Top 10 things you don't know about Jewish Vienna
Vienna is rich with Jewish heritage and culture. Throughout the city there are countless testimonials to the strength of the Jewish spirit and the vibrancy of the pre-World War II Jewish Vienna. Throughout history, Jews have contributed immensely to Vienna—and thankfully, today, Jewish Vienna is once again an active and important part of the social and cultural life of the Vienna.
Click on the + signs to find out more about each fact!
[spoiler title="1. The first Jewish museum in Europe opened in Vienna in 1895."]The museum was closed by the Nazis in 1938 and the over 6,000 objects were distributed to different museums around Europe. Today, about half of the objects have been returned and over artifacts have been acquired from various private collections. Source[/spoiler]
[spoiler title="2. There is a district in Vienna known as ‘Matzo Island’."]Leopoldstadt, Vienna’s 2nd district, is situated on an island between the Danube and the Donaukanal. Jews have been living in this area of Vienna since the 12th century. Before World War II, there were more than 100 prayer houses and 60 synagogues in Leopoldstadt—earning it the moniker ‘Matzo Island’. Today, Karmelitermarket, the centre of the former Jewish market in Leopoldstadt, is once again full of kosher food stores and restaurants. Source[/spoiler]
[spoiler title="3. The Main Synagogue of Vienna is indistinguishable from adjacent houses."]At the beginning of the 19th century an edict issued by Emperor Joseph II granted the Jewish community of Vienna permission to build a synagogue, however only Roman Catholic places of worship were allowed to be built with facades fronting directly on public streets. While this initially delayed construction of the synagogue, this edict actually saved the synagogue from total destruction. Stadttempel was the only Jewish construction, of 94 Jewish synagogues and temples in Vienna, to survive Kristallnacht without being completely destroyed. Source[/spoiler]
[spoiler title="4. There is a Jewish University in Vienna."]The Lauder Business School is located in the 19th district of Vienna in an ancient building that was originally constructed for Princess Maria Theresa. The university has grown tremendously since it first opened its doors. The Lauder Business School is committed to providing a state-of-the-art business education as well as fostering a secular Jewish campus environment. Meals are kosher, and a certain number of courses in Hebrew and Jewish studies are compulsory. Source[/spoiler]
[spoiler title="5. At one time, every tenth person in Vienna was Jewish."]“In 1938, some 170,000 Jews lived in the city, as well as approximately 80,000 persons of mixed Jewish-Christian background. Including converts from Judaism, the Viennese Jewish population may have been as high as 200,000, more than 10 percent of the city's inhabitants,” according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Source[/spoiler]
[spoiler title="6. Legend says a talking demon fish is buried in an old Jewish Cemetery in Vienna."]According to unlike.net, there is an ancient legend that this is the burial site of a talking fish that had revealed himself as a dybbuk, or demon. Right before the fish was to be killed, it cried the ‘Shema’, a prayer recited by Jews at the time of their death. Source[/spoiler]
[spoiler title="7. Vienna’s Giant Ferris Wheel has a Jewish past."]Following World War I, Jewish businessman Eduard Steiner bought the Ferris Wheel in an auction and ran it until 1938 when his property was confiscated by the Nazi Regime. Vienna’s Giant Ferris Wheel, the Riesenrad in Prater Park, was one of the first objects of ‘Aryanisation’. In 1944 Eduard Steiner was murdered in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, the same year that the Giant Ferris Wheel caught fire and was almost completely destroyed.Source [/spoiler]
[spoiler title="8. Jews have been living in Austria since the 3rd century at least."] In 2008 concrete evidence that Jewish people were living in areas near Vienna during the 3rd Century was uncovered. A team of archeologists discovered a golden amulet in the shape of a scroll on the grave of an infant. Inscribed in the scroll were the words to the Jewish prayer, ‘Shema Yisrael’. Source [/spoiler]
[spoiler title="9. One-third of the members of the Central Synagogue of Vienna do not live in Vienna."] These congregants have ancestors that had been members of this Synagogue and therefore have strong emotional ties to the Synagogue and the community. The first post-world war II Jewish service was held at the Synagogue in Fall of 1946, without any restoration having been done to the building. In 1963, the city of Vienna funding the restoration of the Synagogue. Source [/spoiler]
[spoiler title="10. Vienna has a Welcome Service just for Jewish people."]After almost 50 years, Vienna finally admitted the part it played in the crimes of National Socialism and for its crimes against the Jewish people. “The City of Vienna is aware of its historical and moral responsibilities, acknowledges the city’s debt to the cultural heritage of Judaism, and is committed to modern Vienna’s role as an international meeting place.” Source[/spoiler]