Online ad leads Vienna couple to buy ancient Jewish headstone for $300


(JTA) — Responding to an online ad, an Austrian couple from Vienna bought a 19th-century headstone that was taken from the grave of a Jewish man and gave it to a Jewish community.

In an article Thursday about the couple, the Heute daily did not name the man and identified the woman as Katharina B., a 35-year-old Christian scholar of international relations.

She and her husband found the ad on a website for used goods, the report said. It was advertised as antique-style building material. Pictures posted on the website showed the Hebrew-language writing engraved into the headstone of Lev Unger, who passed away in 1884.

The seller, who was not named, wrote it was “used” and “bargain cheap.” He charged 275 euros, or approximately $300, for the headstone, which Katharina and her husband paid before loading the heavy slab into the trunk of their car. They drove 80 miles from Vienna southward to the municipality of Feldbach to buy the item from the seller, who kept it inside his garden shed.

“Because of the Hebrew inscription, I immediately realized that this is a Jewish tombstone, and I wondered how this man can have a Jewish tombstone,” Katharina told Heute.

The man said he bought it from an undertaker but would not offer further details, the report said.

The couple gave the headstone to Elie Rosen, president of the Jewish community of the city of Graz, who is trying to locate the cemetery from which the headstone was taken. They neither asked nor were offered reimbursement.

“We knew we had done the right thing,” Katharina said. “We were silent for a long time on the ride with the stone of the dead man in the car.”

Rosen placed the headstone — temporarily at least — in a section of the Jewish cemetery in Graz.

“All were very touched that the headstone now stands once again in a Jewish cemetery,” Katharina said.

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