Vienna is still famous at the beginning of the 21st century for the great Jewish heritage that was criminally obliterated in 1938. Before the Holocaust, Vienna was a center of Jewish arts and literature. It has never recovered. Jewish writers survived only by leaving Vienna, never to return. All who failed to flee in time were "deported to the east" into Polish death-camps. Goebbels' Ordinance of February 1936 even denied Jews access to museums as visitors. The deletion from Austrian and German culture of anything with the "taint" of Jewish participation was a central concern of Nazism.
One of the few Austrian-Jewish writers to survive the Holocaust and continue his outstanding literary work in Austria was Albert Drach who worked as a lawyer in Mödling where he died in 1995, aged 93. Also among the survivors and exiles who returned were Hans Weigel (1908-1991), Friedrich Torberg, and Hermann Hakel (1911-1987) who took a decisive role in preparing the foundation for the new Austrian literature. Their publications provided a sense of continuity between the past and the present. Their works about pre-Shoah Central European culture inspired post-Shoah generations.
Controversial events such as the Eichmann trial (1960), the American TV series Holocaust (1978), and the Waldheim scandal (1986) prompted international debate and encouraged the second post-Shoah generation to take a stand. Deprived of a conceptual alternative to capitalism after the demise of the Eastern Bloc, leftist authors such as Elfriede Jelinek (winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2004), who exposed Austria’s Nazi legacy in her novel, Die Ausgesperrten ("Wonderful, Wonderful Times", 1980) began to define their oppositional stance through their Jewish background.
In the 1980s a visible and provocative Jewish culture emerged in Vienna, represented by such authors as Jelinek, the journalist and filmmaker Ruth Beckermann (1952-), the poet and novelist Robert Schindel (1944 -), Robert Menasse (1954-), Anna Mitgutsch (1948-), and the historian and publicist Doron Rabinovici (1961-). These authors take a critical look of racism and neo-Fascism. Post-Shoah Jewish identity continues to be an important literary topic in the multicultural Austria of the early 21st century. To an increasing extent Austrian Jewish protagonists are also seen as players on the international stage. Vladimir Vertlib (1966-) portrayed the exile experience in the age of globalization. His novels Abschiebung ("Deportation", 1995) and Zwischenstationen ("Transit Stations", 1999) suggest that the Jewish exile of the Nazi era prefigured what has become a global fate shared by migrant workers, refugees, and asylum seekers. These few examples suggest that Austrian Jewish writing has assumed global dimensions.
In 1991 the first Jewish Film Week took place in Vienna: 16 films, which reflected seventy years of Jewish film, were shown. In the following three years there were special topics: Jews in European Post-War Films (1992; 18 films), The Jewish Woman in Film (1993; 34 films) and Jewish Humor in Film (1994; 23 films). Several guests were invited, such as Axel Corti, Erwin Leiser, Ronny Loewy and George Tabori.
In 1995 the program was expanded, and three main topics were chosen: propaganda, migration and the courage of one's convictions. Marek Halter and Jean Louis Lorenzi presented their films.
Over the years it has been the intention to show not only new productions but also old films which were requested and acquired from film archives, such as the Film Archive Austria, the German Film Archive in Koblenz and the British Film Institute or European films located in American archives, such as the Sony-Archive in New York or the National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis University.
Vienna was once home to the most active Jewish theater scene in ‘western' Europe. Warren Rosenzweig founded in the summer of 1999, the Jewish Theater of Austria, which produces several contemporary plays a year. These are performance events that explore themes of Jewish identity, experience, and cultural diversity. Previous productions and performance events have included works by George Tabori, Fritz Hochwälder, Grace Paley, Arthur Miller, David Mamet, Huda Al-Hilali, Dagmar Schwarz, and others. Productions currently in development include new works by Ari Roth, Warren Rosenzweig, and Harald Havas. The company has performed at numerous locations in Vienna, Graz, Innsbruck and elsewhere in Austria. Since November 2000, international guests have also been presented in Vienna, Graz, and other cities.
The Jewish Theater of Austria has been working since 2001 to restore and reestablish the old Jewish Theatre in the Nestroyhof in Vienna’s famous 2nd District, the Leopoldstadt. Since April 2004, the company has been developing a permanent ensemble called “International Jewish Theater Ensemble” (IJTE). In 2004 the Jewish Theater of Austria was granted the European Association for Jewish Culture Award. Another Jewish cultural event that takes place in the city is the Yiddish Theater Festival.
Vienna’s Jewish culture in the years after the WWII is reawakening. There are different clubs, schools, recreation centers and synagogues for the various congregations, such as Georgian, Sephardi, Bucharan, Caucasian, Reform congregations and others. Jewish youth culture, though limited in size, produces events for all ages. These activities include movies, parties, lectures, courses and vacations.