On our first full day of the 2015 Compassion to Action trip, thanks to two of this year’s generous participants, Tom and Sasha Weisz, our group will enjoy a three-course lunch at the Imperial Café in the heart of Vienna. Situated in the Imperial Hotel, the Café is steeped in significance – both from a general historical perspective and in the context of the life and legacy of Simon Wiesenthal.
The Imperial was Adolf Hilter’s favourite hotel. He stayed there whenever he visited Vienna. He spewed messages of hatred and violence to crowds of thousands of cheering Viennese residents from his personal hotel room balcony. He and other Nazi officials strategized and planned the murder of millions of innocent Jews and other “undesirables” in the Holocaust from his personal room. Hilter loved this hotel and, needless to say, despite partial Jewish ownership prior to 1938, any Jewish people who had not yet been transported to the camps or exterminated, were strictly forbidden on its grounds during the Nazi’s reign.
Years after Hilter’s death and the end of the Holocaust, Simon Wiesenthal decided to throw his 90th birthday party at the hotel. The air rich with classical Yiddish music and tables brimming with Kosher delicacies, friends and supporters from all over the world gathered at the hotel to celebrate the life and work of Simon Wiesenthal and the ideals of truth and justice he spent his entire adult life fighting so hard to protect. Through this party, Simon and his guests showed that any claim Hilter and the Nazi may have once had over the Imperial Hotel had been erased. Perhaps a different form of justice than Simon typically sought (being outside of a courtroom), but the party served as justice nonetheless.
Seventeen years after his famous birthday party, as Compassion to Action participants we will all gather at the Imperial Café to secure our own place in the Imperial’s history and to pay homage to the late, great Simon Wiesenthal.