Anthropological Studies of Jews who were Interned in the Prater Stadium
Vienna – In September 1939 Gershon Evan was a sixteen year old like 1,000 other stateless Jews who were interned in the Prater Stadium in Vienna. Anthropological studies were conducted on 440 of them, the results of which are preserved to this day in the Natural History Museum in Vienna. Through Leon Zelman at the Jewish Welcome Service as intermediary, Evan who now lives in San Francisco, was invited by Federal President Thomas Klestil as guest to the Hofburg. The Federal President honored the work of those researchers who have gone to great efforts to evaluate the history and background of the studies.
Only three weeks after the internment, the Jews were deported to the concentration camp in Buchenwald where most of them perished. Evans was released in 1940 and undertook an adventurous escape which took him to Palestine. From 1942 to 1946 he served in the British Army, and from 1948 to 1950 in the Israeli Army. In 1958 he relocated to the United States.
During his internment in the Prater Stadium Evans was subjected, along with other fellow sufferers, to anthropological examinations. To this day many of the hair samples, masks of plaster, fingerprints, along with other findings and photos are preserved in the Natural History Museum.
Supported by the Fund for Promotion of Scientific Research (FWF), the inventory is currently being processed. “On the one hand, the collection raises questions as to how it was acquired, and on the other hand, how it was handled, especially since it concerns the only information and picture of the deported Jews who were then later murdered,” claims one project member, Margit Berner. President Klestil said at the reception for Mr. Evans that the work of the researchers resembles that of stone collectors who eventually form a mosaic from the pieces collected.
As a young boy, Evan, himself, had imagined a life of adventure as something entirely different from that which he experienced. With the title, “Winds of Life. The Destinies of a Young Viennese Jew 1938 to 1958,” he wrote down his own personal life story.
“Winds of Life. The Destinies of a Young Viennese Jew 1938 to 1958. Gershon, Evan; Edition Paperback, 29 Euros.