With the history of Central Europe in the context of recent sentiments of xenophobia and white supremacy spewing from the daily news, during last month’s visit to Vienna we wanted to devote some quality time to honoring the local Jewish population who survived a genocide less than two generations ago. On a Monday morning M, G, D, and I boarded the streetcar for downtown from our apartment in the Döbling district. After a delightful breakfast at the historic Café Central we made our way to Jüdisches Museum der Stadt Wien, the Jewish Museum Vienna.
The second equinox hangs in the air, suggesting balance between dark and light. As the earth rotates through its even-handedness I am preparing to take a short break from the whitest metropolitan area in the wealthiest nation to visit a region infamous for the systematic murder of racial, religious, and other minorities: Central Europe. Our long time friend M will be joining G and me while we are stationed in Vienna, the birthplace of Alfred P. Adler, my university’s namesake and Jewish refugee who moved to the U.S. in the 1930s in anticipation of the horrors of the emerging fascist regime. The equinox paired with Adler’s principles of gemeinschaftsgefhül—roughly, we as humans are whole within our community—create a useful framework for me to wrap my journey. Lately I’ve been feeling the need to find balance in myself as a part of my community amidst its extremes.
“Have you ever thought about joining up young man?” The police officer looked G in the eye, pointing his finger just inches from his face.
“No sir,” he shook his head, breaking the gaze and casting his eyes toward the floor.
“Fighting for your country is the most important thing you can do to end this conflict.” The officer turned and walked away, continuing his rant, calling for others to enlist in the military and go to the trenches of Europe.
We sat quietly, awaiting our turn to be admitted into Dublin Castle. Other guests milled about, while some sat on the surrounding benches. A simply dressed, if fashionable, young woman stood in front of the interior door.
“Welcome to Dublin Castle,” a well-groomed young man sporting a gold-toned vest and starched, white, collared shirt called from from the main entry into the courtyard. “As a reminder, Britain is at war. Please turn off all electronic devices. We cannot risk intelligence leaks during this sensitive time.”