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The German core of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria, became a separate republic in 1918 when the empire broke up into its national components and Habsburg rule came to an end. The country has an area of 32,432 square miles (84,000 sq. km), and its population in 1937 was 6,725,000. On March 11, 1938, Adolf Hitler sent his army into Austria, and on March 13 the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria to the Reich was declared The Jewish Community. In the modern era, Austria was one of the centres of the Jewish modernisation process and the integration of Jews into the country's overall culture. In 1849, the Jews were given the right to organise as a community, and in 1867 they were granted equality of rights. During the second half of the 19th century and the first few decades of the 20th, the Jewish population of Austria grew rapidly as a result of immigration from all parts of the empire, the greater part of the newcomers converging on the capital, Vienna. Jews played an important role in the economic and cultural life of Austria, which became a centre of Jewish culture and the cradle of Zionism. At the same time, the country was one of the first and most virulent centres of modern anti-Semitism. The Jewish population in Austria reached its height during World War I, approaching 250,000, as a result of the influx of war refugees from Galicia and Bukovina. After the war, the Jewish population declined to 185,000 in 1938.
The German Take over of Austria
On March 11, 1938, Adolf Hitler sent his army into Austria, and on March 13 the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria to the Reich was declared. Most of the population welcomed the Anschluss enthusiastically, and this fervour also expressed itself in widespread anti-Semitic rioting and an almost total absence of resistance to the Nazis. The Austrian Nazis attacked the Jews and expelled them from the country's economic, cultural, and social life - indeed, they outdid the German Nazis. By March 18, the offices of the Jewish community and the Zionist institutions in Vienna were closed down, and their officers were put in jail; 444 Jewish societies in Vienna and 181 in the provinces were forced to terminate their operations. A total of 110 public personalities, bankers, and businessmen were arrested and deported to Dachau on April 1 and May 15 in the first two groups to be sent there from Vienna. In the first night following the Anschluss, March 13-14, the Gestapo launched an organised campaign of looting Jewish apartments, confiscating artworks, rugs, furniture, and other valuables, and shipping the loot to Berlin. On June 29, all Jews and all partners in mixed marriages who were employed in the private sector - some 40,000 persons - were dismissed from their jobs. The number of German "supervisors" of Jewish property rose from 917 in July 1938, to 2,787 that November, and the number of businesses they were supervising rose from 1,624 in July to 5,210 in September.
Emigration before the War
The emigration of the Jews from Austria was handled by Adolf Eichmann. Dr. Josef Lowenherz, the executive director of the Vienna Jewish community, reorganised the work of the Jewish Community Office in accordance with instructions dictated to him by Eichmann. The Vienna Jewish Community Office, the Palestine Office, and the provincial communities all had to submit periodic reports to Eichmann - biweekly, monthly, and bimonthly - with the emphasis on the progress being made in the emigration of the Jews. In addition to pressure from the top, there was terror in the streets. Emigration, in all its aspects, was concentrated in Vienna, so that community representatives and individuals trying to obtain the required documents had to stay in Vienna and stand in long lines, night and day, in front of the municipal and police offices. There they were exposed to humiliation and tortures by Nazi party thugs, or by Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth). In the first two months of the Anschluss, some 7,000 Jews crossed the borders to Switzerland and Italy, and when these borders were closed to them the Jews tried to make their way to countries in Western Europe. At times, the Jews were forced back into Germany by the border police of the country they tried to enter.
The Outbreak of War
With the outbreak of the war, preparations for emigration continued, and technical training in anticipation of a new life was maintained. At the beginning of October 1939, after the conquest of Poland, 1,048 young and elderly people, some stateless and some with Polish nationality, were deported to Buchenwald, where they were killed. Later in October, two more transports, totalling 1,584 people, were dispatched to Nisko. Most of the deportees were expelled across the San River into the area conquered by the Soviet army; only 199 of the Austrian deportees employed in building the camp in Nisko later returned to Vienna. During February and March 1941, about 5,000 Austrian Jews were deported to the Kielce district in Poland and were subsequently murdered in 1942 in the Belzec and Chelmno camps.
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