Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Shalom, Liechtenstein: A Jewish Culture Guide

Ironically, a country with "Stein" in it’s name has a population of approx. 20 Jews.

By: Sarah Bauder

Published: June 24th, 2014 in Culture » Society » News

Shalom, Liechtenstein: A Jewish Culture Guide

And we’re off, to anywhere and everywhere, as we say ‘Shalom’ every week to different global travel destination. World cities, provincial towns, and even the most unassuming of suburbs are infused with Jewish history and culture, some of which is waiting to be discovered.

For the pious follower, the curious traveler, or the intrepid adventurer, we’ll unearth the best of what to do and where to go. Be it an emerging subculture, a historical landmark, or simply a triumph of art in any form, Jewish experiences are found around the world; and likely as well in your backyard.

It may be in the destination, the journey, or the company, but there is much to uncover and celebrate near and far, so hurry up and get going.

Shalom, Liechtenstein

The principality of Liechtenstein (a constitutional monarchy lead by a prince) became thus when it was purchased by the Holy Roman Empire in January 1719. In July 1806, Liechtenstein gained its independence. Eleven years later, the principality joined the German Confederation, which was ruled by the Emperor of Austria until again gaining independence in 1866.

Until the onset of World War I, Liechtenstein had maintained strong cultural and economic ties with Austria, according to Jewish Virtual Library. The economic destruction felt in Austria after World War I caused the principality to align itself economically with its neighbor to the west, Switzerland. As Switzerland chose to maintain neutrality during World War II, likewise, Lichtenstein adopted a similar stance.


According to an April 2005 study, “400 Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis found safety in Liechtenstein during World War II, but an unknown number were turned back from the neutral alpine principality to face likely death”. Said study concluded that the principality fared more admirably than its western neighbor, Switzerland, who allowed an estimated 27,000 Jewish refugees into its borders, yet likewise turned away the same number.

However, the report also found that “Liechtenstein’s refugee policy was largely determined by and coordinated with that of Switzerland”.

“The family of Liechtenstein’s Prince Franz Josef II bought property and art objects taken from Jews in Austria and Czechoslovakia and rented Jewish inmates from a Nazi SS concentration camp near Vienna for forced labor on nearby royal estates,” the report stated.

The study concluded that the principality “allowed 144 Jews to become citizens in return for high fees during the Nazi era”.

Today, there are an estimated 26 Jews residing in Liechtenstein out of a total population of 36,281, according to a U.S. Department of State report. The small community does not maintain any institutions, synagogues, or cemeteries. However, the community’s interests are represented by the Association of the Liechtenstein Friends of Yad Vashem.

Despite such a tiny community, with its sweeping vistas, a history that stretches millennia, and reputation as an alpine playground, Liechtenstein is definitely worth the visit.

Links:

http://www.tourismus.li/en/

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Liechtenstein.html

http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm?year=2012&dlid=208334#wrapper

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