Leopoldstadt

Leopoldstadt

''This article is about a district of Vienna. Leopoldstadt is also the German name for the town Leopoldov in Slovakia.

Leopoldstadt ("Leopold-Town") is Vienna's second district. There are 90,914 inhabitants (census 2001) over 19.27 km². 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 Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I (1640–1705). 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 ("Matzoh 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 Ferris wheel ("Riesenrad") 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 1920s, 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 manufactory ("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 the mid-17th century, part of the built-up area used to be the Jewish ghetto. The area used to be called "Im Werd", with the Jewish population living in an area called "Unterer Werd". Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor hatred towards them 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 to the expulsion, the inhabitants renamed the area after the emperor into Leopoldstadt (city of Leopold). During the time of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Jewish immigrants from eastern parts of the realm again flocked to Leopoldstadt, since the Nordbahnhof train station brought was in close vicinity and was one of the main train stations bringing in migrants from other parts of the realm. The high number of Jewish inhabitants led to the area being called Mazzesinsel (Island of Mazzes bread). Several important synagogues such as the Leopoldstädter Tempel, Türkischer Tempel, Polnische Schul and Pazmanitentempel and yeshivas were located there.

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, terrorised and finally deported and murdered in the 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, was the Jewish population able to stabilise itself and new life arose. 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 predominantly working class population towards a somewhat wealthier clientele.

Currently a new extension of the U2 metro line is being built which will connect the city centre with the stadium and the outskirts of the city which are situated across the Danube in Donaustadt.

District Partnership

In the year 2007 Brooklyn entered into a district partnership with the Viennese district Leopoldstadt.

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