MATTERSDORF - MATTERSBURG (since
A legend attributes the founding of the
Jewish community Mattersdorf to six Sephardic brothers, who fled Spain at the
end of the 15th century. However the founding of a Jewish community didn’t
happen until 1527, when displaced Jews from Ödenburg settled in the
Forchtenstein County, with Mattersdorf as their principal location.
The further development of the Jewish community was characterized by the
constant change from banishment and resettlement, depending upon the particular
attitude of the manorial lords.
In 1622 Mattersdorf was acquired by the Esterházy family. This was the
beginning of a new chapter in the history of the Mattersdorf Jews, which was
mainly marked by a “tolerable relationship between patrons and their
The Mattersdorf Jews were also affected by Kaiser Leopold I’s banishment
decree in 1671, although the Jewish community was rebuilt four years later.
In 1694 Count Paul Esterházy issued a letter of protection for the Jewish
community Mattersdorf, which was generally accepted by his successors as well.
The Jews’ given rights and the related specifications mentioned in the letter
laid the foundation for the further development of the Jewish community and
ensured the Jews, among other things, political autonomy under institutions
(judges and jurors) elected by the Jews themselves, as well as unhindered
practice of their religion.
The number of Jewish inhabitants in Mattersdorf drastically increased,
particularly in the 18th century. In 1785, 767 Jews already lived in
Mattersdorf. One reason for this increase was that in 1739 the Jewish community
Neufeld was nullified by manorial lord Paul Esterházy. “The majority of
Neufelder Jews found sanctuary in neighboring Mattersdorf”. According to
statements from the national topography, in the mid 19th century, around 1500
Jews lived in Mattersdorf. Of course these numbers are rough estimates. At the
end of the 19th century, as in all other communities in Burgenland, the number
of Jewish inhabitants consistently decreased. While the Jewish community counted
700 Jews in 1883, in 1934 only 511 Jews remained in Mattersburg.
The community center of Jewish Mattersdorf
was in direct proximity to the Wulka stream. In accordance with the Esterházy’s
protection ordinances the Jewish community was allowed to build a synagogue and
ritual bath as well as accommodate Rabbis, Community and School members,
shochet, cantors and gravediggers. Because the Jews were not allowed to own
agricultural property, they were mainly involved in business and industry.
Judengasse, where food markets were held until 1859, developed into the shopping
center of Mattersdorf. Although there were a large number of educated Jews, the
majority of the Jewish community was made up of low income families.
The autonomy allowed by the Esterházys afforded independent communal life in
the Jewish community and saw to it that Jewish culture and identity were
properly preserved until 1938.
The Jewish community Mattersdorf established an autonomous political community
beginning in 1871. In 1903 the Jewish community was politically united with the
market township Mattersburg and, until 1938, represented their communities in
the town council. Yet even after this political incorporation the Jewish
community, as a cultural community, maintained a high degree of autonomy. They
had their own school and various establishments, which allowed for an autonomous
communal life. In the ‘Burgenland Address Book’ the following charitable
organizations appeared: the ‘Etz Chaim’ Society (‘Tree of Life)’, the
‘Chevra Kadischa’ Society, as well as the ‘Society of Israelite volunteer
Firemen’. This private fire department was an anomaly within the Jewish
communities in Burgenland:
“A peculiar procession appeared in front of my home: a dozen Jewish firemen
in uniform. Although the Jewish community was an integrated part of the city,
this Jewish fire department had maintained its medieval autonomy. This fire
department was pleased to have the best reputation among Jews as well as
gentiles. When a fire broke out in a remote location, one could be sure that the
Jewish fire department would be there first. I was only informed that I was
elected president of the fire department during a special meeting. I thanked
them for the honor, but said my knowledge of fire fighting, to say it mildly,
was inadequate. They reassured me that no special knowledge whatsoever was
necessary. I agreed and thought to myself, it is only an honorary position. –
Two weeks later I was awoken at midnight by loud voices. As I looked out the
window, I saw the firemen standing around their truck. ‘Hurry up, Herr Doctor!’
they called. ‘There’s a fire in Antau!’ In the twinkling of an eye a
helmet was pressed onto my head and I was dressed in a fireman’s jacket. I put
on the boots in the fire truck. The Jewish firefighters were the first to arrive
Source: Berczeller Richard, Verweht,
With the annexation of Austria to the
German Reich, within a few months the Mattersburg Jews were displaced,
expatriated and ousted. Already in September 1938 NS Mayor Franz Giefing hung a
white flag on the synagogue, to show all the Jews were run out of Mattersburg.
On October 8, 1938, the Kleine Volks-Zeitung reported the event with the
headline “Mattersburg Jew-free – White flag on the former temple”:
“At the end of the last month the last Jews left Mattersburg. The area
infamous for being home to the 530 Jews is thus completely Jew-free. As a sign
of salvation from the Jew-plague the mayor, accompanied by jubilant crowds, had
a white flag hung on the former Jewish temple. The Jewish quarter will be
dismantled sooner or later. Instead of the wretched ‘Wanzenburgen’ new
buildings and parkways will be built.”
Source: Kleine Volks-Zeitung, Nr. 277 des
84. Jg., Nr. 29984,
Some of the Mattersburger Jews could immigrate; others were registered in the
transport lists in Vienna and sent to concentration camps. Around 100
Mattersburg Jewish men, women and children perished in the Nazi regimes’
concentration and extermination camps
In Yad Vashem memorial website there are 330 names of victims born in
Mattersburg and 173 names of victims who lived in Mattersburg before the
Mattersburg Jews detained in the county court
Photo: Gemeindearchiv Mattersburg
Few people returned after 1945.
Among them Dr. Ernst Brandl.
Traces visible today:
* Monument in memory of the former synagogue
* Commemorative plaque for Richard Berczeller
A commemorative plaque on Hauptplatz 2 recalls the memory of Richard Berczeller.
Dr. Richard Berczeller, born in 1902 in Ödenburg, was a practicing doctor in
Mattersburg between 1930 and 1938 and lived with his family on Hauptplatz 2. He
died in 1994 as an immigrant in New York. Besides his career as a doctor he was
also an active writer.
Picture credit: Horvath/ Snowdon-Prötsch (Ed.), Richard Berczeller 1902-1994,
* Kiryat Mattersdorf
The last Rabbi from Mattersburg, Samuel Ehrenfeld, founded the community ‘Kiryat
Mattersdorf’ in New York after 1945. His son then founded the settlement ‘Kiryat
Mattersdorf’ in Jerusalem in the 1960’s. Thus the tradition of the
Burgenland Jewish community was carried forward and, for many Jews displaced
from Burgenland, a new home with old and familiar ways of life was created.
* Rabbi Akiva Ehrenfeld
Son of the last Rabbi from Mattersburg, in the Jerusalem community ‘Kiryat
Foto: Gertraud Tometich (2001)
The synagogue was supposedly built at the beginning of the 16th century and was
in the vicinity of the Wulka stream. Due to construction in the 19th century it
lost its earlier appearance.
In 1940 the synagogue was destroyed by the
Nazis. Valuable ritual objects in the synagogue, among them a Torah plaque and
Torah drape made of velvet and brocade from the year 1492, were plundered.
For a long time a commemorative plaque on
the Wulka with the following text referred to the former synagogue: “The
Israeli temple of Mattersburg stood here. It was destroyed by Nazi barbarians
during Kristallnacht. Israeli Culture Community Vienna.” (Paul)
Actually the synagogue stood 50 meters away from the denoted spot and was not
destroyed during the ‘Kristallnacht’ on November 9, 1938, but rather was
blown up by a company of soldiers in September 1940
In the meantime this commemorate plaque was replaced with a memorial stone.
Christine Teuschler (1993)
Wolfgang R. Kubizek (2002)
* The cemetery
The cemetery, over 20,000 m², lies at the crossroads between Bahnstraße and
Wedekindgasse. In the letter of protection from 1694 the Jews were given a lot
of land for the cemetery, which was later twice expanded. The cemetery was also
used as a burial site for Jews from Wiener Neustadt.
The Jewish cemetery in Mattersburg was completely destroyed by the Nazis. Then,
a memorial was built in the middle of the cemetery out of the meager remaining
gravestones. Additionally 150 gravestones from the Schalom society were donated,
in order to give the area the character of a cemetery, and to prevent the
cemetery area from being ‘misused’ as a playground.
Foto: Gemeindearchiv Mattersburg