[Jews in Graz proved since
capital of *Styria, considered one of the oldest Jewish
settlements in Austria. although a gravestone excavated in
1577 and erroneously dated to 70 B.C.E., long led to the
belief that the community was much older, adjacent
Judendorf was recorded in documents dating from 1147.
In Graz itself there is reliable evidence of he presence
of Jews only in the last decades of the 13th century. At
that time they made their living mostly through
moneylending, particularly to the local nobility.
By 1398 a community had come into existence, located in a
Jewish quarter, headed by a Judenmeister [[Jewish master]] and a
*iudex Judaeorum [[Jewish law code]], and possessing a
synagogue and a mikveh
[[ritual bath]]. Though expelled in 1439, the Jews
returned by 1447. After the expulsion of the Jews from
Styria in 1496, together with the rest of Austrian Jewry,
almost four centuries passed before there was again a
formal settlement of Jews in the town.
[Modern times - figures
Only in 1783 were they permitted to attend the yearly
trade fairs then held in Graz. Individual families with
special permits were allowed to settle in Graz after 1848.
By 1863 a community had come into being and in 1868 the
demand for special permits was rescinded; at that time an
official organization of the community took place. From
then on the community grew rapidly, partly because of
economic factors. It numbered 566 in 1869 (0.7% of the
total population), 1,238 in 1890, and 1,720 (1.1%) in
The community was able to finance its activities not only
through the imposition of taxes on the Jews of Styria but
on those of Carinthia and Carniola as well. Soon after its
formal organization, a primary school was founded. By 1892
a large school was built; in 1895 an impressive synagogue
was dedicated. The anti-Zionism of Graz's communal leaders
was pronounced, but a large influx of refugees from
Eastern Europe in the wake of World War I strengthened the
Zionist movement considerably, and in 1919, the ZIonists
gained a majority in the community. The Jews in Graz were
socially segregated, and in the later 1930s Graz was a
center of Austrian National Socialism (known as the
"capital of the insurrection" after 1938).
Immediately after the Anschluss [[union with Germany]]
(March 12, 1938), the Jewish cemetery was desecrated. Teh
members of the community board were arrested and released
only after prolonged negotiation. Local functionaries were
anxious to make Graz the first town to be judenrein [[pure
of Jews, Jew-free]]. On the initiative of the head of the
Jewish community, Elijah Gruenschlag, Adolf *Eichmann
agreed to the transfer of 5,000,000 marks to facilitate
the emigration of 600 Jews to Palestine, but the events of
Nov. 10, 1938, put an end to the project.
On the night of Nov. 9-10 (*Kristallnacht), the synagogue
was dynamited and burned to the ground. More than 300 Jews
were taken to Dachau concentration camp, to be released
three weeks later. All Jewish residents were driven from
their homes, and some 80% of them found temporary asylum.
Their subsequent fate is unknown, though most perished in
[[Possible causes of death are death on deportation to
ghettos and death in ghettos in Eastern Europe,
concentration camps, mass shootings, and death in bunker
and tunnel constructioning]].
After World War II, 110 Jews settled in Graz. There were
420 in 1949 and 286 in 1950. A small synagogue in a
communal center built on the site of the synagogue ruins
was consecrated in 1968.
The historian David *Herzog was rabbi of Graz (1908-38),
and the Nobel Prize laureate Otto *Loewi taught
pharmacology at Graz University from 1909 to 1938. Wilhelm
Fischer-Graz (1846-1932), a writer popular at the time for
many novels, mainly set in the town itself or in Styria,
worked in Graz as a librarian.