Servitengasse No. 8

From: Maria Fritsche: Auf den Spuren der jüdischen BewohnerInnen der Servitengasse. In: Birgit Johler, Maria Fitsche (Hg.): 1938 Adresse: Servitengasse. Wien 2007.
Translation: Ursula Lindenberg

A chance encounter allowed the project group to discover a survivor who had spent his childhood in No. 8 Servitengasse, across the road from the Servitengasse monastery. Barbara Kintaert, the project's initiator, was walking along the street with her guest Paul Lichtman the day before the planned unveiling of a memorial in front of No. 6 Servitengasse on 20 September 2005, when she was approached by a man called Walter Feiden. He explained that as a child he had lived at No.8 Servitengasse and had come to Vienna, as had Paul Lichtman, at the invitation of the Jewish Welcome Service. In Feiden's case, however, he did so without having prior knowledge of the memorial event. The following day, Walter Feiden took part in the ceremony unveiling the Servitengasse memorial.

Walter Feiden's former home is an imposing five-storey building, constructed in 1907 in the later architectural style of the Viennese Secession movement, and including house numbers 8 and 10 Servitengasse. The highly decorated façade and in particular the distinctive tilework mark the house out from its neighbours. On the ground floor, the original shop-fronts of the establishments still leased in 1938 by Jewish shopkeepers (who, however, had never lived in the house) are partly preserved today: Gisela Presser ran a dry-cleaning establishment, Malke Lea Tauber a clothing shop and Jakob Rosenmann, in all probability her brother, a shop selling underwear and linen. The house was also home to the Jewish students' fraternity, Jordania, founded in 1904. The fraternity brought together students from Bukovina and was closed upon the order of the authorities in March 1938 by fraternity chairman Beck and deputy chairman Anisfeld.

As with the leaseholders of the shops, most of the tenants of the apartments in No. 8 Servitengasse were Jewish. Out of a total of 37 residents, only the 83-year-old Czech confectioner Anton Hraba and the 62-year-old widow Theresia Ditrich, with an apartment in the parterre, were not Jewish.

At least thirteen of the house's tenants were taken to concentration and death camps where they were murdered. A few who managed to escape were still captured by their Nazi persecutors during their journeys of emigration: the resident of apartment no. 30, 48-year-old Ottolie Steiner, whose husband Leopold had died in December 1937, emigrated in 1938 to Belgium, most likely in the company of her 21-year-old daughter Edith and 17-year-old son Kurt. However, Belgium proved to be no safe haven: following the invasion by the Wehrmacht, Ottolie Steiner was arrested and taken to the French detention camp at Drancy, from where she was deported to Auschwitz on 18 September 1942. Her son Kurt had already been deported to Riga on 26 January 1942, where he was murdered. To this day, the fate of Ottolie Steiner's daughter Edith remains unknown. It also seems doubtful that the 62-year-old salesman Alfred Kohn, who lived in apartment no. 14 with his wife Paula, would have survived the war. Alfred Kohn fled from Vienna in May 1938 and travelled to his birthplace of Czechoslovakia. In 1939, Czechoslovakia was invaded and occupied by the Wehrmacht, a development that placed the Kohns once again in mortal danger.

As was the case throughout the German Reich, it was the older Jewish residents in Servitengasse who constituted the majority of victims of Nazi extermination policy. Illness or disability, responsibility for dependants or the difficulty faced by older people in obtaining a visa, often prevented their escape. Thus it was in the case of the Jewish lawyer Berthold Spiegler, born in Moravia in 1882, who had a legal practice in Vienna's First District and who lived in apartment no. 21 together with his sister Kamilla Huber and his mother Sophie, at that time more than 80 years old. Kamilla Huber was deported to the Izbica ghetto on 9 April 1942, where she was probably murdered during the notorious mass murders of ghetto residents. Berthold Spiegler's mother, who was clearly unable to look after herself at this point, died on 15 April 1942 and the very next day Spiegler was forced to leave the apartment and move to an address in Vienna's Second District. In September 1942, he was deported to Minsk, where he met his death.