chapter  4
15 Pages

Conclusions—The Chutzpah of Austrian Jews

In Austria a different kind of sentimentality surrounded the reappearance of Jews in the public consciousness during the 1970s. Epitomised in the enthusiastic unproblematic reception of Friedrich Torberg’s Jewish stories about Tante Jolesch, this sentimentality was closely connected with nostalgia and with humour. Even before Torberg styled himself through these anecdotes as a latter-day coffeehouse wit, he had introduced German readers to the Jewish humour of the Israeli satirist Ephraim Kishon, whose translator he became in the early 1960s. Although the ironic alias ‘Service Jew’ [Jud vom Dienst], through which Torberg engaged in Austrian cultural discourse, demonstrates that he was by no means blind to the anti-Semitic undercurrent in postwar Austria, he was too preoccupied with fi ghting Communism to have a real impact on this climate. Evelyne Polt-Heinzl is probably right when she asserts that:

Had he [Torberg] used a fraction of his combative courage as a publicist to rise up against the evident continuation and revival of anti-Semitic and Fascist attitudes, and to support an active coming to terms with the Nazi past, that would have perhaps been of lasting signifi cance for the development of post-war Austria. (2008)

It was not for lack of courage that Torberg appeased anti-Semitism with Jewish humour.