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Why The Jews Were Expelled From Vienna

Why the Jews Were Expelled From Vienna


Readers of my novel The Darkness That Could Be Felt might wonder why in 1684 Samuel Oppenheimer was one of only a handful of Jews who had taken up tentative residence in Vienna. What happened to the community of Jews who lived there before 1670? This article, taken from the Jewish Encyclopedia, explains the ugly truth behind the Jewish expulsion from Vienna.

S. Oppenheimer

Samuel Oppenheimer


When in May, 1665, the body of a woman was found in a pool in the Jewry, the Jews were accused of having murdered her, and their lives were in jeopardy. Unfortunately for them, Emperor Leopold, who was entirely in the hands of the Jesuits, married a Spanish infanta.


Leopold I

When the crown prince died, in Jan., 1668, three months after his birth, the emperor and empress formed the thought of dealing with the Jews in Spanish fashion. A fire happened to break out in the newly built royal palace in February of the same year, and the populace accused the Jews of having kindled it. In April, 1668, delegates of the city of Vienna appeared before the emperor, praying him to destroy the Jews “root and branch”; and before the end of the month outrages began against them. The riots turned into wholesale looting expeditions, and the students and the mob attempted to fire the ghetto. The military guard had to be called out; but it was only on the third day of the riot that the emperor gave orders that no non-Jew was to set foot in the Jewry. In further evidence of the desirability of banishing the Jews, they were accused of being in secret communication with the Swedes. It was finally decided, July 26, 1669, to expel a number of Jews from Vienna and Lower Austria; 1,346 persons were affected by this decree of banishment. In their dire need the Jews of Vienna once more sent a memorial to the emperor; but in vain, for the commission had attributed to them all kinds of crimes.

Vienna Jews

Encyclopaedia Judaica: Vienna, vol.16, col.129, death penalty by hanging and fire for Jewish criminals in 1642:

On Monday, March 1, 1670, a solemn proclamation was made in all public places that “for the glory of God” all Jews should, on penalty of imprisonment and death, leave Vienna and Upper and Lower Austria before Corpus Christi Day, never to return. Hirz Koma and the physician of the community, Leo Winkler, in the name of the community made a last attempt to propitiate the emperor by offering him 100,000 florins and, in addition, 10,000 florins a year. In the meantime the period fixed for the exodus had been prolonged at the intercession of influential persons. In July the Jews began to leave, and by Aug. 1 not one Jew was left in Vienna. The cemetery in the Rossau was protected by the city in consideration of the sum of 4,000 florins; the houses of the Jews became the property of the city; the large new synagogue was turned into a church, renamed the Leopoldskirche, and solemnly consecrated on Aug. 18; a Jew’s house was turned into the parsonage. In place of the old synagogue, and out of its ruins, was built a little church—that of St. Margaret, since demolished.

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