Many cities in Eastern and Central Europe have defined Jewish Quarters. We have been to the Jewish Quarters in both Prague and in Krakow, and have been moved by the history of the communities and its peoples. Vienna’s Jewish Quarter, and its Jewish history, do not figure as prominently in the popular guide books, though.
This is 2013. 100 years ago Stalin, Tito, and Hitler were attracted to the capital of an empire that was crumbling. Stalin was here with Trotsky doing who knows what; Tito and Hitler were also here, biding their time as craftsman and artist. I will not bother investigating their hangouts.
Austria was annexed into Nazi Germany in spring 1938. The Anschluß, or when later corrected during some late 1990’s German language reform initiative, The Anschluss, occurred formally on the balcony of the State Library located in part of the Hofburg Palace complex.
Other infamous sites connected with this time in history can be found in Vienna with a little patience, perseverance, and planning. At Morintzplatz near the busy, busy Schwedenplatz stands The Leonard-Figl Hof, a bland high-rise apartment building along the Donau. Once upon a time the Hotel Metropole, Vienna’s Gestapo headquarters under the Third Reich, occupied this plot. At the back of the building is the small and poignant Simon Wiesenthal Archive, where so many men, women, and children were brought in through the hotel’s back door for “interviews.”
Directly across the street is a memorial constructed of stones from Mauthausen, one of the lesser-known concentration camps near Linz, just a couple of hours from Vienna. Prisoners at this camp carved out the cobblestones that line Vienna’s streets. Tourists sit in front of this memorial waiting for the airport bus, likely unaware.
“Niemals Vergessen.” Never Forget.
A Place I Could Never Call Home.