- Von Klagenfurt nach Israel: Der Lebensweg von Erna Zeichner/Esther Schuldmann: Mit einem Überblick über jüdisches Leben in Kärnten vom Mittelalter bis in die Gegenwart by Nadja Danglmaier
Nadja Danglmaier, a pedagogue with a focus on memory studies, introduces her exploration of the life of Erna Zeichner/Esther Schuldmann with an overview of the history of Jews in Carinthia. Presented in twenty-one short, lucidly written segments, the author follows the trail of the migrations of the Jewish population to the region and then sketches their life there. On this journey, she chronicles the ongoing persecution and varying incarnations of antisemitism, from religious to political to racial. With her overview, she situates this population squarely in the history of the province and provides context for the story of Erna/Esther and her family in the first half of the twentieth century.
Rather than beginning Erna/Esther's biography with her birth, Danglmaier first relates how her grandfather migrated to Klagenfurt and highlights her father's attachment to his Austrian home. In subsequent chapters, she tells the story of Erna/Esther's childhood, the persecution following the so-called Anschluss, her dangerous flight from Europe to Palestine, and life in her new country. Throughout these chapters (as well as the others), she weaves in Erna/Esther's memories taken from different interviews. Erna Zeichner, born in 1921, had a brother who was one year older. Both children experienced antisemitism in elementary school as the only Jewish children, which did not overshadow their otherwise happy childhood. This changed abruptly with the incorporation of Austria into the German [End Page 135] Reich. The fifteen-year-old Erna/Esther and her family were immediately affected, beginning with the father's imprisonment at Dachau. Although she and her father were both able to escape to Eretz Israel, her brother and mother were murdered. Erna/Esther's escape was an arduous, long, and often dangerous undertaking as part of the Kladovo Transport. Erna/Esther left Vienna in November 1939 and arrived in Eretz Israel in April 1941. Whereas many biographies of exiles stop here, Danglmaier does not, instead telling Erna/Esther's husband's story as well as the story of their marriage and their life in Israel. She also writes of the connections between Klagenfurt and Erna/Esther, her children, and grandchildren. Moreover, she tells of projects carried out by students in the city that address this past.
In the closing chapter, Danglmaier explains her approach to the topic. As she explains, she rejects portraying Erna/Esther solely as a victim and the perpetrators as abhorrent exceptions but shows the population's levels of involvement in this history and the various behaviors those involved chose. Indeed, Erna Zeichner/Esther Schuldmann's story is designed to speak to young people and can serve as a model for pedagogues wanting to engage their students with this history. With the contextualization of the story within the larger history as well as the rich variety of personal, archival, and published historical documents, the author invites readers to put a face on this history. With the photos she conveys a relatable family life and the attachment of the Jewish families to each other, to the state, and to the history of Carinthia. The antisemitic fliers and appeals are witness to the many forms of antisemitism as well as its long history. Danglmaier humanizes this history and underscores that the Jewish population was invested in the communities. The interweaving of quotations from Erna/Esther throughout adds an additional personal dimension to the narrative. Within the history she includes a network of stories, emanating from Erna/Esther, of relatives and other Klagenfurters. The examples of various projects point to the ways in which school classes have dealt with the past and can also serve as models for others.
With her volume Danglmaeier has created an excellent resource on the history and fate of Jews in Carinthia. It will no doubt also serve...