Waidhofen an der Thaya (Districts Gmünd, Ottenschlag, Pöggstall, Zwettl)

Synagogue built in: 1896
Earliest record of community: 1860
Last rabbi: Dr. Meir Gabriel Mehrer
Community members: 1880 - 79, 1900 - 57, 1934 - 82
Pogrom Night: Expropriated and occupied by a private person
After 1945: Returned to its rightful owner and sold
Today: Practice of an ophthalmologist
Summary: Jews first settled in Waidhofen an der Thaya at the beginning of the 15th century. In the 17th century, the Jewish community was permitted, under the protection of the Waidhofen authorities, to establish a settlement in the suburb of Niederthal. Here they opened a Jewish school – which probably served also as a synagogue - and inaugurated a cemetery. The first period of Jewish life in the town came to an end when Emperor Leopold I issued a general expulsion order in 1670 against all Jews living in the archdukedom of Austria.

It was 1860 before Jews could again settle in Waidhofen. In 1882, the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Waidhofen (Jewish Congregation of Waidhofen) was founded, and in the same year the community inaugurated a Jewish burial ground opposite the municipal cemetery. Members of the community founded a chevra kadisha (burial society). In 1896, the congregation’s rabbi, Dr. D. Löwy, inaugurated a prayer hall at 5 Niederleuthnerstraβe. At the time, this building belonged to the congregation’s vice president, Hugo Stukhart. In 1923, Rabbi Dr. Gabriel Meyer of Vienna was called on by the Waidhofen community to be its rabbi. Rabbi Meyer also attended to the Jewish communities of Krems and Horn, and was the last rabbi to serve these communities before their destruction in 1938.

In 1933, the Austrian Nazi movement – which was still outlawed at the time – intensified its antisemitic propaganda campaign. After the Anschluss (annexation of Austria by Germany) in March 1938, the SA marched to the house of Hugo Stukhart, beat him, and insulted his family. In the summer of 1938, the district authorities of Waidhofen ordered the expulsion of all the town’s Jews. The Jewish community closed down the prayer hall and offered the Jewish Congregation of Vienna its Torah scroll and other equipment.

Stukhart fled Austria with his wife and eldest daughter, and eventually settled in Haifa. His youngest daughter perished in a concentration camp.

After World War II, Stukhart’s former home was returned to him; he subsequently sold the building.
Sources: - Genée, Pierre, Synagogen in Österreich, Wien 1992
- David, Jüdische Kulturzeitschrift in Österreich
- Führer, E./Hitz, H., Juden in Waidhofen an der Thaya, in: F. Polleross, “Die Erinnerung tut zu weh”, Horn/Waidhofen 1996