Linz – Jewish heritage, history and philosophy: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent” (Ludwig Wittgenstein)
A thrilling destination full of Jewish heritage is the vibrant city on the blue Danube, Linz, the capital of Upper Austria. Linz has been the epicentre of some of the highest forms of cultural expression, as well as some of the darkest chapters of European history, which makes it a particularly interesting destination to explore on our Linz’s Jewish Tour.
The best way to start the journey into Linz’s Jewish history, and its history in general, is to stroll through its beautiful streets, passing the Altes Rathaus, the old town hall, built at the end of the 13th century. You can linger at the Hauptplatz, the central square – beating heart of the city with its baroque and neoclassical flavour, and home to some of the most eminent names in European art, culture and science, as the plaques on the facades of the houses reveal. Mozart, Beethoven, Kepler, Bruckner and Stifter all lived here, and were greatly inspired by the city. Our private guide will show you where to enjoy a slice of Linzer Torte in one of Linz’s many bakeries – it’s a delicious cake of nuts and redcurrant jam, made from a 315-year old recipe, that will get you ready to climb up to the Castle, the Linzer Schloss, where you can let your eyes drift along the peaks of the Alps lost in the distance.
The first records of a Jewish presence in Linz date back to 1304, but Jews probably settled in the growing market town one century before then. Persecuted and barred from all occupations but money-lending and peddling, the Jews were eventually expelled from Linz in 1421, and the synagogue was turned into a church. Jews were allowed to settle back in the city only after 1783, and soon the modern Jewish community of Linz was established; a house of prayer and a cemetery were built in 1824 and 1869.
The history of the Jews in Linz is sadly tied to the fact that Adolf Hitler spent part of his childhood in this city; the dictator’s relatives are buried here, including his parents. One famous Jewish son of Linz is the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose name is connected to this darkest period of the city’s history as well.
On Kristallnacht, the 10th of November 1938, the synagogue in Linz was burned down by the SS, and the Jews were either arrested or ordered to leave for Vienna within three days.
Several concentration camps were built around the city, of which Mauthausen-Gusen, located only 20km from Linz, was the largest. 90.000 people were killed there between 1938 and 1945. Today, the Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial site is an international place of remembrance and historical-political education. When the camp was liberated by the Americans in 1945, Simon Wiesenthal was among its prisoners. It was in Linz that engineer and “Nazi hunter” Wiesenthal established, in 1947, the Jewish Historical Documentation Centre. This centre collects and promulgates information about war crimes, specific mainly to crimes against the Jewish people as perpetrated by the Nazi Regime in Europe during the Second World War. The centre has been responsible for uncovering more than 1000 Nazi war criminals, including Adolf Eichmann.
A few Jews from Linz returned to the city after the Holocaust and formed, together with refugees, the core of a new community. In 1967-68, a new synagogue was built in the same location as the destroyed synagogue.
Besides delving into the most tragic and intriguing phases of Linz’s history, on our Jewish Linz Tour, you will discover a city where the stuccoes of the Baroque facades and the architecture of the futuristic buildings coexist effortlessly and form a mesmerising urban landscape. One example is the Ars Electronica Center – The Museum of the Future, which looks like a gigantic, refined LED bulb reflecting multi-coloured beams onto the banks of the Danube.
There are hundreds of reasons to visit Linz; discover all of them on our Jewish Linz Tour!