Funded by: Austrian National Bank Jubilee Fund
Project leader: Birgit Johler
Project team: Maria Fritsche, Katharina Kober, Barbara Sauer, Ulrike Tauss
The question, who lived in a street, might seem surprisingly simple. However, a closer look at the object of study - Jewish and non-Jewish residents in March 1938 - brings up important questions: Who lived here and for how long? Under what conditions? What points of contact were there between Jewish and non-Jewish neighbours after 1938? What happened from this point on to those Jews whose lives were centred on the Servitengasse or who ran a business here? What "everyday" strategies did they have to develop in order to survive? What practices did non-Jewish neighbours develop that made the lives of the Jewish residents harder?
Over a two year period, the academic research project "Servitengasse 1938 - Fates of the Disappeared" investigated and analysed the residents of a street and the events that followed the "annexation" of Austria in March 1938. The study looked at tenants from a total of 24 houses, both those who were subsequently persecuted as Jews as well as the non-Jewish tenants, who were resident in the Servitengasse in Vienna's 9th district on 12 March 1938. Jewish business and house owners and their families were also included. The project traced people's fates, as well as those of their children who were still living with them at the time, to deportation or emigration and, where relevant, looked at the restitution of their property. Jews who were forced into communal apartments in the Servitengasse after 1938 or had to move in with relatives there were also - where documented - included in the research.
As part of the project, contact was initiated with 11 survivors from the Servitengasse and interviews were conducted with five people. Three people sent written memories of their time in the Servitengasse to the project, and telephone interviews were conducted with a further three survivors.
For the non-Jewish residents of the street, registration data from the records for March 1938 was elicited. Scholarly research was conducted in the relevant Vienna archives.
The street itself is, in theory, interchangeable: Nearby streets such as the Berggasse or the Porzellangasse could just as easily have been the subject of historical research. What happened in the Servitengasse was taking place in a same way at the same time in many other parts of the city. What is special about this street, and thus about the project's aims, is its link to a citizens' initiative: A private initiative for a memorial plaque for one house in the Servitengasse grew into a larger project, one that aimed to examine the fates of the Jewish residents from all the houses in the street, and to remember them.
Even after the end of the research project, the research team and the members of the initiative are still in contact with survivors.
The results of the project are published in:
Birgit Johler, Maria Fritsche (eds): 1938 Adresse: Servitengasse. Tracing a neighbourhood. Vienna: Mandelbaum, 2007.