The Jews' Search for Zugehörigkeit in Austria up to 1938


  • Albert Lichtblau


From the Enlightenment to the Nazi era, Jewish diaspora identity within the territory of the Habsburg Monarchy and its successor states (the Austrian First Republic and the Austrofascist system that existed between 1934 and 1938) vacillated between Jews’ sense of integration, assimilation, and belonging to the larger society in which they lived and a sense of exclusion from it. Four historical turning points were most relevant to the lives and perceptions of the Jewish population of Austria: the 1780s, bringing legislation infused with the spirit of the Enlightenment; 1848 as the first expression of participation by Jews in the political life of society at large; the attainment of equal rights in 1867; and, beginning in 1879, anti-Semitism, nationalism, and rejection of the integration of the Jewish population. The Jews of the Habsburg Monarchy were ultimately the only discernable ethnic group to symbolize the dynastic principle of the multi-ethnic state, in that they did not live in a geographically defined region in which they constituted an identifiable majority; with the collapse of the Habsburg Monarchy in 1918, their role became that of a conspicuous and vulnerable minority.