Hedwig BISENTZ1, née FÜRST, was born in Salzburg on June 11, 1889 in Salzburg. She was the youngest of the four children of the Jewish couple Rudolf FÜRST and Elise (Esther) FÜRST née Dick.
Hedwig’s parents ran a wholesale business at 5 Linzer Gasse in Salzburg selling caps and hats, hosiery and fancy goods. The family also live there and it belonged to the FÜRST couple since March 1892.
After the early death of Rudolf FÜRST in December 1892, his widow Elise ran the business at 5 Linzer Gasse until her oldest son Arthur FÜRST took over the business in 1908.
Elise’s younger son Joseph had gone to live in the USA in 1901: Joe Fuerst was a US citizen and an active business traveler who also did business in Europe, so he occasionally visited his family in Salzburg.
Elise’s daughter Martha married a co-worker at 5 Linzer Gasse, but her husband Josef Stein died at the end of the 1920s and they had no children.
Elise’s daughter Hedwig married the dental technician David BISENTZ. Their son Rudolf – named after his dead grandfather Rudolf FÜRST – was born in Salzburg on August 13, 1913 in Salzburg. He lived in Salzburg for a few years with his grandmother Elise before joining his parents in Vienna.
The young Rudolf didn’t feel really tied to either city. He was only 19 years old in 1932 when he left for Jerusalem, where he found a good job at the famous King David Hotel.
After Elise FÜRST’s death in Salzburg her children Arthur, Hedwig and Martha inherited the building at 5 Linzer Gasse.
Martha Stein was the leader of the Jewish Women’s Association in Salzburg in the 1930s. She was already sick with cancer when the Nazis took over Austria in March 1938, but they evicted her from her apartment anyway. She died four months later in July at age 52.
In the night of November 9-10, 1938, hatred against Jews in Salzburg erupted in the violence sweeping the Third Reich known as the Kristallnacht Pogrom: Jewish shops were trashed and looted, and a bullet was fired through the shop window at 5 Linzer Gasse.
After an imprisonment of several weeks in the Dachau Concentration Camp, Arthur FÜRST was expelled from Salzburg to Vienna with his wife Irene and their children Elise and Ilse.
The building was »Aryanized« and ownership of 5 Linzer Gasse was transferred to Josef Falkensteiner who was in cahoots with the Nazi administration.
In Vienna, the FÜRST family managed to arrange passage to the USA. There, they also had a chance to say goodbye to Arthur’s sister Hedwig and her husband David – a farewell without a reunion.
Arthur’s younger brother Joe Fuerst was able to welcome them on their arrival in New York on March 4, 1939, but they moved on to settle in Charleston South Carolina.
It can be assumed that the rescued family in the USA still had contact with their relatives in Nazi Vienna for some time.
Research has discovered that Hedwig and David BISENTZ were evicted from their apartment at the beginning of July 1941 and crammed into a »collective apartment« in the Leopoldstadt, the 2nd district of Vienna: at Novaragasse 40/4.2
On August 20, 1942, a transport with 996 Jews, including the couple Hedwig and David BISENTZ, left Vienna’s Aspang train station for the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
Hedwig BISENTZ was 53 years old when she was murdered in Theresienstadt on April 14, 1943. The place and time of the death of her husband David remain unknown so far. The news of their violent deaths only reached their survivors after the end of WWII.
In March 1947 Hedwig’s son Rudolf BISENZ and his wife Susanne (who had been born as Susanne Hoffmann in Vienna) migrated to the US via Egypt.
There they had a reunion with the FÜRST family living in Charleston, South Carolina. A few months later Rudolf’s uncle Arthur died in Charleston at age 63.
In 1949 the heirs Rudolf BISENZ and Irene FÜRST filed a restitution claim 5 in Salzburg for 5 Linzer Gasse.
It is documented that the property, which had been »sold« under duress, was not restituted, but that the claims were partly settled in an out-of-court financial settlement.
Rudolf BISENZ lived with his family in New York and ran a dry-cleaning company. After the death of his wife Susanne in 2002 he moved to Washington State to join his daughter Evelyn Johnson who lived there. And on June 19, 2010 Rudolf BISENZ died in Kirkland Washington at age 96.
The grave of Susanne and Rudolf BISENZ is in New York City’s Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Glendale, Queens.
1 Hedwig and her husband David wrote it as Bisentz, but their son Rudolf wrote it as BISENZ
2 A »Stein der Erinnerung« [Memory Stone] was laid in front of Novaragasse 40 in Vienna in May 2016: »In memorial for the 144 Jewish women and men and seven children who were crammed into collective apartments in this house by the Nazis, and then deported and murdered.«
- The Jewish Communities of Linz, Salzburg and Vienna
- Salzburg City and State archives (Property Register EZ 565)
- Vienna State archives (Police Registration files)
- Documentations archive of the Austrian Resistance and Yad Vashem (Shoah-Databank)
- Albert Lichtblau: Arisierungen«, beschlagnahmte Vermögen, Rückstellungen und Entschädigungen in Salzburg, Wien-München 2004, p. 164f.
- Geduldet, geschmäht und vertrieben. Salzburger Juden erzählen, Daniela Ellmauer, Helga Embacher and Albert Lichtblau, ed.s, Salzburg 1998, pp. 53-70
Laid 27.09.2022 at Salzburg, Linzer Gasse 5