Vienna, City of Jews – the World of Tante Jolesch

Vienna, City of Jews – the World of Tante Jolesch

The Jewish Museum Vienna, in cooperation with Wiener Festwochen, is organizing an exhibition entitled “Vienna, City of Jews – the World of Tante Jolesch”. The exhibition documents the various aspects of the Jewish experience in Vienna between the wars. “Vienna’s Jews are an integral component of the city,” wrote the art historian Hans Tietze in 1933.“They are part and parcel of the Viennese culture to which they have contributed for so long.” During the era of the First Republic (1918-1938), there were more than 200,000 Jews living in Vienna – almost 11 per cent of the population. After Warsaw, the Jewish community of Vienna was the largest in Europe and formed an important segment within the population. Jewish citizens were visible in all aspects of public life and often had a marked influence on it. They were not by any means a homogeneous group and the Jews of Vienna were no less dispersed among the various social and political classes than the rest of the population. 

The exhibition is organized into 21 stations showing the various aspects of the Jewish experience in Vienna during its last flowering. It reveals a panorama that takes in the poverty of the orthodox Jews who had fled the stetls of Galicia, the cafés of the Bohemians and meeting places of the intellectual elites, the offices of the municipal authorities during the “Red Vienna” period, and the salons of the enlightened bourgeoisie. Each of the 21 stations is marked by a milestone, a significant event around which the display is arranged (e.g. opening of Goethehof kindergarten as symbol of educational reform, or the founding of Zsolnay-Verlag representing literature). The exhibition relates the history of the Jews from the perspective of that time, an era before the Holocaust cast its deathly shadow over the city, a time of expansion and change in which Utopian ideals for reforming society and cultural life were rife and Jews and non-Jews alike struggled in a seething social climate for recognition of their ideas.  

Curator: Joachim Riedl