Available as a downloadable PDF, this survey (carried out and updated by JHE Coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber) is probably the most detailed inventory of Jewish heritage sites in Slovenia available online. It encompasses Jewish cemeteries, former synagogues, Jewish quarters/ghettos. (The material on this page is drawn mainly from that survey.)
The Jewish monuments in this small town near the Hungarian border, dominated by a hilltop castle, are among the most important in Slovenia. They include a former synagogue and a Jewish cemetery. Jews from Hungary settled here around 1773, and by the end of the century they were gathering regularly to pray at the home of innkeeper Bodog Weisz. In 1837, the community rented a house for use as a prayer hall. The facility had 50 seats: 30 for men and 20 for women. In 1843, the community rented and then purchased another building, which became their first real synagogue.
Spodnja Ulica 5
Tel: 02 578 92 60
Construction of the community’s first purpose-built synagogue began in 1866. Now used as a cultural center and exhibition space, and since 2013 designated as the Slovenian Holocaust Museum, It is a rectangular brick structure with a pitched roof. The corners are decorated with slightly raised pilasters.
The synagogue was heavily damaged by the Germans and was sold to the town by the Jewish Federation of Yugoslavia after the Second World War and used for many years as a warehouse. In 1994, a project to turn it into a cultural center began work on the building, with funding from the municipality. Town officials appealed to the few remaining Jews in Lendava to donate to the project whatever ritual objects or other material they had, and the rebuilt women’s gallery now houses a permanent exhibition on local Jewish history. Only a few original decorative features survive internally: the six fluted cast-iron columns that support the gallery; the railings of the stairway; and a small niche in the stairwell itself. There was originally a circular window over the Ark but this has been changed into an arched window. Two arched windows on the south side of the building have been lengthened and enlarged, but the third window on the south side has been left unaltered, and there is an arched window over the door in the west façade.
A building that functioned as a Jewish school until the 1920s stood near the synagogue but was demolished during construction of a major modern theatre complex.
A Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) was formed in Lendava in 1834. It purchased land for a cemetery near the village of Dolga Vas. The land was enclosed in 1880. Today, the cemetery, which is fenced, stands on a main road facing a broad vista of fields, a few hundred meters from the Hungarian border. Entry is through a ceremonial hall with a large, arched central door flanked by two arched windows. Inside is a plaque commemorating the Jewish cemetery in Beltinci, which ceased operation around the turn of the century. Some stones from this cemetery may have been moved to Lendava. The plaque also gives the names of prominent members of the local community from the early 20th century.
There are some 176 gravestones visible in the cemetery itself, many of which date back to the second half of the 19th century. Most of the rest are 20th century. Many of the newer stones are made from black marble and are generally in good condition. A number of enamelled photographs of the deceased have been removed from them, however. Relatively few graves have sculptural decoration. Those older stones that are carved from local sandstone are severely eroded. The one unusual carving is on a stone whose epitaph has been totally obliterated; it carries a badly eroded winged head. There are several inscriptions commemorating Auschwitz victims, and in the middle of the cemetery there is a Holocaust memorial to the murdered Jews of the Prekmurje region, erected by four survivors in 1947. It is a simple, rectangular horizontal memorial stone with a sculpted tree on the left side.
Jews in mediaeval Ljubljana were bankers, merchants, artisans, and farmers. The community ran a school and Beth Din (rabbinical court). After the expulsion of 1515 few Jews have ever settled in the city; a small number returned in the 19th century, but the community never reached any appreciable size. A strong anti-Semitic tradition had developed in Ljubljana by the First World War, with calls in the media for the expulsion of those Jews who did live in the city. With the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Ljubljana became the unofficial capital of Slovenia in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and in 1929 the official provincial seat of the province of Drava Banovina (comprising most of modern Slovenia) within the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In April 1941 it was occupied by Italian forces and in 1942 completely encircled with 32 km of barbed wire. In September 1943 Nazi Germany replaced Italy as the occupying force. During the post-Second World War period the city retained its prominence, becoming the capital of the Yugoslavian republic of Slovenia and in 1991 of the independent country of Slovenia. Most Jews in Slovenia today live in Ljubljana.
Former Jewish Quarter
Židovska Ulica (Jewish Street) and Židovska Steza (Jewish Path) – two narrow streets in the picturesque city center — mark the location of Ljubljana’s medieval Jewish quarter, with the building at Zidovska Steza 4 is believed located on the site of the medieval synagogue. Very little is known about the quarter’s original appearance, as no archaeological excavations of the area have taken place, and there are no maps of the city from before the 16th century. According to Uros Lubej of Ljubljana’s Institute for the Conservation of the Natural and Cultural Heritage, however, the medieval Jewish quarter had about 30 houses, and these were likely to have been two-storey structures with their top storey constructed of wood. From this one can estimate that the city’s medieval Jewish population peaked at around 300. The entrance to the Jewish quarter was probably on the site of present-day Jurcicev Trg (Jurcicev Square). The enclave was across the street from a bridge that was the first across the Sava River in central Ljubljana. In mediaeval times, the river did not have an embankment. The lower level of the houses was thus one storey below their present position.
A Jewish Cultural Center, with a small museum, functions in the old Jewish quarter.
Križevniška 3 SI-1000 Ljubljana
Tel: +386 (0)1 425 60 60
The small Jewish section in Ljubljana’s municipal cemetery, Zale (at Pod Hmeljniki 2), was established in 1926, but was moved to its present location in 1964. It includes about two dozen or so marked graves. Almost all the graves are very simple, with a headstone and a lower curb-like enclosure; only the name of the deceased and the date of their death are stated. One headstone marks the grave of an unidentified Jewish victim of the Second World War. There is also a small Holocaust monument, erected in 1964, a horizontal, rectangular slab with the inscription: “Remember the Jews, fallen soldiers and victims of Fascism, 1941-1945.”
The ancient city of Maribor stands on the Drava river, near the Austrian border. It was an important center of Jewish life in the medieval period. A Jewish community is first recorded in 1277, and a fourteenth-century gravestone from the city can now be seen at Nova Gorica Jewish cemetery. Noted Rabbi Israel Petahya Isserlein (1390-1460) lived in Maribor for 20 years and held the title Chief Rabbi of Styria, Carinthia and Carniola. Jews prospered in Maribor as artisans, bankers, moneylenders and merchants; their commercial interests extended into Italy, Hungary and Moravia. But Emperor Maximilian I expelled all the Jews of Styria, including Maribor, on 6 January 1497. Most Jews from Maribor then made their way to Venice, though some, such as the Morpurgo family went to Split (Croatia) and to Trieste, where they continued to prosper and in the early 19th century Giuseppe Lazzaro Morpurgo (1762-1835) founded Assecurazioni Generali, the first Austrian life-insurance company. The Morpurgo family is famed for its many accomplished writers, economists and financiers.
Today Maribor is a lively university town and regional center, retaining a wealth of striking mediaeval and Baroque architecture. The former Jewish quarter lies an area still known as Židovska Ulica (Jewish Street) near the southwest corner of the town walls, above the Drava River.
Židovska ulica 4, 2000 Maribor
Tel: +386 (0) 2 25 27 836
Fax: +386 (0) 2 25 27 837
Maribor’s synagogue is one of the few surviving medieval synagogues in Europe. It has foundations of river stones that may date from Roman times but the structure itself post-dates 1190, since it abuts a wall of that date.The structure was remodeled on several occasions – at least twice before 1450 (once perhaps following an earthquake known to have severely damaged the nearby town walls in 1348). Something of its late gothic appearance can be surmised, however. The original synagogue was rectangular in plan, and on the basement level was divided into two aisles by a pair of square piers. It is not known if this arrangement, common in other mediaeval synagogues of the period (Worms, Regensburg, Prague, Vienna) was repeated on the floors above. An upper storey was entered from the west, and against the east wall, set between two tall lancet windows with a small round window above, was the Ark. The large niche of the Ark itself was found during excavations, as well as numerous fragments of stone carved with Hebrew inscriptions.
After the expulsion of the Jews from Maribor, the synagogue was purchased by a merchant named Druckher, who in 1501 converted it into the Catholic church of All Saints. The resulting structure had an open, hall-like upper room, with vaults whose many ribs apparently sprang from the side walls. The building functioned as a church until the late 18th century, when many churches and monasteries were closed after Joseph II brought the Catholic Church under Imperial control. In the early 19th century the building was sold and turned into a storehouse by Anton Altman, a local merchant. It was divided into two parts horizontally. In the second half of the 19th century, the building’s gothic arches were pulled down and the top floor was converted into a residential space. Pictures from the 1970s show it with a chimney and what looks like a television aerial. At the beginning of the 1980s the lower floors were used as an art gallery.
The building was closed for several years because its ownership was in dispute. Then, in 1992, the Institute for Conservation of Natural and Cultural Heritage began its renovation, carrying out detailed research into the building’s structural history and developing a conservation program for it. Reconstruction, financed by the city and the state, was completed in 1999, and in 2001 the synagogue opened as a Jewish Heritage Center, administered by Maribor Regional Museum. Since 2011 it has functioned as an independent institution, the Center for Jewish Cultural Heritage-Synagogue Maribor.
Across a plaza from the synagogue is a structure known as the “Jewish Tower,” built in 1465, but its only relation to Jews is that it was next to the Jewish quarter and was used in the defence of that part of town. In 2004, a ground-penetrating radar survey revealed the existence of a possible medieval Jewish cemetery and mikveh beneath the plaza.
Maribor Regional Museum
Established in 1903, the museum contains permanent archaeological and ethnological exhibitions. Its extensive lapidary collection includes the mediaeval tombstone, in three main fragments and with much repair work on one side, of Maribor’s first rabbi. This man, named Abraham, died in November 1379. The 109-centimetre high tombstone was made from a much older Roman funerary monument, and bears Latin lettering on the back and on one side. The main inscription is in Hebrew.
The only physical traces of the Jewish community are a memorial park on the site of the Jewish cemetery, some houses and othe urban buildings, and some relics — such as pews and a door — saved when the imposing brick synagogue, built in 1907-1908 and designed by Lipot Baumhorn, was demolished in 1954. A door from the synagogue is kept in the Regional Museum as part of a small exhibition on local Jewish history.
A memorial park with a monument made of eight erect gravestones stands on the site of the Jewish cemetery, which was founded in the first half of the 19th century. Some 65 stones and the ceremonial hall were left after World War II. The ceremonial hall was demolished in the 1960s, and many of the stones were removed. In the 1980s, most of the remaining gravestones were sold; eight stones were chosen to make the memorial. The area of the cemetery was reduced. The Jewish federation cooperated with the city on the project.
NOVA GORICA (Rozna Dolina)
The Habsburg-controlled town of Gorizia, north of Trieste, passed into Italian control in 1918. After World War II the town’s suburbs became part of Yugoslavia, where they became the center of a new administrative zone known as Nova Gorica (New Gorizia); it is now part of Slovenia. In 2004 the wall that divided what had become two urban centers, one Italian and one Slovene, was removed. Today the national border that divides the two is virtually invisible. In this process of re-unification, the Jewish monuments of Gorizia have also been re-connected to their historic roots. There have probably been Jews in Gorizia since the 13th or 14th centuries. Many were bankers and moneylenders. The city came under Austrian rule in 1500, and 34 years later Ferdinand I expelled the town’s Jews. Although the expulsion order was repeatedly renewed, the community was deemed so vital to Gorizia’s economic life that local officials pressured the imperial authorities to lift the ban. In 1624, Ferdinand II granted the rank of Hofjude (Court Jew) to Joseph Pincherle, a native of the town. A ghetto was established in Gorizia in 1698. An official census in 1764 counted 256 Jews – 127 men and 129 women. Most of these people worked in the flourishing silk industry, in which the community played a key role, or as pawnbrokers, merchants, rag and ironmongers. In 1777 many Jews moved to Gorizia after their expulsion from small towns ruled by Venice. In 1788, the community comprised 270 people – about 4% of the town’s total population. Even at its height, the community numbered fewer than 350. Few Jews remained in Gorizia on the eve of World War II. Those in the town, mainly elderly people, were deported to Auschwitz on 23 November 1943.
Most of the Jewish sites of Gorizia, including a synagogue built on the site of an earlier prayer house in 1756 (and renovated in 1894) and the former ghetto on Via Ascoli are located in Italy; but the town’s ancient and extensive Jewish cemetery, in a beautiful location near the border, is in Slovenia.
Gorizia’s historic Jewish cemetery sits in the suburb of Rozna Dolina (Rose Valley; Valdirose in Italian) in Slovenia, just a few hundred yards from the main border crossing. The 5,652 square-metre site, is enclosed by a thick masonry wall. Gentle green wooded hills rise in the background; a small stream separates the cemetery from its former ceremonial hall. The nearby main entrance, located at the base of the cemetery’s triangular site, features an iron gate with a menorah motif. A secondary entrance, reached by a footbridge over the stream, is located near the point of the triangle.
There are approximately 900 gravestones, but many are not in their original location. Some were found outside the walls of the cemetery, which was once larger in size; others were brought there from an earlier cemetery in 1881 and moved inside the present walls during road construction in the 1980s. Italian sources say the cemetery was used until the end of the 19th century by other communities in the vicinity, in particular those from Gradisca.
In 1876 an inventory of the cemetery’s contents found 692 gravestones there. This list was updated over the years and in another tally of 1932, 878 were counted. These lists are kept in the archives of the Jewish community in Trieste (Italy); they contain biographical notes on some of those buried in the cemetery as well as transcriptions and translations of some epitaphs. The cemetery has also been mapped in detail and each of the grave markers photographed. According to Angelo Vivian, citing the 1876 inventory, the earliest gravestone in the cemetery dates from 1371, but does not represent a local burial. This monument to “Regina, daughter of Zerach, wife of Benedetto” was brought from Maribor to Gorizia in 1831 by Salomon Luzzatto.
Sources cited by Vivian and by Darij Humar from the Institute for the Conservation of the Natural and Cultural Heritage at Nova Gorica break down the legible inscriptions on all local gravestones into four periods:
1st Period: 13th to 15th centuries. A stone found in 1865 in the atrium of a house in Piazza del Duomo, and now at the museum, commemorated one Levi Joshua of Isach, who died in 1406. Another stone dates from 1450 and is probably of a member of the Morpurgo family.
2nd Period: 16th to 17th centuries. One inscription from 1617, honoring a member of the Jona family, came from another gravestone, discovered to have been re-used for building material in a house in the town. Another, of 1652, is believed to be the oldest identified stone from the current cemetery.
3rd Period: 1732 to 1828. Sixteen stones transferred from the old cemetery to the current cemetery in 1881.
4th Period: From 1829 to the present, the period of the greatest expansion of the local Jewish community, approximately 900 stones, with inscriptions in Hebrew and Italian or Italian alone. The most recent burials date from the Second World War. There are also graves memorialising Auschwitz victims.
Most of the gravestones in the cemetery are low (some knee-high or lower) grey markers, often very thick, of local sandstone, with flat rectangular or square faces and rounded tops. In most cases the only decoration is the epitaph and date of death, framed within a border. A very few of the older stones have slightly more elaborate shapes, some with scalloped curves. Erosion is taking its toll and many of the stones are barely legible. One of the older stones, near the top point of the triangle at the back of the cemetery, features a round ball on a low cylindrical base, which bears the epitaph and vaguely resembles a turban. Among other gravestones with decorative carving are those of several members of the Morpurgo family, which originated in Maribor. The stones bear the family emblem of Jonah in the mouth of the whale.
The Morpurgos were the most important and, at one time, the most numerous Jewish family in Gorizia. In the 1876 gravestone census, some 139 of the 692 graves were of members of the family, followed by 127 Gentillis, 80 Luzzattos, 56 Pincherles, 37 Senigaglias, 34 Bolaffios, 23 Jonas, 17 Richetts, 10 Dorfles, seven Michelstaedters, six Reggios, five Pavias, two Windspachs, and one each from the Schnabl and Schonheit families. Other carved decorations include a few Levite pitchers, while one stone fragment lying on the ground near the main entrance bears a winged head, like an angel, as seen on some Sephardi graves.
Perhaps the most famous person buried in the cemetery is the philosopher Carlo Michelstaedter, who was born in 1887 and committed suicide in 1910. His posthumously published works are considered important precursors of existentialism. A simple upright stone, like a post with a curved back, bearing his name and the dates of his birth and death, marks his grave. It is next to the grave of his father, Alberto, a businessman who lived from 1850 to 1929. Alberto’s simple matzevah bears a carving of a Levite pitcher and a lengthy epitaph in Italian with a briefer Hebrew text beneath.
The ceremonial hall was originally built in 1928 and was in ruinous condition after the Second World War. The Jewish community of Gorizia, Italy, gave the building to the municipality of Nova Gorica in 1977 in return for guarantees that the municipality would maintain it. The Ceremonial Hall was reconstructed in the late 1980s. It is a simple structure with a small attached structure to one side.
Currently, there is a cross-border Italian-Slovenia project to restore the cemetery and install a Jewish museum in the ceremonial hall.