Vienna, which has lived with the reputation of being a city that lost virtually its entire Jewish population of 200,000 during World War II, is now trying to alter that image by staging Europe's biggest postwar Jewish cultural festival.
The event, conceived by Vienna's state-subsidized Jewish Welcome Service and realized with the help of the London Institute of Jewish Affairs (the research arm of the World Jewish Congress), has been put together for just that reason.
The festival started Oct. 30 with a photography exhibit in Vienna's Kuenstlerhaus hall. Almost 400 photographs of a vanished world -- the Jews of prewar Eastern Europe -- are on display until Wednesday.
The date may be extended. Many of the pictures on display come from the collection of Roman Vishniac, who roamed Poland and Eastern Europe on the eve of the Jews' near annihilation by the Nazis, snapping picture after picture to preserve on film what he knew was a world destined for extinction.
They show yeshiva boys huddled together over their Hebrew books and shoe merchants milling on narrow cobbled streets that no longer exist as they did then. An old man looks out from a shadow, his sparse beard cast platinum by an unknown source of light.
The exhibit also includes Andy Warhol portraits of Albert Einstein, Gertrude Stein and Sigmund Freud, given abstract moods in translucent blocks of lavender and orange.
The second part of the festival has been three weeks of Jewish films, which started Nov. 15, consisting of about 80 titles chosen to answer the question, "What is Judaism?"
In Jeremy Paul Kagan's 1981 film "The Chosen," that question is answered by the conflicts between a family of Reform Jews in Brooklyn of 1940 and the more Orthodox Hassidic family next door.
In "Zelig," Woody Allen's Jew is the neurotic cosmopolitan, and in the 1940 Nazi production "Der Ewige Jude" ("The Eternal Jew"), Jews are lying, money-grabbing misfits who spread their evil influence across Europe.
Other titles are "Exodus," "Jacob the Liar," "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" and "The Fixer." But besides feature films, there are films in Yiddish, propaganda films, comedies, silent movies and documentaries, altogether 60 years of film history.
Michael May, assistant director of London's Institute of Jewish Affairs, coordinated the festival's third and last event, a symposium on Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1815 to the end of World War I.
"The only lesson we can learn, if indeed we can learn from history, is that the only model that works is when Jews can live and create in a pluralistic society. Only then can they make a contribution," he said.
The subjects of the symposium, many conceded, were too specialized to attract the interest of the Austrian public. But much of the attention came later, with the reopening of a Jewish school whose children had been driven out and sent to Auschwitz 40 years earlier.
Mayor Helmut Zilk gave a kosher reception in the city's gothic town hall with New York Mayor Edward Koch as guest of honor.
"What's important is that Vienna and Austria are embarrassed that over the past 30 years they haven't talked about the Holocaust. And the failure of Austrians who didn't stand up for their fellow citizens," Koch told western journalists at the reception.
"But now I think they're starting to talk about it. This week is a kind of culmination of that," he said.