Jewish Museum, Judenplatz & Stadttempel
Touring Vienna's Jewish Heritage - Part II
Moving on to the very heart of Medieval Vienna, you will end up at the Judenplatz ("Jew′s Square"), which is among Vienna′s most charming medieval squares. Here you can see two memorials: One for Gottfried Ephraim Lessing, a German writer of enlightenment and humanist. The other one is the Vienna′s new Shoa memorial or Memorial for the Jewish Victims of the Holocaust.
A block of light concrete in the shape of books forms a gate and the platform on which all of this stands is surrounded by the names of concentration camps in which some 60,000 of the 180,000 Austrian Jews were murdered. It was opened in 2000 and designed by the British artist Rachel Witheread. The history of persecution on this square goes back to the Middle Ages, though. Standing in front of the shoa memorial, look right to see a memorial plate from the 15th century and an explanation plaque underneath.
The inscription praised the great pogrom of 1421, in which Jews were expelled from Vienna or killed on the stake or by the Chief Rabbi to avoid a forced baptism. Why this place was chosen for the execution is explained inside the Museum Judenplatz: This was the site of the Medieval Jewish ghetto, where Jewish merchants built up quite a community with a synagogue, school and other essentials. The museum itself is rather concise and its modern, bunker-esque corridors and rooms in cold light don′t add to the appeal of the place that aims to teach visitors about the Medieval Jewish life in Vienna.
Stadttempel - Main Synagogue of Vienna
The final destination on the tour of Jewish sightseeing attractions is the Stadttempel in the middle of the "Bermuda Triangle", Vienna′s premier nightclub and binge-drinking district. The Stadttempel was built in 1826, which makes it the oldest synagogue in Vienna.
According to laws released by Emperor Joseph II, who wanted to make Jews useful citizens rather than nomadic outlaws on the edge of society, synagogues had to be plain towards the road - he was a tolerant emperor, but not that tolerant. As a result, the Stadttempel doesn′t look terribly fancy from outside, but its grandeur is revealed to those who pass the security checks and go inside.
The Stadttempel was designed by the famous Biedermeier architect Josef Kornhäusl and it was the only synagogue to survive the Reichskristallnacht in 1938 - badly damaged, though.
Nearby Attractions in Vienna
Jüdisches Museum: Hofburg,
Albertina, Augustinerkirche and
Austrian National Library;
National Opera (Staatsoper),
Stephansdom and Peterskirche.
Museum Judenplatz: Old Rathaus City Hall, Stock Exchange, Kirche Am Hof, Maria am Gestade Church.
Stadttempel: Ruprechtskirche Church, Anker Uhr, Old University district.
The entire area, however, is well worth a relaxed stroll if you manage to avoid the crowds. Luckily, they tend to concentrate along the Stephansplatz and the shopping lanes, though.
Return to "Jewish Vienna - Part I"
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