Saturday, April 16, 2016

What Happened to Jews of Vienna, Austria, "capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire"

Nadene Goldfoot                                                  
Vienna, Austria  to Athens, Greece

The Eastern Roman Empire had its capital in Constantinople, Turkey, an empire which extended far and wide by the year 637, including Palestine.  Justinian (527-65) had elaborate anti-Jewish laws in his Code, issued a decree in 553 which interfered with the conduct of the synagogue services!  Heracleius in 614 issued an edict ordering the conversion of the Jews.  Then the practice of Judaism was forbidden by the next emperors; Leo in 723, Basil 1 in 873-874; by Romanus Lucapenus in 932-6, and this last decree finds Jews living in Vienna.  The fledgling Christians were so quick to come down on the heads of the Jews, but slow to turn Europe onto their religion.  It's been about 900 years since Jesus had died and the religion was just catching on and even then contained many pagan elements.

Before Vienna had embraced Christianity and accepted Jews into their land as well, religion was pagan.  "A raid made in the Lower Danube region in the  830s is the earliest event which can unequivocally be connected to the Hungarians.   Muslim sources described the Hungarians as star- and fire-worshipers.   Vessels holding food and drink found in thousands of pre-Christian burials evidence the Hungarians' traditional belief in afterlife.   Prohibitions incorporated in Christian regulation also suggest that pagan Hungarians made sacrifices at groves and springs.  What went on in Hungary most likely was true of Vienna.  

Jews were living in Vienna in the early 900s even though  at the same time, Christianity was being introduced into the land of Hungary and Austria by  Byzantine Christianity.   Steps towards the adoption of the new faith were taken by Géza, the head of the Hungarian tribal federation (c. 972–997) who supported Western missionaries. The reception of Christianity was enforced by legislationing the reign of Géza's son, Stephen I (997–1038). Some tenets of pagan belief were incorporated into the Christian vocabulary of the Hungarian language.  Hungary and Vienna were neighbors.  "Stephen  was crowned the first King of Hungary in 1000 or 1001 after he had defeated his pagan opponent, Koppány, the oldest member of the Árpád dynasty. 

 Even so, Jews received a special dwelling quarter near the ducal palace and were permitted to live in houses elsewhere in the city early on.  This was even before some Jews became helpers of the court.  
Rabbi Samson Wertheimer, my DNA relativeRabbi Wertheimer (1658-1724) was a court Jew, born in Worms, Rhineland/Germany,  and court Jews were especially prominent in the Vienna court. Rabbi Wertheimer had gone to Vienna in 1684 to join the bank of his uncle, Samuel Oppenheimer, and soon became a court banker.  His uncle Samuel Oppenheimer was a banker and he lived with him.  Even Court Jews were not allowed to live in Vienna.  Jews were exclused from all classic trades and handicrafts to make a living.  This forced them to deal with money lending.  

After all, Jews had a special place in Vienna, being court Jews in the 1600-1700s  who had loaned money to the Emperors to keep in business.  "Court Jews enjoyed special privileges;  were exempted from wearing the Jewish badge and could live anywhere, maintaining the necessary Jewish religious functionaries in their place of residence."   To think that ALL Jews except these who loaned money to the emperors, had to wear a badge is disgusting.  That's the position, that of a 2nd or 3rd class citizen, Jews were in.  The court Jews used their position to try to help their brethren.  The contribution of industrial production and commerce to the Austrian economy led to the decision to allow Jews to acquire property.  

By the 1200s, the Jewish position had worsened under pressure from the burghers, and a ghetto was instituted.  by 1406, the Jewish quarter was burnt, and in 1421 Jews were killed or expelled as the result of a ritual Murder accusation.  However, some Jews did live here in the 1500s.  

Along came the 1600s, that had some familiarity to the USAs 2001.  "Sept. 11 + 12 1683 spelt the victory of Western Christendom at the gates of Vienna against an overwhelming Islamic Ottoman Empire. "It pitted the Islamic nemesis led by Kara Mustafa, the Vizier of Sultan Mehmet IV, and the Ottoman forces consisting of Jannisaires and Tartars totalling 120,000, including some traitorous Protestant and Calvinistic allies from Europe, against the Hapsburg Holy Roman Empire led by Count Ernst Rudiger Von Staremberg of Austria along with Charles V (Duke of Lorraine) and Leopold I (Holy Roman Emperor) and with Polish king, Jan Sobieski III, spearheading the final attack.  

This was also the era of the Court Jews of which I have found to have had relatives who were a part of it.  Jews in this period who maintained trade connections with Poland, Italy and Turkey, but found themselves in hot water again and were banished  in 1670!  After 1675 they dared to return again, this time with a special license after 1675, but no synagogue could be established until 1826.  
Vienna's Ringstrasse 
Jews participated in the 1848 revolution and finally received equal rights in 1867.  Before, Jews who wanted to live in Vienna had to pay a "tolerance tax" and had no rights whatsoever.                                                                     
Born: August 18, 1830 in Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austrian Empire
Died November 21, 1916 at age 86 in same place as birth

Franz Joseph I  was Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia.
He ruled from December 2, 1848 to November 21, 1916. 
 Lots went on sale in May 1860 but by February Franz Josef issued a decree permitting Jews to purchase and own land and homes for the 1st time.  Why?  He needed cash to finance the project of building!  Affluent Jews bought lots and invested fortunes in erecting palaces , thinking this was the beginning of a new era for cooperation between Jews and Christians.  Now they could even be like the nobility from the inner city.  55% of the Ringstrasse lots were sold to 44% of the Jews. Until then, only rich Jews could afford to live in Vienna who had no real-estate holdings.  
Ringstrasse, where wealthy Jews were able to build luxurious homes.  

Young Emperor Franz Josef I  dreamed up building the Ringstrassse, which  was a building constructed in 1872 on a wide, ring-shaped boulevard because the emperor wanted to connect the inner city with the outer districts of Vienna.  He demolished the medieval walls and fortifications to build on the cleared land.  

 Many became prominent in political, economic, cultural and scholastic life of the city in the 19th and 20th centuries.  In 1866, Austria was defeated by the Prussian army  in the 7 Weeks' War which led to the weakening of the monarchy but brought about the liberal constitution of 1867 that granted freedom and abolished legal discrimination against Jews.  "Austria’s defeat was a telling blow to Habsburg rule; the Empire was transformed via the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 into the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary in the following year.  Additionally,  Austria was also excluded from Germany."                                                                                   
Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) born in Budapest, Hungary,
studied in Vienna (1878-1884), founder of Political Zionism.  1891-1895
was a Paris reporter and Dryfus trial caused him to realize position of Jews;
wrote book, THE JEWISH STATE. Der Judenstaat.  

ANTI-SEMITISM was spread from the 1880s under Karl Lueger (1844-1910). He was an  Austrian politician, mayor of Vienna, and leader and founder of the Austrian Christian Social Party.  He is credited with the transformation of the city of Vienna into a modern city.   At the same time, this is when Jews from Russia were returning to Palestine with the new proponent by Theodor Herzl of Vienna of Zionism.  

In February 1908, Hitler moved to Vienna  with the goal of attending the art academy and becoming a great artist.   Sixty years before him, Hitler's father also came to Vienna seeking opportunity. At that time the Hapsburg Empire was ruled by Emperor Franz Josef. When Adolf Hitler arrived, it was still ruled by him, although he was now senile and under the influence of corrupt ministers.  His empire, which had ruled Austria and surrounding countries for centuries, was now in great decline.  Vienna, however, remained a city of opportunity and attracted a multicultural population from all over the empire.

WWI of 1914-1918 found Jewish  refugees from Galicia, Hungary and Bukovina coming into Vienna.  At this time there were 17 synagogues in Vienna with one being Sephardic.  

The flourishing Jewish chapter in Vienna’s history has found a sinister ending,  with the annexation in 1938 when there were 180,000 Jews living in the capital.  Germany, led by Hitler and his Nazis, had invaded Austria.  A ferocious persecution of Jews began immediately.  About 1/3 of the Jews managed to emigrate, but almost all the rest were being deported to extermination camps.    Of Vienna’s 94 synagogues and temples,  only the Jewish City Temple survived entirely.  After WWII, survivors from Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia went to Vienna.  Nowadays the Jewish Community has about 7000 members in Vienna and has found its home in the second district.   The Central Synagogue is situated in Seitenstettengasse in the First District. "  The Jewish population in 1991 was 6,000 in Vienna.  
Jewish victims from Hungary; 6 million altogether
who perished in the Holocaust
" Vienna remained  the capitol of the Holy Roman Empire for centuries." Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism,  is still the predominant religion in Austria and has a long and intense tradition.
Pope Pius XI (1922–1939). Warsaw, Poland forced his departure as Nuncio. Two years later, he was pope. He signed concordats with numerous countries, including Lithuania and Poland. On March 12, 1938, Germany annexed Austria and Hitler had marched in with his Nazis. Austrian crowds cheered them.   From about 1929 to 1939, Germans were outwardly anti-Semitic towards Jews.  Did he not see it coming?  Warsaw in 1939 had 360,000 Jews. It was in October 1940 that the occupying Germans established a crowded ghetto for Polish Jews, reaching 1/2 million in the ghetto.   

 Pope Pius XI, born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, reigned as Pope from 6 February 1922 to his death in 1939. He was in Poland,  a state newly restored to existence, but still under effective German and Austro-Hungarian control, before becoming the Pope.   He was the first sovereign of Vatican City from its creation as an independent state on 11 February 1929.                                                                             
Pope Pius XII seated in the Sedia Gestatoria in 1939 the year my Jewish uncle finally 
got out of Germany in May
 and sailed to the USA, one of the last to be able to leave.

 Pope Pius XII (Italian: Pio XII), born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli,  reigned as Pope from 2 March 1939 to his death in 1958.   The German/Soviet invasion of Catholic Poland  began during his term.  Hitler appointed a new Nazi government, and on March 13 the Anschluss was proclaimed.  Austria existed as a federal state of Germany until the end of World War II.  Pius XII reiterated Church teaching on the "principle of equality"—with specific reference to Jews: "there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision".   The forgetting of solidarity "imposed by our common origin and by the equality of rational nature in all men" was called "pernicious error".  Catholics everywhere were called upon to offer "compassion and help" to the victims of the war. The Pope declared determination to work to hasten the return of peace and trust in prayers for justice, love and mercy, to prevail against the scourge of war.  The letter also decried the deaths of noncombatants. 

Some Jews had tried to escape after May  to go south and hope to cross the Black Sea by 

ship to Palestine.  On December 30, 1939, a river boat, Uranus, had 1,210 Jews who had left 

Vienna and Prague  in November..  The Danube began to freeze over, and Yugoslav government 

did not allow boats to proceed to get to Palestine.  They were held in Yugoslavia for 9 months.  

There, early in 1940, 207 teenagers were saved by receiving Palestine certificates and were

allowed to proceed by train, but the remaining 1,003 were massacred at Sabac in October 1941,

within 6 months of the German conquest of Yugoslavia.  (made into a film) (‘The Darien Dilemma’ - a film by Erez & Nahum Laufer)
Just think.  Equal rights came in 1867, but anti-Semitism began in 1880; giving Jews 13 years supposedly of normality.  Then from 1918 to 1938 they suffered from unrest with anti-Semitism building up in the 20s and 30s till 1938 came.  The Jews never had a chance.  "At the 2001 census, 73.6% of the country's population was Roman Catholic."

The Jerusalem Report, August 24, 2015, Waltzing on ringstrasse by Michal Levertov, p. 40-43
The New Standard Jewish encyclopedia, Vienna
The Holocaust by Martin Gilbert, page 107 about Uranus; painting and movie about it (Woman in Gold). Jews of Austria.

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