WIENER GESERA, persecutions of Jews in *Vienna and its environs in 1421. The early 15th century was a period of rising hatred of the burghers of Vienna against the Jews, kindled in part by Jewish wealth. The *Hussite heresy had widespread reverberations in Austria at the time, and it was generally held that Jews and Hussites maintained close contact. Duke Albert V, inclined to religious fanaticism and disturbed by the Hussite rebellion, was also deeply in debt to Jewish moneylenders and without the means of repayment. At Easter 1420 a rumor was spread among the population of Vienna that a rich Jew named Israel had bought consecrated *Hosts from the wife of a Church sexton in Enns, and distributed them among other Jews who desecrated them. The Jews who were implicated were brought to Vienna, imprisoned, and tortured. On May 23, 1420, the Jews were rounded up in all the cities and towns of Austria and their possessions taken from them. The wealthy were imprisoned in Vienna, while the poor were put into boats without oars on the Danube at the mercy of the stream. Some Jews were held captive in houses, others in the synagogues. Children were separated from parents and husbands from wives, and an attempt was made to convert them to Christianity. The rabbis of Italy appealed to Pope Martin V for his intervention on behalf of the Jews of Austria. He reacted by threatening with excommunication anyone who forced Jews to convert. Nonetheless, many of the children taken from their parents were carried off to monasteries and there forcibly converted. A great many of those imprisoned committed suicide, including those held in the synagogues; the last one alive, R. Jonah, set fire to the corpses and died on the funeral pyre. The Jews who were left, 120 women and 92 men, were burned at the stake on March 12, 1421. All the property of the Jews passed to Duke Albert. The stones of the synagogue were used in building the university. Some Jews escaped to Bohemia; a very few managed to maintain an illegal existence in Austria. The proud Vienna community numbering between 1,400 and 1,600 existed no longer, and the city became known in Jewish tradition as "Ir ha-Damim" ("The City of Blood").
S. Krauss, Die Wiener Gesera (1920); M. Grunwald, Vienna (1836), 34–37: A. Zehavi-Goldhammer, in: Arim ve-Immahot be-Yisrael, 1 (1946), 191–3; O.H. Stowasser, Zur Geschichte der Wiener Gesera von 1421 (1920).
[B. Mordechai Ansbacher]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.