Leopoldstadt – Vienna

Leopoldstadt – Vienna

Leopoldstadt, second district, is separated from the center of Vienna by the Danube Canal. Together with Brigittenau, it forms an island of irregular shapes, bordered on the east by the main Danube bed. Most of the buildings are gray and uninteresting housing estates, and the only counterweight to them is the Prater, a large city park with an amusement park, the devil's wheel, groves and rich recreational and leisure infrastructure. For many years, the Leopoldstadt district was the largest concentration of Jews in Vienna (only a few traces of those times have survived). In recent years, the area has attracted masses of immigrants from Turkey and the Balkans. It still enjoys the reputation of one of the sex business centers. Most strip venues and sex shops are located in the quiet streets between Tabor-strasse and Praterstrasse.

Jews in Leopoldstadt

W Leopoldstadt, where mainly less wealthy Jews gathered, suddenly countless new strange characters appeared. So there were men in long gabardine coats and tiny round hats of silk or velvet. Long curly locks of hair hung on either side of their faces. There were women in wigs and old-fashioned clothes, The blooming Esterka and Susanna were moving quietly, their eyes fixed on the ground. An endless procession continued along the Danube Quay. They were contemporary exiles from Israel, weeping over the waters of the new Babylon. Among them, figures of rabbis appeared, unequally dressed and unequally saints.

Wolf von Schierbrand – American journalist in Vienna at the end of the 19th century.

Isolation of Leopoldstadt, resulting from the location, was probably the most important factor determining the founding here of 1624 r. of the fenced Jewish ghetto. This decision was made by Emperor Ferdinand II. During the first half-century, the district flourished, and the Habsburgs readily benefited from Jewish influence and financial talents. It was the richest inhabitants of the ghetto who financed to a large extent the expenses related to the Thirty Years' War. At the end of the years 60. XVII century. population increased to approx. 3-4 thousand. Soon the country began to embrace a wave of the Counter-Reformation. The most conservative Catholics, and among them were both the city councilors and the emperor's wife (of Spanish origin), louder and louder began to demand the expulsion of the Jews from the city. W 1670 r. Emperor Leopold I finally bowed to pressure from the fundamentalists and drove out all the Israelites, accusing them of spying on behalf of the Turks and of blasphemy against the Virgin Mary.

After the events of the Spring of Nations in 1848 r. the district experienced the second period of Jewish settlement. After the revolution, all restrictions in the empire were lifted. Many thousands of Jews from provincial Czech towns, Moravia, Hungary and Galicia took advantage of this opportunity and moved to the capital. Most came to the Wien-Nord train station or the now closed Nordwestbahn and settled nearby, that is in Leopoldstadt. The living conditions were quite poor, but low rents. The Strauss family used to live here, and Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Arthur Schnitzler i Theodor Herzl. They all gradually moved to richer neighborhoods.

At that time, Leopoldstadt was actually an unofficial Jewish quarter. In year 1910, when the number of Jews was greatest (60 000), they constituted one third of the total population of Vienna. Nevertheless, the area resembled the former fenced ghetto, mainly due to the large number of Hasidim, standing out on the street with their characteristic attire. Whenever there was an opportunity, what richer families moved out, and the poorer moved in to replace them – this is how a kind of vicious cycle of poverty unfolded, and the neighborhood attracted the representatives of the poorer classes like a magnet. At the turn of the century, it was considered a hotbed of prostitution, which was water for the mill for the numerous anti-Semites in the city.

During World War II, the Nazis again turned Leopoldstadt into an official ghetto and imprisoned the Jews who remained in the city.. Transports to concentration camps began in 1941 r., and by the end of the next year, the number of ghetto inhabitants had dropped to several thousand. Most of them also had non-Jewish spouses. After the war, only approx. 500 Jews, but in recent years, as a result of the wave of immigration from Eastern European countries, their number increased to approx. 7000. Many newcomers settled in Leopoldstadt.

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