Vienna Symphony violist has finger broken by subway thugs

Michael Buchmann, a viola player in the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, was catching a U4 Karlsplatz train home at midnight when he smelt smoking.

He pointed out to three young men, reportedly of Middle Eastern appearance, that smoking was forbidden on public transport. One of them responded with a karate kick aimed at his hand, breaking his ring finger.

He will be out of action for at least a month.

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  • Jack says:

    Just like the Viennese (And other Hoch Deutsche) to stick their noses into other people’s business. Leave it to a police officer to crack down on offensive behaviour.

    • Sue says:

      Is it your habit to victim-blame?

    • Peter says:

      Please keep your inhumane and uncompassionate ways to yourself and your ridiculous – and by now proto-fascist – home country.

      • laurie says:

        Oh the irony! A German lecturing Americans on fascism.

      • laurie says:

        ah, the irony of a German lecturing Americans about fascism. or perhaps not, they do have the most experience with it!

        • Michael Endres says:

          Of course your country’s dealings and history with its indigenous population, the illegal wars, the systematic torturing of prisoners and your newly crowned president ( just to name a few achievements ) sets a gold standard in humanity all Germans should follow.

          • Mike Schachter says:

            Happily the German record is exemplary

          • Scott Fields says:

            Michael, the new President is indeed a disaster. And, as you say, as happened in every land occupied by European invaders, the treatment of the native population was unconscionable.

            But to quote the outgoing President, for whom I voted four times (two primaries, two general elections), let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. The US started as a flawed democracy and for more than 200 years has gradually improved, with peaks and valleys along the way. The current valley is deep. I hope peaks will follow.

            Democracy in Germany, where I happen to live now, is relatively new. It too will ebb and flow. Its lows have been recent and very low. I hope the world doesn’t see such lows again.

            I am, in fact, connected by birth and heritage to both countries. If for no other reason, I am grateful to the United States for providing refuge to my grandparents who otherwise would have been likely to die at German hands.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          No, it’s not ironic at all when Germans who have been born long after the war and who have learned a lot about their own history are now in a position to lecture others who have not learned from history.
          But it is of course highly ironic when those who need the lecture are Americans, of all people, and they are now sliding into (proto?) fascism themselves. The whole “you can’t tell me anything because you were born in a country which had a very bad past and I am by default better because I was born into one which didn’t”* is of course symptomatic of exactly that mindset.

          *While there is plenty of really nasty stuff in American history, too, and a lot of it far more recent than the Nazis; most of it unadmitted and unprocessed, which is why history is now repeating itself there. Ironic on a historical scale indeed!

  • Robert Levin says:

    There is a lesson to be learned here. Mind your own business, especially in a subway station!

    • Sue says:

      Victim blaming. The subway is a smoke-free zone and the people adhere to that because the Viennese are, in many ways, like the Japanese – they have manners.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Entirely agreed. If everybody would iimmediately intervene at such uncivilized behavior, it would gradually fizzle-out. I wonder if there were other passengers around who silently accepted the objectionable behavior but were too scared to comment. And that only encourages such primitive people – how could they ever integrate in a civilized world?

        • Sue says:

          And I’ll add this:

          Hashtag Viennese Violinists’ Lives Matter

          From some of these comments it becomes obvious the Viennese are forbidden to practice their own cultural norms.

  • Alank says:

    Minding one’s own business in Vienna circa 1938 was also the proper thing to do yes?

  • Sue says:

    This doesn’t surprise me for a second!! I lived in Vienna all through 2011 and it was the most safe place in the world to be; now it is dangerous and relatives of our friends here who all live in Austria now say they are afraid to walk the streets or catch a train after dark. It’s even bad in Graz, according to these families.

    I could walk the streets in Vienna at any hour of the night from my apartment near the Margaretengurtel right into the Innere Stadt – and I’ve done it many times.

    The Austrian people do adhere to the law and I’m not surprised one speaks to another about rules on smoking – that’s one of the things which once made it a great place to be.

    Comments about people minding their own business, as above, are merely victim blaming and avoiding the elephant in the room. Oh, but who’d have thought….?

    • John Borstlap says:

      What these barbarians won’t have known, of course, is that smoking in public places in Vienna has been a hotly-debated issue for years, because smoking was part of the Kaffeehaus culture and prohibiting the mysterious mist was/is felt by many people as an offence against cultural identity. And this made anti-smokers very alert as well. Vienna was one of the very last of European big cities to try to reduce smoking in public places.

    • Alexander says:

      A lot seems to have changed in only six years.

      • Sue says:

        I was there in 2015 and it reduced me to tears. The Viennese come across as aloof; sure, they’re not ‘hail fellow well met’, but absolutely there for you if you need help. One day I saw an elderly woman who had slipped over on ice in front of the Staatsoper. A young couple held her by her arms and waited patiently with her until the ambulance came. This is what they do!!

        • Alexander says:

          What confuses me is how so much change was able to come about in a period which you now define as 4 years, from 2011 to 2015. How was it possible for the entire culture of a city to change in that space of time? I know that people of my parents’ generation are able to note changes in the culture of London over the course of their lifetimes, but I cannot say that I have observed any fundamental change in the culture over my lifetime, still less over a period of 4 years. Of course, there have always been events that now seem particular to their time, such as, when I was much younger, Ken Livingstone (then Leader of the Greater London Council) meeting Gerry Adams (then, as now, President of Sinn Féin) in Belfast, but no fundamental change in the ways in which individual citizens relate to each other.

          • Anon says:

            Yet Alexander you talk about all the crime in London. London used to be a safe city just like Vienna. I wonder if the same thing happened in Vienna as happened in London. I wonder what that could be.

          • Alexander says:

            Was London ever really safe? Think of Hogarth and Dickens; think of the Krays and the Richardsons. Crime in London is not something new.

          • ronecc says:

            You are luck you have not seen a change Alexander. You are also lucky not to live in an are where millions of these, so called, refugees have moved to en mas. In Londonistan they have, and are creeping in. I cannot understand why people on this page are attacking a person who has been assaulted and dragging up history to blame each other for making the comments. Some of you will not accept what has happened, and been allowed to happen, over the past few years. There has been trouble in the Middle East for decades, but only in the last four or five years, has the Syrian problem caused millions to arrive on Europe’s borders, from even more countries that are not involved with Syria. What have the African countries suddenly got to do with Syria? Nothing, but all the trouble makers have decided that, if the EU is inviting them to come and rape it’s citizens of flesh, money and peace, they are quite happy to oblige. The sooner you Leftie do gooders realise that when you have succeeded in bringing Democracy down, you will be next on the list for Islam. Forget Britain and America’s decades of warmongering, remember the seven centuries of Islamic murdering.

  • PaulD says:

    Perhaps the musician should have enlisted the help of Daniel Barenboim or Simon Rattle, to pay for smoking cessation lessons for the miscreants.

  • Tim Walton says:

    Best Wishes to Michael from the British Viola Society (Membership Secretary)

  • Fred says:

    “Er schaft das”

  • Alexander says:

    I’m not victim blaming, as I applaud what this gentleman tried to do, but under the same circumstances I would not have done what he did. I live in London, which is perhaps a very different place from Vienna. Where I live in London it’s actually quite dangerous even to look at somebody in a public place. I have had somebody reach into his pocket and threaten to stab me because he thought that I had disrespected him by looking at him. Many years ago now I had my clarinet temporarily stolen, literally, at knife-point on a train in the middle of the afternoon. One assailant held the blade of his knife against my wrist while the other hit me around the head with a metal bicycle pump before making off with my clarinet. Bizarrely, they then threw it back onto the train while they ran away, so it was more an opportunity for senseless violence than a theft.

    A few years ago I was again on a train in the middle of the afternoon travelling from the southeastern suburbs into central London. A couple of men sitting in the seats in front of me were talking in a very explicit sexual way that was clearly intended to be heard by a woman sitting across the aisle from them. I think it’s not inappropriate to say that the men were black and that the woman was white, as the men’s conversation included some very demeaning sexual ways of talking, specifically, about white women. I believe that the woman was a native German-speaker, but it was clear that she understood everything that was being said. She looked very uncomfortable and was staring intently at a book but clearly not actually reading it. Almost immediately I intervened and asked the men to stop talking how they were. One of them then asked me whether he was going to have to punch me in my face. At this point the woman, without saying anything to any of us, just got up and moved. Even when she and I got off the train together in central London, by which time the men had gone, she didn’t say anything to me. No other passengers came to assist me or her. I believe that I was in very real danger of suffering serious physical violence. In this case, I think that I did the right thing, as I was trying to help a woman who was being subjected to sexual and racial abuse, which was only verbal, but may have escalated if nobody had intervened. However, I often see people drinking alcohol on public transport, which is illegal, and, less often, smoking, which is also illegal. To be quite honest, I never say anything. I calculate that it would be worth being punched in the face to prevent sexual or racial harassment, but not worth being punched in the face over something trivial like drinking or smoking.

    On another occasion on a bus I intervened when a middle-aged white man was refusing to sit next to a much younger black woman, openly professing himself to be racist. He was verbally very unpleasant to everybody involved. Again, I thought that this was a risk worth taking.

    I don’t know what it’s like in Vienna, but in London I think one has to choose which fights are worth taking on and which are simply too great a risk.

    • Alexander says:

      A quick PS. I’d also intervene in a homophobic incident, having suffered one on public transport myself, despite my not actually being gay. I was travelling on a train alone, not speaking to anyone, just sitting reading a newspaper, so I cannot work out what it was about me that made the assailant think that I might be gay. The attack was purely verbal, but it was quite unpleasant having somebody make homophobic remarks, even if he was quite wrong in thinking that I was gay anyway. The really shocking thing was that the train was packed and not a single person spoke up to say that this behaviour was wrong. I guess they all figured that it wasn’t worth being punched or stabbed over something that trivial. Personally, I’d like to think that I’d take the risk in those circumstances.

      • John Borstlap says:

        What an awful stories these are. Is this the result of immigration alone? Underdevelopment? Failing educational systems? Mad cow disease? Brexit virus? Where the majority of people present at such incidents remain silent, barbarism grows. These idiots go home satisfied and try to go further next time. 20C history shows how such developments can lead to.

        At my Pall Mall club there are occasional fist fights but they are very civilized. Yet, standards are falling there as well, they tend to become less civilized. It’s infectuous.

        • Alexander says:

          I doubt that it has much to do with immigration. The area of London in which I live (and remember that the population of the London metropolitan area is not far off the size of the entire population of the Netherlands, making such regional distinctions more relevant), most racist incidents seem to take place between white people and people of black Caribbean background, with both black and white people being capable of instigating racist attitudes. Young black people today are likely to be perhaps the third generation born in the UK, so could not said to be immigrants. I also doubt that racial diversity is in any way the fundamental problem in our society. The fact is that there are perfectly civilized people of all ethnic backgrounds and also that a majority of antisocial behaviour involves no racial element at all (one notable exception is some gang violence, which, I am reliably informed, sometimes occurs exclusively within the black population, i.e. some gangs concern themselves only with controlling the behaviour of black people within their territory).

          I think the fundamental problem is a sense of not belonging to society. Many people do not seem to feel that they owe any responsibilities towards the society in which they live, perhaps in part, at least, because they feel that that same society has done nothing for their benefit. I think that connected with this is the very poor quality of state education in the UK, especially in more deprived areas, and the lack of work, as well as the lack of aspiration to work, often the result of multiple generations lacking employment.

          I remember staying for two weeks with a working-class family on a housing estate in Hamburg. The father’s occupation was repairing vending machines. I forget now whether the mother worked, but I seem to recall that she may have had a clerical job. Neither of the parents spoke a word of English, so their level of education was presumably basic. Their flat was small and on a very ugly estate. However, their son was enrolled in the local Gymnasium and expressed ambitions to complete national service in the navy before pursuing a career in journalism. His particular ambition was to report from America, and his English was very good. There was a pub on the estate, which resembled pubs on similar estates in the UK, except that I was, as a complete outsider, made very welcome there. There are pubs just a few minutes’ walk from my house in London which I would not visit because I know that I would not be made welcome. All of the young people I met seemed to come from very similar backgrounds, but I witnessed no antisocial behaviour. They had a friend who was a man in his late teens or perhaps early twenties who had some kind of learning disability, and he was treated with the utmost kindness. I came away from Hamburg having formed a very good impression of what a society can be. I suspect that the fundamental differences between the two societies are educational and employment opportunities and a sense of belonging to a community. Similarly, I have travelled quite extensively in relatively poor countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, and it has always struck me that, while they do not enjoy the wealth that some people in countries such as the UK are able to enjoy, they seem to be fundamentally better societies. I can say with confidence that I have never felt any fear when visiting those countries, including when travelling on public transport and visiting the least affluent residential areas. I could go on to comment on the situation of the Roma, but that opens up a whole other discussion.

          • John Borstlap says:

            All that is very interesting and fits my own experience. Poverty and lack of education brings about the worst in people. But today, quite ugly movements are raising their head in Germany (Pegida, AfD, NPD, salafism) which nobody had ever expected, and the recent attack in Berlin speaks volumes.

    • Michael says:

      While one no doubt must have great admiration for your bravery, it seems these examples are wholly incommensurate.
      You went out of your way to stand up to a woman being harassed and possibly put in danger.
      This Viennese man instigated a confrontation with a group of smokers who were presumably minding their own business. To what end? To help them out and keep them out of trouble? Or to act inappropriately as an instrument of the “law” and exert his white male authority over a bunch of immigrants? Knowing Austria, I suspect the latter. Violence is never justified, but it’s only a matter of time before people strike back.

      • Alexander says:

        I wouldn’t call it bravery. More like doing the decent thing in the circumstances. But, in fact, you are making the very point I was making, albeit more succinctly. I don’t know what his motivation was for getting involved, but I certainly think it seems foolhardy under the circumstances.

  • Michael says:

    It has nothing to do with victim-blaming to understand the sense in which Austrians continually intimidate foreigners, taking it upon themselves to act as extensions of the police state. Immigrants of color are forced to endure this intimidation and harassment every day. In this case, a white bourgeois man with a typically Viennese authoritarian complex takes it upon himself to boss around the Arabs and tell them what is right and proper, imagining that he still lives in a provincial Austrian village from the 1950s with precise rules of conduct, and so on, rather than in an international city at the middle of a refugee crisis in which millions of poor and oppressed people have fled under desperate conditions.
    This is not to say their violence is right but to understand the ways in which two incommensurate types of violence– the raw acting out of the disenfranchised versus the hegemonic matrix of symbolic racist violence of the Austrians — come into conflict, no doubt more frequently in Europe’s future.
    New Yorkers grasp this and realize that to confront a group of a delinquent teenagers late at night on a subway would be virtually asking to be shot, whereas the Viennese are still figuring this all out. Unfortunately their narrative will be that the big bad Arabs are a menace, which only exacerbates the problem.

    • Gerhard says:

      Your long suada can’t conceal the fact that victim blaming is exactly that what it is.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      Faced with this sort of garbage it is hardly surprising that “populists” are doing well. Endless excuses for criminality embedded in pseudo-Marxist drivel

    • Michael says:

      Both of you are clueless. Educate yourselves rather than lashing at what seems confusing to your narrow conservative minds.

      • Mike Schachter says:

        At least we have minds.

        • Michael says:

          “At least we HAVE minds ,” Schachter spat, muttering his best possible comeback in the face of superior argumentation. To the ordinary observer it rang lame, but not everyone was not privy to the extraordinary circumstances of this young child — his intellectual debilities, his awkward clubfoot, and the provincial upbringing which deprived him of a solid grounding in Marxism and spelled his destiny as an ignorant blowhard in permanent ink. Still, there was hope that Mike Schachter might one day grow up to understand the world.

          • Mike Schachter says:

            Actually I came to the UK from the socialist paradise of Hungarian to get away from people like you. I don’t have a clubfoot I am pleased to say and my lack of a solid Marxist education probably allowed me to do something useful for other human beings, not a concept you would understand. You are a really vile apology for a human being.

          • Michael says:

            Wow, Mikey, getting upset , I see! Was just having a little fun with you, that’s all 🙂

            Apparently your long years in the UK have not yet taught you humor or that name-calling is impolite. I have faith that you’ll learn yet.

      • Gerhard says:

        You wrote: “In this case, a white bourgeois man with a typically Viennese authoritarian complex takes it upon himself to boss around the Arabs and tell them what is right and proper, imagining that he still lives in a provincial Austrian village from the 1950s with precise rules of conduct, and so on …” My “narrow conservative mind” is in fact “clueless” enough to believe that blurting out entirely unbased and offensive assumptions is neither decent nor intelligent behaviour. Perhaps your brilliantly self-educated mind would be able to come to a similar conclusion after some reflection, but sadly there is not much indication to make one believe in this chance. Anyway, it does’t take much likemindedness of two persons to take offence at your post for quite different reasons, and to assume otherwise isn’t very smart either.

        • Michael says:

          It is no doubt an assumption, but having lived most of my life in Vienna I find it quite hard to believe that a Wiener would act out of solidarity or concern for the legality of an Arab’s actions. Do you really think he instigated a confrontation with them to kindly point out that they might get in trouble for being so naughty ? Or was it the rather the typical example of a white Austrian using the law on his side as an excuse for bossing around the brown guys? Sadly, the latter seems far more likely, and it’s experience rather than a lack of decency which makes me suspect as much.

          • Armin says:

            As a white Austrian living in Vienna I would have acted in the same way. Actually I have indeed done that, mainly to other white Austrians.
            Smoking on the metro is forbidden because it is a fire hazard, no bossing around there.

            Your comments in this case are utterly absurd

          • Michael says:

            “Fire hazard”, sure. And smoking in a restaurant with paper napkins everywhere is less of a hazard? Isn’t littering onto the U-bahn tracks equally a fire hazard — do you yell at everyone who does that ? (sure you do)
            No need to say you’re a white male Austrian — that’s clear enough from your behavior.

          • Gerhard says:

            To ‘Michael’: Don’t you think you have embarrassed yourself more than enough by now?

        • Michael says:

          Is “Gerhard” going to snidely ask rhetorical questions or help contribute constructively to this discussion by actually addressing the arguments at hand?
          Since the latter is no doubt beyond his intellectual capacity, I would surmise the former.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      You are just babbling total nonsense. I am a pretty heavy smoker myself, but I have no problem at all respecting the right of other people not to be bothered by smoke in a public space, especially not an enclosed one like a train, and I would also have no problem telling people to put out their cigarette in a situation like this.
      That has nothing to do with having “a typically Viennese authoritarian complex” but you yourself have a lot of crap and prejudices in your head.

      • Michael says:

        Sigh, as if this has anything to do with smoking, of all places in Vienna, where smoking is still permitted in restaurants, bars, and parks, enclosed spaces where it is really obnoxious, unlike a large U-bahn platform where one could so easily walk a few meters away.
        The real issue is the Viennese obsession with the Other (whether Jews, Arabs, migrants, etc) and the need to constantly undermine and dominate the putatively inferior races.

    • Sue says:

      You don’t know what you’re talking about. Just in the last 24 hours 13 people – mostly in Vienna, but also some in Graz – have been arrested as suspected members of IS. There goes my 3 months stay in 2018 for that city is no longer safe and I won’t risk it. The idea of Viennese or Graz buildings being destroyed and Austrian people killed absolutely devastates me.

  • Cyril Blair says:

    About 10 years ago on a subway platform in Chicago I reminded a smoking woman that there was no smoking on the platforms. We were both dressed in office wear, so I gathered she wasn’t a thug. She told me to mind my own business. Today I probably wouldn’t say anything given how many more shootings there are. I do have the kind of personality where I like to speak up if anyone is being bullied, but I also want to live.

  • Frankie says:

    Of what relevance is it to say ‘reportedly of Middle Eastern appearance’?
    Do you mean that they were obviously Israeli and wearing keppis? Would the discussion have been different if you had said that?

    • Mike Schachter says:

      I rather doubt that they were, as I am sure you well know. But no harm in introducing a little anti-Semitism into the discussion, is there?

      • Frankie says:

        No anti-Semitism here – all in your mind – Israelis are from the middle east too – ‘Fact’ as Donald would say! I’m just pointing out that the OP has introduced the un-necessary descriptor into the post precisely in order to stir up the discussion as above. It makes no difference whether the perpetrators were middle- eastern, Romanian, North American or Inuit! They should not have been smoking on the metro and Buchmann should have every right to remonstrate with them if he found it offensive, without fear of reprisal. Nothing to do with immigrants. Except in the toxic haze that we now live in post-Trump and post-Brexit.

        • Mike Schachter says:

          Really. I think you will find that there are rather few records of Israelis attacking the citizens of European cities in the subway or anywhere else. So why did you mention them?

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