In This Article The Holocaust In Austria

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • Reference Works
  • Primary Texts and Sources
  • Prehistory
  • Eichmann and His Team
  • Resistance
  • Mixed Marriages and “Mischlinge
  • Expropriation and Art Looting
  • Concentration Camps
  • Forced Labor
  • Death Marches and Massacres
  • Exile

Jewish Studies The Holocaust In Austria
by
Albert Lichtblau
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 June 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0080

Introduction

Austria was occupied by Nazi Germany in March 1938. Certain conditions are characteristic for Austria’s Shoah history: More than 90 percent of all Austrian Jews lived in Vienna (1934 census: 176,034 of 191,481 inhabitants). In contrast to Germany, the National Socialist seizure of power was accompanied by organized and spontaneous pogroms against the Jewish population from the beginning. This is the main reason why many Austrian Jews were immediately disillusioned about their prospects for the future. Approximately two-thirds were able to escape to other countries. Some escapees found themselves trapped again in their countries of asylum during World War II when the Germans occupied Central and Western European countries like France, Belgium, and Hungary. Women and the elderly, in particular, were less likely to escape, either because they underestimated the genocidal dynamics of National Socialist politics or couldn’t find a way out of the country. With Adolf Eichmann as their leading bureaucrat, the National Socialists experimented with how to organize persecution. For a while Austria functioned as a pre-genocidal laboratory for the Nazis. With the destruction of the personal structures of Jewish Communities through terror, deportation of its functionaries to concentration camps, and the implementation of a new Community board that was willing to cooperate, the SS administration gained the experience it later applied in occupied countries to identify, ghettoize, and deport the Jewish population to concentration and death camps. Although the Jewish population was forced to move to specific Viennese districts, the Nazis did not create ghettos here like in Poland or Hungary. They experimented with deportations as early as October 1939, but most Austrian Jews were deported after Germany declared war against Russia. During the last several months of World War II, Austria was the destination of evacuated concentration camp inmates who were sent to Mauthausen or its satellite camps, Ebensee and Gunskirchen. Hungarian Jews who were sentenced to slave labor were sent to these concentration camps during the final weeks of the war. Death marches were accompanied by massacres until the liberation of Austria from National Socialism in May 1945.

General Overviews

Research about Austria and the Holocaust dates back to the 1960s and 1970s. Two survivors shaped the methodology of this research: Herbert Rosenkranz and Jonny Moser. They were accompanied by Erika Weinzierl and Gerhard Botz, two Austrian historians. Moser 1966 and Moser 1999 are based on documents generated by the Jewish Community between 1938 and 1945 as well as on the author’s own database. He was the first to publish detailed statistics on emigration, deportation, and annihilation. Moser was affiliated with the Dokumentationsarchiv des österreichischen Widerstandes (Austrian Resistance Archive). He survived the Holocaust in Hungary thanks to a protective Swedish passport he received from his employer, Raoul Wallenberg. Erika Weinzierl, an Austrian historian of contemporary history, encouraged many scholars with Weinzierl 1969, her groundbreaking study about the “too few” rescuers in Austria. One of her successors was Gerhard Botz, who has published extensively about National Socialism since the early 1970s, including the works Botz 1987 and Botz 2008. Rosenkranz 1978 was the first detailed overview of the persecution of Austrian Jews. The author himself survived in a Soviet internment camp, studied history in Vienna after World War II, and worked as an archivist in Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. The novelist and historian Doron Rabinovici published his doctoral dissertation, Rabinovici 2011, on Vienna’s Jewish Community during the Nazi period. He discusses the aspects of collaboration and self-assertion. As heads of the Austrian Historical Commission, the authors of Jabloner, et al. 2003 summed up the results of Austria’s most ambitious state-funded project on Austria’s Nazi past. The main search engine for publications about Austria’s history is the Österreichische Historische Bibliographie, which is regularly updated by a team from Klagenfurt University.

  • Botz, Gerhard. “Stufen der Ausgliederung der Juden aus der Gesellschaft: Die österreichischen Juden vom ‘Anschluß’ zum ‘Holocaust’.” Zeitgeschichte 14.9–10 (1987): 359–378.

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    Botz was the first to offer a periodization of the various steps from persecution to genocide within the Austrian context, which differed from Germany and other occupied countries. This is especially true of the period from March 1938 to November 1938, when Germany adjusted to Austria’s pogrom-like situation. Botz also points to the fact that the Nazi expropriation program was a nepotistic surrogate for the missing “socialist” social policy.

  • Botz, Gerhard. Nationalsozialismus in Wien: Machtübernahme, Herrschaftssicherung, Radikalisierung 1938/39. Vienna: Mandelbaum, 2008.

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    Gerhard Botz published his standard reference book under the title Wien vom “Anschluss” zum Krieg in 1978. He is known for his methodologically and theoretically reflective approaches. The book was not translated, but Botz has published various articles in English that sum up the results of his study. He analyzes the anti-Jewish policy within a wider approach, taking into account essential structures of Nazi power in Vienna.

  • Jabloner, Clemens, Brigitte Bailer-Galanda, Eva Blimlinger, et al. Schlussbericht der Historikerkommission der Republik Österreich: Vermögensentzug während der NS-Zeit sowie Rückstellungen und Entschädigungen seit 1945 in Österreich. Zusammenfassungen und Einschätzungen. Veröffentlichungen der Österreichischen Historikerkommission 1. Vienna and Munich: Oldenbourg, 2003.

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    The state-funded Austrian Historical Commission hired 160 scholars for forty-seven projects about expropriation during the Nazi era and its effects on Austria’s Second Republic with a focus on restitution. This volume provides a basic overview of this extremely ambitious project on National Socialism and its atrocities in Austria. All published reports are available online.

  • Moser, Jonny. Die Judenverfolgung in Österreich 1938–1945. Vienna: Europa Verlag, 1966.

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    The 1966 booklet that Moser (b. 1925–d. 2011) produced is a slim documentary dealing mainly with deportations from Austria.

  • Moser, Jonny. Demographie der jüdischen Bevölkerung Österreichs 1938–1945. Schriftenreihe des Dokumentationsarchivs des österreichischen Widerstandes zur Geschichte der NS-Gewaltverbrechen 5. Vienna: Dokumentationsarchiv des österreichischen Widerstandes (DÖW), 1999.

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    Moser’s 1999 study offers a wider overview of all deportations from Austria to various ghettos, concentration or extermination camps, and places in Eastern Europe where people were killed soon after arrival. Many of the detailed statistics were compiled by the Jewish Community or the Nazi administration.

  • Österreichische Historische Bibliographie.

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    The Austrian Historical Bibliography is a good searching tool for books, dissertations, masters theses, and articles published in prominent historical journals. Unfortunately, only a small number of English publications are registered.

  • Rabinovici, Doron. Eichmann’s Jews: The Jewish Administration of Holocaust Vienna. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2011.

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    The complex role of those who were assigned to the Jewish Community Board (Israelitische Kultusgemeinde) by the Nazis is discussed in Rabinovici’s groundbreaking study. He also discusses the complex pressure on those who tried their best to save or protect as many as possible within the structural setting of collaboration. His book was reviewed by Christopher R. Browning in The New York Review of Books (16 Aug. 2012).

  • Rosenkranz, Herbert. Verfolgung und Selbstbehauptung: Die Juden in Österreich 1938 bis 1945. Vienna and Munich: Herold, 1978.

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    This study by Rosenkranz (b. 1924–d. 2005) has the quality of a handbook about anti-Jewish Nazi persecution in Austria. He was the first to use archival documents in Yad Vashem and from the Jewish Community Vienna, whose archive was transferred to the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem after the founding of the state of Israel.

  • Weinzierl, Erika. Zu wenig Gerechte: Österreicher und Judenverfolgung 1938–1945. Graz, Austria: Styria, 1969.

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    Few Austrians were willing to help Jews during the Nazi era. When Erika Weinzierl published her book, this topic was tabooed because of Austria’s master narrative of being the first victim of Nazi Germany. It is no coincidence that Weinzierl, a practicing Catholic, points to the role of the Catholic Church. Her main sources are Yad Vashem’s “Righteous among the Nations” files. Fourth edition published in 1997.

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