Conflicts & War

Vienna 1938-1941: Nazis testing ground for Jewish Holocaust

By Antonio Sánchez Solís

Vienna, Oct 30 (EFE).- The Holocaust began in Vienna. Not because Adolf Hitler was born in Austria, but because the anti-Semitism of the Viennese emboldened the German Nazis and because the deportation model used for the extermination of Europe’s Jews was designed and tested in the Austrian capital.

When Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany on March 12, 1938, amidst the widespread enthusiasm of the Austrian population, Vienna was home to some 200,000 Jews, the largest Jewish community in the Third Reich.

A few hours later, the full weight of the anti-Semitic measures that had been progressively implemented in Germany over the previous five years fell at once on Austria’s Jews.

Businesses and properties were plundered, citizens were humiliated and harassed in the streets by their neighbors, and the leaders of the Jewish Community were arrested.

“It was an absolute radicalization, something like this had never happened before,” historian Michaela Raggam-Blesch, one of the curators of a recently opened exhibition on Vienna’s role in the Jewish Holocaust, tells Efe.

The opening of the exhibition “The Viennese Model of Radicalization. Austria and the Shoah” coincides with the 80th anniversary of the start of the deportations of Jews to extermination camps in October 1941.

In Vienna, the historical anti-Semitism present in Austrian society, the existence of a pan-Germanist movement and the fury of the Austrian Nazis who had been persecuted by the fascist regime prior to the annexation, came together.

Raggam-Blesch, of the Institute of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna, says that Germany did not reach that level of anti-Jewish violence until eight months later, with the “Night of Broken Glass,” which is considered the turning point and radicalization of the anti-Jewish policies of the Third Reich.

The historian stresses that while that November 1938 pogrom was organized by the Nazi authorities, the Viennese harassment of their Jewish neighbors started with the people.

Related Articles

Back to top button