Visit to Vienna

Cousin Angie and Hans met us at the train; we had supper and sat around chatting. The next day we took a walk in a nearby park, saw an art exhibit about Illusions, and had lunch. About 4:00 PM Angie’s mother, Annush, came to the apartment. She had taken the subway from another part of Vienna and Hans had met her at the station.

The five of us chatted for a while and then Angie’s sister Christel arrived with her husband Feri, their daughter Gisella, and her four year old daughter Alexandra. We stayed and chatted some more, and then went to a heuriger, which is a sort of cafe at which people can sit around for a long time and socialize. The food is served cafeteria style, so I picked a noodle kugle that had ham in it, and a tomato salad. The wine and conversation flowed freely.

Annush is a sprightly gal, 79 years old which seems younger every year. I was able to understand her German reasonably well when she started saying something, but she usually talked faster, and perhaps with a Hungarian accent or something as she got going, so I needed one of the handy translators (Angie or Christel) most of the time. Stupidly I had left my camera at the apartment, and couldn’t convince them to go back after the evening was over.

We found out that we had missed a big party the day before. Christel’s son Thomas had gotten married (for the third time) and there were over 100 people at the wedding and reception. The affair was in the school where the bride and groom are both teachers, and many of the schoolchildren were also invited. Numerous people had performed in one way or another for the entertainment.

The next morning, Monday, we called Delta to find out whether we could change our return flight, without penalty, if we went to the airport and waited on standby. They said, “No,” we could only change by paying $150 each. Figuring we could spend the next five days in Slovakia for less than $300 we decided to return to Slovakia and do more research.

We also had Angie call around to find out where the Jewish records are kept, and when she found them she asked about the person whom we thought from the death records was Josefa, with a name change to Cacilie. We found out that Bob’s assumptions were wrong and it was not Josefa, since Cacilie had a different maiden name, and came from a different town.

We packed up and Angie dropped us at the subway. We went to the bus station and checked our bags in a locker so that we could do some genealogical research. We took the subway to the Israeltische Kultusgemeinde, on Seitenstrasse (the Jewish death archives,) and confirmed what we had been told about Cacilie. “Do you have any listing for Josefa Weisz in 1898?” I asked. The archivist (coincidentally named Mrs. Weiss) said she did not, but we should go to the cemetery, Gate One, which is the Jewish section. There, she said, is a man who has all the Jewish records in a computer, and perhaps he could find the information we wanted.

So we took the tram to the cemetery, and asked for the record keeper. He was usually in a trailer, but at that moment he was out to lunch, so we went across the street to a restaurant. Hurrah! They had goulash! It was served in a hollowed-out round loaf of whole wheat bread, and tasted great, even if it wasn’t in Hungary.

Upon returning to the cemetery after lunch the man was there and he looked up Weisz. Sure enough, there was Josefa in grave Section 20, Block 11, Plot 13, with an “x” next to the listing. We were told that the “x” indicated that her grave had been bombed in World War II. We confirming that it was she; her home address at Spittelbergasse 3 was listed and she was 83 years old. The reason Bob had not found her earlier was that she was buried on May 14, 1899. Apparently Dad remembered that he was eight years old when she died, but since his birthday is in June, we calculated the year wrong. We tend to forget that these records are often inaccurate, being based on recollection or hearsay, and errors occur when we translate ages into dates.

In addition to Josefa we found her daughter Theresa (our great grandmother) and her husband Mayer Nagel and Josefa’s son Ignaz and his wife Rosa (in Plot 17). This gave us their death dates and ages. Interestingly there was a Charlotte Blau buried in between in Plot 14 (age 56 at her death in 1897) and Dad had mentioned a Louisa Blau whom he thought to be somehow related to the family in an unknown way, and whom he remembered to be about as old as Theresa (age 62 in 1897). Could this be the same person, and how was she related? We’ll probably never know.

The important thing we found out here was that all five remained Jewish until their deaths, even though Josefa’s husband had converted to Protestant about 50 years earlier, as had her brother Emil, her son Bela, and her granddaughter Sophie. This was a question that had been in our minds, unanswered until we saw the cemetary records.

Having learned as much as we could think to ask about, we took the next tram back to the bus station, and got on the bus to Bratislava, and then to Nitra, a county seat in Slovakia, with a population of 32,000.

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