When the former General Hospital was handed over to the University of Vienna by the City of Vienna in 1996, the former Jewish Prayer House also came into the possession of the University of Vienna.
The former prayer pavillion was desecrated in 1938; since the 1950ies, the substance of the building was damaged because of its "technical use". The University of Vienna - in view of these historic circumstances - assumed the cultural and political responsibility for the renovation and maintenance of the former Prayer House.
An artistic transformation created the accessible art object DENK-MAL Marpe Lanefesch. "Marpe Lanefesch" is Hebrew and means "healing for the soul".
The name stresses the multi-layered meanings of the place: The Prayer House as a place of remembrance of its varied history, which points to its cultural meaning through artistic transformation.
The former Jewish Prayer House was opened as an accessible memorial and as a "place of remembrance and pause".
The prayer pavillion was built in the former General Hospital for patients of Jewish faith in 1903. It was planned by the architect Max Fleischer (1841-1905).
In 1938, National Socialists desecrated the building during the November pogromes. During the 1950ies, the "practical use" of the Prayer House and damages to the substance of the building started. The interior fixtures were destroyed when a transformer station was built in to service the nearby "Narrenturm". It was in use until 2000. A modernisation of the construction in 1970 radically changed the outer appearance of the former Prayer House.
The University of Vienna, the new owner of the building, has taken on the responsibility to document the insensitive handling and the varied history of the former Prayer House and to rework it in an artistic context.
The artist Minna Antova took on a commission from the University's rectorate to turn the former Prayer House into an accessible art object.
In the course of this, the building was not only to be renovated, but the construction of its first architect, Max Fleischer, was to be maintained, and the destruction of the Nazi and post-war eras documented.
A trilingual text (Hebrew, German, English) was embedded into the pavement of the path leading to the prayer pavillion, including a block with braille script. It tells the story of the building. When entering the pavillion itself, the visitors have to step across the scale of the architect Max Fleischer, which also is painted onto the floor.
Inside the monument Marpe Lanefesch, the transparent floor serves as a chronicle for the different layers of time: The first layer contains the strongly magnified floor plan of the prayer house by the architect Fleischer, the layer on top of this a letter of the State Police on the November pogromes in 1938, and the last layer the plans of the transformer station from the 1970ies. Thus, the history of the memorial - its construction and its destruction - is visibly documented.
The destroyed parts of the Prayer House (roof, porch, thora niche) were replaced by glass elements according to the original draft of Max Fleischer. This transparency of the glass walls adds to the sensitisation of visitors to the theme: The inner room symbolises defencelessness and thereby produces a special body awareness.
The wall was designed with frescoes in the form of "ripped" pieces of thora scrolls, and refers to the Old Testament.
The artistic transformation has a special meaning for the memorial, and emphasizes the destruction of the Prayer House during the Second World War and in the post-war era.
Artistic concept and interior frescoes: Minna Antova
Architects: Maria Langthaller, Gerhard Scheller, Christian Willibald
Principal: University of Vienna
The monument Marpe Lanefesch and the Memorialbook are accessible under further announcement at gedenkbuch. @ univie.ac.at