Edith Wellspacher-Emery

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Edith Wellspacher-Emery , née Wellspacher (born October 9, 1909 in Schottwien , Lower Austria ; † August 11, 2004 in Vienna ) was an Austrian- British doctor , architect and artist .


Family and school time

Edith Wellspacher was born on a rural estate in Lower Austria. Her grandfather Franz Xaverius Wellspacher, a young railway engineer from a good family, had come to Lower Austria to build the Semmering Railway , where he fell in love with a 14-year-old girl whom he later married. The connection resulted in five children: a boy, Edith Wellspacher's father, and four girls.

Edith's father married late, over 40 years of age, a nanny to one of his nieces. The couple had two girls; Edith was the older of the two siblings. When Edith Wellspacher was five years old, her father died. After the early death of the father, Edith's mother tried as a manager to run the farm with its businesses, to which u. a. a mill had to be run on its own at first, but after her nephew had run down the estate, it soon had to be sold as part of an emergency sale , the proceeds of which were barely enough for financial survival.

Edith Wellspacher received private tuition , first from her mother, and later from a retired school director. At the age of 11 she was sent to a convent school. At the age of 13 she moved to an aunt in Vienna , attended a state school for the first time and also attended painting courses for young people with the Austrian painter and art teacher Franz Čižek . At a socialist evening school , she made up her Matura in three years ; then she enrolled in medicine at the University of Vienna .

Studies and first professional practice

Edith Wellspacher was one of the first and youngest women in Austria to be admitted to medical school. She completed her medical studies in extreme poverty and human deprivation. She lived in a small, unheatable room that she could sublet , slept temporarily in university rooms , where it was warmer, and often went hungry for days. After stays abroad in England and France , she obtained her doctorate in 1934 and began her professional practice as a regular doctor in the Kaiserin-Elisabeth-Spital in Vienna. After three years, she moved to the Vienna University Clinic for Obstetrics and Gynecology and specialized in gynecology .

Wellspacher took an early interest in politics. She “admired” the social housing of the municipality of Vienna, supported the ideas of socialism and was a vehement opponent of the incipient National Socialism in Austria . In the weeks before the annexation of Austria, Wellspacher worked mainly with "the few Jewish doctors and some foreign doctors"; The Nazi-minded doctors rarely appeared in the clinic in those days of upheaval. Because of their political attitude and the resulting hostility, Wellspecher was considered unreliable. She was eventually discharged and also lost her office in the hospital. She temporarily moved into a room with the Austrian writer Erika Mitterer , whom she had met in the 1920s and with whom a lasting friendship had developed.

Emigration, marriage and studies

In the spring of 1938, Wellspacher decided in view of the political situation to emigrate . Wellspacher was initially refused to leave, probably due to a denunciation by former hospital colleagues. She applied, made aware of this by Erika Mitterer, to an advertisement from a girls' college in Tasmania that was looking for a drawing teacher trained by Cizek with a gymnastics diploma and fluent knowledge of English and French, and received, after Cizek's personal intervention Exit visa . Wellspacher fled Austria in the summer of 1938. After a short stopover in Paris , where her sister now lived, she embarked for Australia .

On the ship destined for Port Sudan , Edith Wellspacher met the British colonial official John Emery, whom she married in 1939 after a year of acquaintance and correspondence. The couple's short honeymoon took them through Tasmania. In April 1940 Edith Wellspacher, meanwhile pregnant by Emery, traveled to Paris to stay near her sister. After the birth of their son Mike, Wellspacher was temporarily sent to an internment camp as a British citizen in December 1940 . In February 1941 she returned to Paris. Finally, at the end of October 1942, she was allowed to leave occupied France as part of a prisoner exchange negotiated by neutral Switzerland . From November 1942, Wellspacher-Emery traveled via Vienna, where she met her mother and friends (including Erika Mitterer) via Hungary , the Balkans , Turkey , Syria and Palestine to Sudan , where her husband was on duty. In April 1944, Emery pregnant again, she went to England to give birth.

During this time, Edith Wellspacher worked hard to get the recognition of her training as a doctor acquired in Austria, possibly also by repeating examinations as part of a short course; due to the high student numbers at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge , however, she was unable to study.

After the birth of their second son Peter in Manchester , John Emery returned to Great Britain on vacation in late 1944; the couple temporarily settled in Edinburgh . After a stopover in Khartoum , where Emery was subsequently in colonial service, Wellspacher-Emery moved permanently to Hobart with his two sons in 1948 ; her husband John followed her a year and a half later, in the early 1950s, after he had finished his professional career there.

Architect and artist

Wellspacher-Emery worked as a language teacher in Australia. After a year of her medical degree had been credited, Edith Wellspacher-Emery began studying psychology in Australia ; It would have been possible for her to practice her medical profession in Australia only after repeating the entire course. However, Wellspacher-Emerys professor died of a stroke during her third year of college . Since his position was not filled again, Wellspacher-Emery was unable to complete her studies.

She now decided on a completely different vocational training. She studied architecture and successfully graduated in 1956. She financed her living by working in architectural offices, and later also by working independently as an architect. She also continued to do translations. Wellspacher-Emery also participated in radio broadcasts and gave lectures on architecture and home design .

During her first big trip around the world in 1952 through Mexico and the USA she finally discovered her interest and passion for the artistic. From then on she recorded her travel impressions in a sketchbook, from which, after her return, artistic implementations in different techniques, etc. a. Watercolors , oil paintings , linocuts and embroidery were created. In 1957, 1965, 1969 and 1974 she undertook further trips, mostly one year long, which served as the main source of inspiration for her artistic work. In the later years of her artistic work, she devoted herself primarily to embroidery. She was also one of the founding members of the Embroiderer's Guild in Hobart.

Edith Wellspacher-Emery's pictures and drawings were presented in several exhibitions. In the autumn of 1984 the Austrian Automobile, Motorcycle and Touring Club (ÖAMTC) organized a large exhibition in Vienna.

Late years

From her 60th birthday she received a monthly allowance from the Republic of Austria (“restitution for injustice suffered”). She learned languages, u. a. Russian , Chinese and Japanese , at college level. In 1995 her autobiography A Twentieth Century Life was published . Her last letter to her longtime friend Erika Mitterer is from October 1997. In 1998 Edith Wellspacher-Emery suffered a severe stroke and had to move to a nursing home. She died on August 11, 2004 at the age of 94.


The life of Edith Wellspacher-Emery up to her emigration was depicted in the Franco-German documentary drama series War of Dreams . The series follows the life paths of selected protagonists (such as Hans Beimler , Marina Yurlova and Rudolf Höß ), whose fate is paradigmatic for the circumstances of the time.

Wellspacher, played by the French actress Roxane Duran , works in gynecology and begins an affair with the doctor Bert Springer (played by Andreas Lust ), although he is married and a member of the National Socialist party. The “Anschluss of Austria” came as a shock to them. Her Jewish fiancé, the assistant doctor Max Wachstein ( Wolfgang Menardi ), is arrested and interned in the Dachau concentration camp . In desperation, Edith decides to leave her home country Austria.

Wellspacher is shown in the series as a Viennese doctor “who lives in the desperate conflict between her Jewish fiancé and her Nazi lover”.


Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j Martin G. Petrowsky: Emancipated universalist  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . In: Wiener Zeitung , October 2, 2009. Retrieved October 8, 2018.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / www.wienerzeitung.at  
  2. Wellspacher, Edith . Life dates. German photo library . Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  3. The TV documentary series War of Dreams , which presents on film stations from Edith Wellspacher's life up to her emigration, creates a connection to the lawyer and later Viennese university professor, professor of civil law and senator of legal affairs via the "famous" name Wellspacher and Political Science Faculty of the University of Vienna , Moritz Wellspacher (1871–1923). Moritz Wellspacher is not her father, however. A relationship could not be verified either.
  4. On M. Wellspacher, see Moritz Wellspacher, Prof. Dr. . Official website of the University of Vienna . Retrieved October 10, 2018. And Moritz Wellspacher (biography). In: Thomas Olechowski, Tamara Ehs, Kamila Staudigl-Ciechowicz: The Vienna Law and Political Science Faculty, 1918-1938 . Pages 351–355. Vienna University Press. 2014. ISBN 978-3-89971-985-7 .
  5. War of Dreams (2) . Biographical sketch of Edith Wellspacher. Official website Das Erste . Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  6. Edith Wellspacher (Austria) . Biographical sketch of Edith Wellspacher. Official website of SWR . Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  7. Universe History: War of Dreams - Part 3: To Life and Death . ORF.at. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  8. "It could have gone well too" . TV review. In: Courier of September 14, 2018. Retrieved October 8, 2018.