The News
Dedicated to Austrian-Hungarian Burgenland Family History

February 28, 2017, © 2017 by The Burgenland Bunch
All rights reserved. Permission to copy excerpts granted if credit is provided.

Editor: Thomas Steichen (email:
Archives at: BB Newsletter Index

Our 21st Year. The Burgenland Bunch Newsletter is issued monthly online. It was founded by Gerald Berghold (who retired from the BB in the Summer of 2008 and died in August 2008).

Current Status Of The BB:
* Members: 2507 * Surname Entries: 8021 * Query Board Entries: 5577 * Staff Members: 13

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1) THE PRESIDENT'S CORNER (by Tom Steichen)

Tom SteichenAfter the bits and pieces here in my "Corner" (which I hope you find interesting and/or useful!), we continue with Article 2, one that tells of the Last Jews of Kittsee and of Irmgard Jurkovich's role in maintaining their Memory, a role deserving of recognition and praise.

In Article 3, I discuss some Research Tools Available on our BB Website. My goal is to introduce a new tool and perhaps make an old tool more useful to you.

Article 4, while not directly tied to Burgenland, genealogy or emigration, speaks of the origins of the Fulbright Scholars' Program in Austria in the aftermath of WW-II. Our Bob Strauch was a Fulbright scholar in Austria, which I'm sure contributed to his interest in things Burgenland.

The remaining articles are our standard sections: Historical Newsletter Articles, and the Ethnic Events and Emigrant Obituaries sections.

An Unusual "Last Residence": John and Jane Conner were researching the Taucher family from Neumarkt an der Raab (Farkasdifalva, Hungary) in Burgenland... and were running into difficulties, arising mostly because the "T" in Taucher was being heard (by non-German ears) and recorded as a "D" but also because the "ch" in the name was variously recorded as a "k" or even an "r". Thus grandmother Aloisia Taucher, daughter of János (John) Taucher and Aloisia Zotter, is in the civil records of Neumarkt with surname Dauer!

Great-grandfather John Taucher emigrated and arrived at Ellis Island in March of 1900... he was easy to find. His wife, Aloisia (Zotter) Taucher, appeared in the June 1900 US Census with John, and reported that she emigrated in 1900 too... but we couldn't find her ship manifest. Her naturalization record (from 1923) indicated that she arrived May 30, 1898, on the Kaiser Wilhelm... which seemed highly unlikely... as the 1900 census record said she arrived in 1900, the Kaiser Wilhelm did not arrive on that date in 1898, and her husband almost certainly would have emigrated first, leaving her in Burgenland with their young children. So we resorted to Steve Morse's One-Step Tools, manually searching for ships arriving after John's arrival in March 1900 and before the June 1900 census.

Doing so indicated that the Kaiser Wilhelm arrived on May 30, 1900! (not 1898) ...and a line-by-line search revealed a manifest record for an Aloisia Daucher. That German "T" was heard as a "D" again! Beyond that, everything matched on the record with our expectations... well, except the village named as "Last Residence" was recorded as Ujvasar. Where the devil was that?

John Conner argued that the record matched so well... if we ignore that village of last residence... but still, it wasn't Neumarkt or Farkasdifalva (or anything anywhere near there) ...then he threw out a side comment that vasar translated to fair ...which rang my bell! I knew that Uj (or more accurately Új) translated from Hungarian into new ... but New Fair didn't seem useful... so I looked up vasar and discovered that if you wrote it vásár, it translated to a related word: market... and New Market = Neumarkt in German ... and suddenly we had Neumarkt an der Raab as last residence, exactly what it should have been! So it appears that a patriotic Hungarian clerk on the ship translated the German name for the village into equivalent Hungarian words (apparently not knowing that the Hungarian name for the village was really Farkasdifalva). And that was a new twist for me!

Usage of Land Area in Burgenland, by Political Districts, 2014:

Political District Area (ha) Building Farm Garden Vineyard Forest Water Other
Neusiedl am See 103862 1129 65976 1840 7179 5580 16866 5291
Oberwart 73258 783 31133 2432 299 33458 805 4347
Oberpullendorf 70144 730 28692 1937 2093 32872 697 3124
Güssing 48534 414 22762 1428 150 20626 711 2442
Eisenstadt-Umgebung 45314 662 19398 1468 2219 10785 8553 2228
Jennersdorf 25334 301 12393 955 31 9541 574 1540
Mattersburg 23775 525 11392 1293 309 8382 166 1709
Eisenstadt (city) 4281 165 1602 245 427 1392 26 423
Rust (city) 2001 30 254 47 428 29 1135 78
Burgenland (total) 396502 4741 193602 11644 13134 122664 29534 21182

-- adapted from page Nutzungsarten nach politischen Bezirken found on the Burgenland government website:

I have bolded the largest acreages in each column of the above table so you can see who has the most land invested in each category. Given its large overall size, district Neusiedl am See leads in all categories except Garden and Forest (with its small amount of Forest being a function of it being part of the Little Alföld, an extension of the mostly treeless Hungarian Nagy-Alföld [Great Plains]). However, mere "size" does not tell the whole story.

Leaving out the cities, Mattersburg district is the leader in proportion of land used for Building, Garden and Other; Eisenstadt-Umgebung leads in the Water category and Neusiedl am See in the Vineyard and Farm categories. Forest switches from Oberwart to Oberpullendorf, though they remain very close. Thus only Farm and Vineyard proportions remain with their acreage leader. The leaders in proportion used are indicated in red above.

If you consider just the two cities also, a small surprise is that the largest uses of land in Eisenstadt are Farm and Forest, and in Rust, Water and Vineyard... but remember, cities have a hotter that surround the town itself, so there is more land than just the town site itself. For Rust, that Water acreage was once productively used for reed harvesting (though I doubt that reed is of as much economic importance now).

Overall, the greatest uses of land in Burgenland are Farm and Forest, with Water a surprising third (driven mostly by the Neusiedlersee, of course).

Oklahoma Vital Records Search: The Oklahoma State Department of Health has launched a new website, OK2Explore, where users can search the index to vital records as well as purchase copies. The online index holds Oklahoma records for births occurring more than 20 years ago and deaths occurring more than five years ago. The full record is available to anyone for a fee of $15 for births that occurred more than 125 years ago or deaths that occurred more than 50 years ago. More recent births and deaths require showing an appropriate family relationship or obtaining the permission from a person who so qualifies (see the FAQ on the website for details).

The birth record search tool is here:

That for death records is here:

Catholic Heritage Archive at has announced the immediate online availability of millions of Catholic records from the United States, Britain and Ireland in what they call their Roman Catholic Heritage Archive. Over 3 million records are currently available from sacramental registers for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1757 to 1916 and the British Archdioceses of Westminster and Birmingham from 1657 onwards, plus more than 10 million records from Irish Catholic parish registers that were released last year. The next phase will include records from the archdioceses of New York and Baltimore as well as additional records from Philadelphia. Do note that this is a for-profit website and they charge for access to each record.

A Follow-up on Johann Halbauer: Last month I commented that I had finally found where great-great-uncle Johann L Halbauer, who was born in Wallern, ended up living in Canada, a small town called Heisler, Alberta.

Since then, a kind historian/genealogist in the area provided me with information about his homestead records. Those records spelled his surname Halbauar (the poor man, no one seemed to spell it right!) and provided lots of information:

Location: SE 16 Twp 43 Range 16 W4 (meaning the southeast quarter-section [160 acres] of section 16 within the 36 square mile Township defined by "township line 43, range 16" found west of the 4th Meridian).
Date: Claim filed on 11 May 1903, received patent [title] on 22 Oct 1907.
Notes: He arrived 10 Apr 1904 and built a log house, completed on 19 May 1904 of dimensions about 12 x 24 ft. and had dug a well, together valued at $300 (he lived in a tent until the house was finished). He received naturalization on 18 Apr 1907.  Neighbors John Becker and  Benjamin Terway signed as witnesses that he had "proved up" his claim (by then, he had 'broken' 30 acres, was 'cropping' 20 acres, had installed a mile of fencing, a $100 investment, and had lived continuously on the property since arriving). 

Under the Dominion Lands Act in Canada, individuals could apply to homestead a quarter section of their choice. Then, after paying a $10 filing fee, 'proving up' their homestead claim (occupying the land for at least three years for more than 6 months each year and performing certain improvements, including building a house and barn, fencing, breaking and cropping a portion of the land) and obtaining citizenship, the homesteader could apply for patent (title) to the land. As the notes above indicate, John proved-up his homestead and obtained citizenship in just over the minimum three years, obtaining the patent in 3 years and 5 months.

He was also listed as one of the pioneering homesteaders in the local "Grove School District, No. 1135" in a local history book, though of course they misspelled his surname as Holbaur!

My contact in the Heisler area also found his internment date in the local cemetery, 3 March 1948, though his actual death date still eludes us.

In addition, we discovered additional Burgenländers in the area, as well as other emigrants from Stearns County, MN, where John's sister (Theresia, my great-grandmother) lived. It turns out that there were so many emigrants from Stearns County, MN, that they named a local area near Heisler as the "Stearns District!" Two siblings of three of those emigrants married Theresia's oldest sons, so John also had "in-laws" in the Heisler area.

The "extended" moral of the story is do not give up searching even if you find information in your initial search; there may be more to be found! While I'm suspicious that I have pulled this thread of information about as far as possible, I haven't yet stopped trying... so wish me luck!

Book coverUpdate for book "The Burgenländer Emigration to America": Here is this month's update on purchases of the English issue of the 3rd edition of Dr. Walter Dujmovits' book "Die Amerika-Wanderung Der Burgenländer."

Current total sales are 1139 copies, as interested people purchased 8 more books during this past month.

As always, the book remains available for online purchase at a list price of $7.41 (which is the production charge for the book, as we purposely choose not to make a profit so we can avoid dealing with the income tax consequences and so you can obtain the book at as low a cost as possible!), plus tax & shipping. See the BB homepage for a link to the information / ordering page and for any current discounts (and there is at least one discount on price or shipping available most of the time... if not, wait a few days and there will be one!).

Burgenland Recipes: Vanessa Bammer Sandhu's grandparents are the source for this recipe. Her grandparents come from Inzenhof, Eisenberg an der Pinka, Woppendorf, and Kemesmál, Hungary (near Luising, Burgenland), and all settled in the West Coplay/Coplay/Northampton area of the Lehigh Valley in PA.


1 large onion, chopped        2 Tbsp. butter
1 potato, cubed               1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper                
2 c. green beans, 1" pieces   2 Tbsp. Hungarian paprika
1 tsp. vinegar                2 c. sour cream
2 Tbsp. flour                 water, as needed

Fry chopped onion in butter, add potatoes, salt, and pepper, and continue frying until potatoes are browned and soft. Cook beans until tender in a soup pot, add paprika. Mix in the fryed onions and potatoes, then stir in vinegar. Add sour cream and flour. Stir in water slowly until texture is creamy, then let cook. Season to taste and enjoy.

Reminder: As mentioned a while back, I no longer have a "regular" source for Burgenland recipes. As above, a few readers have shared favorite family recipes so I'm good for a fair number of months now, but if contributions stop coming in, I'll be begging by year-end again! So, please consider sharing your favorite Burgenland recipes or recipe books with me so I can then share them with the readership... and so our ethnic dishes do not get washed away by the ever-flowing river of time and become lost to our future generations. Thanks!

Cartoon of the Month:


This is a true story, told in two parts.

The first part covers events that involved my family and others in 1938 and 1939 and that led Irmgard Jurkovich, a non-Jewish woman born in 1941, to become the memory keeper of the Jews of Kittsee. It was coauthored by my aunt, Mrs. Eugenie Poleyeff, who lived through those events.

The second part, beginning in 2010, documents my interaction with Irmgard and tells her story, one deserving recognition and praise. I hope this article does justice in doing so.

Part 1: 1938-1938

In the 1930s, my father, Joseph Schapiro, lived with his parents, Rose and Jacob, and three siblings, Asher, Rachel and Eugenie, in the town of Kittsee, a tiny community in Austria situated just beyond the outskirts of Bratislava, where Jews lived for many centuries, side by side with their non-Jewish neighbors in peace and harmony. As my grandfather, Jacob, was the town chazzan (cantor) and shochet (ritual slaughterer), and for his last three years in Kittsee (1935-1938) also a Rabbi beside Rabbi Dr. Perls Armin, they lived in an annex of the shul (synagogue) and were very close with the German caretaker, Franz Ströck, his wife, Emma, and children, Franz, Julia and Theresa. My grandfather played chess with the caretaker and the children played with each other. Shabbos (Sabbath) and Yomim Tovim (holidays) were filled with excitement. It was a carefree, fun-filled time.

All this was stilled on one frightening day in the spring of 1938, on April 15th. Kittsee was among the first communities that fell victim to Hitler's murderous plan to eliminate every vestige of Jewish life. The Jews of Kittsee were among the first to be expelled from their homes and community. Some have suggested that the Nazis used Kittsee as a test case—they waited to see what world reaction would be before they continued to other communities. There was no reaction, so they felt free to continue their expulsion of Jews from other towns and cities. In the spring of 1938, Kittsee was taken over by the Nazis. German flags with swastikas appeared over the town's official buildings. Shortly thereafter, the Nazis forced the Jews to take cans of paint and to smear the word "Juden" on the sides of their homes. Following that, they led all the Jewish men down the street and forced them to cry out, "I am a Jewish swine.” My grandfather, who was a leader of the community, was at the front of the line, leading this group of embarrassed and humiliated Jews. He was forced to shout louder than anyone else, "I am a Jewish swine.” The Nazis also gave them pails of water and scrub brushes and forced them to scrub the sidewalks while on their hands and knees.

Many of their non-Jewish friends in the town saw what was happening and were very upset about it. A growing sense of fear and unease began to creep into their lives. Another edict followed hard on the heels of this one. The mayor of the town announced that non-Jews did not have to pay back anything owed to the Jews and they were no longer allowed to purchase any goods from the Jews. All this took place just before Pesach (Passover). During the seder (ceremonial dinner on the first night of Passover commemorating the exodus from Egypt) they could hear the Nazis marching up and down the streets in their goose-step style. Indeed, it was on the night of the seder that the Nazi’s threw the Jews of the town out of their homes. The Nazis came to tell them that they had to get out of their house within ten minutes and gather in the town square. My grandmother, fright clearly etched on her face, rushed the children out. They did not get a chance to take along any of their prized possessions. When they arrived at the square, the Jews were forced to sign over all their possessions to the Nazis. They were further told that they would never see their homes again and, in fact, they never did. They spent the rest of the day without food in a cold cellar. My grandfather was given a paper that he was to read to the group of about 50 people. The gist of it was:

Moses led the Jews across the sea and the water divided in two;
but we will lead you across the river and you will drown.

That night they were loaded onto trucks normally used to transport cattle and taken to another area. They were very cold, very hungry, and very scared. They were forced out of the trucks onto small boats and landed on an island. It was nighttime and very dark and even the adults could not really figure out where they were. They had no choice but to wait out the night and see what could be done on the morning. It was the middle of April and the ground was still frozen. Yet, they spent the night sitting on the ground, huddled together for warmth, and praying.

In the morning they discovered that they were on an island called "Käsmacher Insel" (now Sihoť), close to land on the north shore of the Danube River between the village of Theben (now Devin, Slovakia) and Pressburg (Bratislava). The group decided to wade through the water to get to the land. My grandfather carried his children across the small stretch of water, so that they would not get wet and possibly sick. A butcher named Max Lustig heard them crying “We are Jews out of Kittsee.” He went to the Pressburger Rabbi Wessely’s vice president of the orthodox Jewish community, Aron Grunhut, and told him what happened. Aron Grunhut organized, under the heaviest of difficulties, first a stay in police custody in Pressburg (now Bratislava, Slovakia), and then in “Antonienhof”, a farm estate (now just ruins, located about a mile east of Kittsee in what was then Czechoslovakia and is now Slovakia).

At that point they found themselves in an area that may be described as a "no-man's land.” It was a small wedge of Czechoslovakian territory on the southwest side of the Danube, with the Austrian border to the west and the Hungarian border to the south. The area contained a forest (the Pheasant Wood / Fasanenholz / Fácán erdő / Jarovská bažantnica), as well as some open fields. They decided to start walking towards the borders hoping to cross to get to a small town and get some help. They walked during the night only. During the day they hid in the forest. They first started toward the Hungarian border, some 6 miles away, hoping that the border guards there would let them through. When they got there, they were turned away because they did not have passports. Their passports, of course, had been confiscated by the Nazis.

Map 1: Kittsee is toward the bottom-center; Theben is in the top-left corner; Pressburg is in the upper-right; Käsmacher Insel is circled in lime green; Antonienhof is between Kittsee and the Danube River; the border between Austria and Czechoslovakia is shown in red.

They then returned to the Czech authorities, another night's walk, but again they were turned away. They did not have any food during this time. To add to their problems, it was the season when vegetables or fruits could not be found on the trees or in the forest. Years later, my grandfather told the story of a piece of candy that he found in his pocket. My father and his siblings all wanted the candy. My grandfather's decision was to give the piece of candy to one of the children and tell them to take only a couple of licks of the candy so that it could be passed on to the rest of them. Every couple of hours, the children each took a couple of licks and then automatically passed it from one to the other. They wandered about for four days, from one border to the other, begging to be let in the country, but the guards were afraid to allow them to enter. The Austrian and Hungarian border guards decided that the best thing to do was to send the Jews back to Kittsee, the town from which they came. The Jews objected for they knew that the Nazis were there and did not want them to return. The border guards surrounded them and, with rifles pointing at them (my father, who was 8 years old at the time, remembers that a gun was put to his forehead), warned them not to return. Somehow they actually did get back to Kittsee, exhausted and shabby, and the Nazis could not believe their eyes. After harassing them for a while, they pushed them down into a cellar again. My uncle (five years old at the time) remembers being kicked into the cellar.

My family’s former non-Jewish neighbors stood by, very upset. Many had tears in their eyes when they saw them. They sent them packages of food, which contained salami and bread. Though the food was not kosher and they could not eat bread during the week of Pesach, my grandfather made them eat the food because their lives were in danger. Even though this is permissible according to Jewish law in such a situation, he himself did not eat the food.

Again, the Nazis forced them into trucks, drove them back to "no-man's land,” and told them, in no uncertain terms, never to return. They did not know which way to go. My grandparents were becoming more and more worried, and the thought now crossed their minds that they were not going to survive this ordeal. They decided on a course of action to increase the chances of survival of at least the children. They decided that they would try to find a place, such as a small hut or barn, and leave the children there with the hope that they would be found. They wrote a note that they were going to leave with them. In that note they wrote that these were Jewish children and asked those who found them to please feed and take care of them until, if by some miracle, my grandparents would survive and return and take them back. A desperate measure, indeed, of desperate people in a desperate situation.

As it turned out, God was surely watching over them, for, at just about this time, one of the men from the group found an unguarded opening in the border leading to a small town of Rajka in Hungary. They knocked on the door of the first house they came to and were surprised to find that Jews were living there. They stayed there for several days.

Meanwhile, Aron Grunhut had made contact with the American Joint Distribution Committee. He made contact with relief organizations in Prague and Paris, like HICEM (a merger of three agencies, HI=Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, C=Jewish Colonization Association, and EM=Emigdirect/United Jewish Emigration Committee) and the Jewish Agency. He was in contact with the HICEM authorized representative, Mrs. Marie Schmolka, in Prague. Aron Grunhut became a leader of HICEM. He was indefatigable in his hunt for money to get visas, entry permits, and certificates for the expelled Jews since they could no longer stay in Antonienhof, nor at the castle in the village of Karlburg (Oroszvár / now Rusovce, Slovakia). At that time, in winter dock at Pressburg, a French barge and the tugboat "Sena" were located. They were loaded up with straw mattresses, pillows, and covers, and the tugboat headed towards Rajka. The barge settled on the Danube River, so located that half of it was in Hungary and the other half in Czechoslovakia. The barge was partially submerged, tied by ropes to piles on the banks of the river.

Map 2: Kittsee is in the upper-left corner (with Antonienhof to its right); Rajka (Ragendorf) is toward the lower-right corner; the red lines intersecting near Ragendorf are the borders of Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary; barge anchorage was somewhere along the red line where it crosses the Danube (Donau) river and its many side channels.

While they were on the barge, the caretaker [pictured at the right] of the shul (synagogue) of Kittsee risked his life and came to visit. With him he brought some clothing for the children, seforim (Jewish books) for my grandfather and leichter (candlesticks) for my grandmother. He was truly one of the tzaddikei umos ha'olam, one of the righteous gentiles.

Food was sent to them by nearby Jewish communities in Hungary and Czechoslovakia: Rajka, Györ (Raab), Moson (Wieselburg), Komárno (in Czechoslovakia), Szombathely (Steinamanger) and Sárvár. It was a true act of chessed (kindness) on their part even though the food often consisted of a pot of soup for the entire day. Sometimes the food was not very goodit may have spoiled on the way. The bad food was thrown overboard, which caused a new problem: rats.

Left: The refugees at Rajka; Right: Inside the barge (grandfather Jacob Schapiro is at far right).

Inside the barge was one large room, divided by sheets across the width of the barge. The men and boys slept on one side of the room and the women and girls on the other side. When the children slept, my grandmother stood guard to see that the rats did not disturb the children. One time she fell asleep with my aunt sleeping on her shoulder. Someone cried out, "A rat!" Thinking that the rat was on her and, since she was half asleep, my grandmother grabbed my aunt's hair and threw her away from her.

The refugees and the barge, anchored along the Danube River at the Czechoslovak/Hungarian border.

During their stay on the barge, people from different organizations came to interview them and investigate their plight. One of the visitors was a young man named Peter Mendelssohn. He interviewed everyone, especially my grandparents, and spent quite a bit of time on the barge. They found out later that, based on these interviews, he wrote a novel called "Across the Dark River.” Although a novel, the story was about 98% true. Those who were there can easily identify the fictional characters with their real counterparts.

Neither Hungary nor Czechoslovakia, the countries where the barge was located, wanted the Jews to be where they were; they threatened on a daily basis that they were going to cut the ropes and let the barge float down the river and possibly sink. The Jews never knew where they would be the next morning. They stayed on this smelly, rat-infested barge for a period of five months.

New York Times article on the tugboat refugees.

My family was then taken to a concentration camp in Budapest. This concentration camp was not like the German camps that we know of. It was more of a detention camp. They slept twenty to a room, on double-decker beds, two or three in a bed. They could not leave the confines of the area and were there for a period of thirteen months.

During this time, my family was able to get mail to my grandfather’s sister, who lived in New York. She worked tirelessly for their release and, with much effort on her part, she was able to procure visas and arrange for my father’s family to come to the States. They came on one of the last ships to leave Europe in November of 1939. A total of eighteen months had passed from the time they were forced to leave Kittsee on that Pesach evening.

Part II: 2010 -2016

In 2010, I went to Kittsee with my husband. In my preparation for the trip I stumbled upon the name of a woman named Irmgard Jurkovich. She is a non-Jewish woman who was born in 1941. As a six-year-old child, she walked past the Jewish cemetery in Kittsee and wondered, “Where are the Jews?” When she received no satisfactory answer, she began to try to find out for herself. Once she heard the truth about the Jews of Kittsee she made it her mission to perpetuate the memory of those last Jews of Kittsee. She also took it upon herself to do whatever she could to prevent history from repeating itself. To that end she collected as much information about the Jews as she could and created an archive in her home.

As the principal of the elementary school of the town, she had her students participate in many projects that involved meeting and interviewing survivors and their families in Israel, Hungary and the US. She studied Jewish religion, culture, and history and shared what she learned in order to remove the stereotype of Jews. She visited Jewish cemeteries in Burgenland and Prague and studied Hebrew. She seized every opportunity to speak about her findings. Her students did much research about the Jews of Kittsee and submitted their findings to the competition "Year of Tolerance” in 1995. They won the competition and two grades won the prize of spending a week in Israel. One of her students spoke at the inauguration of the Hall of Encounter in the Rechavia Gymnasium. Another spoke at Yad Vashem during the memorial ceremony in the Valley of the Communities. She has since retired as principal but is often asked to speak at the University Extension in Eisenstadt and Kittsee and the Austrian Embassy in Bratislava/Pressburg to report about the Jewish community of Kittsee. She erected a memorial plaque where the Kittsee shul once stood and initiated an annual "European Day of Jewish Culture." [The plaque, shown to the right, with Suzie and her husband Steve, when translated to English, reads: Here was the synagogue of Kittsee, which was desecrated by the National Socialists in April 1938. We commemorate the victims and persecutees of the Jewish community of Kittsee.] She photographed all of the kevarim and epitaphs in the Jewish cemetery and plans to register the cemetery.

I sent an email to Irmgard introducing myself and explaining the nature of our upcoming trip. Irmgard immediately responded with all sorts of information about my family. She provided documentation of my parents’ address where they had lived in New York and of their trip to Vienna in 1975. She sent the contact information of all of my father’s classmates who were still alive. She sent articles about the history of the Jews of Kittsee and their expulsion. Since then, I have been in contact with Irmgard. She helps me with my family research and answers my many questions. She is well versed in Jewish tradition and culture and even sends me articles about the Jewish holidays.

When my husband and I traveled to Kittsee, we spent the day with Irmgard and her husband, Joschi. They took us to where the shul (synagogue) stood. It is there that she had erected a memorial plaque in memory of the Kehilla (Jewish community) of Kittsee. They took us to the police station where the Nazis rounded up the Jews and to the Jewish cemetery. She showed us around the town to see the homes where the Jews lived. She even took us to meet the Burgomeister who had met with my parents 35 years before. She also took us to see the kever (grave) of the Chatam Sofer, which is 5 kilometers from her home, right over the border in Slovakia (then Pressburg/Pozsony, now Bratislava). Before we came, Irmgard had invited us to come eat in her home. When we explained that we eat strictly kosher, she was very respectful and told us that she would find a kosher restaurant to take us to. It took some time but she was persistent until she found a place that met our standards.

Irmgard also connected us to a daughter of the caretaker of the shul. My husband and I went to meet Julia (called “Jultschi”) and her daughter, Martha. Julia shared with us what she remembered about our family and the days before the war. She sang a song for us that she recalled from our family’s home. She reminisced about my father and his siblings when they were very young. She talked about how serious my father was, always wanting to teach her things. He even had wanted to teach her Hebrew. She remembered that my uncle was more playful and was always trying to sell her things. Indeed my father became a teacher and my uncle became a businessman.

Irmgard provided me with the contact information of people who were on the barge in Rajka with my family and their descendants. In my constant quest to get more information about our family history, I arranged a reunion for those that reside in Israel. It was a very lively meeting, as everyone was excited to share the information that they had.

This summer my brother decided to make the trip to Kittsee, and I, of course, could not turn down his invitation to join him. We sat in Irmgard and Joschi’s home, went to see the memorial plaque for the shul, stopped by the cemetery, had lunch in the same kosher restaurant, and visited the kever of the Chatam Sofer. But this time we were accompanied by Erich Schneller. Erich Schneller produces documentaries about Jews in the Burgenland. He joined us for the day with his crew, videoing us and interviewing us all along the way. It was most touching when Irmgard presented us with my father’s 3rd grade report card. As the principal of the school in Kittsee, she went to sift through the contents of the school building when it was slated for demolition and kindly saved it for us.

Irmgard is driven by the mission she has chosen in her life. She is active in perpetuating the memory of the last Jews of Kittsee on a constant basis. If there would have been more people like Irmgard living during the years of the war, it is certainly possible that historical events would not have unfolded in the tragic way that they did.

Postscript: Below are two pictures (of the same family) that I found in my parents' home. Since I cannot identify the people, I ask all readers to help. If you know who they are, please contact me or the BB Newsletter Editor, Tom Steichen. Thanks.



A small but new resource was added to the BB website this month, which got me to thinking about resources we offer that may be underutilized or that exist elsewhere that I've never talked about. I'll tell you about that new feature below, but first I'll talk about an old friend, the search tools on the BB website... and then I'll mention a few other tools, both on our site and off, that you might find useful.

Search Boxes on the BB Website: Our website contains a number of Search tools like this one found on the home page:

If you are reading this newsletter online, then this is actually a "live" search box that you can experiment with, so follow along with me.

The top line in the box lets you put in keywords and, if more than one keyword, specifies how they are to be handled and then where to look for those words. By default, keywords are not case-sensitive nor accent-sensitive. Thus Konig, König, konig and könig are all the same, at least by default. However, Koenig (the English "version" of König) would be considered a separate word. If you want only some of the first four konigs, you can select case-sensitive and/or accent-sensitive searches by first clicking Advanced Search and selecting the appropriate option(s) there.

One way to get around the fact that Koenig is considered a separate word is to use a wild-card search: that is, search for K*nig instead, as the * is a wild-card placeholder for one or more characters. The other wild-card is ?, which is a placeholder for a single character.

You can also search for exact phrases, for example: Tom Steichen. To match that exactly, put it in quotes: "Tom Steichen". To match it within a couple of words, use square brackets: [Tom Steichen]. Thus if my middle name is between Tom and Steichen, you still find me. To match beyond a few words, use braces: {Tom Steichen}. However, that doesn't differ greatly from the default search of "Match ALL words" ...but it does differ a little! It turns out that the default "Match ALL words" approach switches automatically to "Match ANY word" (the other "how to match" option for multiple keywords) if all the words are not found together in even one document. Using braces would avoid this possibility.

You can also require a word to be present or absent with the + and - qualifiers. Thus -Tom +Steichen says to return pages where Steichen is present but Tom is not.

You can also use the Boolean Operators AND and OR. For example: ("Tom Steichen") OR ("Klaus Gerger") would give you pages where either or both phrases was/were present. If you replace OR with AND, then both phrases would have to be present.

You can also mix and match any of these features (wild-cards, phrases, Boolean operators, present/absent qualifiers, and the case- and accent-sensitive switches) together in a single search... it just depends on your ingenuity!

Finally, the keywords also employ a feature call word-stemming. Thus a search for run also returns runs and running. [This feature cannot be turned off.]

As for the "where to search" choices, each search box defaults to a specific choice (the example above to "Search ALL of the BB Website"). If you click the arrow at the end of that box, other more-limited sets of files can be chosen. Depending on where you find a search box, the default where option may change as well as the possible choices.

Have fun searching!

Place Names In Burgenland: Back in 2013, the BB attempted to help a correspondent who was searching for a place called Raaba Batthyán, which, if not in Burgenland, was apparently nearby (see Newsletter 236, Article 3) and evidently related to a royal estate. Ultimately, we did not find Raaba Batthyán. One of the things I offered then was a link (placeId=8156785) that provided a “Geo location” for a Raaba Batthyán that mapped a less-than-helpful small patch of trees between empty fields... well, at least it did then. When I tried the link recently, it pointed to a page that looked like this:

You should see that Rababattyan is listed as a name variant of Rába-Doroszló and that there is a corresponding "Geo code" link. Clicking the link, unfortunately, just leads to a mostly blank page, as that feature is apparently broken. However, putting the Geo code information into GoogleMap's search box takes you to a view of Rába-Doroszló ...and just down the road a bit from the tagged spot is an evident castle, one that a little research reveals was built by Ferenc Batthyány about 1600 and that still stands. Its distances from Neumarkt an der Raab and Jormannsdorf match what the correspondent expected, so I'm sure we've found it for him. However, the real point here is that there is a useful tool on the web for finding such "name variants" ( that I hadn't previously been aware of (but it is nice that we were able to help our correspondent too!).

However, it turns out that the above link is "no longer supported," which likely explains why the "Geo code" link did not work. Regardless, a new Place Research Tool at has replaced it and it provided the reason I'm writing this section of this article. If you go to that page, it shows a GoogleMaps map and a custom place search box (so this section of this article is related to the first section above about BB search boxes). If you click on the "Advanced" button, the box opens up like what I show to the right. Putting text Burgenland into the Jurisdiction box and hitting Search returns 657 place names that are indicated on the map with Google's typical place markers... the map is quite crowded with markers, as you might imagine (and one place is marked far from Burgenland, indicating that place was erroneously tagged as being in the Burgenland jurisdiction). Along with the map, an alphabetized list of all 657 names appears (though it is almost hidden by the Advanced Search box... click Advanced again to shrink the box and show the list.

If you examine the list, you will see that some place names are repeated, for example, Mattersburg is listed as a District, a Town, and a Commune... all of which are correct (though a little annoying... as you have to think carefully about whether they represent the same or different places this case, the same place, though that is not always true).

Clicking on the Mattersdorf name (I picked the Town version for this example) returns what is know about the place, including, for example, that alternate names for Mattersdorf were: Mattersdorf (German), Mattersburg (German), Nagymarton (Hungarian), Matrštof (Croatian), and Nagy Marton (Hungarian).

There also is a maddening inconsistency for the type of place (city, town, village, populated place, etc.) that towns are listed as. While Mattersburg is a district, a town and a commune, these words are rather generic, thus lacking informative precision. A Burgenland "district" (i.e., a Bezirk) is probably closer in meaning to a County rather than a district in US terminology; a commune most closely represents a Burgenland Gemeinde (i.e., municipality); and a true Burgenland "town" can be of multiple types: Ortschaft, Gemeinde, Stadtgemeinde, Marktgemeinde, and Freistadt... and all but Ortschaften are municipalities (some form of Gemeinde). 

This confusion of terminology thus leads me to this aside about the Burgenland designations for populated places:

Burgenland Populated Places:

There are 328 named places in Burgenland known as Katastralgemeinden. These 328 places are important to genealogical researchers because land was assigned to the Katastralgemeinden and, therefore, historical records (such as Urbaria) were kept under these names. Places of "type" Ortschaft, Gemeinde, Stadtgemeinde, Marktgemeinde, and Freistadt mostly were and still are Katastralgemeinden. [Side note: The previous sentences are slightly false in that there are currently eight "hyphenated" Gemeinde names, such as, for example, Burgauberg-Neudauberg. These hyphenated place names are modern constructs that did not exist in the time of Urbaria, but each village listed in those hyphenated names, Burgauberg and Neudauberg in this example, which are now 'typed' as Ortschaften, would have been counted as Gemeinden then. After subtracting the modern 'hyphenated' Gemeinden, the correct number of historical Katastralgemeinden was 320.]

Among these 328 Katastralgemeinden, there are 171 places currently known as some form of Gemeinden (municipalities): 2 Freistädte, 67 Marktgemeinden, 11 Stadtgemeinden, and 91 Gemeinden. These 171 places are important to genealogical researchers because these are the modern local governmental units in Burgenland... and therefore keepers of records. The remaining 328 - 171 = 157 Katastralgemeinden are the Ortschaften and each Ortschaft is governmentally associated with one Gemeinde.

While the designation of some Gemeinden as Freistädte, Marktgemeinden, or Stadtgemeinden had historical significance (the right to be designated as such, and the benefits that therefore accrued, had to be purchased from or awarded by the noble who owned the village), it does not indicate any current governmental/political significance nor indicate population size of the community. Such designations are mostly about local civic pride in modern Burgenland.

A place designated as a "Populated Place" or a "Farm" is simply a named settlement that may appear in some records but was not an official record keeper of any type.

Now let me jump back to talking about the Place Research Tool at and the 657 place names that were returned as being in the Burgenland jurisdiction. There is an "Export Results" button that permits you the option to download the data returned from a search ...and I have done so for the Burgenland places. From that data, I have created a page for the BB website that provides the place names, the Gemeinde in which the place is, the type of place, and the geographic latitude and longitude data that allows it to be mapped via GoogleMaps.

As part of that effort, I "cleaned up" the data, removing inappropriate or redundant places, correcting errors, and designating the 'type' of place using proper Burgenland terminology (which is why I explained about Burgenland place names in the above box... that same explanation is also on the new page). I'm also in the process of indicating the Gemeinde in which each place is, though that is an in-progress effort that is not complete at this time; however, I decided to announce this resource despite not being fully done yet—besides, I'm sure we we'll add more places as time goes by (if you have such a place that you would like added, please let me know).

I will note that the
geographic latitude and longitude data that allows places to be mapped via GoogleMaps is often "off" slightly and that GoogleMaps zooms in so close that you don't always see the place name on the displayed map. Simply "zoom out" a time or two and you'll usually find the place.

The direct link to this new resource is: Links to it have been placed on the main BB Maps page and the BB Villages page and the BB Home page. Try it out and let me know what you think about it.


Ed Note: In the immediate aftermath of World War II, J. William Fulbright (1905-1995), a junior Senator from Arkansas, came up with a simple but productive idea. In 1946, he tagged an amendment on to the Surplus Property Act of 1944 that stipulated that foreign credits earned overseas by the sale of U.S. wartime property could be used to finance educational exchange with other countries. This amendment, which Fulbright pushed through Congress, became Public Law 584 on August 1, 1946, and laid the foundations for the U.S. Government’s flagship international educational exchange program that came to bear his name.

Since 1946, approximately 310,000 "
Fulbrighters"117,000 students, teachers, scholars, scientists, and professionals from the United States and 193,000 from abroadhave participated in the program, whose objective is to promote mutual understanding between the peoples of the United States and other nations. BB staff member Bob Strauch was a Fulbrighter, living two years in Graz, Austria, under the Fulbright exchange program teaching English. Today some 8,000 Fulbright grants are awarded annually under the auspices of the program.

Fulbright, himself, was a
Rhodes Scholar in Oxford, England from 1924 into 1928. In early fall 1928, he traveled to Vienna, where he was to live for almost half a year. Four years in Oxford had provided Fulbright with an intercultural academic experience, but Vienna introduced him to the world of international politics, foreign correspondents, and the intrigues connected with both. The basis for Fulbright’s fascination with international and supranational organizations, which characterizes his whole career, as well as his inquiry into the possibilities of dialogues between cultures, was most certainly laid in Vienna in 1928/29. His experiences in Oxford and Vienna were likely the seminal influences that drove his efforts to establish the educational exchange scholarship program that now bears his name.

Dr. Wilhelm Schlag (1923-2011), author of the following article, was the Executive Secretary of the United States Educational Commission in Austria (aka, the Fulbright scholar program) from its inception in 1950 until 1955. He was the founding director of the Austrian Institute in New York City (1956-67) and director of the Austrian Cultural Institute in London (1971-74). In addition, he held a series of important positions in the Austrian ministries of education and science, where he concluded his career of public service as Director General responsible for university libraries, the Austrian National Library, the national museums, and the preservation of monuments (1978-84).

The following article was written by Dr. Schlag in 2000 as part of a "
festschrift" (commemorative publication) on the 50th anniversary of the Fulbright program. The notes in [square brackets] are mine.

Dr. Schlag writes: It was July 27, 1944. General Patton’s Third Army had started the attack that was to end the stalemate in Normandy. I was crawling through the high grass of a meadow near St. Lo, trying to contact the neighboring company to coordinate the defense of a long gap between our two units. I had almost reached the nearest foxhole when I found myself looking into the muzzle of a Thompson machine gun. I realized that the figure pointing the weapon at me must have been hidden in the dense bushes of the hedge row. He was not a member of the 10th company of the 8th regiment of the 3rd German parachute division, but an American GI. After having been "processed" as a prisoner of war in England, I was one of the "passengers"—among them many members of the Wlassow Army [aka, Vlasov Army = Russian Liberation Army, mostly Russian forces led by Andrey Vlasov, a defected Red Army general, that fought on the Nazi side], who later were turned over to the Soviets—in the hold of the former German banana ship Widhuk, in a huge convoy bound for New York. Thus began my acquaintance with the USA, which I unintentionally helped win the war by husking corn and harvesting sugar beets and potatoes in Nebraska. I also acted as camp interpreter and taught POWs English, and officers of a bomber group stationed at an air base near our camp, German. (This unit was to be transferred to a base in western Germany in the event that the Cold War turned hot. Its B-29s could have penetrated deeply into Soviet territory.) The tensions that had begun to develop between the two power blocks as soon as the war in Europe and the Far East had ended were also the reason why the former soldiers of the German Wehrmacht [Army] in the US were not repatriated at the beginning of 1946 but turned over to Great Britain, where preparations were made for the formation of German units to fight on the side of the Western allies. However, the British separated the Austrians from the former Reichsdeutsche, and in July 1946 I saw Austria again.

In September of that year, I resumed my studies at the University of Vienna. I was able to finish them in June 1949 because veterans were credited with one semester for each two years lost on account of the war, provided they passed all prescribed exams. In 1948, I applied for one of the scholarships offered by the United States High Commissioner for Austria. The argument that I wanted to see the United States again (but not through barbed wire), my command of American English, and my acquaintance with many aspects of American ways—the first of the many books I read as a POW was Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People—gained me a scholarship at the University of California at Los Angeles for the 1949/50 academic year. After my return to Austria, I was offered the position of Executive Secretary of the newly-constituted United States Educational Commission in Austria. Along with Franz Topol, who was appointed finance officer of the Commission at the same time, I immediately began to make preparations for the execution of the first program year of 1951/52.

At the end of World War II, the United States had enormous quantities not only of weapons and ammunition but also of everything else the world’s best-equipped armed forces needed in the various theaters of war: field hospitals, tents, barracks, beds and bedding, motor vehicles, completely equipped repair shops, road and bridge building equipment, field kitchens, food stores, medical supplies, radio installations, print shops, office and audiovisual equipment, etc. When the war was over, all of this appeared no longer to be needed—in the United States, that is! It would have cost more in terms of money, manpower, and logistics to transport it back to the United States than could have been gained from selling it there as war surplus. But war-ravaged Europe and Asia were in dire need of these on-site treasures, and the United States sold them to the countries which wanted them at a fraction of what they had cost and was willing to accept "local currencies" in light of the fact that European countries had no dollars. As a result of these sales, the United States accrued huge credits, and it was upon Senator Fulbright’s initiative that these credits came to be available for financing educational exchanges.

Expenses incurred by American grantees in the countries participating in the program, which quickly came to be known by the name of its creator, were covered by reserves accrued in the local, initially soft, currencies, and nationals of those countries were given a chance to go to the United States to study, to teach, and to pursue research, provided, first, that a carrier (in the first years of the program invariably a shipping line) accepted payment in a soft currency for its services and second, if the grantees had the necessary institutional affiliation, which in most cases meant admission to a recognized institution of higher education and on-site dollar support. These latter requirements could seldom be met by the applicants on their own, who for the most part had been helped by the Institute of International Education in New York or other American not-for-profit organizations, which arranged for, or mediated support by, philanthropic societies, foundations, service organizations like Rotary clubs, churches, student fraternities, etc. Under the terms of their grants, the grantees were required to return to their countries of origin after their stays in the USA. The Fulbright program was not to be an immigration facilitation program. Participating countries wanted to benefit from the US experience of the grantees they sent to the United States upon their return, and the United States rightfully expected grantees to go back home with a better understanding of American institutions and the proverbial American way of life. [This "home-residency requirement" is still part of Fulbright visa sponsorship. Recipients of so-called J-1 or academic exchange visas must leave the United States upon the completion of their programs and may not re-enter the country as an emigrant or for temporary or permanent employment until after they have fulfilled a two year home-residency requirement.]

The first group of American Fulbright scholars in 1951 came to a country where the traces of the war that had ended only six years previously were omnipresent. The grantees were not only struck by the many ruins but by the many invalids. Austria also was occupied, and the "Four in a Jeep" were reality, not only a movie [a 1951 movie set in post-WW-II Vienna, the "four" being military policemen representing each of the occupying nations]. I had met the initial group of U.S. grantees in Innsbruck to travel with them by train to Vienna. (They had landed at Le Havre and had taken a train from Paris to Innsbruck, which was in the French zone of occupation.) I remember the unease that pervaded the group when we reached the bridge over the Enns River that formed the demarcation line between the American and Soviet zones of occupation and Soviet soldiers checked our car.

After the initial years, there was no more rationing in Austria, but many items that were staples in the United States, like orange juice or peanut butter, were simply not available at the local grocer’s. It was particularly difficult in those years to find adequate housing for the grantees. In light of the amount of damage done by bombing and shelling—the Donaukanal [Danube Canal] had been one of the main lines of resistance to the Soviet advance in Vienna—as well as the neglect caused by two wars and the resulting impoverishment of the bourgeoisie and the strict rent control that had discouraged investment in private construction, the standard of the rooms offered to the Commission was sometimes rather low. People who had suitable rooms in the zones occupied by the Western allies would either not let them or often demand rents too high for the grantees. I remember with admiration the understanding attitude of many grantees, who were not deterred by pre-war plumbing. During those initial years, the Commission had to ask the Board of Foreign Scholarships, the central authority for the administration of the Fulbright program, to warn applicants, particularly senior scholars with families, that living conditions in Austria often were simply not what they were used to in America. The Commission secretariat tried to help as much as possible. Every room was inspected, and the terms of the lease were negotiated by a member of the Commission staff before a room was offered to a grantee. In time, we had a pool or reliable addresses at our disposal.

All other aspects of life in Austria at that time, particularly in the context of their academic undertakings, were touched upon in the written and oral orientation of the grantees. Throughout the year, the Commission secretariat also sent them an information bulletin titled Was ist Los? [What's Happening?] dealing with academic life in Austria, administrative matters, important events, Austrian customs and folklore, sports, etc. Special guides explaining, for example, Austrian food terms or mores, such as the arcane use of the familiar Du [you], were conceived to make life in Austria easier for them. Excursions to points of interest in the countryside surrounding Vienna necessitated the application for permits by the Soviet authorities via the US Embassy. Since I was an ardent skier, I arranged the participation of Fulbright scholars in the ski courses in some of the most scenic areas of Austria conducted by the Universitätsturnanstalt [University Gymnastics Institute] during the Christmas recess. These and other extracurricular activities, like visits to museums and historic sites, or the occasional visit to a Heurigen [winery] created many lasting friendships and a true esprit de corps.

The American grantees—students, research scholars, and teachers—were, without exception, highly competent, well motivated and thus excellent representatives of their country. Those in the student category all were graduates. Many were historians who did research in Austrian archives for their doctoral dissertations. Scholars specializing in Austrian literature, musicologists, and musicians also were well represented, of course. The latter made full use of the rich offerings of Austria’ s musical life.

As far as academe was concerned, the American grantees had to adjust to peculiarities prevailing at the time, such as the distance separating students from teachers. This also was something that American scholars in Austria experienced, who were used to greater student participation in the classroom. To help the grantees cope with this situation—and remembering the assistance I had received at UCLA—I suggested to the Commission that it invite Austrian faculty members, preferably with American experience, to act as Vertrauensdozenten [liaison lecturers] for incoming US faculty grantees.

Policymakers in Washington understandably attached great importance to propagating American studies in the countries participating in the Fulbright program and consequently encouraged American experts to teach American studies in Austria, too. Sometimes these experts were disappointed by what they perceived as a lack of interest in the field on the part of Austrian students. The reason was not disinterest, however, but the fact that the emphasis in the curricula of the English departments—and only there were qualified students to be found—traditionally was on Great Britain and the Commonwealth. The Austrian professors teaching at those departments had thorough British experiences but almost never American ones. Therefore, Amerikanistik [American studies] was not yet a field in which Anglisten [English studies] were required to take exams in order to obtain a degree. The situation was changing not only at the Austrian universities but throughout Western Europe as the USA made its weight felt in the struggle between East and West that had begun as soon as World War II had ended. In this struggle, the Austrians, who knew what it meant to be liberated by the Red Army and also were benefiting from the Marshal Plan, CARE, etc., unquestionably were on the side of the angels.

As the Fulbright program progressed, increasing numbers of former Austrian grantees assumed positions in government, the private sector, and institutions of higher education. The number of applicants far exceeded the number of grants available. The American grantees teaching at Austrian secondary schools also did their part in increasing the interest of young Austrians in the United States. Teaching at Austrian schools was invariably a satisfying experience for these teachers. They found their students alert and disciplined, which was not surprising because after the war many of the, mostly male, Austrian teachers had been officers or noncoms in two wars and commanded respect.

For most of the American Fulbrighters, it was a novel experience to look at their own country from the outside and, during those years when Europe was trying to recover from the material and spiritual damage done in the most terrible wars the Continent had ever experienced, to learn that there were people who, in spite of many shortcomings, somehow managed not only to survive but occasionally even got a kick out of life.

For me, the American experience continued in 1956 when I was given the opportunity by the Austrian Government to go to New York to prepare the ground for the establishment of an Austrian Cultural Institute. In doing so, I was able to count on the help of many of the former US grantees, who had become members of the faculties of prestigious American universities, and on former staff members of the U.S. Embassy in Vienna: Mr. Joseph M. Roland and Dr. Wilder E. Spaulding, in particular. I cooperated with Dr. Spaulding when he wrote The Quiet Invaders, which is still the best book on the contributions of Austrian immigrants to American life and civilization. After my return to Austria in 1967, I was able to draw further on my Fulbright experience when I prepared a study upon which the Austrian Government based its decision to make endowments (on the occasion of the bicentennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence in 1976) to the University of Minnesota to establish the Center for Austrian Studies and to Stanford University for a chair for visiting Austrian scholars.

Last but not least, I met the girl who was to become my wife when she came to the Fulbright secretariat to inquire about a grant, and the two older of our three sons were born in New York and have dual citizenship, while the third and youngest, who was born in Vienna, currently is teaching mathematics at Princeton University. And this all started on that 27th day of July, 1944, when that unknown GI did not pull the trigger.


Editor: This is part of our series designed to recycle interesting articles from the BB Newsletters of 10 years ago. In the February 2007 edition, Gerry published an article about the silk and garment industry factories of Allentown, PA, that provided work for many unskilled Burgenland emigrants, including some of his own family members. It was tedious work but put bread on the table.

February 28, 2007


The following query from the RootsWeb Burgenland Board caught my interest:

Correspondent writes: "Both my mother's family and my father's mother's family all came from Burgenland to Allentown between 1903-1907. Nearly all of them ended up in the silk mills. As I have done research I see that many other Burgenländers ended up in the silk mills as well. I know it was a good work opportunity since the silk mill owners in Paterson, NJ, began building mills in Allentown to break the 1913 Socialist movement in their mills there, but with virtually no main industry in Burgenland at the time, how did so many find success in the silk industry?"

To which I respond: One of the main "pull" factors that brought Burgenland immigrants to the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania was the demand for labor. Of particular importance was the fact that much of this demand was for unskilled (and therefore cheap) labor that could be trained. One industry in dire need of labor was the newly-formed silk industry that began in Allentown in the summer of 1880. Few Burgenland immigrants, coming from a mainly rural background, had any particular skill, although some had been apprenticed in the building, garment, blacksmith and similar trades. Lack of a skill was especially true of female workers, although there was a tobacco-product mill in southern Burgenland (at Szent Gotthárd) that employed women. Many of these found pre-marriage work in the Allentown cigar factories.

In 1881, the large Adelaide Silk Mill opened in Allentown. Its success paved the way for more; the number growing to over 100 mills between 1890 and 1930. In 1928, the peak year, there 143 mills in the Lehigh Valley. By 1928, silk and textile production was the second-largest industry in Lehigh County. The weaving of silk led to other industries: dye works, loom parts, spindles, shuttles, quills, shipping, etc. By the early 1930s, the silk industry declined worldwide and synthetics took the place of silk. By 1941, 85% of the production involved rayon and acetate. The last silk mill in Allentown, Catoir Silk Mill, closed in 1989.

Immigrants, both men and women, were hired and informally apprenticed to previously trained workers. It was necessary for the apprentice to subsidize his trainer. As they gained experience they were absorbed in production and took part in training others. Some became weavers, loom fixers, or foremen... the top jobs. Others had less-skilled jobs such as quillers and helpers... lower paid jobs. A quiller earned 12 cents an hour ($6.48 a week) while warpers and weavers earned as much as $30 a week. Until the 1930s, the usual work week was ten hours a day from Monday to Friday and four hours on Saturday. Piecework was the norm between 1920-1940. There was major labor unrest in the 1930s, one of the factors that helped lead to the eventual decline of the mills. By the end of the 1950s, the weaving mills were mostly gone, torn down or converted to other production, but as far as Burgenland immigrants were concerned, they had served their purpose and their descendants had been absorbed into the other industries of mainstream America.

The proximity of fabric mills attracted the garment industry, and countless immigrant women worked sewing garments, often on a piece-work basis. There were three weaving mills and two garment mills within walking distance of my maternal grandparent's home, one at each end of the 600 block of Jordan Street (the Royal and Sondra factories). I often sat on the front porch and watched the employees go to and from work. These Burgenland immigrants were mainly a blue-collar workforce, but their descendants are now found throughout American industry at all levels of employment. My uncle would say, "Do well in school or you'll end up in the mill like me!" Not as bad as it sounds: he worked as an experienced loom fixer, whose expertise was in great demand. He retired before his mill went out of business. For immigrants, meaningful work was one of the promises of America.

(ED. [Gerry] Note: Some of the above will be found in "The Silk Industry In The Lehigh Valley," a Lehigh County Historical Society Publication, Allentown, PA, 1993. It contains lists of the mills, dates of operation and illustrations. While it is silent concerning Burgenland immigrants, per se, their involvement in silk and allied mill production is well-known family history; a dozen of my family members and many neighbors worked in the mills at one time or another.)



Sunday, March 5: Cabbage Hill Day at the Lancaster Liederkranz. Entertainment by Die Immergrün Musikanten and club singers and folk dancers. Info:

Saturday, March 18: Bockbierfest at the Lancaster Liederkranz. Music by Heidi & Heimatecho. Info:

Sunday, March 26: Schlachtfest at the Holy Family Club in Nazareth. Music by the Josef Kroboth Orchestra. Info;


Friday, March 3, 7 pm: Heimat Abend. Austrian Donau Club, 545 Arch Street, $3. Music by Joe Rogers and his band.

Friday, March 17, 7:30 pm: Heurigan Abend. Austrian Donau Club, 545 Arch Street, $3. Music by Schachtelgebirger Musikanten.


Sunday, March 5, Noon to 5 pm: Midwest BB Winter Meeting to be held at the Maple Grove Library, 8001 Main St, Maple Grove, MN. Info:


Frank Wirth

Frank Wirth, 89, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, passed away Jan. 29, 2017 at Good Shepherd Specialty Hospital, Bethlehem.

He was the husband of Martha (Glaessmann) Wirth for 64 years.

Born in Rábafüzes (Raabfidisch), Hungary, he was a son of the late Karl and Maria (Malitsch) Wirth.

He is survived by his wife; son Frank W. Wirth (Beverly Evans) of Slatington; daughter Rita Tolotti of Allentown; sisters Margaret and Hilda; brother Julius Wirth; two grandchildren, Ashley and Abby; nieces and nephews.

Services: viewing starting at 10:00 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 at Nicos C. Elias Funeral Home, 1227 W. Hamilton St., Allentown with funeral service at 11:00 with Rev. Paul Xander officiating. Interment at Grandview Cemetery.

Published in Morning Call on Jan. 31, 2017

Erna Waschitsch (née Entler)

Erna Waschitsch 94, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, passed away January 31, 2017.

Erna was the wife of the late Joseph Waschitsch, with whom she shared 64 years of marriage.

Born in Kukmirn, Austria, she was the daughter of the late Adolf and Anna (Vollmann) Entler.

She was a sales clerk in the Lehigh Valley for many years. Erna enjoyed traveling and was a member of the former St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church, where she served as a volunteer.

Survivors: Nieces and cousins and numerous friends.

Services: Private at the convenience of the family. Contributions: In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County. 4234 Dorney Park Rd. Allentown, PA 18104.

Published in Morning Call on Feb. 2, 2017

Theresa Spegel (née Weber)

Theresa Spegel, 92, of Spring Hill, Florida, passed away February 13, 2017.

Born on August 22, 1924 in Rábafüzes (Raabfidisch), Hungary, she was the daughter of the late Johann and Theresia (Schmidt) Weber.

Theresa is survived by her loving husband, Erhard, nephew, Alan Hackstock, 2 nieces, Linda Ilkanic and Rainer Fichtl and loving family.

A Gathering will be held February 16th from 10 to 11 at 280 Mariner Boulevard. Burial will be held on February 16th at 12:30 at Florida National Cemetery.

Published online on February 13, 2017 courtesy of

John Weber

John Weber, 94, of Northampton, Pennsylvania, passed away peacefully on Thursday, February 16, 2017 at Phoebe Home, Allentown.

He was the husband of the late Szabina (Rabold) Weber.

Born November 17, 1922 in Vaskeresztes (Grossdorf), Hungary, he was the son of the late Josef and Margareta (Kuzmits) Weber.

John worked at Cross Country Clothes for 30 years. He was a member of Queenship of Mary Catholic Church, Northampton.

Survivors: son, John Weber; daughters, Rose, wife of Edward Bendekovitz and Mary, wife of Richard Leitold; grandchildren, Monica, Eric and wife Nicole, Kelsea and Rick. He was predeceased by sisters, Catherine and Irma.

Services: A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Tuesday, February 21st at 10:30 a.m. in Queenship of Mary Church, 1324 Newport Ave., Northampton. Family and friends may call Monday 6 - 7:30 p.m. and Tuesday 9 - 10:00 a.m. in the Reichel Funeral Home, 326 E. 21st St., Northampton. Burial will follow in Our Lady of Hungary Cemetery, Northampton. Online condolences may be submitted at Contributions: Memorials may be presented to the church c/o funeral home.

Published in Morning Call on Feb. 19, 2017

Angela Seagreaves (née Schatz)

Angela A. Seagreaves, 95, of Orefield, Pennsylvania, passed away peacefully Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at Sacred Heart Senior Living, Northampton.

She was the wife of the late Clayton Bruder and Donald Seagreaves.

Born November 25, 1921 in Urbersdorf, Austria, she was the daughter of the late Josef and Johanna (Stranzl) Schatz.

Angela worked at Vultree Aircraft making torpedo bombers and later she worked at General Electric.

Survivors: sons, Don Seagreaves and his wife, Kathy, Scott Bruder, 4 grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren and sister, Irene Gollatz.

Services: Private services were under the direction of the Reichel Funeral Home, Northampton. Contributions: Memorials may be presented to the Sanctuary at Haafsville, 901 Nestle Way, Breinigsville, PA. 18031.

Published in Morning Call on Feb. 21, 2017

END OF NEWSLETTER (Even good things must end!)

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