Vienna’s May Day Recalls Labor Rights, Good Books

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Forward, and never to forget, the question asked to anybody:
Do you want to starve or to eat? Whose morning is this morning?
Whose world is this world?”

It’s just because of May 1, when I write this Pocket Vienna quoting Bertolt Brecht and remembering August Vincent Theodor Spies, who emigrated to the United States at seventeen.

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August Vincent Theodor Spies

Spies settled in Chicago, became an upholsterer involving himself in trade union affairs. He joined the staff of the “Arbeiter-Zeitung“, becoming editor in 1884. He was hanged in 1887 after having been found guilty for conspiracy in the murder of Officer Mathias Degan with seven other men on the Haymarket Square riot May 4, 1886. Seven years later Governor John Peter Altgeld annulled the sentence.

Story continues below.



The Haymarket affair is the background of the International Worker’s Day celebrated on May 1.

And the SPÖ (Socialist Party of Austria) has organized for 125 years a parade of workers, employees and sympathizers in front of the city hall…

1865, 26 years earlier, also on the first of May, Emperor Franz Joseph opened in the presence of Empress Elisabeth (“Sissy”) the magnificent boulevard: Vienna’s Ringstrasse, a circular road surrounding the Innere Stadt (district) with a length of approximately 3.2 miles.

“It is My Will,” declared the emperor, “that the enlargement of the Innere Stadt will be tackled as soon as possible. All concerns shall be about the improvement and brightening up of My Residence and Capital.”

The street was built to replace the city walls, which had been built during the 13th century and funded by the ransom payment derived from the release of King Richard I of England – nearly 12 tons of silver, the yearly income of the British crown.

Due to the military technology in the 19th century the city walls lost their defensive usefulness and separated the inner district from the newly acquired 8 suburbs.

In 1853 Franz Joseph survived an assassination attempt; his brother Ferdinand Maximilian appealed to the people to spend for a church of gratitude – the Votivkirche. By the way the “people” did not spend sufficiently, so the family of the emperor had to help out.

Up to this time there had been an imperial ban to build where in 1856 the foundation stone (from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem) was laid for the building of the church. And a year later the Emperor declared: “It is My Will…”

To get an impression of the Ringstrasse: Come to Europe, spend three or four days at Vienna, and maybe you’ll have put it in your pocket.

You Can Book on It!

The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal: He’s a distant relative of the Ephrussi family, who were among the first to buy ground of the Ringstrasse to build a powerful palace. In his book De Waal retraces the history of his Jewish relatives.

Also, consider the book “1865, 2015″ with the contributions of 13 female and male authors, among them from the United States J. Sidney Jones.

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Norbert Lopper

In 1929/1930 a young Jewish boy played soccer at the Hakoah Vienna (an Austrian sports club – hakoah means ‘strength’ in Hebrew) and had to flee in March 1938 to Belgium. Shortly after his marriage Norbert Lopper and his wife were deported to Auschwitz. His wife, the parents of his wife, his father and also his sister were murdered — he and his mother survived.

He came back to Vienna in 1952 and joined two years later the Fußballklub Austria Wien (soccer club Vienna). He served as secretary of the club for a long 28 years! He died April 18 at 96 years old.

Frederic Morton, born as Fritz Mandelbaum in 1924 in Vienna, died on a visit to Vienna – 90 years old. He succeeded with “The Rothschilds. A Portrait of the Family” published in 1962.

The first female rector at the University of Music and Performing Art in Vienna since 1817: congratulations to Regula Rapp, a German scientist of music.

When Leonard Bernstein conducted the Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose) by Richard Strauss in 1968 at the Vienna State Opera, the play was directed by Otto Schenk, 38 years old. And exactly 47 years later this old yet sturdy opera has been performed here again – with Adam Fischer as conductor….Well, happy Vienna, isn’t it?

Enjoy May and the bees and blossoms….and organize your summer trip to Vienna!