VI. The Nestroyhof Initiative

The Jewish Theater of Austria has been working for years to rally public support to restore this heritage site that is of such significance for Austria and for the international community.

In late 2001, soon after learning of the hidden existence of the site, I first began to discuss the issues of landmark protection, restoration, and the reestablishment of the old Jewish theater in the Nestroyhof with Viennese government officials. In a letter dated April 5, 2002, I was informed that, for financial reasons, the Department of Culture was not prepared to help.³ The Federal Government is now, at last, preparing to enforce landmark protection for the Nestroyhof, while the Department of Culture maintains that that city cannot afford to support the modest costs of restoration and startup.*

Since the discussion about the Nestroyhof began, the Department of Culture has agreed to finance and annually subsidize extravagant new theatrical ventures, including, for example, the building of a new opera house (Vienna’s fourth) and a new Broadway style musical venue with 1,100 seats. Together with the Federal Government, the City has also provided huge annual sums to support the far-right-wing programming of a venue called “Haus der Heimat” (“House of the Homeland”).

In July 2003, I turned to the public for support and, within weeks, broad public media coverage had made the Nestroyhof, so long forgotten, a household word among culturally informed Austrians. Since then, many Austrian citizens and internationals have voiced their support for our initiative to reestablish the site as an international, intercultural center for performing arts, focusing on themes relevant to contemporary Jewish experience, identity, and values.

Outspoken supporters of the initiative have included, among many others, the President of the Jewish Community of Vienna Dr. Ariel Muzicant, Director of the Federal Theater Holding Dr. Georg Springer, Vienna Chief Rabbi Prof. Paul Chaim Eisenberg, Archbishop of Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, 2004 Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek, and the late Federal President Dr. Thomas Klestil. In April 2004, the Jewish Theater of Austria submitted a detailed proposal to the City of Vienna for its plan to restore and reestablish the Jewish Theater in the Nestroyhof.

The Jewish Theater of Austria is now forced to seek help from abroad to rescue the Nestroyhof from renewed destruction, misuse, and oblivion. We hope that the international population of Vienna still has many friends in the world who understand the importance of living, creative Jewish culture in Europe and the desire of hundred of thousands of third generation Austrians to replace the deadly legacy of National Socialism with new hope of reconciliation.

We will not give up the struggle to renovate and reopen the theater in the Nestroyhof as an international performing arts center, and to inspire the understanding of the few politicians in Austria who do not share our value for living, interactive Jewish culture. Please contact us with your ideas and your support.

Go to Part VII
Graphic by T-Arts; photo: © 2004 Jewish Theater of Austria
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