This online exhibition outlines some aspects of the vicissitudes of the synagogues (and the Jewish communities to which they belong) of Gorizia, Opatija, Rijeka and Trieste during the 20th century, focusing on the spoliation of Judaica during the Second World War. The four cities partook of similar, although not exactly identical, political destinies. Under the Habsburg Empire, with the exception of Rijeka, “corpus separatum” and only port access of the Kingdom of Hungary, they were part of the Austrian Littoral. After the First World War they were included in what was called the Julian March under the Kingdom of Italy. Between 1943 and 1945, during the Nazi occupation, they fell under the Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral (Operationszone Adriatisches Küstenland), semi-annexed to the German Reich. These Jewish communities suffered heavy losses and many of their members were deported to extermination camps.
The online exhibition, a task of the Italian team of the European HERA project "Transfer of Cultural Objects in the Alpe Adria Region in the 20th Century" (TransCultAA), is based on archival and visual documentation some of which is already available on the web, some of which is unpublished.
Our intent has been to collect and connect up, for the first time, materials and events that have usually been consulted and investigated separately. The documents, on the contrary, attest to the fact that there have been continuous, though unstructured, relationships between these communities and their places of worship over time. The same architects and studios, the same patrons and donors played a role in constructing some of these synagogues, while on several occasions the Judaica were transferred from one to the other and reused as both liturgical and memorial objects.
The synagogues and other community buildings suffered the same fate of material and symbolic annihilation during the war, albeit in different ways: they were either abandoned, occupied, damaged or reused. In all cases, their liturgical value was denied. Their contents (not only Judaica, but also furniture, current archives, everyday objects and office supplies) were burnt, pulped, smashed, sold or dispersed.
The synagogues of Trieste and Gorizia and the Orthodox synagogue of Rijeka have survived and been partially or totally restored to their liturgical function. More complex is the phenomenon of the circulation of recovered objects (some reused as memorials, some placed in museums, others sent to Israel and the United States). This history has yet to be written.
The authors are glad to receive suggestions and materials to further enrich this online exhibition.