Act I Scene 1


Vienna. Ringstrasse. Sirk Corner. A few weeks later.[1]Flags on the fronts of buildings. Loud acclamation for soldiers marching by. Universal excitement. Clusters of people forming.

NEWSPAPER VENDOR:    Extra edition –

NEWSPAPER VENDOR 2:    Extra! Latest German and Austrian bulletins!

DEMONSTRATOR (breaking away from a group of people singing ‘Prince Eugen’[2], red-faced and hoarse, shouting continuously):   

So he ordered a bridge to be made

For his army to cross in parade,

And take the great fort of Belgrade –

Down with Serbia! Boo! Hooray! Up the Hapsburgs! Yea! Up Serbia! 

INTELLECTUAL (noting the mistake, digs him in the ribs):    Do you even know what you’re saying?

DEMONSTRATOR (initially nonplussed, thinks again):     Down with Serbia! Boo! Hooray! Yea! Down with the Habsburgs! Serbia!

(A prostitute is caught up in the crush of a second group, along with a crook who walks close behind her, trying to snatch her handbag.)

CROOK (continually shouting at the same time):    Hooray! Hooray!

PROSTITUTE:    Let go! You impertinent little – let go, or –

CROOK (abandoning the attempt):    So how come you’re not cheering? Do you want to be a patriot?  You’re a whore that’s all, just remember it!

PROSTITUTE:    You’re just another pickpocket!

CROOK:    You’re still a slut – it’s war now, get it? Whore!

PASSER-BY 1:    Let’s have order in the streets, please! Keep in order!

PASSER-BY 2:    If I got it right she was attacking the royal family.

CROWD:    Let her have it then! (The girl successfully disappears into an alleyway.) Oh, let her go! What do we care? Up, up with the Hapsburgs!

JOURNALIST 1 (to his colleague):    Great, there really does seem to be plenty of atmosphere here. What’s going on exactly?

JOURNALIST 2:    We’ll see soon enough.

MILITARY SUPPLIER 1 (climbs on to a bench with another):    We can get a better view here. How stunningly they march, our brave soldiers!

MILITARY SUPPLIER 2:    As Bismarck[3] said once, it’s in the New Free Press today, people should be out showering them with kisses.

MILITARY SUPPLIER 1:    You know they’ve even taken Eisler’s eldest?

MILITARY SUPPLIER 2:    You’re joking! I’ve never heard anything like it! The rich as well? Couldn’t they do anything about it?

MILITARY SUPPLIER 1:    The word is they’re in the process now. Presumably he’ll go straight to the top, as one does[4], and sort it all out.

MILITARY SUPPLIER 2:    If the worst comes to the worst – you see, he’ll just buy the boy that car he’s always set his heart set on – apparently a car guarantees a cushy job.[5]

MILITARY SUPPLIER 1:    A car? But what if he had an accident?

PASSER-BY 3:   The honour is all mine, Director-General![6]

PASSER-BY 4 (to his companion):    Did you hear that? You know who that was? Only a director-general in mufti. Better be careful what we say. He’ll be one of the generals who’s in charge of all the other generals.

OFFICER 1(joining three others):    Ah, greetings Nowotny, greetings Pokorny, greetings Powolny, so – you’re the one with the political nous, what do you think about all this now?

OFFICER 2 (with a cane):    I still say it’s about encirclement[7]

OFFICER 3:    Well – obviously that.

OFFICER 4:    I couldn’t agree more – but you know what, we had such a partyyesterday! And did you see Schönpflug’s[8] cartoon, a real classic!

OFFICER 3:    It does say in the paper it was all preventable, you know.

OFFICER 2:    It said unpreventable!

OFFICER 3:    Oh, right, unpreventable, of course, I must have misread that. So anyway, what’s happening with you guys?

OFFICER 4:    Well, there is the prospect of a job in the War Office.

OFFICER 1:    Ah, my beautiful chum, you’ll be with us in that case. I’ll you what though, last night I was at the Apollo[9] to see Mela Mars[10] – and Nowak[11] of the 59th[12], well, he said he’d heard a whisper I’ve been put up for a Silver Medal for Bravery.[13]

NEWSPAPER VENDOR 1:    Daily News! Great victory near Schabaz![14]

OFFICER 4:    Oh, congratulations –wow, did you see that one! A little bit of what I fancy’s just washed up! I say – you – hang on, I – (off.)

OTHERS (shouting after him):    See you at Hopfner’s later!

VIENNESE MAN (giving a speech from a bench):     — we cannot ignore the ghost of our murdered Crown Prince; that would be the height of stupidity – which is why I’m telling you, dear fellow citizens – to follow the fatherland in these great times, and with all flags fleeing! After all we are encircled now by every kind of foe! We are in a holy war of market distribution; that’s what’s driving us, driving us on! So please – only observe our courageous men – defying the enemy, even now, regardless, look at them standing before the foe simply because the fatherland has called them, illiterately braving every kind of weather – there they stand, just look at them! And so I say to you now – it is the duty of every one of you who claims to be a citizen, to do your bit and to stand shoulder to shoulder. It’s what our boys expect! Learn a lesson from them, that’s right! That’s why I’m telling you that we have got to stand together like one man! Let the enemy hear us and fear us, because it’s a holy war of market distribution, and that’s what’s drives us on! We stand as firmly as a phoenix and that means they’ll never break through – for we are what we are, and I tell you now, Austria will rise phalanx-like from a world in flames! The cause we’ve been wound for is a just one, even if it does look like a dog’s dinner, and that’s why I say: Serbian louts – wipe them out!    

VOICES IN CROWD:    Bravo! That’s it! – Serbian louts, wipe them out! One way or another! – Hooray! – Annihilate them, every one of them!

VOICE IN CROWD 1:    And every Rusky[15]

VOICE IN CROWD 2 (roaring):    – fun for usky!

VOICE IN CROWD 3:    What a hoot! (Laughter.)

VOICE IN CROWD 4:    In with the boot!

ALL:    What a hoot! In with the boot! Hooray!

VOICE IN CROWD 2:    And every Frog!

VOICE IN CROWD 3:     Will die like a dog! (Laughter.)

VOICE IN CROWD 4:    Smash and kick!

ALL:    Smash and kick! Kick the pricks!

VOICE IN CROWD 3:    Kick after kick – for every Brit![16]

VOICE IN CROWD 4:     Kick them! Kick their arses!

ALL:    That’s the stuff!  Find a Brit for every kick! Hooray!

STREET URCHIN:    God scourge England![17]

VOICES IN CROWD:    He will! Down with England!

YOUNG WOMAN 1:    My Poldi promised me a Serb’s chitterlings[18] on a plate. I sent that one in to the Reichspost!

VOICE IN CROWD 5:    Long live the Reichspost! Our Christian daily![19]

YOUNG WOMAN 2:    Yes, I sent one in too, my Ferdie said he’s going to bring me home a Russian’s kidneys. Devilled!

ALL:    Bring it on!

POLICEMAN:    Left please, left please!

INTELLECTUAL (to his girlfriend):    If there was ever a time one could really steep oneself in the soul of the people it is now. What is the time anyway? Benedikt’s editorial says it’s a joy to be alive today. He puts it quite stunningly: ‘The brilliance of ancient greatness illumines our times’.

INTELLECTUAL’S GIRLFRIEND:    It’s nearly half-past now. And mama said if I’m home any later than that, I’m really going be for it.

INTELLECTUAL:    Oh, go on, stay!  Look at all the people, seething with emotion all around us. But just watch out for the upsurge!


INTELLECTUAL:    I’m talking about their souls, it’s as if the whole population has been purged – it says in Benedikt’s editorial that they’re all heroes now, everyone.  Who could have believed how the times could have changed like this, and how we’ve changed with them?

(A fiaker stops in front of a house.)

PASSENGER:    What do I owe you?

FIAKER DRIVER:    Your Grace would know.

PASSENGER:    I do not know. How much do I owe you?

FIAKER DRIVER:    Whatever the rate is.

PASSENGER:    Well, what is the rate?

FIAKER DRIVER:    Whatever you’d give the others.

PASSENGER:    You’ve got change? (Offers him a gold ten crown coin.)

FIAKER DRIVER:    Change that? I wouldn’t even take it, not a coin like that, it could be French gold!

CARETAKER (approaches):    What’s that? A Frenchman? Let’s have a look. Is he one of the spies they told us about! Where did he come from?

FIAKER DRIVER:    Ostbahn[20] Station.

CARETAKER:    Aha, so from St Petersburg then![21]

CROWD (which has gathered round the coach):    A spy! A spy!

(The passenger has disappeared into an alleyway.)

FIAKER DRIVER (shouting after him):    And a tight-fisted gouger too!

CROWD:    Let it go! No reprisals, that’s not us! We’re not like that!

AMERICAN RED CROSS OFFICIAL (to another):    Look at all the people, how emotional they are![22]

CROWD:    Those two sound like they’re English! Get out of here! You’re in Vienna now! (The Americans flee into an alleyway.)

God scourge England! Oh let them go! We not really like that, are we?

TURK[23] (to another):    Regardez l’enthusiasme de tout le monde.

CROWD :    A couple of Frogs! Hey, speak German! Shove off! This is Vienna! (The Turks flee into an alleyway.)  Oh, let it go. We’re not like that! Or maybe that Turkish? Didn’t you notice they had fezzes on! They’re our allies! Fetch them back and we’ll sing them Prince Eugen!

(Two Chinese appear in silence.)

CROWD:    Look, it’s the Japanese now! We’ve even got Japanese in Vienna! That kind of vermin want stringing up by their pigtails!

CROWD MEMBER 1:     Leave them be! They’re only Chinks![24]

CROWD MEMBER 2:     Takes a slit-eye to know a slit-eye!

CROWD MEMBER 1:     Slit-eye yourself!

CROWD MEMBER 3:     Chinks and Japs are all the same!

CROWD MEMBER 4:     That makes you a Jap then!

CROWD MEMBER 3:     Piss off!

CROWD MEMBER 4:     If you’re not a Chink you’re still a fink! (Laughter.)

CROWD MEMBER 5:    Hey, hey, what’s going on? Haven’t you read the paper, look, it says here (he pulls out a newspaper) ‘These patriotic excesses cannot be tolerated under any circumstances, besides they’re bound to damage tourism.’ We won’t develop tourism like this, will we?

CROWD MEMBER 6:    Well said! He’s right!  If we want to have a tourist industry, it’s going to be hard work if we go around –

CROWD MEMBER 7:    Shut your trap! War is war and if somebody’s gibbering away in American or Turkish or any other –

CROWD MEMBER 8:    Too true! It’s just war now, war and no messing!

(A woman with a slight trace of a moustache has appeared.)

CROWD:    Hey, look over there! We can see through that disguise all right, a spy in drag! Arrest him! Lock him up!

SOMEONE SENSIBLE:    Gentlemen, come on – think about it – wouldn’t she have had a shave!        


SOMEONE SENSIBLE:    If she was a spy.

CROWD MEMBER 2:    He forgot!  That’s how he’s got caught!

SHOUTS:    Who? – Him! – No, her!

CROWD MEMBER 3:    That’s the sort of trick you expect from spies!

CROWD MEMBER 4:    They grow beards grow so they’re not noticed.

CROWD MEMBER 5:    Don’t talk rubbish, that’s a woman spy, and she’s just stuck a beard on to make sure we don’t clock her!

CROWD MEMBER 6:    It’s not, it’s some guy-spy posing as a spy-ess!

CROWD:    Well it’s pretty fishy, the police need to know! Grab him!

(The woman is led away by a policeman. People can be heard singing ‘The Watch on the Rhine’[25])

VOICES IN CROWD (singing):

A thunderous sound, the call is roared,

Like crash of wave and clash of sword:

The Rhine, the Rhine, our German Rhine,

Who will stand watchman on the Rhine?

JOURNALIST 1(holding a notebook):    This was no flash in the pan, no fleeting moment of alcohol-fuelled enthusiasm, no roisterous outburst of morbid mass hysteria. It is with true grit that Vienna welcomes this fateful decision. Do you know how I intend to sum up Vienna’s mood? It can be summed up in these words: Beyond any considerations of pride or human frailty. Far beyond pride or human frailty, this dictum, which has been coined to describe Vienna’s prevailing mood, cannot be repeated often enough. Far beyond pride or human frailty! What do you think?[26]

JOURNALIST 2:    What can I say? Brilliant!

JOURNALIST 1:    Far beyond pride or human frailty. Thousands upon thousands flow through the streets, arm in arm, rich and poor, old and young, high and humble. The bearing of every one of them shows how entirely conscious they are of the gravity of the situation, yet how proud to feel inside them the pulse-beat of these great times, bursting upon us.

VOICE IN CROWD:    Kissmyarse!

JOURNALIST 1:    Listen to how they keep singing Prince Eugen over and over and our national anthem[27] and the Watch on the Rhine as well, of course, in true token of our pan-Germanic covenant. Vienna has finished work earlier than usual today. And while I remember, we have got to describe how the public started massing in front of the War Office in particular. But most of all we mustn’t forget to mention – guess what.

JOURNALIST 2:    As if I didn’t know! We mustn’t forget to say how hundreds upon hundreds massed in front of the New Free Press offices.

JOURNALIST 1:    Mastermind! The Boss will love that! But why just leave it at hundreds upon hundreds? Say the same thing, thousands upon thousands, what does it matter to you, I mean they’re massing anyway.

JOUNALIST 2:    Great, but what if all this massing’s interpreted as a hostile demonstration, like last Sunday, when the paper was still carrying ads for massage parlours, despite the arrival of these great times.

JOURNALIST 1:   In such great times there is no room for petty-mindedness. You can leave that to Kraus and Die Fackel.[28] Everyone was out acclaiming the New Free Press. There was the sound of tumultuous shouting: Read it out! Read it out! Of course it was all about Belgrade. And then the applause broke out, like thunder.

JOUNALIST 2:    Thunder upon thunder –

JOURNALIST 1:    – for Austria, for Germany, for the New Free Press. The order wasn’t complimentary to us, but still nice from such an impassioned crowd. The whole evening, when their attention wasn’t focussed on the War Office or Ballhausplatz and the Chancellery[29], they massed outside our offices in Fichtegasse[30], jammed together like sardines.

JOURNALIST 2:    I’m always amazed where people find the time.

JOURNALIST 1:     Come on, when times are this great there’s got to be plenty of that time left over! So, the evening’s news was discussed and debated over and over again. On every lip was the name Auffenberg.[31]

JOUNALIST 2:    How come?

JOURNALIST 1:    I can explain, but the sources is editorially redacted, so nothing can be said until after the war. Roda Roda[32] telegraphed the paper yesterday about the battle for Lemberg[33] and at the end of the telegram were the words: ‘Make a big hullabaloo about General Auffenberg’. It was all typeset. Then at the last minute someone realised and it all had to be changed. A real hullabaloo about Auffenberg then!

JOURNALIST 2:    The most important thing is what’s happening on the street. If there’s a dog demonstrating on a corner, the Boss[34] wants to be able to picture it all. He called me in yesterday and told me to go out and look for ‘scenes of everyday life’. But I do find all the pushing and shoving very disagreeable. I can’t stand the crowds. Yesterday I had to join in with the Watch on the Rhine – come on, let’s go, it’s already starting up; look at them, I know the mood, we’ll suddenly find ourselves right in the middle of it all, singing along with God save the Emperor.

JOURNALIST 1:    God forbid! You’re right – why do we need to stay anyway, I can’t see any point, we’re just wasting time, we could be writing about it instead of standing around here. But I do want to say that it is crucial to describe how resolute everyone is and how, here and there, someone maybe breaks away from the crowd to make a financial contribution to the war, however small, and never mind the cost. You really could paint a very vivid picture of that. Yesterday, the Boss sent for me, and he said we’ve got to make the public hungry for the war and the paper, the two things go together. The minutiae of the detail, that’s what matters most, with light and shade and especially with lots of Viennese atmosphere. For example, we need to show how all class distinction was abandoned immediately – how people were waving from cars, even carriages. I observed a lady in the finest lace stepping out of her car and throwing her arms round a woman in a faded headscarf. That’s how it’s gone ever since the ultimatum, everybody is of one heart and one mind.

VOICE OF COACHMAN:    Drive on, you shifty son of a bitch!

JOURNALIST 2:    You know what I observed? Small groups forming.


JOURNALIST 2:    A student delivers a speech calling on everyone to fulfil their duty, then someone else steps up and says: ‘That’s the stuff!’

JOURNALIST 1:    Not bad. I can’t help observing a great solemnity, spreading out across the city; this solemnity, tempered by an elevated consciousness of world history, imprints itself on every countenance, on men already marching off, on those who have to stay behind, for now –

VOICE IN CROWD:    Kissmyarse!

JOURNALIST 1:    – and on the countenances of all who have been assigned this noble task. No more easygoing indolence, thoughtless self-indulgence; the dictum is proud dignity, the glad acceptance of a solemn destiny. The physiognomy of our city has changed with a single blow.

PASSER-BY (to his wife):    You can go to the theatre in Josefstadt[35] if you like, Vienna’s all the theatre I need tonight.

NEWSPAPER VENDOR:    Austrians advance! All objectives taken!

PASSER-BY’S WIFE:    ‘Blood of the Hussars’ is already trash as far as I’m concerned. Forget about operetta, there’s a real war on now.

JOURNALIST 1:    Nowhere a trace of anxiety or dejection, no edgy agitation or faces ‘sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought’.[36] But no foolish or light-hearted belittling of events either, no mindless jingoism.

CROWD:    Hooray, a German! Down with Serbia!

JOURNALIST 1:    Look at that, there’s real Mediterranean passion, guided and directed by real German resolution. That’s what I’m seeing in this city now. Well, you could sound a slightly more discombobulated note for the Leopoldstadt Jews perhaps.[37]

JOURNALIST 2:    I won’t be reporting anything like that, I’m going all out for unalloyed enthusiasm too. I may report that here and there you might see someone, a white-haired old man, reflecting on the far-off days of his youth, or an old woman bent low by age, giving a fond farewell or blessing with a trembling hand. You might notice another one, fearful for a son or husband. Turn round, just look how they’re waving now, they definitely are waving.

TROOP OF BOYS (hussar helmets and wooden sabres, passes singing):

Do you want to join the soldiers –

So he ordered a bridge to be made[38]

JOURNALIST 1:   Make a note: a lovely scene. What we really have to strive for is saying as much as possible about ordinary people. Only today the Boss wrote: the people are a fountain where we can refresh our souls.

GROUP (singing):

Serbs and Russians, every one,

Smash them till the job is done![39]

Hooray! Screw them all! Hey, look at those two Yids![40]

JOURNALIST 2:    Quick, come on, I’m rapidly losing my appetite for street scenes. The Boss can refresh his own soul at the fountainhead, if he’s got the guts. I’d rather get beyond their reach –

JOURNALIST 1:    Far beyond pride or human frailty, this dictum, which we have coined for the prevailing mood of Vienna – (Both hurry off.)

(There is a stir. A young man has stolen an old woman’s handbag. The crowd takes sides against the woman.)

FEMALE VOICE:     It’s war now, my dear, it’s not like it is in peace time, I mean everyone has to give up something. We are in Vienna!

POLDI FESCH (to his companion):    Yesterday I was out on the piss with Sascha Kolowrat, and tonight I’ll be – (Off.)

(Two committed Reichspost[41] readers enter.)

REICHSPOST READER 1:    War is a process of cleansing and purgation, the seedbed of virtue, the inspiration of heroes. Let the weapons speak!

REICHSPOST READER 2:    Finally! Finally!

REICHSPOST READER 1:    Wars are a blessing, not only for the ideals they champion but for the purification they bring to the nation that fights in the name of the very noblest of qualities. A time of peace is a time of danger. It generates lassitude and alienation all too easily.

REICHSPOST READER 2:    A little bit of storm and struggle is necessary for mankind at times.

REICHSPOST READER 1:    Property, peace of mind, pleasure, these things must count for nothing when the honour of our fatherland means everything. And so this war our country has become embroiled in –

REICHSPOST READER 2:    – this war, which will expiate iniquity and bring new guarantees of law and order, is to be seized upon and sanctified with all our hearts.

REICHSPOST READER 1:    A clean sweep with an iron fist!

REICHSPOST READER 2:    In Prague, Brno, Budweis[42] – everywhere now they are cheering the Imperial Decrees.

REICHSPOST READER 1:    In Sarajevo they sang God Save the Emperor.[43]

REICHSPOST READER 2:    Loyal Italy stands at Austria’s side.[44]

REICHSPOST READER 1:    Prince Alfred Windischgrätz has volunteered for military service.[45]

REICHSPOST READER 2:    His Majesty has laboured intensely all day.

REICHSPOST READER 1:    On the 27th between twelve and one o’clock financial provisions for the war were made at the Postal Savings Bank.

REICHSPOST READER 2:    The provisioning of Vienna for the duration of the war has been fully secured by the mayor in collaboration with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture.

REICHSPOST READER 1:    Did you read? No price rises due to the war.


REICHSPOST READER 1:    In steadfast loyalty –

REICHSPOST READER 2:    We pay tribute to our beloved old emperor.

REICHSPOST READER 1:    Our mayor, Richard Weiskirchner[46] said, ‘My dear Viennese friends, you are living in great times’.

REICHSPOST READER 2:    Yes, they certainly are no small matter!

REICHSPOST READER 1:    And he also said, ‘We remember our German allies and their shimmering wall of steel’.

REICHSPOST READER 2:   The tribute of a people ever-true to their emperor has already been laid at the foot of his mighty throne.

REICHSPOST READER 1:   At his summer spa in Bad Ischl.[47]

REICHSPOST READER 2:   You’ll see, this war will bring about a renaissance in Austrian words and Austrian deeds, a real spring clean.

REICHSPOST READER 1:    It’s high time we had a bit of spiritual regeneration! I say let it rip!

REICHSPOST READER 2:    We need a detox![48] Colonic irrigation!

REICHSPOST READER 1:    Have you been called up yet?

REICHSPOST READER 1:    Oh no, not at all, exempted! And you?


REICHSPOST READER 1:    Ah, and the nation breathes a sigh of relief! This war – (off.)

SOLDIERS (singing as they march past):   

When we come home, when we come home,

We’ll meet again when we come home[49]

OLD NEW FREE PRESS SUBSCRIBER (in conversation with the oldest): Interestingly, I see that the leading article in today’s New Free Press describes how the Serbian court and all its hangers on had to leave Belgrade.[50] (He reads aloud.) ‘It is not Vienna tonight that is the city that can offer no safe refuge to an isolated court, its government, and even its troops. That city is Belgrade.’

OLDEST NEW FREE PRESS SUBSCRIBER:    Golden words. So good to hear it too, one can take some real satisfaction in that.

OLD NEW FREE PRESS SUBSCRIBER:    At the same time one could argue that at the moment Vienna is a lot further away from the Serbs than Belgrade is from any Austrians, because Belgrade is directly opposite us in Semlin[51], whereas Vienna is hardly directly opposite Belgrade, and although they’ve started shooting at Belgrade from Semlin, the Serbs can’t exactly shoot at Vienna from Belgrade, and thank God for that.

OLDEST NEW FREE PRESS SUBSCRIBER:    I follow your reasoning, but where does that lead? However you look at the situation, you have to come to the conclusion that what New Free Press leader says is true. To wit, in Vienna our imperial court and everything besides continues as is and in Belgrade it doesn’t. Or isn’t that true? I hope you’re not a sceptic?

OLD NEW FREE PRESS SUBSCRIBER:    What does true mean anyway? It’s indisputable. I’ve never before had such a strong sense of just how right Benedikt is. Because when he’s right, he’s utterly right. (They go off.)

NEWSPAPER VENDOR:    Lemberg! Lemberg still in our hands![52]

4 TEENAGE BOYS AND GIRLS (arm-in-arm, singing ‘Prince Eugen’):

So he ordered a bridge to be made

For his army to cross in parade,

And take the great fort of Belgrade –

CROWD:    Hooray! (Fritz Werner appears, offering thanks and greeting.)

FRÄULEIN KORMENDY:   You know what, this time you ask him.

FRÄULEIN LÖWENSTAMM (approaches):    I really am such a great fan of yours and I’d so love an autograph – (Werner takes out a notebook, writes on a page and hands it to her. Off.) Oh, he was so sweet!

FRÄULEIN KORMENDY:    Well, did he look at you? Come away from the crush, it’s just about the war. The only crush I care about’s the one I’ve got for Otto Storm! (Off.)

CROOK 1:    Hiya Franz, where’re you going?

CROOK 2:    Awx Troys Franzoys.[53]

CROOK 1:    Where?

CROOK 2:    Awx Troys Franzoys. I want to get down there and smash in Hutterer’s[54] windows unless he chucks his Frenchie signs. I’m chomping at the bit here!

CROOK 1:    You’re dead right, it’s a disgrace.

CROOK 2:    If I see another dress shop that calls itself ‘Modes Franzays’, I’m going to break in and rob the place!  (Goes off in a rage.)

CROOK 1:    Hi Pepi, so where’re you off to?

CROOK 3:    Just going to contribute my mite to the war effort.

CROOK 1:    Hey, listen to you, putting your public spirit about –

CROOK 3:    What are you talking about? Public spirit! You won’t say that again, not to me – (Slaps his face.)

SHOUTS FROM CROWD:    Look, over there! Shame on you! Who is that? Whose side are you on, General Nicholaievich’s?[55]

CROWD MEMBER:    And that’s what passes for public spirit in the middle of a war, unbelievable!

(Two commercial representatives appear.)

REP 1:    Hey, something new on today, ‘I Gave Gold for Iron’.[56]

REP 2:    Pull the other one! You? Give something! Dry up!

REP 1:     Who said anything about giving something? Don’t you understand German? An operetta, by Kálmán and Viktor Léon. I saw a poster for the first night: ‘I Gave Gold for Iron’ – wouldn’t mind going.

REP 2:    Great, I’ll come too! It’s just mesmerizing now, everything? Last night, in the ‘Gypsy Princess’[57], Gerda Walde[58] read a piece from the late edition, how our electric fences made a hash of forty thousand Russians  – you should have heard the cheers, at least ten curtain calls.

REP 1:    You seen any wounded yet?

REP 2:    Absolutely! Like I said, it’s mesmerising. The other day there was one sitting next to me at – what was it? Yes – ‘I Had a Comrade’.[59]

REP 1:    I thought that was our hymn for dead soldiers?

REP 2:    What are you talking about? It’s a Viktor Léon operetta!

REP 1:    Any good?

REP 2:    An absolute blockbuster!

NEWSPAPER VENDOR:    Belgrade bombed – Belgrade bombed!


[1] Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914; by mid-August almost all of Europe was at war.

[2] Kraus almost never bothers to include words from the well-known patriotic anthems he continually makes reference to. I won’t always either, but will include extracts on occasions. They are an important element of continuity in the Korso scenes opening each of the five acts.

[3] Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), Prussian and German statesman who oversaw the unification of Germany; he was a hero of pan-German nationalism, though ironically his struggle for the unification of Germany had involved him fighting and defeating Austria-Hungary in the ‘Fraternal War’ of 1866. He is referred to frequently throughout the play.

[4] The phrase ‘going straight to the top’, ‘going upstairs’, appears often; the access the wealthy and powerful had to the corridors of power; to keep their sons away from the front.

[5] Cars were few and far between, therefore useful (if only for ferrying the military hierarchy around); possessing one was another way to keep out of the firing line. I have added a few words of explanation to indicate this in the text; Kraus’s German is more oblique.

[6] This term is familiar in English for the head of a large organisation that is governmental or at least statutory (the BBC for instance, or, in Australia, the senior civil servant in any government depart); also the head of a large NGO. In German Generaldirektor is more widely used for the heads of large commercial, industrial enterprises; so common in Austria, where the love of grand titles was widespread. The familiarity of the German term, and the way titles are used to address people, ‘Herr Generaldirektor’, makes the Passer-by’s confusion stronger than in English. But there is a deeper aspect to the moment; as Kraus will argue at length, it is business that runs the war; perhaps the General-Directors are the real generals..

[7] Germany claimed the root cause of the war was its ‘encirclement’ by potential enemies or their allies; all these countries were ‘responsible’ for attacking Germany’s financial, industrial, political interests in Europe and the world; Austria-Hungry claims the same victim status.

[8] The group of feckless officers we met in the Prologue, who will appear throughout

[9] The Apollo opened in 1904 in Vienna’s 6th district, Mariahilf; a popular cabaret theatre.

[10] Mela Mars (1882-1919), celebrated singer, cabaret performer, married to composer Béla Laszky. Her career began in 1906 at the Theater an der Wien’s famous Cabaret die Hölle (‘Cabaret Hell’). She did perform in the USA: New York Times 6 Dec 1911: Mme. Mela Mars and her husband Bela Laszky arrived in New York yesterday on the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria to begin their engagement at the Winter Gardens… She is a slender little woman with the appearance of possessing a large amount of energy. M. Laszky is not larger than his wife’. She appeared in at least one Austrian film; Fritz Dörmann’s 1912 ‘Die tolle Teresine’.

[11] Another common Slav name, in Poland, and Czech and Slovak regions; it means ‘new’.

[12] An infantry division.

[13] The Silver Medal (1st and 2nd class); the top award for bravery, supposedly in action.

[14] Battle of Cer, near Serbian town of Šabac (Schabaz, German); the first major engagement of the war. The headline is over-optimistic; in fact the Serbs won the first Allied victory here.

[15] In her 2014 article in ‘Critical Quarterly’, ‘Avant Guard in a Different Key’, Marjorie Perloff traces the origin is these words to a German postcard (25 Aug 1914) with a cartoon of two spike-helmeted German soldiers and a sailor, ‘kicking the arses’ of the Russians, French and British, with these verses scrawled round the edges of the drawing. It is a useful reminder of the fact that the words Kraus uses are ‘found material’ to a far greater extent than we can really quantify. Other people’s words are everywhere, even in the most idle of Korso asides.

[16] Russia, France and Great Britain made up the Triple Entente; this alliance, formed in 1907, was to challenge, or at least contain, the dominance of the Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary, in Central and Eastern Europe; these are the major players in the war.

[17] Slogan coined by Ernst Lissauer (1882–1937), German-Jewish poet and dramatist best remembered for the phrase ‘Gott strafe England’. He also wrote ‘Hassgesang gegen England’, ‘Hatesong for England’, a masterpiece of cheap, vicious rhetoric, much celebrated, and often referred to scathingly by Kraus. Lissauer was a fervent German nationalist and pro-Prussian; his ‘Hatesong’ got him an Order of the Red Eagle from the Kaiser. None of it did him much good when the Nazis came to power. Even with his slogans still in Nazi currency, as a Jew he had to leave Berlin and return to Vienna. He was very fortunate to die before the Anschluss.

[18] Beuschl, actually ‘lites’ or ‘lungs’ and Nierndl,‘kidneys’, are popular Viennese dishes.

[19] As the official organ of the Christian Social Party the Reichspost was enthusiastically pro-war and happy to publish populist material of this kind; it was also virulently ant-Semitic.

[20] Terminus for trains from Eastern Europe; as before redundancy in ‘station’ sounds right.

[21] At this time the capital of Russia.

[22] This line is actually in English in the original.

[23] Turkey, in the shape of the Ottoman Empire, was an ally of the Central Powers.

[24] Kineser, derogatory term for someone Chinese, as English ‘Chink’ or ‘Chinky’, and in Austrian slang also a general term for ‘weird’ or ‘stupid’; so the exchange ends something like, ‘If you’re not a Chink you’re still a weirdo’ (using the same word for ‘Chink and ‘weirdo’). No natural English equivalent;  rhyming insult is probably as much as we can do

[25] A very popular anthem of pan-Germanic nationalism, quoted throughout. The song was originally a poem, written in 1841 by Max Scheckenberger, in response to the French threat to annex the west bank of the Rhine as its eastern border. The ‘thunderous’ call is for all true Germans to come to the Rhine’s defence. Here the song celebrates the ‘spiritual’ union between the Germans of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. For obvious reasons it would go on to contribute significantly to the Nazi mythology of a Greater Germany.

[26] From an editorial of Moriz Benedikt’s, 25 July 1914.

[27]Die Kaiserhymme’, national anthem of Austria-Hungary, based on music by Josef Haydn, lyrics by Lorenz Haschka, borrowing heavily from ‘God Save the King’; it appeared in 1795.

[28] ‘The Torch’, the  satirical magazine that Karl Kraus wrote and produced, for most of his life single-handedly, between 1899 and 1936; this vast body of work is Kraus’s greatest achievement; it includes ‘Die letzten Tage der Menschheit’, much of which was published in instalments in the magazine through the course of the war, and later published as a whole..

[29] Official residence of the most senior cabinet minister, the State Chancellor, in Ballhausplatz along with the Foreign Ministry; now residence of Austrian Chancellor ia; like Downing Street or the White House, Ballhausplatz is a term for the seat of power as well as a place.

[30]Neue Freie Presse’ address; Fichtegasse 11, Wien Innere-Stadt.

[31] Moriz Auffenberg von Komarov, baron (1852-1928), Minister of War (1911-12), head of the army in Poland (1914); dismissed and imprisoned in 1915 over corrupt stock speculation.

[32] Alexander Roda Roda, real name Sándor Friedrich Ladislaus Rosenfeld (1872 – 1945), journalist and writer, sometime contributor to the satirical magazines Simplicissimus, the Musket; longterm New Free Press writer; officer in War Press Corps. He had served in the army as a young man and his best writing is often the wryly humorous portrayal of the Austro-Hungarian military and the foibles of the ‘old order’. That was what interested him; his humour had no ‘sharp edge’. Kraus, like many, regarded him as essentially trivial. Left Vienna for Switzerland, 1938; fled Europe in 1940, via Lisbon, dying in New York in 1945.

[33] Lemberg (Lviv, Ukrainian; Lwów, Polish) a major city in Galicia, an area north of the Carpathian Mountains straddling Poland and Ukraine; part of Poland after the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed, now in Ukraine. In 1914 the Austro-Hungarian army made a pre-emptive strike against the Russians here; Auffenberg commanded the 4th Army in this campaign; he won at the battle of Komarów but was then defeated at the battle of Rawa, resulting in a humiliating retreat; the Russians holding Lemberg for nine months. He took some of the blame for the mistakes of his commander-in-chief, Conrad von Hötzendorf. Initial reports, claiming sweeping victories for the Austrians had been widely circulated.

[34] The Boss here is Moriz Benedikt.

[35] Theatre in Vienna’s VIII, Josefstadt. Founded 1788, the city’s oldest working theatre, often called Die Josefstadt; in 1858 it stopped producing opera and has concentrated on drama.

[36] Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’, III.1.

[37] Leopoldstad inVienna II; originally a seventeenth century ghetto-like Jewish settlement, actually named by a grateful non-Jewish population after Emperor Leopold I, who expelled the Jews from the area. It was later re-populated by Jews from the eastern part of the Habsburg Empire, especially Galicia, and became a predominantly Jewish district. It contained a significant number of Orthodox Jews, people the large population of assimilated Jews in Vienna felt ill at ease with. These were Jews for whom ‘trouble’ in any shape or form felt like particular trouble for them, and in the end it did; thirty years  on Jewish Leopoldstadt had been completely destroyed, and most of its inhabitants transported to Auschwitz.

[38] The first line is from a popular soldiers’ song, ‘Wer will unter die Soldaten’ (words, F. Güll, 1812-1879; music, F. Küchen , 1810-1882); the second from ‘Prince Eugen’; the songs are mixed up, but in the context the second line may suggest supporting the troops; ‘building bridges’, (Brücken schlagen, means ‘forging links’, etc.). ‘Wer will unter die Soldaten’  begins as follows:

Do you want to join the soldiers,
Marching off with gun in hand,
Bullets and black powder ready,
Marching off to make their stand!
Lads, if you would join the throng
Bear in mind this little song:
Always keep your ponies happy,
And let them gallop, gallop, gallop!

As with a lot of military songs (remarkably similar ones were sung by Roman legionaries) there’s more to this than marching rhythm; in the refrain, ‘Keep your ponies happy’ (literally ‘Run your little horses happily’) is ‘Pferdchen munter… lauf’;  ‘Pferdchen laufen’ also means ‘ run a string of prostitutes’. In 1912 the Prussian government recommended the song for use in schools; it features in  ‘Vorbereitungen auf die Gesangstunde’ (Karl Roeder, 1911), a guide to the ‘fruitful use of popular songs and anthems in schools’; I have translated Volkslied as ‘popular song’ or ‘anthem’; it does mean ‘folk song’ but this is not an accurate rendering here; the Volk element gives the literal ‘people’s song’ a resonance of nationalism and patriotism that has no echo whatsoever in the English equivalent, at least in England; in Ireland the place of songs and ballads, and of Irish traditional music, though still different, is a much closer analogy.

[39] ‘Poem’ by Felix Dörmann, born Felix Biedermann (1879-1928), writer, librettist and film maker (‘Zirkusgrafin’ 1912, ‘Die tolle Teresine’, 1912, with Mela Mars); operetta ‘Ein Waltzertraum’, ‘Waltz Dream’ (with Leopold Jacobson, music Oscar Straus) filmed as ‘The Smiling Lieutenant’ (Ernst Lubitsch, 1936, starring Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert.

[40] And to prove the point about Jews the crowd is about to turn on the New Free Press journalists, who are Jewish; lacking Russians, French, English, Serbs, a Jew will always serve.

[41] What follows is largely a collage of editorial material and headlines.

[42] Cities now in the Czech Republic; their feelings about the empire at the best ambiguous.

[43] Another city with less than universal enthusiasm for empire and war; in the Czech territories, in Bosnia-Herzegovina the Reichspost would have found few cheering crowds.

[44] Not for long. Italy was part of the Triple Alliance (with Germany and Austria-Hungary) to counteract the Triple Entente (Britain, France, Russia); on 2 Aug 1914 the Italian Prime Minister, Antonio Salandra, declared Italy would not meet its treaty obligations; it would take no part in the war. In 1915, on foot of a fifty million pound British ‘loan’, Italy joined the Allies.

[45] Alfred de Windischgrätz, prince (1851-1927), Prime Minister (1893-1895), president of the Austrian House of Lords (1897-1918). His father had put down the 1848 rebellions in Vienna and Prague, subsequently establishing a short-lived military dictatorship and then forcing the abdication of Emperor Ferdinand in order to put the young Franz Josef on the throne..

[46] Richard Weiskirchner (1861-1926), mayor of Vienna (1912-1919); Christian Social politician in the spirit of Karl Lueger, and like his predecessor and his party he was overtly anti-Semitic.

[47] Fashionable spa town Franz Josef described as ‘heaven on earth’; it was at his home there, the Kaiservilla, he signed the declaration of war against the Kingdom of Serbia, 28 Jul 1914.

[48] The German is Stahlbad, in English ‘chalybeate bath’; chalybeate describes natural spring water containing a high percentage of mineral salts, particularly iron; ‘taking the waters’ to clean out the system, as you did in the spa town of Bad Ischl of course; iron for the soul!

[49] From an expanded version of the Austrian and German hymn for the fallen ‘Ich Hatt’ einen Kameraden’ , ‘I Had a Comrade’, sung as a march rather than as a lament; usually known in English as ‘The Good Comrade’. The extra material uses music from another song, ‘Wo findet die Seele die Heimat der Ruh’, ‘Where Does the Soul Find a Place of Rest’, which is a version of the English ‘Midst Pleasures and Palaces’ (‘There’s No Place like Home’; composed by Henry Bishop for an operetta ‘Clari the Maid of Milan’, 1823). This is the second verse of the march version; the first four lines are from the original poem; what follows includes the first line of ‘Die Vöglein in dem Wald’, ‘The Little Birds in the Wood’, a folk song that touches on love and loss, as well as some trite patriotics; in the ‘Gloria’ line the last word is simply the Latin for ‘victory’. The ‘home’ the soldiers are singing about may not, of course, be of this earth.

A bullet flew towards us,
Was it his or mine instead?
It ripped his life away,
There at my feet he lay:
Gloria, gloria, gloria, victoria!
With heart and hand for the fatherland!
With heart and hand for the fatherland!
The little birds sing in each tree,
The birds sing so beautifully:
When we come home, when we come home,
We’ll meet again when we come home.

[50] Austrian monitors (small battleships) shelled Belgrade from the Danube on 29 Jul 1914.

[51] Semlin (Zemun, Serbian), now one of the municipalities of Belgrade, lying across the Sava River from the city itself; it was variously occupied by Austria-Hungary and Serbia throughout the First World War. The destruction of the railway bridge from Semlin to Belgrade (27 Jul 1914) was the first hostile act between Austria-Hungary and Serbia.

[52] Certainly untrue at this stage.

[53] Objections to business names in French and English took on a semi-official character which Kraus looks at in more detail later (I.8). Neither the absurdity not the self-righteousness is unfamiliar today: in March 2003 references to ‘French fries’ and ‘French toast’ in restaurants and bars run by the US House of Representatives were replaced by ‘Freedom fries’ and ‘Freedom toast’, simply because of French reservations about the looming invasion of Iraq.

[54] Some 20 Hutterer listed in the 1914 Lehmans Directory; the business as yet unidentified.

[55] Nicolai Nicolaievich, grand duke (1856-1931), sometime Russian commander-in-chief.

[56]Gold gab ich für Eise’, scheme to get people to give gold and jewellery to finance arms. Viktor Léon, real name Viktor Hirschfeld (1858-1940), wrote the libretto for a patriotic operetta of the same name, music by Kálmán; timely rehash of an earlier operetta ‘Der gute Camerad’, ‘The Good Comrade’ (1911); Léon co-wrote the libretto for Lehár’s ‘Merry Widow’.

[57] ‘Die Csárdásfürstin’, operetta by Kálmán, libretto by Leo Stein.

[58] Gerde Walde(n) (d.1928), actress and operetta singer. Her real name was Jetty Winkler. She was the sometime mistress of the Shah of Persia, and later married Count Nicholaus von Wassilko, an aristocrat active in the fight for Ukrainian self-government within the empire.

[59] ‘Ich hatt einen Kameraden’, poem written by Ludwig Uhland in 1809, set to music in 1825 Friedrich Silcher (see note on expanded version above: ‘When we come home’); it remains the lament for the fallen in the German and Austrian armed forces. Kraus continues the confusion with Kálmán’s operetta ‘I Gave Gold for Iron’ (regurgitated from his own ‘Der Gute Kamerad’).