Hohenems, regarded as a Jewish refuge, is a small town in the Vorarlberg region with only 16,000 inhabitants. She is proud to own one of the most interesting pieces in World War II history. The city is currently known for the castle of the local counts, which belongs to the Habsburgs and in which songs III and V of the Nibelungen were found. It is also known for its special Jewish heritage.
The Vorarlberg region has a great strategic location, borders on Germany and Switzerland and was a place of the diaspora during the Second World War. The Jewish settlement grows from a neighboring town, Lustenau. This population, just 4 kilometers away, with one of the most powerful textile industries in Austria, became one of the main suppliers of uniforms for imperial soldiers.
The region's selected Jews decided to start their diaspora towards Hohenems. There they could settle down and form their community. For centuries there have been two streets that have characterized Hohenems: the way of the Christians and the way of the Jews. Today the Jewish Museum preserves one of the most important goods of Jewish life in Europe.
The exceptional cultural heritage of Hohenems has the only historical mikveh (ritual bath) that is preserved throughout the country, the old school, the old Jewish house of the poor, the first café in Vorarlberg, the bourgeois villas of the court's merchants (court factors) as well of the simple wooden houses, artisans, servants and street vendors that populated the city.
The Jewish Museum also offers information and tours of the 17th-century Jewish cemetery in the south of the city. After World War II, the majority of the Jewish community emigrated to other countries with better living and working opportunities, but their ties to Hohenems continued.
The original Jews of Hohenems regard the museum as their great treasure, as an archive and as a storage place for their memories. Meetings with offspring are organized regularly. A genealogical database has enabled the museum to build a network of contacts with the families of Hohenems' Jewish descendants, who are now scattered around the world.