|Austria Table of Contents
Jews have also lived in Austria for centuries, at times enduring hostility and repression. At other times, the Jewish community has flourished and enjoyed a high degree of tolerance. Joseph II (r. 1780-90) lifted restrictions that had barred them from particular trades and education, and despite widespread prejudice against them, Jews achieved positions of eminence in business, the professions, and the arts in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Jewish community in Austria expanded greatly in the second half of the nineteenth century when Jews from other parts of the empire came to settle there, mostly in Vienna. Most of these so-called Eastern Jews came from the province of Galicia, an area located in southern present-day Poland and in western present-day Ukraine. The province contained about two-thirds of the Habsburg Empire's Jewish population.
After the Anschluss, the Nazis systematically applied their racial policies to the country's Jews. Approximately 100,000 Austrian Jews managed to emigrate from Austria before World War II began, but more than 65,000 Jews died in concentration camps and prisons of the Third Reich. As a result, Austrian Jewry was virtually annihilated. After World War II, few surviving members of Austria's Jewish community returned to Austria, and Austrian authorities made no concerted official efforts to repatriate them.
As of 1990, only a little more than 7,000 Jews were registered with the Jewish Orthodox Religious Community in Vienna. This figure included recent Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe but excluded Jews who did not declare their religious affiliation. Because the only statistical information on the number of Jews in Austria is available on a confessional basis, accurate figures on the number of Austrians with Jewish backgrounds is not available. It is generally assumed that this group is larger than the officially registered one.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress