Village Secrets and the First Tremors of the Holocaust
- David Joseph
15th May 2023
When Hitler marched into Austria in March 1938, he was given a rapturous reception. Millions lined the streets and filled the squares of Vienna. Tobias Portschy, a self-appointed regional Nazi chief, considered what to give the Fuhrer for his birthday, and devised a particular gift from the Austrian people: the elimination of Jewish life in the Burgenland, picturesque farming country about 70 km south-east of Vienna. Eichmann took note of the brutal methodology. The Holocaust had begun.
Burgenland is an astonishing survey of Jewish history in Central Europe, an account of the opening salvo of what turned into the systematic industrial-scale genocide of European Jewry, a stern examination of British policy and the world’s wholly inadequate response. It is also a deeply personal memoir and family history. Impeccably researched and hugely ambitious in scope, it narrates the full arc of the Jewish experience in Central Europe over 300 years, following the lives of one family who played a significant part in events described, from the struggle for civil liberties to the resistance to fascism and the rise of Zionism.
David Joseph has dissected an uncomfortable history, and the results demand a substantial reassessment of the orthodox narrative around the Holocaust both in Britain and in Austria.