Buy From Jews!

I have known Vancouver collector Claus Jahnke for 35 years now – from right around the time he first started collecting German and Austrian clothing. I can proudly say I have had a leading role in finding many of his best pieces and now Claus is loaning some of his rarest treasures for an exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Vienna called “Buy From Jews! Story of a Viennese store culture”.

The media release that outlines the purpose of the exhibition sums up the theme with some interesting information:

Handwoven coat by Maison Zwieback, Vienna, Austria, 1920s, from the collection of Claus Jahnke, photo by Roz McNulty (

The emergence of department stores in Vienna was a part of a pan-European development of the 19th century. Today, the fact that many of the founders came from Jewish families is just as little known as the former existence of the garment district in Vienna’s first district. Prominent houses such as Gerngross, Zwieback, Neumann, Jacob Rothberger, Braun & Co., Goldman & Salatsch, Jungmann & Neffe and Knize characterized Vienna’s fashionable shopping miles on Kärntner Strasse and Mariahilfer Strasse. But the exhibition also brings the so-called suburban department stores Dichter and Wodicka back into the city’s memory. With their businesses, these families made an essential contribution to Viennese urban development and influenced the economic, topographic, social and cultural cityscape to the present day.

Through the caesura of the Shoah (holocaust), this shop culture shaped by Viennese Jewish women and men disappeared almost completely. The success stories of exiles can be traced abroad— such as that of the costume designer and graphic artist Ernst Deutsch-Dryden or the architect, urban planner and inventor of the shopping mall, Victor Gruen. Many companies, however, could no longer build upon the successes of the time before 1938. In any case, most of them decided not to return to Vienna after 1945. In Vienna’s urban and commercial landscape only the names of some successor companies and, in rare cases, parts of the building stock recall the major department stores, as well as the numerous retail stores operated by Jewish women and men.

Contrasted to this “vanishing” is the development of the garment district after 1945. Attributable to migration and immigration, individual stories of enterprises like Schöps, the Tuchhaus Silesia, Wachtel & Co., Haritex, Zalcotex and many others, which also bear witness to the rebuilding of the Vienna Jewish community after 1945, let themselves be told here…

“Buy From Jews! Story of a Viennese store culture” opened May 17 and will run to November 19, 2017 at the Jewish Museum Vienna, Dorotheergasse 11, 1010 Vienna. The museum is open daily but for Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information:

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
This entry was posted in Museum Exhibitions, Other collections/museums, Retailing. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Buy From Jews!

  1. Barbara says:

    Fascinating. To shine a light on this near forgotten era and to take us back to a time and place long gone, is such a worth while endeavor. Thank you for sharing.

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