Anyone who pays close enough attention to Jews sooner or later catches glimpses of the extraordinary sense of conceitedness that they normally strive to conceal. Like Muslims, they nurture bizarre fantasies about how European civilisation could not have ascended to global domination without them; or how specific countries owe their prosperity or well-being to them.
One early public expression of this sense of Jewish supremacism was the book “City Without Jews”, written by the Jewish author Hugo Bettauer. Its storyline involves Jews being expelled from a fictionalised Vienna (called “Utopia” in the film) and everything then falls apart. Commerce grinds to a halt; the economy declines; culture stagnates. A film, based on the novel, was made in 1924.
Based on a dystopian novel by the Jewish publicist Hugo Bettauer, Die Stadt ohne Juden (“The City Without Jews”) originally premiered in Vienna in July 1924, but the original version vanished in the war years and was considered lost for more than 90 years.
Now, thanks to a chance discovery in a Parisian flea market and the biggest crowdfunding campaign to date in Austria’s culture sector, the silent film is set to be digitally restored and re-released in its original form for the first time, with a premiere including a new live score scheduled at Vienna’s concert hall for autumn 2017.
… “The message we want to send out is that this is not just a film about the past, but an anti-Nazi statement,” Wostry told the Guardian. “Back when The City Without Jews was made, we had a very similar situation to the one we are in now. At the end of the first world war, a lot of people had been displaced by Russian forces in the north of the empire and were migrating south to Vienna, especially Jews from Bukovina and Galicia. Antisemitic feelings got a massive boost through this refugee crisis and all parties started to make politics with it.”
After the second world war, when Austria had to redefine itself as a nation, Jewish Vienna played an important part. Wostry said: “We became the nation of Schnitzler, Freud and Schönberg. But Austria never actually tried to bring back Jews that were driven out. There’s a great paradox at the heart of this nation.”
In the film, Utopia’s fictional chancellor eventually decides to invite the Jewish population back into the city. Real life did not offer such a happy ending. Oskar Helmer, Austria’s postwar interior minister, did little to hide his belief that questions over reparation payments and restitution of Jewish property should be drawn out as long as possible.
Bettauer, the author of the novel that inspired the film, was assassinated in his office by an ex-member of the then banned Nazi party only months after the film’s premiere. History also had in store a number of cruel twists for the film’s lead actors.
Johannes Riemann, who plays the film’s Jewish protagonist, Leo Strakosch, later joined the Nazi party and in 1944 performed at a variety evening at the Auschwitz concentration camp, while star actor Hans Moser, who plays one of the film’s most rabid antisemites, had to emigrate from Austria because he refused to divorce his Jewish wife.
But, as we saw in the recent Austrian elections, there are only around 3000 Jews in the entire country. So Austria is now almost a country without Jews and Vienna is almost a city without Jews. The Utopian vision has been realised. Did the catastrophic consequences predicted by Bettauer come about? Not at all. Today, Austria is one of the most prosperous countries in Europe. Vienna ranks repeatedly as the city with the highest quality of life in the world. It seems that, in their conceit, the Jewish supremacists got it wrong.
1. Vienna, Austria — This city tops the rankings for the seventh consecutive time. East of the Danube River, Vienna is the seventh-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union and is rich in culture.