A Brief Summary of the History of the Holocaust in Austria


On March 13, 1938 Austria was officially annexed by Nazi Germany and became an integral part of the Third Reich. The Anschluss (union of Germany and Austria) marked the beginning of a deliberate anti-Jewish campaign marked by violence and organized looting. During the first week many Jews were dismissed from their posts, all Jews were expelled from the army and numerous Jewish communal leaders were arrested. An Aryanization campaign was launched to take over all Jewish businesses, and by the summer of 1939, 18,800 such enterprises had been seized from their original owners.

The Nazis initially sought to facilitate the mass emigration abroad of Austrian Jewry and entrusted the task to Adolf Eichmann, who opened a special office for this purpose (Zentralstelle fur Judische Auswanderurg) in August 1938 in the Rothschild palace in Vienna. The Jews leaving Austria were systematically stripped of all their possessions after being forced to pay an exorbitant emigration tax.

In the wake of Kristallnacht, Eichmann deported numerous Jews to concentration camps and speeded up the liquidation of the provincial Jewish communities. By the outbreak of World War II, over 126,000 out of an original population of 185,000 Jews had already emigrated form Austria and an additional 2,000 Jews managed to leave before emigration was prohibited on November 10, 1941.

Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, the Nazis began deporting Austrian Jews to concentration camps or to sites of mass murder in Eastern Europe. In early October 1939, over one thousand youth and elderly Jews were deported to Buchenwald and in the same month two additional transports were sent to the Nisko area of Poland. In February and March 1941, about 5,000 Jews were deported to Kielce, Poland, from whence they were sent in 1942 to the Belzec and Chelmno death camps. Mass deportations of the remaining Austrian Jews commenced in mid-October 1941: 5,000 Jews to Lodz, and later in the same year an additional 5,000 to the same ghetto and 3,000 to ghettoes in the Baltics. Following the Wannsee conference in January 1942, the deportations from Austria were accelerated: 3,200 to Riga; 8,500 to Minsk and 6,000 to Lublin. Later that year 14,000 elderly Jews were deported to Theresienstadt.

In November 1942, the Vienna Jewish community was dissolved and only 7,000 Jews, most of whom were married to non-Jews, remained in Austria, where those fit for work were taken for forced labor. Deportations to the East continued, albeit at a slower pace, and by the end of the war only 1,000 Jew survived in Vienna, one-third in hiding.

More than 65,000 Austrian Jews were murdered or perished in Eastern Europe during World War II.