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Jews in Vienna

Hitler's Vienna
A dictator's apprencticeship
by Brigitte Hamann

Two Examples


In Vienna, Hitler did not merely encounter Jews of the lower classes, but also had sporadic glimpses into the lives of well-to-do, educated, middle-class Jews. For in 1908, August Kubizek, who earned some money as a viola player at private evening performances, occasionally took him along to such concerts, for example, to the house of a "family of a well-to-do factory owner at Heiligenstädter Strasse, Dr. Jahoda." We can clearly identify this Dr. Jahoda.

To be sure, in Vienna's address register, the 1910 Lehmann, no Jehuda is listed at Heiligenstädter Strasse, but at 86 Grinzinger Strasse. According to old street numbers, this address is the corner building to Heiligenstädter Strasse. That it was in fact this house and this family whom Kubizek mentioned, was confirmed by Dr. Rudolf Jahuda's niece, Professor Marie Jahoda, born in 1907, a sociologist living in England. She, too, knew the address of her uncle's house only as "Heiligenstädter Strasse," where she and her parents and siblings were frequent visitors. Thanks to her, we have the following information.

The house, a beautiful old villa that no longer exists, was in the large, park-like area at the lower end of Rothschild Park in Heiligenstadt, on a very small hill. It was inhabited by Dr. Rudolf Jahoda, a chemist, with his family and his mentally retarded brother Edmund.

Jahoda, director of a chemical factory, born in Vienna in 1862, was forty-six years old in 1908, when Hitler was a guest in his house. According to Marie Jahoda's description, her uncle was a slender, sensitive, quiet man of medium height, with melancholy features and a gray goatee. His wife, Pina, was an Italian Catholic, short and somewhat deformed, with beautiful eyes, and warmhearted. The two had two little daughters who were baptized by the Catholic church : Klara, born in 1902, and Adele, born in 1903.

The Jahoda family may be regarded as a model of the well-to-do circles of assimilated Jews in the Vienna around 1900 who were keenly interested in the arts. Rudolf Jahoda's father had immigrated to Vienna as a Bohemian Jew, and worked there as a printer. He had not become prosperous, but he made enough money to afford to send two of his five sons, Rudolf and Emil, to college and graduate school. According to his niece Marie, Dr. Emil Jahoda, chief doctor of the Francis Joseph Hospital's department of surgery , was the star of the family: elegant, sophisticated, and the heartthrob of his female patients.

The two youngest brothers, Georg and Karl-Marie's father-went into printing and became well-to-do and highly respected. Georg Jahuda printed the Fackel, and was in close contact with and a good friend of Karl Kraus, the periodical's editor. The greater Jahuda family belonged to the circle of Kraus's open admirers.

All five brothers distanced themselves from Judaism and, according to Marie Jahuda, were agnostics. Before he married, Rudolf Jahuda officially left his Jewish faith and indicated at the official register that he had no denomination.

Rudolf Jahuda's wealth came from one of his numerous chemical patents, aglow paint that enjoyed great popularity. However, a combination of its radioactive composition and additional chemical experiments caused bad burns and scars on his right hand. Still, Rudolf Jahuda was an accomplished pianist. He was proud to have been a former student of Johannes Brahms, and aside from Brahms, he loved Chopin, Schubert, Beethoven, and Mozart. His wife Pina was a violinist who preferred eighteenth-century Italian music.

On a certain day each week, the Jahodas arranged a private evening of music making, where all brothers and their wives and children got together, as well as cousins and additional relatives. In the large wood paneled salon, which simultaneously served as a library, Rudolf and Pina Jahoda first played one or two sonatas for piano and violin. Then all of them had dinner together in the adjoining dining room, where the housewife displayed her mastery of culinary art with Italian specialties. After dinner and some lively conversation, the evening concluded with a final piece of music.

In addition, the Jahodas frequently hired music students to augment their repertoire and play trios or quartets. That is how the violist Kubizek came to visit their house. Apparently Kubizek raved to his friend about these evenings: "It was a circle of people with great understanding of the arts and a highly developed taste, a truly sophisticated conviviality of the sort that was possible only in Vienna." Kubizek asked if he could bring a friend. Thus nineteen-year-old Hitler entered the Jahodas' house.

Kubizek reports: "He did like it tremendously. What impressed him most was the library, which Dr. Jahoda had arranged and which served Adolf as a reliable measure of judging the people assembled there. He was less comfortable with having to confine himself to being a passive listener all evening, even though it was he who had imposed that role on himself. On our way back he told me that he had felt very comfortable with those people, but since he was not a musician, he hadn't been able to participate in the conversation." Furthermore, he had felt uneasy because of his poor clothes.

In this cultivated circle young Hitler was shy and inhibited, unable to utter a word. Whatever he may have known about Richard Wagner , he had nothing to contribute in this circle of music connoisseurs, and he turned out to be uninteresting-which of course is hardly surprising for a nineteen-year-old. At least, he did meet, probably for the first time, an upper-middle-class Jewish family-and had not one critical word to say about them.

A postscript on the family's further destiny: Pina Jahoda died early, and Rudolf Jahoda lost his fortune during World War I and inflation, and had to sell his house to boot. He died impoverished in 1924 of cancer, probably caused by the radioactive glow paint. His daughter Klara, a doctor in a Berlin children's home in the 1930s, emigrated via Austria to England, where she found support and shelter with her cousin Marie Jahoda, who, an active Social Democrat, had left Vienna earlier, while Austria was still a corporative state. Because Klara's Viennese doctorate was not recognized in England, she worked for a long time as a house- keeper, until she completed her second degree and obtained a position as a school doctor in Bristol.

Adele Jahoda, who had attended Vienna's School of Arts and Crafts under Dean Alfred Roller, married the composer and violinist Karl Rankl, a disciple of Schonberg, whom she met at her parents' private concerts. The two of them also emigrated to England, where she barely made do for herself and her unemployed husband by arts-and-craft work. Rankl later became musical director of London's Covent Garden Opera. Both daughters of Rudolf Jahoda died in England without any children.

Three of Rudolf Jahoda's brothers had numerous children, who had remarkably successful careers -not in Austria, but in their forced emigration. These include several musicians and numerous scientists, among them many woman university professors.


The Jewish glazier Samuel Morgenstern was the most loyal buyer of Hitler's paintings. In this case, Hider did not rely on an agent but always delivered his paintings personally. Peter Jahn, who called on Morgenstern between 1937 and 1939 to search for Hider paintings at the NSDAP's direction, stresses that their relationship was extremely friendly and Morgenstern certainly did not cheat the poor painter. In his deposition he said: "Morgenstern was the first person to pay a good price for the paintings, which is how their business contact was established."

Samuel Morgenstern was born in Budapest in 1875. In 1903 he opened his glazier store with a workshop in the back at 4 Liechtenstein-strasse near downtown Vienna, quite close to Sigmund Freud's practice and apartment. In 1904 he married Emma Pragan, a Jew from Vienna four years his junior. In 1911 their only child, a son, was born. That same year Morgenstern bought an estate in Strebersdorf near Vienna for five thousand kronen, and in May 1914 another piece of land, in Groß Jedlersdorf, for ten times that amount. Within a few years he worked his way up from nothing.

In a deposition he made from memory in 1937, Morgenstern stated that Hider had come to his store for the first time in 1911 or 1912, offering him three paintings, historical views in the style of Rudolf von Alt. Morgenstern had also sold pictures in his frame and glazier store, "since in my experience it is easier to sell frames if they contain pictures."

Thanks to Morgenstern's fastidiously kept customer database, many owners of Hider's paintings could later be located. It turned out that most of them were Jewish-in other words, Morgenstern's regular clientele- and lived in the elegant new tenement buildings around Liechtensteinerstrasse. One of Morgenstern's main customers was the lawyer Dr. Josef Feingold, according to the person who interviewed him in May

1938, "apparently not entirely Aryan, but certainly leaving the impression of being respectable, a war veteran." He had his law offices downtown, near Stephansplatz, and supported a number of young painters sent by Morgenstern. He bought a series of old views of Vienna by Hider, which he had framed by Morgenstern in the style of Biedermeier.

When the former postcard painter took possession of Austria in March 1938 as leader of the "Greater German Empire," Mr. and Mrs.Morgenstern's destiny made an about-face too. In the fall of 1938 their stores, fully stocked warehouse, and workshop were "Aryanized" and taken over by a National Socialist. The "purchase price," which was set at 620 marks, was never paid. Because Morgenstern also lost his commercial license, he was no longer allowed to work. Thus the couple- sixty-three and fifty-nine years old, respectively-had no income whatever, and what is more: they could not leave the country, because they did not have the money either for the trip or for the obligatory "Reich flight tax," or for the required visa.

In this desperate situation Samuel Morgenstern saw only one way out: asking the Fuhrer personally for help, just as Dr. Bloch in Linz did around that time. Considering that Hider immediately responded to Bloch's request, Morgenstern's hope for the Fuhrer to intervene and save his life was certainly not absurd, as long as the letter reached Hider.

Morgenstern wrote his cry for help on a typewriter, addressing it to "His Excellency the Reich Chancellor and Fuhrer of the German Reich Adolf Hider" in Berchtesgaden :

Vienna, 10 August 1939


I humbly ask your indulgence for daring to write to you, Mr. Reich Chancellor, and submitting a request.

For thirty-five years, I had my own business as a glazier and frame manufacturer in Vienna, at 9 Liechtensteinerstrasse, and in the years before the war Mr. Chancellor was frequently in my store and had the opportunity to judge me to be a correct and honest man.

I have no police record and for eight years served as a noncommissioned officer in the Austrian army and was on the Romanian front, plus my industrial association twice gave me a diploma for running an exemplary company.

On November 10 my store was closed [this word is underlined twice; in the margin there is a remark in a different handwriting : "Jew!"] in the course of the legal measures and my commercial license was revoked at the same time which made me totally indigent since to this day I have not received from the Department of Property the slightest compensation for my store which was worth Reichsmark 7 ,000 and was Aryanized on 24 November 1938.

I am sixty-four, my wife is sixty years old, we have for many months depended on welfare and intend to emigrate and to look for work abroad.


It is my most humble request to Your Excellency to please direct the Department of Property to give me in return for handing over to the State my un-mortgaged estate in the XXI st District which according to an official estimate is valued at Reichsmark 4,000, a small compensation in the form of foreign currency so I have the necessary disembarkation money and my wife and I can live modestly until we have found work.

Please have my application checked and please approve it.

Faithfully yours,

Samuel Morgenstern Glazier

Vienna, 9.4 Liechtensteinerstrasse

However, getting a letter to Hider was difficult, particularly in August 1939, shortly before the outbreak of the war. Hider even mentioned this difficulty to Kubizek, whose letter was months late in reaching him: "Writing to him directly, he said, was not advisable, as he often never even saw mail addressed to him, because it first had to be sorted to relieve him in his work."

Precisely traceable by postmarks and without the eagerly waiting sender's having any idea about this, Morgenstern's letter went on the following journey: mailed in Vienna on August 11, it arrived in Hider's secretary's office at the Obersalzberg in Berchtesgaden on August 12 and was forwarded from there to the "Fuhrer's Chancellery" in Berlin on August 14, where it was opened on August 15. This is where the marginal note "Jew!" must have been added. In any case, the secretary's office did not hand the letter to Hider but returned it to Vienna on August 19 however, not to the sender but to the Finance Ministry, where it was filed away and forgotten for the next fifty-six years.

The invasion of Poland began on September 1, 1939, and with it World War II. The Morgensterns waited fruitlessly for help from Hider, but a short time later their house was taken from them. They had to relocate to a kind of Jewish ghetto in Leopoldstadt. From there, on October 28, 1941, they were deported to the Litzmannstadt ghetto in the Reich district of Wartheland. The deportation order was stamped, in red ink, "To Poland."

Litzmannstadt, named for a German general of World War I, the former Lodz in the former Hapsburg crown colony of Galicia, had with 233,000 inhabitants one of the largest Jewish populations in the world. After the first resettlements another 160,000 Jews were forced into this ghetto. There they lived in poor hygienic conditions, making textiles, shoes, and furniture for the German army and German industries.

The Morgensterns were among 25,000 Jews deported to Litzmann-stadt from Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, and Luxembourg. Five thousand Gypsies from Burgenland were also relocated there; they were shortly sent to Auschwitz. The Western Jews, who spoke Polish and Yiddish, stayed in the ghetto, where they lived uneasily with the unfamiliar Eastern Jews; there was often conflict between the two groups, which, of course, was intended. These internal quarrels among ghetto inhabitants, fanned by their painfully cramped situation, constant hunger, and physical exhaustion through excruciatingly hard work, was meant to rob them of their human dignity. Especially the lack of hygiene proved to be a highly effective means of "corroborating" the old anti-Semitic prejudice about the "filthy Jews." One of the survivors from Lodz, Leon Zelman, has reported details: "The latrines were constantly plugged. People pulled carts loaded with excrement through the streets, passing wagons filled with corpses to which horses had not been put either, but half-starved Jews. Pulling excrement carts. .. equaled a death sentence, because the human draft animals invariably caught infections by breathing in the fecal vapors. ...In the summer , swarms of mosquitoes came down on the ghetto, spreading epidemics."110

We do not know what happened to the Morgensterns there. Samuel Morgenstern died of exhaustion in the ghetto of Litzmannstadt in August 1943. He was sixty-eight years old. He was buried in the ghetto cemetery. As an eyewitness, Emma's brother-in-law Wilhelm Abeles, a former glazier in Vienna, was to report later on, his wife was with him until the end.

In August 1943, when the Russian army was advancing, the ghetto was vacated. The remaining 65,000 people, weakened by hunger and diseases, were deported to Auschwitz. Among them was Abeles, but he survived. Before he was deported, he saw Emma Morgenstern in Litzmannstadt for the last time. There are no other surviving witnesses.

Emma Morgenstern must have been deported to Auschwitz by August 1944, for on August 30 only a "cleaning-up commando" of six hundred men and a few people in hiding remained in the ghetto. Most new arrivals-above all, old women unable to work-were immediately sent to the gas chamber .

As a Vienna court would later determine, Emma Morgenstern could not have lived through the end of the war in 1945. In approval of her brother's application, retired Major Max Pragan, she was declared dead in December 1946

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