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FEBRUARY 20, 2012 10:17PM

Good Living Street by Tim Bonyhady

Rate: 8 Flag

My  interests in World War II touch on the disposition of art during and after the war. I have had this interest since I wrote my first paper on it in high school which was regarding the disposition of so called "degenerate art" and artists.

 Tim Bonyhady wrote a  book about his family. His mother was born into a very rich family in Vienna. Her name was Annelore, her mother's name Gretl Gallia. Annelore's father's name was Paul Herschmann. Her parents were divorced and Annelore took her mother's name. Gretl was one of four children of Hermine Hamburger Gallia and Moriz Gallia.

Hermine and Moriz were art partrons in Vienna at the turn of the century. They had come to Vienna from other parts of Europe and assimilated into the culture and part of that was converting to Catholicism. They were supporters of the Weiner Werkstatte, and numerous artists such as GustavKlimt. Klimt did an important portrait of Hermine which is now in the National Gallery in London.

The theme of the book is the life of this family focused on their home in Vienna, how they mingled throughout the arts as patrons and how they became Christian, but in the end did not save them from the Nazis. The intimacy of their lives is greatly detailed in diaries of the women and recordings of their social events and even their romantic encounters, the day to day living and the transition to their new life in Austrailia. 

On Kristallnacht,  Annelore found herself in the Opera enjoying one of her favorite's Mozart's The Magic Flute. The thing is, everything had changed by then in Vienna for Jews and Annelore had recently been baptized as a Catholic at the Fransican Church. She had been raised as a Jew up to the age of 16 at the insistance of her father. The point of no return had already taken place, people were fleeing as much as they possibly could Germany, escaping with what they could, if they had papers. While waiting for immigration paperwork to come through for Australia, there was much to do.

They hired movers and had things wrapped and readying for shipping. The packing had begun before Kristallnacht and amazing, for them, continued in the confusion the day after. The people contracted to do the work did so and the entire containers of goods were shipped to Austrailia with the women to follow shortly. These three women, Annelore, her mother Gretl and Kathe Gallia, Gretl's sister, were the only people, Jews, to escape in WWII with their entire art collection, rooms of Han Hoffman furniture from their apartment, silver, dishes and personal items intact and unconficated by the Nazis.

The women were keepers of their family history and had books, diaries and personal items of their famous parents, who were wealthy and privledged  at the time of the Austrian Seccession Movement. This family, among other Jewish families came from all over the Hapsburg Empire and made Vienna the most Jewish city in western Europe at that time; the turn of the century. While they tried to assimilate, they were only successful for their lifetimes, and not that of their children.

Many people fled Europe as Jews to assimilate here as immigrants at that same time. In my family, my grandfather came to the United States at this time, as well as my grandparents on my mother's side. We are unsure if my father's father assimilated. There are some things which lend themselves to that speculation.

This book appealed to me on many levels, first, the WWII, which is of significant interest to me. Secondly, it is about art rescued from the clutches of the Nazis, just in time. Thirdly, it is the inner view of a family, all of the expanse of emotional history that can be conveyed through several generations of personal memorabilia, including souveniers, photograpy, paintings and writings. Lastly it is about the lengths that people will go to try and save themselves, and their children from certain harm and even death. They will abandon  their heritage and beliefs for the sake of survival and acceptance, and in the end, all they have is who they are because that is never erased. While their faith in Christianity may have, in no doubt some cases , been actually a true and sincere one, it could not change them in the eyes of the Nazis.

The intimacy in this book is comforting, it is the sharing of life, the past, both bad and good. It is a story of privilege and the loss of it, the wounds from a neglectful father that even war and survival could not provide peace regarding. It is also the idea of how certain Jewish families, the Rothchilds among them, for generations married within to keep money and power in the family, which is what the Gallia's also did. It is also about the opulance of having your apartment, room by room, designed by artists and reviewing sketches of them before everything including furniture is even executed, all built to order, as a wedding gift.

Relationships with Mahler, with Klimt, with so many famous artists of the time, really proved that the wealth of being a patron could afford you a ticket into society and prestige but could also give you personal repore, and the gilt of art's mantle wrapped around you. It could also give you the opportunity for an affair or two with the most talented artists of the day.

Tim Bonyhady writes as a loving son and takes us on his personal journey into the past. It is a fascinating tale.

 http://mosman-daily.whereilive.com.au/news/story/50m-painting-in-cremorne-flat/

 http://www.randomhouse.com/book/198647/good-living-street-by-tim-bonyhady

 http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/Book-Reviews/2011/1223/Good-Living-Street

 

book 

Copyright 2012 by SheilaTGTG55 

 

 

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Comments

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I had mentioned that I was reading this book to Jonathan Wolfman and he suggested I do a review of it when I finished. After I wrote this I read some other review done on the book. What I realized is that I took something different away from this book than most people write about. They seemed to focus on the art and the personal too, but I focused on the loss of Jewish identity through becoming Catholic and how that was a false sense of assimilation for many. A very, very interesting book. The incredible art is only part of it.
Steve and I were talking today about how his name was shortened when his family came over from Europe. So many people had to make so many changes and sacrifices. I went and read two of the links and am so glad that they got to keep their personal input into the world of art.
Excellent Sheila

HUGGGGGGG
I enjoyed your take on it.
Very insightful review.
rated with love
So glad to know about this BOOK, hopefully it will bring us...

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Better than a thousand hollow words,
is one word that brings peace.
This sounds like a good, if difficult read. Stories of what happened to art during Nazi Germany are fascinating and heartbreaking. Also the living artists themselves. We got many of the Bauhaus guys, who changed everything here.
An interesting time period...sounds like a good book. This was a good review.
Linda: I found it fascinating. I did not even realize how current it was until I re-examined the book and looked for other reviews. Funny, I think I just saw the book on a google ad on one of my pieces and took it from there and ordered it for myself as a Christmas present.
Romantic: I was impressed how Annelore became a Catholic and in turn to help others became a god parent to the endless line of Jews who were also looking to escape the Nazis. It was like an assembly line at the church for baptism and she was there to sign the papers as a witness. Can you even imagine?
Algis: I have thought for many years that people could and would learn by history. I have my doubts now.
greenheron: I left a considerable amount out of the review and made it with more of my interests prevailing. I think that just means that my focus was my own, but it really is a good book and personal, because the author was so connected to the body of work. He was really also on a mission of self discovery.
My God, Sheila. This is compelling. You bring to this a lighter touch than many would, and yet you do not gloss over the trenchant nature of the history here.
Thank you so much.

r.
Jon: Thank you for that comment, I thought you would want to see the finished product!
This sounds like a really interesting book. I am glad those ladies escaped before they were rounded up and sent to the camps. So many Jews tried to escape but were turned away by the US and other countries, which is shameful.
CC: You are right. It was a terrible time. That is why this is such a unique story. Imagine going to the opera, hiding then that night in your attorney's car and the movers coming to finish a job they had started the next day. Amazing luck and probably due to many factors. A miracle how all that stuff survived.
Great review, Sheila.
The apartment where these works ended up in Sydney I drove by every day !
No-one knew.
There was an exhibition of the whole collection in Melbourne ~ the Klimt of Hermine ( shown on the book-cover ) is dazzling.

I'm sure you know Edmund de Waal's The Hare With Amber Eyes ~ equally fascinating.

Thanks for this.
Kim: Actually I have not read this, yet. I remember seeing the cover at a book store but not having a look at the time. I have now read some reviews, most notably the one by Veronica Horwell of the Guardian and I do feel compelled to read it. Thank you so much for reading and pointing me in this direction! I appreciate it.
Kim: I forgot to say lucky you that regarding seeing the whole collection. Utterly amazing. I can also just imagine you driving by that apartment every day and how that must feel now, what was behind the walls of that place, and the walls of the mind who kept them there. Amazing. Amazing.
You will love The Hare With Amber Eyes !
From Odessa to Paris, Vienna & more, with the same intimate loving detail, & with one of the most heartbreaking, uplifting conclusions I have ever read.