Amstetten

Synagogue built in: Beginning of the 20th century
Earliest record of community: 1881
Last rabbi: Dr. Moses Landau
Community members: 1890 - 40; 1923 - 20; 1932 - 200 (complete community); 1938 - 29
Pogrom Night: Burnt; Expropriated
After 1945: Private property
Summary: The earliest known documentary evidence of Jewish residents in Amstetten is dated 1865. In that year, David Wozasek bought the “Ramederhaus,” as it was known then (today this property is at 45 Hauptplatz). More Jews moved to Amstetten in the years that followed. Eventually, in 1881, the Jewish community of Amstetten was officially founded.

At first, the community’s prayer hall was located in a house which, at that time, was called the “Sommervilla.” It belonged to a Jewish merchant family by the name of Sommer (today the building is at 6 Hamerlingstraße). Rabbi Adolf Levi, of the town of Ybbs an der Donau, inaugurated the prayer hall on August 18, 1896. The prayer hall was later moved to 8 Ardaggerstraße, a house belonging to a Jewish merchant, Franz Schmitz, from Oed. There were also prayer halls in Ybbs an der Donau and in Purgstall. The Amstetten community’s Jewish cemetery was in Göttsbach, near Ybbs an der Donau.

In 1910, Amstetten’s Jews acquired another plot of land at the corner of Eggersdorferstraße and Graben for the construction of a synagogue. This project would never be realized. Dr. A. Schächter from Pölten served as rabbi of Amstetten between the wars.

Following the Anschluss (annexation of Austria by Germany) of March 13, 1938, the Jewish population was deprived of its all rights and suffered much humiliation and persecution. The Jews of Amstetten were forced to sell their property at ridiculously low prices. The plot of land intended for the synagogue was expropriated in November 1938 by the Amstetten town council. Most members of the Jewish community managed to save themselves by leaving Austria.

On Pogrom Night, November 9/10, 1938, SS groups wrecked the prayer hall on Ardaggerstraße and then set it on fire. The attackers also invaded Jewish homes and stores, where they broke windows and destroyed furnishings. The Jewish cemetery was desecrated. All Jewish-owned houses were searched and all Jewish men were taken into “protective” custody. The Nazis seized the house at 8 Ardaggerstraße and sold it to a private individual.

In the weeks following Pogrom Night, the remaining Amstetten Jews were transported to holding camps in Vienna, from where they were later deported to concentration camps. As early as the end of 1938, the Nazi leadership reported that Amstetten was one of the first towns in Lower Austria to be “Judenrein” (free of Jews).

After World War II, a few Jews returned to Amstetten. Today, the Amstetten community is part of the Jewish Kultusgemeinde (congregation) of Vienna.
Sources: - Genée, Pierre, Synagogen in Österreich, Wien 1992
- David, Jüdische Kulturzeitschrift in Österreich
- Freihammer, Josef, Das Schicksal der Amstettner Juden, Beilage in: Zeillinger, G. (Hg.): Amstetten 1938-1945, Dokumentation und Kritik, Amtsketten 1996
- Gold, Hugo, Geschichte der Juden in Österreich, Tel Aviv 1971