The Habsburgs were not the only family to leave an impression on Vienna. The Rothschilds played an important role across the 19th-century and beyond. The exhibition at the Jewish Museum reminds us of their story and legacy.
- Explores the history and endeavours of the Viennese branch of the Rothschild family
- Focuses on their political, philanthropic, and business activities
- Also addresses the anti-semitism the family faced
- Just needs a normal museum entrance ticket*
- Runs Dec 12, 2021 – Jun 5, 2022
- See also:
Forgotten (?) stories…
(Isidor Pfeiffer, Exterior view of the Rothschild Hospital, Vienna, 1902, watercolor © Jewish Museum Vienna)
On a cold Friday evening, you may find thousands gathered in the remarkable Hohe Warte stadium, home to the oldest football club in Austria: First Vienna FC 1894.
Blue and yellow flags swirl around the stands, and the home team — currently performing rather well in the third tier of Austrian football — turn out in the same colours.
Why blue and yellow?
For the answer, we need to go back to First Vienna’s founding in the late 19th century. The necessary financial support came from Baron Nathaniel Rothschild (1836-1905), and the club chose to wear the colours of the Rothschild coat of arms out of gratitude.
This little tidbit of history illustrates just one of the many legacies left by the Viennese branch of the Rothschild family, whose history began in the city with the banker Salomon von Rothschild (1774-1855) in the early 1800s.
The Rothschilds’ business and philanthropic endeavours echo throughout Vienna: a Rothschild foundation, for example, built the Rosenhugel Neurological Clinic that today forms part of Hietzing Hospital.
Despite this legacy, the Rothschild name has largely fallen out of the local public consciousness. And many physical reminders of their presence have vanished. For example, modern offices of the national employee representative body now stand where Rothschild townhouses once welcomed guests.
The exhibition, The Vienna Rothschilds. A Thriller, at the Jewish Museum serves to remind us of the family’s history in the city and their accomplishments.
We discover their role in politics. The Rothschilds, for example, famously helped Metternich flee Vienna in 1848.
We learn of their charitable activities, including the building of the Rothschild hospital in the late 19th century.
And we gain a picture of the family’s business interests. For example, a large model of the Vienna Nordbahnhof station illustrates the importance of the Emperor Ferdinand Northern Railway (founded and majority owned by the Rothschilds).
The exhibition, ably curated by Gabriele Kohlbauer-Fritz and Tom Juncker, illustrates this family story with an eclectic variety of other historical objects, too. For example:
- A mid-17th century painting by the great Dutch portrait artist Franz Hals (once owned by Louis von Rothschild, confiscated by the Nazis in 1938, returned in 1998, and now part of the Liechtenstein Princely Collections)
- A stuffed crocodile (given to the Natural History Museum in 1930 by the Rothschilds)
- A stone sphinx (once part of the gardens of a Rothschild town palais)
As you might imagine, the family story contains its darker elements in the form of antisemitism.
The Gestapo arrested Louis von Rothschild, for example, in 1938 and essentially ransomed him off a year later for the family fortune and art collection. While most of the assets were eventually returned over the decades that followed WWII, the restitution process continues.
Projections of recent social media messages provide an alarming reminder that this antisemitism, particularly as it targets the Rothschilds, remains an issue today.
Tickets and dates
Follow the story of the Viennese Rothschilds from December 12th, 2021 to June 5th, 2022. An entrance ticket* for the Jewish Museum includes the temporary exhibitions inside.
How to get to the exhibition
Check the main museum article for travel tips. You want the primary Dorotheergasse location. The Rothschilds exhibition occupies the main rooms on the first floor.
(For much of the same time, the Judenplatz site has an exhibition on the Kindertransporte pre-WWII child refugee programme.)
Address: Dorotheergasse 11, 1010 Vienna