Jews: The first documented mention of Jews as traders in the region
which is now Austria was at the beginning of the 10th century
( Raffelstetten Customs Regulations). From the end of the 11th
century there was mention of "Jews´ villages" (Judendoerfer) in
the alpine region ( Judendorf); what their function may have been is
not completely clear. Jews began settling in Austria, in the proper
sense of the word, at the end of the 12th century in Vienna.
The Jewish communities developed mainly in the course of the
13th century; their patron was the Duke of Austria.
Friedrich II the Bold issued a "Jews´ Privilege" for all of
Austria in 1244, after Emperor Friedrich II had already granted a
"Jews´ Privilege" for Vienna in 1238. The worst persecution of
the Jews in the Middle Ages originated in Pulkau (Lower Austria) in
1338 (accusation of desecration of a Eucharist host). In order to save
the most important community, the Jews of Vienna lowered the interest
rate on loans with the approval of Duke Albrecht II and Duke Otto
the Merry. In 1420/1421 the Jews were driven out of Austria by
Albrecht V during the Hussite Wars, because they were suspected
of co-operating with the Hussites. In 1496, at the insistence of the
Estates, the Jews were expelled from Styria and Carinthia by
Maximilian I; they were, however, permitted to settle along the
eastern border of the Empire (in Zistersdorf, Eisenstadt, and other
towns). From 1551, they had to wear the "yellow patch" in towns and
market towns. In Vienna the number of Jews increased again at the end
of the 16th century; a new cemetery was established
(Seegasse, 9th district), and in 1624 Emperor
Ferdinand II permitted the Jews to settle in the area of Vienna
called Unteres Werd (today Leopoldstadt, the 2nd district).
In addition to the Jews in Vienna, whose leaders were given special privileges by the court, there were smaller communities in many country villages. From 1617 there was a small community in Hohenems (Vorarlberg); during a period of expulsion (1676-1688) a few families also settled in Innsbruck (Tyrol). In 1669/1670 the Jews were expelled from Austria again. However in the 1680s Samuel Oppenheimer and Samson Wertheimer came to Vienna as "court Jews". They were granted special privileges, but all the Jews who immigrated after them received only temporary decrees of tolerance. Although the Jews were forbidden to establish a community, a number of institutions were founded in the 1760s and 1770s which prepared the way for a new Jewish community (e.g. Chevra Kaddisha). In 1752 there were 452 Jews registered in Vienna. Maria Theresia issued restrictive decrees against the Jews in 1753 and 1764. In 1782 Joseph II issued the Edict of Tolerance for the Jews in Vienna and Lower Austria, which brought few substantial improvements but did improve prevailing public feeling towards the Jews. Nonetheless, several Viennese Jewish families succeeded in achieving sensational social advancement (Arnstein, Eskeles, Koenigswarter, Hoenigstein), which was accelerated during the Napoleonic Wars and reached its peak in the salon of Fanny von Arnstein. Jews were involved in transport, industry, and banking, but also turned to artistic professions. In 1826 the Vienna Stadttempel (synagogue) was built and Isaac Noa Mannheimer was summoned to Vienna as "Israelite teacher of religion" (and Salomon Sulzer as cantor.
In 1848 Jews were involved in the revolution, expecting emancipation from the new constitution. Despite continuing set-backs, by 1867 the Jews had finally been granted equal status. In 1849, Emperor Franz Joseph°I referred to an "Israelite" community in Vienna for the first time. In 1852 a provisional statute was approved; this statute was made definitive in 1867. In 1890 a law was issued which regulated the affairs of the Jewish communities (the Israelite law). At first, mainly Jews from Bohemia and Hungary immigrated to Vienna; Jewish communities also developed in Graz, Linz, Innsbruck and a number of other towns. In the 1860s and 1870s, a smaller number of Jewish immigrants came from Galicia. Jews in the textile branch, in particular, were able to advance socially, as were, increasingly, those who became members of the academic professions. As the successful Jews sympathised politically with the German Liberals, criticism of liberalism joined forces with the traditional religious prejudice of established Christianity in a flare-up of Anti-Semitism. In an attempt to combat this, the Union of Austrian Jews was established in 1885. A Jewish national party was formed to counteract assimilation and pre-Zionist tendencies also began to take hold; in 1882 a Jewish national students´ association, the Kadimah, was founded. The problem of anti-Semitism gave impetus to the founding of the theoretical Zionism movement by T. Herzl, who became influential in Vienna during World War I. Under the intellectual leadership of Zwi Perez Chajes, who became chief rabbi in Vienna in 1917, the Zionists gradually gained ascendancy in the Jewish community. During World War I, some 36,000 Jews fled from Galicia to Vienna, bringing the total number of Jews in Austria to slightly over 200,000. After 1918, most of the refugees were sent back to Poland. During the First Republic, a number of Jews held leading positions in the Social Democratic Party. (O. Bauer, J. Deutsch, H. Breitner, J. Tandlerand others). From the turn of the century, Jews were prime movers of the modern age (A. Schoenberg, A. Schnitzler, P. Altenberg) and others. Of great significance was the work of S. Freud. With the Anschluss of Austria by the National Socialist German Reich on March 13, 1938 the systematic exclusion of Jews from society and the business world was begun. At first the goal was to force as many Jews as possible to leave Austria. A turning point in this process was the pogrom on November 9/10, 1938 ( November Pogrom). In 1941 the Nazi regime began round-ups and transports of Jews to extermination camps in eastern Europe, and on November 1, 1942 the Vienna Jewish Community was dissolved. 120,000 Jews were able to save their lives by fleeing the country, 60,000 were killed in the extermination camps or by other means. After the war, several thousand Jews who had survived the concentration camps or had emigrated to other countries returned to Austria. Jewish Communities were established in Vienna as well as in Graz, Linz, Salzburg, and Innsbruck. Up until the 1970s, the number of Jews steadily decreased. When Jews began emigrating from the Soviet Union, the situation changed. Since the 1980s, with the Jewish population decreasing only slightly, a diversity of Jewish life has developed, marked by the establishment of schools, a community centre, and numerous cultural activities.
Literature: W. Haeusler, Die Revolution von 1848 und die oesterreichischen Juden, 1974; G. Wolf, Geschichte der Juden in Wien (1145-1876), Reprint 1974; C. E. Schorske, Wien. Geist und Gesellschaft im Fin de Siècle, 1982; K. Lohrmann (ed.), 1000 Jahre oesterreichisches Judentum, 1982; P. Genee, Wiener Synagogen 1825-1938, 1987; H. Tietze, Die Juden Wiens, Reprint 1987; W. Plat (ed.), Voll Leben und voll Tod ist diese Erde, 1988; G. Botz, I. Oxaal and M. Pollak (eds.), Eine zerstoerte Kultur. Juedisches Leben und Antisemitismus in Wien seit dem 19. Jahrhundert, 1990; K. Lohrmann, Judenrecht und Judenpolitik im mittelalterlichen Oesterreich, 1990; M. Keil and K. Lohrmann (eds.), Studien zur Geschichte der Juden in Oesterreich, 1994; E. Weinzierl, Zu wenig Gerechte. Oesterreicher und die Judenverfolgung 1938-1945, 41997.