New digital archives show Vienna Jews' efforts to escape before WWII

The archive contains the then-200,000-strong Jewish community’s filings as they attempted to get visas and flee Austria before World War II began.

 The entrance of the Shoah Wall of Names Memorial bearing the names of 64,000 Austrian Jews who were killed in the Holocaust is seen ahead of its opening in Vienna, Austria November 9, 2021.  (photo credit: REUTERS/LISI NIESNER)
The entrance of the Shoah Wall of Names Memorial bearing the names of 64,000 Austrian Jews who were killed in the Holocaust is seen ahead of its opening in Vienna, Austria November 9, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/LISI NIESNER)

Israeli genealogy platform MyHeritage on Sunday unveiled its database of digitized records of Vienna’s Jews between the years 1938-1939 – when the robust Jewish community of the Austrian capital attempted to flee Nazi rule and persecution.

The collection, created in partnership with the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP) in Jerusalem, details the then-200,000-strong Jewish community’s filings to the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde (the Jewish community organization in Vienna) immigration department, which was assisting Jews in the capital in their attempts to escape. 

Vienna’s Jewish community organization would offer questionnaires to the city’s Jewish residents that would gauge their ability to emigrate and obtain a visa. Questions included information such as the name of the applicant, address, date of birth, professional skills, monthly income and other pertinent questions.

A vast collection on Austria’s Jewish community

Often supplemented by notes, official correspondence, handwritten letters and other unique documents, these “emigration sheets” form one of the most informative collections on Austria’s Jewish community before the once-vibrant community fled or were killed during the Holocaust. 

 A person points at the Shoah Wall of Names Memorial bearing the names of 64,000 Austrian Jews who were killed in the Holocaust ahead of its opening in Vienna, Austria November 9, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/LISI NIESNER) A person points at the Shoah Wall of Names Memorial bearing the names of 64,000 Austrian Jews who were killed in the Holocaust ahead of its opening in Vienna, Austria November 9, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/LISI NIESNER)

The files are stored at the Viennese Jewish Community on behalf of CAHJP. To explore the extensive archives, visit myheritage.com.