THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
A Forgotten Cemetery in Vienna
BY J E F FREY GLASSMAN
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