Bratisla­va Press­burg Poz­sony: Jew­ish Sec­u­lar Endeav­ors, 1867 – 1938

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By – August 29, 2011
East­ern Europe between the world wars may be imag­ined as the last pre­serve of tra­di­tion­al shtetl life, but many Jews there worked in the pro­fes­sions and lived assim­i­lat­ed lives inlarge cities. A case in point is the present-day cap­i­tal of Slo­va­kia, Bratisla­va, where the sci­en­tist A. Robert Neu­rath was born in 1933. As a labor of love he has assem­bled a kind of scrap­book that brings the streets and per­son­al­i­ties of the city back to life.

The won­der­ful pho­tographs that dom­i­nate almost every page reveal a pro­fu­sion of Bauhaus archi­tec­ture, much of it designed by Jews. The streetscapes show a vig­or­ous urban life amid eye­pleas­ing com­mer­cial and pub­lic build­ings, and the sub­ur­ban vil­las exude com­fort and ele­gance. Thumb­nail biogra­phies of the now-for­got­ten archi­tects and a street-by-street walk­ing tour of Jew­ish busi­ness­es pro­vide help­ful con­text.

There are also brief accounts of the lives of promi­nent Jew­ish busi­ness­men, doc­tors, and artists, with dozens of images of art­works as well. Tak­en togeth­er these form a pic­ture of a world much like our own. Chill­ing­ly, this vol­ume also includes a pho­to­graph of Adolf Hitler view­ing Bratisla­va through a tele­scope from a boat in the Danube. It was tak­en two days after the estab­lish­ment of the Nazi-ruled Slo­vak Repub­lic” on March 14, 1939, when this world came abrupt­ly to an end.

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