Lackenbach

Synagogue built in: First half of the 18th century
Earliest record of community: 1527
Last rabbi: Jehuda Cohen Krauss
Community members: 1869 : 770; 1932 : 430; 1934 : 346
Summary: In the mid-16th century, Jews living in the Burgenland village of Lackenbach (in today’s Austria) were protected by the patronage of the Baron von Weisspriach; nevertheless, they were not spared the anti-Jewish expulsion order issued by the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, in 1671. Only when the Sheva Kehillot (Seven Holy Communities) were founded, under the protection of Count Esterházy, could a Jewish community be re-established in Lackenbach on a new and firm footing.

A court Jew by the name of Samson Wertheimer helped strengthen Lackenbach’s Jewish community and renovate its synagogue, which had been built early in the 18th century. As members of one of the Sheva Kehillot, Lackenbach’s Jews adhered to the strictly orthodox, separatist Jewish movement that originated in Hungary. The Lackenbach congregation included Jewish communities in Frauenhaid, Horitschon, Neutal, Stoob, Oberpullendorf, Lutzmannsburg, Nikitsch and Neudorf.

Rabbi Benjamin, who was the son of the well-known Rabbi Meir of Eisenstadt (also known as the Maharam Asch), officiated in Lackenbach, and founded a yeshiva (a school for young men’s religious studies) in the town. The running of the yeshiva was continued by Rabbi Benjamin’s successor, Rabbi Sholom Ullmann. On account of his impressive intellectual abilities, Rabbi Ullman was known as Rabbi Sholom “Charif” (“charif” means “sharp” in Hebrew). He served in Lackenbach for 31 years until his death in 1830.

1902 saw the arrival in Lackenbach of Rabbi Yehuda Cohen Krausz, who furthered the achievements and reputation of the yeshiva. It seemed that Rabbi Krausz had fulfilled his dream – he was rabbi in a peaceful, small-town community where all his congregants were Torah observant, and together they were teaching the next generation to follow a traditional way of life. His dream was, however, shattered by the emergence in Austria of the Nazis’ brutally antisemitic movement. Fortunately, Rabbi Krausz managed to escape to Palestine (he eventually died in Jerusalem at the age of 80). After Rabbi Krausz’s departure, his son-in-law, Rabbi Chaim Meir Unger, took over his position in Lackenbach; the community’s shochet (kosher butcher), Israel Taub, acted as cantor.

Israel Glück, who grew up in the Lackenbach community, vividly described the beauty of its synagogue:

“From the wide front door a few steps led down into a large anteroom. From here, on the left, a set of stairs led up to the ladies’ gallery; on the right you passed through a doorway into the men’s prayer room. The smell of the burnt candles from the previous evening filled the air. The huge hall with its domed ceiling, the windows of colored glass, the artistically carved Holy Ark with the Torah scrolls, above it the two stone tablets bearing the Ten Commandments; all of it filled with me with a deep feeling of awe. I sat next to my Grandfather, listened devoutly to the singing of the cantor and the loud praying of the congregation. My eyes couldn’t get enough of looking at the paintings on the walls depicting the exodus from Egypt and other biblical scenes. Heavy chandeliers hung from the ceiling on thick chains. It was all so solemn, something out of this world. Heaven must look something like this, I thought to myself…”

A few weeks after the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria to the Third Reich in March 1938, the Jews of Lackenbach were loaded onto open-topped trucks. They were initially given permission to take some personal belongings with them, but when it was discovered that some of them had packed jewelry, all their hand luggage was confiscated. They were then transported to Vienna with only the clothes on their backs. By May of that year there were no Jews left in Lackenbach. The properties that had been owned by the Jewish community were compulsorily transferred to the district authorities in 1941. The synagogue’s silver ritual items, furnishings and its contents were seized by local Nazis. The building itself was blown up in 1942.
Sources: Zur Geschichte der Juden im Burgenland. Österreichisches Jüdisches Museum Eisenstadt 1993
Israel A. Glück, Kindheit in Lackenbach. Jüdische Geschichte im Burgenland, Konstanz 1998
Adonjahu Krauss: Lackenbach
Philip V. Bohlman: Lackenbach – Das Burgenland und die internationale Popularmusik des 20. Jahrhunderts.
http://www.oejudmus.or.at/museum/musym/bohlman3.htm
Fate of the synagogue: Blown up in 1942
Located in: Burgenland