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Shared commercial interests obviously lay at the heart of marriages in this world: Jews wed within clans. Hungarian Jews married others from their hometowns, likewise Moravians and Bohemians. Marriages in my family were preordained by relationships established a century before in the very Jewish Hungarian town of Bonyhád, near Pécs. 

Gaugusch's desire to establish "networks" has been criticised in the Austrian press as being in some way anti-Semitic, but the existence of these closed, self-supporting communities is undeniable: Jews came from all over the empire and they tended to do business with the people they trusted of old. A Jew from the Banat knew little of those from the Bukovina, let alone one from Prague or Pilsen. 

The millionaires naturally angled for all the trappings of establishment: boxes at the opera and the Burgtheater and above all noble titles. The Ephrussis became "von" Ephrussi, as did the Rothschilds, Arnsteins (the oldest Jewish "barons" and patrons of Mozart), Auspitzes, Blochs, Bondys, Eislers, Fröhlichs, Freunds, Frydmanns, Grabs, Hechts, Herzls, Inwalds and Hofmanns, to name but a few. The trader Isak Löw Hofmann became Hofmann von Hofmannsthal, the grandfather of the poet, but the example of Hugo von Hofmannsthal raises other issues such as conversion and intermarriage. The poet was only a quarter Jewish, which shows there was seemingly little reluctance to marry out if it meant you could "get on" or indeed bypass some informal if annoying numerus clausus that prevented you from advancing in your profession.

An example of conversion was Rudolf Sieghart, who figures in Gaugusch's pages by dint of his marriage to a daughter of Professor Carl Grünhut, a member of the Austrian Upper House. Sieghart was one of the most controversial figures of pre-war Austria, as he was held responsible for the crash of the Bodencreditanstalt bank in 1929 and the subsequent ruin of thousands of middle-class investors. Born Rudolf Singer in Troppau in Austrian Silesia, Sieghart was the son of a rabbi who changed his name around the time of his conversion to Christianity at the age of 28 in 1895: Sieghart didn't sound Jewish. It was an indication of his ambition that he selected as godfather the future minister-president Count Stürgkh, who was assassinated by Friedrich Adler in October 1916. 

It was far easier to achieve letters patent of nobility in Vienna than in Berlin, just as there were fewer restrictions to obtaining commissions in the army. Some Jewish army officers were ennobled as well, like Major General Erich von Sommer, who was saluted by Nazi bullyboys when he appeared in full uniform after the Anchluss in March 1938. In the Jewish novelist Joseph Roth's novel The Radetzky March of 1932, a lowly-born gentile called Joseph Trotta saves the young Emperor Franz Joseph's life at the Battle of Solferino and is ennobled on the spot. Roth may well have based his tale on the true story of the Jewish lieutenant Wolf Bardach — who was granted the title "von Chlumberg" in 1890 for an act of great bravery that took place at the Battle of Königgrätz in 1866. Another possible model was Heinrich Ulrich von Trenkheim, who was ennobled on the spot at Custozza in the same year. It still took Bardach all of 35 years, however, to rise from a private to the rank of captain first class, but that was by no means unusual in the imperial army.

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Ravi Raizada
September 22nd, 2014
2:09 PM
I am trying to research an Austrian Jewish family, called lichtenstein, who ended up in Britain after fleeing from the Nazis. They lived in Nottingham till a few years ago under their adopted name of Fielding. I would be grateful for any information about their pre-UK history if you can help.

Matthias Wienlieb
July 29th, 2013
2:07 AM
One wonders how the Austrians survived after the war. The Jews ran everything, and then they were gone. Now Vienna is merely beautiful, highly functional and clean with little crime, has no slums or decay - only a few somewhat unsavory neighborhoods, and has had a fantastic economy almost continuously since 1955. The most gorgeous, smooth-running, harmonious major city in the world. How?

Harold Chipman
June 16th, 2013
8:06 AM
This is a most interesting feature on Vienna and its Jews. Giles MacDonogh has also written excellently on this topic in his book '1938 -Hitler's gamble'. He is uniquely placed to do so as he has close family ties to Vienna. Here he has highlighted Georg Gaugusch's important genealogical book on the Jewish upper middle class who contributed so much to the life, culture, industry and fame of Vienna. This life was destroyed as of 1938 and the memory of it swept under the carpet after 1945. Vienna and Austria were never to regain the place they occupied in European cultural history. Georg Gaugusch's work fills in an important void in our knowledge about pre WW2 Austria. I write this as I am myself a descendant of this highly successful Jewish middle class - my grandfather was the celebrated industrialist and art collector Kommerzialrat Willibald Duschnitz who is included in Georg Gaugusch's book.

March 5th, 2012
6:03 PM
Eerily reminscent of the United States. Do you think it is a coincidence that the near total murder of every European Jew had its' nexis in the two places that saw the greatest amount of Jewish assimilation and conversion to idolotrous religions...Germany and Austria? Hmmm.

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