Albert Benbassat

Yearning for Baden

10 families and their houses are presented in the exhibition. Click on the red dots on the city map to find out more.

Yearning for Baden

Baden bei Wien – Baden by Vienna – has never ceased to radiate an unforgettable aura: spa and summer guests, originally attracted by the glamorous presence of the Imperial Court, have always adored this setting. Industrial magnates like the “Kohle-Gutmanns” (“Coal Gutmanns”), bankers like the legendary baron Samuel Ritter von Hahn, inventors like the genius Emil Jellinek-Mercedes, and factory owners like the “Zuckerl-Hellers” (“Sweetie Hellers”) appreciated the beauty of the region and the multitude of cultural and social attractions, the theatre, the parks and the baths.

They built villas in a variety of styles – historicist, art nouveau and modernist – a fascinating mixture. Many of these families who spent their summers in Baden had Jewish roots. They shaped summer life in Baden until 1938. This exhibition here in the Kaiserhaus is dedicated to ten families and their villas.

Emil (1853-1918) and Raoul Fernand (1888-1939) Jellinek-Mercedes

Wienerstraße 41-45

Emil Jellinek, son of a rabbi, was one of the most dazzling personalities of his time. He worked as trade and insurance representative in Algeria, the country of his first wife, Rachel. He moved from there to Baden in 1884. He purchased a villa, which he kept enlarging and expanding until it finally encompassed fifty rooms – today, only the garage testifies to its impressive history. And this garage played a major role in Emil’s life: he sold Daimler automobiles and had a special car made for himself which he named after his daughter Mercedes, born in Baden in 1889.

His son Raoul Fernand devoted himself to writing and had an exceptional love of music. A comprehensive collection of music scores survived in the music library in Essen and a short time ago was relocated once more to Vienna. Raoul Fernand’s life ended in tragedy: after interrogation by the Gestapo, on 10 February 1939 he committed suicide in his villa in Baden.

Albert Benbassat (1894-1955)

Christalniggasse 7

In 1930 the banker and native Bulgarian Albert Benbassat bought a villa in Baden built in 1899 by the founder of the Hirtenberger Patronenfabrik (Cartridge Factory), Anton Keller. In 1932 Albert Benbassat married Adele Goldmann née Feuerstein, whose family belonged to the founders of the oil industry in Galicia – which yielded fabulous wealth; however, its significance is scarcely known today. But neither could this money save Benbassat’s bank house; only four years later it was caught up in the economic maelstrom of the time, and Albert Benbassat had to auction off the furnishings in his villa. The auction catalogue gives an inside view of a luxuriously furnished villa with exceptional accoutrements and artworks.

In 1938 Albert Benbassat fled with his wife and sons Jacques and Mario to Romania and in 1942 to Switzerland. After the war the family moved to America.

Gustav Heller (1857-1937)

Marchetstraße 76

The brothers Gustav and Wilhelm Heller founded a confectionery factory in Vienna and rapidly expanded – soon they became famous as the “Zuckerl-Heller” – the “Sweetie Hellers”. Their “Wiener Zuckerl” is still one of the standard products of all sweet shops and confectioneries. In 1907 Gustav Heller bought a villa in Baden from Adolph Ignaz Mautner Markhof; it had an impressive wrought-iron veranda originally made for the 1889 World Fair. After Gustav’s death in 1937, his children Grete, Hans and Marianne each inherited a third of his estate. Grete married Karl Rutter and survived the war in Vienna, protected by her non-Jewish husband. Hans fled to America, his third share was confiscated. Marianne died in 1938 in Vienna, her husband Otto Wolf fled with sons Thomas and Martin to Argentina. After 1938 the siblings had to “sell” their shares of the inheritance, the composer Heinrich Strecker acquired them, one after the other. The villa is still in the ownership of the Strecker family.

Heinrich Klinger (1832-1905)

Schlossgasse 31

Heinrich Klinger was man of many facets: as an industrialist, he devoted his energies to the linen and jute production in Bohemia and Moravia and founded several factories. Through his activities in the Chamber of Commerce he also made a name for himself far and wide. As President of the Jewish Community (israelitische Kultusgemeinde) in Vienna he provided particular support for the care of elderly people. Together with his wife Charlotte he purchased a villa in Baden in 1884 where the family spent their summers until 1914. Heinrich’s son Norbert was a lawyer and married Seraphine Straus, the sister of the composer Oskar Straus. Her uncle Alfred Stern was in turn a colleague of Heinrich Klinger’s in the executive committee of the Vienna Jewish Community. Norbert acquired a significant art collection, which was confiscated by the Nazis. He died in 1941 in the Jewish Hospital, for which his father had once provided financial support. Seraphine was deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp, where her life ended in 1943.

Adolf (1852-1925) and Moriz (1858-1918) Gallia

Weilburgstraße 20

The lawyer Dr Adolf Gallia was noted as one of the most renowned patent lawyers in Vienna. He was in charge of the patenting and financing of the inventions of Auer von Welsbach, especially the famous gas mantle. As representative of the firm he frequently litigated spectacular court cases about patents. Together with his wife Ida he purchased a villa in Baden, where his brother Moriz also spent many summers with his family. Adolf Gallia frequently worked together with the architect Jacob Gartner, who specialised in building synagogues. Several buildings on the Vienna Ringstrasse are his work, for instance the corner house on Stubenring 24 / Dr.-Karl-Luegerplatz 6, built on commission of Adolf Gallia in 1902. Three years previously, in 1899, Gartner remodelled the villa in Baden.

The brothers worked closely together; Moriz was director of the Gasglühlicht AG (Auer Gesellschaft) in Vienna, president and shareholder of Hamburger & Co. and president of the Wiener Werkstätte, an institution he supported from the very start. The family was particularly impressed by the architect and designer Josef Hoffmann: he designed their large, prestigious apartment on Wohllebengasse in the fourth district in Vienna as a Gesamtkunstwerk, a synthesis of the arts – this included utensils such as cutlery, and diverse decorative pieces. Tim Bonyhady’s family biography Wohllebengasse is well worth reading and presents an excellent inside view of the world of the Gallia family. They also identified with the aims of the Secession and supported upcoming artists. In 1903 Hermine Gallia had her portrait painted by Gustav Klimt. This artistic ambience will probably have shaped their life in Baden as well, but unfortunately there are scarcely any traces of it remaining.

Adolf and Ida died without progeny, in 1932 the house was sold to the very wealthy wine wholesaler Hugo Glattauer and his wife Elsa. The Glattauer couple managed to flee with their children to Australia; the house, after long years of disputation, finally landed in the ownership of the Grossdeutsches Reich on 13 March 1945. In 1948 the villa was restituted to the Glattauers; they sold it in 1954. The building was pulled down and replaced in 1975 by a residential complex.

Wilhelm Gutmann (1826-1895)

Helenenstraße 72

The Kohlen-Gutmanns revolutionised the energy market: in Vienna they organised a small-scale distribution system that provided households with coal. A huge relief for the population! But this was not the only factor that made Wilhelm and his brother David Gutmann into one of the leading industrial families in the Monarchy: they were among the most important patrons and sponsors of their time. They built the Poliklinik hospital in Vienna, erected houses for their workers and employees and supported numerous Jewish social institutions. The Villa Gutmann in Baden – also called Villa Ida after Wilhelm’s wife – was designed by the architect Alexander Wielemans and one of the most spectacular buildings of late historicism. Built in 1882, the complex encompassed a service building, a glasshouse, a “Salettl” (from “saletta”, a kind of gazebo) and the bowling alley – a usual feature for the time – also an elaborately laid-out garden with an artificial ruin. After Ida’s death in 1924, her grandson Rudolf inherited the property. In 1942 it was confiscated by the “Gauselbstverwaltung des Reichsgaus Niederdonau“ (Area Self-Government of the Reichsgau of Lower Danube); Rudolf fled to France. In 1948 his property was restituted, but he sold it in 1956.

Wilhelm’s brother David also purchased a villa in Baden, on Weilburgstrasse 16. After his death, his grandson Wilhelm Hermann inherited the property; in 1941 it was confiscated by the Landrat (head of the district authority) of Baden. In 1948 the building was returned and sold a year later. The villa no longer exists today.

Moriz Rothberger (1865-1944)

Radetzkystraße 10

The successful career of the master tailor Jakob Rothberger (born in 1825 in Alberti-Irsa in Hungary) provides an illustration of how a merchant was able to exploit the opportunities offered by the new industrial possibilities and, launching out from a small craft business, to build up an enterprise within thirty years that became renowned and esteemed throughout the whole of Austria-Hungary. The Rothberger store on Stephansplatz in Vienna, built by Fellner and Helmer, was one of the foremost department stories with a modern philosophy. Customers could deduct the value of an old article of clothing when purchasing a new one, thus profit from an exchange deal. This resulted in a major business for second-hand clothing.

After his death in 1899, three of his sons, Moriz, Heinrich and Alfred, took over the large store. In 1912, Moriz Rothberger commissioned the architect Otto Prutscher to remodel a villa in Baden for himself and his future wife Karoline Tremel. The architect, who worked for the Wiener Werkstätte, also designed the interior. Moriz was forced to sell the villa in 1939; he died in 1944 in the Jewish Old People’s Home on Malzgasse 16 in Vienna. In 1954 his heiress Sophie Podsednik was given back the villa and sold it thirty years later.

Rudolf Bienenfeld (1856-1930)

Radetzkystraße 4

The plot of land next to Moriz Rothberger’s property was bought by the merchant and close friend Rudolf Bienenfeld; they were each the other’s best man and shared the architect: Otto Prutscher set up a villa for Rudolf Bienenfeld entirely in the spirit of a Gesamtkunstwerk, a synthesis of the arts. The left papers of the Wiener Werkstätte in the MAK Vienna include numerous designs and plans for it. “Merry in colour, yellow Terranova plasterwork, bright red roof, green drainpipes, the flowers in front of the windows even more richly arrayed than at the larger house (Villa Rothberger is meant here),” thus a report in the magazine Der Architekt in 1913. This description imbues life and colour into the surviving black-and-white photographs. The family already sold the villa in 1927. At the time of the Anschluss, Austria’s annexation into Nazi Germany, the villa belonged to Josef and Jana Weintraub, who were forced to sell their property in 1942. The couple were deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp and separated there. Josef was killed in Buchenwald on 18 May 1944, Jana a day before in Ravensbrück.

In 1950 the villa was restituted to their daughter Margit Zwicker, who had managed to flee to the US; she sold it in 1959.

Gustav Epstein (1828-1879)

Rainerweg 1

The Epstein family was one of the oldest pre-eminent Jewish families in the Monarchy. In 1857 Lazar Epstein, owner of a cotton-printing factory in Prague, married Rosalia Goldberger de Buda in Baden; she was from one of the leading textile-industry families in Budapest – Rosalie’s mother Elisabeth was an extraordinary person: the mother of seventeen children, she survived her husband and ran the factory together with her sons – an icon of emancipation.

Lazar’s son Gustav was elevated to the rank of baronet (Ritterstand) and expanded his activities as a banker in Vienna. In 1867 he commissioned Otto Wagner to build him a villa in Baden, where his daughter Margarethe was born on 14 August 1870 during their summer sojourn. But the happy time in Baden proved to be brief: during the stock market crash in 1873 Gustav Epstein lost his fortune and sold the villa in Baden to Archduke Rainer.

The Palais Epstein in Vienna is owned today by the Parliament; its collection also contains portraits of the family.

Samuel Ritter von Hahn (1837-1915)

Weilburgstraße 81-85

Samuel Ritter (Baron) von Hahn was one of the most pre-eminent and flamboyant Austrian industrialists of the second half of the nineteenth century. From an extremely humble and poverty-stricken background, he worked his way up in the Imperial and Royal Southern Railways to the position of a chief inspector and was eventually appointed general director of the k. k. priv. Österreichischen Länderbank founded in Vienna in 1880 – a meteoric rise! Subsequently, he expanded his enterprises to become one of the most influential industrialists on the European continent.

In the years 1885/86 he commissioned Otto Wagner to build a prestigious villa in Baden, which he left after his death to his daughter Margarethe Aulegk. On 16 November 1938 Margarethe made a gift of the villa to her non-Jewish husband Paul Aulegk, thus evading the grasp of the Nazis.

What remains………

The year 1938 marked the end of the carefree summer vacation. The Jewish families who had spent so many summers in Baden were subjected to persecution, hatred, confiscation and death. After the end of the war, the families were scattered to the winds and eventually, endeavoured to have their property in Austria restituted to them. Long drawn-out correspondence, overwhelming bureaucracy and tardy cooperation by the Austrian state made things arduous and difficult. Most of the Baden villas were restituted to their original owners, frequently involving settlement payments that only rarely corresponded to the actual value of the villas. The families sold the villas after several years – living in Australia or America, they had little use for a villa in Baden. And so, the memories are now fading away of families who, prior to 1938, had formed such a vital segment of the summer guests in Baden.