Rechnitz

Synagogue built in: 1718
Earliest record of community: 1527
Last rabbi: Dr. Winkler
Community members: 17./18. century: ca. 400; 1841 : 916 (21% of the total population); 1859 : 850; 1900 : 311; 1923 : 145; 1934: 170
Pogrom Night: Interior plundered and demolished
After 1945: Fire station
Today: Residential building
Summary: Jews established a lasting presence in Rechnitz, a small town in the Burgenland province of modern-day Austria, in the 15th century.

In 1527 the town was incorporated into the principality of the Batthány magnate family and remained as such until 1861. Records indicate that in 1649 the Rechnitz Jewish community had its own synagogue with a Torah Ark, and that in 1707 another Ark was provided by the ruling house of Batthány itself.

In 1718, Samson Wertheimer, the Chief Rabbi of Hungary, approved the construction of a new and larger synagogue in Rechnitz. The synagogue was rebuilt in 1834 in a style that was described as elegant and imposing. The synagogue was similar to those in other Burgenland communities such as Deutschkreutz (Tzeilem) and Lackenbach, in that its walls and ceilings were covered in artistic paintings.  

Rabbi Eleazar Kalir, author of the work “Or Chadash”, was rabbi in Rechnitz from 1765 to 1778; Rabbi Gavriel Hacohen Engelsman, author of the “Einei Yisrael” served from 1823 to 1851.

In 1858, Meir Zipser became the Rechnitz rabbi. In his previous role in Stuhleissenburg, Rabbi Zipser had been involved in a controversy with the local orthodox faction, led by Rabbi Gottlieb Fischer, regarding the legality of a get (Jewish divorce) that Rabbi Zipser had issued there. In his own defense, Rabbi Zipser issued a clarification of his standpoint entitled “Mei Hasholoach” in 1853; however, Rabbi Abraham Benyamin Samuel Schreiber, the K’tav Sofer of Pressburg, ruled against the validity of the get; forcing Zipser to resign. Nevertheless, Rabbi Zipser was very popular in Rechnitz. He was given the title of Chief Rabbi and became one of the most prominent reformers in the area. When the neolog and orthodox factions of Hungarian Jewry split, Rechnitz opted for the more liberal neolog path and, in the 19th century, became the center of the reform movement in the Burgenland province. Services were held in the German language until well into the 20th century.

In the interwar period the Rechnitz Jews became impoverished, and when the community’s last rabbi, Dr. Winkler, died, they could not afford to replace him. The Jewish school had to close owing to a lack of students. The children received religious instruction from the cantor, Josef Glück, who also led the community in prayer services until 1938. Jews living in the Hungarian district of Guens were also part of the Rechnitz community.  

After the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria to Germany) in 1938, the Rechnitz Jews had all their property confiscated; the Jewish men were later arrested. In April of the same year, all the town’s Jews were assembled, loaded onto trucks and taken off in the direction of Yugoslavia. They were allowed to take only 20 Reichsmarks each; the rest of their belongings had to remain behind.  

On the night of the pogrom, November 9-10, 1938, the interior of the Rechnitz synagogue was destroyed; all its silver ritual items were confiscated and sent to Eisenstadt. Ownership of the building itself was transferred to the municipal authorities. During the Nazi period the synagogue was put to profane use as a youth hostel. In the 1970s the local fire brigade used the building to store equipment, degrading the former synagogue even further. The structure has since been completely rebuilt and is now a residential property.
Sources: Geschichte der Ortsfeuerwehr Rechnitz http://web41.host04.de/austria-4u/orte/bgld/r/rechnitz_fw.htm
Reiss, Johannes: Geschichte der Juden und jüdische Geschichte im Burgenland. in: Mayrhofer, Fritz/ Oppl, Ferdinand (Hrsg.): Juden in der Stadt, Linz/Donau, 1999
Gombos, G./Gruber, C./Teuschler, C. (Hg.), „... und da sind sie auf einmal dagewesen.“ Zur Situation von Flüchtlingen in Österreich. Beispiel Rechnitz, Oberwart, 1992
Fate of the synagogue: Expropriated and handed over to the Rechnitz municipality
Located in: Burgenland