BURGENLAND-NEWSLETTER-L ArchivesArchiver > BURGENLAND-NEWSLETTER > 2000-10 > 0972997411
Subject: [BURGENLAND-NEWSLETTER-L] BB News No. 89A dtd Oct 31, 2000
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2000 08:03:31 EST
THE BURGENLAND BUNCH NEWS -No. 89A
DEDICATED TO AUSTRIAN-HUNGARIAN BURGENLAND FAMILY HISTORY
(now issued monthly by )
October 31, 2000
This second section of the 3 section newsletter contains a plan by member
Regina Espenshade's for a Proposed Reunion in Stadtschlaining. It also
includes a report of her recent second Stadtschlaining Visit which led to
that idea. Jewish members will be particularly interested. Concluding this
section is the story, attributed to Baron Schey, about Count Thomas (Tamas)
Erdödi, then the owner of Rotenturm, smuggling King Karl, (successor to
Emperor Franz Joseph) into Hungary in 1921.
REUNION OF JEWISH DESCENDANTS FROM BURGENLAND
(From: -Regina Espenshade)
I am writing to ask your assistance in planning a conference/reunion of
families descended from the former Jewish residents of Burgenland to be held
in Stadtschlaining in May or June 2001. We need help in identifying people
who may be interested in taking part.
By way of background of how this project developed, I have been doing a lot
of genealogy work to trace my family and our origins in Burgenland. I joined
the Burgenland Bunch early this year and the information I learned and the
contacts I established have been wonderful. You published my story of an
earlier trip in October 1999 that inspired this interest.
My purpose in returning to Burgenland in June of this year was to attend a
training session of International Peacekeepers and explore more about the
impetus for changes in Stadtschlaining. There I found people dedicated to
overcoming the negative history of Austria's past and
resisting any rise of violence or anti-Semitic and anti foreign sentiment.
It is true that Haider (governor of Carinthia and former head of the Austrian
Freedom Party) has tapped into a virulent strain of Austrian culture
suppressed by the myth that Austrians were "victims of the Nazis". There are
also counter efforts to resist this and people working to reveal the danger
of this virulent force. (Ed. Note: I feel the Haider episode appears to have
been over-emphasized and may well be reaching an end. Euro sanctions against
Austria, resulting from Haider's comments and actions, are being removed.)
Some of the older residents remember the vibrant Jewish life that was an
integral part of their past. When we talked about the possibility of inviting
the descendants of the Jewish families to return for a visit, there was an
immediate and positive response. The religious leaders, Catholic and
Protestant, the political leaders and the officials of the
Peace Study Center decided to co-sponsor such an event. The Pastor of the
Evangelical Church, Manfred Koch, who is also the director of Concentrum, an
Ecumenical Religious study center in Stadtschlaining, would be the
May or June of 2001 are the prospective dates. It important to plan a reunion
soon since most of those people who remember the war years are quite old. To
lose the opportunity to learn this oral history would be a major loss. The
purpose of the reunion is to create an environment in which reconciliation
can take place. The reluctance to admit truths has a negative affect on
Austria as well as those who were so harmed by its Nazi past. Healing for
those who were victims and those who were victimizers or silent witnesses
cannot take place until the wounds are aired openly. Only afterwards may it
be possible to request and to grant forgiveness.
In addition to the reunion, there are plans for an exhibit in Eisenstadt to
commemorate the 80th year (1921-2001) of Burgenland as part of Austria. One
of the Burgenland Bunch contacts; Dr. Gert Tschoegl is leading this project.
He made a special trip to meet me in Stadtschlaining, and gave me some useful
information about my family genealogy. We agreed that it made sense to try
to coordinate the two events.
As plans progress, I will send more information about the details. The
following is a brief survey for the members of the Burgenland Bunch who may
want to attend. We need an idea of the number of potential participants. We
welcome feedback, suggestions and new ideas.
1. We are seeking genealogical charts of family and collecting pictures. We
would invite people to make copies of their family pictures and assemble them
in a book or archive along with providing oral histories to be recorded
during the visit.
2. There will be a ceremony or banquet. There will be opportunity for the
people of Stadtschlaining and those from neighboring towns to meet the
returning visitors and speak with them, thus opening relationships.
3. Different people will deliver papers about their historical research and
tell their stories. Some potential speakers include Dr. Werderitsch, retired
Catholic Priest who has just written a book of his memories, Dr. Gerhard
Baumgartner who wrote a book on the Jewish community of Schlaining since
1715, Dr.Gert Tschoegl who has researched Jewish families of Oberwart,
Dr.Albert Schuch, our fantastic resource person from Klein Petersdorf who has
helped so many of us in our research. Guests would also speak.
4. We want to hear from the elderly people of the community. There are a
number of individuals who heroically helped Jewish families (including mine)
to escape. Does anyone know of particular heroes who should be honored
during this occasion?
5. We need music. Is anyone willing to perform?
6. Dr. Gerhard Baumgartner has made a video about the Jews of
Burgenland who are now in Israel. We may include it.
7. We are thinking about a web page to communicate details of our plans.
8. Visiting the region. Guided visits to the neighboring towns where there
are Jewish cemeteries, memorials and synagogues are also possible. These
include at least Oberwart, Gross Petersdorf, Rechnitz, and Deutchschutzen.
Visits to Bad Tatzmandorf, Vienna and Eisenstadt where there are Jewish
museums and to the new synagogue in Graz are
9. The time frame would be 2-3 days in Schlaining and about a full week in
Austria. The alternative dates are in late May or mid June. For those who
want to come, what is better?
To plan the event, it will be very helpful to have feedback on all the 9
If anyone is interested, please send a direct reply to
Feel free to ask any questions and please give me the following information.
Plan to Attend ?
Number and Names of People?
Number of Hotel Rooms Needed?
Preferred Date: ?
MY AMAZING RETURN TO STADTSCHLAINING DURING JUNE 2000
I am still trying to process the overwhelming experiences and absorb their
meaning for my life. This is a brief chronology of the most significant
events I encountered. Upon my return to Austria I spent several days in
Vienna, visiting the tourist sites including the Sigmund Freud Museum. Later
I began to relate the significance of Freud's insights to my activities in
I wanted to learn more about the Austrian Study Center for Peace and Conflict
Resolution (ASPR) that I found in 1999 during a visit to my mother's former
village. Therefore I applied and was accepted to participate in the
International Peacekeepers Training program in Stadtschlaining under the
auspices of the ASPR. My curiosity stemmed from my long-term interest in
peace and to understand more about the impetus for the renovation of Jewish
sites in Stadtschlaining.
I soon saw that the training was outstanding, and included high quality
subject matter, lecturers, workshops, and simulation exercises. Most
inspiring were the 30 young people with whom I studied and their deep
commitment to peace. They came from all over the world. Albania, Armenia,
Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi, Congo, Denmark, Germany,
Georgia, India, Mozambique, Kosovo, Nigeria, Palestine, etc. There were only
3 Americans, although everything was
conducted in the English language.
I began to connect the process of learning about reconciliation and conflict
resolution in Austria with the teachings of Sigmund Freud. The similarity
between individual and family therapy and the communal healing techniques
that I was studying led to my associating the concepts. How appropriate and
how strange to be experiencing this in Stadtschlaining!
During the third week, the UN sent staff to Stadtschlaining to recruit us to
become peacekeepers for UN missions throughout the world. I want to do this
because it seems like such a natural integration of my interests and my
personal and professional commitment. Analyzing regional conflict around the
world and the unsuccessful efforts to resolve them by military means led me
to a simple conclusion. The world needs trained peacekeepers, both civilian
and military to carry out a different type of intervention. After the
ceasefire and sometimes before, there must be an alternative to violence.
Perhaps in the future, after gaining some first hand mission experience, I
can qualify to become a trainer of a new generation of peacekeepers myself.
That path creates a new direction, and challenge for me.
Life in my mother's former village evoked an emotional response. Every day,
as I walked into the center for lunch or dinner, I saw her two houses
occupied by others (elderly people). I kept imagining what it would have
been like if she had not been forced to leave and I had grown up there. I
considered buying the houses and donating them for the use
of the Peace Study Center. For a brief time, it seemed possible that I
could. An elderly occupant died, but her house was not one to which I feel
Adjacent to my mother's houses is the restored Stadtschlaining castle. What a
contrast to the dilapidated dusty place I saw 25 years ago! It is used for a
Museum of Peace and the headquarters of the Peace Study Center with beautiful
conference and seminar facilities. The current
museum exhibit entitled "War or Peace?" is very moving.
How powerful to recollect the impacts of WWII that affected my family in this
little village 62 years ago. The consequences of that war spread, and added
to the current conflicts around the world in the Middle East, the Balkans and
the former Soviet Union.
In Schlaining I found people dedicated to overcoming the negative history of
Austria's past and to resisting the rise of violence, anti-Semitic and
anti-foreign sentiment. I feel that I want to support the counter efforts and
participate in activities that reveal the danger of this virulent force.
Added to the excitement of the associations with my international colleagues,
I met many Schlainingers. Some of the older ones remember my mother, and the
vibrant Jewish life that was an integral part of their past. I had been
finding a number of survivors among family and friends
as a result of my genealogy work. I raised the idea of inviting the
descendants of the Jewish families to return for a visit. There was an
immediate and positive response. After preliminary talks with the religious
leaders, Catholic and Protestant, the political leaders and the officials of
the Study Center, they decided to be co-sponsors of such an event. The Pastor
of the Evangelical Church Manfred Koch, who is also the director of
Concentrum, an Ecumenical Religious study center in Stadtschlaining, would be
The purpose would be to create an environment in which reconciliation can
take place among the present villagers and descendants of the former Jewish
residents. The reluctance to admit truths about the past has a negative
affect on Austria. Several people approached me personally to talk about
their repentance and to acknowledge their sins and those of their families
for their actions against Jews. Talking about this made me uneasy and I was
perplexed about why they chose to vent these issues with me. It became
apparent that I was one of the few descendants of Jews who returned even if
In conversation with Pastor Koch, he told me about the difficulties that are
occurring among members of his congregation old and young as a result of
unresolved guilt from the past. My superficial knowledge about Freudian
psychological insights caused me to interpret the situation as follows.
Healing for those who were victims and those who were victimizers or silent
witnesses cannot take place until the wounds are aired openly. Only
afterwards it may be possible to request and to grant forgiveness. I have no
illusions that this will be a dangerous and emotionally risky undertaking.
A reporter from Burgenland radio interviewed me on the air about why I came
back, based on the story that I wrote last year. It was a catharsis for me.
Being able to forgive although I cannot ever forget gave me emotional and
psychological relief. I don't know what the response of the radio listeners
was because the broadcast occurred after
I left. (My comments were translated into German.)
As if I were not busy enough, I tutored a 15-year-old boy, Philipp, in
English. He is the son of Werner Gloesl, the Director of Tourism of the
village. Werner has become a good friend and has contributed so much to my
efforts to understand the past. My tutoring was not successful and
Philipp failed his examination. As a consolation prize, he asked his father
to send him to stay with me in Washington for 2 weeks so he could improve his
English. He was here with me from the end of July until early August. It
was fun, and he succeeded in passing the make-up test.
I had several noteworthy encounters with individuals who have been
researching related issues. I arranged to meet Dr. Gert Tschoegl who had
interviewed my cousin Alexander Glaser from Oberwart in 1988 (Alex lives in
Zurich). Dr. Tschoegl's dissertation was about the Jewish families of
Oberwart, and he is continuing his work on Jewish history of Austria. In the
planning for a celebration in 2001 of the 80th year of
Burgenland as part of Austria, Dr. Tschoegl intends to include an exhibit
about Jewish people who were forced to leave in 1938. I am helping him to
identify individuals willing to testify and participate.
One of my study colleagues, Dr. Peter Felch joined me in my search for
information. He is very knowledgeable about Austrian Jewish history. Having
been married to a Russian Jew with whom he had two children heightened his
awareness of the dangers of Austrian anti-Semitism and the prospect of its
resurgence. During lunch breaks Peter drove me around to visit the
neighboring towns where the population of the Jewish community spread from
Stadtschlaining in the early 1900's. Our explorations revealed much
Some cemeteries remain intact (Oberwart, Rechnitz) although others are
destroyed (Gross Petersdorf). There were historical references to the
existence of 3 Jewish cemeteries in Stadtschlaining a community where Jews
lived since 1715. There is one remaining, restored after it was destroyed
during the war. I saw the 2nd cemetery that is now a
privately owned garden. The earliest one is no longer there, but I
subsequently solved the mystery of its former location. Frieda Schieder, a
91-year-old former Schlaininger told the story of how the bones of Jewish
people buried there were uncovered and reburied in the 2nd cemetery in the
early 20th century.
There are several former synagogues in Burgenland. The synagogue in Oberwart
was recently renovated as a music school and performance center. I attended a
Concentrum sponsored concert of Jewish music sung by Russian musicians.
Sitting in that place listening to ancient Jewish melodies affected me. I
thought of my father and his family imagining
their presence and what it must have been like for them worshiping there. For
years the building was used as a garage to park fire trucks. The young people
of Oberwart had no idea it was a former synagogue. The music director asked
if I could help him to find a picture of how the synagogue looked before it
I also saw the exterior of the synagogue in Rechnitz and an adjacent building
that housed the ritual bath. Nearby in Deutchschutzen (my grandmother Regina
Bauer Lowy's village) and in Rechnitz, there are 2 memorial sites to mark
places where hundreds of Hungarian Jews were murdered in 1945 by the Nazis
during forced marches of slave laborers for the German war machine.
In Stadtschlaining, I visited the former synagogue/Peace Library often. The
Librarian, Dr. Lisa Fandl was very supportive and responsive to my quest. I
gave her the Hebrew-German prayer books that my maternal grandparents Ignatz
and Hedy Braun prayed from more than 100 years ago. My mother had carried
them to the United States among the few items she
could salvage when she fled from her home. Now they will be restored and
permanently displayed in the synagogue in her memory.
Lisa arranged for me to spend time with Dr. Gerhard Baumgartner who wrote a
book (1988) about the Jewish community of Stadtschlaining. In the twelve
years since then, he has compiled considerably more information. One of his
projects was to make a video film about the Jews of
Burgenland who live in Israel. It was his grandmother, still alive in Gross
Petersdorf, who rented a place to the Jewish community for a prayer house.
In my visits to Gross Petersdorf I learned more about my relatives, the Schey
family, who were well known there. I received several written accounts of the
story of the time the King of Hungary visited the Schey home and conferred
upon him the royal title of Baron. (see story at end of article). I thought
that it was only family legend. While seeking
the location of the Jewish cemetery, I saw a monument in the Christian
cemetery to the war heroes of World Wars I and II. It was poignant to see
the name of Felix Schey among those who died in the first World War. His
name and that of another Jew were squeezed in at the bottom of the monument
as an after thought out of alphabetical order.
One weekend, a colleague and I drove to Zagreb in Croatia to visit my
relatives there. Our adventures, passing through 3 countries, getting lost
in Slovenia, were comical and eventful. But that is a separate story. On
several weekends, our IPT group went to Bad Taztmandorf. This place was
legendary in my family. It is truly a special place with thermal baths and
resort type activities. It is close enough that one can walk to
Stadtschlaining in one hour or drive in ten minutes. Oberwart, my father's
former home is a thriving commercial town, with lots of shops, even two
Chinese restaurants. This entire area of Burgenland is quite beautiful,
green fields, rolling hills, nature preserves and forests for hiking.
My most meaningful personal commitment is to work with people in
Stadtschlaining to organize the family reunion. Although the plans are very
preliminary, those family members and friends to whom I mentioned it are
responding eagerly and enthusiastically. There is a long way to go between
today and next Spring. My inspiring experiences must be tempered by
practical realities of carrying this event off.
This is a long and somewhat incoherent account. It only scrapes the surface
of the impact the experience of this trip had upon me. So much came together
in a remarkably short time. I have a sense that I am caught up in something
that transcends my ordinary life.
THE STORY OF BARON SCHEY (mentioned previously)
"The story of Baron Schey: Count Thomas (Tamas) Erdödi, then the owner of
Rotenturm, was the man who 'smuggled' king Karl into Hungary in 1921. The two
knew each other since childhood, being of the same age, and Count Thomas
Erdödy was also the courier of the so-called 'Sixtus letters', in which the
Emperor-King Karl had offered the allies a separate peace (WWI)without
knowledge of the Germans.
Being the leader of the Hungarian opposition (against the transfer of
Burgenland to Austria), he was forced to leave the country at the end of
1921, and lived forthwith in Güns (Köszeg). His memoirs appeared in the
1930's, and there he writes about the aborted coup d'etat as follows:
'It was a real peasant cart that took us to Nagyszentmihaly (Gross
Petersdorf). Here I planned to stop at the house of a person I knew, the
merchant Herrmann Schey, knowing that he had a car. We stopped at his house
and found him. He did not recognize the king. But since the auto was being
repaired, he promised to make available a horse carriage with two good
horses. In the meantime he invited us to refreshments, and the two sisters of
Schey were also present. I presented the king as a representative of the
American Red Cross, and I regretted this right away, since one of the ladies
spoke to the king in English right away. The king smiled and answered in
German; this looked very polite and did not cause suspicions. But this would
not be the last incident. We were
involved in an intense conversation, when a servant brought the coffee, or
rather, tried to bring it, because suddenly she dropped all the cups. We
looked up scared, and saw her disturbed face. She was standing in front of
the king, shouting out of control:" Jesus Maria! ... A kiraly!
(The king!) " And she left precipitously. Soon the incident was clarified:
During the war when the central commando had been established in Baden, close
to Vienna, the girl had served as a cook, and therefore she had seen the king
almost daily. ...Now It was useless to maintain further the incognito.
Suddenly, the siren of the firefighters broke the
rural silence: The news of the king's arrival expanded like a fire, and the
firefighters of Gross Petersdorf were assembled in full uniform, as for a
parade, in front of Schey's house. 'This Herrman Schey was, to my knowledge,
among other things, the owner of the brick factory in Gross Petersdorf, and
the Eva was his daughter. He also had - the same as Count Thomas Erdödy - a
high level position with the firefighters."
(Newsletter continues as no. 89B)