Vienna once had a big Jewish community. There are records of Jewish presence here from the 12th century.
Not that Austria treated its Jews particularly well throughout the centuries, but it was not worse than elsewhere, and Vienna was the center of an empire that once spanned the globe. For a few years at least 🙂
The nineteenth century was a time of assimilation and of Jewish expansion. Jews from Austria’s eastern provinces came to Vienna, those already here mostly tried to shed their Jewish identity. Judaism didn’t play that much of a role, participation in the society was the goal and many Jews even converted to Catholicism. People of Jewish origins became respected citizens, many even rose to the ranks of gentry.
Then came the catastrophe of the nationalist movement, culminating in the insanity of Nazi ideology. Suddenly people were determined by the believes of their grandparents. The Nazis invented an illogical pseudo-scientific race theory that essentially disrupted the effects of assimilation, and that forced the luckiest of their victims into exile, while the millions, who tried to flee too late or who did not have the means to buy their way into freedom, ended up in the horrible furnaces of Auschwitz.
These images were taken in the vast Jewish part of Vienna’s major cemetery “Zentralfriedhof”. There are thousands of graves of forgotten people. People whose children were murdered and buried in foreign soil, people whose children left and never dared to come back to the graves of their ancestors. It’s a sad place.