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

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

Herzl´s Daughters – 100 years WIZO. Viennese Women for Israel

February, 8. to May 2., 2021
Jewish Museum Vienna,
Judenplatz 8, 1010 Vienna

WIZO, the Women’s International Zionist Organization, was founded in London in 1920 as a non-partisan umbrella group for Zionist women’s organizations. In the following years, national WIZO organizations were also established in other countries committed to the creation of a Jewish state. Most of the European country organizations were destroyed during the Shoah. Several of them, such as the Austrian one, could be set up again after World War II. The first Zionist women’s association in Vienna was founded on February 15, 1898 and incorporated into WIZO in 1921. Erna Patak (1871–1955), a friend of Theodor Herzl‘s family, served as WIZO Austria’s first president.

In 1959, WIZO was recognized by the UN as an NGO. Since its foundation and up to today, WIZO has been the largest international Jewish women’s organization, with more than 250,000 members in over 50 countries. It operates a total of 800 institutions, irrespective of the denomination or origin of those in need. WIZO also has an advisory function in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN and for UNICEF.

In the exhibition “Herzl’s Daughters – 100 years WIZO. Viennese Women for Israel”, the pre-war and post-war history of WIZO Austria will be shown on the basis of documents and photographs from the WIZO archive in Vienna, from extensive partial bequests by Mirjam Pollak and Rosl Müller, as well as through the photo collection of the photographic chronicler of the Vienna Jewish Community, Margit Dobronyi. An additional focus will be placed upon WIZO Austria’s forced dissolution and the persecution and murder of its members during the Shoah. These documents and objects not only make it possible to tell the story of WIZO Austria, but also about the networking of Jewish women on a national and international level.

Curator: Julia Windegger