Berta Zuckerkandl and Her Circle: Austrian Nationalism and Zionism in Viennese Modernism

Berta Zuckerkandl grew up witnessing her father, publisher of the newspaper Neues Wiener Tagblatt, Moritz Szeps’s stormy career and political engagements. Moritz Szeps was a close advisor to the liberal Austrian Crown Prince Rudolf and a supporter of an Austria-France alliance through his connections with liberal French politicians such as Léon Gambetta and Georges Clemenceau. Clemenceau’s brother, Paul, married Szeps’s eldest daughter Sophie. Berta also became involved in political causes. Learning about the “Dreyfus affair” at her sister’s salon, Zuckerkandl supported the fight to recognize his innocence. For Berta Zuckerkandl, the city of Vienna would become hers to form. Among the guests in the early days of Zuckerkandl’s renowned salon were non-Jewish cultural critic and Zionist Hermann Bahr. Other members in her salon associated with the Zionist movement were authors Richard Beer-Hofmann and Felix Salten of the literary group “Jung Wien” (Young Vienna), and who also played critical roles in shaping Viennese modernism. Working with her colleagues Bahr and the critic Ludwig Hevesi, Zuckerkandl raised the flag for modern Austrian art within a conservative and provincial cultural climate. She promoted modern design as part of constructing a progressive Austrian national identification. This talk aims to explore the antisemitic background and the pluralistic character of Austrian nationalism and Zionism, as they developed in the early years in relation to each other within and in relation to Zuckerkandl’s cultural networks.


Elana Shapira is cultural and design historian and project leader of the Austrian Science Fund research project “Visionary Vienna: Design and Society 1918–1934” (2017-2021). She is a senior postdoctoral fellow and lecturer in Design History and Theory at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. Shapira is the author of Style and Seduction: Jewish Patrons, Architecture and Design in Fin de Siècle Vienna (Brandeis University Press, 2016). She is the editor of Design Dialogue: Jews, Culture and Viennese Modernism (Böhlau, 2018) and of the forthcoming anthology Designing Transformation: Jews and Cultural Identity in Central European Modernism (Bloomsbury, 2021). Shapira is further the coeditor of the following anthologies based on the proceedings of International Symposiums she has co-organized Freud and the Émigré (Palgrave, 2020) and of Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture (Bloomsbury, 2017). Her forthcoming symposium organized together with Anne-Katrin Rossberg is “Gestalterinnen. Frauen, Design und Gesellschaft im Wien der Zwischenkriegszeit” will take place at the MAK – Museum of Applied Arts in May 2021.