Flight and Expulsion of the Jews from Austria
After the Nazis gain control of the Austrian government, German troops enter Austria on March 12, 1938. The country is effectively annexed by the German Reich a day later.
The SD’s (SS Security Service) “Einsatzkommando Österreich” carries out a terror campaign — of a heretofore unprecedented scale and brutality — against Austria’s 191,000 Jews, more than 90 percent of whom live in Vienna. Hundreds of prominent Jews are arrested. The Jewish Community Vienna (IKG) is searched and its files confiscated. Many Jews are also among the more than 7,800 Austrians who are taken away to the Dachau concentration camp in 1938. This official persecution of the Jews lets loose a specifically Austrian antisemitism that expresses itself in abuse of Jews as well as plundering and “wild Aryanization” of Jewish businesses.
This terror drives many Jewish people to suicide. Tens of thousands emigrate legally, and thousands flee across the “green” border into Switzerland and Czechoslovakia, such that approximately 80,000 Jews have left the country by the end of 1938.
Raid at the Jewish Community Vienna , March 18, 1938
The photo shows (l. to r.) Josef Löwenherz, director of the Jewish Community Vienna (IKG), and SD leaders Herbert Hagen and Adolf Eichmann. Receipts for campaign donations to the pro-independence Fatherland Front that are found during the raid serve as a pretext for imposing reparations of 500,000 Reichsmarks on the Jews of Vienna, which are to paid through a fifty percent surcharge on the tax on religious organizations.
Bundesarchiv-Bildarchiv, Koblenz, Bild 152-65-15A
“Jews in Vienna Prison”
Contrary to what is claimed in the caption under the illustration in the antisemitic smear sheet Der Stürmer, the Jews arrested in Vienna are imprisoned not for crimes but solely for their Jewish faith or heritage, on the basis of lists prepared by the SD beginning in 1937. Among them are world-famous scientists such as the ear, nose and throat specialist Heinrich Neumann von Héthars of the University of Vienna.
Der Stürmer, No. 28/1938
Uniformed Nazis and civilians observe a “Reibpartie” (“scrub group”) in Vienna, March 1938
In Vienna, Jews are forced to use corrosive lye to remove slogans of the Fatherland Front from the streets. The Fatherland Front had campaigned for people to vote yes in the referendum on Austrian independence that was scheduled by Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg. Under pressure from Hitler, the referendum is cancelled. Jewish businesses are defaced, plundered, and seized through “wild Aryanization.”
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives, New York, NY
Display window with a sign reading “Jewish business,” Vienna, March 1938
Photo: Albert Hilscher / Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Wien, H4920_5
Jews are forced to label Jewish businesses, Vienna, March 1938
Photo: Albert Hilscher / Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Wien, H4920_8
Jewish passport applicants in front of the Margareten police department in Vienna, May 1938
The people standing in line want to apply for passports in order to prepare for emigration before their Austrian passports lose validity several months after the annexation of Austria by the German Reich. Even before the Austrian passports officially lose validity, however, the consulates of many destination countries stop recognizing them for visa applications.
Photo: Albert Hilscher / Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Wien, H5175_2
List of third class passengers with Austrian citizenship booked on North German Lloyd in March 1938
According to the 1938 annual report of the Security Main Office, between March 11 and December 31, 1938, 14,487 Austrian Jews leave the country for North America, 4,844 for South America, 1,660 for Central America, and 4,095 for Palestine, while 29,250 emigrate to other European countries legally and ca. 12,000 cross the border into neighboring countries illegally.
Österreichisches Staatsarchiv, Wien
Jewish refugees from Austria crossing the border into Switzerland near Diepoldsau in the canton of St. Gallen, August 20, 1938
The wild, densely forested border region becomes the “gateway to Switzerland” for many Jewish refugees from Austria. Because of the numerous border crossings in this region, a reception camp for up to 300 refugees is established in a former embroidery factory in Diepoldsau in June 1938. It is administered by the Red Cross and financed by the Jewish community of St. Gallen.
The New York Times, Paris Office / National Archives, College Park, MD
Clips from amateur films by Walter Nitsche and Lafayette P. Monson, spring/summer 1938
Amateur filmmakers document anti-Jewish propaganda and riots in Vienna in the months following the Third Reich’s annexation of Austria. In addition to images of property that has been vandalized or subjected to “wild aryanization,” these films also contain brief sequences of a “scrubbing parties” in which Jews are forced to clean the streets of graffiti supporting the cancelled referendum on Austria’s independence, as amused onlookers stand by.
© Österreichisches Filmmuseum, Wien, EF-NS_011 and EF-NS_057