Eugenie Schwarzwald was progressive educator and famous salon hostess who imprinted her charismatic personality on the education, social work, and literary heritage of Vienna during the first half of the twentieth century. In 1901, she purchased a girls’ secondary school and founded the “Schwarzwald’sche school.” Schwarzwald raised the flag for equal education for girls. During WWI, Schwarzwald began large-scale social work activities while continuing with her schools. She collaborated in her projects with modernist architect Adolf Loos. Among the famous visitors to her salon were Danish author Karin Michaelis, American journalist Dorothy Thompson, Austrians authors Jakob Wassermann, Robert Musil and Elias Canetti, and composer Arnold Schönberg. Among her famous students are actress Helene Weigel-Brecht, sociologist and psychologist Marie Jahoda, and author Hilde Spiel.
Eugenie Schwarzwald was an ambitious progressive educator of small and heavy stature, dressed in a reform-dress with a becoming short haircut and a charming shy smile. She imprinted her charismatic personality on the education, social work, and literary heritage of Vienna during the first half of the twentieth century.
Early Life and Education
The second daughter of four children, Schwarzwald was born on July 4, 1872, to Leon (?–1900) and Esther (1840–1907) Nußbaum, in the town of Polupanowka in Galicia. Leon was a landholder’s steward in Polupanowka and later managed an employment agency in Czernowitz. As a child Schwarzwald moved with her family to Czernowitz (Chernovsty), where she attended secondary school and a teachers’ college for women, though she did not complete her studies.
In 1895, Schwarzwald enrolled at the University of Zurich, graduating with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 1900. She married lawyer Hermann Schwarzwald (1871–1939) on December 16, 1900, and returned with him to Vienna, where he became the deputy director of the Trade Museum. He later directed the Austrian Finance Ministry’s currency department and after his retirement in 1924 was appointed President of the Board of the Anglo-Austrian Bank. The Schwarzwalds had no children.
Schwarzwald’s Schools: Reform Education and Feminism
In 1901, Eugenie Schwarzwald purchased a girls’ secondary school in Vienna’s center and founded the “Schwarzwald’sche school” (Schwarzwald’s School). Her students came mainly from rich assimilated Jewish families. Schwarzwald’s school was in competition with other Viennese private girls’ secondary schools, one-third of which were directed by Jewish women. Her goal was to raise the flag for equal education for girls. The first round in her battle was to have her female students admitted to the university. In addition to the established six-year curriculum customary at secondary schools for girls, she initiated two additional advanced programs: a three-year program enabling her students to enter university as auditors and a four-year program that concluded with A-level exams, which enabled them to register as university students. In 1903, Schwarzwald opened a coeducational primary school, later expanding it with a pre-school. In 1905, lacking a teaching diploma for secondary schools, she was forced to appoint an official director, while herself remained the school’s proprietor.
In 1911, Schwarzwald won the second and conclusive round in her battle, opening an eight-year girls’ gymnasium at her school. Aware of the latest European reform trends, she adapted ideas from popular educators such as the Austrian Franz Cizek (1865–1946), the Italian Maria Montessori (1870–1952), and the German Hermann Lietz (1868–1919). She applied their creative individual education practices to her schools’ curricula. Among the famous teachers at her school were legal theorist and political philosopher Hans Kelsen (1881–1973) for sociology and political economy, composer Egon Wellesz (1885–1974) for music, literary historian Otto Rommel (1880–1965) for literature, architect Adolf Loos (1870–1933) for modern architecture, and artist Oskar Kokoschka (1886–1980) for drawing.
Salon Hostess, Charismatic Teacher, and Cultural Producer
In 1909, the Schwarzwalds moved into their new rented two-story house in Vienna’s eighth district, in the backyard of the Josefstädter Strasse 68, settling into the elegant apartment designed four years earlier for actress Ella Hofer by Adolf Loos, who had opposed the Viennese Secession and offered a classical modernist alternative. There, Eugenie Schwarzwald began cultivating an intellectual “open house” salon, labeled the “Outsiders’ Salon.” Among her prominent visitors were authors Jakob Wassermann (1873–1934), Robert Musil (1880–1942), and Elias Canetti (1905–1994), composers Arnold Schönberg (1874–1951) and Egon Wellesz, the architect Loos, and the artist Kokoschka.
In 1913, the Schwarzwald’sche school moved to new quarters designed by Loos. Schwarzwald further developed advanced courses in Chemistry and Economics, as well as an Academy of Law for women. In 1917, she opened a Seminar for Composition directed by Arnold Schönberg. In 1922, she passed ownership of the secondary school and the advanced programs to the Association of Schwarzwald’sche School Institutes. She remained a member of the board and continued to own the kindergarten and primary school. Among her school’s famous graduates as well as youngsters who, after WWI, participated in her summer colony in Semmering were actresses Helene Weigel-Brecht (1900–1971) and Elisabeth Neumann-Viertel (1900–1994), the social psychologist Marie Jahoda, authors Maria Lazar (1895–1948) and Hilde Spiel (1911–1990), and the psychoanalysts Else Pappenheim (1911–1997) and Marie Langer (1910–1987).
Social Projects and Social Network after World War I
During WWI, Schwarzwald began a second career as a social worker while continuing with her school. She succeeded in recruiting aristocrats, businessmen, and politicians in order to realize her large-scale social projects. She organized aid programs for refugees, opened public kitchens offering cheap meals in almost every district in Vienna, and established recreational homes for children, mainly in the Semmering area in Lower Austria, allowing children to enjoy fresh air and regular meals outside the city. The latter project was organized as an association called “Viennese Children in the Countryside,” and the socialist Julius Tandler (1869–1936) was a member of the board. In one of her recreational homes the pianist Rudolf Serkin (1903–1991) was discovered and she promoted his talents, encouraging him to perform at her charity events.
In 1920, Schwarzwald purchased the summer villa “Seeblick,” in Grundlsee in Styria, as a recreation resort, mainly hosting her growing circle of friends, a fascinating mixture of authors, musicians, actresses, monarchists, socialists, and Marxists. In 1922, her many social projects, including aid for the elderly and a workshop for youngsters at an invalids’ school in a working-class district, were combined into an association called “Schwarzwald’sche Welfare Centers.” In 1923, she established the association “Austrian Friends’ Help,” with whose support she founded four Public Kitchens in Berlin. Ten years later, after Hitler’s rise to power, Schwarzwald organized help for refugees from Germany.
In 1928, following a long and fruitful collaboration with Adolf Loos, Schwarzwald was implicated in a trial against the architect in which he was accused of sexual abuse of two working-class girls. Even though Loos was subsequently cleared of the worst charges, Schwarzwald’s attempt to defend his character in front of the police remains problematic, exposing “the inherent contradictions of Viennese modernism as regards women’s emancipation, children and the lower classes” (Holmes, 2018). It further gives us insight into the cult of the artistic “genius” that was integral to the endorsement of Viennese modernism (Holmes, 2018). In 1934, following the establishment of Austria’s Austro-Fascist government, Schwarzwald organized support for persecuted socialists.
Schwarzwald published feuilletons, short stories, and essays in several newspapers and journals, among them the Neue Freie Presse, Wiener Allgemeine Zeitung, and Frauenblatt. Her closest friends were the Danish author Karin Michaelis (1872–1950) and the American journalist Dorothy Thompson (1894–1961). Schwarzwald’s dominant character and manifold activities provoked many Viennese satirists and authors, including Egon Friedell (1878–1938), Peter Hammerschlag (1902–1942 Auschwitz), Alfred Polgar (1873–1955), and Friedrich Torberg (1908–1979). She was also presented in a critical manner in Austrian modern literature: In Karl Kraus’s The Last Days of Mankind (1919), the Schwarzwald couple is identified with the court counselors Schwarz-Gelber, and in Robert Musil’s The Man without Qualities (1930–1942) she inspired the figure of the influential yet superficially romantic salon hostess, Diotima.
In March 1938, when Nazi Germany annexed Austria, Schwarzwald was in Denmark on a lecturing tour. Warned by friends not to return to Vienna, she settled in Zurich. Her school was aryanized and closed and most of her property was confiscated. In September 1938, her husband and her secretary, Marie Stiassny, joined her. Hermann died on August 17, 1939. Schwarzwald continued to publish and considered various job offers, including organizing public kitchens for immigrants in London. On August 7, 1940, Schwarzwald died after a long battle with cancer and was buried beside her husband in the crematorium in Zurich.
Selected Works by Eugenie Schwarzwald
“Die Semmeringschule,” in Jahresbericht des Privat-Mädchen-Lyzeums der Frau Eugenie Schwarzwald. Vienna: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, 1913.
Die Heimkehr des verlorenen Buches, with illustrations by Conrad Felixmüller. Berlin: Gotthard Laske, 1935.
Die Ochsen von Topolschitz, Feuilletons. Vienna: Edition Garamond, 1995.
Gottfreid Keller in der Schule. Vienna: 1911.
Das Vermächtnis der Eugenie: gesammelte Feuilletons von Eugenie Schwarzwald 1908-1938, edited by Robert Streibel. Vienna: Löcker Verlag, 2017.
“Selma Lagerlöf in der Schule.” In Jahresbericht des Privat-Mädchen-Lyzeums der Frau Eugenie Schwarzwald. Vienna: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, 1912.
Anderson, Harriet. Utopian Feminism. Women’s Movements in Fin-de-siècle Vienna. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.
Decihmann, Hans. Leben mit provisorischer Genehmigung, Leben,Werk und Exil von Dr. Eugenie Schwarzwald (1872–1940). Berlin–Vienna–Mülheim a.d. Ruhr: Guthmann-Peterson, 1988.
Göllner, Renate. Kein Puppenheim. Genia Schwarzwald und die Emanzipation. Frankfurt, Berlin, Bern, Brussels, NY, Vienna: Peter Lang, 1999.
Hall, Murry G. “Adolf Loos und ‘Frau Doktor.’” Parnass. Der Künstlerkreis um Adolf Loos, Aufbruch zur Jahrhundertwende. Linz, Austria: Grosser, 1985: 92-99.
Herdan-Zuckmayer, Alice. Genies sind im Lehrplan nicht vorgesehen., Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 1979.
Hlavac, Christian.“Von Grundlsee nach Zürich. Die letzte Spur von Eugenie Schwarzwald.” In Zwischenwelt. Literatur / Widestand / Exil. Special issue Die Unentberhliche Eugenie Schwarzwald. Vienna, November, 2019, 74-75.
Holmes, Debora. “Eugenie Schwarzwald and Adolf Loos. Reform Education and Modern Architecture.” In Design Dialogue: Jews, Culture and Viennese Modernism/ Design Dialog: Juden, Kultur und Wiener Moderne, edited by Elana Shapira. Vienna, Cologne, Weimar: Böhlau Verlag, 2018.
Holmes, Debora. Langeweile ist Gift: das Leben der Eugenie Schwarzwald. St. Pölten, Salzburg, Vienna: Residenz Verlag, 2012.
Long, Christopher. Adolf Loos on Trial. Prague: Kant, 2017.
Rose, Alison. “The Jewish Salons of Vienna.” In Gender and Modernity in Central Europe: The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and Its Legacy, edited by Agata Schwartz, 119-132. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2010.
Scheu, Friedrich. Ein Band der Freundschaft – Schwarzwald-Kreis und Entstehung der Vereinigung Sozialistischer Mittelschüler. Vienna: Böhlau, 1985.
Spiel, Hilde, Die hellen und die finsteren Zeiten Erinnerungen 1911-1946. Munich: List,1989.
Streibel, Robert, ed. Eugenie Schwarzwald und ihr Kreis. Vienna: Picus, 1996.
Streibel, Robert. “Ein Mann im Schatten seiner Frau? Notizen zum Wirken von Dr. Hermann Schwarzwald.” In Zwischenwelt. Literatur / Widestand / Exil. Special issue Die Unentberhliche Eugenie Schwarzwald, Vienna, November, 2019, 50-62.