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First restitution following provenance research

(Vienna, 30 September 2010) The first restitution will take place following the Vienna Medical University's ongoing provenance research. In a ceremony today some 40 books from the property of the former Professor Carl Julius Rothberger were returned to his daughter Bertha Gutmann. The General Secretary of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria, Hannah Lessing, also took part in the ceremony.

"It is one of MedUni Vienna's chief concerns to conduct provenance research actively and efficiently", said Rector Wolfgang Schütz. "During the Nazi regime the then Medical Faculty expropriated a large number of Jewish members of the university and deprived them of their venia docendi. Therefore, it is very important to us, even after 70 years, to restitute the goods for which we have finally found the owners."

Since 2007 a provenance research project on the topic of "National Socialist robbery at the Medical University of Vienna" has been conducted at the University Library of the University of Vienna on behalf of the Rector's Office of the Medical University of Vienna with the goal to identify any National Socialist booty and its restitution to its former owners/legal heirs/legal successors. The first goods to be identified were 39 books from the property of Prof. Carl Julius Rothberger, who had worked at the Vienna Medical Faculty. As it could be proven that Rothberger and his family had been persecuted by the Nazi regime, a restitution report by Dr. Mentzel in 2009 recommended that the Rector's Office/Legal Department of the Medical University of Vienna restore Carl Julius Rothberger’s books (listed in the expert report and still located at the university) to their rightful owner.

Carl Julius Rothberger at the Vienna Medical Faculty
Prof. Rothberger was arrested on the 13 March 1938 on the basis of the Nazis' so-called "racial laws". Upon the intervention of the Dean of the Medical Faculty at that time, Eduard Pernkopf, he was released. His marriage was defined as a "privileged mixed marriage" as his wife was classified as an "Arian", which however only protected him provisionally against persecution by the Nazis. Nevertheless, he was faced with a various discriminatory measures.

According to his declaration of property of 30 June 1938 filed with the Property Declaration Office (VVSt.) he was in the possession of a medical library which was located, according to his own statements, at his workplace at the "university institute". In a written supplement filed after November 1938 to his declaration of property Carl Julius Rothberger specified: "For completeness sake I would like to additionally inform you that my books with a value of RM 1,000 as listed above in III c) are still located at the university institute and are actually not accessible to me [...]".

As the "Act on Rental Relations with Jews" of 30 April 1939 excluded "privileged mixed marriages" from its provision, the Rothberger family could stay at their own apartment in Vienna's 1st district, Augustinerstraße, in the Philipphof. On 13 March 1945 Prof. Rothberger died, together with his wife, during one of the last bombardments of Vienna.

Biography Carl Julius Rothberger
Carl Julius Rothberger was born in Vienna in 1871. He came from a Viennese Jewish family, his brother Heinrich Rothberger emigrated in 1938 to Montreal via Cuba to escape Nazi persecution. Carl Julius Rothberger was married to Leopoldine, neè Wohlfahrt. Rothberger started to study medicine in Vienna in 1891. Following his doctorate in 1897 he worked at the Bacteriological Laboratory of the Imperial and Royal Military Sanitary Committee, then at the Bacteriological Laboratory of Rudolfsstiftung Hospital under the Director Richard Paltauf and from 1898 at the First Medical University Clinic under Hermann Nothnagel. On 1 October 1899 he started work at the Institute of General and Experimental Pathology, which was then still headed by Philipp Knoll (1841-1900). First he worked as a demonstrator and from 1901 as an unpaid assistant. In 1904 he qualified as a Professor of General and Experimental Pathology. From 1908 onwards Rothberger's research focused on electrocardiography. In April 1912 Rothberger was appointed Associate Professor of General and Experimental Pathology. Following Paltauf's death in 1924 Rothberger took over the management of the Institute, without ever being appointed its head.

In 1936 Rothberger was retired prematurely at the age of 65 and his assistant professorship cancelled from the service post roster of the University of Vienna. The responsible Federal Ministry of Education stated that austerity measures were the reason for his retirement. At his request the Ministry allowed him to continue to work without payment as an Honorary Professor at the Institute until 1941 - which was the year of his legally stipulated retirement age.

Picture: fltr: Mag. Hannah Lessing, General Secretary of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria; Bertha and Anne Gutmann (daughter and granddaughter of Carl Julius Rothberger); Univ. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schütz, Rector of the MedUni Vienna

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