Innsbruck (Tirol) - Area of Competence: Tyrol and Voralberg (since 1914)

Community members: 1850-90; 1880-109; 1914-130; 1920-225; 1932-400; March 1938-200; November 1938-130
Pogrom Night: Destroyed; later used as a storage room
Today: Erection of a new Synagogue 1991
Summary: Jewish life in the state of Tyrol—a province in western Austria—was documented from the 13th century onwards. In the Middle Ages, small Jewish communities existed in the towns of Innsbruck, Bozen, Lienz and Trient.

All Jews were expelled from Tyrol in 1520. Unlike most Austrian provinces, Tyrol did at times allow Jews to settle within its borders during the 16th and 18th centuries. These Jews were sometimes subject to persecution. Records indicate that in the 17th and 18th centuries, the small Jewish community in Innsbruck, the capital city of the Tyrol province, met for prayers in a house at 16 Sailergasse, belonging to the May family.

In the 1870s, a number of Jewish families from Vienna, Bohemia, Hungary and Galicia settled in Innsbruck. Just as in communities elsewhere in Tyrol, membership numbers for the Innsbruck community were small. In 1890, the Innsbruck community was put under the administration of the Jewish congregation in Hohenems, led by the regional Rabbi Dr. Josef Link. In 1898 the Jews of Tyrol established their own congregation committee with one branch in Innsbruck and another in the town of Meran (now part of Italy). From 1900 until 1907, the Innsbruck Jews held their religious services in a prayer house called the “Stöcklgebäude” at 5a Ainichstrasse. In or around 1910, a synagogue consisting of a large room was established in the yard of the house at 15 Sillgasse. There was a Jewish burial section in the western cemetery in Innsbruck.

In 1914, the official establishment of the Jewish congregation of Innsbruck was approved. Thereafter the rabbinate for the provinces of Tyrol and Vorarlberg was moved to Innsbruck. Rabbi Dr. Josef Link served the community until his death in 1932.

Active Jewish community life developed in Innsbruck: a chevra kadisha, numerous ladies’ associations, a Jewish sports club called “Hakoah,” and a chess club were founded.

The first Jews to immigrate to Palestine from Innsbruck departed as early as 1924. Rabbi Dr. Elimelech Rimalt, who founded one of Innsbruck’s Zionist groups, the “Maccabi Hazair,” assumed the office of rabbi in 1932 and served the community until its destruction in 1938.

In the inter-war years there was a steady increase in antisemitic propaganda in the region, as well as attacks on the Jewish population; this prompted many Jews from Tyrol to move to Vienna or emigrate. In the summer of 1938, Polish, Russian and Czech Jews who had settled in Austria were expelled.

In the autumn of 1938, the Innsbruck congregation was forced to dissolve and the contents of its bank account were confiscated.

The Innsbruck community’s last religious services were held on the High Holy Days of that year in the Sillgasse synagogue. During the pogrom of November 9-10, 1938, members of the SS destroyed the Innsbruck synagogue and soiled and damaged its Torah scrolls. Three prominent members of the community—the president, Richard Berger, the director of the Jewish Commerce Association, Dr. Wilhelm Bauer, and Richard Graubart—were brutally murdered. Many Jews were attacked in their homes and Jewish stores were looted. Eighteen men were arrested. Two Jewish couples were thrown into the River Sill but succeeded in reaching the riverbank and saving themselves.

After the pogrom, two members of the community who had not been arrested visited the destroyed synagogue. They salvaged the desecrated Torah scrolls and gave them to Jews who were leaving for Palestine or the United States. In November 1938, the Gestapo ordered the expulsion of all Jews from Tyrol. They were sent to Vienna and deported from there to concentration camps.

Some Jewish families returned to Innsbruck after the war. They founded a small congregation and established a prayer hall at 1 Zollerstrasse.

In 1991, a new synagogue was inaugurated in the basement of a residential and commercial building on the site of the original synagogue.
Sources: - Genée, Pierre, Synagogen in Österreich, Wien 1992
- Rimalt, Elimelech S., The Jews of Tyrol, in: Fraenkel, J. (Hg.), The Jews of Austria: Essays on their Life, History and Destruction, London 1967
- Sella, Gad Hugo, Die Juden Tirols, Tel Aviv 1979
- Maislinger, Andreas, Die Verletzung wirkte sofort tödlich, in: Tribüne, 27. Jahrgang., Heft 107, 1988
- Maislinger, Andreas / Pallaver, Günther, Antisemitismus ohne Juden. Das Beispiel Tirol, in: Plat, W. (Hg.), Voll Leben und voll Tod ist diese Erde, Wien 1988
- Köfler, G., Tirol und die Juden, in: Albrich, Thomas / Eisterer, Klaus/ Steininger, Rolf (Hg.), Tirol und der Anschluss, Innsbruck 1988
- Rosenkranz, Herbert, Der Novemberpogrom 1938 in Innsbruck, in: Leo Baeck Institute Bulletin 81, 1988
Located in: Bundeslaender