Among the pioneers turning the Alps into the playground of Europe, the urban Jewish middle class played a crucial role. While cities like Vienna, Berlin or Prague offered Jews access to secular culture, industry or higher education, the domesticated ‘wilderness’ of the mountains provided ‘innocence’ of togetherness and belonging beyond confines of class, religion and ethnicity. Jewish climbers, environmentalists and pioneers of tourism were among the first to organize Alpine clubs, while others reinvented folklore dressing. All of them lost faith in the Alpine pastorale after 1933. Memories of innocent moments enshrined in memorabilia and tales live on. Some of this has its afterlife in the Alps, even today.
Hanno Loewy, PhD, is a scholar of literature and film, an exhibition curator, and, since 2004, the Director of the Jewish Museum Hohenems, Austria. He is the author and editor of several books on film theory, Holocaust, Jewish history and popular culture.