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In Memory of Vienna's Jewish Ghetto

Judenplatz (U-Bahn: Stephansplatz), off Wiplingerstrasse, was the heart of the Jewish ghetto from the 13th to the 15th centuries. The opening of a Holocaust memorial on this square revived that memory.

The memorial, a new museum, and excavations have re-created a center of Jewish culture on the Judenplatz. It is a place of remembrance unique to Europe.

The architect of the Holocaust memorial, Rachel Whitehead, designed it like a stylized stack of books signifying the striving toward education. The outer sides of the reinforced concrete cube take the form of library shelves. Around the base of the monument are engraved the names of the places in which Austrian Jews were put to death during the Nazi era. Nearby is a statue of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-81), the Jewish playwright.

Museum Judenplatz, Judenplatz 8 (tel. 01/535-0431), is a new annex of Vienna's Jewish Museum. Exhibits tell of the major role Viennese Jews played in all aspects of city life, from music to medicine, until a reign of terror began in 1938. The main section of the museum holds an exhibition on medieval Jewry in Vienna. The exhibition features a multimedia presentation on the religious, cultural, and social life of the Viennese Jews in the Middle Ages until their expulsion and death in 1420 and 1421. The three exhibition rooms are in the basement of the Misrachi house. An underground passage connects them to the exhibitions of the medieval synagogue. The museum is open Sunday through Thursday from 10am to 6pm and Friday from 10am to 2pm; admission is 4€ ($6.40) for adults and 2.50€ ($4) for students and children under 16.

An exhibition room has been installed in the Mittelalterliche Synagogue (Medieval Synagogue) nearby. It is open during the same hours as the Jewish Museum. The late-medieval synagogue was built around the middle of the 13th century, and was one of the largest synagogues of its time. After the pogrom in 1420 to 1421, the synagogue was systematically destroyed so that only the foundations and the floor remained. These were excavated by the City of Vienna Department of Urban Archaeology from 1995 to 1998. The exhibition room shows the remnants of the central room, or "men's shul" (the room where men studied and prayed), and a smaller room annexed to it, which might have been used by women. In the middle of the central room is the foundation of the hexagonal bimah (raised podium from which the Torah was read). Admission is 4€ ($6.40) adults, 2.50€ ($4) ages 15 and under.

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