The Viennese architect Theodor Schreier — who died in the Nazi ghetto/concentration camp Terezin — is being honored with a commemorative plaque and memorial concert at his most famous work, the magnificent domed synagogue in St. Pölten, Austria.
According to the event announcement, the concert will be performed by Schreier’s granddaughter and and her daughter and granddaughter.
The synagogue, which Schreier designed along with his partner Viktor Postelberg (1869-1920), was dedicated in 1913.
It was devastated on Kristallnacht and restored in the 1980s — since 1988 it has been the home of the Institute for Jewish History in Austria.
Schreier was born in Vienna on December 8, 1873, the son of businessman Moritz Schreier and his wife Regina.
According to a biography of Theodor’s son Otto, a mathematician:
Theodor was one of a large family having siblings Berthold, Rudolf, Alois, Max and Marie. He studied at the Vienna School of Technology and, from 1899 to 1906, worked as a partner with Ernst Lindner (1870-1956) in the architect firm ‘Ernst Lindner and Theodor Schreier’. After 1906 he set up his own architect business and undertook major projects for the public sector such as schools, synagogues and office buildings
Schreier (working with Lindner) designed at least two other synagogues in 1901/1902, in the towns of Skoczow and Ustron (now both in Poland) — both destroyed by the Nazis.
in the relatively small synagogue in Ustron they experimented with the concept of a centrally planned building.
In October 1942 Schreier and his wife Anna were deported to Terezin, where she died soon after and he died in 1943. A memorial plaque to him was erected in a Vienna suburb in 1914 (at Stinglgasse 11, in Penzing).
The synagogue in St. Pölten was dedicated on August 17, 1913 — the eve of the birthday of Emperor Franz Joseph — the dedication event closed with the Imperial Anthem.
There were plans to place a bust of Franz Joseph – after whom the synagogue was to be named – in the building’s vestibule.
Samuel Gruber writes that:
Happily, the idea was scratched, but a portrait painting of the Emperor was commissioned by congregants Samuel and Bertha Mandl instead. The portrait was rediscovered and identified by [Institute for Austrian Jewish History director] Martha Keil in 2000 and is back at the synagogue.
It is possibly the very last evidence of the widespread Jewish devotion to the Austro-Hungarian imperial ideal before it all collapsed in World War I and that relatively tolerant age ended forever.
The synagogue is an imposing building with a central dome and tall arched decoration on the facades, designed in a style that has been described as “national romanticism.”
It was gutted during Kristallnacht and after World War II 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 1970s resulted in the Federal Monuments Office putting a preservation order on the building.
The restoration in the 1980s was aimed at bringing it as close as possible back to its original state, including beautiful detailed stencil decorations on its walls.
Here are some images:
The synagogue can be visited:
Opening Hours September 2019 – June 2020
Entrance: Lederergasse 12
Mo–Fr from 9:30 to 13:00
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