Neunkirchen

Synagogue built in: 1883
Earliest record of community: 1860
Last rabbi: Dr. Heinrich Hillel Weiss
Community members: 1869 - 80, 1890 - 259, 1934 - 204
Pogrom Night: Devastated; later camp for Jewish forced laborer
Today: 1984 demolished; memorial
Summary: The first definitive proof of Jewish presence in Neunkirchen dates back to 1343. In the second half of the 14th century, Neunkirchen’s Jewish community erected a synagogue in the area of what is known today as Triester Straße. In 1496, all Jews were expelled from Neunkirchen and were forbidden to resettle. This ban lasted until the mid-19th century.

Jews came back to live in the Neunkirchen district in the 1860s. Most of these Jews originated from western Hungary, referred to today as the Burgenland. Many of them had previously belonged to the famous Sheva Kehilot (“Seven Communities”) whose members were very devout and faithful to tradition. Many members of the new Neunkirchen community sent their sons to study in one of the Burgenland yeshivot (religious schools) and, when the time came, were buried in their place of origin.

In 1867, the minyan of the Charitable Association of Neunkirchen was founded. At first, the Jewish congregation held its religious services in a rented a hall on the upper floor of the Brückl tavern. In 1883, the community decided to build a synagogue on Rohrbacher Straße. The synagogue style, which was very similar to that of the Kobersdorf synagogue in Burgenland, bore witness to the strong connection of the Neunkirchen community to their Burgenland roots.

The Neunkirchen community also established a winter prayer hall on the second floor of the house at 7 Peischinger Straße. The town of Gloggnitz, near Neunkirchen, had its own Jewish prayer hall. In 1890 the community inaugurated its own cemetery in Neunkirchen. In 1897, the chevra kadisha (burial society) was officially registered.

The rabbi’s duties within the Kultusgemeinde (Jewish congregation), which was officially registered only in 1898, were assumed by Wilhelm Reich, who also officiated in Baden. Owing to the distance that separated Baden from Neunkirchen, Rabbi Reich frequently asked a scholar named Shimon Goldstein to go to Neunkirchen as his substitute. When Rabbi Reich passed away in 1927, the post of rabbi was held until 1938 by Rabbi Dr. Heinrich Hillel Weiss, from Wiener Neustadt.

On Pogrom Night, November 9/10, 1938, the synagogue was desecrated and demolished and all its equipment and furniture were destroyed. Subsequent forced emigration and the later deportations put an end to Jewish life in the town. During World War II, the former synagogue was used as a camp in which Jewish slave laborers from Eastern Europe were kept in appalling conditions.

After the war, the building fell into decay. In 1984, the roof and parts of the walls had to be removed for safety reasons. The outer walls, approximately two meters in height, have been preserved as a memorial. The post-war Jewish Congregation of Vienna has affixed a commemorative plaque to an outer wall of the building.
Sources: - Genée, Pierre, Synagogen in Österreich, Wien 1992
- David, Jüdische Kulturzeitschrift in Österreich
- G. Milchram, Die Entwicklung der Jüdischen Gemeinde in Neunkirchen/NÖ im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, in: Keil, M., Lappin, E. (Hg.), Studien zur Geschichte der Juden in Österreich, Bd. 2, Bodenheim 1997, S.123-140
- G. Milchram, Kehila Kedoscha Neunkirchen, Wien 1997