Hundreds of Jewish Shops Abandoned in Vienna, Tell Story of Swift Ruin Since Anschluss
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Hundreds of Jewish Shops Abandoned in Vienna, Tell Story of Swift Ruin Since Anschluss

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Today the mark of the Jewish shop in Vienna is a closed iron window shutter and a sign reading, “To Let.”

Hundreds of these abandoned shops are to be found all over the city, sometimes as many as five or six in a single block. More eloquently than any other visible sign do they tell the story of the swift and utter ruin which overcame a Jewish community of 170,000 souls on that March day when the Nazis took over.

Most of the shops have closed down in the last six weeks. Some of their owners have fled the country, others are about to flee. Many are in jail, either in Vienna or at Dachau. Still others simply moved out of their stores when they were no longer able to pay the rent.

The empty stores are the measure of how well Herr Joseph Buerckel, Commissioner for the Reunion of Austria and the Reich, kept his promise that by August I the Nazi commissar system would be largely discarded. Hundreds of commissars have been discharged, but only after padlocks were put on the stores in which they had worked.

In the Jewish enterprises which have not yet been “Aryanized” or closed down, the commissars remain. Indeed, many new ones have been appointed since the date fixed by Buerckel for dissolution of the system. There are small and two-man shops in the Jewish quarter where the commissar’s salary of $5 a day consumes the entire daily income. In other shops the commissar awards the owner perhaps four shillings a day on which a family of four or five persons must be supported.

There is a store in the first district in which no merchandise remains and into which no customer has entered for days. There is a commissar in charge, however, and under him a staff of two “Aryan” clerks. The three will continue to be paid wages until the owner’s bank account has been exhausted.

Another shop, which once did a business of about $5,000 a month, now yields its owner $5 a day under stipulation by the commissar. The owner’s family consists of five persons and an “Aryan” maid servant whom they are forbidden to discharge.

What proportion of Jewish owned wealth has so far been confiscated in one way or another, is impossible to say. But informed observers estimate that at the present moment not more than ten or fifteen percent of all Austrian Jewry is earning enough to keep their families going. The other 85 to 90 percent are living on dwindling capital or are being supported by the Jewish communities.

Looming as an ever more menacing factor in the collapse of Jewish life is the campaign to oust Jews from their homes. Today thousands of families are in receipt of dispossess notices effective during October, November and december. The notices are delivered in official form from a local court, the formula itself being of a type long used in Vienna. The only unusual feature is the reason given for the eviction order. Here the space is filled in by the following blunt statement: “District X of the National Socialist Party orders Jews to be given notice.”

Many Jews have attempted to fight the order as contrary to the tenancy protection laws of Austria. In rare cases they have won their suits. In a few cases they have succeeded in a prolongation of the notice. but in the great majority of cases the courts have brusquely sustained the orders with hardly the semblance of a hearing.

In one instance, a court employee warned the Jewish plaintiff that, even if he won his case, he would probably return home one day to find that SA troopers had thrown his furniture out on the pavement. “You are better off with the couple of months safety that the vacating notices gives you,” the employee said. The Jew promptly withdrew his complaint.

Such summary confiscation of premises are not at all rare. In one case, Storm Troopers descended upon the home of the wife of a Jew now in Dachau and threw her out into the street. The woman has, of course, no recourse in law.

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