Zwettl

Synagogue built in: 1898
Earliest record of community: 1869
Community members: 1870-44; 1881-63; 1890-29; 1934-37
After 1945: Dissolved
Today: Tavern
Summary: The earliest documentary evidence of Jewish settlement in Zwettl comes from the 14th century. In 1338, anti-Jewish persecutions originating in nearby Pulkau spread to Zwettl and impacted the town’s Jews. Records dated 1560 mention the existence of a “Judengasse” (Jews’ Alley), which was probably part of a later Jewish settlement in the town. The name of this street today is Hamerlingstraβe.

Most Jews who came to Zwettl in the second half of the 19th century were natives of southern Bohemia or southern Moravia. In 1856, Samuel Schidloff and his family, who came from Bohemia, received permission to live in Zwettl, where Schidloff began trading in alcoholic drinks.

In 1869, Zwettl’s new Jewish community founded a Kultusgemeinde (Jewish congregation) with 21 male and 22 female members. The community was initially affiliated with the Jewish Congregation of Krems. After 1892, Zwettl’s Jews belonged to the Jewish Congregation of Waidhofen an der Thaya. The Zwettl community’s prayer hall was located on the first floor of house no. 171, which today is no. 62 Landstraβe. This house was initially inhabited by the Schidloffs and later by other Jewish families. After the demolition of the building in 1898, the prayer hall was moved to a room in the Zum Goldenen Hirschen (Golden Stag) tavern at 49 Landstraβe. A parochet (Torah curtain) donated in 1872 by the ladies of the congregation has been preserved until this day.

In 1883, Zwettl’s Jewish congregation inaugurated its own burial grounds next to the cemetery in Syrnau, a suburb of Zwettl.

Anti-Jewish propaganda increased towards the end of the 19th century and contributed to a considerable reduction in the Jewish population of Zwettl between the wars. In March 1938, the windows of Jewish stores and homes were smashed. Due to the antisemitic atmosphere, prayer meetings could no longer be held in the Golden Stag tavern. After the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria by Germany) those Jews still living in Zwettl fled the country or left for Vienna. A report issued by the Nazi party stated that no Jews remained in Zwettl as of April 1, 1939.
Sources: - Moll, F., Juden in Zwettl, in: Polleross, F. (Hg.), “Die Erinnerung tut zu weh”, Horn/Waidhofen 1996
- Gold, H., Geschichte der Juden in Österreich, Tel Aviv 1971