Setting of the Pearl

Setting of the Pearl

by Thomas Weyr

When Adolf Hitler seized Vienna in the Anschluss of 1938, he called the city "a pearl to which he would give a proper setting." But the setting he left behind seven years later was one of ruin and destruction—a physical, spiritual, and intellectual wasteland.
Here is a grippingly narrated and heartbreaking account of the debasement of one of


When Adolf Hitler seized Vienna in the Anschluss of 1938, he called the city "a pearl to which he would give a proper setting." But the setting he left behind seven years later was one of ruin and destruction—a physical, spiritual, and intellectual wasteland.
Here is a grippingly narrated and heartbreaking account of the debasement of one of Europe's great cities. Thomas Weyr shows how Hitler turned Vienna from a vibrant metropolis that was the cradle of modernism into a drab provincial town. In this riveting narrative, we meet Austrian traitors like Arthur Seyss-Inquart and mass murderers like Odilo Globocnik; proconsuls like Joseph Buerckel, who hacked Austria into seven pieces, and Baldur von Schirach, who dreamed of making Vienna into a Nazi capital on the Danube—and failed miserably. More painfully, Weyr chronicles the swift destruction of a rich Jewish culture and the removal of the city's 200,000 Jews through murder, exile, and deportation. Vienna never regained the global role the city had once played. Today, Weyr concludes, only the monuments remain—beautiful but lifeless.
This is not only the story of Nazi leaders but of how the Viennese themselves lived and died: those who embraced Hitler, those who resisted, and the many who merely, in the local phrase, "ran after the rabbit." The author draws on his own experiences as a child in Vienna under Nazi rule in 1938, and those of his parents and friends, plus extensive documentary research, to craft a vivid historical narrative that chillingly captures how a once-great city lost its soul under Hitler.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A brilliantly documented, rivetingly written account of a great city's descent into hell."—Frederic Morton, author of Thunder at Twilight: Vienna 1913/1914 and A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889

"Weyr explores the Austrian capital's fall from its exalted position during World War II in this thorough and often personal account.... Intermixes personal interviews, newspaper accounts, and a range of secondary sources to evoke a sense of life in Vienna during World War II.... The only study of its kind."—Library Journal

"A powerful account and analysis of Vienna's decline.... Weyr ably combines the mainline record with revealing anecdotes that highlight the fate of the Jews, Viennese demoralization, and the Reich's decline and rampant corruption."—Foreword Magazine

"Tom Weyr has written an excruciatingly lucid and elucidating history of the events and personalities in Hitler's Vienna which, sixty plus years ago, murdered those of us who failed to get away. "—Lore Segal, author of Other People's Houses and Her First American

"Who would have thought that a book on recent Viennese history could be exciting and fascinating? Weyr writes so well, with such intimate knowledge, that the book pulls you along. It seems to me that after reading this there can be no more discussion about whether the Austrians were victims or willing accomplices in Hitler's war. Particularly, the scenes in Berchtesgaden, the Berlin Chancellery and the phone calls involving Goering and Hitler add shattering insights into the history of World War II. Weyr explores a relatively unknown corner of recent history, and he does it superbly."—Cornelia Bessie, Bessie Books

Publishers Weekly
Even before the end of WWII, the Allies declared Austria the first victim of German aggression. Austrians have savored this designation, which gave them a halo of innocence and spared them the full force of postwar occupation and control. Weyr isn't so sure the Austrians deserved to be so well treated. In this fast-paced chronicle of the destruction of the city's cultural and political life, he shows that most Austrians happily accepted the 1938 union with Germany and the benefits of the pillaging of Europe in the war's first years. Many Viennese exercised their basest instincts through the public humiliation of Jews. For Weyr, Nazi domination led to the destruction of the glittering culture of Vienna, the city of Freud, Klimt, Loos and so many other intellectual and artistic luminaries. That city had been, Weyr says, "largely a Jewish creation," the fruit of a multiethnic, tolerant milieu. Weyr, a native of Vienna and longtime reporter for UPI and Newsweek, mourns the passing of that world as he provides a decent account of the city's history, drawing on memoirs and autobiographies that give the work a rich texture. But to gain deeper understanding of Viennese culture and the effects of Nazi rule, readers are better off with the notable studies by Carl Schorske, Gary B. Cohen, Evan Bukey, Marsha Rozenblitt and others. 25 b&w illus. Agent, Carl Brandt. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
Weyr is a half-Jew who was born in Vienna but had to flee his native city after the Anschluss. His book mixes memoir with a history of Vienna, not only under Hitler but also in the years before and after. The Viennese are to this day reluctant to speak about the events of those depressing years: the vacillations of the archbishop, the persecution of the Jews, the initial enthusiasm for Hitler, the weakness of the Austrian resistance. All of this is well known, but Weyr's retelling is incisive. It is the chapters that deal directly with Vienna under German rule that are most interesting. But in his last section — which covers 1945 to the present — Weyr states that "the city has learned to merchandise its past with a blatant hucksterism that Madison Avenue might envy."
Kirkus Reviews
In 1938, that year of Anschluss, Adolf Hitler promised that he would "give a proper setting" to the pearl that was Vienna. He remade the city indeed, writes Vienna native and now American journalist Weyr, but with far from lustrous results. Vienna, Hitler and company knew, was a great Jewish center: Before the Annexation, Adolf Eichmann's euphemistically named Central Office for Jewish Emigration estimated that "175,000 religious Jews had lived in 'totally Jew-infested' Vienna and at least another 120,000 'Nuremberg' Jews-agnostics, atheists, or Christians but who could not muster the requisite number of Aryan grandparents." One of the earliest acts of the new regime after Nazi Germany annexed Austria was to remove Jews from the city's newspapers and other media so as to "get the Nazi message out to the world from day one." Jews in other walks of life quickly followed. The Nazis, Weyr (Hispanic U.S.A., 1988, etc.) writes, also introduced sweeping changes to remake other aspects of Viennese life; for instance, the government decertified Catholic schools, cut support to churches, required religious teaching to be done in accordance with National Socialist dogma and exerted pressure on Catholics-who had tended toward the right wing, but a decidedly Austrian one-to leave the church. The anti-Catholic campaign was far less successful than the anti-Jewish one, Weyr documents, but it had far-reaching consequences. So, too, did Hitler's determination that Vienna take second place to Berlin, which had been something of a backwater by comparison; with the removal of Jews from its cultural life, and thus the destruction of so much of its culture, Vienna became ever more provincial. Weyr cites hisjournalist father's return to the city after the war, "appalled by what he found": Though the non-Jewish people had the same names, they now looked "Alpine-Nordic" and "spoke a foreign language from which the magic of the Viennese dialect had totally disappeared."Vienna remains provincial and unimportant, Weyr writes, and "the city's culture in the twenty-first century is all in the past," another victim of a tragic time. A solid, well-written history of a city undone.

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.40(w) x 6.30(h) x 1.60(d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Weyr is native of Vienna and was educated at Columbia University, the Sorbonne, and the University of Vienna, where he received his doctorate. He has worked for many years as a journalist and has written and translated ten books. He lives in Bronxville, New York.

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