Vienna Recalls History, Both Great and Sad

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I beg your pardon, Your Highness, my Emperor has gone bankrupt, and I have not the resources at my disposal to advance him.

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Der Weiner Kongress 1814-15

This was the humble answer given by Karl Philipp von Schwarzenberg, foreign minister of Emperor Franz I of Austria during the Congress of Vienna.

The Russian Czar Alexander I (1777-1825) had stimulated the foreign minister to offer outstanding balls, carousels and sleigh rides to the high diplomats — otherwise all the delegates would be crazy on the French activities.

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So he granted a credit, which the Schwarzenberg family and not Emperor Franz I had to pay back — final payment was done in 1886 with a huge sigh of relief.

This anecdote was brilliantly told by Karel Schwarzenberg, former foreign minister of the Czech Republic, during the opening of the exhibition at the Belvedere:

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Karel Schwarzenberg

Europa in Wien: Der Wiener Kongress (Congress of Vienna), the conference of ambassadors of European states, chaired by the Austrian statesman Klemens Wenzel Lothar Fürst von Metternich from September 1814 till June 1815. His portrait by Thomas Lawrence still decorates the bottles of sparkling wine named “Fürst von Metternich.”

This wonderful and comprehensive exhibition looks back to Vienna’s two occupations by Napoleon’s troops in 1805 and 1809, and the Wars of Liberation.

Archival documents and letters provide an in-depth insight into the complex logistics behind this unique event…opened until 26th of June.

Theatre Classic and Contemporary
The Theater an der Wien had an outstanding success with Giovanni Paisiello Il Barbiere di Siviglia ossia La Precauzione inutile (The Barber of Seville) first given in 1782 in St. Petersburg.

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Ten years later Gioachino Antonio Rossini was born…

And Roland Schimmelpfennig, a well-known German playwright, directed one of his comedies at the Akademietheater….a fine success for him and the company.

Nazi Euthanasia
Friedrich Zawrel died on Feb. 20, 2015: he was a survivor and a well-known contemporary witness in Austria of the NS-Euthanasia(program of the National Socialism). This program was executed in Vienna at the hospital “Am Steinhof” between 1940 and 1945: about 7,500 people were killed, among them 800 children.

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Friedrich Zawrel survived Nazis.

In 1940 Friedrich Zawrel was caught by the NS-Youth Welfare and admitted to that hospital as “asocial” and “incapable of education”. He was put into a single cell which he was allowed to leave only for “examinations” by the NS-doctor Heinrich Gross, a leading head of the NS-Euthanasiaat Vienna. He escaped, was caught again and sentenced to four years penitentiary.

Heinrich Gross made a career after the end of the war: in 1968 he became a respected director of a neuro-histological institute situated — yes, you’re right! — at “Am Steinhof”; he advanced to one of the most in demand court experts — neurologists — in the late 1970s. And exactly in those days Friedrich Zawrel met again his torturer: a neuro-logistic court report written by Heinrich Gross which sentenced him to prison. In 1975, the torturer was honored: the Republic of Austria awarded The Austrian Decoration for Science and Art. And Zawrel struggled with the help of the Association Critical Medicine — with success: he cooperated and helped the Association to blow the cover of Gross, who nevertheless was never convicted. The court attested an early stage of dementia and the judges decided he was unable to follow properly the trial.

It was not before 2002 that Zawrel was rehabilitated and acknowledged as Victim of the NS.

Lost Manuscript Found

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Alfred Polgar

Alfred Polgar (1873-1955), an Austrian-born journalist and one of the intellectuals of the Wiener Kafeehäuser (Vienna coffeehouses) — the Café Central in the Herrengassebelonged to his favorites — had to leave Vienna in March 1938 for Switzerland. He carried a manuscript “D-book” in his luggage he could not publish any more in NS Germany or NS Austria….and a lot of Polgar’s written papers got lost on his flights from Vienna to Zurich to Paris to the U.S., which welcomed him and granted citizenship.

The Austrian journalist Ulrich Weinzierl has published a complete edition and a biography of Alfred Polgar as well — and has found the “lost manuscript D” in the flat of Erik G. Ell, stepson of Alfred Polgar.

He now published this “manuscript D” and it turned out to be a 70-page-long essay and portrait of Marlene Dietrich, the Lola Lola in The Blue Angel.

Birthday Celebration
About two weeks from now the University of Vienna, Alma Mater Rudolphina Vindobonensis, celebrates her 650th birthday: “Vivat! Crescat! Floreat!”

Come on and join me for a walk around one of the biggest universities in Europe: 92,000 students…

And guess who I met: yeah, indeed Kurt Gödel and Erwin Schrödinger and his cat, Konrad Lorenz with a greylag goose…and, of course, Pope Pius II…curious about them?

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Gerd-Theo Umberg from 2002 served as a professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts at Frankfurt, becoming vice-president in 2006; since 2010 he has been professor emeritus. Previously he worked 36 years in different German theaters. From 1996 to 2004 he was director of the Staatstheater Darmstadt. He lives in Vienna.