Archiver > BURGENLAND-NEWSLETTER > 1999-06 > 0930578279

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Subject: [BURGENLAND-NEWSLETTER-L] BB News No. 17A, dtd. 15 Aug 1997 (edited)
Date: Mon, 28 Jun 1999 09:57:59 EDT

(issued as required by )
Ausust 15, 1997
(all rights reserved)

(part #2 - in Vienna, Austria)

Part 1 of this report addressed Elderhostel programs in general terms. Part
2 focuses on Austrian history. This report is written as a daily log,
highlighting lecture information and special events.

Brief recap: In part 1 I stated that this trip was motivated by my desire to
go beyond the normal genealogical efforts of merely gathering names, dates,
and places. My objective was to learn about my ancestor's life style by
studying the history of Austria and also to sample the physical, emotional,
and social activities of Austria of today. It wanted to "walk in their
shoes and experience life during their time period." The first week of the
Elderhostel program in Vienna helped greatly in achieving that objective.

After a 15 hour flight from San Diego to Vienna, via Atlanta, we were greeted
by our Elderhostel program coordinator, who was born in the USA and was in
Vienna as a music major studying at the University of Vienna on a Fullbright

Each day was filled with many events and students were encouraged to
participate fully, but were not compelled to do so. Our schedule Monday
through Friday with English fluent lecturers and guides included breakfast,
first morning lecture, coffee break, second morning lecture, lunch, field
trip, dinner and an evening event.

Monday's Lecture entitled - "The Decline of the Hapsburg Empire" was given by
a Viennese 50 year old historian and philosopher. His was an excellent
lecture, essentially an overview of Austrian history, from the stone age to
the present. His twenty-seven page handout entitled "Not All About Austria"
served as reference material for both his lecture and for subsequent lectures
during the week. I had an opportunity to ask specific questions about
Rudersdorf - where my ancestors had lived.

Rudersdorf is an Austrian village located East of Graz and South of Vienna. I
was told that German speaking people in Rudersdorf were considered upper
class in that predominately Hungarian area. In response to my questions
about military records for that area for the 1860 time period, I was told to
look for Hungarian records.

Because I had expressed an interest in linking Austrian history with the
activities of my ancestors, I was given a comprehensive treatise on Austrian
history entitled "More Than 1,000 Years, Austria, A Historical Cultural
Comparison" in which significant events were outlined. The historical
approach was unique. It used a format whereby general trends/politics of the
world/Europe were compared with those of Austria during specific time
periods. In addition, for each time period significant events by major topic
such as: science and theology, economics, social events, and culture were

As an aside on the 1,000 years of Austrian history, the following was
extracted from the Austrian National Tourist Office web page
<http://www.austria-info.at/1000/mill_e.html>;. "In 1996, Austria is
celebrating its 1,000th anniversary or "millennium", reason enough to stage a
number of major exhibitions. The year 996 was a milestone in the history of
our country. On 1 November 996, Emperor Otto III, left some estates around
the settlement of Niuvanhova to the bishop of Freising as a gift. The land in
the bishop's possession was popularly known as "Ostarrichi". "Ostarrichi" is
the designation used in the deed of donation. Niuvanhova later became
Neuhofen, and Ostarrichi became starrichi. This deed is the first
documentary reference to the name of Ostarrichi, or Austria." (I took some
license here in shortening a quote)

Monday afternoon's field trip was a walking tour of central Vienna . In early
times, this area (district #1), was inside a fortress wall surrounding the
city. For centuries this wall and a wide expanse of open fields outside
acted as a protective buffer between the city and the suburbs. On December
20, 1857, Emperor Franz Josef issued a decree announcing the most ambitious
piece of urban development Vienna had ever seen. The fortress walls were
torn down and in their place was constructed a beautiful, tree-lined
boulevard, the Ringstrae. Along the Ringstrae is an imposing collection of
buildings, reflecting Vienna's special status as the political, economic, and
cultural heart of what was the Austro-Hungarian Empire.We were told how to
use Vienna's public transportation system and given a guide map of Vienna
and were very comfortable moving about on our own during our "free" periods.

We found the subway very clean without graffiti or trash, and safe, fast
transportation.We saw many of the interesting landmarks in central Vienna
including the Imperial Palace, the Ringstrae, the Opera, Museums,
Parliament, Town Hall, University, St. Stephan's Cathedral, etc. We had
planned to go into St. Stephan's but unfortunately it was closed because a
rehearsal was in progress for a concert that evening. When we returned to our
room, we happily discovered that the concert was being televised. That
evening we heard an interesting talk about the exciting but short life of
Schubert (1797-1828) and his music.

Tuesday's Lecture was entitled - "Austria Between the Wars", deemed to be
"the darkest period of Austrian history." It was stated that starting with
the introduction of nationalism, around the time of the French Revolution,
fourteen different ethnic groups within the Austria-Hungarian Empire caused
constant problems. During World War I there was a clear distinction between
German and Austrian soldiers. The German soldiers learned to fight, but the
German speaking Austrian soldiers learned to live. One is hard pressed to
find many great Austrian military heros. The Germans were considered
fighters, and the Austrians were lovers! At the close of World War I, there
was mediation regarding the Western territory of Hungary and the Eastern
territory of Austria. Ultimately the Allies came up with a compromise that
more or less solved the problem to their satisfaction, but actually
dissatisfied both Austria and Hungary - parts of Western Hungary then became
a new Austrian province, Burgenland. On the 12th of November 1918, Austria
was proclaimed a Republic which started to collapse in February 1934 when a
search for weapons in Socialist party offices led to a three-day civil war,
with fighting taking place in the cities of Graz, Linz, and Vienna - police
and the military fought against workers. The end of the first Austrian
Republic came on March 11, 1934 when the Nazis took control.

Tuesday's Field trip was a visit to Schloss Schnbrunn A ten minute
afternoon walk took us from our hotel to Schnbrunn, summer palace of the
Habsburgs. We were accompanied by a professional Schnbrunn guide, fluent in
English. It is said that Schnbrunn got its name when Emperor Matthias
discovered a beautiful spring on the property, i.e. Schn = beautiful, brunn
= spring, and Schloss = castle. So, seek the `fount of beauty' today, and
you'll come upon Schnbrunn Palace. The property passed into the hands of
the Habsburgs in 1569 and was expanded into a hunting lodge. Then in 1637
the palace was built. In 1683 the Turks razed it, together with many
buildings in Vienna's suburbs.

In 1695, Emperor Leopold I started reconstruction which was ultimately
completed in 1700. In 1744, Empress Maria Theresia, the took a liking to
Schnbrunn and was responsible for alteration and expansion to the grandeur
it has today. It is amazing that she had the energy to oversee the
renovation since from the age of nineteen until she was thirty-eight, Maria
Theresia was continually pregnant, having sixteen children. Among her
daughters were the famed Marie Antoinette and the second wife of Napoleon,
Marie Louise, who bore him his only son.

Schnbrunn has 2,000 rooms. It was designed so that most of the royal living
quarters are on the outside perimeter of the building, which allowed the
interior to have corridors for use by the 1,000 required servants. They could
attend to their duties without disturbing the family or their guests. Most
of the rooms have ceramic stoves, which were fueled from the corridors. Only
40 rooms are featured during guided tours. One of the most impressive rooms
is "The Great Gallery" which has fixtures for 4,000 candles. We were told
that Emperor Franz Joseph, Maria Theresia's husband, forbade the candles to
be changed more than once during an evening. When the required sixty
servants put in the second set after the first burned down, guests knew they
would have to leave when the second set expired. This beautiful room is
known as the centerpiece of the palace.

During the tour, our guide would often comment on the paintings in the
different rooms. In one of the rooms it took nine master painters five years
to complete one of the murals. This comment was of great interest to me,
since the marriage records of one of my Austrian ancestors had his
occupation listed as a "master painter." In another room the guide remarked
that all the lacquer paneling in the room was given its lacquer finish on a
ship at sea to avoid any problem with dust as the lacquer dried. There was
much damage during WWII which has since been repaired.

The Schnbrunn grounds are open to the public at no charge - a fee is charged
for the tour of the palace rooms. Schnbrunn's exterior is painted a mustard
(imperial) yellow, since it was a favorite color of Emperor Franz I. It is
widely used throughout Austria for many state and official buildings. The
upper floors of Schnbrunn are rented to Austrian civil servants. What a
perk! Tuesday's evening field trip was a bus trip to a Heurigen, a "new wine"
tavern. We enjoyed a night out with the locals. Farmers with vineyards are
permitted to sell their own wine at their own establishments. At this
gathering Elderhostel arranged for a number of school teachers to join us.
This made for a delightful evening, drinking wine, and talking about current
events of the area.

Wednesday's Lecture - "National Socialism, World War II and the Holocaust,"

The roots of "party program" movements started with the National Socialist
Worker's Party, which was founded in 1905 in Bohemia during the disputes
between German and Czech workers and spread to Austria and Bavaria.
Ultimately these party movements included the nationalist, the
internationalist, and the anti-semitic. These parties grew with the economic
crisis which followed World War I. Hitler added his Nazi movement and wrote
his book "Mein Kampf", essentially a personal program based on his ideas of a
pure, Aryan, Nordic, German race which he felt was threatened by the Jews and
what he considered Jewish ideas, i.e., Internationalism, Liberalism, Marxism
and Capitalism. Propaganda was effectively used to gain the support.

In 1938, following the "Anschluss", the Nazis built a concentration camp in
Austria called Mauthausen. Many of its first prisoners were Austrians, whose
political views differed from those of Hitler. These Austrians even differed
among themselves; however, during their internment, they were forced to
cooperate and depend on each other for survival. As a consequence they vowed
that if they ever survived, they would work together for the common good of a
better Austria. Subsequently many of these prisoners became the political
leaders of a new Austria.

Throughout this period, there was primarily only one dominant party in power.
Everyone had a specific place and was forced to stay in that place. The role
of women was to bear children - those who had many children were rewarded.
Under Hitler, children, starting at age three, were forced into structured
party movements and there were no alternatives. Those involved soon learned
to obey without asking any questions. At the outset Hitler gained the
support of the church, primarily because he imposed a church tax. That
church tax, initiated by Hitler, is still practiced and enforced today. Thus
the church received funds directly from the government for their operations,
based upon official church registrations. It was stated that even today,
many Austrians are resentful of the church for initially supporting Hitler
and not reacting when Hitler persecuted the Jews. It was reported that
currently about 90% of the people of Austria espouse Catholicism, but few
really practice the faith. Support for this claim is based on birthrate
statistics which show that the average family size in Austria today is 1.4
children. Also, abortion is widely practiced.

Wednesday Afternoon Field Trip - Museum of Fine Art, a self guided tour: In
preparation for this field trip we were given a tour brochure, specifically
designed for Elderhostel.

The Museum of Fine Arts is located in the Imperial Palace which is easily
accessible by the subway system. The museum contains a number of
collections. Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek and Roman Antiquities, the
Collection of Sculpture and Decorative Arts, the Picture Gallery, the Coin
Cabinet and in the Imperial Palace (Hofburg) the collection of Ancient
Musical instruments, Arms and Armor, the Ephesos Museum and the Treasury.

Wednesday Afternoon On Our Own: During this free period my wife and I
searched for the hotel/restaurant where my Grandfather Unger received his
apprenticeship training in 1886-1888. We found it outside the 1st district,
near the Ringstrae as well as his nearby Lutheran Church.

Wednesday Evening - Shopping On Our Own: Our coordinator had told us about a
shopping center located within a short walk of our hotel. She said to go
there if you wanted to experience local shopping. We were told the prices
were about one third of the price charged at tourist areas. Most all the
shops were closed' however. (In Vienna, as well as most of Austria, most
stores open early in the morning, close for about two hours during mid day,
and then close for the evening about 6 p.m.). Although the shops were
closed, the shopping center was still crowded. Many people were doing what
appears to be an Austrian custom, strolling while eating ice cream cones.

While walking through the shopping center, we decided to get some Austrian
money at one of the available ATMs. My wife and I noticed a small boy
standing near by, probably no more than eight years old. We thought that he
was curious to see a tourist using an ATM machine. - locals can always spot a
tourist. After we completed our transaction, and stepped aside, the boy
walked up to the ATM, quickly keyed in his request, and out came his money -
probably his Austrian student's allowance (more about the Austrian student's
allowances later).

Window shopping that evening proved to be a "dry run" so that my wife could
do some serious shopping when the stores were open. (to be continued)

concerning the Burgenland Bunch, contact .

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