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Never Forget – Rays of Light Commemorate Vienna Synagogues and Prayer Houses Destroyed in “Kristallnacht”

Jewish Prayer House in Vienna's 2nd District on November 10, 2014 with candles in remembrance of "Kristallnacht" 76 years ago.

Jewish Prayer House in Vienna’s 2nd District on November 10, 2014 with candles in remembrance of Kristallnacht 76 years ago.

Perhaps you’ve read about the Lichtgrenze (border of lights) created by artists Christopher and March Bauder and 8000 balloons released into the night sky of Berlin this past Sunday in commemoration of the fall of the Berlin wall. What perhaps didn’t make it into the international newspapers and online reports was an equally riveting show of lights into the sky commemorating another dark chapter of European history – Kristallnacht.

This past Sunday evening, November 9, rays of light originating from various points throughout Vienna’s Leopoldstadt (2nd district) stretched high into the night sky and marked where synagogues and Jewish prayer houses once stood before they were destroyed and sent aflame during the Kristallnacht campaign of violence and destruction on November 9 and 10 in 1938, 76 years ago.

Locations in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt (2nd district) of former prayer houses and synagogues:

Czerninplatz 4 Prayer House Or Thora
Glockengasse 4 Prayer House Marpe Lenefesch
Große Schiffgasse 8 u. 10 Synagogue “Schiffs School”
Große Schiffgasse 24 Prayer House Emes Wescholaum
Große Sperlgasse 31 Prayer House Ojse Chesed wu Emes
Haidgasse 1 Prayer House Machsike Hadath
Leopoldsgasse 29 Synagogue “Polish School”
Lilienbrunngasse 18 Prayer House Gemilath Chesed
Malzgasse 16 Synagogue “Beth Hamidrasch”
Novaragasse 40 Prayer House Beth Jakob Josef
Pazmanitengasse 6 Synagogue “Am Volkert”
Praterstraße 60 Prayer House Misrachi
Rembrandtstraße 32 Synagogue “Rembrandt-Temple”
Taborstraße 38 Prayer House Montefiori
Tempelgasse 3 Leopoldstadt Temple
Zirkusgasse 22 Synagogue of the Turkish Israelites

The solemn vigil was an initiative of the Israeli Kultusgemeinde. In Vienna 42 synagogues and prayer houses were destroyed and of the 6547 Viennese Jews arrested, almost 4000 ended up in the concentration camp Dachau.

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Click on this link to the Austrian newspaper Der Standard to see some great photos


Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) and a Databank of the Murdered and Survivors

“I am witness! I am witness!”
The words of 56-year old actress, Lina Loos, as she followed in horror and rage the
raving mob of her fellow Viennese on Kristallnacht as they destroyed the places of
work, worship and home of many of her dear friends and colleagues.

Sign in Sidewalk in Herminengasse, Vienna, in memory of Holocaust victims who once resided there.

Plaque in Sidewalk in Vienna’s 2nd District: “In memory of the 1o2 Jewish men, women and 12 children who resided here before being deported by the Nazis. Only 5 survived.”

November 9 and 10 marks a very sad anniversary in the history of Vienna – the so-called Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass – which occurred in 1938 and was part of the Nazi plan to terrorize Jews to such an extent that they would be forced to leave the safety of their homes to seek refuge abroad. It was the start of the atrocities committed against Jews and other ethnic and social groups by the Nazis during WWII. In Vienna 6547 Jews were arrested on Kristallnacht, and 42 synagogues and houses of prayer were set aflame. Over 5000 shops belonging to Jewish owners were closed, plundered and destroyed.

In Vienna, the action began at 4 am. The name “Reichskristallnacht” is largely a misnomer since much of the damage was carried out in broad daylight.

Under the command of Adolf Eichmann, the city temple in Vienna in the Seitenstettengasse was taken by storm, destroyed and occupied, but because it was so close to neighboring buildings, was spared a fiery end. Around 4 pm, other synagogues and prayer houses throughout the city, 42 in total, were set aflame. Fire trucks were only dispatched to ensure that the flames remained confined to the Jewish buildings and did not cause any damage to neighboring houses. An order was sent out to all police stations to arrest wealthy Jews, remove them from their larger apartments and place them and their family members in smaller living quarters.

Sidewalk Marker of Victims of Holocaust in front of house in Herminengasse, 1020 Vienna

Sidewalk Marker of Victims of Holocaust in front of house in Herminengasse, 1020 Vienna

All at once, two thousand apartments in Vienna became vacant.

“Cum tacent, clamant.”
     – Cicero, (With silence, they cry out.)

Today, the horrifying extent of this action and what would follow can be witnessed in historical markers that have been placed on the sidewalks and houses of some of the residences. The brass plaques detail how many Jewish residents lived in the house, and how few survived. Some even detail names. Many of these signs can be found in the city’s traditionally Jewish Quarter such as the Leopoldstadt, Vienna’s second district, sometimes referred to as the “Mazzes Island” ( If you take the U4 or U2 subway to Schottenring, take the elevator up from the U2 up to Herminengasse and simply walk down the street, you will already find two such markers – one on a house and one of the sidewalk.

Herminengasse Vienna Holocaust Remembrance Sign

“In remembrance of the 39 Jewish men and women and one girl who lived crammed together in a collection apartment before they were deported by the Nazis. Only one woman survived.” Includes also the birth dates and names of some of the victims along with the deportation date and destination.

“A Letter to the Stars,” which you can visit under the following website,, is an initiative that attempts to ensure that history is never forgotten and never repeats itself and also contains information about the fate of the city’s persecuted members. On one part of the website, users can access two databanks – one about those who were murdered and one about the survivors. The “Databank of the Murdered” details the fate of thousands of Vienna Jewish residents who were deported during WWII. Once you are on the webpage, enter the name of a Vienna street into the space entitled “Strasse / Hausnummer” and click the “Suchen” button below. You will then see a list of all the people who once lived in that street,  and, if known, information about what became of them. Don’t enter more than the street name, however, since the databank tends to not produce any results if too much information is entered.

Sign in Memory of Holocaust Victims forced to reside in a collection apartment in the Herminengasse before being deported by the Nazis.

Plaque in Memory of Holocaust Victims forced to reside in a collection apartment in the Herminengasse before being deported by the Nazis.

In another project entitled, “The Last Witness” teachers and school children can get in contact with Holocaust survivors living all over the world. These “last survivors” would like to share their life stories, and legacies with youth living in the former homeland.

In a second project entitled “The Righteous” teachers and school students investigate the life stories of those who did not act as silent witnesses to the Nazi regimes but rather showed the civil courage to help those being persecuted by saving their lives.

The Austrian magazine, Profil, has two articles about Vienna and Kristallnacht online. Both are in German.

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You can also read more about Kristallnacht on the website of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Here is the link to an interesting trailer of the movie Kristallnacht Remembered on Youtube. The movie includes personal stories and the trailer also has a short interview with Austrian author Frederic Morton