The stones of the famous old Frankfurter Friedhof may now have to surrender their standing as the oldest to be found in Central Europe, and histories which have dated the Jewish community in Vienna as beginning at the end of the twelfth century may have to correct to a century earlier, according to European reports of the discovery of the oldest Jewish gravestone yet known.
During the laying of a canal whose construction work required the digging up of the land between the Universitatsplatz and the Baeckerstrasse in Vienna, two broken tombstones bearing the remains of Hebrew inscriptions were recently found.
Dr. Wachstein, the well-known antiquarian, has made a study o# the inscriptions; he declared that he believes them to date from the year 1120, and that they are there fore more than 800 years old. This startling conclusion denotes that there are at least a hundred years of Jewish history in Austria with which the world is totally unacquainted. Dr. Wachstein bases his conclusion upon a study of several Hebrew letters, used as numerals to indicate the date, which remain clearly to be seen and which presuppose the existence of other letters.
The oldest known Jewish cemetery in Vienna is the one on the Albrechtsplatz, (where now stands a monument to Goethe.) According to the dates on these stones and the known expulsion of the Jews from Vienna in 1420, it was unused after this time and fell into neglect; the stones from the tombs were stolen and made use of in the building of wallsâ€”no worse a fate than befell many of the ancient Greek and Roman statues which, irrespective of their artistic quality, often ended up by damning a sewer. Several tombstones have been discovered during recent years, but none which indicate so early a settling of Jews in the confines of the city of Vienna.