Judenplatz (the Jewish Square) was the center of Jewish life in the Middle Ages of Vienna, which was focused on this place. At the Judenplatz was the hospital, the synagogue, the bath house, Misrachi-house, the house of the Rabbi and the Jewish school. Because of the school the square bore the name "Schulhof", as it was a schoolyard at the time.
There used to stand the medieval synagogue on the square, right underneath in the portion where now stands the Holocaust Memorial. The synagogue was destroyed in the "Wiener Gaserah" (Viennese decree or pogrom) of 1421. The Rabbi Johan set the synagogue on fire for the Jews at "or-sarua", to die as martyrs. This was a form of "Kiddush Hashem" (sacrification of the Name), in order to escape religious persecution and compulsory baptism. The remaining stones of the synagogue were taken for the building of the old Viennese university.
The Holocaust Memorial, a project based on an idea of Simon Wiesenthal, was unveiled in 2000. It was created by UK artist Rachel Whiteread, in a shape of reinforced concrete cube, resembling the library.
The monument of a German poet Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was created by Siegfried Charoux in 1932, but soon was removed from this place in 1939 by the National Socialists to be melted down for the purpose of making weaponry. Lessing was in Vienna in 1775/76, had an audience with Joseph II, and was therefore in a position to influence and shape the Viennese cultural climate. Lessing's drama "Nathan der Weise" is considered a key text of the enlightenment (the age of reason) and helped in the formulation of the idea of tolerance.
In 1965 Charoux created a second Lessing monument, out of bronze, that was unveiled in Ruprechtkirche, but then in 1981 moved to Judenplatz, where it stands today.
The Judenplatz which I discovered in the 1990s and which impressed me by its architecture changed in the year 2000 to become a unique place of remembrance in Wien by the opening of the Holocaust Memorial and the Jewish Museum.
The Museum is located in the Misrachi-Haus built in1694 at Nr 8 on Judenplatz and concerns essentially the medieval Jewry in Vienna and excavations of a medieval synagogue found in 1995 under the square. Here is also the data base with the names and fates of the Austrian holocaust-victims.
The Holocaust Memorial in the square stands for the 65.000 Austrian Jewish victims of the Shoah, made by the English artist Rachel Whiteread. It consists of a 10 x 7 x 4 m block in concrete. The walls of the memorial show petrified books turned inwards. It is a "nameless" library which can not be entered.
On a plinth are written the names of the 41 concentration camps where Austrian Jews were exterminated. One of the main extermination camps was of course Auschwitz-Birkenau (ref. my reviews on this camp near Krakow).
The architectural contrast between this monument and the Judenplatz is certainly important and was not without controversy. Maybe it is done on purpose to remember what a terrible shock it was for the victims.
On my first visit of the Judenplatz in the 1990s my interest was especially oriented to the architecture of the surrounding buildings as this is one of the nicest squares of Vienna. The Holocaust Memorial and the Jewish Museum date from the year 2000.
The most impressive building on the Judenplatz, at number 11, is the Böhmische Hofkanzlei or Bohemian Court Chancery built by Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach from 1709 till 1714. Today it is the seat of the Verfassungsgericht (Constitutional Court).
It has imposing baroque portals figures representing the Cardinal virtues and above is the coats of arms of the Bohemia and Austria. Actually this façade on Judenplatz was originally the back of the building. By walking around into the Wipplingerstrasse one can admire the other side of the Hofkanzlei.
Other remarkable buildings I liked are at Nr 10 the Haus der Genossenschaft der Kleidermacher (house of the tailors corporation) and even more that beautiful house at Nr 5 in late historic style with entrance hall in Secessionists Style as built in 1899 by architect Max Löw. On the ground floor is now a "Friseur - hairdresser".
The first Jews came to Vienna aournd the middle of the 12th century and established themselves in the area now known as Judenplatz. They built a synagogue, a school and a hospital. At the beginning of the 15th century, the Jewish population, which by then had grown to about a thousand people, was persecuted and finally driven out of the ghetto in 1421. The synagogue was destroyed, and the empty houses were sold or given away. This explains why most buildings around the square today have little to do with the Jewish community. There is, however, a Jewish museum (located at Judenplatz 8) and a Jewish Holocaust Memorial. This modern-looking monument is a large concrete block that created some controversy at first. It was designed by British artist Rachel Whiteread, and it sort of looks like an inside-out library, with the splines of the books facing inwards. Although it features a door, it is only symbolic and the monument is not accessible. One of the most striking buildings around the square is the Bohemian Court Chancery (Judenplatz 11), built at the beginning of the 18th century. This was the seat of the kingdom of Bohemia, then ruled by the Habsburg. It now houses the Austrian Administrative Court of Justice. Its main entrance featuring elegantly carved statues is its most remarkable characteristic. There are also some nice little cafes around the square.
Judenplatz.....'Jew's square'...was the centre of Vienna's Medieval Jewish community.
Beneath Judenplatz lie, amongst parts of other Medieval buildings, the remains of the synagogue which was destroyed during the 'Wiener Geserah' (pogrom) of 1420/21.
The Holocaust memorial which now stands there was designed by UK artist Rachel Whiteread. It was erected in 2000 , a huge concrete block in the form of library shelving with the books turned spine-inward. The memorial was never intended to be beautiful, nor to fit within its surroundings...and it is neither beautiful nor does it fit easily within the Baroque charm of Judenplatz. It was intended to disturb you, to make you notice, to make you think.
>In commemoration of more than 65,000 Austrian Jews who were killed by the Nazis between 1938 and 1945.
Jews began settling in Vienna and in the area that was to become Judenplatz around 1150.Judenplatz is a town square in Vienna's Innere Stadt that was the center of Jewish life and the Viennese Jewish Community in the Middle Ages.Sadly , today the area , is more of a memorial to the 65,000 Austrian Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.
Day 4 : Stephansdom area
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This was once the center of Jewish culture in Vienna until the Nazi's took over and killed over 65,000 Austrian jews. In the center of the square is a memorial to the tragedy.