The Austrian land (region) of Burgenland has purchased the former synagogue in the town of Kobersdorf and intends to restore it for use as a cultural site. Burgenland governer Hans Peter Doskozil announced the move earlier this month.
According to local media, Doskozil said plans include refurbishing the synagogue — a listed building — into a cultural space for exhibitions, concerts, symposiums and in particular events and exhibitions that deal with the Jewish heritage of Burgenland. He said the work would take several years and be carried out in consultation with the Federal Monuments Office.
Local media reported that the Austrian Jewish community welcomed the development.
The synagogue was inaugurated in April, 1860 and survives as the only free-standing synagogue building in the region. Devastated by the Nazis, it was restituted to the Vienna Jewish community after the war, but remained unused. In 1994 it was purchased by an NGO that had hoped to restore it as a cultural venue, but was not successful.
Burgenland stretches along the border with Hungary and was long contested by the two powers. Jewish settlement here was extensive, dating back to the Middle Ages and especially encouraged in the latter part of the 17th century.
Kobersdorf was one of the Jewish settlements in the area that were noted as the “Seven Holy Communities” (Hebrew: Sheva Kehilot Kedoshot) and which were under the protection of the Esterhazy family. The others were Deutschkrertz, Eisenstadt, Kittsee, Frauenkirchen, Lackenbach, and Mattersburg.
Eisenstadt was the main town, and today it is the site of the Austrian Jewish Museum (whose complex incorporates a private synagogue), as well as the former Jewish ghetto area and two historic Jewish cemeteries.
There are also remnants of medieval synagogues at Hainburg and Korneuburg, and at least 14 Jewish burial sites and a few memorial plaques visible in this region. After the Anschluss in 1938, the Burgenland Jews were the first in Austria to be expelled from their homes and deported.
There are Jewish cemeteries in 14 towns in Burgenland: Bad Sauerbrunn, Bruckneudorf (discovered in 2012), Deutschkreutz, Eisenstadt, Frauenkirchen, Gattendorf, Güssing, Kittsee, Kobersdorf, Lackenbach, Mattersburg, Oberwart, Rechnitz, Stadtschlaining
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