Schlaining

Synagogue built in: 18th Century
Earliest record of community: 2nd half of the 17th century
Last rabbi: Felix Blau
Community members: 1697: 55; 1735: 45; 1857: 600; 1920: 59; 1934: 19
Pogrom Night: Devastated
After 1945: Empty
Today: Reopened in 1988 as the library of the Austrian Study Center for Peace and Conflict Studies
Summary: The Jewish community in Schlaining (renamed Stadtschlaining in 1991), in the Burgenland province of modern-day Austria, was founded in the second half of the 17th century.

The local nobles, the Batthyány family, rented houses to the Jewish families, who in turn paid them for their protection. Any new Jewish family wishing to settle needed the earl’s permission, and had to pay extra. Schlaining’s Jews paid additional taxes on their trade in tobacco, soap, candles and wine.

As the town’s Jewish population grew, few of the newly-arrived Jewish families could afford to buy houses, they therefore took lodgings in Christian homes.

The Jews of Schlaining were given some autonomy to manage their community affairs. They chose a leader, referred to as the Judenrichter or “Jews’ judge,” who, along with five jurors, handled minor legal disputes; including claims made by Christians against Jews. The community submitted biannual reports on its finances to the earl. Schlaining’s Jews worked as peddlers, wine dealers, craftsmen and traders; a few did well enough to become merchants.

In 1715, Schlaining’s Jewish community had a synagogue; whether it was located on the site of today’s synagogue or elsewhere is unknown. Today’s synagogue building was erected in the 18th century as an extension of the rabbi’s house. It was renovated in 1864 by the master bricklayer Johann Lang, who probably installed the ladies’ gallery. Schlaining’s Jews adhered to the orthodox tradition until their community was destroyed in 1938.

We do not know when or where the first Jewish cemetery was established in Schlaining, but the second was laid on Basteigasse, on land that is privately owned today. A new cemetery, which is still preserved, was opened on the outskirts of town in or around 1902.

In 1840, the Hungarian government granted Jews freedom to live and trade throughout the whole country, prompting a mass movement of Jews from rural areas to the more economically attractive cities. Thereafter, the Schlaining community experienced an initial peak (in 1857) with 600 members; however, more than half had moved to Oberwart or Grosspetersdorf by the end of the 19th century.

Schlaining’s rabbi, Felix Blau, moved to Oberwart in 1922. A Jewish congregation was officially founded there in 1930, of which Schlaining became a subsidiary.

Following the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria to Germany in March 1938), Jewish businesses in Schlaining were Aryanized. Many Jews fled to Vienna; their property was sold by Oberwart Nazis to the local population. The synagogue was devastated during the pogrom of November 1938.

After the Second World War, the former synagogue remained empty for many years. It was renovated in 1988 and reopened as the library of the Austrian Study Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. A memorial plaque has been erected.
Located in: Burgenland