Baden (Judical districts Baden, Pottenstein, Stadt Gumpoldskirchen)

Synagogue built in: 1873
Earliest record of community: 1848
Last rabbi: Dr. Hartwig Naftali Carlebach
Community members: 1878 - 80; 1938 - 24; 1th April 1939 - 21 (official census)
Pogrom Night: Devastated and its interior equipment removed; later used as children’s home and refugee shelter
After 1945: Handed over to the Vienna Jewish Community
Today: Renovated and re-opened in 2005
Summary: At the turn of the 20th century, Baden bei Wien was home to the largest official Jewish community in southern Austria and served as the cultural and social hub of Jewish life for the whole region.

In 1820, Heinrich Herz received permission to establish a prayer hall and a kosher restaurant in the Neugasse (now known as Franz Josef-Ring). Records from 1822 mention Herz as the first Jew permitted to settle in Baden. In 1839, Herz’s son, Leopold, moved into to the building at 14 Wassergasse, a property owned by the Freiherr (baron) von Arnsteiner. A prayer hall with seating for 258 persons and a kosher restaurant were established in this building. In 1849, Leopold Herz purchased the premises and thus became the first Jew in Baden permitted to acquire real estate. The prayer hall on the Wassergasse continued to serve until 1938 as a Beit Midrash (study hall), in which the strictly orthodox style of worship was followed.

In 1868, Baden’s Jewish community founded a Bikur Cholim (a society for caring for the sick) and, in 1870, the plot at 14 Grabengasse was purchased as a site for the community’s first purpose-built house of prayer. The renowned Viennese cantor Salomon Sulzer took part in the prayer house’s dedication ceremony in 1871. The Jewish Kultusverein (congregation) was officially established in that year. Two years later, in 1873, at the rear of the prayer hall, building commenced on a large synagogue in neo-classical style, which would accommodate 517 worshippers. The community continued to use the prayer house at the front of the site for religious instruction. Other prayer halls were established by the Alland sanitorium and by the orphanage run by the Fund for Jewish War Orphans, founded by Agudat Yisrael in 1921.

In 1911, the neighbouring community of Vöslau, affiliated with that of Baden, also acquired a building and rebuilt it as a prayer hall.

Baden’s Jewish community was officially founded in 1878 and embodied a flourishing communal life. Many facilities and institutions were founded and, also in 1878, the southern section of the municipal cemetery on Dammgasse was allocated to the Jewish community. A chevra kadisha (burial society) and a Jewish ladies’ association had been founded in 1874. The Viennese chevra kadisha ran a home for the elderly at 12 Braitenstraße. In 1894, the community purchased the neighbouring site at 12 Grabengasse, which had been used for communal offices and living quarters for officials. The influx of Jewish refugees from Galicia during World War I necessitated the provision on this site of a Beit Midrash, in which services were conducted according to the Polish tradition.

A funeral hall designed by a professional architect was built in the Jewish cemetery at some point between 1904 and 1906. In 1923, the building at 31 Vöslauerstraße was bought and a mikvah (ritual bath) was built on the premises. The Jewish residents of Baden and the surrounding districts had at their disposal several kosher restaurants and butcher shops in the town. A Jewish vacation home was opened in nearby Bad Vöslau.

Chief Rabbi Wilhelm Reich served the Baden community for almost 50 years, beginning in 1880. After his death in 1929, Chief Rabbi Dr. Hartwig Naftali Carlebach led the community until its destruction in 1938. Rabbi Wolf Kohn was appointed in 1880 to perform rabbinical duties in the Beit Midrash on Wassergasse. When he died in 1913, his son-in-law, Shlomo Friedman from the town of Deutschkreutz was appointed dayan (rabbinate administrator).

The rise to power in March 1938 of Hitler’s Nazi Party destroyed Jewish cultural life. From that moment on, the Baden community could concentrate only on helping its members leave. Many Baden Jews were in fact given assistance in moving to Vienna.

On Pogrom Night, November 9/10, 1938, the Beit Midrash, which had been in the possession of the Deutsch family since 1881, was destroyed. The funeral hall in the cemetery was blown up on the orders of SS man Rudolf Scheers. The large synagogue in Grabengasse was emptied and then wrecked. The building was not burned down for fear that a blaze might spread to the neighboring municipal fire station.

The synagogue building was then taken over by the municipality and used for secular purposes, initially as a children’s home and later as a shelter for refugees from southern Germany. In 1940, the Nazis converted the building into a shooting gallery. They divided it into two floors, as it remains today. The Jewish community, meanwhile, was disbanded and all its members who had been unable to leave Austria were taken to concentration camps.

In 1952 the buildings at 12-14 Grabengasse and the Jewish cemetery were handed over to Kultusgemeinde (Jewish congregation) of Vienna, which was the legal heir of all property belonging to the former Baden community. A small community of Jews settled in Baden and established a provisional prayer hall in 1963 in the classrooms which had been used for religious instruction, at 12 Grabengasse. The prayer hall was renovated in 1999.

Later, as plans to demolish the former large synagogue at 14 Grabengasse were being considered, the Jewish community set about renovating the building and establishing a prayer hall there. In October 2002, the decision was made to restore the large synagogue itself, which was reopened in September 2005.
Sources: - Genée, Pierre, Synagogen in Österreich, Wien 1992
- David, Jüdische Kulturzeitschrift in Österreich
- Radax-Ziegler, S., Heruntergekommene Kiste, in: Badener Wochenpresse, 3.6.1988
- Schärf, Thomas, Die Badener Gründerzeitsynagoge, Baden 1988
- Freidl, W.: Bethauseröffnung mit Oberrabbiner Paul Chaim Eisenberg, in: Badener Zeitung, 1. Juli 1999, S. 11
- Encyclopedia Judaica Vol. 4, Jerusalem 1971, S. 62
- Homepage der jüd. Gemeinde Badens : www.juedischegemeinde.at
- Die Gemeinde, offizielles Organ der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde Wien
- Lind, C.: "Der letzte Jude hat den Tempel verlassen". Juden in Niederösterreich 1938-1945. Institut für die Geschichte der Juden in Österreich (Hg.), Wien 2004
- Persönlicher Bericht von Anton Schneider, ehemaliges Mitglied der IKG Baden (unveröffentlicht)