Klagenfurt - Area of Competence Carinthia

Synagogue built in: 1905
Earliest record of community: 1869
Last rabbi: Dr. Joseph Babad
Community members: 1869-16; 1880-90; 1899-126; 1934-180; 1938-116; 1938-311 (complete community)
Pogrom Night: Devastated
After 1945: 1961 restituted to IKG Graz, sold and later pulled down
Today: Memorial stone
Summary: The first Jews to settle in Carinthia—the southernmost province in modern-day Austria—arrived in the 12th century. Documents from around 1124 refer to a Judendorf (Jews’ village) that was supposedly located two kilometers north of Friesach (Carinthia’s oldest town). There were also Jews in the Carinthian town of Völkermarkt. Documents from 1422 indicate that a synagogue existed on the site of the district court building in Völkermarkt today. All Jews were expelled from Carinthia province in 1496 and were forbidden to settle in the region until the mid-19th century.

A significant number of Jews settled in Carinthia in the 1870s and 1880s. In 1885 the first Jewish families arrived in the provincial capital, Klagenfurt. One year later they founded an Israelitischer Cultusverein (Israelite Congregation Association). Klagenfurt’s chevra kadisha (Jewish burial society), founded in 1888, was the center of community life for Carinthia’s Jews. A Jewish cemetery—still in existence today—was inaugurated in 1895 in the St. Ruprecht district of town. Owing to the fact that they were few in number, the Jews in Klagenfurt and the rest of Carinthia were subordinated to the official congregation of Graz in 1893.

Several rented premises in Klagenfurt served as synagogues until, in 1905, the chevra kadisha made a building at 3 Platzgasse available for use as a synagogue and community center. Lessons in religious studies were also held there.

After continuous efforts were made by the chevra kadisha to establish an independent Kultusgemeinde (congregation) in Klagenfurt, an application was finally accepted and permission for a congregation granted on January 1, 1923. Ignaz Hauser, who until then had been rabbi of Mistelbach, was employed in Klagenfurt. He was succeeded in 1934 by Dr. Joseph Babad. A native of Galicia, he served the Klagenfurt congregation until 1938. Dr. Babad wrote numerous historical articles, including a contribution to a “History of the Jews of Carinthia”.

In the 1920s Zionism became more popular among the Jews of Carinthia. A local branch of the Austrian Zionist Association was opened in the town in 1929, and was followed by a branch of the Women’s International Zionist Organization in 1935.

After the Nazis assumed power in Austria in 1938, the public humiliation and mistreatment of Jews was legalized in the province of Carinthia. Most of the province’s Jewish businesses were expropriated during that year.

During the pogrom that took place on November 9/10, 1938, organized groups, mostly of SA and SS members, destroyed the Platzgasse synagogue. The inside of the building was completely destroyed; movable objects were thrown out onto the street, and the remaining interior furnishings were smashed to pieces. Throughout the entire province, most Jewish homes and businesses were destroyed. Those Jews who had not already fled were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

During the Second World War, the synagogue was hit and further damaged in aerial bombing attacks.

After the war, a small number of Jews returned to Carinthia. The Jewish community living there today is affiliated with the official Jewish congregation of Graz, Austria’s second largest city. In 1961, the heavily damaged structure of Klagenfurt’s former synagogue was handed over as restitution to the Graz congregation. The latter sold the building to a private individual. The synagogue was later torn down. A memorial stone has been erected on its former site.
Sources: - Genée, Pierre, Synagogen in Österreich, Wien 1992
- David, Jüdische Kulturzeitschrift in Österreich
- Wadl, W./Ogris, A., Das Jahr 1938 in Kärnten und seine Vorgeschichte, Klagenfurt 1988
- Wadl, W., Die israelitischen Kultusgemeinden Graz und Klagenfurt, in: Lohrmann, K. (Hg.), 1000 Jahre Österreichisches Judentum, o.O. 1982
- Encyclopedia Judaica Vol. 10, Jerusalem 1971, S. 1086
- Walzl, A., Die Juden in Kärnten und das Dritte Reich, Klagenfurt 1987
- Lauritsch, Andrea, Wo ist dein Bruder? Novemberpogrom 1938 in Kärnten, in: Zeitschrift „alpe-adria" 4/94, Villach 1998
- Walzl, A., Judenfrei-slowenenfrei? Die Kärntner Juden und der Anschluss, in: Malle, A./Sima, V. (Hg.), Der “Anschluss” und die Minderheiten in Österreich, Klagenfurt 1989
Located in: Bundeslaender