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Autonomous organization in which Viennese Jews themselves regulated all aspects of their life in the city.

Summary History

The Israelitische Kultusgemeinde in Vienna was founded by provisional statute in 1849 – the year in which Emperor Franz Josef publicly used the phrase "Israelitische Gemeinde von Wien" (Jewish Community of Vienna) – and was confirmed in 1852. In 1867, emancipation was granted to Jews in Austria, and a constitutional framework was created for the Jewish population. The Israelitische Kultusgemeinde regulated all aspects of Jewish life in the city, notably synagogues, finances, schools and education, and philanthropic activities. In 1825, the cornerstone of the Vienna Synagogue had been set at Seitenstettengasse 4, and when the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde came into existence, its secretariat was located on that site.

Between the two world wars, the IKG faced increasing antisemitism; after the Anschluß in March 1938, its offices were ransacked, and in November 1938 other Jewish buildings were ravaged; only the central synagoguge survived this. The Kultusgemeinde was disbanded, and was re-established only after World War II.

The Israelitische Kultusgemeinde and Schenker

It is clear from the diary that Heinrich Schenker paid some taxes each year to the Kultusgemeinde as well as to the civic tax authorities (Steuerbehörde).

An incident in 1916 is of particular interest. On December 3 of that year, the Rothschild Artists' Foundation invited Schenker to serve on its college of jurors (OJ 12/6, [2]). Evidently, the Kultusgemeinde wrote at the same time, for Schenker recorded in his diary on December 5: "Letter from the committee of the Kultusgemeinde: wishes me to undertake the honorary post of juror with Adler as expert adviser and Grünfeld as co-adviser"; and a day later he asked Moriz Violin to meet him in order to bring him some "'ideas on how to say 'no' to the Kultusgemeinde" (OC 2/5, pp. 525, 526) – a phrase which suggests that he felt the need to handle the Community with care. Schenker wrote to the Kultusgemeinde on December 10 (letter non-extant), evidently stating his intention to decline, then wrote to the Rothschild Foundation on December 13 declining its invitation (diary, OC 2/5, p. 533), after which on December 17 the President of the Kultusgemeinde, Dr. Alfred Stern, wrote to Schenker (OJ 11/58, [1]) expressing "my regret that you have declined to undertake the duty of a juror on the Rothschild Artists' Foundation," and continuing: Precisely the fact that you represent a trend in art that does not correspond with today's admittedly not common but nonetheless quite widely held views, would have made your participation in the jury college seem to me particularly desirable.

The Kultusgemeinde also played a preliminary part in the marriage of Heinrich Schenker to Jeanette Kornfeld. Prior to that wedding on November 10, 1919, Schenker's diary records "Lie-Liechen to the Kultusgemeinde to gather information about procedures – no office hours," and the next day "Lie-Liechen to the Kultusgemeinde: picks up next directive" (OJ 3/1, pp. 2147, 2148, September 18 and 19, 1919); and a month later the couple went to the "rabbinate: Lie-Liechen receives certificate of refusal" (OJ 3/1, p. 2162, October 26, 1919), this presumably indicating that her first husband had refused her a divorce in Jewish law, and that certification of this fact was required before a civil marriage could proceed.

Correspondence between the Kultusgemeinde and Schenker

Only one letter survives from the Kultusgemeinde to Schenker (OJ 11/58, [1]). In addition, a "remembrance" of Schenker and interment certification from the Kultusgemeinde dated January 14, 1935 survive as OJ 35/6, [2].


  • Czeike, Felix, Historisches Lexikon Wien (Vienna: Kremayr & Scheriau, 1992–2004), vol. 3 (1994), p. 634
  • Schenker's diaries and correspondence


  • Ian Bent and Marko Deisinger

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