Sham marriages as a survival strategy of Viennese Jewesses in 1938 – the Viennese exile researcher Irene Messinger dedicated herself to this topic in two ways this year: in January she co-edited the annotated memoirs of the Viennese dancer Anita Bild. And now, together with Sabine Bergler, she has curated an exhibition on this topic at Museum Judenplatz.
In January, Peter Bild and Irene Messinger presented the book “A Cherry Dress”, the annotated memoirs of the Viennese dancer Anita Bild, at the Jewish Museum. Later known as “The Viennese Nightingale”, the artist fled to England in early 1939 on a maid’s visa and entered into a sham marriage with a former Spanish fighter. This enabled her to perform again as a dancer and arrange for her parents to join her in London.
Bild wrote her life story in 1991. Her son Peter published these memoirs – which are accompanied by scientific contributions from renowned experts – together with the exile researcher Irene Messinger from Vienna. The Jewish Welcome Service invited Peter Bild and his wife, Jan, to a book presentation in Vienna.
The fate of 13 women
Irene Messinger now presents the theme of “A Cherry Dress” again in a larger context – in an exhibition she has curated together with Sabine Bergler from the JMW at Museum Judenplatz. “Persecuted. Engaged. Married. Sham marriages into exile”, which is on until October 7, looks at the marriages of convenience that Viennese Jewesses entered into with foreign nationals in 1938 as a way to save their own lives – or, as soon as they found themselves in exile, to avoid statelessness or secure a work permit.
On the basis of the fates of 13 women, including the theater director Stella Kadmon and the violinist Alma Rosé, the exhibition reports on the opportunities and risks presented by a sham marriage as a survival strategy. The Jewish Welcome Service invited descendants as well as the Bild and Roth families to the opening of the exhibition.