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Leopoldstadt

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Leopoldstadt

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Basic Information

Location 48°12′37″N 16°24′44″E
Country Austria
City Vienna

General Information

Open to visitors yes
Need appointment no
Handicap accessibility no
Geographical Coordinates 48.20985,16.41296


Summary

Leopoldstadt (Austro-Bavarian: Leopoidstod, "Leopold-Town") is the 2nd municipal District of Vienna (German: 2. Bezirk). There are 96,866 inhabitants (as of 2013-01-01) over 19.27 km2 (7 sq mi). It is situated in the heart of the city and, together with Brigittenau (20th district), forms a large island surrounded by the Danube Canal and, to the north, the Danube. It is named after Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. Due to its relatively high percentage of Jewish inhabitants (38.5 per cent in 1923, i.e. before the Holocaust), Leopoldstadt gained the nickname Mazzesinsel ("Matzo Island"). This context was a significant aspect for the district twinning with the New York City borough Brooklyn in 2007.

Places of interest include the Wiener Prater (from Latin pratum "meadow"), former imperial hunting grounds to which the public was denied access until 1766. The area of the Prater closest to the city centre contains a large amusement park, known as the Volksprater ("People's Prater") or Wurstelprater (after the Harlequin-type figure of Hanswurst), and at its entrance there is the giant Wiener Riesenrad Ferris wheel opened in 1897 which features prominently in the movie The Third Man and which has become one of Vienna's trademarks. There is also a miniature steam railway ("Liliputbahn") which, on its track through the woodland parallel to the Hauptallee, passes Vienna's Ernst-Happel-Stadion. The Schweizerhaus ("Swiss Hut"), an establishment boasting a huge beer garden, sells the original Czech Budweiser draught beer. The owners claim that, back in the 1920's, the potato crisp was invented there. Nearby you can find the "Republic of Kugelmugel", a micronation proclaimed in 1984 that became a landmark of the area.

Another, smaller, park in Leopoldstadt is the topiary-type Augarten, which is the home of the Vienna Boys' Choir and of a porcelain manufacturer ("Augarten-Porzellan"). Sadly, its distinguishing marks are two disused Flak towers built towards the end of the Second World War. For features of this versatile district not listed here, see the bottom-linked Leopoldstadt Category page.

Jewish Leopoldstadt

In 1625 Rabbi Yom-Tov Lipmann Heller became the rabbi of Vienna. At the time the Jews of Vienna were scattered throughout the city, not having a central community. Heller obtained for the Jews the right to establish a central Jewish community in Leopoldstadt, which was already then a suburb of Vienna. He was instrumental in reorganizing the community, and he drew up its constitution.

By the mid-17th century, part of the built-up area was the Jewish ghetto. At that time the area was called "Im Werd", with the Jewish population living in an area called "Unterer Werd". The hatred that Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor held for the Jews led to the forceful expulsion and destruction of the Jewish community (gesera), with the popular support of the local non-Jewish population. As a thanksgiving for the expulsion, the inhabitants renamed the area Leopoldstadt ("Leopold's city"), after the emperor. During the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Jewish immigrants from eastern parts of the realm again flocked to Leopoldstadt, owing to the proximity of the Nordbahnhof railway station, which was one of the main train stations at which migrants from other parts of the empire arrived in Vienna. The high number of Jewish inhabitants led to the area being called Mazzesinsel ("Island of Matzo", referring to the unleavened bread eaten during Passover). Several important synagogues were located there, including the Schiff Shul, the Leopoldstädter Tempel, the Türkischer Tempel, the Polnische Schul, and the Pazmanitentempel, as well as yeshivas.

None of the synagogues escaped the destruction during the Kristallnacht pogroms of November 1938 following the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany. The Jewish population was increasingly isolated and terrorised and was finally deported and exterminated in concentration camps such as Auschwitz. The once thriving communal life was completely destroyed. Only a handful of survivors were able to hide until the end of the war, from an original population of several thousands.

With the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and renewed immigration from Eastern Europe, especially the former Soviet Union, the Jewish population of Leopoldstadt was able to grow again. Today, many members of Vienna's Jewish community live there again, and there are a number of shops selling kosher food. Several parts of the old residential areas have been gentrified, resulting in a gentle shift from Leopoldstadt's traditional, predominantly working class roots towards a somewhat wealthier population.

The new extension of the U2 metro line, opened in May 2008 in time for the European Football Championship, links Leopoldstadt with the city center.


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