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.
“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.”
The Easter Rising is a profoundly important moment in the struggle for liberation of the Irish people. The General Post Office of Ireland lies at the heart of this consequential event that helped to shape the Irish national identity. After many centuries of foreign occupation, the Easter Rising was pivotal in raising the Irish Tricolor to independence. A new exhibit commemorates 100 years since these events that were so crucial to building Ireland as it exists today.
We toured the General Post Office, more commonly known as the GPO, where the exhibit is housed. With an afternoon group, our tour guide left no evidence if she ever had to stop and wonder, “Wait a minute, did I already say that? Did I remember to tell them . . . ? Maybe that was the morning group?” Her words flowed with dense information in an articulate and engaging cadence. Her presentation was remarkably candid and balanced.