Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  88 / 92 Next Page
Basic version Information
Show Menu
Previous Page 88 / 92 Next Page
Page Background


MAY 2016



Israelit Friedhof:

A Forgotten Cemetery in Vienna



Jeffrey Glassman is a recently

retired FSO. During a 27-year

career, he served at the U.S.

Missions to the Organization

for Security and Co-operation

in Europe and the United Nations, as well as

in Monrovia, Cape Town, Moscow and Minsk.

Photo by StudioTheresa Bentz, Vienna.


nknowing, Vienna Tri-Missions

employees drove by it every day

on the Wahringer Gurtel, high

up behind a 40-foot stone wall.

It was on the regular route between the

embassy and the Mission to the OSCE,

where I worked. When I first arrived in

Vienna in August 2004, I struggled to make

sense of the maze of streets. My initial goal

was simple: to drive from the mission to

the embassy without becoming one with

the ubiquitous Vienna streetcars.

To that end, I intensely studied the

Freytag & Berndt BuchplanWien

, an excel-

lent map of the city known in our family

as “the orange map.” On the lower third of

page 20, in painfully tiny print, it showed

the location of Israelit Friedhof (Jewish


As an American Jew working in

Vienna, I was intrigued. I was aware of the

schizophrenic attitude the Viennese have

toward their Jews. Some of the highest

points of Jewish life and accomplish-

ment occurred in Vienna. The names are

familiar: Theodor Herzl, Sigmund Freud,

Felix Mendelssohn, Gustav Mahler, Arthur

Schnitzler, Arnold Schoenberg. The low

When I passed through the ancient

wooden gates, I sensed I had entered a

place sacred yet wild. The silence was


points are also well known.

After the Anschluss, when Hitler

appeared on the balcony of the Hofburg

Palace on March 15, 1938, thousands of

Viennese cheered the Fuhrer. Before the

war, Vienna had been home to almost

200,000 Jews. Many of them fled; 65,000

lost their lives as part of Hitler’s Final

Solution. The current Jewish population of

Vienna is under 10,000.

The Israelit Friedhof, also known as

the Wahringer Cemetery, was the chief

place of Jewish burial from 1784 to 1879.

After 1880, Jews were buried in a section of

Vienna’s Central Cemetery, where Mozart,

Beethoven and Brahms are also buried.

As I became aware of the

cemetery, I wanted to see it. My

family attended the Stadttem-

pel, the only synagogue in the

city that survived the Nazis (only

because they feared burning it

to the ground would endanger

other parts of central Vienna).

When I asked at the Stadttempel

if I could go to the cemetery, I

was told that nobody goes there.

It’s been closed since the war.

Naturally, that mademe even

more eager to go.

In the winter of 2007, the Stadttem-

pel announced that there would be a

one-time tour of Wahringer Cemetery.

The tour would be led by historian Tina

Walzer, who has made its study her life’s

passion. “Great,” I thought. But almost

immediately, I was told I couldn’t go:

The cemetery was so overgrown that my

wheelchair would not be able to traverse

its narrow, rutted paths. I was undeterred.

On the day of the tour, my wife and

I showed up at the cemetery at the

appointed time. It was a typical winter day

in Vienna: raw cold and overcast, with the

clouds seemingly inches above our heads.

I had been warned about the condition of