Category Archives: Uncategorized

Commerce and Community

From the pictures taken after it was enlarged at the turn of the century, the Skotschau synagogue in Austrian Silesia looks like a modest structure. The only decorative element is the small columned porch that projects at the front. Arched … Continue reading

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Chance Encounters

With this entry, “Refugee Tales” moves east from Vienna and its environs to outposts of the Austrian Empire in Moravia and Silesia. (Located today in the Czech Republic and Poland.) This was the region my father’s family, the Spitzers, came … Continue reading

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Postwar Summers

In the years immediately before World War I, Leopold Guttman’s business continued to expand. He added the installation of gas, water, sanitary, and electrical installations to services the company offered. In addition to the factory and warehouse in Vienna, there … Continue reading

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Casa Piccola

Topped by a fanciful, multi-tiered turret, the five-story “Casa Piccola,” where Leopold Guttmann’s flourishing business was located after 1902,  was not “piccola” at all. Erected in 1896, the building retained the name of the structure that preceded it—the long-standing Café … Continue reading

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Advancing Business

Energy, ambition and the cultivation of useful contacts had made a successful businessman of great-grandfather Leopold Guttmann in the 1890’s. But a decade before, crafty politicians had already begun to draw on old anti-Semitic attitudes to fan resentment of Jewish … Continue reading

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Inventions–Timely and Untimely

About a month ago, two friends from Vienna—the architectural historian Ursula Prokop and her husband Peter, a first-rate archivist—came to visit me in New York.  They have been a help with my research in Austria for many years.  I was … Continue reading

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Toilet Culture

As late as 1985, the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard has his misanthropic character Reger,  in the novel Old Masters, declare that “Vienna has no toilet culture. Its toilets are scandalous. Even in the most famous hotels in the city, scandalous … Continue reading

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