Built in 1872 in intricate Moorish Revival style, Rumbach Street Synagogue was the work of Austrian architect Otto Wagner, one of the leading stars of the Viennese Secession. It is a confection of Islamic detailing, from its colored brickwork to the arch-shaped windows and minaret-style spires and was the place of worship of moderate-thinking Neolog Orthodox Jews.
Before World War II, Budapest had one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe, consisting of around 200,000 people. This community was decimated by the Nazis, who first herded the Jews into the ghetto in District VII before incarcerating hundreds in Rumbach Street Synagogue; from there they were then shipped off to their deaths at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland. By the time Budapest was liberated from Germany in 1945, over half of the Jewish population had been murdered. Under communist rule after the war, Judaism – and indeed all religions – was banned in Hungary, but despite this, prayers were still held at Rumbach Street Synagogue until 1959, since when the synagogue changed hands several times before being returned to the Jewish community around 45 years later. Today its pretty exterior has been fully restored, but some renovation work is still needed in the once richly adorned, octagonal interior, which is intricately domed and patterned in traditional Moorish style.