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Arunansh B Goswami
An Indo-Israel friendship ambassador.

Plight of the Tyrolean Jews

Author standing near Befreiungsdenkmal, known in English as Liberation Monument, which is a monument dedicated to those who died in the struggle for liberation from National Socialism (Nazi) from 1938 to 1945. This includes inscriptions for people who officially fought in World War II and citizens who gave their lives in other ways. The monument includes 124 names of those who died as part of their resistance efforts. Image source: Arunansh B. Goswami.

“Aichinger approached the Jew Graubart, who was already under the guard of some SS men. At this moment, according to Aichinger, the Jew is said to have raised his arms and scolded. Aichinger then put a stab in the side of the Jew with his dagger. At the same time, another SS man of the command gave the Jew a slap on the head. This injury immediately was fatal. Aichinger then immediately went to the lower floor of the house, where the Jew Dr. Farmer lived. Bauer is said to have been very strong and caused the guard difficulties in arresting. Aichinger jumped in and stabbed Bauer in the chest with a dagger.”

  • Resistance and persecution in Tyrol 1934-1945, Volume 1, p. 453f.

Plight of the European Jews

Author standing near the Monument to Kristallnacht initiated by Austrian students in 1997. Nearly 50 students from 11 local schools entered a design competition for the monument, which was won by 19-year-old Mario Joerg. Image Source: Arunansh B. Goswami.

Exploring parts of Europe the author, reached the Austrian Alps, a region bestowed a bounty of natural beauty by Hashem, clear rivers, high mountains and beautiful trees,  creating an ambience of peace and tranquility, even the human settlers do not need to put in any extra effort to beautify the surroundings. Inspite of preserving what Hashem gave them, full of diversity and spectrum colours, and enjoy it with those who are of their ethnicity and those who are not, mimicking nature in a way, showing peaceful coexistence they decided to eliminate a minority that they felt was the root cause of their country’s problems, here I am talking about the devilish Nazis and the Jewish minority of the Austrian Alps.

Jews being Semites have had a predicament of being called not racially “so called” Aryan, in an Aryan dominated Europe, and not being brown and black enough to be accepted as a part of West Asia, making their presence there look like neo-colonialism, by using media as tool of intellectual regimentation and creating an anti-Jewish narrative. When in Europe may it be episodic Crusades or otherwise, Jews were killed for any problem the majority non-Jews encountered, making the Jewish minority the scapegoat, in the Islamic East they were better off, but still Dhimmis, made to pay Jiziya tax for their protection, so basically second  class subjects,  though as I said here they were better off than Europe. India was an exception no anti-Semitism whatsoever.

Well most of us know that  humans have been migrating almost all through their historical existence, and creolisation have been often the consequence of meeting of different cultures. Jews have substantially given utmost respect to their adoptive homes, for example in his report Jews in the Army of the Kingdom of Italy, 1848-1923, Andrew J. Schoenfeld states: “The Italian Jews of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were one of the most fervent nationalist groups in the nascent Italian State. As a result, they actively enlisted in the army of the Kingdom of Italy and its predecessor, the army of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont.”

In the author’s own country India, Jews despite their minuscule population have been serving their motherland, by displaying extraordinary excellence in their respective fields, like Lt.Gen J.F.R. Jacob the war hero of India, who played an important role in defeating Pakistan in 1971 war etc. Still anti-Semitic propaganda has portrayed Jews as traitors within our communities, German generals like Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff spread the story of “Jews stabbing the German Army on the back during World War I” to avoid having to admit the mistakes they had made, and Turkish serial Payitaht Abdul Hamid tries to show Zionism as the prime cause of the fall of Ottoman Empire and not deficient industrialisation and isolation of and discrimination against ethnic minorities. Jews have been the scapegoat of disasters that Europe has experienced and now this ideology is being exported elsewhere. 

For a nonnative a nonlocal it is difficult to differentiate between a non-Semite Tyrolean and a Jewish Tyrolean, such is the level of assimilation of Jews in their adoptive homes, but anti-semitism as an ideology that plagued Medieval Europe has been exported to other parts of the world as anti-Jewishness and abnegation of any need for a Jewish homeland, denying any right to live together and look after each other creating a safety network, to the Jews. If Jews decide to give up their cause for the Jewish state still they were to be treated as second class citizens in their European homeland, as had been displayed in several cases. In the region of Tyrol that the author was travelling to, there is a sad history of racial extermination and pogroms against Jews by Nazis. Being a strong advocate of Jewish right to life as a community with a safety network in place, the author felt it was important to pen down an article for people to know, that horrific racial crimes can happen even in one of the most beautiful places of the world, as far as nature is concerned. In the beautiful mountains of Alps many years ago Jews were killed and persecuted for being who they are Jews. Aryanization Commissioner Hermann Duxneuner had prepared the list of Jews to be attacked. No Jewish family should get away unscathed was the order. The pogroms against Jews were organised by the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), especially by the Security Service of the SS with the help of various party divisions (SS, SA, NSKK). The pogrom, euphemistically referred to by the Nazis as the “Reich Crystal Night”.

 Jews of Alps

Innsbruck situated in Tyrolean Alps in Austria. Image Source: Arunansh B. Goswami.

Jews are first recorded in the Tyrol in the late 13th century: it is mentioned that  the counts of Görz brought the first Jews to the shire of Tyrol, where they worked as toll collectors. Isaac of Lienz was a large-scale moneylender and leased the income from the customs. Jewish families were generally tolerated but not respected; they were often discriminated against, persecuted and used as scapegoats in the wake of catastrophe. A “Mayr the Monetarius” ( mintmaster ) is mentioned in 1310 in Merano. The Jewish community of Merano, in the Italian Alps, grew to more than 600. The area became known for its tuberculosis treatment. According to the website of the Merano Tourist Board: “Jewish physicians in particular were responsible for discovering the healing power of the waters of Merano and popularising both the grape cure and winter tourism.” Jews opened a number of kosher hotels, attracting Jews from all over the world. This is evident by the more than 100 places of origin referenced in the cemetery. On September 16, 1943, the Nazis sent the first group of Merano Jews to Auschwitz. Toward the end of the war, the Nazis operated a concentration camp in the northern Italian area of Bolzano. During the so-called Reichsprogromnacht on the night of November 9 – 10, 1938, most of the Jewish Community’s board members were murdered by SS men dressed in civilian clothing.

Hanno Loewy, a curator at Hohenems in the Tyrol-Vorarlberg region, which is a Jewish village that had existed since 1617, mentions “Barriers were built to block the frontiers in order to prevent people from escaping from Nazi Germany. And still a lot of Jews made it into Switzerland despite the Swiss patrols who didn’t want them to enter and German patrols who didn’t want them to leave,”. Overr the course of the 19th century, most of the members of the Hohenems community left.

In its heyday, the Eidelweiss Hotel was the center of Jewish life in St. Moritz. It contained the only synagogue, mikveh and kosher restaurant in the area, drawing religious tourists, even though there were ritzier establishments elsewhere. The Swiss community is presided over mostly by the Schweizerischer Israelitischer Gemeindebund (SIG), founded in 1904 to oppose the restriction on shechita. Synagogues of a variety of denominations operate in Switzerland: traditional, ultra-Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and Sephardi. 

Reichsprogromnacht: The anti-Jewish pogrom in Innsbruck Austria:

German citizens look the other way on nov. 10 1938, the day after Kristallnacht. What they see or don’t want to see are destroyed Jewish shops and houses. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Tyrolean Gauleiter Franz Hofer ordered the SS (Schutzstaffel), SA (Sturmabteilung) and NSKK (National Socialist Motor Corps) to stand by in Innsbruck. At midnight the SS held a swearing-in ceremony on the Adolf-Hitler-Platz in front of the Landestheater. At about the same time, the SA assembled at their headquarters in the Bürgerstrasse and the NSKK on the Boznerplatz.

On his return to Innsbruck, Gauleiter Hofer explained the need for the people ‘to rise up’ in the Tyrol to leading officers of the SS, SA, Gestapo, the Security Service of the SS (SD) and the police and also to the Commissioner for Aryanisation, Hermann Duxneuner. Hofer also said the police were not to interfere. The SA and NSKK leaders Johann Mathoi and Rudolf Mayerbrucker then addressed their comrades gathered at the SA-Standartenheim and on the Boznerplatz. They called for violence to be done to the remaining Jewish citizens in order to make it clear to them that they were no longer wanted in Innsbruck.

Victims of the Anti-Jewish pogrom in Innsbruck by Nazis: 

“Razzia” (raid) after the annexation of Austria at the headquarters of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde in Vienna, March 1938. Image source: Wikipedia.

Dr. Wilhelm Bauer, Ing. Richard Graubart and Ing. Richard Berger were murdered by the SS, while Jew Karl Bauer survived the attack by the Schintlholzer SS murder squad. Bernhard Dimand, Julius Meisel, Richard Schwarz, Ludwig Löwensohn, Ephraim Dimand, Landauer family, Hugo Schindler and other were victims of anti-Jewish pogrom.  Cruelty was inflicted on Julius and Laura Popper, Helene, Fritz Josef, Ing. Adler, Stefan Bauer and their families  while Rosenstein were brutally assaulted. Alice Smetana, also Pasch, Seidl-Neumann and Goldenberg, Max Turteltaub and Brüll families were raided. Ing. Artur Spindel Martin, Dr. Eduard Fuchs, Hermann, Dubsky, Ing. Alfred Graubart, (Ernst) Fischer and Rosa Steiner were assaulted.   Schulhof, Schenkel and Rado families were savagely assaulted.  Klara and Lotte Kohtz committed suicide and the Jewish prayer house in the Sillgasse was destroyed.

The Maria Theresien Strasse and Silgasse

Maria Theresien Strasse. Image Source: Arunansh B. Goswami.

The Mayerbrucker-Hochrainer group of NSKK men drove back to the city centre together with the Dagostin group. Some of the men proceeded to the building at 33 Maria-Theresien-Strasse, the former Bauer & Schwarz department store, and ring the bell on the security gate. It is opened by the caretaker Karl Schäffer. At least eight men, including Ing. Dr. Richard Dagostin, Konrad Saumweber and probably also Alois Hochrainer, enter the building, while others, including Karl Oberforcher, wait outside.  Saumweber saw Dagostin hit someone, probably Ing. Artur Spindel, who is repeatedly assaulted in the course of the night. 

For the night of 9 November 1938, the General SS had instructions not only to murder several prominent Innsbruck Jews but also to mount an operation against the “synagogue in the Strasse der Sudetendeutschen”, i.e. today’s Sillgasse. The “synagogue” was not a separate sacred building but a “prayer house consisting only of one large room”. It was inconspicuously located in the annex of no. 15 Sillgasse. The owners in 1938 were the ‘half-Jews’ Elsa Sova, resident in Innsbruck, and Fritz Fössl of Graz. 

Times have changed

Tyrolean Alps. Image Source: Arunansh B. Goswami.

On March 14th, 1952, the organization that is now the “Innsbruck Jewish Community for Tyrol and Vorarlberg” was finally legally established. In 1961, members met regularly on the High Holidays in a small prayer room that had been rented in the Zollerstrasse. Next to this room, there was a small office, where the concerns of the congregation and exiled Tyroleans could be dealt with. Slowly, a sense of Jewish community began to grow once again. 

In the year 1997, Austrian Students Initiate Monument to Kristallnacht. The monument was erected as a result of an initiative by local students who petitioned the Tyrolean parliament to commemorate the event. Nearly 50 students from 11 local schools entered a design competition for the monument, which was won by 19-year-old Mario Joerg.

During the inauguration ceremony, students read from SS orders directing the Kristallnacht pogrom and ordering the police not to intervene. They also explained why it was important for them that the pogrom and its victims be commemorated. Still, anti-Semitism as an ideology is not dead, it resurfaces time and again in Europe and other parts of the world, what we need to do is to oppose it wherever we see it and create awareness about it’s history like the author tries to do with this article.

About the Author
Mr. Arunansh B. Goswami is an advocate, historian and popular author based in India. He studied history at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi, read law at Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi, completed a diploma in International Environmental Law, and later joined the Bar Council of Delhi and Supreme Court Bar Association in India. Mr. Goswami has written around 200 articles for different prestigious publications, newspapers, magazines and journals around the world. He works as a consultant with Union Minister of Steel and Civil Aviation of India, Mr. J. M. Scindia and Mrs. Priyadarshini Raje Scindia titular Queen of the erstwhile princely state of Gwalior. Mr. Goswami has studied Israeli and Jewish History deeply and travelled extensively in Israel, and other parts of the world, to explore and research about sites associated with Jews.
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