Children Baptized by the Danube. Czech Memories of the Interwar Vienna

Author: Vojtěch Kessler, David Smrček (edd.)
Year of publication: 2021
Publisher: Historický ústav
ISBN: 978-80-7286-395-2

Children Baptized by the Danube. Czech Memories of the Interwar Vienna is a kind of symbolic excursion. A trip back in time, in memories, to places that no longer exist in the tangible world, or at least not in the form presented in the texts. It is not an exhaustive synthetic reconstruction of the life of the Czech community in Vienna with all its events, structures, and broad scale of phenomena. Similarly, the book does not aim to describe Vienna as a regular tourist experiences it – the imperial Vienna full of monuments, beautiful churches, palaces, and museums. On the contrary, its goal is to describe the city as it was lived by ordinary people, by the authors, by their parents, relatives, and friends. It will be an imaginative trip through the city that was created in the memoirs of Viennese Czechs. A trip redolent of Viennese coffee and roasted chestnuts, the familiar taste of Gugelhupf and Leberkäs, with the sounds of the ringing tram No. 48 turning into Herbstrasse at the upper end of Panikengasse. Twenty-three veterans of the vanished world of the specific Czech Vienna, a special microcosm in the middle of the big city, serve as the guides.

Children Baptized by the Danube is based on the selection of twenty-three texts of authors born between 1910 and 1930 in Vienna, found in the History of Everyday Life Database. In their memoirs, the survivors repeat the story, common in their generation, of how their poor but hard-working parents found a new home in Vienna. The dynamic city was indeed an attraction and the supply in the local labor market far exceeded the demand. Thus, over time, the Viennese Czech minority became so established that it gave rise to the image of hard-working and reliable laborers, sought-after specialized craftsmen with a broad clientele, domestic servants, nursemaids, and cooks that every proper Viennese family of the class was expected to possess. Into such an environment of a relatively closed community were gradually born those „Children baptized by the Danube“ who spent their childhood or adolescence in interwar Vienna.