Fresh push to save Vienna's Jewish cemetery 'jewel'
The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Saturday, July 13, 2024

Fresh push to save Vienna's Jewish cemetery 'jewel'
Jennifer Kickert (R), spokeswoman for the "Association Save the Jewish cemetery in Waehring", speaks with volunteers at the old Waehring Jewish cemetery in Vienna on October 18, 2020. The Waehring cemetery has suffered from decades of neglect and vandalism -- including desecration under the Nazis -- but in recent weeks there has been fresh official support for painstaking restoration efforts undertaken here in recent years. ALEX HALADA / AFP.

by Jastinder Khera

VIENNA (AFP).- "It might sound strange but when I came here for the first time... I fell in love with this place," says Jennifer Kickert, spokeswoman for an association striving to clean up a long-neglected Jewish cemetery in Vienna's north-eastern suburbs.

As russet-coloured leaves fall gently past Kickert on a beautiful autumn day in the Waehring cemetery, it's easy to see what prompted her enchantment on that first visit ten years ago.

In operation between 1784 and the late 19th century, the artfully carved tombstones and prominence of the people buried in the cemetery make it a "cultural and historical jewel" according to Ariel Muzicant, former president of Vienna's Jewish community organisation IKG.

But until recently this reminder of Vienna's imperial heyday had been hidden under dense layers of vegetation, with the graves being abandoned to nature.

The cemetery has suffered from decades of neglect and vandalism -- including desecration under the Nazis -- but in recent weeks there has been fresh official support for painstaking restoration efforts undertaken here in the past few years.

A recent visit from Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen was followed by one from Green party Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler earlier this month, who promised 200,000 euros ($236,000) of federal funding to help with the cleanup efforts.

'Stones telling stories'
In 2017 Green local councillor Kickert helped found the "Save the Jewish Cemetery in Waehring" association, which has helped co-ordinate volunteers work at the site.

They intensified earlier restorations, clearing away the undergrowth that had taken up residence among the weather-beaten plots and carefully removing superficial dirt from the stones.

As a result the cemetery is now open for tours one Sunday every month as the volunteers go about their work in the background, their wheelbarrows piled high with branches.

"When you work on a grave, clean it and cut away the plants, the stones begin to tell their stories," says tour guide Brigitte Kenscha-Mautner.

Some of the prominent names on those stones -- Epstein, Arnstein, Ephrussi -- need no introduction to those familiar with Viennese history.

As Kickert says: "The most exciting thing about this place is that the people buried here helped build Vienna as we know it today."

Many of them helped finance the transformation that Vienna underwent in the mid-19th Century, with the building of the capital's world-famous Ringstrasse boulevard, and had their own splendid residences along that same road.

The art and architecture of the time also has echoes here, with some stones sporting Biedermeier and neo-Gothic touches while others with more Oriental influence mark the gravesites of Sephardic members of the community.

Some of the women buried in Waehring, such as Fanny von Arnstein, hosted some of Vienna's most celebrated salons, where diplomats, artists and politicians rubbed shoulders.

Erased from the map
In the Nazi era, the site was taken over by the city authorities as persecution of the Jewish population intensified.

The remains of more than 400 people were dug up for a pseudo-scientific "study" on the Jewish race by researchers at the city's Natural History Museum.

Of those only around half could be recovered after the war, according to historian Tina Walzer, one of the first to raise the plight of the site in the 2000s.

A further 2,000 graves were destroyed in order to make room for a planned air raid shelter which was never completed.

After the war, despite an agreement that that part of the site would be maintained as a green space, the city built an apartment block on it.

As for rest of the plot, Walzer says its post-war fate is a microcosm of Austria's relationship with its own history.

"Excuses developed, strategies as to how one could come to terms with the injustices committed," she says.

She cites the fact that the site simply disappeared from city maps as well as a popular local rumour that it had been given protected status for bird conservation.

The belated reappraisal of Austria's history in recent decades has encouraged a new relationship with sites like Waehring.

In 2009 the government approved a total of 20 million euros to restore the country's Jewish cemeteries, of which just over a million euros ($1.1 million) has been spent in Waehring on preliminary work.

While some pebbles left by visitors can be spotted on the gravestones -- a traditional Jewish mark of respect for the dead -- most of the descendants of those buried there either perished in the Holocaust or are now outside Austria.

Juergen Kreuzroither, a 52-year-old volunteer who lives locally, says that "obviously it has to do with the history of a country, I feel I have a duty".

"Mostly there is no-one left to look after these graves, so in that case we have to do it."

© Agence France-Presse

Today's News

October 30, 2020

Michelangelo Pistoletto endures. Even COVID couldn't stop him.

After backlash, Philip Guston retrospective to open in 2022

Julius Caesar "assassination coin" sets world record of nearly $4.2 million

KGB Museum closes; Lipstick gun and other spy relics go on sale

At the Queens Museum, home and the world

Artcurial's Old Master & 19th Century Art department will hold its prestigious bi-annual sale on 18 November

Art Gallery of Ontario announces new department of Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora

Sisi in private: Museum Ludwig displays the empress's photo albums

Lost Bob Dylan Archives of blues musician Tony Glover headlines Marvels of Modern Music auction

Bierstadt's majestic Golden Gate panorama leads Bonhams American Art sale

Simon Lee Gallery opens a group exhibition curated by Eric N. Mack

Louis Lozowick leads Old Master Through Modern Prints at Swann

Sanford Biggers opens second solo exhibition with Marianne Boesky Gallery

A not-so-merry mix: Shakespeare, bluegrass and Randy Quaid

Diane di Prima, poet of the Beat era and beyond, dies at 86

Fresh push to save Vienna's Jewish cemetery 'jewel'

Exhibition featuring eight photogravures by Rodrigo Valenzuela opens at Asya Geisberg Gallery

'Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women's Rights' opens at the British Library and across the UK

Austria gets virus-themed stamps on toilet paper

As lockdown revives interest in model trains, collection expected to make £10,000 sells for over £33,000

Alexander Berggruen opens an exhibition of work by Hulda Guzmán

French Atmos perpetual time clock from the 1940's chimes on time for CA$6,490 in Miller & Miller auction

Rachel Jones joins Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

Tang Museum announces opening of 'Energy in All Directions'

How to Prepare for a Divorce in Florida

Amazing Pieces Of Art Found In The Last Places You Expect Them To Be

How to Handle Employee Resistance During Agile Implementation?

Your First Pilates Class What To Bring And What To Wear

Stylish Alternative to Plastic and Silicone Phone Cases

The right pain management during COVID-19

Top 4 essential basic about potency pills that must be in your knowledge

How To Grow Followers For Your Small Business On Tiktok?

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful