Yevgeny Khaldei. Photographer of liberation

May 12. to November 01., 2021

Jewish Museum Vienna
Judenplatz 1, 1010 Vienna

The exhibition presents works by Yevgeny Khaldei, who accompanied the Red Army as an official war reporter during the liberation of Vienna. He was experienced enough to know what photos would be regarded in Moscow as ideologically acceptable and was thus able to take the official Soviet picture the liberation of Vienna: a group of soldiers carrying machine guns with the Austrian flag fluttering in the background. The exhibition shows potent images of a decisive moment in the history of Austria.

As it advanced westward, the Red Army reached Austrian territory on March 29, 1945. The battle for Vienna ended after fierce fighting on April 13, 1945. Both sides incurred heavy losses. Even in the last hours of the war, the SS murdered Jews in Vienna. The Soviet troops were accompanied by the Jewish photographer Yevgeny Khaldei. He took exceptional photos of the street fighting, bomb ruins and, soon afterwards, the hunger and homelessness, but also the hope for a new beginning that characterized civilian life in spring 1945. Khaldei’s photos feature the sights of Vienna— St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the parliament building, Heldenplatz, Belvedere Palace, or the grave of Johann Strauss at the Central Cemetery—but always with Soviet soldiers in front of them. Khaldei’s colleague Olga Lander (1909–1996) arrived a few weeks later in Vienna and photographed the official events.

After World War II, Khaldei discovered that his entire family had been killed by the Nazis. His mother had been murdered in a pogrom when Khaldei was just one year old. The pictures by the Jewish photographers Yevgeny Khaldei and Olga Lander provide vivid testimony to these days of such vital significance in Austria’s history.

Curators: Marcus G. Patka and Erich Klein
Exhibition design: Fuhrer, Wien

Image © Collection Erich Klein

Hans Kelsen and the Elegance of the Austrian Constitution

October 1., 2020 to September 12., 2021

Jewish Museum Vienna,
Dorotheergasse 12, 1010 Vienna


In 2020 the Austrian constitution celebrates its 100th anniversary. Praised by the Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen for its ‘elegance and beauty,’ its contents are not well enough known, and the devotion to the constitution that in countries such as the USA is rare in Austria.

The important role played by the legal expert Hans Kelsen in drafting the constitution also needs to be emphasized. Born in Prague in 1881, he grew up in Vienna in a German-speaking Jewish family. His father, a chandelier manufacturer, designed the lighting for Viennese synagogues. After the collapse of the monarchy, Kelsen was commissioned by State Chancellor Karl Renner to help draft a federal constitution for the young republic. He developed what became known as the Austrian model for constitutional jurisdiction, which was emulated by countries throughout the world.

Kelsen, who was a professor at the University of Vienna from 1918 to 1930, became internationally renowned in particular for his contributions to legal and political theory. In the increasingly anti-Semitic climate of the times, his innovative ideas made him lots of enemies. He left Vienna in 1930 and after various stops in Europe ultimately emigrated in 1940 to the USA, where he lived until his death in 1973. He is regarded today as one of the most important legal scholars of the twentieth century.

On the 100th anniversary of the Austrian constitution, the exhibition pays tribute to its architect and presents his life and work. It also invites you to take a closer look at the constitution and the surprising insights and realizations it reveals.

Curator: Adina Seeger, exhibition design: Capitale Wien

Just in at M. E. Mayer – Fragments of a forgotten success story

February 08. to October 03., 2021
Jewish Museum Vienna,
Dorotheergasse 12, 1010 Vienna

“Just in yesterday at M. E. Mayer, and everyone’s already talking about it today,” wrote Anton Kuh in 1925 in a feature about a popular French perfume of the time. M. E. Mayer’s two elegant perfumeries were well known to Kuh’s readers. They were located at Lobkowitzplatz 1 and Graben 17 in the center of Vienna. The factory where the company itself made many of the soaps, creams, perfumes, powders, aftershave lotions, razors, and razor blades it sold, occupied an entire block at Pernerstorfergasse 57 in the 10th district of Vienna.

From September 1932, there was a guest book at the perfumery on Lobkowitzplatz which contained prominent entries from the likes of Carl Zuckmayer, Hugo Thimig, Ida Roland, Fritz Grünbaum, Louise Rainer, Alexander Lernet-Holenia, Franz Werfel, Nora Gregor, Jane Tilden, Alfred Jerger, Hilde Wagener, Hedy Mandl (later Lamarr). They all visited this temple of fragrances and creams. Franz Lehár even had bath salts sent to him in Bad Ischl. An album with thirty-one photos shows what the factory looked like and how it operated.

After the annexation of Austria in 1938, the perfume and beauty empire was “Aryanized.” The former owners, Theodor and Paul Mayer, sons of the founders Emilie and Max Mayer, fled from the antisemitic persecution with their families. Theodor ended up in Argentina and Paul in the USA, where he founded the soap and perfume manufacturing MEM Company. In 1950, the heirs of the two brothers, now deceased, bought back the company and continued to run it. MEM Seifen- und Parfümerie-Vertriebsgesellschaft m. b. H. was liquidated in 1978, its glory days long past. The Jewish Museum Vienna pays tribute to this popular but sadly long-forgotten Viennese company.

Curator: Andrea Winklbauer
Exhibition design: Stefan Fuhrer

Image © Wienbibliothek im Rathaus, Plakatsammlung P-228889 (detail)

Little Vienna in Shanghai

October 21., 2020 to June 27., 2021

Jewish Museum Vienna
Dorotheergasse 11, 1010 Vienna


Immediately after the National Socialists seized power in Austria in March 1938, Jewish women and men were marginalized, humiliated and persecuted. The possibilities to leave the country increasingly dwindled. Harassment, the necessity of leaving all possessions behind, and the fact that many countries sealed off their borders made any prospect of escape difficult. China was the only country that did not require a hard-to-get visa, yet the German authorities demanded an exit document. Dr. Feng Shan Ho, the Chinese Consul General in Vienna, issued thousands of these life-saving visas, against the Chinese government wishes.

For many Austrians, Shanghai, the “City upon the Sea,” represented the last hope for refuge. The voyage there entailed a week-long sea crossing; later it involved an exhausting land journey across Siberia.

The new home away from home posed great challenges to most refugees. However, the Viennese quickly organized a “Little Vienna” in China, where, in addition to restaurants such as the “White Horse Inn”, there were coffeehouses with Viennese pastry and coffee specialties, sausage stands and wine taverns. Sports clubs and newspapers were founded, and the many refugee artists offered a diverse range of musical evenings, operettas, cabaret and theatrical performances.

When the Japanese, who were allied with the German Reich, took Shanghai in 1941, the living conditions continued to worsen. In 1943, a ghetto was established in the rundown district of Hongkew. Bad hygienic conditions and the poor supply situation led to hunger and illness. The Kadoories and Sassoons, two Jewish families originating from the Middle East who had been living in Shanghai since the 19th century, provided together with several aid committees like the American JOINT, for food and kept the schools operating.

After the victory of the Allies and the landing of the US Army in 1945, many began planning a return. With the imminent capture of Shanghai by Mao Zedong, the last Jews also left the city for the USA, Canada, Australia or Israel. Some came back to their hometown of Vienna. Because of the murder and destruction of European Jewry their return to Vienna meant a completely new beginning in a changed world.

Curators: Danielle Spera, Daniela Pscheiden

Exhibition design: Stefan Fuhrer