Otto WEISSBERGER was born in Pardubitz (Pardubice) Bohemia [which was then in Austria-Hungary and is now in the Czech Republic] on May 18, 1872. He was the older of the two sons of the Jewish couple Louise Weissberger, née Pick, and Rudolf Weissberger – who were both buried later in the Jewish section of the Vienna Central Cemetery (Gate 1, Grave 19-6-67).
Otto WEISSBERGER converted to Protestantism in 1897 and married Marie Schenner in the Protestant community of Bad Goisern. The couple had two sons: Franz, born in 1898, and Rudolf, born in 1899.
The family lived in a village in the district of Strobl am Wolfgangsee called Aigen-Voglhub [it is about 45 km east of Salzburg in the Salzkammergut lake district]. They were well off and owned real estate that included a sawmill and an inn. Otto WEISSBERGER served in the town council for the Christian Social Party and was honorary chairman of the Trotter Breeding and Racing association in nearby Bad Ischl.
After turning over the family business to his older son Franz he seems to have dropped his social and political activities and he retired to private life after the 1920s. The death of his wife Marie in September 1938 was a severe blow for him.
At first the widower Otto WEISSBERGER seemed unaffected by the hostility of the Nazi regime, though he avoided encounters with Nazis. He didn’t want to hear their racist utterings, and he didn’t want to wear the Jewish star that the Nazis ordered all »racial Jews« to wear on their breasts after September 1, 1941.
He left his house only after dark, made a round in the courtyard checking to see that all gates and doors were locked and then went back into his home refuge.
But someone must have denounced him in the spring of 1943. It is said that the local postman took public umbrage in a local inn over the »Jews« who still lived in the community, but who reported this to the Gestapo in Salzburg? In any case the denunciation had fatal consequences: Otto WEISSBERGER was in his private home when a gendarme and a Gestapo agent came to take him away by force.
His then 18 year old granddaughter Lidy protested strongly against this, but her father thought it was better to remain calm rather than provoke their own arrests.
The 70 year old Otto WEISSBERGER had to leave his home forever as he fell into the clutches of the Salzburg Gestapo led by Dr. Hubert Hueber. He was locked up and mistreated in the police jail on the Rudolfsplatz [under the Nazi regime it was named the Georg-von-Schönerer-Platz after the famous Austrian Antisemite and German nationalist]. In the process they smashed the glasses of their nearly blind victim.
When his son Franz heard about the glasses he brought him another pair, but he wasn’t allowed to see his father in the jail and had to leave the replacement glasses with the police. We have no way of knowing if his father ever got the glasses as no member of the family ever saw him alive again.
On May 21, 1943, three days after Otto WEISSBERGER spent his 71st birthday in jail, the Salzburg Gestapo deported him to the Auschwitz extermination camp: there he was registered as a Lutheran named Otto »Israel« WEISSBERGER [all Jewish men were given the name Israel by the Nazis] and he was murdered there on June 19, 1943 – the official cause of death was »pneumonia«.
Otto WEISSBERGER’s family survived the terror years in Aigen-Voglhub bei Strobl. Both of his sons, Franz and Rudolf, died in the 1970s. In 2017 his 93 year old granddaughter Lidy continues to be a living witness to these events. Otto WEISSBERGER’s family didn’t know that his younger brother Rudolf, who had been living in Kolin bei Prag [now Praha], had also fallen victim to the Holocaust along with his wife Ida and their son Franz.
There were approximately 60 Jews who had their permanent or summer residences in communities of the State of Salzburg until the violent year of 1938 and who were among the victims of the Holocaust, a dark chapter of history that still need to be explored. These included:
• From Strobl am Wolfgangsee: Herbert, Ernestine and Marie Lechner; Rosa Lechner (Herbert’s Mutter); and Margarethe Weiner
• From St. Gilgen am Wolfgangsee: Dr. Rubin and Zorka Blumenkranz; Dr. Otto Feilchenfeld; Dr. Edmund Frank; Josef, Marie and Gerhard Freund; Ida Heller, née Sgalitzer; Felix and Lily Sgalitzer; Dr. Friedrich and Elisabeth Sgalitzer; Leo and Margarethe Sgalitzer; Dr. Richard, Friederike and Heinrich Sgalitzer; and Dr. Robert Winterstein (a former minister of Justice)
• From Unterburgau am Attersee (St. Gilgen district): Therese Horn, née Strisower; Hermine and Dr. Josef Hupka; Franziska Maneles; Franziska and Leon Neuberger; and Harry Alfons Sonnenthal
• From Bad Gastein: Dr. Guido Brecher (the spa doctor); Elsa Engler; Marie Hatschek; Hugo, Jenny and Erich Kreisky; Rosa Plahner; Ciwie and Isiel Rosenberg; Kopel Sommerfreund; Dr. Walter Suess (dentist); and Paula Wassing
• From Bad Hofgastein: Majer Hersch Dressler; Isak Aron Nattel; Ernestine Schönbrunn; and Otto Wiener
• From St. Johann im Pongau: Charlotte and Karl Schneider (and also their daughter Else Schneider Preis from Klagenfurt, who had been born in St. Johann, and her husband Felix with their children Eva and Peter); and Auguste Holzer (mother of Ernestine MUIK whose last residence was in Salzburg)
• From Bramberg bei Mittersill: Margarethe Eder, née Klempfner
• From Lofer: Alfred and Beatrice Hlawatsch
• From Oberndorf on the Salzach: Walter and Grete Mautner
• From Großgmain: Friederike Eidlitz, née Weiss; Margarethe Haas, née Weiss, and her son Robert; Dr. Moritz Ludwig Weiss and Marie Weiss
• From Hallein: Siegfried Silberberg; and Josef Talal
• From Himmelreich (Wals-Siezenheim district): Berta Kohn (the mother of Artur Kohn, who fled with his family to Shanghai and later returned to Austria and died in Salzburg)
• From Anif: Helene von TAUSSIG
- Israelitische Kultusgemeinde/Jewish Community of Vienna
- Arnoldner Private archive (photos)
Translation: Stan Nadel
Laid 28.09.2017 at Salzburg, Rudolfsplatz 3
Photo: Private archive Arnoldner Weissberger Family – the married couple Otto and Marie with their sons Franz & Rudolf
Photo: Private archive Arnoldner Otto Weissberger with his granddaughter Lidy
Photo: Private archive Arnoldner Certificate of honor for Otto Weissberger
Photo: Private archive Arnoldner