Be strong and courageous! Jewish Youth Movements
March 7 to May 6, 2001
With photos, documents and historical objects, “Be strong and courageous!” tells the story of Jewish youth movements. The organisations, which started up in the early 20th century, were part of a generalised social phenomenon. Originally, groups like the Wandervoegel and Scouts, founded in 1896 and 1906, respectively, espoused romanticised ‘back-to-nature’ ideals as a critical reaction to modernisation and urbanisation.
In many cases this evolved into a German ‘blood and soil’ nationalism with the exclusion of Jews from membership as a consequence. Jewish youth movements therefore created a ‘Jewish’ equivalent, albeit retaining many of the ideological elements of non-Jewish groups. Like Jewish life in the Diaspora as a whole, Jewish youth movements were of all political hues. The first Zionist group was Blau-Weiss, founded in Germany and Austria in 1912. Originally a middle-class and apolitical hiking movement, it gradually assimilated the ‘chalutz’ (pioneer) ethos. In 1916, Zierei Zion and Shomer, which had originated in Poland, developed into HaShomer HaZair in Vienna. This left-wing socialist movement served as a home from home for many poor Jewish adolescents. During the First World War and in the confusion that surrounded the dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Vienna was flooded with Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe. The cultural alienation, poverty and hostility of their surroundings created the ideal breeding ground for young Zionist movements.
The Holocaust put an end to all this, although youth movements were involved in all types of resistance, especially organising escape to Palestine. This exhibition pays special homage to Aaron Menczer as one of the guiding lights in post-1938 Vienna. Jewish survivors and refugees in Europe after the War were uprooted and traumatised. Youth groups were set up again in DP(displaced person) and refugee camps to give the young people there a sense of stability and identity and to encourage them to emigrate to Palestine. The first ‘ken’ (nest) was established in Vienna as early as 1949 as Jewish life gradually came back to Austria. The Jewish youth movements in Vienna today represent a continuation of an older tradition but also symbolise the new identity of young people in a modern society.
Curator: Naomi Lassar
Laugh Out Loud! The World of Karl Farkas
April 4 to July 1, 2001
Karl Farkas, one of the most prominent figures in the history of Austrian cabaret, died 30 years ago. The Jewish Museum Vienna is taking this opportunity to present an exhibition of the life and work of a man who was dubbed the ‘laugh of the century’.
Farkas, the son of a Jewish shoe wholesaler who had moved to Vienna from Hungary, embarked on his chosen career very early on. After the First World War – in which he was highly decorated – he started out in his mid-twenties on the Vienna stage. His first one-act plays were well received in the theatre and during the 1920s he had already become a star of the Viennese revue scene. Together with Hubert Marischka, Fritz Grünbaum, Ralph Benatzky, Robert Katscher and others he performed in revues such as Wien lacht wieder, O, du mein Österreich or the operetta revue Im weissen Rössl. Beginning as a ‘lightning poet’, he appeared in a number of cabarets and went on to create a legendary conférencier double-act with his congenial partner Fritz Grünbaum. Farkas also performed on the fledgling radio, in silent films and later in the first talking pictures. The Second World War and the annexation of Austria by the Nazis brought an abrupt end to this phase of his career. Although he managed to escape to the USA, his partner Fritz Grünbaum and many other entertainers of Jewish origins died in concentration camps.
After the Second World War, Farkas was one of the few major artists to return to Austria, where he was able to launch himself on a highly successful career that has left its mark even today. In particular, his Bilanzen on TV made him highly accessible to the Austrian public. From 1950 to 1971 he was also director of the Simpl cabaret in which many young Austrian actors and entertainers made their debut. Although it is less well known, Farkas was also a very successful screenwriter and wrote the screenplay for 23 post-war films.
The exhibition at the Jewish Museum offers a documentary cross-section of the various periods and aspects of his work. It also contains some lesser known details from his private life that he kept out of the public eye. Letters, documents, hundreds of photographs, programmes, cinema posters and other objects create an impressive picture of the ups and downs of his life. Of particular interest are the audio and video documents compiled especially for the exhibition: a video installation will show rare footage from early films as well as a selection of his best Bilanzen sketches.
Curators: Alfred Stalzer, Marcus G. Patka
Journey to a World Without End. Judaica from the Gross Family Collection, Tel Aviv
May 23 to September 23, 2001
This exhibition, entitled “Journey to a World Without End. Judaica from the Gross Family Collection, Tel Aviv”, brings together objects from communities throughout the Jewish world, from various ages. The Judaica are presented along with contemporary photographs of the places they have come from to provide a local context.
In assembling his collection, Judaica collector Bill Gross set out to create a collection concerned with global Jewry and to demonstrate through its very variety the uniformity running through Jewish religion and tradition. Thus it is an ideal collection for the exhibition “Journey to a World Without End”, which presents Jewish life in 33 different cities, from Frankfurt to Cochin, Vienna to Aleppo, and Vilnius to Djerba. Each city is represented by a few selected Judaica and Hebrew manuscripts, which although they clearly reflect the local cultural context are also typical of traditional Judaism. Thus the interface between Jewish culture and the local culture is a primary attribute of the 130 objects selected for the exhibition.
For each city an appropriate literary and historical travel report is supplied. These reports, which range from the Middle Ages to the first half of the twentieth century, show how Jewish tradition transcends the boundaries of time as well as those of geography. Since the “Journey to the World Without End” should not be regarded as something frozen in the past, each city is represented by a photograph of contemporary Jewish life. The exhibition thus bridges the gap between past and present, between what no longer exists and what remains or recurs. In addition, this link should make it clear that the Judaica objects are not relics of some bygone Jewish religious cult, but inherent parts of contemporary Jewish life.
Curator: Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek
Kladovo – Escape to Palestine
July 8 to November 4, 2001
This exhibition, entitled “Kladovo – Escape to Palestine”, presents the fate of a group of Jewish refugees who tried to flee from the Nazis under particularly dramatic circumstances. In December 1939 a boat carrying more than 1,000 refugees left the harbour of Bratislava. The majority of the refugees had arrived in the Slovak capital from Vienna by train. After a two-week odyssey on the Danube the group reached the Serbian town of Kladovo. All attempts to continue the trip initially failed because the harsh winter caused the Danube to freeze. Later, the refugees still could not leave Yugoslavia due to financial, organisational and most of all, administrative difficulties. From this group, only about 200 adolescents were able to escape to Palestine a few days before the Nazi attack on Yugoslavia in April 1941. The others were murdered almost without exception by army units. Ehud Nahir was one of the Kladovo survivors. Through hundreds of photographs, he documented how the refugees ended up in the camps of Kladovo and Šabac. His pictorial album is the basis for the central installation of this exhibition. The installation also showcases original documents and a film by Alisa Douer which traces the life stories of the Kladovo survivors.
Curators: Alisa Douer, Reinhard Geir
Im Nacken das Sternemeer. German Expressionist Ludwig Meidner
October 5, 2001 to January 20, 2002
Ludwig Meidner (1884–1966), a contemporary of Kokoschka and Oppenheimer, is practically unknown in Austria although he is one of the most important representatives of German Expressionism. It was only through the ‘Degenerate Art’ propaganda exhibition put on by the Nazis that he was seen at all in this country. His ‘Self Portrait’ from 1912, which was shown at that time, is also part of the present exhibition.
The son of a Jewish businessman from Silesia, Meidner recognised his vocation very early on. His works were exhibited for the first time by Herwarth Walden at ‘Der Sturm’ gallery in Berlin in 1912. His Expressionist paintings completed between 1912 and 1916 show the influence of Futurism and Cubism and are regarded as his most significant works. In 1912 he founded the ‘Pathetiker’ group with Jakob Steinhardt and Richard Janthur. He attracted the attention of the ‘Brücke’ artists and had contacts with Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel and Otto Mueller. Meidner had already met the Italian artist Modigliani in 1906/07 in Paris while studying there. The Paris influence and his early experiences in Berlin are reflected in his Expressionist paintings: pictures of apocalyptic landscapes and ruined cities are evocative of a society in decline. ‘Im Nacken das Sternemeer’ examines these impressions and the volatile mood through Meidner’s paintings and writings. In 1922 he abandoned his earlier political ideals and sought comfort in the Bible. His paintings became increasingly naturalistic, accompanied by a strengthening of his religious beliefs and a focus on Jewish and Christian mysticism. The Nazis forced the artist to flee with his family in 1939 and he returned to his ‘home’ only after bitter years of exile in England. He died in Darmstadt in 1966.
The retrospective by the Jewish Museum Vienna features some of his Expressionist oil paintings as well as numerous drawings of outdoor and indoor scenes in Berlin, works from his religious period and a selection of his more modern pieces.
Curator: Tobias G. Natter
Displaced – Paul Celan in Vienna 1947/48
November 14, 2001 to February 24, 2002
The exhibition “Displaced – Paul Celan in Vienna 1947/48” deals with an important period in the life of one of the major representatives of post-war German literature. Celan arrived in Vienna on 17 December 1947 as a refugee from Bucharest. His real name was Paul Antschel, but Todesfuge, the poem, which gave lyrical expression to the unspeakable brutality of the annihilation of the Jews and brought him celebrity, was published under the name Paul Celan. The exhibition is devoted to the art world in which he participated during this largely ignored six-month period in Celan’s life.
Paul Celan came from Eastern Europe with tens of thousands of Jews, who had fled to the West after the destruction of their families and homes as a result of the Holocaust and the War. In Vienna, he became a member of an avant-garde artists’ circle, which used to meet at Agathon Gallery. It was here that he made the acquaintance of the group’s leader, the multitalented eccentric Leopold Wolfgang Rochowanski, who also published books and the magazine Die schönen Künste. In the floor above lived Otto Basil with his magazine Plan, based on Karl Kraus’ Fackel and the most important intellectual medium in the years between 1945 and 1948. The Viennese surrealist Edgar Jené was Celan’s greatest supporter and Celan dedicated his essay Edgar Jené. Der Traum vom Traume to him. Jené was also responsible for the brief renaissance of Surrealism in Vienna, including an exhibition to which Celan contributed. His first book was published in Vienna but he had it pulped again because of the large number of printing errors. It was during his time in Vienna that Celan also became acquainted with Ingeborg Bachmann, a meeting that was to influence him for the rest of his life. Their brief love affair evolved into an enduring literary friendship. Other major events were Celan’s meetings with Ludwig von Ficker and Milo Dor and his brief membership of the Austrian PEN.
Curators: Peter Goßens, Marcus G. Patka