Hohenems is a town with 16,731 inhabitants (as of January 1, 2020) in the Dornbirn district of the Austrian state of Vorarlberg.

The city is famous for its Hohenems Palace, the former residential palace of the Counts of Hohenems. In the 18th century, two of the three most important manuscripts of the Nibelungenlied were found in the palace library. Hohenems was the residence of numerous Jewish families from the 17th to the 19th century. In the 20th century Hohenems became world famous through the Schubertiade music festival.

City coat of arms and origin of the House of Hohenems
The coat of arms of Hohenems, the ibex, is likely to be traced back to the same heraldic animal in the coat of arms of Graubünden, because the first documentary mention of the Ems family comes from the year 1170 for Ober- or Wälsch-Ems ob Chur. Whether the Counts of Ems actually come from this place is controversial, as historian Andreas Ulmer mentions that the Counts of Ems may also come from the progenitor Hainricus de Amides, a half-brother of the last Count of Bregenz named Rudolf (d. 1160 ), could descend.


Middle age
The beginning of the settlement in the Hohenems area is not known. Since the end of the 12th century, the Altems Castle of the Lords of Ems has been one of the most powerful and largest castle complexes (350 meters long and 80 meters wide) in southern Germany. The Staufer fortress served, among other things, as a repository for prominent prisoners such as Wilhelm III from 1195. (Sicily) or in 1206 Archbishop Bruno of Cologne. In 1406 the Appenzeller burned down the village of Ems completely in the so-called Bund ob dem See.

In 1333 Hohenems was granted city rights, but this was not realized because the financial means were not raised for the construction of the city wall.

For the history of the spa, see sulfur bath.

Free imperial county
On April 27, 1560 Ems Ferdinand I elevated Ems to an imperial county. A Renaissance palace was built at the foot of the Schlossberg. In 1570 Karl Borromäus paid a short visit to Count Jakob Hannibal, the husband of his half-sister Hortensia. The parish church is consecrated to Karl Borromeo, who was canonized for his services to the Counter Reformation, and he is the patron saint of Hohenems. Count Kaspar acquired the imperial county of Vaduz and the Freiherrschaft Schellenberg and granted the county of Hohenems market privileges.

At the end of the 18th century Hohenems gained notoriety with the discovery of parts of the Nibelungenlied: in 1755 the manuscript C was discovered in the library of the Lindau doctor Jacob Hermann Oberreit, and a little later in 1779 the manuscript A appeared again in the palace.

Rule of the Habsburgs
In 1765 the County of Hohenems was acquired by Austria. The Habsburgs ruled the County of Hohenems alternately from Tyrol and Upper Austria (Freiburg im Breisgau). From 1805 to 1814 the place belonged to Bavaria, then after four years of dispute over ownership rights back to Austria. The respective Habsburg rulers showed the title of Count of Hohenems in the grand title. Franz Joseph I, however, used to go on private trips abroad under the title of Count von Hohenems, if he made it his business to spare his hosts the observance of disruptive protocol obligations.

Hohenems has belonged to the Austrian state of Vorarlberg since it was founded in 1861.

In 1595 the sulfur chapel, in 1607 the chapel of St. Sebastian and St. Anthony, 1617 the chapel of St. Karl Borromeo, 1898 the chapel of St. Josef erected in Unterklien.

Republic of Austria
The place was part of the French occupation zone in Austria from 1945 to 1955. Since 1969 the community has belonged to the newly founded Dornbirn district. In 1983 Hohenems was made a city and is the youngest city in Vorarlberg.

Emser Chronicle
In 1616 Bartholomäus Schnell (* 1580 in Langenargen, † April 19, 1649 in Hohenems) established the first printing works in Vorarlberg, the Graflich Hohenemsische Buchdruckerei (1616-1730) in Hohenems. With the Emser Chronik, which he presented in the same year, Schnell succeeded in creating a "masterpiece of book printing" in the first year of his activity in Hohenems, which was repeatedly described as "the most beautiful book ever printed in Vorarlberg". A well-preserved copy is one of the treasures of the State Library in Bregenz today.



The work, completed by Johann Georg Schleh from Rottweil in 1613, also marked the "beginning of Vorarlberg regional historiography": Around 100 coats of arms are depicted in this work - as are cartographic woodcuts, including the oldest surviving map of Vorarlberg. Not least because of this, the Emser Chronik represents the high point of the art of printing in Vorarlberg. The political intentions behind this work are clear in the Vorarlberg map, which shows the whole of today's Vorarlberg: The area is marked with hatched borders. which, if the initiator, Count Kaspar von Hohenems, had wanted, would form a sovereign territorial state under the rule of the Counts of Ems as a "sub-council".

In 1663 the print shop was headed by Johann Kaspar Schwendimann, who, along with the Emser Chronicle, produced the most famous Hohenems print with the “Philotheus” (autobiographical shepherd novel) by the baroque poet Laurentius von Schnüffis.

Jewish community
In 1617 a letter of protection from Count Kaspar von Hohenems laid the legal basis for the settlement of Jewish families and the establishment of a Jewish community. The imperial count hoped that this would generate economic impetus for his market. There were evictions in the 17th century, but after Jewish families were allowed to return, the Jewish community flourished. A synagogue, a ritual bath (mikveh) and a poor shelter were built, and a cemetery was laid out.

In 1797, Herz Jakob Kitzinger from Augsburg founded the first coffee house in Vorarlberg. The "Kitzinger Coffee House" was soon a meeting place for a wide variety of Israelite social groups. In 1813, Jewish citizens founded the reading society in this house. The community grew continuously until the first half of the 19th century, with the number of Jewish residents reaching its peak in 1862 with 564 people. The basic state laws of 1867 and the associated free choice of residence for Jews then led to a strong emigration to surrounding cities, so that in 1890 only 118 Jews lived in the city.

In 1935 the Jewish community had only 35 members. In 1938 after the annexation of Austria, Jewish property was "Aryanized" by the Hohenems community. This was followed by the forced dissolution of the religious community in 1940 and the deportation of remaining community members to the extermination and concentration camps. Frieda Nagelberg was the last Jew to be deported from Vorarlberg on February 25, 1942.

After the end of the Second World War in 1945, Jewish Displaced Persons (DPs) were temporarily resettled. None of the former parishioners returned.

After 1945, the Hohenems community acquired the synagogue properties from the Innsbruck IKG in order to convert them into a fire station. The rabbinate house next to it was demolished. Due to the great commitment of the St. Gallen community, it was possible to prevent the tombstones from being removed from the cemetery and pencils made from the old cedars. The cemetery itself should have been used for planting Christmas trees. (Dreier 1988: 232 f.)

Gad Hugo Sella, who was born Hugo Silberstein in Innsbruck in 1912 and was able to leave Austria on time in 1938, describes his experiences in an on-site report from 1977:
“Apart from the cemetery, nothing remains of the flourishing Jewish community in Hohenems. […] The synagogue, a large building in which the word of God was preached for centuries, has become a tool shed for the Hohenems fire brigade, truly blasphemy for which there is no excuse. Hohenems is also free from Jews today. "

- Gad Hugo Sella: quoted in: Dreier 1988: 228 f.

20th century
With the Diepoldsau Rhine breakthrough and the regulation of the Rhine in 1923, the centuries-old danger of flooding ended and further settlement of the valley floor was made possible.

In 1983 Hohenems was elevated to the status of town by the Vorarlberg state government on the occasion of the 650th anniversary of the town charter from 1333.

In 1998, the first Vorarlberg crematorium was put into operation in Hohenems.