The Synagogues of Rijeka and their Judaica (1940-1943)

In 1935, Arminio Klein (1880-1948) was appointed president of the Jewish community of Rijeka. In June 1940, soon after the beginning of the war, Klein was arrested together with twenty other Jewish men who had become 'stateless'. In fact, according to Italian racial laws of September 1938, "all Jews who acquired Italian citizenship after 1 January 1919 were denationalized. Since Fiume did not become part of Italy until 1924, all Jews in that city were automatically affected".

20 Fiume Jews, Seized in Roundup of "Stateless", Released; 200 in Trieste May Be Freed
Source: "Jewish Telegraph Agency", 15 July 1940

Klein was released after spending two weeks in prison, and on 8 July 1940 he compiled a list of the Judaica of the Great synagogue, that was also signed by the community's secretary Francesco Cantoni. According to Italian historian Silvia Bon, the list was made up in response to a request (soon halted by the Italian Ministry of Interior) by the chief rabbi of Palestine that all Judaica be sent to Jerusalem.


Inventory Klein Croatian
Transcript of the list of the Judaica in the Great synagogue of Rijeka, 8 July 1940 (click on page to read translation)
Source: Filip Kohn, Izmedu prošlosti i budućnosti židovske općine Rijeka. (Arminio Klein 1880.-1948.), in “Ha-kol”, 106, July/August/September 2008, pp. 39-40

At the end of May 1943, Klein informed the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities that there was a possibility the Great synagogue would be requisitioned for use as a military hospital. However, the requisition of places of worship was forbidden by Royal Decree no. 1741 of 18 August 1940 (Norme per la disciplina delle requisizioni), which included rules for managing requisitions. The Great synagogue complex also hosted the community offices, the local headquarters of Jewish charities, the historical and current archives, and the Jewish secondary school (letter dated 24 May 1943).


Letter from Arminio Klein to the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities, 24 May 1943
Rome, Centro Bibliografico dell'Unione delle Comunità Ebraiche Italiane: AUCII dal 1934, box 38, folder 4, subfolder Fiume
© Courtesy of UCEI

At that time, the Jewish community was composed of around 850 members, half of whom were ultimately sent to Auschwitz in 1944. Klein succeeded in escaping in 1943 and then returned to Rijeka after the war; he died there in 1948.