Jewish Sightseeing in Austria
It has to be said at some point: The Jewish heritage in Austria is chronically over-estimated. Compared to most of Austria′s neighbours, such as Bohemia, Hungary or - not quite a neighbour, but under Habsburg rule once - Galicia, Poland or Romania, the Jewish community in Austria was very small up to the 19th century. At this point, many Jews from the East, from Bohemia and Moravia, moved to the capital Vienna.
This is also when the Jewish contribution to Austria′s intellectual and cultural life became very important. You can read details about the history of Jews in Austria in separate articles on TourMyCountry.com. All in all, however, the number of Lutherans, followers of various Orthodox denominations and other religious faiths in the Habsburg Empire was a lot bigger than the one of Jews. Nevertheless, there are travel-packages such as guided tours, kosher cooking hotels and literature (such as this article) available that target specifically a Jewish audience.
I have never come across a "Romanian Orthodox tour of Vienna", although I am certain that there are many more Orthodox Romanians living in Vienna than Jewish people. Why is that? It is likely that the interests of North American tourists are met by the tourism industry, and that is rather Jewish than Orthodox. Once Eastern Europe has caught up economically, this might change.
Jewish Sights in Vienna
Anyway, I don′t want to be an exception and therefore, find some advice on Jewish Sightseeing: Vienna will clearly be the hot-spot for that, since the capital had the biggest community. Look up my article on the Jewish Museum, the main Synagogue and the Museum Judenplatz. Information on the Jewish cemetery in Währing can be obtained from the article on the cemeteries of Vienna. Checking out the website of the Israelitische Kultusgemeide Wien will point you towards current events.
The highest density of Jewish people living in Vienna today can be found in the Leopoldsstadt, the former ghetto. For specific Freudian interests, go to the Freud Museum in the Berggasse. Outside of Vienna, the rule of the thumb is that there are more sights with Jewish relevance in Eastern than in Western Austria. Coming from Salzburg myself, I had no exposure to Jewish culture whatsoever until I moved to the US.
Visiting a former concentration camp will almost certainly be on your schedule. Mauthausen near Linz is the biggest memorial site of its kind in Austria, but there are several others in former side-branches of the camp. Especially in the Salzkammergut you can find references to the Holocaust, Ebensee has a memorial site for forced labour.
More Jewish Sights in the Provinces
Big Jewish cemeteries can be found in Lower Austria and the Burgenland. Read my articles on Eisenstadt, where you can also find a Jewish Museum in the old ghetto of Unterberg, and the one on the Seewinkel with the cemetery in Frauenkirchen. Note the two Jewish sections in the Zentralfriedhof cemetery in Vienna, as well as the recently refurbished one in Hohenems in Vorarlberg.
Many synagogues in Austria were destroyed under the Nazi rule; there is a new one in Graz which is housed in a very nice, modern building. Unfortunately, it is hardly used these days due to the lack of Jews - it serves primarily as an exhibition and event venue. The synagogue in Salzburg is rather neglectable, as well as the remains of the 19th century Jewish cemetery.
Traces of Jewish life, such as praying rooms or even synagogues can be found in most major cities, such as Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Linz and several places in Lower Austria. Tour operators are often willing to arrange special guided tours on the Jewish heritage of a specific place - it is always worth asking, especially if you travel in a group.
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