Laa an der Thaya

Synagogue built in: ca. 1900
Earliest record of community: 1863
Last rabbi: Fischhof
Community members: 1900 - more than 30 families; 1938 - app. 30 families
Pogrom Night: Expropriated
After 1945: Unoccupied
Today: Renovated; apartment building
Summary: The earliest record of the existence of a Jewish community in Laa an der Thaya comes from the 13th century. In 1338, the Jews in neighboring Pulkau were accused of host desecration. The ensuing persecution of the Jewish population affected Jews in Laa an der Thaya too. Although Jews returned to Laa in the second half of the 14th century, no Jewish community was founded there until the mid-19th century.

A Jewish man by the name of Bernhard Drill, who was from Nikolsburg (today the town of Mikulov in the Czech Republic) settled in Laa in 1863. Not long afterwards, a Jewish community came into being, and became affiliated with the Kultusgemeinde (Jewish congregation) of Mistelbach. At the turn of the 20th century, Laa’s Jewish community established a prayer hall at 16 Ecke Kirchenplatz. The community was served by rabbis from various other towns. Dr. Sigmund Gelbhaus from Vienna performed rabbinical duties in 1908/9. Rabbi Fischhof was the last rabbi to serve the community before its destruction in 1938. After the Anschluss (annexation of Austria by Germany) in March 1938, the Jews of Laa were deprived of their dignity and rights. Their homes were expropriated and the prayer hall was closed down. As in other towns, the Nazis forced Jews to clean streets and walls with their bare hands or toothbrushes, using strong alkaline solutions. Many Jewish families fled to Vienna or to Bohemia. Others tried to obtain entry visas to other countries. Most of them did not succeed, and were deported to concentration camps. On September 23, 1938, the Laaer Nachrichten (Laa News) reported that there were no Jews left in the town.

The building which housed the former prayer room still exists but is empty and in a derelict state. The only surviving relic is a collection box bearing the Hebrew inscription matan beseter (anonymous donation).
Sources: - Genée, Pierre, Synagogen in Österreich, Wien 1992
- David, Jüdische Kulturzeitschrift in Österreich