About the Servitengasse project

Dedication

The Servitengasse 1938 digital mapping site is dedicated to the memory of Peter Koppe (July 29, 1963 – June 17, 2020), who served as Chair of the Servitengasse 1938 non-profit association from its inception in 2006 until his untimely death in 2020. His whole-hearted enthusiasm, steadfast commitment, and creative vision for this project helped it emerge from an initial idea to a transcultural collaboration.

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About

The Servitengasse 1938 project began with one woman, Barbara Kintaert, asking herself one simple question: “Who was living in my apartment in Vienna, Austria, in 1938?” This led to the formation of a working group in Vienna that began by researching the lives of the former Jewish inhabitants and shopkeepers of Servitengasse 6 in 1938. After the successful completion of that research, the group set out to research the entire street. The Servitengasse 1938 project engaged in the installation of two Holocaust memorials: a plaque commemorating the former Jewish residents and business owners of Servitengasse 6 and the Keys against Forgetting memorial commemorating the former neighbours and shopkeepers who had lived and worked on the street in 1938.

This digital mapping project, undertaken collaboratively between the “Servitengasse 1938” working group in Vienna and the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies and the Humanities Computing and Media Centre at the University of Victoria (Canada), maps the Jewish residents and business owners of this one street: Who were the Jewish residents living and working in the Servitengasse in 1938 and what happened to them in the years following the German annexation of Austria? Were they able to emigrate and make it to safety? Were they deported and murdered? Or were their whereabouts unknown? The mapping project visually records the trajectories of lives affected by the Holocaust on this one street and the complicated paths these individuals took across the globe or to the death camps.

The Servitengasse is located in the ninth district of Vienna, Alsergrund, a district that had the second highest number of Jewish residents before the German annexation of Austria in 1938. The street is just around the corner from the Berggasse, where Sigmund Freud lived and worked, and is an important part of the history of bourgeois Jewish culture in Vienna. This digital mapping project serves as a microcosm for understanding the horrors of the Shoah and for gathering the stories of the 426 individuals who lived and worked in the street in 1938 and the hundreds of others who were forced into Sammelwohnungen (communal apartments in which many families and individuals were forced to live together in overcrowded quarters) on the Servitengasse in subsequent years before being deported to other locations. And none of us would have known any of these details if it hadn’t been for one person asking herself the simple question: Who was living in my apartment in Vienna, Austria, in 1938?

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Acknowledgements

First and foremost, I would like to thank all of the members of the “Servitengasse 1938” working group, including Maria Fritsche, Birgit Johler, Katharina Kober, Barbara Kintaert, Peter Koppe, Michael Landesmann, Alix Paulus, the late Werner Rotter, and Barbara Sauer, for allowing my students and me to work on this project. Secondly, I would like to express my gratitude to the students in my Holocaust and Memory Studies course in 2018 (Caitlin Burritt, Tessa Coutu, Cheyenne Furrer, Kelsey Kilbey, Jae Hyun Kim, Tia Lund, Giorgia Ricciardi, and Noga Yarmar) who helped enter the initial data while making crucial decisions about how to present these life stories, and the five research assistants (André Flicker, Davjola Ndoja, Tyler Reeves, Braden Russell, and Lauren Thompson) who completed a variety of arduous tasks needed for the project’s implementation. And, finally, a heartfelt thanks to Stewart Arneil in the Humanities Computing and Media Centre (HCMC) at the University of Victoria who provided the coding and the technical expertise that not only helped us envision the project’s potential but also brought it from an idea to an actual functioning site. I am grateful to have received an Internal Research/Creative Project Grant (IRCPG) at the University of Victoria in 2018 and am deeply appreciative of the HCMC for their continual support and assistance.

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Using the site

You may access the site’s information by clicking either on “Buildings with occupants,” “The people,” or “Map” on the opening page or on the bar at the top of this page.

  • If you click on building, a list of the twenty-four buildings will appear (there is no building #23, but there is a #4a).
  • If you click on people, you have a choice between a list of the original residents and shopkeepers who lived and worked on this street at the time of the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany on March 12, 1938, and those who were forced to live on the Servitengasse in the time after the German annexation of Austria.
  • If you click on map and then check the box next to a person’s name, you can access the information about that person by clicking on the “Read more…” button at the bottom of your screen.

The amount of information for each entry depends on the documents that could be found regarding each individual person. This is, of course, a work in progress, and more information may be discovered with each passing day.

A typical entry will include the following items about the person:

  • Name
  • Family name at birth
  • Birthplace: city and country as they are known in English today and the country or empire as it was known at the time
  • Birthdate: year-month-date
  • Notes: religious affiliation;* marital status; name and birth year of spouses, children, parents, and other relatives; profession

*Religious affiliation is a difficult category. Some individuals may not have felt that they were Jewish (and perhaps had even converted to a different religion), yet according to the Nuremberg Laws they would have been considered Jewish by the National Socialist regime if three of their grandparents were Jewish. We include individuals in our database who were persecuted by the Nazis because of their Jewish heritage, whether they identified as being Jewish or not, or because they married someone of Jewish heritage.

A typical entry will also include information about the location of the person:

The building where the person lived or worked and the corresponding dates; this includes the original residents and shopkeepers who lived and worked on the street in 1938; those who were forcibly collected to live on the street after the annexation of Austria to Germany; and sometimes the buildings’ owners.

The information also includes what happened to the person after they left the Servitengasse, whether they were forcibly sent to a communal apartment on another street, or whether they emigrated, fled, or were deported to a labour or death camp.

Please note that the starting point for the map is always the Servitengasse. If an individual lived on another street before being forced into a communal apartment on the Servitengasse, that original location will not be included on the map.

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Assumptions and errors

At times we found ourselves making assumptions that could lead to possible errors in the information presented. In these cases, we tried to include language (words such as presumably, probably, potentially) to suggest our lack of certainty. Also, documents sometimes contain conflicting information regarding spelling, dates, and place names.

Cultural traditions also varied greatly from one region to the next. For example, some Jewish couples in Eastern Europe, for example in the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, may have had a religious wedding ceremony without registering the marriage with the civil authorities, which meant that married individuals sometimes did not have the same family name as their spouse.

An additional difficulty is that boundaries shifted a great deal in the nineteenth and twentieth century and some towns that existed then no longer exist today. Additionally, place names varied greatly according to the language spoken. For example, Lviv, a city now situated in Western Ukraine, was known as Lemberg in German, Lwów in Polish, and sometimes spelled Lvov or L’vov. In our informational entries, we tend to use the English name of the place as it is known today, followed by the name of the country or empire as it was known at the time. Therefore, if someone was born in Lviv in 1880, that person’s birthplace would be listed as: Lviv, Ukraine, Austro-Hungarian Empire. One exception to this rule is the place name for Terezín, which we decided to refer to as Theresienstadt, its German name, given that it is still a common way to refer to the former concentration camp that is located in the Czech Republic today.

If you are aware of any errors in the data, please let us know. Send corrections to: servitengasse1938@uvic.ca. Also, if you are in any way connected to the Servitengasse, for example if you have relatives who once lived there, and you would like to share any documents with us, please feel free to get in touch. We would love to hear from you.

Helga Thorson, Associate Professor
Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies
University of Victoria (Canada)