DESTROYED JEWISH COMMUNITY: Schlaining

Development

The foundation and development of the Jewish settlement in Southern Burgenland legally evolved from a series of writs of protection between the Batthyány family and the Jewish communities. Their settlement was dependent on the landlord's explicit permission. On the one hand the Jews received protection through the landlord; on the other hand they were subject to his regulations.

The Jewish municipality of Schlaining was founded in the second half of the 17th century.

The Schlaining land register of 1750 denotes the Jews' duties:
regular protection money for 39 families = 100 guilder;
extra protection money per family exceeding the 39 and therefore requiring an extraordinary permission by the landlord = 4 guilder;
for the permit to serve wine = 34 guilder;
for trading of tobacco, soap and candles = 18 guilder;
New Year's dues = 25 guilder.

The payment of protection money allowed the Jews a certain level of autonomy in the management of their affairs. They had permission to elect their own head of community, called Judenrichter, which translates roughly to “judge of the Jews”, and to elect five jurors. They were responsible for monitoring the observance of religious regulations and for punishing minor offenses and settled charges against Jews by the Christians. The community's finances were kept by two treasurers and two auditors. The account books had to be presented to the authority at the end of the year.

The lifting of restrictions on purchase and on settlement in 1840 and the massive migration of various groups and classes of the population of South Burgenland in the last quarter of the 19th century was extremely rough on the Schlaining community. Many Jews left Schlaining to settle in the prosperous towns and cities. At the end of the 19th century at least half of the original population lived in Oberwart or Großpetersdorf. There were also a few families in ten other villages. The religious community suffered great problems because of this. In 1922 the last Rabbi left Schlaining and settled in the affiliated town of Oberwart where he took on the duties of a Rabbi from 1924 on. In 1930 Oberwart's own religious community was founded, Schlaining was joined as a sub- parish.

In 1697 there were 55 Jews living in Schlaining. During the 18th century the Schlaining Jewish community counted 50 to 60 people. In 1735 only 45 people are denoted. The Jewish community reached its peak of 600 people in 1857. After that the number began to decline continuously. In 1920 the number of Jews in Schlaining sank down to 59 and in 1934 there were merely 19 Jews in Schlaining.

Jewish Life

From the end of the 17th century the Batthyánys rented out flats to Jewish families. An apartment was made of a larger room and a smaller one as well as a kitchen which two families often had to share. Altogether the Batthyánys were able to house around 55 or 60 families in their Jew houses, collecting rent from all of them. The rapid increase in the Jewish population led to more and more Jews renting from Schlaining residents or trying to obtain property themselves, the latter most likely being only rare exceptions.

During the Vormärz, the years before the German Revolution in March 1848, there was a small upper class in the Schlaining Jewish community. These were mainly merchants that held leading positions in the administration of the municipality. The craftsmen and traders formed the middle class. The dominance of the craft guilds limited any room for development among them. The broad lower class mainly consisted of peddlers and wine merchants that supplied the rural areas with the necessities of daily life. The proportion of poor Jews was fairly large; it amounted to roughly one fifth to one fourth of the working population.

Marietta Fluk, Stadtschlaining - Media PA/ USA during her visit in Stadtschlaining:

“I really cannot remember much. I was six years old when we left Schlaining and I probably should remember more – but I guess I have a mental block because these times were not the happiest and maybe I have suppressed it all. I remember when the Nazis came and knocked at the door and that my mother told me – I must have been around four years old – not to speak. They entered and searched the house. I think about the incident but I do not remember. I know that we went away. I think we went to Vienna and on to the United States from there. I remember the boat passage. I have an image of it, I know I was there, but I cannot remember. I do however remember our arrival in June 1938. My mother had two brothers here, who helped us get by. And may I add that all these years my Mother said to me that we would have never been able to leave Schlaining without the help of her Christian friends.

I don't think that my mother had bad thoughts (about Schlaining), I think she had sad thoughts because she had left her homeland, the only home she had ever had, and because she had left everything behind; but alas, we have got away. We lost some family members who had not managed to leave. I do not think that my mother thought badly about the town, about Schlaining. It had been her Christian friends here in Schlaining that had helped us. She only ever thought and said good things about the people here. She surely would have come back had she had the means and the money to do so. And had she lived longer, maybe we would have made this trip to Schlaining together. No, she did not think badly about the people here. What happened here was not the fault of the town.”

From: interview on June 17, 2001, Burgenländische Forschungsgesellschaft (interview conducted by: Milenia Snowdon- Prötsch)

1938

Also in Schlaining, Jewish shops were arianized and the goods left behind were sold to the local population by party officials from Oberwart. Not much is known about the fate of the Jewish population of Schlaining. Many Schlaining Jews managed to escape in time, going first to Vienna and then abroad from there. Property in Schlaining was sold by the religious community of Oberwart to the municipality of Stadtschlaining for 3316 Reichsmark. Debt and dues were subtracted from this sum, “the rest was transferred to a frozen bank account for travel expenses and allowances of the displaced Jews”. (Baumgartner)

Most of the former Schlaining Jews found a new homeland in the USA, South America and Israel.


“They did not vanish from the collective memory of the population. The former mayor remembers 17 Jewish households with their exact addresses:
The family of the merchant Lewi Braun in house Rochusplatz Nr. 4;
The family of Arthur Heinrich in the houses Rochusplatz Nr. 3 and Hauptplatz Nr. 4;
the bachelor Eisenstädter in house Hauptplatz 18;
the family Grünwald in house Baumkirchergasse Nr. 2;
the widow Heinrich in house Baumkirchergasse Nr. 10;
the estate owner Heinrich in house Hauptplatz Nr. 5;
the family Lebensohn in house Hauptplatz Nr. 3;
the family of teacher Steiner in the same house;
the master glazier Ebenspanger with family in house Klingergasse Nr. 1;
the family Würzburger in house Langegasse Nr. 4;
the family of preacher Salomon in house Langegasse Nr. 38;
the family of synagogue clerk Jakob Preier in house Langegasse Nr. 42;
the single merchant Maier in house Langegasse Nr. 1;
the family of the Rabbi Blau in the Vorstadtgasse;
the family Scholz in house Langegasse Nr. 4;
the family of the felon Friedmann in the so-called “Badhaus” in house Wunderlandgasse 4;
and the family Wolf in Klingergasse Nr. 12.”

From: Baumgartner Gerhard, History of the Jewish community of Schlaining, Austrian Institute for Peace Research and Peace Education Castle Schlaining (Ed.), Stadtschlaining 1988.

After 1945:

Nobody returned

Welcome to Stadtschaining

The “Welcome to Stadtschlaining” project organized in 2001 by Concentrum, the Austrian Research Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution and the township of Stadtschlaining, brought former Schlaining Jews or their descendants back to Schlaining. For the former Schlaining Jews and their descendants, this program of visits was an encounter with their city of origin and homeland on the one hand, and on the other hand an opportunity to see former fellow citizens again and to deal with this chapter of Schlaining history.

Traces visible today

Synagogue and the Rabbi house (Today Library of Peace)

 

Cemetery

 

Remembrance Plaque in the passage to the Synagogue

Photos: Wolfgang R. Kubizek (2002)

 

 

Synagogue

In Schlaining the Jews stayed Orthodox until the 20th century. The synagogue formed the center of religious, social and cultural life. The Jewish community already had a Synagogue in 1715. Where exactly it was situated and if the location was identical with the present, one cannot tell today.
In any case the Synagogue and adjoining Rabbi house preserved to this day probably date back to the 18th century. In 1864 the building was remodeled and renovated by master builder Johann Lang from Pinkafelder. The gallery was probably constructed in that time as well. The synagogue was ruined but not fully destroyed in the so-called Reichskristallnacht (Crystal night) in November 1938.
The historically precious building stayed empty for many years until it was renovated in 1988.
Since then it has been housing the library of the Austrian Research Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution. The Rabbi house now contains offices of the Concentrum association.

Picture credits: Genée Pierre, Synagogues in Austria, Vienna 1992

Photo: Alma Scope (1993)

Cemeteries

There is no precise information on the first and oldest Jewish cemetery in Schlaining. The second cemetery is now located on private property in the municipal area, in the Basteigasse. In 2002 a memorial was constructed on the premises made of remnants of the tombstones.

Photos: Wolfgang R. Kubizek (2002)

Around 1902 a new cemetery was established outside the city, which has outlasted to this day. In 1997/1998 the premises was fenced in and a memorial was constructed there.

Photos: Wolfgang R. Kubizek (2002)

by Johannes Scholem Graf
Helped in editing: Yohanan Loeffler

2011.11.13