Archiver > BURGENLAND-NEWSLETTER > 1999-07 > 0931637714

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Subject: [BURGENLAND-NEWSLETTER-L] BB News No. 60B dtd 30 June 1999 (edited)
Date: Sat, 10 Jul 1999 16:15:14 EDT

(issued biweekly by )
June 30, 1999

This third section of the 3 section newsletter contains a Review of a Book
Concerning Gypsies, Description of a Heimatschein (Certificate of Domicile),
A BB Friend Visits Ollersdorf, and Share Those Newsletters.


Originally published in German in 1983, Erika Thurners book, National
Socialism and Gypsies in Austria examines Nazi treatment of Gypsies during
World War II. In 1998, the University of Alabama Press published an English
translation by Gilya Gerda Schmidt, which includes some revisions and new
material that did not appear in the original German edition. The new edition
is currently available online at Amazon books, and could probably be ordered
through your local bookstore.

Although the book is not specifically about Burgenland, much of it focuses
on this region. The reason is simple: Burgenland was the area of Austria
with the most Gypsies. Censuses conducted in the 1930s counted about 11,000
Gypsies living in all of Austria. Of that number, about 8,500 lived in
Burgenland. The book examines a grim but important chapter in Burgenlands

Although Jews were the main target of the Nazis genocide program, Hitlers
regime also attempted to exterminate Gypsies. This book details how the
German government and earlier governments in Austria had changed their
policies toward Gypsies over the years. The laws governing Gypsies grew
increasingly harsh during World War II and the period just before the war.
At times, the Nazis tried to distinguish between half-breed Gypsies from
people of pure Gypsy blood. The Nazis considered the mixed-race Gypsies more
threatening because they were supposedly diluting the purity of the German
race. But Thurners book argues that there was no practical difference in
how pure and half-breed Gypsies were treated (or rather, mistreated). By
the time the Nazi efforts to kill off Jewish people had reached their peak,
all people with Gypsy ancestry were also being persecuted.

Apparently, many of the Gypsies in Burgenland were not of pure Gypsy
ancestry, although one must view this information with some skepticism,
since it comes from research conducted by the Nazis.

In 1938, Dr. Richard Ritter, a Nazi eugenics researcher, wrote, In contrast
to the Jews, the Gypsy half-breeds (are) socially more inferior than
those who are racially pure The approximately 8,500 sedentary Gypsies of
the Burgenland stem from such a mixture, which resulted from a
relationship of Gypsies with the lowest elements of the most diverse peoples
and races of southwestern Asia and southeastern Europe. By far the greater
number of these so-called Gypsies is nothing by a Gyspy-like mixture of
vermin that has hardly anything in common with the real Gypsies.

Thurners book does not explore the early history of Gypsies in Burgenland
in much depth. Gypsies -- or Zigeuner in German -- called themselves the
Roma and Sinti, depending on which group they belong to.

She writes: At least to a degree, the Gypsy politics of Maria Theresia and
her son, Joseph II, had a seminal influence on the nature of Austrian Gypsy
settlements. Because of the repressive measures used, the plan for
settlement -- within whose framework Gypsies were to be given a certain
degree of rights -- was not suited to achieve successful integration. Thus
the success of the campaign was moderate. Settlement succeeded somewhat only
in western Hungary, today's Burgenland. The approximately eight thousand
Roma who lived there before the Nazis came to power were descendants of
these forcibly settled Gypsies, that is to say, Gypsies who had already
lived a sedentary, or partially sedentary life, for two hundred to three
hundred years before.

However, giving up the nomadic way -- sedentary life in small houses -- was
a far cry from integration or assimilation. The economic impact of the
Gypsies was determined by the prevailing conditions in the host country.
Thus, many were forced into continued mobility by the necessity to make a
living. Even after giving up their nomadic way of life, they remained an
outsider group, a foreign body, that was banned to the lowest rung on the
social and professional ladder. There are censuses from the time of Empress
Maria Theresia that identify more than half the Gypsies as migrant workers.

During the economic crisis, which began with the collapse of the monarchy
and dominated the inter war years, Austrian peasants themselves lived to a
large degree at the edge of minimal existence. Gypsies, as the poorest of
the poor, often were forced not only to beg but to steal. As a result of
punishment for these lifesaving crimes, Gypsies were subsequently forced
into criminal behavior. This led to a deepening of the existing attitude
that was based on prejudice and stereotypes. Hate campaigns in the local
press further intensified the hostile atmosphere.

Thurner quotes articles from Burgenland newspapers of the 1930s to
demonstrate local attitudes about the Gypsies.

By 1930, police in Burgenland had registered all Gypsies and fingerprinted
every Gypsy over the age of 14 as part of a crackdown on this minority
population. Thurner describes this as advance work for the Nazi government
that would later take over Austria.

The persecution against Gypsies in the late 1930s included the removal of
all Gypsy children from schools and the end of their voting rights. In
August 1938, a law went into effect in Burgenland forcing all able-bodied
Gypsies into forced labor. A number of other decrees were passed, including
one on June 5, 1939, that was called the preventive measure to fight the
Gypsy plague in Burgenland.
The overall effect of these measures was the internment of most Gypsies in
two Austrian camps, one in Salzburg and one in the Burgenland town of
Lackenbach. The camp in Lackenbach was on the grounds of Schaflerhof, an
inoperative Esterhazy estate. Many of the prisoners in these camps were
later sent to Auschwitz and other death camps, where they were killed.

Thurners book is apparently the first to document these two camps in much
detail; they had barely been mentioned at all in most previous literature
about the Holocaust. Thurner examines the question of whether it is proper
to call these concentration camps. They did not include gas chambers, and
seem to have functioned largely as forced-labor camps. The conditions sound
as if they were pretty dreadful, as one might expect, but perhaps not quite
as horrifying as the torments Jews and Gypsies faced in some of the more
infamous camps. While the Nazis carried out medical experiments on Gypsies,
they apparently did not do so at Lackenbach. Thurner concludes that it was
a transit camp to the large concentration and death camps. Threat of
deportation to a concentration camp, as well as repeated deportations,
governed the atmosphere and living conditions in camp.

The former headquarters of the Lackenbach Gypsy camp was the last remaining
relic of the site, and was torn down in the 1980s around the time Thurners
book was first published. When the building was partially demolished, she
visited the site and found numerous documents, which she used to tell the
story of the camp, including statistics on the prisoners and stories about
their treatment. About half of this book (which is a short 129 pages, not
including introductions and appendices) is devoted to the chapter on the
Lackenbach camp.

Of the 11,000 Gypsies who lived in Austria before the war, only about 3,000
survived, according to Thurner.

In a new introduction for the American edition of her book, Thurner mentions
a right-wing bomb attack on the Gypsy ghetto in Oberwart that killed four
people in 1995. Although it is discouraging that such hatred and violence
persists today, Thurner found some reason for optimism in the Austrian
public's reaction to this incident.

The results surrounding the bomb attack in Oberwart give us hope for the
future, she writes. Funeral ceremonies for the murdered men turned into a
public demonstration of solidarity. Solidarity with the Roma -- against
their persecutors and murderers -- that has never happened before!

Anyone interested in Burgenland genealogy has to wonder if he or she might
have some Gypsies somewhere on the family tree. It's interesting to note
that the handful of Gypsies mentioned by name in this book have German or
Hungarian names, such as Walter, Horvath, Link and Weingartner. The book
does not make it clear, however, whether they had adopted names in the local
languages or whether these names are the result of intermarriages between
Gypsies and the local population.

The detailed bibliography and footnotes in the American edition of Thurners
book should prove helpful for anyone researching Burgenland history or
genealogy. Unfortunately, there's one part of the original German edition
that was left out of the 1998 American edition. The new translation includes
a list of relevant documents that are in the German edition's appendices,
including admissions lists with all of the known names of Gypsies who were
imprisoned at Camp Lackenbach. This information would be very useful to
anyone trying to trace Gypsy genealogy in Burgenland. The German edition,
Nationalsozialismus und Zigeuner in Oesterreich, is Volume 2 of a series
called Veroeffentlichungen zur Zeitgeschichte, published by Geyer Edition,

HEIMATSCHEIN (CERTIFICATE OF DOMICILE)- (from questions by Alex Tscharr)
One document that may turn up in your family papers is one with the above
title. While the format may change over the years, the Austrian one from the
1920's reads like this:

Burgenland, Republik sterreich, Politischer Bezirk: (town like Gssing).
womit von der Gemeinde-"of which community"-town like Olbendorf
Name-name-like Csar Maria geb. (nee or born ) Obojkovits
Beruf oder Beschftigung "profession or occupation"-like domestic servant
Alter (age) geb. um 2 Mr 1864 im Krottendorf
Stand (status) (ledig-single or verheiratet-married) -verh.
in dieser Gemeinde das Heimatrecht besitzt.
Olbendorf, den 8 April 1924.
Seals, stamps, file numbers, Brgermeister name.

I am happy to report I received a postcard from Barrie Geosits, altho' she
almost beat the postcard home. I had asked her if time permitted while she
was in Austria, and if she was near Ollersdorf, to please check out
something I did NOT look at while I was there in '94. There's a small
chapel across the road from the church. I didn't know until the priest in
Stegersbach said that small chapel (which I thought was perhaps used for
graveside services when the weather was very bad) would have been the
chapel my grandfather attended. He said my grandfather would have looked at
the painting inside, and I have many copies of it he gave to me. I wanted
to be sure this painting really is the one inside, and hoped to have a
photograph someday. Not only did she go there and take photos which I will
be anxious to receive, but the postcard has several small pictures on the
front. In the upper left hand corner is a picture of the very Gasthof where
I stayed, and the church which is next to it. I think possibly Ollersdorf
was NOT on her agenda and she worked it in. I appreciate this so very much.

Marjorie, I think your grandfather would have attended the main church which
until 1871 was part of the parish of Stegersbach, although he most certainly
would have visited the chapel to take the water and look at the picture. The
parish church for Ollersdorf im Burgenland (there are other Ollersddorfs),
Hungarian name Baratfalu, is the "Katholische Pfarr- Und Wallsfahrtkirche
"Mariae Himmelfahrt", first built in 1764. It has a Baroque interior.
Ollersdorf became an independent parish in 1871. You probably know that the
records 1871-1895 are on LDS microfilm 0700653. Records prior to that are
found in Stegersbach, LDS 0700730-732.

The Wallfahrtskapelle (the chapel you mention) had its origin in 1626 when
the inhabitants "found" a picture of the virgin Mary (Marienbild) in the
vicinity, near a spring (brunnen). This picture was then displayed in a small
wooden chapel on the spot where found. The water was said to have holy and
restorative qualities. In 1768, the chapel was rebuilt of stone and the water
flowed through the wall to a basin close to the altar. The chapel was
renovated in 1954 and the water no longer flowed into the chapel. In 1986 the
chapel was again renovated and the "brunnen" was enclosed nearby in a
fountain with a statue of the Mariabild. The picture "Gnadenbild Maria
Helferin" is still displayed in the chapel. The chapel is a well known local
shrine and attracts visitors.

In 1960 another chapel with cross, the "Bergerkapelle" was also built.

The well known Gasthof Holper dates from 1868. Before that it was a village
guest house (Dorfgasthaus) used as a carriage rest stop named "Mattstall".
An old postcard shows the gasthaus with a horse and carriage in front.
Renovated in 1965 by the parents of Franz and Gisela Holper. Rudolf and
Annemarie Holper have it since 1992. There was also a Gasthof Janisch but I
don't know if it is still operating.

Ollersdorf has a choral group called the "Gesangverein" and also a
theatergruppe. Maria and Josef Strobl have a "tischlerei" (cabinet maker's)
and the Familie Klaus have a Romantikschenke (a buschenschank-new wine cellar
which features live music). Karl Klaus had been a chef in Haus "Raffel" in
Jennersdorf (a world class hotel restaurant).

Located just north of Stegersbach on Rt. 57, the population of Ollersdorf is
957 with 364 houses, the altitude is 360 meters. In 1878 the population was
858. (Note-much of the above taken from "Gssing im Wandel der Zeit", Kirsner
and Peternell, 1995.)

SHARE THOSE NEWSLETTERS (suggested by email from Bill Stubits)
Bill writes:<< I saw my brother yesterday, and he told me that he reads your
articles in the Burgenland Gemeinschaft Newspaper periodically. He also told
me that he used to work with your cousin at Patt White Realty. This is a
small world. >>

Yes Bill-and email is making it smaller, but it can still be a lonely place.
I often wish I knew exactly how many people have read some of our material.
While we have over 320 members in the B. Bunch, a number circulate our
newsletters and many of the B. Gemeinschaft people (a few thousand?) are also
aware of us. While there are a large number of descendants of Burgenland
immigrants (I estimate over 3 million), not all have computers (particularly
the older generations). One of my pleasures is knowing that some of that
segment is being reached by some members printing and distributing the
newsletters. It's more than I wish to take on to make them available through
surface mail, but I wish I could. Many of the older group (the immigrants)
have lost all contact with the "heimat" and of course as they get older their
memories take them back and they get a little nostalgic and homesick. Many
descendants (like me) left the new places that were settled, (enclaves like
the Lehigh Valley) and moved far away. Another side of the quest for family
history. I just heard from a cousin in Sao Paulo, Brazil! Hasn't heard from
any relatives in 30 years. I like to think I'm doing some good. Are you aware
of the Poppendorf village memorial to the emigrants (erected by the BG) which
reads (translated):

"Only a Burgenlander can be as constant as this hard stone. He is driven into
the wide world and there earns his money the hard way. Thanks to all our
loved ones, we have remained faithful to our homeland."

Applies to the descendants as well as the emigrants. We're still "driven into
the wide world." Regards, Gerry Berghold

for information about the Burgenland Bunch.

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