DESTROYED JEWISH COMMUNITY: Lackenbach

Development

Before 1546 was Lackenbach a small, unimportant village belonging to the great mastery of Landsee, which economically centre was Neckenmarkt. Between 1548 and 1552 a castle with brewery and dairy farm had been established in Lackenbach and only then a possibility for Jews to settle down was offered. The earliest data on Jews in Lackenbach can be dated back to the year 1552. Between 1575 and 1588 many Jews of Neckenmarkt moved to Lackenbach. Emperor Leopold I ordered the emmigration of Jews from Austria and Hungary in 1671, this concerned also the Jews of Lackenbach. However, shortly after Jews were allowed to settle down again in Lackenbach. Since the 18th century Lackenbach has belonged to the seven municipalities on the Esterhazy estates.

In 1735 449 Jews lived in Lackenbach. In 1869 62% of the population of Lackenbach (779) belonged to the Jewish community. The number of Jewish residents remained unlike in other municipalities high; in 1890 677 Jews lived in Lackenbach and in 1934 346.

Jewish Life

The following religious establishments belonged to the Jewish Community of Lackenbach: a Synagogue, a ritual bath (Mikwa), a cemetery as well as a Jewish Orthodox elementary school.

Students of the Lackenbach Jewish school, Lackenbach 1929-30. Picture credits: Yohanan Loeffler

The social life of Lackenbach was very diverse: There was the funeral brotherhood ‘Chevra Kadischa’, the ‘Zedokoh’ association (it had the duty of the administration of the synagogue, to appoint the officials, to take care of foreigners who were travelling through, as well as an association which provided medical care and drugs and furthermore a humanitarian women’s association taking care of poor women in childbed, sick and other people in need. A charitable youth club and a wood allocation/distribution were also mentioned. Only a corpse, invalid and dying association was mentioned in 1937.

A number of important personalities descend from Lackenbach. Ruwen Hirschler made out the talent of young Franz Liszt and paid his piano lessons, in this way initiating Liszt’s career as a musician. The social democrat Julius Deutsch born in Lackenbach in 1884 was state secretary of the Ministry of Defence from 1918 – 1920. As the leader of the Schutzbund paramilitary organization he took part in the February Uprising 1934 (Februarkämpfe) and founded eventually in Czechoslovakia together with Otto Bauer the foreign bureau of Austrian socialists and fought together with the republicans from 1936 in the Spanish Civil War. In 1940 he emigrated in the USA from where he returned to Austria in 1946.

"Chassene" (wedding)

„…..we had had only a snack for lunch – Aunt Theres and Uncle Bennö were fasting anyway until the end of the wedding ceremony. The leather shop stayed closed for today. After lunch we rested for a while, and then we would wash ourselves and get dressed. Grandpa put his shiny topper on his head; the ladies appeared with their millineries and their finest jewellery ….
Already very early in the morning a hairdresser sheared Aunt Theres’ head almost bald and bewigged her with a new, beautifully coiffed parting. In my opinion she looked far better with it than with her own hair. When she appeared in her white bridal dress she closely resembled to a fairy from the fairy tales – even slimmer than usual.

In the afternoon the parade led to the school. Only Uncle Benny was missing. Papa lectured me that the groom only appeared at the wedding ceremony. After finishing the afternoon prayer we gathered in the school yard – men on one side, women on the other. Four young men held the poles of the Chuppah – a baldachin made out of dark blue velvet - , cantor Taube was standing underneath together with the old Rabbi, Grandpa and the father of the groom. Two men escorted Uncle Bennö, who was dressed up with a white kittel – a traditional white robe, worn for special religious occasions – to the Chuppah Then Grandma and Uncle Bennö’s mother appeared together with the veiled bride and circled the groom seven times before they guided her next to his side. The audience sang in the meantime cheerful melodies. Cantor Taube then raised his hand and the singing stopped so the ceremony could start. In the meantime it started to dawn. The candles were lit and raised into the air to illuminate the ongoing under the Chuppah. First the Rabbi read out loud the wedding contract – the ‘Ksübbe’. Cantor Taube raised his wine-filled glass and started to sing the blessings. The groom drank from the wine; Grandma lifted some of the veil of the bride and gave her to drink. Then they put a drinking glass wrapped in a towel on the floor, Uncle Bennö said a blessing and stepped on it until it brake with a loud band. The crowd cried out happily: “Masel tow, Masel tow!”

Source: Glück Israel A., Kindheit in Lackenbach. Jüdische Geschichte im Burgenland, Konstanz 1998.

1938

Only little is known about the expulsion of the Jews from Lackenbach. In literature the following incident is mentioned several times:
A few weeks after the so-called ‘Anschluss‘ in March 1938 most of the Jews from Lackenbach were loaded on open trucks to be brought to Vienna. Before departure several jewelleries were found despite of a preceding warning. These Jews had to leave behind their entire possession and their hand luggage.

Returned after 1945

None

Today visible traces

* Cemetery
* Memorial stone to remember at the former synagogue

Synagogue

“…a few stairs led from the wide entrance down to a big entrance hall. On the left side stairs led to the women’s section, on the right side through a portal one could enter men’s school. There was a distinctive smell of used wax candles from the night before. The big hall had a vaulted roof, windows made out of colored glass. The artistically carved Holy shrine with the Thorah scrolls, the two stone plates above – all of this was very awe-inspiring to me. I sat next to Grandpa, listening devoutly to the singing of the cantor and the loud praying of the community. I couldn’t get enough of looking at the wall paintings about the exodus from Egypt and other biblical scenes. On thick chains chandelier coppers hung from the roof. Everything was so solemnly, so extraterrestrial. I imagined Heaven to look like that….”

Source: Glück Israel A., Kindheit in Lackenbach. Jüdische Geschichte im Burgenland, Konstanz 1998.

 

In 1942 the syngagogue was detonated.
Today a memorial stone tells us that the Synagogue had been destroyed under the Nazi tyranny.

Cemetery

The cemetery has existed since the early 18th century with a size of 9765m².
Picture credits: Genée Pierre, Synagogen in Österreich, Wien 1992.

The oldest gravestone is dating back to 1729. Until 1938 altogether 1747 dead persons from the large Jewish community of Lackenbach were buried there. Most of the cemetery has remained intact until today. Many gravestones were made out of sandstone and are therefore not or hardly readable.

The "Schalom" association completely renovated the cemetery in 1994/1995. Soldiers from Pinkafeld who were at the same time assisting as Austrian border guards had been a great help.

BIG Lackenbach Page from Yohanan Loeffler: jewishgen/Lackenbach

by Johannes Scholem Graf
Helped in editing: Yohanan Loeffler

2010.10.28