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Hapsburg Monarchy

(1273 - 1918)

The Hapsburg Monarchy was a multi-national empire in Central Europe under the rule of the Hapsburg dynasty from 1273 until 1918; from 1867 known as Austro-Hungary. Its nucleus was *Austria and it included at different times countries with considerable Jewish populations ( *Bohemia and *Moravia , and *Hungary from 1526), parts of Italy between 1713 and 1866. With the annexation of *Galicia (1772) and *Bukovina (1775) it became the state with the largest Jewish population in Europe. As the Hapsburgs were also Holy Roman Emperors, they were the supreme lords of the empire’s *servi camerae regis (servants of the treasury), the Jews. The legal position of the Jewish communities varied, according to the differing legal status of the Hapsburgs in their hereditary lands (Austria, *Carinthia, *Syria, etc.), the countries of the Bohemian crown, the countries of the crown of St. Stephen (Hungary, *Transylvania, Croatia-Slavonia, and the Banat), Galicia, Bukovina, and from 1908 Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, it was based in principle on juridical and religious autonomy. After the marriage of *Maria Theresa to Francis Stephen, duke of Lorraine (1736), the Hapsburgs also bore the title of “King of Jerusalem.”

During the period of the Counter-Reformation the Hapsburgs, protagonists of militant Catholicism, were influenced by the spirit of religious intolerance. Still, they tended to protect the Jews in their domains, in part because of Jewish fiscal contributions at a time of domestic and foreign war. They frequently sided with the Jews against the Estates, who were, as a rule, unfriendly to the Jews. However, it was the declared policy of the Hapsburgs to limit the number of Jews in their domains (see *Familiants Laws ). Nevertheless, Jewish communities often turned to the monarch with considerable success to annul decrees of banishment legislated by local authorities. The Hapsburg Empire was the first to conscript Jews for *military service, and Joseph II’s Toleranzpatents were the first laws to lift humiliating restrictions. One of those was the law forcing Jews to wear a distinctive badge. The regulation had been in effect since 1267, more than 600 years.

From 1848 enjoyment of civil rights was made independent of religious affiliation, and from 1867 Jews enjoyed full civic equality in the empire. Jewish participation in the economic life of the empire was significant, particularly in its industrialization.

At the beginning of the 19th century developing nationalist ideologies of peoples within the empire were seeking expression with centrifugal effect. Jews were one of the elements, besides the army, bureaucracy, nobility, and the Catholic Church, to support the dynasty in preserving the empire’s unity. Jews throughout the empire developed their own particular brand of patriotism and on the emperor’s birthday synagogues were crowded. Both the emperor and the Jews recognized their mutual interest, with the Jews considering the sovereign to be their sole recourse against the antisemitic tendencies of nascent nationalisms. *Francis Joseph I in particular won the gratitude of the Jews for his frequent statements against antisemitism (see *Christian Social Party, Austria; Karl *Lueger; Georg von *Schoenerer; Karl Hermann Wolf; Ernst Schneider). Jewish politicians such as Adolf *Fischhof and Otto *Bauer were particularly aware of the danger to the monarchy in the conflicts between the nationalities, and they suggested remedies. Joseph Samuel *Bloch created an ideological foundation for Jewish patriotism. Theodor*Herzl’s ideas were influenced by the monarchy’s problem of contending with its competing nationalities. The dismemberment of the Hapsburg Empire brought into being successor states with nationalistic policies that indeed often proved to be disadvantageous for their Jewish minorities.

Alleged Jewish Descent

Antisemitic propaganda claimed that the Hapsburgs were contaminated with Jewish blood, the protruding lower lip characteristic of many of them being considered a racial mark! The allegation was based on the assertion that Roger II of Sicily (1095–1154), whose offspring intermarried with the Hapsburgs, had married a *Pierleoni, a sister of the Jewish antipope *Anacletus II. The claim became notorious when the Austrian noble Adalbert von Sternberg declared around 1900 that he could have Jewish blood only through his kinship to the Hapsburgs. Modern research dismisses the allegation.


R.A. Kann, The Habsburg Empire (1957); idem, The Multinational Empire…, 18481918 (1950); J.E. Scherer, Die Rechtsverhaeltnisse der Juden in den deutsch-oesterreichischen Laendern (1901), 339–452; A. Sternberg, Paepste, Kaiser, Koenige und Juden (1926); A. Czelitzer, in: Juedische Familien-Forschung, 23 (1930), 282–3; J. Prinz, Popes from the Ghetto (1966), 248 n. 83; G. Schimmer, Statistik des Judentums in den im Reichsrathe vertretenen Koenigreichen und Laendern (1873); idem, Die Juden in Oesterreich nach der Zaehlung vom 31. December 1880 (1881); Baron, Social2, 9 (1965), 194ff.; 332–4; 14 (1969), 147–223; Z. von Weisel, in: J. Slutsky and M. Kaplan, Ḥayyalim Yehudim be-Ẓivot Eiropah (1967), 17–29. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: W.O. McCagg, A History of Habsburg Jews 16701918 (1989). See also bibl. for *Austria .

[Meir Lamed]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.