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Augustin - Feb. 01, 2007

A Window to the World


The new location of the Jewish Theater of Austria (JTA) on the Kandlgasse in Vienna’s 7th District is more than just an administrative base: “The Window” puts contemporary Jewish art on display. The battle to restore the Nestroyhof as an international Jewish theater continues even as the “proprietors” who obtained the building through Aryanization (Nazi confiscation) try to silence JTA with a 10,000.00 euro lawsuit.

Thursday evening: The Jewish Theater of Austria holds an open rehearsal at its new space. Due to its intimate size, there is seating for approx. 20 people who follow the inspired work of the eight actors for three and a half hours. The run-through of “The Judenstadt – A Stage of Mind” is an important rehearsal for author and director Warren Rosenzweig. It is the first time that actors are working with Sonja Rosenzweig’s complete German translation, which will soon appear in book form together with two other plays by Warren Rosenzweig. “The Judenstadt” portrays Theodor Herzl on the road to the idea of a “State of the Jews” and takes a hard look at Jewish self-hatred at the time of Karl Lueger. Throughout the evening, passers-by stop outside “The Window” to watch.

The company’s new location is an interesting choice. The corner directly across the street is occupied by District Police Headquarters and directly across from that is the den of the extreme-right German Nationalist fraternity “Sudetia”. Also nearby is the house at Schottenfeldgasse 60 that was once a house of Jewish prayer, but that, like the Nestroyhof and other architectural objects, was acquired by the industrial family known as “Polsterer” through Aryanization. Since the family continues still today to fiercely resist the memory of Jewish property, the corresponding, commemorative plaque could not be mounted directly on the façade, but had to be installed on public property in the sidewalk in front of the house instead.

Es firt (k)eyn veg tsurik

“We want to interact with the community,” explains Jewish Theater of Austria Director Warren Rosenzweig. Accordingly, rehearsals will also be held in the performance space facing the street outside. Theater is never a finished product, but is always a “work in progress”. Here, also the actors must acclimate to this process. “The Window” is also open to other groups as a public “workspace” for politically provocative and socially relevant themes. But “The Window” doesn’t solve the need for a permanent stage, emphasizes Rosenzweig. Nor has he given up the struggle concerning the Nestroyhof: “There will be an international Jewish theater in the Nestroyhof – it is only a question of time,” he explains in full confidence.

This coming March, the JTA initiative, “Restore the Nestroyhof,” awaits an impressive show of solidarity. For the first time since it was founded in 1987, the Association for Jewish Theatre will hold its World Congress from March 20 to 23 not in North America but, of all places, in Vienna. And, also for the first time, these events will be held in public. 100 to 150 participants are expected from around the world. From March 18 to 24, the conference will be accompanied by a festival called “TIKUN OLAM – Repair the World” with artists from Moscow to Buenos Aires. With the festival, Rosenzweig also hopes to indicate what he envisions for an international Jewish theater in the Nestroyhof. For this huge undertaking, Rosenzweig did, by the way, apply for subvention support from the City of Vienna. The response was a competing event that will held at exactly the same time. The content of the competing event is not, however, living, Jewish art, but rather Jewish culture until 1938.

Gabriel as Goliath

Martin Gabriel, administrator of the Nestroyhof and Polsterer family member, has initiated a lawsuit in the amount of 10,000 euros to sue the Jewish Theater of Austria for possession the web domain,, which is currently the property of the Jewish Theater of Austria and a part of its project, “Restore the Nestroyhof.” “Martin Gabriel is just doing what his grandparents also did: he’s trying to use the system to continue to profit, without hindrance, from stolen Jewish culture,” explains Rosenzweig, alluding to the fact that the grandparents in question were NSDAP (Nazi) Party members and that the record clearly shows that they successfully competed for confiscated Jewish real estate, which they continue to possess today. “I would be happy to discuss in court the documentation that appears on our homepage,” says Rosenzweig. Perhaps Martin Gabriel should actually support links to the homepage of the project “Restore the Nestroyhof”. For his own homepage – which was offline at the time this article went to press – as well as an information board posted in the foyer of the Nestroyhof, shows considerable gaps of memory between the years 1938 to 1945.


Copyright © 2006 Augustin

(Translation: JTA)
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