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Subject: [BURGENLAND-NEWSLETTER-L] BB News No. 20A dtd 30 Sept. 1997 (edited)
Date: Fri, 2 Jul 1999 12:41:29 EDT
THE BURGENLAND BUNCH NEWS -No. 20A
(issued as required by )
September 30, 1997
(all rights reserved)
This edition of the newsletter is continues (part 3) Robert Unger's trip
report. Among the many interesting descriptions, is a synopsis of current
Austrian social and economic conditions.
AUSTRIA - A TRIP REPORT TO THE HOME OF MY UNGER ANCESTORS
Part #3 - in Vienna, Austria (1997) with Elderhostel program (By Robert F.
Brief recap: In part #1, Burgenland Bunch News No.16, general information
about the Elderhostel program was provided. Part #2 appeared in BB News
No17A, focusing on European history and Elderhostel Vienna events. Part #3
below, continues with European history and Elderhostel Vienna events.
Thursday's lecture entitled - "The Austrian Success after 1945" was given by
Professor Pokorny from the University of Vienna. His handout material was in
the form of a time line, listing Austrian successes after 1945. In Professor
Pokorny's opening remarks, he stressed the importance of first examining the
way in which the Austrian people view their part in World War II, i.e.,
whether they consider themselves victims or feel they should share guilt for
the war. Prior to WW#2, German troops entered Austria without declaring war.
This raises questions as to whether Germany forced its way in or was invited
by the Austrians. Professor Pokorny pointed out that there is a strong legal
position prevailing that in 1938 German troops entered Austria uninvited,
during a time of high unemployment, promising prosperity and peace. Some
unemployed Austrians viewed that situation as an opportunity to join the
German army just to get a job of any kind. This gives rise to the debate of
the "victim" theory versus "being guilty of the German war problems." Other
Austrians feel that they were forced into fighting for Germany and in essence
were the first nation to be annexed by Germany. Records show that Austrian
soldiers did not fight as a unit, but were distributed throughout the German
army. There were no individual or separate Austrian divisions. The question
of whether Austrians were the victims or the guilty remains unresolved.
Professor Pokorny preceded to say that the details surrounding the manner in
which World War II ended for Austria are equally as puzzling as how Austria
got into it.
During the closing period of World War II, Russian troops were the first
Allies to enter Austria. They arrived by way of Burgenland. That entry, or
the Russian/Austrian conflict, lasted only about 3-4 days, and was declared
over in Vienna on April 13, 1945. It is recorded that the Austrian's
welcomed the Allies, in fact some resistance groups actually assisted the
Russians, hoping to minimize further destruction of Austria. The Allies
immediately freed all prisoners from the 50 German concentration camps
located throughout Austria, many of whom were Austrian political prisoners.
Those Austrian political prisoners, surprisingly, played a major role in
Austria's successful post war development. Many political prisoners
maintained their will to live under prison conditions, hoping the war would
soon be over, and they prayed for a second chance to make Austria a better
nation by considering and using lessons learned from times past.
Prior to the war, those who became political prisoners had strongly
different, essentially selfish and/or self-serving views, but as fellow
prisoners they learned trust each other and to see merit in each other's
ideas concerning government. Therefore the post WW#2 Austrian government was
essentially discussed, debated, and formed by Austrian political leaders of
various parties while they served time in the German concentration camps.
Following is an examination of Professor Pokorny's time line chart which
illustrates how rapidly Austria started its recovery after the war ended, for
example the following events took place during 1945; between April 7-13 there
was the battle of Vienna between the German/Austrian forces and the
encroaching Russian Army; on April 14 the Socialist Party of Austria was
founded; on April 15 the Austrian Trade Union was founded; on April 17 the
People's Party was founded; on April 23 the Austrian provisional government
The most prominent Austrian political leader to emerge at war's end was Karl
Renner. Renner was a very active political figure before the war and was one
of the resistance leaders during the war. When the Russians first marched
toward Austria, Karl Renner contacted Stalin and offered his help, hoping to
minimize any further destruction of Austria. On April 27 Austria's
independence was proclaimed, restoring the Republic of Austria (Renner became
a member of this new Austrian provisional government and was ultimately
elected as Austria's federal president on December 20, 1945). On May 1, 1945,
the Austrian Constitution of 1920, as amended in 1929, was used as a basis
for the new government. Then on May 8, 1945 came the unconditional
surrender of the "Third Reich" and the end of WW#2 in Europe. On July 9,
1945, the Allies agreed to divide Austria into four occupation zones and this
condition prevailed until May 15, 1955 when the "State Treaty" was signed,
which declared Austria once again a free republic.
The treaty forbade unification with Germany or restoration of the Habsburgs
and provided safeguards for Austria's Croat and Slovene minorities. Austrian
neutrality and a ban on foreign military bases in Austria were later
incorporated into the Austrian constitution. The 40,000 Soviet troops in
Austria were withdrawn by late September 1955. The small number of Western
troops that remained were withdrawn by late October 1955. Now at last
Austria was free! The people could once more be Austrians, not "left-out
Germans," a label often used pre- war.
Leave it to the Austrians to glean some humor from the Allied occupation by
dubbing it the "four in a jeep" situation. During the occupation, Austria
was divided among the four Allies (USA, Russia, England, and France), but in
the central district of Vienna all four Allied forces collectively governed.
To make sure each of the Allies was equally represented, one soldier from
each of the occupying nations rode in each patrolling jeep. Thus, many older
Austrians jokingly recall the "four in a jeep" days.
After the war ended, Austria's greatest fear was that Russia would establish
a state of their own in Eastern Austria as they did in Germany, i.e., the
East Berlin area. Had this fear materialized, Burgenland would probably have
become a Russian state. But the newly formed Austrian government convinced
the Russians that Austria would not become part of any western alliance and
would stay neutral, as had Switzerland. The other Allies also accepted
Austria's position of neutrality, thus preserving Burgenland for Austria.
In June 1947, the USA implemented the Marshall plan which was of significant
help in restoring the area of Austria occupied by the USA. The Russians on
the other hand, tried to make the Austrians, mainly those who lived in
Burgenland, pay their war debts, (and in the beginning of the occupation)
raped and pillaged, and took everything of value in the area and sent it off
to Russia. As a consequence Russians are not well received in Burgenland.
Initially the Austrians considered their greatest post war achievement to be
the development of the most highly successful welfare system in the world.
In 1946 Austrian industries were nationalized, a move taken to get them from
under the control of the Allied forces. The electric power industry is still
today under Austrian government control. But what appeared to be a total
success story is now viewed to have some drawbacks. During the period of
1970-1984, socialism gained control in Austria. People were given tax money
for getting married, children were given allowances from the government -
public spending was a never ending way of life, causing tremendous national
Now Austria wants to be part of the European Community, but in order to do so
they must reduce their debt. The current dilemma is that most Austrians
prefer debt to high unemployment. So how the Austrians will resolve this
problem remains to be seen.
Austria is very sensitive about environmental issues. For instance nuclear
power plants were voted down, a decision reinforced by the disaster in
Chernobyl. (Chernobyl is located approximately 700 miles from Gssing,
Austria.) When Chernobyl's problems occurred, children of Austria were kept
inside, they were not permitted to eat fruit, etc. As a result of the
Chernobyl disaster a practically completed Austrian nuclear power plant was
never put into operation and may ultimately become a museum. In response to
what was once thought to be a growing energy problem and the need for more
electricity, the Austrians answered by conserving energy, and by buying
electricity on the open market.
How are the Austrian successes reflected in their 1997 life styles? The
following list provides a glimpse into current Austrian living. 1. Those who
are members of a church must pay a church tax, a tax first introduced by
Hitler, which is still being used. Many Austrians elect to leave the church,
to avoid paying the tax. 2. Austrians are paid monthly, using a 14-month
system. Each month they receive their regular monthly pay, but in June they
receive an additional month's pay, "vacation money," and another additional
month's pay in December, "Christmas money." 3. 11% of one's income goes for
health insurance. 4. There is a 20% value added tax on most items, except
for the 10% on food, and 30% for luxury items. 5. An individual's earnings
are considered a personal, closely guarded secret. 6. Dentistry is the
highest paid profession. 7. The average Austrian's salary is about
25,000-30,000 s, or about $2,115 - $2,600/month. 8. Banks are still under
government control. 9. Health care is considered very good in the cities,
and fair in the villages. 10. Inflation is currently being controlled at
about 2.2%. 11. Current critical issues are funds for pensions and health
care. 12. Children get a government allowance "children's supplement - 1,500
s per month". 13. Schooling, through college, is free, including books and
transportation to and from schools. The duration for university studies is
not limited. If the student needs more time for their studies than the
minimum studying time they lose benefits from their "children's supplement".
15. There are 12 universities in Austria collectively offering 430 subjects.
The University of Vienna was founded in 1365 and the University of Graz was
founded in 1585. 15. Austrians look upon their monthly pay checks as
spendable income, because the government takes care of their educational and
health needs. By comparison, in the USA, one tries to save for "a rainy
16. The following is a list of the 1993 per capita gross domestic product
figures for Austria and surrounding countries - valued in US$: Austria -
$23,510, Czech Republic - $2,710, Germany - $23,650, Hungary - $3,830,
Italy - $19,840, Poland - $2,260, Slovakia - $1,950, Switzerland - $35,760.
For those who desire additional material on the subject matter, Professor
Pokorny suggested the book "Modern Austria", by Barbara Jelavich, Cambridge
Thursday afternoon's events: Thursday afternoon was a free period to do
whatever we wished. My wife and I decided to spend this time shopping at a
local shopping center near our hotel - the same place that we visited on
Wednesday evening when the shops were close (previously discussed in part 2).
Shoppers apparently walk to and from this area, since there were no car
parking facilities in evidence. The whole shopping area has restricted
vehicular traffic, and the only vehicles observed were trucks making
deliveries. Thus, one could freely walk across streets from store to store.
Despite the fact that this was a local shopping center, not a touristy area,
one could often find someone in every store who spoke some English. Ice
cream stores were very much in evidence, and often whole families walked
about eating cones. Austrian's evidently really like their ice cream. So
perhaps my love of ice cream is in my genes.
Thursday evening's lecture "Childhood & Youth in Austria" was given by a
school teacher, Ingrid Steiner. Following are 12 of the most significant
points covered during this lecture. (1) Empress Maria Theresia introduced
the school system in Austria in 1774. (2) The average Austrian family
currently has only 1.4 children - a low birth rate. (3) Currently all school
children must start learning English at age 8. (4) Students have the option
of schooling leading to vocational training or a college degree. Previously
college training was reserved for the upper class. (5) The average income
for a teacher with 5-9 years experience is 16,000 s/month, or about
$1,380/month, x 14 = $19,320/year. (6) About 1/3 of one's income is
consumed by taxes. (7) Workers can retire after 35 years of employment. (8)
Children receive a monthly government benefit check of 1,500 s/month, or
about $130/month. (9) Austria has a very low crime rate. (10) Austria
currently has a 7% unemployment rate, compared to 9% for Germany. (11)
Abortion is quite common in Austria. (12) After the birth of a child, the
mother can take 2 years off from work with pay.
Friday's lecture, entitled "Breaking of Eastern Europe" was given by Leon
Johnson. Mr. Johnson came from the USA to Austria in 1973 as a student and
eventually married a Viennese.
He has taught at a variety of institutions in Vienna and has traveled
extensively in Central Europe. I was thoroughly fascinated by this lecturer.
Later I learned that he recently published a book entitled Central Europe,
Enemies, Neighbors, Friends, by Oxford University Press, Inc. 198 Madison
Avenue, New York, NY. I purchased his book, a paperback version, when I
returned home at a cost of $18.95. I found his book as interesting as his
lecture. The book can best be described by one of the book's critics, Daniel
Chirot from the University of Washington; "Written by a sophisticated
historical analyst, this book is nevertheless more accessible to
non-specialists than any comparable work. Lonnie Johnson explains the
region's paradoxes objectively, but also with deep sympathy...students,
travelers, officials, and businessmen who wish to understand the
contradictions of this vital, appealing, but often alarming
heart of Europe must read this illuminating narrative." The following is a
summation of the topics presented during Mr. Johnson's lecture.
When Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met in Yalta in 1945 they divided
Europe into two different spheres of influence, the west and the east, and
unfortunately started what was later called the "Cold War." The political
forces in the east were either dead (killed by the Nazis) or considered
unsatisfactory, because they had previously collaborated with the Nazis. This
dearth of political leaders from what were eastern countries, i.e., east of
the German border before the war, gave the Russians the opportunity to take
firm control of much of the eastern sphere. In addition, Stalin had a strong
desire to get back any area that was once considered part of Russia. As a
consequence in the eastern sector, Russia dictated all conditions with little
eye toward restoring the sovereignty of countries such as Poland,
Czechoslovakia, Hungary, etc. Those elements, and other adverse actions by
the Russians resulted in Russia making enemies with most countries. In
contrast, the USA took a number of significant measures to help nations in
the west, especially its former enemy, Germany, start working toward
restoration of their individual nations. The first step was the Truman
Doctrine. It was initially designed to aid Turkey, a measure taken to
contain communism. Next the Marshall plan was implemented, a USA investment
in their new friendly nations, to prevent a great depression in Western
Europe. NATO was developed primarily to keep the USA in Europe, to keep the
German military down, and to keep the Russians out.
Burgenland was under the control of Russia after WW 2, and that occupation
ended peacefully in 1955, when Austria became a free and independent nation.
However, elsewhere within the eastern sphere there were three significant
attempts to break out from under Russian rule. The first was in 1956, during
the revolution in Hungary.
More than 200,000 fled that country, many going to Austria. The second
attempt was in 1968 when the Czechs revolted, but having learned from the
1956 Hungarian revolt, there was no blood shed during this uprising. The
third attempt was the successful solidarity attempt in Poland. It was
successful because the Poles had learned from the two prior attempts in
Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The Poles succeeded because they made it clear
to the Russians that they were only trying to create their own self-limiting
organization which did not threaten to take over Russian political power.
The long cold war worked in favor of the west, because time was the key
element that caused the collapse of the economy of communism. A means of
evaluating capitalism versus socialism is "who gets what back." Today Europe
is experiencing economic changes, i.e., industry from Germany is moving to
Romania where labor is much less costly. There is a generation gap problem.
The younger generation considers the older generation well off with all
their retirement benefits, and feels that national expense is now being paid
by the younger generation. Look for new changes in the future.
Friday afternoon's Elderhostel field trip was to the Treasury at the Imperial
Palace in central Vienna. This palace museum is filled with collections of
extremely valuable objects of gold and silver, richly embroidered garments
and tapestries, precious stones and other curiosities of nature. Most are
original Habsburg objects which provide us with a unique testimony to the
thousand years of European history. There was no time restriction during
this self guided tour, so one could spend as much time as desired, using a
museum brochure, written in English, telling of all the objects in each of
the 21 exhibit rooms. This museum must be put on everyone's must see list.
Friday evening's event was to a piano concert by Krystian Zimmerman: This
piano concert was included in the Elderhostel program at no extra cost. My
wife and I especially enjoyed this event because we were extremely fortunate
in getting seats in the second row center, right in front of Krystian
Zimmerman. Those seats gave us the opportunity to witness closely Mr.
Zimmerman's emotions before, during, and after each musical presentation. It
was a night that we will never forget, a spectacular event. Saturday
morning's schedule was structured so that we had all the morning free to do
as we wished. My wife Alice and I had horses for many years. Alice was very
active in riding and took a number of riding lessons, including dressage, the
type of equitation made world famous by the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
So, being in Vienna, we just had to see a performance at the Spanish Riding
Normally tickets are sold out months in advance, but luck was with us and we
got tickets at the American Express travel office in center Vienna several
days prior, for a Saturday practice session, with music. Sara, our
coordinator alerted us to the fact that at the Spanish Riding School there
are no reserved seats, thus she told us to get there early and get in line.
We arrived about 1 hours before the time of the scheduled performance and
to our surprise the line had already started to form. While waiting in line
it became apparent that many in line were from the USA. One informed us that
there were no reserved seats, so it would be necessary to hurry in order to
get the most advantageous seats. When they opened the gate and started
letting us in, there was an orderly dash down a flight of stairs, across a
court yard, and then up another flight of stairs to the performance hall.
Since we were near the front of the line, we were able to get front row
The Spanish Riding School has a 400 year old history and has survived many
political eras and governments. The art of classical equitation goes back to
antiquity; it was first discovered in Italy and flourished in Spain, England
and France and is now cherished and cultivated at the Spanish Riding School
of Vienna. This magnificent hall was built by one of Austria's leading
baroque architects and initially severed as the "Winter Riding School" for
the royal Habsburgs and their guests. The performances were not open to the
public until 1918. The hall has a majestic ambiance, decorated in white
surrounded by marble columns and bathed in light. Around the hall and at the
forefront is located the visitor's gallery and under the painting of Karl VI
the Imperial box, reserved in the past for the Emperor and his court. During
world war II the Lipizzan horses were often moved from place to place for
their safety. Near the close of the war the horses were transferred to
Bohemia which is located in the eastern sector. When General Patton learned
that the horses might ultimately fall into the hands of the Russians, he had
the horses transferred to Piber, Austria, which ultimately became an area
occupied by the western allies. Austrians now proclaim that General Patton's
quick action saved the Spanish Riding School and their Lipizzan horses for
Austria and for this they are most grateful to him.
For many years after the war the horses and the school remained at Piber,
because Vienna was occupied by the four allied powers and the location of the
Spanish Riding School hall was directly located in the Soviet Zone. Today
Piber (ed. note: located west of Graz and visited in 1993, this farm is open
to tourists and an easy trip for anyone visiting Burgenland) remains the
breeding farm for the Lipizzan horses and supplies the Spanish Riding School
of Vienna with all the stallions used for their performances.
Currently the Piber stud farm and the Spanish Riding School in Vienna are
under the leadership of one Austrian Federal agency, the Agriculture and
Forestry. Visitors can now view the Viennese performances by occupying the
two tiers of three rows of seats in each of the two galleries surrounding the
lower horse arena. They do not allow video or picture taking during the
performance, but we bought a booklet, in English, which included many
excellent pictures. Another memorable event for the don't miss list. The
Spanish Riding School is located in the Imperial Place, in the center of
Vienna. Lessons learned about the Spanish Riding School. It is an extremely
popular tourist attraction. Buy your tickets well in advance if possible.
However, agencies, such as the American Express Travel Office, buy blocks of
seats knowing that they can sell them to tourists for an additional fee. If
seeing the School is on your list, you may get tickets at travel agencies for
an extra fee.
After the completion of the Spanish Riding School performance we toured
central Vienna, taking the opportunity to check-out the Lutheran Church in
the area. We had passed the church previously in the week, but at that time
it was closed. Luck was with us again, here on Saturday morning we found the
church open, apparently someone was working on the organ. This gave us a
rare chance to look inside the church - very old and beautiful. Apparently
many areas of central Vienna have undergone periodic restoration, probably to
correct damage due to war. As a consequence the part of the church building
facing the street gives little or no appearance of its old grandeur. It
appears that many old buildings have added an outside wall that matches
adjacent buildings. The lesson here was, get inside the buildings to
capture their true grandeur.
Saturday afternoon's scheduled Elderhostel field trip involved a bus
excursion to the Vienna Woods (the Wienerwald). The city of Vienna is a
relatively flat area, but to the North their are hills, mountains, and the
Vienna Woods. This three hour excursion included viewing the areas where the
Turks had their encampment during their siege of Vienna, and stopping at
mountain vantage spots which provided bird's eye views of Vienna below. We
also visit many old and beautiful churches of the area. And, of course, we
had some time for more shopping and ice cream cones.
Saturday evening's optional event was a Mozart concert at the concert hall in
central Vienna. Vienna is a city of music, so we just had to take in a
Mozart concert. Another spectacular event!
Saturday was our last full day of Elderhostel events in Vienna. Our schedule
called for us to bus to Salzburg the next morning. But before leaving Vienna
I would like to list several general reactions, observations, and comments:
1. Vienna is a very friendly, clean, safe, and beautiful city. 2. Much can be
gained by planning ahead, and getting self-guided tour material. 3. We
learned that the most economical and convenient method of converting dollars
to Austrian shillings was via ATM machine. Before leaving the USA get an ATM
card with your secret ID access #, one that debits your checking account, not
one that offers credit. For each transaction we paid a $1.25 banking charge.
So it behooves you to arrange with your bank for a maximum withdrawal amount
best suited to your needs. Also check with your bank for the best service
agency to use, i.e. Cirrus, etc. Most of the ATM machine in Austria,
including those in the villages, have optional English instructions. Our
ATM exchange rate, including the $1.25 banking fee, was better and more
convenient than using travelers checks. When getting shillings from an ATM
they provide no withdrawal slip, so it behooves you to keep track of each
transaction. Also, it is a good idea to notify your bank that you will be
traveling in Europe and will be making many ATM debit withdrawals. Banks
often track withdrawal patterns and if your pattern changes, they suspect
problems and may stop transactions until clarification is made. 4.
Telephoning to the USA from Austria. Before leaving for Austria I learned
that AT&T has a special service for using an AT&T calling card, i.e. calling
from Austria to the USA. This service had a $3.00/month fee. But, if you
are only going to be in Austria a few weeks, a $3.00/month fee is minimal.
This arrangement allows you to call your home telephone number at the rate of
only 35 cents/minute. A word of caution. If your calling card contains a
letter in your identification coding, convert that letter to the proper
number, because the telephones in Austria are not alpha/numeric. Also, if
you use a pay telephone in Austria, you will be required to "feed" that
telephone, in addition to your calling card long distance charges. The
Austrian telephones have a time lapse indicator letting you know how many
minutes you have left from the coins you inserted for the use of the
telephone. Once your time is up, you are immediately cut off. So, keep the
local telephone properly fed and happy. 5. Concerts in Vienna are memorable
events. The performance halls also have excellent
acoustics, without the extensive use of microphones and speakers often used
in the USA. However, the buildings were designed to provide excellent
acoustics with the windows closed. So, during a performance, it does get a
little warm. Don't worry, they cool it off during intermission by briefly
opening the doors and windows. A word to the wise, dress accordingly, i.e.
layer. 6. In Vienna, if you want to find someone who speaks English, just
pause on the sidewalk for a few minutes and soon someone will walk by
speaking English - problem solved.
This concludes the Elderhostel Vienna trip report segment. Trip reports #4
and #5 will focus on Elderhostel events in Salzburg. Trip reports #6 and #7
will concentrate on our 10 days on our own in Burgenland. Your comments,
reactions, and suggestions are appreciated and most welcomed. <>
(to be continued)
END OF NEWSLETTER-EDITED & DISTRIBUTED BY GERALD J. BERGHOLD, For information
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