Bern Eilers, Amsterdam, 1901
Manhattan skyline as seen from the roof of the Hotel Bossert, Montague Street, Brooklyn, 1943.
From Life Magazine, Time/Life Pictures/Getty Images
These are rare photos of Austrian Nazis and local residents that look on as Jews are forced to get on their hands and knees and scrub the pavement. They were published only one time before in Austrian newspaper “Der Standard” - more info at the bottom.
‘REIBPARTIEN’ / ‘SCRUB GROUPS’
So-called “Reibpartien” (a trivializing term; English: “scrub groups”) in Vienna’s 2nd district had to clean the streets, shortly after the “Anschluss” (annexation; March 12, 1938). Pictures like the ones above, showing the inhumane actions against Jews immediately after the annexation, weren’t published by the Nazi press. The authorities probably didn’t want to show the true colors of Nazism to the world.
In photo #1 you can see what these Viennese Jews had to remove: “Österreich” (Austria) paroles, written by opponents of the Nazi Party, some days before a referendum that should have taken place on March 13, 1938. But the referendum (about the decision, if Austria should stay an independent country or unite with Nazi Germany) was cancelled under the pressure of Adolf Hitler.
THE UNDERWORLD HAD OPENED ITS GATES
It is to be assumed that these humiliated Jews and the onlookers, gapers, bystanders that surround them all lived in that neighbourhood. Probably they have seen each other before, or even knew each other, talked to each other.
The German author Carl Zuckmayer, who lived in Vienna at that time and was later expatriated by the Nazi government, wrote about the scenes that took place in Vienna after the annexation:
“Die Unterwelt hatte ihre Pforten aufgetan und ihre niedrigsten, scheußlichsten, unreinsten Geister losgelassen. (…) Die Stadt verwandelte sich in ein Alptraumgemälde des Hieronymus Bosch: Lemuren und Halbdämonen schienen aus Schmutzeiern gekrochen und aus versumpften Erdlöchern gestiegen (…)”
“The underworld had opened its gates and vomited forth the basest, most despicable, most horrible demons. (…) The city transformed into a nightmare painting of Hieronymus Bosch: Lemures and half demons seem to have cracked out of dirty eggs and climbed out of swampy holes in the ground (…)”
The people in these photos don’t look like demons to me, but that what’s makes the scenery even more oppressive. Also the fact that some even brought their kids to watch this “spectacle.” It makes one wonder if they ever talked about these scenes after the end of World War 2. Or did they all remain silent, or even say things like “We didn’t know anything, we didn’t see anything, we weren’t part of it”? Like so many Austrians and Germans did…
All photos courtesy: Martin Pollack Archiv. The photos were first published in “Der Standard” (on Mar 2, 2013) and are now part of the Austrian National Library archive (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek). I scanned them directly from the newspaper, that’s why the image quality is rather bad.
I translated parts of the original German article (written by Martin Pollack) and combined it with my own words.