New Synagogue

Erection/Date: 1913 Inauguration
People: Theodor Schreier and Viktor Postelberg (architects), Rabbiner Dr. Adolf Aron Schächter (Chairman of the Temple Erection Association)
Building history: 1907 foundation of the Temple Erection Association, 1912 start of construction, inauguration on August 17th 1913
Time of National Socialism: in 1938 the New Synagogue was looted and the interior was destroyed; subsequently, the synagogue was used/owned by: SA-Standarte 21 (until 1941), the Municipality of St. Pölten (until 1945) and the Red Army. In 1947 it was returned to the Municipality of St. Pölten
Restitution: in 1954 restitution to the IKG Vienna (Israelite Religious Community Vienna) as legal successor of the IKG St. Pölten
Renovation: 1980–1984; 1984 re-opening 
Since 1988: seat of the Institute for Jewish History in Austria
Adresse: Schulpromenade, today Dr. Karl Renner-Promenade 22


Overview of the history of the Synagogue

Initially, Jews in St. Pölten held their service in a room of the former Gasser factory which had been fitted to that use. From 1885 till 1913 a building at Schulpromenade (today’s Dr. Karl Renner Promenade, west of the current location) was used as synagogue. From 1888 onwards, the Israelite Religious Community had been aiming at building a new house of prayer; on April 7th 1907, a »Temple Erection Association« was set up.

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Start of construction was on June 20th 1912 in accordance with the design concept of the architects Theodor Schreier and Viktor Postelberg. On August 17th 1913, the eve of the emperor’s birthday, the new Synagogue was solemnly inaugurated.

After the November Pogrom 1938, the Synagogue was used as a furniture store. The National Socialists planned to pull down the building »at the expense of Jewish Capital«, to renovate the cantor’s house and to assign it to a formation of the NSDAP. That is presumably the reason why the SA-Standarte 21 moved into the cantor’s house in May 1940. In 1942, the Synagogue was used as reception camp for »Russian civilians« who were then utilized as forced labourers. In 1945, air raids further damaged the building resulting in an additional deterioration of its condition. 

After the end of World War II, the Synagogue was used as furniture store, granary and dovecot. The cupola was heavily damaged and some structural components were in danger of collapsing; broken windows let in rain and snow. Demolition plans in the late 1970ies resulted in the Federal Monuments Office putting a preservation order on the building. 

From 1980 till 1984, the Synagogue was renovated to reflect the original plans as closely as possible and it is now used as memorial site and event location. Since 1988, the cantor’s house has been accommodating the Institute for Jewish History in Austria. The Synagogue is the only one in Lower Austria next to that one in Baden/Vienna. Visits are possible on weekdays between 9-3:30 pm or by arrangement with the INJOEST. less... ]

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Detailed building history: from draft concept to inauguration

The Synagogue of St. Pölten is considered one of the most significant sacral building of its days. It was designed by Theodor Schreier together with his co-partner Viktor Postelberg. Theodor Schreier was born in Vienna on December 8th, 1873 and between 1899 and 1906 he worked in an atelier with the Viennese architect Ernst Lindner. In 1943 Schreier was deported to Theresienstadt and died there after May 21st.

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In order to obtain funding for the synagogue, Albert Leicht, head of the Israelite Religious Community, organised two fund-raising campaigns: the sending of postcards of the new synagogue and the sale of prayer books. The overall costs for the new construction including the interior amounted to 141.390 crowns. More than half of that amount was raised via private donations. On the Torah Shrine, a golden inscription in Hebrew letters and German language states »donated by the Women’s Association St. Pölten«. The couple Siegfried and Bertha Schwarz donated 160 crowns for a colourfully glazed window in the shape of a David’s Star. As is the case with all the other resplendent colourful windows of the synagogue, it is no longer preserved. 

In April 1912, Rabi Schächter requested that Jewish holidays be abode by in accordance with religious regulations as regarded the construction of the synagogue. The Israelite Religious Community decided in an unanimous vote that Saturdays and holidays would not see any construction works in spite of higher costs. On June 20th, 1912, construction activity started. 

The date for the inauguration – the eve of the emperor’s birthday – was chosen as a sign of reverence for Emperor Franz Josef I; there had even been considerations on putting up a bust of the emperor in the ante-room of the synagogue. The musical arrangement for that evening were made by St. Pölten’s cantor Philipp Wolf Rabinowitsch and the chief cantor of the Israelite Religious Community Vienna, Don Fuchs together with the choir of the Vienna Sephardic community. As a matter of course the evening closed with the Imperial Anthem. 

The inauguration was attended by numerous secular and religious dignitaries. Representatives of the Catholic Church, however, were not present and the »St. Pöltner Zeitung« (St. Pölten’s Newspaper) which was strongly catholic and anti-Semitic did not mention the event.  

In June 1923, the community embellished the interior with a magnificent Art Deco chandelier. less... ]

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Donation list of the Temple-Construction-Association

Donation list of the Temple-Construction-Association from the 21st January 1908 more... ]

NAME, CITY: AMOUNT

Baron v. Rothschild, Wien: 5000
Leopold Reiniger, St. Pölten: 3000
Sigmund Allina, St. Pölten: 2000
Albert Leicht, St. Pölten: 2000
Siegfried Schwarz, St. Pölten: 1000
Wilhelm Fischl, St. Pölten: 1000
Bernhard Kohn, St. Pölten: 1000
Simon Placzek, St. Pölten: 500
Ad. Reiss & Sohn, St. Pölten: 500
Karl Frank, Viehofen: 500
Rud. Frank, Viehofen: 500
Samuel Mandl, St. Pölten: 500
Josef Schwarz, Wien: 500
Richard Lustig, St. Pölten: 300
Moritz Reiss, St. Pölten: 250
Heinrich Gelb, St. Pölten: 200
Elisabeth Allina, St. Pölten: 200
Katharina Frank, St. Pölten: 200
Herm. Schanzer & Sohn, Pöchlarn: 200
Isidor Kreidl, St. Pölten: 300
Julius Kohn , St. Pölten: 120
Michael Lang, St. Pölten: 100
Sig. Allina jun., St. Pölten: 100
Hermann Krauss, Graz: 100
Rosalia Schwarz, St. Pölten: 100
Max Kubin , Herzogenburg: 120
Ignatz Wellisch, Wiesenfeld: 120
Karl Bergler, St. Pölten: 120
Bernhard Wulkan, St. Pölten: 100
J. Körner, St. Pölten: 100
Dr. Ad. Schächter, St. Pölten: 100
Samuel Hacker, Stattersdorf, 100
Samuel Gelb, St. Pölten: 100
Albert Allina, St. Pölten: 100
Karl Bondy?, St. Pölten: 100
Daniel Kerpen, St. Pölten: 100
Eduard Frischer, St. Pölten: 100
Leopold Reiss, St. Pölten: 100
Max Frank, St. Pölten: 100
Philip Leitner, Hainfeld: 40
Dr. Mich. Chilf, Hainfeld: 100
Heinrich Spitz, Wilhelmsburg: 100
Julius Wellisch, Harland: 60
Leop. Frischmann, Hohenberg: 30
Brüd. Lichtenstern, Wilhelmsburg: 100
Karol. Lichtenstern, Wilhelmsburg: 100
J. Brumlick, Bischofstetten: 100
Max Neumann, Markersdorf: 100
Moritz Lederer, Loosdorf: 100
Alois Brumlick, Loosdorf: 100
Max Singer, Herzogenburg: 30
Alois Singer, Neuda: 50
Samuel Tiger, Brunn: 40
Josef Bock, Wimpassing: 80
Max Fürnberg, Weinburg: 40
Josef Bichler, St. Pölten: 10
Adolf Gorge Dir., Unter - Radelberg: 25
Hugo König, Unter - Radelberg: 5
Philipp Sinek, Radelberg: 10
S. Soffer, Neulengbach: 20
Leop. Einöhrl, Neulengbach: 20
Ignatz Holub, Neulengbach: 10
D. Frischer, ?: 10
Heinr. Plazek, Purkersdorf: 10
Simon Koblitz, Purkersdorf: 10
Wilh. Spitz, Pressbaum: 10
Rud. Vrkoc, Pressbaum: 10
Samuel Leitner, Neulengbach: 5
Jos. Weiner & Sohn, Melk: 20
Heinrich Hacker, St. Pölten: 100
Adolf Frischmann, Schrambach: 50
Eduard Zappert, Hainfeld: 50
Brüder Guttmann, Wien: 500
Ig. & Jac. Kufner, Wien: 200
Kais. Rat Leop. Sachs, Wien: 200
Ritter v. Gomperz, Wien: 200
Löbl. Sparkassa, St. Pölten: 200
Bankverein, St. Pölten: 200
Schüller & Co, St. Pölten: 150
L. Beers Wtw., Holleschau: 100
G. Schön, Göblasbruck: 100
Lieser & Duschnitz, Pöchlarn: 100
Wilh. Stöckler, Wien: 100
Josef Grünfeld, Iglau: 100
Bondy & Mayer, Wien: 50
Moritz Zwicker, Wien: 50
M. Grab Söhne, Wien: 50
Ignatz Zwicker, Wien: 50
Simon Mandler, Wien: 50
Leopold Landeis, Wien: 50
Leop. Munk, Pöchlarn: 50
Arnold Fröhlich, Wien: 50
Guido Elbogen, Thalheim: 50
Sam. S. Bing, Wien: 100
Oscar Berl, Wien: 50
Samuel F. Goldberger, Wien: 50
S. Bell, Wien: 80
Sigmund Tonello, Wien: 50
F. Pollak, Prossnitz: 50
F. Pollak, Prossnitz: 6
Alex. Geiger, Budapest: 20
Julius Sockel, Wien: 20
Leop. Stuckart, Zlabings: 20
Karl Nachmias, Wien: 5
J. P. Gottlieb, Pollitz: 10
Jos. Krauss, unleserlich: 4
Alfred Wahle, Wien: 10
Schwarz & Comp., Wien: 10
Brüd. Bacher & Comp., Wien: 20
Max Kohn & Co., Wien: 20
Kellner & Rosenberg, Wien: 20
Dr. Sig. Weiss, Rekawinkel: 3
Therese Heller, Altlengbach: 10
Theodor Teichtner, Wien: 10
Bäcker & Co., Wien: 2
Moritz Doktor, Wien: 25
Josef Bielitz, Wien: 10
Ad. Freiwillig, Wien: 10
Leopold Wasservogel, Wien: 20
Mühlstein & Steiner, Prag: 10
Dr. Ad. Kurrein, Teplitz: 20
S. Allina & Sohn, Zlabings: 10
Otto Kirchenberger, Teplitz: 5
Moritz Schanzer, Neubistritz: 10
Ad. Brunner, Graz: 4
Karl Sturme, Wien: 10
Mathias Neubauer, Pilsen: 10
S. Keller, Iglau: 5
E. Herrmann, ?: 10
G. Wotlitz, Wien: 20
J. V. Mautner, Wien: 40
Brüder Klein, ?: 30
Brüder Paunsen, Wien: 30
Ludwig Schick, Wien: 20
Anna Ernst, Wien: 5
Popper & Ornstein, Wien: 10
Brüder Humburger, Wien: 4
A. D. Hift, Wien: 10
Pachner & Schlessinger, Wien: 5
Karl Pfefferkorn, Arnau: 4
Leop. Eisenmann, Roth Kosteletz: 10
Leop. Weiner, Wien: 20
Herm. Pollak Söhne, Wien: 20
Sam. S. Bing, Wien: 25
M. Grünbaum, Wien: 4
Otto Morawetz, Eipel: 10
Karl Süss, Wien: 4
Joh. Liebig & Comp., Wien: 5
Ludwig Eckstein, Wien: 20
Lurie & Bauer, Wien: 5
Alois Lemberger, Wien: 30
Brüder Peter, Wien: 10
Wilh. Eisenmann, Roth. Kosteletz: 4
Grohmann & Co., Würbental: 20
Heinrich Weiner, Prossnitz: 10
Josef Broch, Wien: 20
Leop. Landeis, Wien: 5
L. Löwit, Wien: 5
May & Herold, Wien: 10
Brüder Bleier, Neustadt: 10
Berger & Feiner, Wien: 10
Adolf Karpeles, Warnsdorf: 10
Heinrich Gelb, Wien: 10
Albert Tandler, Urfahr: 20
H. Glattauer & Co., Prag: 30
Jacob Kouhut, Holic: 20
Käthe Lauer, Iglau: 20
Max Allina, Wien: 5
W. Löwenfeld, Wien: 20
D. Schwarzmann & Co., Wien: 10
A. Beamt & Söhne, Wien: 5
Mataus & Homolka, Wien: 10
Max Schlesinger, Wien: 10
Alexander Löbl & Bruder, Wien: 10
Alfred Braun, Prag: 5
Josef Braun, Reichenau: 5
Alfred Goldberg, Stuben: 5
Fried. Kubinsky, Wien: 15
Moritz Grünhut, Wien: 10
Josef Hoffmann, Wien: 5
Emanuel Blumenthal, Wien: ?
Jacob Quittner, Wien: 20
Alfred Epstein, Wien: 20
M. & J. Mandl, Wien: 20
Eugen Fleischmann, Nürnberg: 10
Jacob Mohrberger, Wien: 10
David Zappert, Wien: 20
Brüder Selinko, Wien: 10
Neumann & Haurowitz, Prag: 20
Cosmanos A.-G., Wien: 40
Rob. & Rud. Pietschmann, Schluckenau: 10
Moritz Berl, Wien: 20
S. Fleischmann, Wien: 10
Philipp Kohn, Wien: 10
M. Zuzaks Sohn, Pilsen: 10
Michael Löwits & Sohn, Mestu: 10
Michael Löwits & Sohn, Pardubitz: 5
Hecht & Schwarz, Prag: 5
Heinrich Klinger, Wien: 30
Sigmund Gottlieb, Brünn: 10
Leop. Wolfs Söhne, Eisenstadt: 10
Friedr. Lederer, Neustadt: 2
Sigmund Löwi, Wien: 30
M. Neumann, Wien: 5
Eduard Schidloff, Zwettl: 10
J. Z. Schütz, Wien: 20
Hirsch & Neumann, Nördlingen: 40
D. Geiringer, Wien: 10
Max Reich & Sohn, Wien: 10
Johann Bock, ?: 10
Füchsl & Merkl, ?: 10
Josef Kunz, Skutsch: 20
Zechel & Söhne, ?: 10
Josef Fantl, Wien: 20
Adolf Humpoletz, ?: 6
Breuner & Wasservogel, Wien: 15
Eduard Redlich, Wien: 20
IKG Wr. Neustadt, Wr. Neustadt: 20
A. Kaiser, Brünn: 20
Bäuer & Gutbericht, Weinert: 3
N. Tauber & Bruder, Wien: 10
IKG Waidhofen, Waidhofen: 10
Julius Ehrlich, Wien: 10
Sigmund Mahler, Kemmelbach, 10
Leopold Bondy, Prag: 20
Eduard Kellner, Wien: 5
Fritz Kellner, Wien: 5
Rudolf Wolf, Prossnitz: 10
N. Klabers Sohn, Neuern: 5
Fritz Löwy & Sohn, Wien: 5
Jaques Markus, Wien: 5
Brüder Zwicker, Wien: 10
Winter & Reich, Wien: 5
M. Traub, Wien: 5
Hermann König, Wien: 30
Hermine Squarenina, Wien: 20
Jacob Duschinsky, Wien:

 

Source: NÖLA, Karton 2863, Mappe IKG St. Pölten, quoted from: Matthias Lackenberger, Die Geschichte der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde St. Pölten von 1867-1918. Unveröff. phil. Dipl.arb. Wien 1998.

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Expenditure for the construction of the Synagogue

Cost breakdown more... ]

NAME, CITY, PROFESSION, SERVICE: AMOUNT
 
Andri Ferdinand, St. Pölten, Artist (Painter, Carver), gold plating: 130
Birkmayer Eugen, St. Pölten, marble panels for the windows: 774
Blasel Johann: 103
Bondy Franz, Wien, 2 "Niagara" cuspitor: 30
Danzberger Josef, master glazier: 562,08
Deutscher, Dr., Wien: 8
various minor expenses: 97,40
Dreikurs Moritz, Wien, 2 desks for officials: 36
Eckstein, Dr., Wien: 120,70
Eybner Otto, St. Pölten, ironmongery, ferrous materials: 5.945,36
Fabiani, Prof., Wien, architect: 70
Forstner L., Wien: 260
Frauenfeld, St. Pölten, builder: 61.400
Fürst J., St. Pölten: 52,40
Topping money and tips: 573
Gröbl Anton, St. Pölten, carpenter: 11.002,89
Haller Josef, St. Pölten, city engineer, supervising of the work: 300
Hanel Robert, St. Pölten, carpenter, benches and seats: 6.200
Herzmansky A., Wien, plush: 36,57
Hiebel Josef, St. Pölten: 44,20
Hönig Friedrich, St. Pölten, roofers: 853,60
Hötzl Josef, St. Pölten, locksmith, locksmith and artistic locksmith works: 6.600
Advertisements: 40,20
Kauder Robert, Wien, constructor of clay ovens: 340
Kern Rudolf, 2 laterns: 162
Kummer Anton, St. Pölten, carpenter and timbermill owner: 905
Lechner Alois, St. Pölten, painter, painting: 2.236,93
Leicht A. & Sohn, St. Pölten, merchant, carpets and other goods: 443,24
Mayer J., St. Pölten: 70
Merkl Puffer & Co, Herzogenburg, Herzogenburger Tonwerke und Kunststeinfabrik, cast stine, terrace floor: 4.640
Mrasek Anton, St. Pölten, carpenter: 6.217, 79
Nunner Franz, Wien, clock for the temple: 37
Papouschek Franz, Wien, bronzeware and chandelier production: 70
Pauer Franz, St. Pölten, gardeners: 559,50
Pfaffner Josef, Wien: 33
Pittner Franz, Wien, seet- and door-panels: 81,54
Prokop Josef, St. Pölten, director of town plannung, construction overall controll: 700
Reiser H, Schreier, Lindner, Wien, architect for project drafts: 600
Resch Albert, 6 wagonloads gravel: 24
Rühmann Adolf, St. Pölten, painter: 257
Schilling Anton, St. Pölten, pottery producer (oven): 90,20
Schlesinger Josef, Wien, publishing house, artistic- and goldembroidery: 1.166,35
Schön & Gartner, Wien, architects: 8,40
Schreier & Postelberg, Wien, architects: 25
Schreier Theodor, Wien, architect: 3.800
Schuster Franz & Zezulka, Wien,  decorator: 3.552
Schwarz Josef, St. Pölten, plumber, tinsmith: 10.800
Slabe Emilian, St. Pölten, sculptural works: 389,08
Municipal power plant, St. Pölten: 2.333,41
Municipal gas plant, St. Pölten: 398,18
Stamp fees and Stempel und detailed plan: 13,60
Stix Adolf, Wien, inscriptions: 59,75
Turek Karl, descendants, St. Pölten, engine builders and electrical engineer, several assembly works: 87,42
Weinmann, St. Pölten, builder, delivery of backfill: 127
Wicherek & Tintner, St. Pölten, builder: 205
Winkler Ernst, Wien: 2.872,70
Wohlmayer Robert, St. Pölten, builder, deconstruction of the old Synagogue: 100
Zeller Johann, St. Pölten, farriers and carriage manufacturer: 134,62

 

 

Source: Sta St. Pölten, Karton 2 sowie NÖLA, Karton 2863, Mappe IKG St. Pölten, Liste Ausgaben und Spenden beim Bau der Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Huldigungs-Synagoge in St. Pölten, quoted from: Matthias Lackenberger, Die Geschichte der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde St. Pölten von 1867-1918. Unveröff. phil. Dipl.arb. Wien 1998.

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Finance of the Synagogue construction: donations of money and goods

Donation breakdown more... ]

DONATOR, CITY, NATURE OF THE DONATION: AMOUNT

Temple Construction Fund, St. Pölten, money: 13.310,67
Enfeoffment from the Saving Banks, St. Pölten, money: 18.025
Loans from the Loan Funds, money: 8.000
Land repayment by the city, St. Pölten, money: 10.000
Loan from the Chewra Kadischa, St. Pölten, money: 4.000
Subsidies of the IGK, St. Pölten, money: 4.000
Subsidies of the IGK Wien, Wien, money: 500
Interests Temple Consturction Funds, St. Pölten, money: 13,60
Subsidies of the Chewra Kadischa, St. Pölten, money: 11.000
Subsidies of the Saving Banks, St. Pölten, money: 410,59
Donations from Baron Freiherrn von Rothschild, money: 5.000
Donations from Dr. Julius Taussig, St. Pölten, money: 1.000
Donations from the Anglo-Austrian Bank, St. Pölten, money: 500
Fundraising with prayer books organized by Leicht, money: 5.500
Income from picture postcards (idea: Leicht), money: 640,03
Allina Elisabeth, St. Pölten, I. window: 200
Allina Sigmund, St. Pölten, I. window: 200
Bock Jakob, Wald, lamps: 30
Bondy Karl, St. Pölten, I washbasin: 100
Brumlik family, I. window: 120
Chewra Kadischa, St. Pölten, white proches and two figures: 820
Dakter Eduard: 50
Fischl Betty, St. Pölten, I. window: 200
Frank Karl, St. Pölten, I Thora coat: 500
Frank Max und Elsa, I. window: 50
Frank Rudolf, St. Pölten, I Thora coat: 150
Frischer Eduard, St. Pölten, I. window: 80
Glaser Salomon, Fahrafeld, I. window: 120
Hacker Samuel, St. Pölten, I Thora coat: 60
Hermann Adalbert Familie, 2 hangings: 200
Hoffmann Heinrich, St. Pölten, I. window: 60
IKG, St. Pölten: 2.000
Jewish Women Association, St. Pölten, I altar: 600
Klein Ernst, Director of the Anglo-Austrian Bank, rabbys seat: 45
Kohn Bernhard, St. Pölten: 100
Kubin Max, Herzogenburg, I. window: 50
Leicht Albert, St. Pölten, estrade and candelabra: 600
Leicht Robert, St. Pölten, II. window: 120
Leicht Rosalie, St. Pölten, 1 collecting box (copper): 160
Lichtenstern Rich., Wilhelmsburg, I. window: 60
Lustig Richard, St. Pölten, II. window: 160
Mandl Samuel, St. Pölten, I. window: 80
Müller Wilhelm, St. Pölten, I. windowr: 60
Nussbaum Heinrich, St. Pölten, I Thora coat: 60
Placzek Simon, St. Pölten, I. window: 200
Placzek Simon, St. Pölten, I. window: 60
Placzek Wilhelmine, St. Pölten, II. window: 160
Reiniger Leopold, St. Pölten, I. window: 200
Reiss Adolf, St. Pölten, I. window: 200
Reiss Isidor, St. Pölten, I. window: 80
Reiss Isidor, St. Pölten, I Thora coat: 80
Reiss Karl, Kilb, lamps: 300
Reiss Moritz, St. Pölten, I. windowr: 80
Schächter Adolf, Dr., St. Pölten, door glas: 100
Schwarz Rosa, St. Pölten, I. window: 80
Schwarz Siegfried, St. Pölten, I. window: 160
Spitz Wilhelm, I. window: 60
Donations for the construction of the Temple: 22.688,50
Wulkan Bernhard, St. Pölten, I Thora coat: 60
 
Source: NÖLA, Karton 2863, Mappe IKG St. Pölten, Liste Spendeneingänge, quoted from: Matthias Lackenberger, Die Geschichte der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde St. Pölten von 1867-1918. Unveröff. phil. Dipl.arb. Wien 1998.

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The lost portrait of the Emperor

In August 1913 the Israelite Religious Community discarded the original plan to put up a bust of the Emperor at the ante-room of the Synagogue. Instead, the painter Emil Krausz from Graz, who had spent his childhood in St. Pölten, was commissioned to paint a portrait of Emperor Franz Josef for the price of 50 crowns. This painting was long considered »lost«.

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In summer 2000, however, Martha Keil was able to identify a portrait of the emperor at the St. Pölten Stadtmuseum (Municipal Museum St. Pölten) that had often been used for exhibitions as the lost portrait: at the left bottom corner, an inscription referred to the donors Samuel and Bertha Mandl. The merchant Samuel Mandl had been a board member of the religious community and of the construction committee for the Synagogue. It has not been handed down to us where the portrait had been hanging but it is one of a number of impressive proofs for the loyalty of St. Pölten’s Jews and in general of Jewish subjects within the Habsburg Monarchy towards the emperor. less... ]

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Der Novemberpogrom

»Amidst a German town – and St. Pölten is such a town, is it not? – arises an oriental building, curly characters ›decorate‹ its facade and a star arches up above the cupola which we can happily spare in our sky. One day when this building stands without meaning and use – and this will happen soon (it is clear that the Ostmark will stand an example) then it will make room for a ›representative‹ building!? If we succeed in cleaning business life in our town from foreigners, then the exterior will have to follow that example.«

This blatant summons to destroy the St. Pölten Synagogue was published in St. Pölten’s Anzeiger as early as on November 5th, 1938.

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The assassination of the German embassy counsellor Ernst vom Rath in Paris by the 17-year-old Jew Herschel Grynszpan on November 7th, 1938 was a welcome cause for Hitler to let loose the»spontaneous people’s rage« against Jewish shops, dwellings, buildings of prayer and people. In the night from November 9th to 10th, 1938 numerous people, probably members of the SA and SS, intruded into the cantor’s house next to the Synagogue, lay fire and broke the windows. 

In the morning of November 10th, an SS-Standartenführer from Krems allegedly arrived to organise the destruction of the Synagogue. Between 300 and 400 people, partly in uniform partly plain-clothed, assembled in front of the building – amongst them were members of the SA, SS, HJ and Reich Labour Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst) as well as pupils from St. Pölten under the guidance of their teachers. On November 16th, 1938 St. Pölten’s Anzeiger reported approvingly that some “bold” people had succeeded in »removing the sign of Judas, the Star of David, the true image of the Red Star from the cupola«.

On this morning the interior of the Synagogue was completely destroyed while political songs were sung. Windows were broken, the interior fitting and Torah scrolls were burnt, water pipes, light fitting and doorposts were torn from the walls. Books and documents were thrown onto the streets, soused with petrol and burnt amongst cheers. St. Pölten’s security force reported to the subsection Vienna: »the actions against Jews were positively received by the locals.« Individual onlookers did, however, voice their discomfort: »well, one should let them keep their faith«. 

Of the entire moveable property of the Israelite Religious Community St. Pölten, only »2-3 silver cups, 1 silver hand (Torah pointer) and 2 Torah scrolls remained«. The whereabouts of these objects is unresolved. Some holdings of the archive of the Religious Community were moved to the Municipal Archive St. Pölten. The heavily damaged building was secured against trespassing.

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During and after the war

According to plans of the NSDAP, the Synagogue was to be demolished »at costs of the Jewish capital«, the cantor’s house was to be renovated and assigned to the party. This scheme was, however, not realised. The SA-Standarte 21 moved into the cantor’s house and applied for the flat of the non-Jewish couple Diete.  

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The stay of the couple was rejected by the SA as they had »formerly managed the affairs of the Jewish temple and of the Rabbi and it was unbearable that a former janitor at a Jewish temple continued tasks at the SA.«

The IKG was required to repair the building’s »structural damage« at its own costs. As the Religious Community was not in a position to do so, the municipality of St. Pölten, which had »aryanised« all the real estate of the IKG, bought the Synagogue. The money was stored on a frozen account of the »Central Office for Jewish Emigration«, a »branch« of the Sicherheitsdienst. The IKG could not freely dispose of this money.

In 1942, the Synagogue was used by the Arbeitsamt (Labour office) as a reception camp for Russian forced labourers. A part of the building was adapted for this reason by the municipal Bauhof and equipped with 76 paillasses. In 1945 the building was further damaged by bomb splinters. The Red Army used the Synagogue as granary and furniture store and returned it to the municipality in April 1947. The restoration to the IKG Vienna as legal successor dragged on until June 1954. 

The IKG Vienna requested the municipality St. Pölten to return the rental revenue; the municipality St. Pölten in turn requested the compensation for the maintenance costs and for the purchase price. After an offset of all expenses, the IKG Vienna paid 24.252,98 Austrian Schilling to the Municipality of St. Pölten for the restoration of »aryanised« property.

In the following years, the unused building decayed further, hundreds of pigeons nested in the cupola which was in danger of collapsing. In 1975, the IKG asked to buy the Synagogue from the municipality of St. Pölten. The Niederösterreichischen Nachrichten (NÖN, Lower Austrian Newspaper) published a report which stated the following under the title of »Jewish temple for sale« and »do you need a Jewish temple«: »The offer of the Israelite Religious Community causes St. Pölten’s city fathers considerable headache. The Israelite Religious Community offered the Jewish temple for sale and the municipality will probable accept; however, there is some uncertainty what to do with the building. – ›Don’t you have any potential buyers for it‹ the NÖN was asked by the mayor Mr Schickelgruber; and the municipal councillor Mr Gruber is convinced that the building can for the time being be maintained with a minimum of clean-up operations. [...] The wishes of the Israelite Religious Community included a commemorative plaque as well as the care for and maintenance of the Jewish cemetery by the municipality. The temple could, however, also be dismantled and the area could be offered to the health insurance which has already declined, though. ›For a new building the location is disadvantageously located, for a parking lot it is too small.‹ Who is in need of a Jewish temple?« – If nothing else, the author of this not marked article could at least be accused of a lack of sensibility. less... ]

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The Renovation

In the late 1970ies it was conceivable that no new Jewish Religious Community was to be founded. The IKG Vienna, which had only expenses but no advantages from maintaining the building, made an application for demolition.

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Based on the size and the significance of the building, the Federal Monuments Office under Hofrat Werner Kitlitschka obtained an expertise. The art historian Renate Wagner-Rieger asserted the following in it: »Altogether this building will have to be looked at as an extremely characteristic one for its time of origin which has wrenched from the prevailing taste (often termed as ›Viennese Baroque‹) an autonomous artistic approach.«

Maintenance and refurbishment works started in Summer 1980. The planning department of the municipality St. Pölten took over the site management, the Federal Monuments Office was responsible for the interior renovation. The impressive mural ornaments were restored by the Perchtoldsdorf Company Alois Fichtinger under the direction of restorer Heliane Jarisch in accordance with the preserved original stencils. The sculptor Loidl restored the Torah shrine. The colourful leaded lights could not be saved nor were the Hebrew inscriptions within the ornament reconstructed.

The overall costs amounted to 15 million Austrian Schilling and were borne and shared by the Republic of Austria, the province of Lower Austria, the municipality of St. Pölten and the IKG Vienna.

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The Institute for Jewish History in Austria

In June 1984, the former synagogue was re-opened with a Max Berger collection of Judaica. Since June 1988, the cantor’s house has accommodated the Institute for Jewish History in Austria. The former Synagogue is used for cultural events; an exhibition on the women’s gallery relates to the history of the destroyed Jewish community.