Rechnitz was the largest and most
important Jewish community in what is today Southern Burgenland. Evidence of the
Jewish families in Rechnitz can be found in a lease document belonging to the
Baumkirchner family from Schlaininger before 1527.
The Jewish community was founded in
Rechnitz in the second half of the 17th century under leadership of the
Batthyány family. In a letter of protection, which Adam Batthyány issues to
the 36 Jews located in Rechnitz in 1687, an agreement is mentioned, which Adam’s
father Christoph made with the Jews in 1673. The Rechnitz community was probably
formed shortly before this time.
The Rechnitz Jews came partly from Italy, probably Venice, while others were
Sephardic, thus of Spanish descent. Connections to the Apennine peninsula are
verifiable until the second half of the 18th century.
In 1676, 42 families were counted in the Jewish community in Rechnitz; in 1727
there were already 160 families. Sources from this time speak only of families
or houses, which is why the number of individuals is unknown. In 1753, 323
persons are named. In 1850 the Jewish community reached its peak with 850
members. Following industrialization as well as the relocation of the military
garrison, which was formerly located in Rechnitz, the financial situation
deteriorated; many Jews immigrated to larger cities, such as Budapest,
Szombathely and Vienna, and overseas.
By 1900 only 311 Jews lived in the community; in 1934 - only 170.
The Rechnitz Jews were predominantly
merchants and craftsmen. 10% of the fulltime farmers in Rechnitz were Jewish.
The Jews mostly lived in town center on Herrengasse, Judengasse, Klostergasse
The Jewish community in Rechnitz developed into an intellectual center of Jewish
culture and acquired a meaningful reputation. Internationally known Rabbis and
scholars came to Rechnitz to study. It is noteworthy how widely scattered
members of the Rechnitz community were. According to a 1749 census, Jews from
Rechnitz lived in 45 different provinces of Eisenburg, Zala, Somogy and Wesprim.
The fully developed community consisted of a Synagogue, a school and a cemetery
and the functionaries which went along with them (Rabbis, schoolmasters,
cantors, judges, shochet). In the second half of the 19th century the Jewish
community in Rechnitz turned to Reform Judaism.
From 1854-1869 Dr. Mayer Zipser served as Rabbi in Rechnitz. He was one of the
first heads of Hungarian Reform Judaism and one of the most famous Jewish
scholars of his day.
The marriage of my Catholic father to my Jewish mother was an isolated incident
in Rechnitz. I cannot remember, from the talk and stories of my parents or
grandparents, that this would ever happen in Rechnitz. During the various dances
in the Rechnitz clubs Jews and Christians had close contact with one another;
Jews were integrated in these clubs. … There were a couple Jewish girls who
went out with Christian boys. But there were no ‘mixed marriages’. …
Jews and Christians lived next to one another on Judengasse, Herrengasse,
Hochstraße and Hauptplatz. There were close neighbor relationships. The
neighbors of the other faith attended weddings, including the church services
and feast. The Rechnitz Jews adapted to the majority of the population. They
weren’t strictly religious, because during Shabbat (Saturday) children went to
school and the adults had their shops open. They didn’t really have
another choice. In order to follow their religion’s commandments and also
maintain their shops, almost every Jewish family had hired help, mainly on
Saturdays. Christian women and girls were happy to take this offer, as they were
rewarded with sugar or other groceries.”
Source: Temmel Johann, Die jüdische Gemeinde in Rechnitz, in:
Gombos, Gruber, Teuschler (Hrsg.), "... und da sind sie auf einmal
dagewesen." Zur Situation von Flüchtlingen in Österreich. Beispiel
Rechnitz, Oberwart 1992.
Only a few days after the annexation (of
Austria by Nazi Germany), representatives of the Nazi party were sent to monitor
the businesses of the Rechnitz Jews, initially to control the course of
business, and later to take over the shops. Some Rechnitz Jews fled to Vienna in
order to pursue emigration. Those who did not succeed in securing a departure
were deported to concentration camps.
Of the Jews who remained in Rechnitz, 43 were brought to the Yugoslavian border
in April 1938. They were refused entry to Yugoslavia and had to be housed in a
barn in no man’s land. In June 1938, with the intervention of an international
relief organization, the Rechnitz Jews were granted entry. Little is known about
their fate thereafter. After Hitler marched into Yugoslavia many were murdered,
while some were able to flee to Palestine, China or overseas.
By 1938 the last two Jews had left Rechnitz: Betti Dröszler-Weiss, who was
married to a Catholic and had converted, and the community doctor Dr. Hugo
The Jewish property was arianized. The cultural community’s assets were taken
over by the political community, the Synagogue was converted into a youth
hostel, the school into a kindergarten, and the cantor’s apartment became the
office for consultation for mothers. The cemetery was frequently plundered.
Source: Gemeinde Rechnitz
Returned after 1945:
The Blau family
Leo Blau, his mother and sister Riza, who took her husband’s name Rechnitzer,
returned to Rechnitz. Leo Blau carried on the mixed wares shop, which once
belonged to his uncle Viktor Engel, who was murdered. Mrs. Blau died a few years
later, followed by her son Leo Blau. Riza Rechnitzer lived in Rechnitz until her
death in 1989.
Visible traces today
Memorial plaque on the former Synagogue
Memorial plaque for Gustav Pick
The creator of the famous ‘Viennese
Fiaker Song’ Gustav Pick was born in Rechnitz in Schlossberggasse 2 (today
Gasthof Cserer) in 1832. Today the plaque recalls Gustav Pick’s birth house.
Memorial stone for the victims of
On November 2, 1991, a memorial stone was unveiled in Schlosspark
for the victims of the Kreuzstadl Massacres from March 1945 and for the four
Rechnitz resistance fighters.
In March 1945
near Kreuzstadl, around 180 Hungarian-Jewish forced laborers were murdered. The
organization R.E.F.U.G.I.U.S. - Rechnitz refugee and memorial initiative and
foundation- campaigned to preserve the southeastern wall of Kreuzstadl as a
memorial for all the victims.
The existence of
a Synagogue or house of prayer can be traced back to 1649. In 1707 the Rechnitz
Jewish community bought the synagogue from the Batthyány family, who had built
it. On this site in 1718 a new baroque building with 400 seats was constructed.
The location of the Synagogue is worth noting: isolated on a hill, across from
the Catholic church. In 1834 the Synagogue was expanded again and was renovated
in 1864. Valuable ritual objects, such as an antique silver goblet, a silver
Torah crown, a Torah tapestry from the year 1649, and Torah plaques from the
17th and 18th centuries, are testaments to the importance of the community.
converted the Synagogue into a youth hostel. After the war the building was
purchased from the community and was used as a fire station, with apartments on
the second floor. Today the building houses apartments and a doctor’s office.
In 1990 the community decided to install a
memorial plaque on the building, although it wasn’t until November 1991 that
it was unveiled.
1682 the Jewish cemetery in Rechnitz was constructed and was expanded several
times. With the last purchase of land in 1827, a stonewall was erected around
the cemetery. During the Nazi years it was plundered and destroyed on several
In 1988 the cemetery was restored by the
Israelite Culture Community. In the 1990’s the cemetery was again desecrated.
School was set up by Director Salomon Pollak in 1847 and at the time had two
other teachers. In 1864, 50 boys and 42 girls attended the first three grades.
In 1900 a school with two classrooms was built thanks to support from the
government. In 1914 only 39 students attended the school. In 1920 the last
Jewish teacher, Fessler, left Rechnitz and moved to Central Hungary. Catholic
teacher Margarethe Kraxner taught here until 1923 when the school was closed due
to lack of students.
The building was used as a public elementary school until the early 1970’s.
Today the site houses Rechnitz’ public works department.