Along the street where I live stands a beautiful old villa, just a few steps away from my apartment building.
On the gate is a sign with a dedication to a former occupant. Translated from German, it reads: “In memory of Georg Terramare. The famous poet and stage director spent a part of his life before exile in the house at Heuberggasse 10.“
I had never heard of Georg Terramare before, but mostly inspired by the impressive look of this villa, I decided to find out more about him.
Georg Eisler von Terramare was born on 2 December 1889 in Vienna, the capital of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. He was the son of Josef Eisler von Terramare (1855–1913), who was co-owner of a canning factory in Inzersdorf, a small village near Vienna. Josef’s father Ignaz Eisler (Georg’s grandfather) had founded this factory, which also became privileged to supply the army. Because of this, hereditary Austrian nobility was bestowed on Ignaz Eisler by the emperor, and from then on the family was granted permission to use the title von Terramare.
The factory building, although completely renovated and repurposed, is actually still present in the same location in Inzersdorf, which is now part of Vienna’s 23rd district.
The Eisler’s newly acquired nobility status was also reflected in the custom-designed family grave they had erected in Vienna’s central cemetery (Zentralfriedhof), directly behind the imposing church that is the centerpiece of this large cemetery.
Growing up as the son of an affluent and aristocratic industrialist, Georg attended the Schottengymnasium, a catholic private school run by the Schottenstift, a Benedictine monastery in central Vienna.
Next to the entrance is a plaque commemorating several former students of the Schottengymnasium who all became well-known poets, with a special mention of Georg Terramare.
After graduating from the gymnasium, he went to study in Cambridge, England (his mother was actually English), and then at the university of Vienna, where he obtained his doctoral degree in German studies in 1913.
With the end of the Austrian-Hungarian empire after the first world war, it was decided to also abolish all associated nobility, and Georg Eisler lost his right to use the von Terramare title. However, in 1925 he received permission from the Viennese authorities to use this former aristocratic name as his official family name, thus becoming Georg Terramare.
Meanwhile, Georg led the successful Viennese theater group Wiener Schottenspiele, followed by appointments as stage director in Switzerland, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. However, in 1939, being persecuted on “racial grounds” due to his Jewish heritage, he and his wife fled to South America, where they settled in La Paz, Bolivia. There, Georg continued to pursue his writing and theater ambitions and interests. He remained in exile in La Paz until his death in 1948.
Sadly, his former residence along the Heuberggasse in Vienna is in a dilapidated state, and clearly has not been occupied for some time. I do not know who currently owns it or what will happen to it, if anything at all. But it certainly still radiates a very poetic presence…