2016. Nevertheless, since 2000, some Scandinavian countries, for example, have combined high levels of public spending with high rates of economic growth. The effects of welfare depend not just on how much is spent, but how. Subsidised child care, which helps mostly women stay in the labour market, is more growth-friendly than pensions. The difficulties welfare states in rich European countries face are about more than just their size. The three main difficulties relate to demography, migration and changing labour markets. The fact of the ageing European population means that welfare spending is increasingly shifted towards the elderly. This threatens the implicit contract between generations. Meanwhile Denmark and Finland have linked state retirement ages to life expectancy, so will the Netherlands. In Germany, Portugal and Sweden pension levels are adjusted according to the ratios of workers to non-workers.

Immigration poses another challenge to the welfare state. In 1978 Milton Friedman argued that you could have open borders or generous welfare states open to all, but not both, without swamping the welfare system. Moreover, taxpayers are more tolerant of benefits that are seen to look after “people like them”. A study published in 2017 using survey data from 114 European regions found a correlation between areas with higher shares of migrants and a lack of support for a generous welfare state. Another survey of changing attitudes in European countries between 2002 and 2012 found both rising support for redistribution for “natives” and sharp opposition to migration and automatic access to benefits for new arrivals. Such popular views form a core part of the appeal of populists in Europe such as the Front National in France, the Sweden Democrats or the Danish People’s Party. The nature of the benefits influences attitudes as well. Immediate access to health care and public education for immigrants is widely supported by European populations, but benefits should not extend to unemployment or child benefit. Moreover, attitudes towards immigrants are volatile and swayed by the political climate. In 2011, for example, 40 per cent of Britons said immigrants “undermined” the country’s cultural life, and just 26 per cent believed they enriched it. By 2017, in the wake of the Brexit vote, only 23 per cent believed immigrants undermined British culture, compared to 44 per cent who believed they enriched British culture. Immigration might offer a partial solution to the first problem of ageing because since at least 2002 EU migrants have contributed much more in taxes than they have cost in public services, as economic research in Britain and Denmark has found out.

The third issue is adapting to changing labour markets. The welfare state developed at a time of powerful government, powerful companies and powerful trade unions. The economic aim after World War II was full male employment. Recent research by the OECD in seven of its member countries estimated that 60 per cent of the working-age population had stable full-time work. Of the other 40 per cent, no more than a quarter met the typical definition of unemployed, namely out of a job, but looking for one. Most had dropped out of the labour market completely or worked volatile hours. The causes are complex and overlapping, but hey include the incentives and disincentives to work that complex benefits systems produce. Universal basic income (UBI) may be one way to avoid such problems. It may take many different forms, but basically replaces a wide range of means-tested benefits with a single unconditional one, paid to everyone. Scotland and the Netherlands are running experiments involving UBI, but in no country is it yet the foundation of the benefits system of working-age adults. The OECD recently modelled two forms of basic income. Under the first one, a country’s spending in benefits is divided equally among everyone – a revenue-neutral form. Under the second one, everyone would receive benefits equal to the current minimum-income guarantee, and taxes would rise to pay for it, if necessary.

BREXIT AND ITS CONSEQUENCES FOR EUROPE’S CENTRE

Trieste, Italy

Britain’s current decline is relative rather than absolute. The average citizen of today’s Britain is far richer than was the average citizen at the time of the British Empire. Other advanced economies have suffered from years of slow growth while Britain’s science and medical research boom. But the evidence of decline is too evident to ignore. Britain’s core political institutions are in a state of decay. In the past, big crises have produced great leaders, such as Lloyd George during World War I and Winston Churchill during World War II, but today’s politicians range among the mediocre. In a recent survey a quarter of Britons say they would vote for a far-right party because the mainstream parties have let them down. Economic growth has been slow since 2015 despite low interest rates and a fall in the value of the pound. Productivity growth has been marginal and real wages have been falling for a decade. A growing proportion of the population is trapped in a cut-throat economy, in which the young fear to be much worse off in future than their baby-boomer parents.

This is not the first time Britons have been gripped by fears about decline. In the 1890s they worried that America and Germany were replacing Britain as the workshop of the world. In the 1950s they worried that an old-fashioned establishment was strangling the forces of progress. The 1970s saw a particularly fierce debate, as the country was plagued by strikes and three-day weeks. But three aspects make today’s worries especially troublesome. The first is disappointment. For the past 40 years Britain felt that it had put decline behind it. Margret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and David Cameron cemented the new consensus that economic growth, deregulation and privatisation were the key to permanent wealth increase. This was a huge benefit to the new elite that could pride itself that it was more progressive than the old one while stuffing its pockets with gold. But this new consensus also suffered from mounting problems. There was the problem of one-off windfalls: selling off council houses was wonderful for the tenants and the Treasury, but left Britain short of social housing. There was the problem of regional imbalance. The boom in financial services poured money into the south-east while the north remained in economic trouble. This Thatcher-Blair consensus finally ended with the financial crisis of 2008 and the Brexit vote of 2016.

The second problem Britain is facing is the lack of collective agreement in deciding to leave the European Union. Brexit was driven by a particular combination of despair about the way the old consensus had left so many people behind and of optimism that by freeing itself from the EU Britain would be able to reignite its growth engine. The despair was probably justified, but the optimism definitely not because most of Britain’s problems are internally generated. There is nothing about membership in the EU that prevents British entrepreneurs from trading with the rest of the world. Indeed the EU has just signed a trade deal with Japan and is negotiating with the USA about lowering trade barriers. Most economists predict that any version of Brexit – hard or soft – will depress Britain’s growth rate. If Britain leaves without a deal, the consequences will be dramatic. The Brexit secretariat is already drawing up contingency plans to stockpile medicine and food and put electricity generators on barges in the Irish Sea. The third problem is that of compounded error. Irresponsible politicians may well feed the people’s appetites for populist and nationalistic decisions. The Brexit debacle has already injected the poisonous charge of betrayal into the heart of politics. Tony Blair said that politics at the moment is about either riding the anger of finding the answer. The trouble is that fresh answers are hard to find and the anger is mounting daily.

CENTRAL EUROPE AND THE FUTURE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION IN THE 21st CENTURY

Debrecen, Hungary, University

In 2018 Jaguar Land Rover ((JLR) opened a new plant with 640 robots on a former farmland in Nitra in western Slovakia. The robots together with 2,800 workers can assemble a Land Rover Discovery every two minutes. JLR was just another carmaker to come to Slovakia. VW arrived in 1991, followed by Kia and PSA. These firms together turn out over one million cars annually; more per head of population than any other country. Nitra is close to the motorway and Slovakia has an impressive supply chain with more than 300 factories making car parts. This spoke for Slovakia. The JLR factory gives a fair picture of Slovakia’s, and more broadly Central Europe’s model of economic development. First, it was built with foreign capital and largely by foreign contractors. Membership in the EU has facilitated the flow of capital from the western members to the eastern ones. Second, the economy of Central Europe depends on customers in economies to the west purchasing goods made relatively cheaply in the hinterland. Third, government support was essential for this economic take off. Government subsidies luring foreign companies into the country are common in Central Europe. Investors flock to special economic zones across the region, attracted by tax advantages. Furthermore EU funds have boosted investment in infrastructure that appeals to foreign investors like, road and rail. Even in Poland, the region’s biggest and most diversified economy, these EU funds matter: by 2022 they will make up 22 per cent of public spending each year.

This foreign-led development model has had much success. Countries from the Baltic states in the north to littoral Black Sea states have become considerably richer over the last two decades. GDP per person in the Czech Republic is now close to Spain. Bulgaria and Romania are much poorer in terms of GDP, but managing to win investment and to grow, too. The European Commission tracks the progress of five EU members immediately east of Germany and Austria, namely the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, compared with a group of four western frontier EU countries, namely Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. In 1995 the average GDP per person at purchasing power parity was around 55 per cent lower in the five Central European countries than in the western frontier countries. By 2016 the difference had shrunk to 39 per cent. Average incomes in the five countries are now equal to those in Portugal and far above those in Greece, of course also due to the financial crisis and sovereign debt crisis since 2008. Of all the Central European countries Slovakia saw the most dramatic gains.

But the challenge for these countries, as for any hinterland reliant on supplying labour to produce goods for richer neighbours, is to keep closing the income gap. The next step of economic development is going to be harder, requiring more productive firms, more private capital and more skilled labour. The region was not that hit by the financial crisis and is growing strongly once again. The IMF expects these countries to expand nearly twice as fast as Western Europe and this expansion looks more sustainable than the one that ended with the financial crisis in 2008. Back then cheap foreign loans, including Swiss franc mortgages taken out by individual households had boosted consumption but became hard to pay back. Nowadays banks are in better shape and consumption is less supported by debt and more by rising incomes. Despite nationalistic policies by populist governments in some countries foreign companies are not retreating. Corruption and some political instability seem not to deter investors as long as other economic conditions are beneficial. Building firms are doing particularly well. Construction activity in the region has typically grown twice as fast as GDP in recent years. Central Europe accounts for a fifth of Strabag’s – Austria’s biggest construction company – business. Business in Poland has gone so well that Strabag is branching out from EU-funded infrastructure into hotels, shopping centres and office blocks. Wienerberger, an Austrian building-materials supplier, has 64 plants across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), including the ones in Austria and Turkey. 30 per cent in the region are not connected to a sewer system, compared with 5 per cent in Western Europe, which means big business for the firm. Subsidies for better housing, for instance in Hungary, have meant a boom in brick sales.

Services are playing a bigger part in this expansion in Central Europe than in the pre-crisis boom. This means that also white-collar work is doing well. Western banks are moving back-office jobs east to pleasant and affordable spots such as Krakow. McKinsey has 1,000 analysts in Poznan in central Poland, serving clients world-wide. Brexit is moving some mid-level finance jobs away from London as well. Erste Bank, an Austrian bank with 16 million customers in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Turkey, expects banking in the region to grow faster than in Western Europe for many years to come. Central Europe has also transformed Vienna Insurance Group, a nearly 200-year old Austrian institution. Its 21 companies across CEE now provide half of all VIG’s premiums and profits because as income rises, spending on insurance increases, too. So it seems that Central European economies are well set for sustainable economic growth. Yet there are still three reasons for worries, namely a lack of innovation in local firms, a coming demographic squeeze and an over-dependence on foreigners, especially Germans, to drive development.

CENTRAL EUROPE AND THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN EMPIRE: ATTEMPTS AT CREATING A UNIFYING IDENTITY DESPITE RISING NATIONALISM

Brno, Czech Republic

In the last years researchers of Central and Eastern Europe have revised the widespread assumptions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that comprised a large part of this area and ended in 1918. They no longer see it as an economically inefficient multi-national anachronism to the late 19th century nation states of Europe. New studies focus on the vibrant political cultures and the interesting attempts at interpreting local and regional phenomena in this multi-ethnic and multi-religious empire. General studies of Europe and modern history tend to treat the region of Central Europe as an exceptional corner of Europe due to the presence of several ethnic and religious groups in its societies, but also because of its economic development, often – unjustly – characterised as “backward”. Historians of self-styled nation states might have to think more creatively about cultural differences that may lurk just below the surface of assertions of national homogeneity. This is especially necessary at the time when the European Union is again facing new outbreaks of nationalism and even regions in the established nation states of Western Europe show serious tendencies of separation, e.g. Catalonia or Scotland.

Even some books written recently on the topic of World War I continued the tradition of portraying the Habsburg Empire as a state on the verge of collapse even before the outbreak of the war due to nationalist conflicts. Since the collapse of the empire narratives of nationhood have dominated its history. This interpretation ignores the fact that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was very similar to the other European states of the time, but at the same time pioneered new ideas of nationhood and new practices of governance thanks to its multi-ethnic population of 50 million. Some of the character, the developments and the enduring legacies of this Habsburg Empire are still visible in Central Europe. Therefore it is essential for once to abandon traditional presumptions about the primacy of nationhood in the region and to focus on the Austro-Hungarian institutions such as schools, the judicial system or the Austrian census that managed practical issues surrounding linguistic and ethnic diversity. This research undermines the notion that the existence of language differences dominated social relationships and institutional developments in Central Europe. On the contrary, imperial institutions and administrative practices helped shape nationalist efforts. Furthermore the surviving presumptions of economic backwardness or unbridgeable difference that allegedly made Central Europe different from the rest of Europe were revised in recent decades and historians have pointed out the remarkable creativity and innovation of the empire’s institutions in tackling diversity. Looking at the last decades of the Habsburg Empire might offer different views at subjects like nationhood, multilingualism and indifference to nationhood, especially at times of crisis of solidarity in the European Union.

“EVERY VIENNESE HAS A BOHEMIAN GRANDMOTHER“: BOHEMIAN & MORAVIAN JEWS IN THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN EMPIRE

The gravestones of Josef Weiss, medical doctor, and Agnes Weiss, his wife, my great-great grandparents, Eywanowitz (Ivanovice na Hane)

„Every Viennese has a Bohemian grandmother”, this popular Viennese saying is partly true for me as well, but she was a Moravian and not a Bohemian grandmother because Lola was born in Eywanowitz (today Ivanovice na Hane) in Moravia in 1902 as the second daughter of Leopoldine, née Weiss, and Ignaz Sobotka, a beer brewer. Soon after her birth the family moved to Vienna because Ignaz started to work for the brewery in Kaiser Ebersdorf. She did not speak any Czech, but told me some lines of Czech nursery rhymes she still remembered and she spent her childhood holidays at the house of relatives in Znaim (Znojmo). In 2015 I visited for the first time the little village of Eywanowitz and saw the church, the castle and the brewery. In 2017 I discovered, to my great surprise, a Jewish cemetery that was preserved between a petrol station and a sewage treatment facility on the outskirts of the village and accessible to the public. To my even greater astonishment I spotted among the graves the well-preserved gravestones of my great great-grandparents Josef Weiss, general practitioner, who died in 1901, and Agnes Weiss, his wife, who died in 1902.

Jewish cemetery in Eywanowitz

In the 16th century larger Jewish communities existed already in Moravia, contrary to the Habsburg lands, for instance in Nikolsburg (Mikulov) Trebitsch (Trebic) and Proßnitz (Prostejov). The Jews had been expelled from the imperial cities at the end of the 15th century and mostly lived on the estates of the landed nobility in smaller villages. The Bohemian capital city of Prague hosted the biggest Jewish community, next to Frankfurt, of Ashkenazi Jews. Those were Jews who had originally settled along the Rhine River in Western Germany and Northern France and continually moved eastward out of the Holy Roman Empire in the late Middle Ages in the wake of pogroms. But the majority of Jews in Bohemia and Moravia lived in small villages dispersed across the countryside. After the pogrom of Vienna of 1670 many Viennese Jews fled to Bohemia and Moravia, but also to Hungary where they could settle on the estates of the Hungarian nobility, like the Counts Palffy. The majority of Hungarian Jews lived in the part of Hungary that was still under Osman rule which can be explained by the more tolerant religious policy of the Osman Empire which guaranteed relatively better legal security for Jews than in the Habsburg lands.

THE ALPS: PAST TIME OF THE YOUNG VIENNESE IN THE 1920s & 1930s

My grandmother Lola, Semmering 1931

My grandparents’, my great-uncles and great-aunts’ favourite leisure time activities on weekends and during holidays was hiking in the Vienna Woods, the last part of the Alps in the east, and the mountains south of Vienna, such as, Rax, Schneeberg, Gippel, Göller und Semmering and for longer vacations the whole area of the Austrian Alps, Southern Tyrol, Bavaria and Switzerland. How did that overwhelming passion for mountaineering and skiing among the younger Viennese generation in the 1920s and 1930s develop? Alpinism had evolved from an elitist sport of wealthy British tourists to the bourgeois leisure activity of “Sommerfrische” (summer holidays in the Alps) and a sport of intellectual and artistic circles in the 19th century to a widespread working class past time, too, in the 1st Austrian Republic (1919-1934/38).

Many of the beautiful black and white photos of hiking tours in the Austrian Alps were taken by my great-uncle, Karl Elzholz, a mechanic at the Viennese tramways, an atheist, a committed socialist and a member of the Alpine club “Naturfreunde”. He was married to my great-aunt, Mizzi, and later to her sister, my great-aunt, Käthe, and both of them were dedicated hikers as well and formed part of the groups of friends who went hiking in the vicinity of Vienna or on longer mountaineering tours to the Alps. They were experienced hikers and planned the tours themselves.

In the 19th century workers organised educational clubs because that was sometimes the only way to legally form workers’ associations. Later workers’ gymnastic clubs were established along the lines of German nationalist gymnasts’ associations, the “Turnerbewegung”. The aim of these clubs was to improve the health and fitness of the workers with the help sports activities and especially the exposure to “air, light and sun” was seen as beneficial. As a consequence those clubs soon moved out of the stuffy rooms of gyms into nature. That’s when walking and hiking became a popular leisure time activity of the working classes, too. In 1895 the Alpine club “Naturfreunde” (Nature’s Friends) was founded. Soon afterwards also skiing was made popular among the working class. Emmerich Wenger brought skis from a trip to Norway to Vienna and they tried them out at the “Bierhäuslberg” to the amusement of all present. After the First World War all workers’ sports clubs united under the umbrella organisation ASKÖ (“Arbeiterbund für Sport und Körperkultur in Österreich”). In 1931 the 2nd Workers’ Olympic Games took place in Austria, initiated by the ASKÖ: in February in the Semmering area and in July in Vienna in the newly erected stadium in Prater. In 1934 with the takeover of the Austro-fascist regime all workers’ clubs were declared illegal and only after the end of World War II the socialist sports organisation ASKÖ could be reactivated.

THE CAREER AS A BEER BREWER IN VIENNA AROUND 1900

Oxen cart in front of the brewery in Kaiser Ebersdorf Vienna

My great-grandfather, Ignaz Sobotka, was born in Vienna, Ober Laa, in 1872 and his father Josef Sobotka, ran one of the cellars of the brewery “Hütteldorfer Brauerei” in Breitensee. Ignaz learned the trade of a beer brewer as an apprentice in Mährisch Budwitz (Moravské Budějovice, today Czech Republic) with the brewer Moritz Fried, who was probably a relative of his mother Sali Sobotka, née Fried. He completed his apprenticeship in 1890 and then gained experience as a travelling brewer staying at different breweries in the Austro-Hungarian Empire for approximately one year each. In the monarchy this working expertise of a travelling artisan was the condition for becoming a master of the trade and was called “Walz”. Original documents – appraisals of the brewers – prove that Ignaz worked as a brewer in the “Brunner Brauerei AG” (Lower Austria) from 1891-92 and from 1892-1893 already as “Kellermeister” (cellarer) and “Obermälzer” (head maltster) in the “Stadtbräuhaus Pressburg” (Bratislava, today Slovakia) of Herrmann Deutsch & sons. In 1898 he successfully attended a specialised course for maltsters in the 18th district of Vienna, Michaelerstrasse 25 at the “Österreichische Versuchs-Station und Akademie für Brauindustrie” (the academy of the brewing industry). From 1898 to 1899 he worked as a head maltster in the “Dampfbrauerei Znaim” (Znoimo, today Czech Republic) of Rudolf Wotzilka. From 1899-1902 he was a head maltster in the brewery in Eywanowitz (Ivanovice na Hane, today Czech Republic) “Brauerei & Malzerzeugung Wischauer & Posoritzer“, where he got to know his future wife, Rudolfine Weiss, and married her, the daughter of the doctor Josef Weiss and his wife Agnes, née Markus, in 1900. In 1902 he moved with his wife and the two daughters, Käthe, born in 1901 and Flora, my grandmother, born in 1902, to Kaiser Ebersdorf, near Vienna, where he was the head maltster and director of the “Export Malzfabrik Wien Kaiser Ebersorf” of Anton Iritzer (11th district of Vienna, Mailergasse 5) from 1902-1920. During the First World War his job was considered essential for the war economy as the malt production was switched to the production of foodstuff urgently needed during the war, so Ignaz was not conscripted.

Ignaz Sobotka as a young brewer, photo taken around 1900 in Moravia, Kromeriz/Kremsier

The booming sectors of the food industry in and around Vienna in the last decades of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy were beer, spirits, sugar and malt coffee, whereby the brewing industry took the lead with famous industrialists such as Dreher, Mautner-Markhof, Meichl and Kuffner. Vienna was traditionally dominated by the wine industry, but then all around the 2-million metropolis breweries cropped up in the suburbs; in Nussdorf, Hütteldorf, Ottakring, Hernals, Liesing, Simmering, Schwechat, Kaiser Ebersdorf, Brunn and so on. The owners of many breweries were rich and influential indistrialists. The tax levied on beer was four crowns per hectolitre and the cities and provinces levied further taxes on beer. Additionally a mighty cartel of the beer brewers kept prices high and in 1882 the “Österreichische Brauerbund” (Association of Austrian Brewers) was founded to represent the interests of the Austrian brewers. This cartel tried to protect the beer brewers from the on-going fierce competition in the industry. In the area of today’s Austria 1,200 breweries existed in 1841 and this number was reduced to 289 in 1913. By the end of World War I half of those remaining ones had been wiped out as well.