Excerpts from Unser Wien – Our Vienna: “Aryanization” Austrian Style

Source: Tina Walzer and Stephan Templ, Unser Wien: “Arisierung” auf österreichisch , Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 2001.

A Topography of a Robbery /A Treasure Map to Nazi Loot in Vienna

Sigmund Freud’s flat

Berggasse 19The Freuds lived here for 47 years. They were able to escape the country, as did Sigmund Kornmehl,  who ran a kosher butchershop in the house, and Emil Humburger, an exporter. The neighbors Adolf and Stephanie Mathias and Victor and Antoinette John perished in the camps.

After the Anschluss,  Sigmund Freud’s apartment (No. 5)  was soon occupied by Hertha Pfeifer. In 1986, she recalled:

“My God, the apartment was vacant. We saw that the apartment was vacant. [….] The apartment was completely empty. Completely empty. No one at all was there. That’s how it was then. It was so easy. There was no problem at all.”

In 1986, Herta Pfeifer received 1.5 million shillings (roughly US$ 100, 000 )  for the rented apartment when she handed it over the society that installed the  Sigmund Freud Museum there. Sigmund Freud never received any compensation. For her handsome country house in Hochrotherd, outside Vienna , Anna, Freud’s daughter, received 2,000 schillings (about US$ 135.-) in a post-war settlement with the “Aryanizer”.

Sigmund Freud’s sisters (Rosa Graf, Paula Winternitz, Marie Freud, Freud Adolfine) were deported during the war. None survived.

Literature: Profil 21/ 1989

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Woman in Gold – A Hollywood Movie about Restitution in Austria

Simon Curtis‘ new movie stars Helen Mirren and it tells the story of a Jewish-Austrian refugee who campaigns for the return of Klimt paintings which were stolen from her family by the Nazis in 1938. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction, and despite getting the Hollywood treatment, Maria Altmann’s struggle to seek justice from Austria is based on a true story. Like in Stephan’s case, there is a stubborn refusal of Austria to acknowledge when a mistake has been made, and recalcitrance in putting wrongs right. The moral legitimacy of restitution is put into question when those bodies with the power to see that justice is done abdicate this responsibility.

Woman in Gold is not a movie about the past, it is firmly of the present and is a must-see for anybody wishing to understand Stephan’s case and Austria’s troubled relationship with its restitution obligations.