DESTROYED JEWISH COMMUNITY: Oberwart (Felsöeör)

Development

The first three Jewish residents are mentioned in Oberwart In 1824. In 1840, when the Hungarian Reichstag law gave Jews the right to live and work in trade in Hungary, many Jews moved into the emerging regional center of Oberwart. Many of those who moved to Oberwart came from Schlaining. In 1868 a branch of the cultural community of Schlaining was founded in Oberwart. Around 1905 there were in Oberwart more Jewish members of the Schlaining cultural community than in Schlaining itself. Because of the emigration of the Jewish population the influence of Schlaining members within the cultural community decreased. Additionally, the taxes for the cultural community were paid mainly by the Oberwart members. In March 1922, 10 members from Oberwart informed the community they would no longer pay taxes to Schlaining, rather to the Oberwart branch. This meant a sudden worsening of the financial position for the Schlaining cultural community. Since 1924 the Oberwart branch claimed the status of an independent cultural community, and in 1930 the Oberwart community was officially independent.

A stronger increase in Jewish population started in the last third of the 19th century. In 1868, 16 people were counted; in 1880 there were already 75. The growing economic importance of the city Oberwart, particularly because of the opening of the Szombathely-Pinkafeld railroad line in 1888, led to an increase in population and more Jews moving into the city. In 1890 there were 101 Jews in Oberwart. By 1934 the number increased to 138 Jewish residents.

Jewish Life

Most Jewish families in the 1930s worked as traders or in goods production. Altogether there were 15 merchants and travelling salesmen and 7 craftsmen, including tailors, shoemakers, hat makers, fur traders and electricians, as well as butchers, wine salesmen and woodworkers; a few others were workers and clerks; 6 families counted independent professionals, such as doctors and lawyers. Their customers came from all of Oberwart's social levels.
In Oberwart there was no independent Jewish quarter; most of the apartments and shops were on the main street (Hauptstraße). The Oberwart Jews were chairmen and committee members in the Trade and Industry Cooperative and were involved in various clubs and societies.

Joseph P. Weber, Oberwart - Pacifica CA/ USA remembers:

“Burgenland in these days reminded one of the Middle Ages. There was still a ‘City drummer’. In the distance one heard ‘drum-drum-drum’, it came closer. The man in uniform, similar to that of a postman’s, hit the drum. And all the neighbors and children ran together, and the man said: ‘It shall be announced!’ And he would read a list of the recent news, first in German and then in Hungarian. – At that time Hungarian was spoken more than German. My parents never lost their accent; they had a strong Hungarian accent their whole lives. That is, as they said, the nice thing about Oberwart.

Then there was still the matter of the Capuchin monk, with a brown frock and a cord around his waist and sandals; he begged for charity. And my father always gave him something, because we had a good relationship with the Christians. When they slaughtered their pigs, they always brought us sausage and Blutwurst. And when we had holidays, like Pesach around Easter time, we also always gave them baked goods. My mother was a very good Hungarian cook and made wonderful apple strudel.”

Source: Interview from 7.10.2002, Burgenländische Forschungsgesellschaft
(Interviewführung: Gert Tschögl)

1938

Only eight days after Austria’s ‘annexation’ to Nazi Germany, the Jews were forced to give up their shops and had to leave Oberwart within a short time. The ownership of the cultural community went to the political community of Oberwart, the Synagogue was converted into a fire station, and the school was extended and used for apartment buildings.

Little is known of the fate of the Oberwart Jews. Many were able to flee to Vienna and from there emigrate to Argentina, Bolivia, England, the USA, Israel, Shanghai and Australia. It is assumed that those who could not flee did not survive the Nazi’s reign.

In Yad Vashem: http://www.yadvashem.org/wps/portal/IY_HON_Welcome

there are 33 testimonies for Jews who were born or lived in Oberwart and were murdered in the Holocaust. Victims mentioned are: Fischer, Gruenwald, Korenfein, Medovoy, Schein, Schlenger, Angelus, Schwartz and others.

Destinations of the Oberwart Jewish families were:

Samuel Löwy: Argentina
Zoltan und Gertrude Fischer: Argentina
Alexander Frommer: Australia
Gustav Löwy: Bolivia
Paul Grünwald: England
Alexander Glaser: Swizerland
Alfred u. Czezilia Glaser: Shanghai (after 1945 Austria)
Alexander Sarlai: Shanghai
Paul Schlenger: Hungary (after 1945)
Bela und Emilie Schlenger: Hungary (after 1945)"

Source: Tschögl Gert, Geschichte der Juden in Oberwart, in: Baumgartner Gerhard, Müllner Eva, Münz Rainer (Hrsg.), Identität und Lebenswelt. Ethnische, religiöse und kulturelle Vielfalt im Burgenland. Eisenstadt 1989.

Returned after 1945:

No one

Visible traces today

* Memorial plaque on the former Synagogue

* Cemetery

* Memorial plaque for the victims of National Socialism is located in the city center in front of the war memorial.

Fotos: Wolfgang R. Kubizek (2002)

Synagoge

The Synagogue in Oberwart was built in 1904 in addition to a school, where the Shochet apartment was located. The speaker at the dedication was Dr. Bela Bernstein, chief Rabbi from Steinamanger/ Szobathely. Beside the Synagogue, the cultural community supposedly also controlled two houses of prayer, one of which is said to be in Großpetersdorf at Hauptstraße Nr. 7. It is not clear whether it meant the Synagogue in Schlaining, in Pinkafeld or in Bad Tatzmannsdorf.

After the dispossession by the Nazis in 1938, the Synagogue was converted into a fire station and used as such after 1945. Many years later the memorial plaque was put into place.

Foto: Ursula Brustmann (1993)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the 1990’s the building was converted into a central music school with a part of the façade emulating the former Synagogue. A memorial plaque was added here as well.

Foto: Wolfgang R. Kubizek (2002)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cemetery

The Jewish cemetery in Oberwart was first constructed between the World Wars and is a part of the communal cemetery.



Fotos: Ursula Brustmann (1993)

by Johannes Scholem Graf
Helped in editing: Yohanan Loeffler

2011.08.08