English version, see below

Start des Projekts “Lokalisierung der Gräber des älteren jüdischen Friedhofes von Eisenstadt”

The Austrian Jewish Museum has to be established as one of the few Jewish museums in Europe the good fortune not only in the Jewish quarter of Eisenstadt, but also two Jewish cemeteries - to include in the daily museum work - barely 300 meters from the museum.

The statutes of the association formulate clear:

  • to collect the inheritance of Jewish origin from the Austrian space to explore ... to present and convey ...
  • To keep the memory of the Jews in Austria, especially to the seven communities alive.

The Burgenland Jews were the first in Austria, which were in 1938 affected by the expulsion orders of the Nazis and indeed in full force. Gentle October 1938 meant the end of a centuries-old rich Jewish tradition of our region. A journey through the former Jewish communities today is - essentially - a trip to (14) Jewish cemeteries.

Furthermore, countless visitors every year from around the world come to the museum to find graves of their relatives and visit. These also countless phone calls and emails come with requests to Jewish graves throughout Burgenland.

Der Status quo jedoch ist traurig. Denn auf den 14 jüdischen Friedhöfen des Burgenlandes mit ihren insgesamt etwa 8.000 (fast) ausschließlich hebräisch beschrifteten Grabsteinen lassen sich bis auf eine einzige Ausnahme nicht mehr als eine Handvoll Gräber auch tatsächlich finden. Lagepläne fehlen, die Inschriften können aufgrund des rapiden Verfalls von Jahr zu Jahr schlechter gelesen werden. Die jüdischen Friedhöfe – ein jüdischer Friedhof heißt hebräisch “Haus der Ewigkeit” – fallen tagtäglich mehr der Anonymität und Fremdheit anheim.

  • Grabstein Zustand Jänner 1995

    Grave stone in 1995

  • Grabstein Zustand Jänner 2015

    Grave stone of January 2015

The mentioned only exception is the younger Jewish cemetery in Eisenstadt, den wir schon zwischen 1992 und 95 vollständig aufarbeiteten (UPDATE: und 2017 digitalisierten).

It must repeated are specifically stated herein as urgent appeal to the public in Austria: the preservation of Jewish cemeteries can not end with the repair of fences and mowing of grass in Burgenland. The descendants of the dead were forcibly evicted from their ancestral communities. You have a right to find the graves of their relatives and visit. Austria has the duty to make this possible.

Especially in contrast to similar projects in our neighboring country Germany, it is us, the Austrian Jewish Museum until today failed to encash additional funds that would enable more rapid processing of the Jewish Cemeteries in Burgenland.

Despite the limited resources (finance, human resources), we have the work-up, especially in the form of digital editions, made one of the main tasks. Specifically: lines accessible copies of all the inscriptions (if any) translations, commentaries and biographical notes, index and site plans.

To put it bluntly: We do this work because we believe it is urgent, and because no one else does.

älterer jüdischer Friedhof Eisenstadt

The Hebrew grave inscriptions are, also can not be said clearly enough, not obsolete gadgetry genealogical research (if any!) but are for historians and genealogists important primary sources and inexhaustible for Judaists source of answers to questions of internal Jewish history of the Jewish communities. but the Hebrew inscriptions have been written by people for their dead with great care and with great wisdom beyond, donate the bereaved solace and have timeless validity. Therefore, the reading of the texts is always a commemoration of the dead.

Never goes out so the idea that the lives of us divorced in another world. We maintain a dialogue with him, sharing his joy and sorrow with, or bring us to the holy men as the great scholar Maharam Asch was one in need and danger for comfort and advice.

Sandor Wolf, The development of the Jewish grave stone and the monuments of Eisenstadt cemetery, in: Wachstein example, The grave inscriptions of the Old Jewish cemetery in Eisenstadt, Eisenstadt research, ed. Sándor Wolf, Volume I, Vienna 1922, XIX.

The project:

The top priority of the project is to locate the individual graves at the old Jewish cemetery of Eisenstadt correctly, so as to allow all visitors / visitors to actually find a specific grave. That was as good as not to this day possible.

How to have another place otherwise, published the long-time director of the Jewish Community of Vienna, Dr. Bernhard Wachstein, in 1922 all grave inscriptions of the cemetery:
Wachstein example, The grave inscriptions of the Old Jewish cemetery in Eisenstadt, Eisenstadt research, ed. Sándor Wolf, Volume I, Vienna 1922.

In other words, it does indicate a publication with all the inscriptions and all names of the dead on the older Jewish cemetery (as of 1922), but today we do not know who owns what grave.

By the way: אבני א”ש im Titel bedeutet “(Grab)Steine Eisenstadts” und ist der hebräische Titel der zitierten Publikation Wachsteins.

The inscriptions are therefore in principle already - in book form - archived, now is the digital edition, albeit with (naturally) is slightly different focus than she had Wachstein in his publication, created by us. Ultimately, should not only this day and age into account, but primarily sustainable archiving be ensured. It is particularly important to us here but that many descendants of the Jews Eisenstadt can access them from anywhere.

Once again the urgency of our project: Wachstein brings in his publication a number concordance that allow an assignment of the grave stones and should be a kind of substitute for a site plan. However, the old engraved Hebrew numbers are only on a few grave stones and the recent Arab numbers even only at most a handful of grave stones visible. A search for a specific name, so where the grave is actually the cemetery as it is not possible with wax stone publication today so well. In a few years we will not be able to read the still fairly legible inscriptions ...

  • Grabstein mit alter Nummer

    Grave stone with old number

  • Grabstein mit neuer Nummer

    Grave stone with a new number

I believe that it can not be without value if my intention is possible to acquaint a wider audience with this place. The old stones and ancient scriptures are talking about ...

As for the book Bernhard wax stone also applies to our digital edition:

[It] is designed to show how wonderful to speak in old stones, the fate of many generations to us as the relationship of this small town to the big world lead in wide, wide Far ...

Sandor Wolf, Preface, in: Wachstein B., supra, VII.

So there are no misunderstandings:

älterer jüdischer Friedhof Eisenstadt

Our digital edition of the grave stones of the old Jewish cemetery Eisenstadt is not a genealogical database! but they want to make enormously important sources available to the serious working genealogists. Of course we would be very happy if biographical notes appear in form of comments on our blog.

How many stones from the now 1,104 grave stones (1922, there were 1,140 grave stones) we can map correctly, ultimately, can not even be roughly estimated at present unfortunately. Similarly, we're unable to judge how long the project. We try in any case to provide immediately the associated grave stones with inscriptions and plan regularly online.

Möge dieser stimmungsvolle alte Friedhof auch von den kommenden Geschlechtern mit derselben Pietät wie bisher bewahrt werden, damit er wirklich ein “Haus der Ewigkeit” bleibe.

Sandor Wolf, Development ..., op LXVI.

Links to the project

Project Launch: “Localizing the Graves in Eisenstadt’s Older Jewish Cemetery”

The Austrian Jewish Museum is one of a lucky handful of establishments in Europe not only to be located in the former Jewish district of Eisenstadt, but to have two Jewish cemeteries located no more than 300 meters from the museum to draw upon for their work.

The by-laws of the sponsoring organization make our responsibility clear:

  • To collect, research, illuminate and present Austria's cultural assets of Jewish provenance …
  • To keep alive and vital the memory of Judaism in Austria, in particular of the Seven Communities.

The Jews of Burgenland were the first to feel the impact of the Nazi deportation laws in 1938 in all their cruel harshness. Already by the end of October 1938 it spelled the final demise to many centuries of rich Jewish tradition in the region. A tour through the former Jewish communities today is more or less a visit to fourteen Jewish cemeteries.

Each year countless visitors from all over the world visit the musem and the graves of their ancestors. In addition to that, numberless telephone calls and e-mails full of questions and inquiries about Jewish graves located all over Burgenland are received and replied to.

The status quo is nonetheless sobering. In the fourteen Jewish cemeteries in Burgenland, containing no fewer than 8,000 graves, nearly all incised in Hebrew script, no more than a handful of gravesites can be found and ascribed, with one sole exception. There exist no site maps. The tablet inscriptions continue to deteriorate, can be read only with ever-increasing difficulty. The Jewish cemeteries – in Hebrew a Jewish cemetery is called a ‘House of Eternity’ – recede with each passing day one step closer to utter anonymity and estrangement.

  • headstone 1995

    headstone 1995

  • headstone 2015<

    headstone 2015

The single exception referred to above is to be found at the younger Jewish cemetery which was researched and organized completely in the years 1992-1995 (UPDATE: digital version published 2017).

It must be explicitly reiterated at this juncture in this urgent appeal to the public sector entities of Austria: the maintenance and preservation of the Jewish cemeteries must not be limited to repairing fences and mowing lawns! The descendants of the dead were forcibly, violently driven out of their towns and their homeland. They have the right to find and to visit the graves of their relatives. Austria has a moral obligation to make this possible.

Quite contrary to similar projects in the neighboring country of Germany, the Austrian Jewish Museum has to this day not been able to accrue sufficient means to enable the Jewish cemeteries to be properly researched, sorted and preserved.

Despite extremely limited resources, both financial and personnel, we have made this task one of our major obligations, in particular, digitally catalogued editions. That includes line-for-line registers of all inscriptions, translated whenever necessary, plus commentaries and biographical notes, listings and maps of the locations.

To put it bluntly: we are doing this work because we believe it to be urgently necessary. And because if we don't, no one else will.

älterer jüdischer Friedhof Eisenstadt

It cannot be emphasized often enough: the Hebrew headstone inscriptions are not an obsolete addendum to geneological research, in case they're even able to fulfil such a role. They are primary sources for historians and genealogists. For Jewish specialists they are an inexhaustible cornucopia of riches which answer both obvious and arcane questions about the internal history of the Jewish communities. Above and beyond their historical value, moreover, the Hebrew inscriptions were composed with profound love and wisdom by human beings for their departed, they gave comfort and solace to the bereaved survivors. They possess timeless value and eternal validity. Reading the texts is a dignified memorial to the dead.

Never will the conviction fade that those who have departed this plane continue to live on another. We pursue an ongoing dialogue with them. We share our suffering and our joy with them. Or we petition holy men such as the great scholar Maharam Asch for solace and counsel in moments of diversity and distress.

Sandor Wolf, The development of the Jewish grave stone and the monuments of Eisenstadt cemetery, in: Wachstein example, The grave inscriptions of the Old Jewish cemetery in Eisenstadt, Eisenstadt research, ed. Sándor Wolf, Volume I, Vienna 1922, XIX.

The project:

It is the uppermost priority of the project to correctly decode and pinpoint all the individual graves of Eisenstadt's Older Jewish Cemetery, to enable all visitors to become aware of and find a specific, desired gravesite. Until now that has not been possible.

As already noted elsewhere, Dr. Bernhard Wachstein, longstanding director of the Jewish Community of Vienna, published in 1922 all the gravestone inscriptions of the cemetery in a book Wachstein example, The grave inscriptions of the Old Jewish cemetery in Eisenstadt, Eisenstadt research, ed. Sándor Wolf, Volume I, Vienna 1922.

In other words, there is indeed a publication of all the inscriptions and names of the deceased at the older Jewish cemetery (cutoff date 1922). However, we still do not know to whom each grave can be ascribed.

Incidentally, אבני א”ש in this article's title means: “Eisenstadt's Gravestones”. It is also the Hebrew title of Wachstein's publication.

Thus, the inscriptions have been archived in book form, at least in principle. Now a digital edition is being created. Naturally it will have slightly different focal points from Wachstein’s publication. Not only should the exigencies of the modern day and age be reflected in the ultimate product, but above all else, archives generated which can be secured and sustained. One very important aspect to us is to facilitate access of the data to descendants of Eisenstadt families everywhere.

A final note regarding the urgency of this project. Wachstein published in his account a numbered concordance in order to make possible a correlation, i.e. attribution, of the gravestones as a kind of substitute for a site map. However, the old incised Hebrew numbers are only evident on very few gravestones; and the more recent arabic numerals only legible on a handful. The search for a certain name and precise location where the grave of a given person is located in the cemetery is simply not possible nowadays. And within the next few years, even these halfway detectable tracings will have faded away beyond recognition.

  • headstone with old number

    headstone with old number

  • headstone with new number

    headstone with new number

I believe it must be of some value, in case I reach my objective, to make this town known to a greater number of people. The old headstones and inscriptions can be made to talk …

Bernhard Wachstein’s words were valid for his book, and are equally valid for our digital edition:

[They] should show how wonderfully old stones help to decode the fate of earlier generations; how the interrelations in this tiny town lead us out into the bigger, wider world …

Sandor Wolf, Preface, in: Wachstein B., supra, VII.

Just so that no misunderstandings can arise:

älterer jüdischer Friedhof Eisenstadt

Our digital edition of the gravestones of Eisenstadt’s Older Jewish Cemetery is not a genealogical database. Nonetheless, it aims to provide serious genealogical research with enormously important source material and make it accessible to all. It goes without saying, we would be very pleased if biographical notes were to appear in our blog.

Just how many of the 1,104 gravestones today (in 1922 there were 1,140) can ultimately be correctly ascribed cannot even be roughly estimated at this juncture. In equal measure, it also cannot be estimated how long it will take to complete the project. We intend to make every effort to place online all the assigned gravestones with inscriptions and site map without delay.

May this old cemetery, full of so much rich atmosphere, be preserved by future generations with the selfsame piety so that it truly remains a ‘House of Eternity’.

Sandor Wolf, Development ..., op LXVI.

Links to the project