Community in Austria - World Jewish Congress

Before the Holocaust, Austria had a considerably important Jewish population that was mostly concentrated in Vienna, including renowned figures such as Theodor Herzl, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Arthur Schnitzler, and Stefan Zweig. Many Austrian Jews fled after Nazi Germany conquered the country in 1938, but more than 65,000 were deported and killed during the Holocaust. The Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) estimates that in 2020, approximately 10,300 Jews lived in Austria.

The present-day Jewish community of Austria is represented by the Federation of Austrian Jewish Communities (Bundesverband der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinden Österreichs), the Austrian affiliate of the World Jewish Congress.

WJC Affiliate
Jewish Community of Vienna (Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien)

Benjamin Nägele

: +43 1 531 04 0
+43 1 531 04 108

President: Oskar Deutsch

Jewish life in Austria dates to the times of the Roman Empire and peaked in the early 1930s when Jews comprised 10% of Vienna's total population. The status of Austrian Jewry has been characterized both by periods of equality and prosperity and eras rife with pogroms, deportations, and antisemitism.

There is fragmentary documentation of a Jewish presence in Austria during the first millennium of the Common Era, including the “Raffelstettener Zollordnung,” a listing of customs and tax rules from 906-908 C.E. that recorded the presence of Jews in Austria during the 10th century.

In 1244, Austrian Jews were granted certain rights by Emperor Friedrich II and became active in commerce, but by the 14th century, a fixed Jewish tax was imposed on them, followed by persecution and massacres. In 1420, all Austrian Jews were arrested, 270 were burned at the stake the others expelled, and their property was confiscated. Jews were allowed to settle in the cities of Styria and Carinthia by King Friedrich III (1440-1493), but in 1496, Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I (1459-1519) banished them from both cities at the request of local guilds.

Despite the 1669 Edict of Expulsion, several privileged Hofjuden, or court Jews, were allowed to live in Austria. In 1757, about 454 Jews, all members of 12 prominent families, lived in Vienna. By 1781, when Emperor Joseph II issued an “Edict of Tolerance,” more than 1,500,000 Jews lived within the borders of the Habsburg Empire. After the death of Joseph II, Austrian Jews again suffered a period of discrimination, interrupted by the short-lived “Pillersdorf constitution” that gave full equality to all religions practiced in the Empire.

During the first part of the 19th century, Austrian Jewry enjoyed a stealth existence of sorts. In 1824, Rabbi Isak Noa Mannheimer was brought to Vienna as a preacher to the city’s growing Jewish population, but since no Jewish community was formally recognized, he was given the title of “Director of the Official Imperial and Royal Jewish Religious School of Vienna.” Four years later, when Rabbi Lazar Horowitz was invited to serve as Chief Rabbi of Vienna, he similarly received the official title of Ritualienaufseher, or “Rituals Supervisor.” The Vienna Synagogue was consecrated in 1826, and that same year Salomon Sulzer was appointed Head Cantor of the Synagogue. In 1849, Emperor Franz Joseph formally sanctioned an autonomous Jewish religious community, and the Jews of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were accorded full civil rights in 1867.

Between 1848 and 1938, many Austrian Jews were prominent in Vienna’s commercial, intellectual, cultural, and political life. Among the more famous were Theodor Herzl, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Gustav Mahler (who converted to Christianity), Stefan Zweig, and Arthur Schnitzler. The composer Arnold Schoenberg converted to Christianity in 1921 but publicly returned to Judaism in a public ceremony, in Paris, in 1933. Victor Adler and Otto Bauer, who served as Austrian foreign ministers after World War I, were both Jews.

In 1986, when Kurt Waldheim, a former United Nations Secretary-General and Austrian Foreign Minister, was a candidate for the Austrian Presidency, the World Jewish Congress publicly exposed Waldheim’s Nazi past. The U.S. Ambassador to Austria, Ronald S. Lauder (today President of the World Jewish Congress) refused to attend Waldheim’s inauguration. In more recent years, the extreme xenophobic Freedom Party has been a source of concern for the Austrian Jewish community.

In 1996, a public auction of heirless art owned by Jews murdered in the Holocaust was organized by the Austrian government at the Mauerbach Monastery. The funds generated from the sale were transferred to a humanitarian fund for Holocaust survivors.

In 2000, the Austrian Jewish community was deeply upset when the extremist right-wing Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), led by Jörg Haider, a man with clear neo-Nazi sympathies, entered the Austrian government. On March 2, 2001, he publicly said that Ariel Muzicant, President of the Federation of Austrian Jewish Communities “Dreck am Stecken haben könne” (“Could have dirt on his boots”), a markedly antisemitic comment.

Following the October 2017 national elections, the FPÖ emerged as the second largest party, and entered a coalition government with the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), with FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache becoming Vice Chancellor, and the FPÖ controlling the Foreign, Interior, and Defence Ministries. After the so-called “Ibiza Affair” came to light in May 2019, the coalition ended, and an interim government took over. After new elections later that year, a new government coalition between ÖVP and the Greens was formed.

The Years of Holocaust

By the mid-1930s, some 180,000 Jews lived in Vienna, and 20,000 more lived in other parts of Austria. While Austrian Jewry thrived in the Habsburg Empire’s final decades, antisemitism became an ever-growing presence. Adolf Hitler often referred to the avowedly antisemitic Karl Lueger, who served as mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910, as one of the personalities who influenced his views about Jews. Lueger, who maintained relations with some Viennese Jews, is said to have declared, “Wer ein Jud' ist, bestimme ich” ("I decide who is a Jew"), a comment subsequently also attributed to other antisemites.

Following the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in March 1938, the Jewish community was subjected to persecution and often mob violence. While many Austrian Jews were able to flee the country, those who remained endured the full horrors of the Nazi terror. Most of Vienna’s synagogues were destroyed, Jewish homes and businesses were looted during the Kristallnacht pogrom, and thousands of Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

Beginning in October 1941, around 35,000 Viennese Jews were deported to the ghettos of Minsk, Riga, and Lodz, as well as Theresienstadt and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Toward the end of the war, Holocaust victims were sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, and its satellite camps, Ebensee and Gunskirchen. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 65,500 Austrian Jews were murdered, with 62,000 of them known by name; more than 14,000 Jews were among the 85,000 inmates who died at Mauthausen.

In 1994, Thomas Klestil, the first president of the Austrian Republic to give a speech in the Knesset, publicly condemned Austria's involvement with the Nazi Party in the Holocaust. With that speech, the “Austrian Victim Myth” began to make a change. Today, Austria, like Germany, has a variety of programs and incentives to support Holocaust education and fight antisemitism. One of those programs is the "Austrian Service Abroad”, which sends young Austrian volunteers abroad every year, in cooperation with the WJC.


Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola estimated that approximately 10,300 Jews lived in Austria as of 2020. Most of them are in Vienna, with smaller communities in Baden, Bad Gastein, Graz, Innsbruck, Linz, and Salzburg. The present-day Austrian Jewish community is primarily made up of Holocaust survivors and their families, returning Austrian expatriates, refugees from the former Soviet Union and other parts of Eastern Europe, and Iranian Jews.

Community Life

The IKG is the primary representative body of Austrian Jewry, and Vienna is also home to the independent Sephardi Federation that represents Jews of Bukharian and Georgian origin, as well as a Caucasian Jewish Center set up primarily by Georgian Jews. Numerous international Jewish organizations have branches in Austria, including B'nai B'rith and WIZO, and there is also a local Zionist Federation. The Viennese community also has a home for the elderly. The Jewish sports club S.C. Hakoah has long traditions in Austria and offers facilities for physical training and athletics.

Religious and Cultural life

The only synagogue in Vienna to survive the Holocaust is the Stadttempel, built in 1826, where the community offices and chief rabbinate are located. There are also numerous Hasidic prayer rooms and a liberal synagogue called Or Chadash. 

Kosher Food

Vienna has four kosher restaurants and four kosher supermarkets, as well as two kosher butcher shops and a kosher bakery. During the summer, there are kosher hotels in the Saalbach-Hinterglemm and Bad Gastein resorts.

Jewish Education

There are four Jewish kindergartens and four-day schools in Austria offering Jewish primary and high school education. The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation operates nursery, elementary, and secondary schools, as well as a Heder (Hebrew language and religious studies school) on the Lauder Chabad campus. The Vienna University has an institute for Jewish studies, and the Institute for the History of Jews in Austria is set in a former synagogue in St. Poelten.


Youth organizations in Austria include B'nai Akiva, Hashomer Hatzair, and the Austrian Jewish Students Union, which is affiliated to European Union of Jewish Students.

Jewish Media

The Jews of Austria publish several journals and papers, which also have a wide readership among expatriate Austrian Jews. The two largest are the monthly Die Gemeinde, the official organ of the community, and the Illustrierte Neue Welt, originally founded by Theodor Herzl. The Austrian Jewish Students Union has its own bulletin called Noodnik.

Information for Visitors

The Jewish Museum of the City of Vienna chronicles the rich history of Viennese Jewry and the outstanding role that Jews played in the development of the city. The Jewish Museum in Eisenstadt is housed in the one-time residence of Samson Wertheimer, who was a Habsburg court Jew. There is also a Jewish museum in Hohenems.

The Mauthausen Memorial on the site of the concentration camp, in the Danube Valley near Linz, offers grim evidence of the Holocaust.

Relations with Israel

Ever since Austria's formal recognition of Israel in March 1949, the two countries have maintained full diplomatic relations, although, during the Waldheim presidency, Israel was only represented by a chargé d'affaires. In 2000, after the extremist right-wing FPÖ joined the coalition government, Israel recalled its ambassador. After talks in Jerusalem with the Austrian foreign minister full relations were restored in 2003. In 2017, Austria adopted the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism.

Israel Embassy
Anton Frankgasse 20
1180 Vienna

Telephone: +43 1 476 46 0
Fax:  +43 1 476 46 575

Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter
The latest from the Jewish world