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Neustadt, Adolf

(1812–1875), journalist, editor, and communal leader. Adolf Neustadt (Neustadtl) was exposed early in his life to the world of the Prague literati in his father’s antique bookshop. While studying at the local Piarist secondary school where his literary talent was encouraged, he also came under the wing of the maskil Peter Beer. In his youth, Neustadt made fast friendships with some of the outstanding personalities of his generation, including the publicist and political figure Ignaz Jeitteles; the journalist, editor, member of parliament, and Viennese communal leader, Ignaz Kuranda; and the high civil servant Baron Karl Hock, whose conversion did not diminish their close relationship.

Neustadt worked as a reporter for Viennese and Leipzig newspapers. His circle of acquaintances expanded to include leading figures of the local Bohemian intelligentsia, as well as Samuel Holdheim, who become the leading radical Reform rabbi in Germany. Neustadt’s provocative writings soon came to the attention of the censor, and he was forced to flee Prague in 1837. After a stint in Leipzig, he settled in Vienna, rooming with Kuranda, befriending the poet and journalist Ludwig August Frankl, and forming close ties with Moritz Gottlieb Saphir, one of the foremost editors of the German press of the time.

Once again, however, Neustadt was forced to flee as the police began to close in on him. He crossed the border into Hungary, where he first worked for the Pester Tagblatt, edited by Saphir’s brother, but then moved to the Pressburger Zeitung and its literary supplement, Pannonia. To avoid further harassment from the Austrian police, he became a naturalized Hungarian citizen, shortening his name to Neustadt. Under his editorship, Pressburger Zeitung was transformed into a mouthpiece for the increasingly militant Magyar liberal nationalist movement, enjoying the patronage of prominent Hungarian politicians. Outside Hungary, it became the primary source for information on political developments in the country.

During the 1840s, Pannonia was one of the most important German literary periodicals in the Habsburg Empire, attracting such talents as Adolf Dux, the translator; Leopold Kompert, the author of popular ghetto stories; Ignác Einhorn, the future Reform rabbi, publicist, and politician who worked as Neustadt’s assistant for three years; Iacob Steinhardt, later the Reform rabbi of Arad; Philipp Korn, the influential Pressburg book dealer; Gustav Zerffi, radical publicist, police informer, and English historian; and many other, primarily Jewish, writers who came to dominate the German press in the monarchy. There does not seem to have been a Jewish journalist or writer at the time in the Habsburg Empire who evaded the extensive network cultivated by Neustadt from his strategically located base in Pressburg.

Although his journal did not stress Jewish issues, there were also no attempts to play them down. It attacked the Viennese professor Anton von Rosas (1791–1855), who sought to exclude Jews from medicine. In fact, Neustadt was the central figure among reformers who gathered around the Pressburg Jewish casino. He had long been a thorn in the side not only of the conservative burghers of Pressburg, but also of the traditional leadership of the Jewish community. With the outbreak of the 1848 Revolution, he joined the National Guard, taking an active role in recruiting Jews and outfitting them with arms, to the chagrin of communal elders. On 20 March, dressed in uniform and armed with a saber, he thundered at the casino that the present communal leadership be made to resign, if not peacefully than by force. He appeared at the communal assembly the next day.

According to one account, Neustadt called on Jews to carry out thoroughgoing reforms, “to abolish the malpractices stemming from their political and religious situation, to abolish the Talmud and to forego the prejudices against Christendom.” A great tumult arose, and amid insults, Neustadt was forced to withdraw. Not only was his communal coup unsuccessful, but his provocative editorial policy and writings also made him a target for the growing anti-Jewish sentiment that culminated in repeated riots in the city. One of the four demands of the Pressburg mob on 21 March was that Neustadt be dismissed. That same day he left for Vienna.

He spent the rest of the revolution in Prague, reporting for the Constutionellen Blätter aus Böhmen and the weekly Politische Briefe. In 1849, he moved back to Vienna where he edited the Wiener Blätter, an important albeit short-lived Jewish weekly. Once again, he was subject to police investigation for his political writings and was forced to leave the city. Still, the finance minister, Baron Karl Ludwig Bruck, and the ministerial councilor Karl Hock entrusted him to report on the economic situation and the prospects for trade in the Levant. He spent several months sending reports from Egypt and Palestine, which were made good use of by Ludwig August Frankl when he undertook his mission to establish the Lämel school in Jerusalem.

Returning to Vienna, Neustadt reported for various newspapers on economic and financial matters. Later, he edited the Österreichischen Zeitung, an important organ of the Austrian liberals. In a trend that was noticeable throughout Europe from the decade of the 1860s on, he and other prominent journalists and writers (Kuranda, Kompert, Frankl) were coopted onto the Viennese communal board. Among Neustadt’s publications are the popular Maiszim und Schnokes (Anecdotes and Witticisms), Aus dem Leben eines Honvéd (From the Life of a Hungarian Revolutionary Soldier), and numerous entries in Brockhaus’s Conversations-Lexikon.

Suggested Reading

Constantin von Wurzbach, Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich, vol. 20, pp. 299–305 (Vienna, 1869); the detailed entry seems to have been written by Neustadt himself.