Last Waltz in Vienna
Stories of Central European Jewry’s descent into the Nazi nightmare, though always shocking, are not unfamiliar. What makes George Clare’s account stand out is the affectionate, evocative, sadly humorous style in which he brings back to life his own family, the Klaars of Vienna: comfortable, upper middle-class and doomed. It also serves to illuminate the city in which they lived and loved almost to the point where it most terribly betrayed them.
In particular, Clare seeks to honour the lives of his parents, boisterous Ernst and gentle but strong-minded Stella: to each other—in spite of the occasional explosion—always loving and loyal, right up to the squalid deaths that were to be their fate. To him, the most decent of parents, although there were ructions as the boy George began his struggle towards independent manhood. Very poignant is Clare’s almost throwaway remark that he and his parents ‘were never given the time to know each other as adults.’
This is a marvellous personal memoir and, as a recreation of the fabulous lost city of old Vienna, although more limited in scope, it can stand comparison with such exemplars of the genre as Schorske’s Fin de Siecle Vienna and Janik and Toulmin’s Wittgenstein’s Vienna.