Posts Tagged ‘Elfriede Jelinek Research Centre’

Reason For Rechnitz Silence Revealed

After twenty months of squabbling, discussing, debating and lecturing, many Swiss, German and Austrian academics, film-makers, journalists, politicians, ‘chariticians’ and even a playwright, have still failed to come up with a plausible reason why the people of Rechnitz have allegedly remained so unforthcoming concerning the details of the massacre and burial of two hundred Hungarian Jews in the grounds of Rechnitz Castle in 1945. I never found the people of Rechnitz unforthcoming, but for those who claim they did, I can now reveal the reason for their silence.

Shortly before I issued my statement at the Elfriede Jelinek Research Centre at Vienna University on 5 May 2009, Caroline Schmitz and I met with Professor Pia Janke and her assistant, Christian Schenkermayr, for a drink at Cafe Griensteidl. We were also joined by Teresa Kovacs, a tutor and research associate at the Centre. Most importantly, unlike any of the aforementioned ‘experts’ who claim to have been studying the massacre, Teresa was born and bred in Rechnitz. Her grand-parents worked for Countess Margit Batthyany (nee Thyssen) while her father always spoke openly to her of the tragedy.

Why Teresa chose me as a messenger should have been no more of a puzzle than why Rechnitz originally chose me, via their historian, Professor Josef Hotwagner, to tell their side of the story; or what they were prepared to tell me at the time. Perhaps she also realised that I didn’t and don’t suffer from a conflict of interests. A rare qualification indeed. Particularly in Austria.

But before I decided to publish her statement, I first wanted to see if any of the opinions aired at the Eisenstadt Symposium on 16 October 2008, or the recent series of lectures and discussions at the Jelinek Research Centre would include her explanation. So far, despite the potential immediacy of the internet, nothing has been revealed concerning what was said, apart from an apparent reassurance that reports of the two symposiums would be written, printed, bound and distributed to an undefined readership at some indeterminate time in the future.

When I read a recent article by the Austrian writer Martin Pollack in the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, once again questioning the motivation of the people of Rechnitz ‘withholding information’, I was somewhat surprised that a man, who had found it so difficult to reveal his own family history, should be asking such a question, rather than supplying the answer. But it also occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t so much the people of the town who were secretive, as the plethora of ‘experts’, who had proved so reluctant to accept the truth.

I believe the reason why Ms Kovacs had decided to tell me what everyone in Rechnitz knows, is because she wants the public to know now. Not in another sixty years’ time.

So this is what she told me that afternoon at Cafe Griensteidl:

‘While Countess Batthyany was in Rechnitz, there was always money around. Her name was never spoken of in connection with the atrocity, only ever in connection with wealth and the beautiful Castle. Basically, the Countess continued to give money and plots of land away to people in Rechnitz right until the 1980s, practically until the day she died’.

It was so wonderfully clear, simple and obvious, it really shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to me. I already knew that Margit’s father, ‘Baron’ Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, had ‘primed the pump’ by bequeathing a plot of land, a specific plot of land, to his Rechnitz forester.

The Castle had always been the very heart and soul of Rechnitz. Without it, the town should have died, but the Castle’s continued existence would have been a memorial to the atrocity. Now, while Margit Thyssen’s money ensured the town’s survival, the ghost of the Castle continues to haunt the town.

As Teresa put it so beautifully: ‘The Castle has gone….but it is still there!’ Elfriede Jelinek could not have put it better.

Vienna, 2009

Vienna, Burgring, 2009

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Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Family No Comments »

Vienna University’s Impartiality In Question

During December 2008, I was invited by the Elfriede Jelinek Research Centre at the University of Vienna to take part in a discussion concerning her play ‘Rechnitz (Der Würgeengel)’ to take place in May 2009. Some four weeks prior to the event, I discovered one of the sponsors of the series of lectures and discussions under the title ‘Endless Innocence’ was to be Francesca Habsburg, nee Thyssen, in the form of her art foundation Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (T-B A21). My introductory statement which I gave on the evening of 5 May in Vienna was largely in response to this situation.  It read as follows:

‘I would like to say how gratified I am to have played such a major part in persuading Francesca Thyssen to accept, as part of her financial inheritance, some responsibility for her family’s behaviour. I believe this to be manifest in her sponsoring of this event.

However, I would have been even more gratified if she had made an apologetic admission, as opposed to a financial contribution, for being that the Thyssens were sponsors of Rechnitz Castle and the Countess (and I do have documentary evidence of that fact with me tonight), I consider there to be something obscenely ironic about the fact that we are all sitting here, 64 years later, discussing the Rechnitz Massacre, or a play by Elfriede Jelinek, which includes the massacre, while yet again being sponsored by The Thyssens in the form of Francesca’s art foundation.

I am also forced to question how, as long as any doubt remains concerning the extent of the Thyssens’ involvement in the Rechnitz Massacre, Vienna University can accept her money while claiming impartiality.

Unfortunately, this conflict of interest is not a unique situation in the academic world, particularly in the case of Wolfgang Benz, head of Anti-Semitism Research at the Technical University of Berlin, and Richard Evans, Chairman of the Faculty of History at Cambridge University, who have both attempted to discredit my writing in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and my book, ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’, published in Germany under the title ‘Die Thyssen-Dynastie’, while accepting funding from the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung.

I am sad to say that I consider this type of arrangement brings into question the credibility of academic historians.

I now have another question. If Countess Margit Batthyany, nee Thyssen, sponsored the murder of 200 Hungarian Jews as after-dinner entertainment and possibly even played an active role in their murder, and then Elfriede Jelinek writes a play involving the atrocity, which can also be characterised as entertainment, albeit intellectual entertainment, but which I’m sure everyone here considers a work of art, where does that leave the killing of the Jews?

As I hope and believe is obvious from my article in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and my book ‘Die Thyssen-Dynastie’, I consider it a crime against humanity. And no amount of art sponsorship, intellectual smoke screens or academic denial is ever going to alter that.’

I was subsequently informed that Francesca had promised the university to make a public statement, but had failed to do so, despite numerous reminders, prior to her departure to her house in Jamaica.

(For the German version of my statement, please go to ‘Events’).

Vienna University, Elfriede Jelinek Research Centre

Vienna University, Elfriede Jelinek Research Centre

The Reich and the Habsburgs working together in public & private partnership

The Reich and the Habsburgs working together in public & private partnership

Professor Janke of the Elfriede Jelinek Research Centre still experiencing difficulties appreciating what constitutes freedom of speech

Professor Janke of the Elfriede Jelinek Research Centre still experiencing difficulties appreciating what constitutes freedom of speech

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