The Jewish community in Baden was organized in 1878 and was the largest Jewish community of Lower Austria.
Heinrich Herz was the first Jew to receive the right to settle permanently (“Heimatrecht”) in Baden in 1822. He had a kosher restaurant and a prayer house in the Neugasse (Franz Josef-Ring). His son Leopold was the first Jew allowed to purchase a house and plot of land in Baden. He bought the house at Wassergasse 14 where he set up a kosher restaurant and a house of prayer.
The Israelitische Kultusverein (Jewish community organization) was founded in 1871 and the first public synagogue opened at Grabengasse 14. A large synagogue was built in 1872/73, a cemetery established in 1873, followed by the official founding of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Baden in 1878.
Wilhelm Reich was the Chief Rabbi for more than 40 years; he was succeeded in 1931 by Dr. Hartwig Carlebach who led the community until 1938. Wolf Kohn was rabbi in the prayer house at Wassergasse 14. After his death in 1913, his son in law Salomon Friedmann from Deutschkreutz took over his office.
During World War I, a number of refugees from Galicia made their way to Baden where they opened a Beth Midrash (place of Torah study) in the Polish rite at Germergasse 12.
Among the scholars born in Baden was Dr. Karl Landsteiner, who was awarded the Nobel prize in medicine for discovering the blood groups. Another prominent personality in the Jewish community was Emil Jellinek, son of the Viennese rabbi Adolf Jellinek, who was the creator of the “Mercedes” legend. In his younger days he had made a fortune as a tobacco-trader in Africa and then in 1884 settled in Baden where he lived with his family in the Villa Mercedes-Jellinek. He was an eccentric motorist and critical consumer of the Daimler car factory. He required the Daimler engineers to develop a car that was set lower on the ground than the old “coaches” and was thus far safer. This car, the “first modern automobile”, was to bear the name of his daughter Mércèdes.
Max Reinhardt (1873-1943), was also born in Baden as Max Goldmann in 1873. He was an Austrian actor, theatrical director and producer, who headed “Das Deutsche Theater” in Berlin and the “Theater in der Josefstadt” in Vienna. Reinhardt introduced numerous innovations and experiments in the field of theatrical staging and mise en scène; he founded the “Reinhardt-Seminar,” a school for acting and directing, in 1929 in Vienna; and he was the co-founder and director of the Salzburg Festival. He emigrated to the US in 1938.
In 1932, there were 2,401 Jews in Baden. The community maintained several communal institutions and organizations. There were a synagogue, 3 prayer houses, a mikvah (Jewish-ritual bath), a Jewish Orphanage established in 1921, a Chevra Kaddisha (burial society), a Bikur Cholim’ (Visiting the Sick Society), a Frauenverein (women organization), and a Herman Todesco Organization to assist poor people.
When Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in March 1938, there were 1,871 Jews registered in Baden. Those who had not left Baden at the end of 1938 were moved to Witzmanngasse 1. On April 1, 21 Jews were still officially in Baden. The Jewish community was dissolved and put under the authority of the IKG (Community organization) of Vienna. The City of Baden took over all the property of the former community.
Seven Jews, among them four children, survived the Holocaust in Baden by hiding. Several Jews returned to Baden after the war. The first religious services recommenced in summer 1952.