23 July 2016

The Capital of the United States of Europe will be Vienna (1065 km)

(Vienna, 19/20.07.2016 - 23.07.2016) In her article on Czernowitz, Amy-Diana Colin writes: "It is emblematic of Bukovina that this region produced one of the forefathers of the European Union. In 1920, Josef Drach, a wealthy Jewish businessman and art dealer from Czernowitz, developed detailed plans for establishing a European Union with Vienna as its capital. Drach raised funds for a European Peace Bank whose goal was to introduce a single currency in Europe: the European Peace Dollar. One side of the coin displayed the image of Bertha von Suttner, the Austrian writer who won the Nobel peace prize in 1905, the other side the slogan: 'Nieder mit den Waffen!' (Down with the Weapons!). It is also emblematic of this region’s history that a visionary mind such as Drach was murdered in Auschwitz." (cited after: Czernowitz / Cernăuţi / Chernovtsy / Chernivtsi / Czerniowce: A Testing Ground for Pluralism, by Amy Colin, with Peter Rychlo on post-1940 Czernowitz. published in: History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe. Junctures and disjunctures in the 19th and 20th centuries. Volume II. Edited by Marcel Cornis-Pope and John Neubauer. © 2006. John Benjamins Publishing Company.) Born in Czernowitz in the year 1883, he came towards the end of World War I to Vienna and established a prosperous art and antiques trade on Dr.-Karl-Lueger Place No. 5. The populist and anti-Semite Karl Lueger would turn over in his own grave!

 

Deeply impressed by the humanitarian, social and economical disaster caused by World War I, Josef Drach became a militant pacifist, an enthusiastic advocate for the idea of unified Europe with a single European currency. For a certain period of time Josef Drach and his pan-European idea hit the newspapers headlines.

 

Austria Today, 2/1989: "In 1922 Josef Drach personally ordered a design for "European Peace Dollar" banknotes from the artist Alfred Offner [Czernowitz [1879 - 1937] , and even had printing plates prepared. The 2 EFD banknote shows a portrait of the Austrian Nobel Peace Prize winner Bertha von Suttner. She also featured on the Austrian 1,000-shilling banknote 60 years later. [...]

 

At the beginning of the 1920s, the Viennese art dealer Josef Drach regarded the financial sector as the key to the formation of a 'United States of Europe'. A 'European Peace Bank', to be founded in Vienna on the basis of a legal agreement with the League of Nations, and with a ground capital of 80 million US dollars, was to issue a 'European Peace Dollar' as a means of international payment and European currency. In 1925, the internationally respected stock exchange periodical 'Wiener Börsenkurier' commented optimistically on the plan - if with hindsight rather naïvely: 'Titling it as peace money makes future wars impossible, because it loses any value in a state of war. And without money there can be no war.' Josef Drach threw his full energy and resources into the task of propagating his European idea. Numerous prominent individuals signed his petition, proclaiming their readiness to buy shares in the 'European Peace Bank' - among them the young Dr. Adolf Schärf who became President of the Republic of Austria after the Second World War. Drach's utopia soon ran into the quicksands of the world economic crisis. He was personally satirized as 'Drache' (dragon), while his 'peace dollar' became known as the 'Viennese drachma' (an allusion to the Greek currency). During the crisis of 1930, the subject of a currency union among some of the European states was raised again in Paris, but came nowhere near realization. After the Nazi occupation of Austria in 1938, Drach's attempt to emigrate to the United States failed because of the bureaucratic attitude of the US Consulate in Vienna. He gave all the papers on his European project to his friend, the art dealer Ferdinand Spany, before he was forcibly 'resettled' in Eastern Europe. In 1918, Drach had originally fled before the advancing Russian armies from Bukovina, the most easterly crown land of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After 1940 there was no road back to Vienna again."



Despite Brexit and temporarily rising European unification skepticism, the historic development proved Josef Drach perfectly right. Consequently from the facade of the Vienna Museum of Natural History, Europa is looking friendly across the street, at the Vienna Museum of Art History, where Josef Drach's designs and printing plates are stored by the Coin Collection as evidence for the validity of his visionary European concept.

1 comment:

Friedrich J. Ortwein said...

Grossartig, Edgar, nicht nur, daß Sie der Vita von Josef Drach seit Monaten nachgegangen sind sondern daß Sie uns jetzt zum Zeugen seiner Utopie gemacht haben. Mein nächster Wien-Besuch wird mich in das Münzkabinett des Kunsthistorischen Museums führen.