Linz - Area of Competence Upper Austria (except the political districts Steyr and Kirchdorf)

Synagogue built in: 1876/77
Earliest record of community: 1851
Last rabbi: Dr. Viktor Kurrein
Community members: 1858-50 families; 1866-80 families; 1870-391; 1910-608; 1932-1200; September 1938-ca. 800; End of 1939-35
Pogrom Night: Burnt down
Today: Erection of a new synagogue 1968
Summary: Jewish traders traveled to Linz, the capital city of today’s Upper Austria, and in the lands north of the river Enns, probably as early as the 13th century. In the second half of that century Jews settled in Linz and established a synagogue at 6 Hahnengasse. During the brutal persecution—subsequently referred to as the Vienna Gezerah—of the Jews in Vienna and its surroundings, all Linz Jews were dispossessed, murdered or expelled from the country in 1421. In 1426, Linz’s former synagogue was converted into a Christian chapel and later into a residential building.

Numerous anti-Jewish expulsion orders were issued during the centuries that followed; meaning that Jews could only ever stay temporarily in Linz. The city held two annual fairs, for which Jewish traders received special permits. In 1798, Jews were given permission to “hold religious services with certain restrictions” at the fair, and they established a prayer hall for this purpose. In 1851 Nathan Kohn, leader of the Jews of Linz, applied for permission to found a prayer association and to establish a prayer hall for use at times other than during the fair. Although the first application was refused, the congregation was eventually able to establish a prayer hall on the first floor of the building at 10 Adlergasse.

In the second half of the 1850s, many Jews, mostly from Southern Bohemia, moved to Linz. They settled mainly in the old part of the city. In 1861, the city’s Jewish community rented a workshop building at 11 Mariengasse and adapted it for use as a prayer house. This prayer house functioned until 1877.

In the early 1860s the steadily growing Jewish community founded several associations, including a Jewish association for caring for sick men and a chevra kadisha burial society (founded 1860); a women’s association for supporting the needy and the sick (1862); several Zionist groups, and B’nai B’rith chapters. In 1863, Linz’s Jews inaugurated a cemetery that still exists today in Lustenau, a suburb of the city.

A large new synagogue was inaugurated at 26 Bethlehemstrasse on May 10, 1877, by the Chief Rabbi of Vienna, Dr. Jellinek. In 1919, the magazine Jüdische Nachrichten (Jewish News), for Jews living in the Alpine areas, was published in Linz.

The following rabbis served the Jewish community in Linz: Dr. Wilhelm Stern (1862-1872), Dr. Abraham Salomon Frank (1873-1876), Dr. Adolf Kurrein (1876-1883) and Moritz Friedmann (1883-1923). The last rabbi was Dr. Viktor Kurrein (1923-1938).

After the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany) many Jews in Linz were arrested and deported to concentration camps; mainly to Dachau. Several Jews committed suicide. Jewish property was expropriated. In July 1938, all Jews were ordered to leave the city as soon as possible. Some succeeded in immigrating to the United States, Great Britain, South America and Palestine. Many were sent to Vienna and from there to concentration camps.

Thirty years later a member of the Linz Jewish community, Karl Löwy, who spent several months in Dachau and Buchenwald and succeeded in escaping to Palestine, wrote an account of the night of November 9-10, 1938 – Pogrom Night:

I had just returned from several months’ stay in Dachau and Buchenwald, freed on condition that I would emigrate. After I was forced to give up all my property, my wife and one son were accommodated with other Jewish families in the narrow rooms of the community building, located in front of the synagogue. A strong light was penetrating our room when my wife woke me up at about 3 a.m., and we saw flames coming out of the windows of the synagogue. An SA officer came out of the building with a weapon in his hand. The Torah scrolls and prayer books were being dragged out and thrown on the ground. A business owner, named G., who lived in the neighborhood, hauled out, from the synagogue’s vestibule, a cylinder hat (traditionally worn by Jewish men) and a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl), put a Torah scroll under his arm and positioned himself on the steps at the entrance to the house of G-d and, swaying, imitated a Hebrew singsong. The bawling of the mob thanked him for his “humorous” performance. The fire brigade was present, but was meticulous only in ensuring that the fire did not spread to the neighboring houses. We–who had to watch the barbarous scene, agitated and upset–were visited by SA men who abused us and accused us Jews of having hidden weapons and setting fire to the synagogue ourselves.

The synagogue burned to the ground. Ritual items, gold and silver objects, and the synagogue’s archives, as well as bank savings books belonging to the emigration fund, were confiscated and handed over to the police.

After the Second World War, some Jews returned to Linz and, together with Eastern European refugees, founded a new congregation. In 1968 a new synagogue, built on the site of its predecessor, was inaugurated. One of the original synagogue’s foundation stones that survived intact and enclosed the synagogue’s founding charter was placed under the Torah Ark in the new building.
Sources: - Genée, Pierre, Synagogen in Österreich, Wien 1992
- Gold, Hugo, Geschichte der Juden in Österreich, Tel Aviv 1971
- Marckhgott, G., Fremde Mitbürger. Die Anfänge der israelitischen Kultusgemeinde Linz-Urfahr 1849-1877, Linz 1984
- Aigner, Manfred, Die Juden in Linz, in: David. Jüdische Kulturzeitschrift Jg. 6, Nr. 23, Wien 1994, S. 5-12
- Rosenkranz, Herbert, The Anschluß and the Tragedy of Austrian Jewry 1938-1945, in: Josef Fraenkel (Hg.), The Jews of Austria, London 1967
Located in: Bundeslaender