Chronology of the Holocaust and Rescue in Austria


Jews of Austria73% of Austrian Jews survived the Holocaust (135,000 survived; 48,000-50,000 lost).[1]  Pre-Anschluss Jewish population was 185,000. 126,455 Jews were able to emigrate from Austria after the Anschluss in 1938 until October, 1941. They emigrated to 89 countries including 30,850 to England 28,000 to the United States, 11,589 to South and Central America, 28,700 to Asia (18,000 to china), and 9,190 to Palestine. In all 128,500 Austrian Jews successfully escaped from the country.[2] 109 Austrians have been honored for rescuing Jews.[3]


January 30, 1933
Adolf Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany.

March 22, 1933
Dachau concentration camp opens near the city of Munich.  It is the first of the concentration camps established by the Nazis.

April 1, 1933
German boycott of Jewish shops and businesses.

July 8, 1933
The Vatican signs a concordat with Nazi Germany, which gives the new regime legitimacy.

The Austrian Republic is abolished and a conservative dictatorship is established under Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss.  Dollfuss tries to suppress the Nazi party.

Kurt von Schuschnigg is named Austrian Chancellor and pressured by the Germans into twelve concessions, including lifting the ban on the Austrian Nazi party and placement of pro-Nazi ministers in key positions.

July 25, 1934
Austrian Nazis occupy Parliament building and murder Dollfuss.

August 2, 1934
Hitler proclaims himself Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Reich Chancellor).  Armed forces must now swear allegiance to him.

September 15, 1935
“Nuremberg Laws”: anti-Jewish racial laws enacted; Jews no longer considered German citizens.

March 7, 1936
Germans march into the Rhineland, previously demilitarized by the Versailles Treaty.

July, 1936
Sachsenhausen concentration camp opens.

October 25, 1936
Hitler and Mussolini form Rome-Berlin Axis.

Spring 1937
Dr. Feng Shan Ho is transferred to Vienna, Austria, where he serves as First Secretary of the Chinese Legation.

July 15, 1937
Buchenwald concentration camp opens.

February 11, 1938
Hitler invites Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg to Berchtesgaden.  Hitler demands that the Austrian Nazi party be incorporated into the Austrian government.  He demands that Artur von Seyss-Inquart be made Austrian Minister of the Interior.  Schuschnigg understands that this ultimatum will inevitably lead to the end of Austrian independence.

February 16, 1938
Under pressure, Schuschnigg appoints Seyss-Inquart as Minister of Security.  Schuschnigg declares a general amnesty for all Austrian Nazi party members, including those who were responsible for the murder of Dollfuss.

March 9, 1938
Schuschnigg calls for a popular vote on Austrian independence.  Hitler demands that the vote be postponed and demands Schuschnigg’s resignation.

March 12, 1938
German troops cross into Austria.

March 13, 1938
(annexation of Austria by Germany).  Austria becomes a province of the German Greater Reich and is renamed Oustmark.  Vienna loses its status as a capital and becomes a provincial administrative seat.  All anti-Semitic decrees previously enacted in Germany are immediately applied in Austria.

Legal recognition of Jewish organizations and their tax exempt status is withdrawn by Nazi occupying forces.

More than 185,000 Jews live in Austria, of whom 170,000 reside in Vienna.  This is the third largest Jewish community in Europe.

March 14, 1938
Cheering crowds greet Hitler as he parades triumphantly through Vienna.

March 18, 1938
SS Chief Heinrich Himmler given power to operate in Austria.  The offices of Vienna’s Jewish community and Zionist organizations are closed and their leaders jailed.  All Jewish organizations and congregations are forbidden.  One hundred ten prominent Jewish leaders are arrested and deported to Dachau.  Jews are banned from any public activity.

March 26, 1938
Jews are dismissed from their posts in universities and colleges.

April 1938
The Nazi government in Austria prepares a list of wealthy Jews in preparation for large scale confiscations of Jewish property and assets.

Eichmann is promoted to SS Storm Troop Leader.

April 10, 1938
99.73% of Austrians vote in favor of annexation to Germany (Anschluss).

May 1938
The German Nuremberg Laws, which forcibly segregate Jews in Germany and deprive them of citizenship and the means of livelihood, are officially enforced in Austria. More than 200,000 Austrian Jews would be persecuted under these laws, according to German records.

To force emigration, the families of Jews arrested and deported to concentration camps are told that proof of immediate emigration would secure their release. German Property Transfer Office actively confiscates Jewish property, businesses and bank accounts.

The methods used in Austria combining economic expropriation and expulsion of Jews become the model in future Nazi-conquered territories.

Vienna becomes the center of emigration. All foreign consulates are besieged by Jewish refugees desperate for visas. Most refuse to help.

Dr. Feng Shan Ho is appointed Chinese Consul General in Vienna, reporting to the Chinese embassy in Berlin. 

Ho comes to the aid of the Austrian Jewish refugees being coerced to emigrate, by issuing them visas to Shanghai, China. Shanghai is under Japanese occupation and does not require a visa for entry. But for Jews to be allowed to leave Austria, a visa is necessary as proof of destination. Ho issues the visas under his own authority, enabling thousands ofJews to escape. 

July 6-15, 1938
Representatives from 32 countries meet at Evian, France, to discuss refugee policies; none of the participating countries are willing to open their doors to Jewish refugees.

After the Anschluss, the Swiss government sets up policy to bar emigration of Jews. They demand that passports of Jews be stamped with a red "J" to prevent them from crossing into Switzerland.

August 1, 1938
SS Lieutenant Adolf Eichmann establishes the Office of Jewish Emigration in Vienna to increase the pace of forced emigration.  It is Eichmann’s first major assignment and he eventually becomes one of the chief architects of the Holocaust.

Besides having to obtain and show proof of destination, Jews emigrating from Austria are automatically divested of all of their property and assets.  Emigrants are required to pay a tax based on the assets they declare.

August - December, 1938
Police captain Paul Grüninger allows 3,600 Austrian Jewish refugees entry into Switzerland, against orders of the Swiss government.  Many of these refugees have Chinese visas issued by Ho.

Fall 1938
Eichmann is promoted to SS Chief Storm Troop Leader.

September, 1938
Word has spread among the Jewish community that the Chinese Consulate is issuing visas. Large crowds and long lines form in front of the consulate.

Ho is ordered by the Chinese ambassador in Berlin to stop issuing visas to Jews. Undaunted, Ho continues the issuing of visas to all who ask. The ambassador sends a subordinate to Vienna to try to stem the tide. The investigator returns empty-handed to Berlin. Dr. Ho continues his "liberal" visa policy.

October 10, 1938
Hitler gives personal instructions to “act for the deportation of 27,000 Viennese Jews of Czech nationality.”

October 28, 1938
Thousands of Jews who are Polish nationals are deported into the no-man’s-land on the German-Polish border.

November 9-10, 1938
Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass): an anti-Jewish pogrom in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland; 200 synagogues are destroyed, cemeteries desecrated, 7,500 Jewish shops looted and nearly 100 Jews murdered.  Many Jews commit suicide in the following weeks and months. 30,000 German, Austrian and Sudeten Jews are sent to concentration camps of Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen. Between 1938 and 1939, more than 1,000 Jews are murdered in these camps.

80,000 German, Austrian and Czech Jews are allowed to emigrate to England.  The Central British Fund, a relief agency, is very helpful.

November 10, 1938
Consul General Feng Shan Ho protects the Rosenburg family from arrest during a Gestapo search of their home. He issues them visas to Shanghai and escorts them safely to the train station.

November 1938-1939
Many Austrian Jews are released from Dachau and Buchenwald on the strength of Chinese visas. Among them are the fathers of Bernard Grossfeld and Marion Alflen, and the brother of Lilith Doron, who are released from Dachau. Dr. Jacob Rosenfeld is released from Buchenwald and embarks for China, where he later becomes a hero in the Chinese Communist revolution.

November 12, 1938
The Council of Foreign Ministers meeting is headed by Hermann Göring in Berlin.  This policy meeting decides the fate of German and Austrian Jews.  This policy will be to force German and Austrian Jews into poverty, thereby forcing them to emigrate.

All Austrian and German Jews are forced by decree to transfer their businesses to non-Jewish ownership.

Ironically, Jews are fined more than $28,000,000 for the destruction of their property during the Nazi rampage of Kristallnacht in Austria.

November 15, 1938
Jewish children are barred from public schools.

By the end of November, a curfew is imposed and Jews are denied access to most public places.  Virtually all remaining Jewish businesses and properties are confiscated by the Nazis.

December 6, 1938
Japanese government ministers decide Jews residing in Japanese controlled territories will not be discriminated against or molested; they can freely emigrate to these territories if they wish.

December 1938
The Mossad for Aliyah Bet [Committee for Illegal Immigration] is established to smuggle Jews out of Europe and illegally into Palestine.  They are extremely successful.

By the end of 1938, every Austrian and German Jew must carry an identification card.

December 1938-January 1939
Seven thousand Austrian Jews cross the border to Switzerland or Italy.  Many of them have Chinese visas.

Mossad agent Moshe Auerbach, in Vienna, organizes the escape of thousands of Jews, often with the cooperation of Eichmann and the Gestapo.  Auerbach gets 20,000 transit visas from an engineer named Karthaus to allow Jews to escape through Yugoslavia.  Karthaus also obtains Mexican visas from Mexican consul General Gilberto Bosques.  After Auerbach leaves Vienna, he is replaced by Mossad agent Echud Avriel.  They both later relocate to Istanbul, Turkey.

Recha Sternbuch, from an Orthodox Jewish family in Switzerland, rescues thousands of German and Austrian Jews, bringing many of them to Switzerland illegally.  She obtains visas from Dr. Ho and other diplomats.

Pio Perucchi and Candido Porta, Swiss consular officers in Milan, Italy, issue more than 1,600 illegal and unauthorized Swiss visas to Jews who have fled from Austria to Italy after the Anschluss. Some of these Jewish refugees escape Austria with a Chinese visa.  The refugees then enter Switzerland, where they are protected for the duration of the war.  Perucchi and Porta are demoted and transferred for their unauthorized activities.

18,000 German, Austrian and Polish Jews flood into Japanese-occupied Shanghai, China. Among them are Austrian Jews with Ho visas, others are Berlin Jews with visas from British consular officer and intelligence agent Frank Foley. 

In Shanghai, China, Paul Komor forms a relief agency, the International Committee for Granting Relief to European Refugees (IC); helps immigrants with food, housing, clothing and funds; issues papers that allow many Shanghai refugees to leave China.

January 1, 1939
Mandatory identification cards are required of all Jews in Germany and Austria.

January 10, 1939
Hitler announces to the German Reichstag [Parliament] that a world war will result in “the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.”

January 24, 1939
Reichszentrale für Jüdische Auswanderung
(Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration) in Berlin is created by Göring and Eichmann.  This is based on the Austrian model.

Reinhardt Heydrich is given authority by Göring to “solve the Jewish question by emigration and evacuation in the way that is most favorable under the conditions prevailing at present.”

The Gestapo has control of Jewish emigration in German-occupied territories.

March 15, 1939
German troops invade Czechoslovakia.

March 17, 1939
A census determining the degree of Jewishness is taken of Austrian Jews.  Jews who have three or four Jewish grandparents are counted as a full Jew.  With two Jewish grandparents, they are categorized as “part Jew, grade I.”  With one Jewish grandparent, “part Jew, grade II.”  This census targets Jews for future arrests and deportations.

Spring, 1939
The Nazis confiscate the Chinese consulate building in Vienna, saying that it is Jewish-owned. Dr. Ho asks the Chinese government for funds to relocate, but is refused. He finds smaller facilities and pays out of his own pocket to move there and re-open the consulate.

Under a special law, Austrian Jews are evicted from their homes and are gathered into designated streets and selected districts of Vienna.

April 8, 1939
The Chinese Foreign Ministry punishes Ho with a demerit for disobeying government policy in issuing large numbers of visas to Jewish refugees.

May 17, 1939
British government issues a Palestine White Paper establishing a limit of 75,000 Jews to be admitted to Palestine over the next five years.  Of these, only 25,000 can be refugees.

Some 400 Jewish refugees, equipped with Chinese visas, embark for Palestine illegally via the Aliyah Bet.

July 1939
The Soviet Union curtails transit to Shanghai via Poland and Russia.

Fall 1939
The British cabinet allows 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia into Britain.  This is later known as the Kindertransport.  They come through the efforts of Jewish and non-Jewish relief agencies.  The Central British Fund for German Jewry is particularly helpful.  Ninety percent of these children never see their parents again.

September 1, 1939
Germany invades Poland; beginning of World War II.

September 1939
By the outbreak of war, nearly 70% or 185,246 Jews in Austria have emigrated.

October 12, 1939
Germany begins deportation of Austrian and Czech Jews to the Lublin district of Poland.  1,672 Austrian Jews arrive in Lublin.

October 20, 1939
Thousands of Austrian Jews are arrested and completely dispossessed.  They are soon departed.

October 1939
Hitler extends power of doctors to kill mentally and physically disabled persons.

December 1939
4,000 Jews are leaving Austria monthly.  A Nazi report declares there are too many full Jews remaining in Vienna and part Jews in the country.

13,000 Jews successfully emigrate from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.  55,000 Jews remain in Austria.  Since 1933, more than 300,000+ Jews have left the Old Reich and Greater Reich.

Bertold Storfer, an Austrian Jew, organizes a rescue action for hundreds of Austrian Jews.  Many of them escape to Shanghai.

January 5, 1940
Great Britain announces that German and Austrian Jews will not be allowed into Palestine because they are considered “enemy aliens.” 

February 1940
10,000 Jews are deported from Vienna to Lublin.  Most of them are murdered.

March 5, 1940
The Central Immigration Office, under Adolf Eichmann, maintains complete control of all Jews in Czechoslovakia.

April 9, 1940
Germany invades and defeats Denmark and Norway.

May 10, 1940
Germany invades the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.

May 20, 1940
Concentration camp established at Auschwitz.

May 1940
Under Dr. Ho’s watch, the Chinese Consulate in Vienna has issued an average of 400 to 500 or more visas each month for the two years following the Anschluss to thousands of Jewish refugees. At times, the numbers of monthly visas reach 900 or more.

Consul General Ho leaves Vienna for New York. His successor, adhering strictly to Chinese government regulations, curtails the issuing of visas to Jews.

June 10, 1940
German army invades France.

June 1940
As late as the end of 1940, Lisbon becomes the center of refuge for thousands of Jews escaping Nazi occupied Europe.  Until the end of June 1940, trains regularly run from Berlin, Vienna and Prague to Lisbon.  The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee provides money for destitute refugees who have escaped to Lisbon.  The US consulate in Lisbon processes hundreds of visas to Jewish refugees.

Mid 1940
More than 45,000 Jews are trapped in Austria.

September 27, 1940
Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis alliance is signed.

November 1940
50,000 German and Austrian Jews are sent to forced labor units doing heavy labor or working in war industries.

May 20, 1941
Gestapo issues circular prohibiting Jewish emigration from Germany and Austria.

June 22, 1941
German army invades Soviet Union; Nazi Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads) begin mass murder of Jews, civilians and Communist leaders.

July 31, 1941
Heydrich appointed by Göring to implement the “Final Solution.”

August 1941
The Nazis order the closing of the emigration department of the Reichsvereinigung.  Nazis ban emigration for Jews between 18 and 45 years old.  The age is soon extended to 60 years old.

Fall 1941
German and Austrian Jews are ordered to wear the yellow star.

October-November 1941
German and Austrian Jews are deported to ghettoes in Eastern Europe.

October 1, 1941
All legal emigration out of German occupied territories is stopped by Gestapo order.  It is estimated that 163,000 Jews are still living in the Greater Reich.

October 15, 1941
Nazi authorities pass a law imposing the death penalty for all Jews who leave the ghettoes without permission or for “persons who knowingly provide hiding places for Jews.”

November 10, 1941
All emigration of Jews from Austria now officially prohibited.  126,445 Jews have been able to emigrate from Austria, thousands with the Ho, Bosques and other diplomatic visa. 

November 1941
Nazis confiscate ration cards held by Jews.  The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is able to provide minimum food for remaining Austrian Jews.

December 7, 1941
Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.

December 1941
China breaks relations with Germany and the Chinese consulate in Vienna is closed.

January 20, 1942
Wannsee Conference in Berlin; Heydrich outlines plan to murder Europe’s Jews.

November 1942
The Viennese Jewish Kulturgemeinde [community] is officially dissolved.  Only 7,000 Jews remain in Austria.

June 1943
Himmler orders the liquidation of all ghettos in Poland and the Soviet Union.

June 6, 1944
D-Day: Allied invasion at Normandy.

January 27, 1945
Soviet troops enter Auschwitz concentration camp.

April 1945
US and British troops liberate the concentration camps at Buchenwald, Dachau, Nordhausen, Bergen-Belsen and other camps.

April 30, 1945
Hitler commits suicide.

May 8, 1945
V-E Day: Germany surrenders; end of the Third Reich.

Of the 185,000 Jews who once lived in Austria, only 1,747 return to Austria from the ghettoes and concentration camps. More than 65,000 Austrian Jews died in the ghettoes and concentration camps of Eastern Europe.

Thousands of survivors of Hitler’s concentration camps emigrate to the United States, Canada and Israel.

May 14, 1948
The state of Israel is established.

The Chinese civil war ends in a Communist victory on the mainland.  Dr. Ho chooses to remain loyal to the Chinese Nationalists who have fled to Taiwan.

With the Communist takeover, the last remaining members of the Shanghai Jewish community are forced to leave China.

The state of Israel passes a law to honor those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust; a commission is established to recognize them as Righteous Among the Nations.

Israel honors first of the Righteous Among the Nations.

As of 2017, 109 Austrians have been honored for rescuing Jews during the Holocaust.


[1] Bauer & Rozett, in Gutman, 1990, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, s.v. “Estimated Losses in the Holocaust,” pp. 1799-1800; Benz, in Laqueur, 2001, The Holocaust Encyclopedia, s.v. “Death Toll,” p. 145, states 48,767 were lost; Hilberg, 1985, p. 1221

[2] Fraenkel, 1967; Moser,1975; Rosenkranz, in Gutman, 1990, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, s.v. “Austria,” pp. 131-132, states 65,000 Austrian Jews perished

[3] Borut, in Bender & Weiss, 2007, Encyclopedia of the Righteous among the Nations: Europe (Part I) and Other Countries, s.v. “Historical Introduction,” p. xviii; Bender & Weiss, 2007, Encyclopedia of the Righteous among the Nations: Europe (Part I) and Other Countries, s.v. “Austria,” pp. 1-36


Updated 10/15/2017