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Liechtenstein Virtual Jewish History Tour

The Principality of Liechtenstein was first created in 1719 withing the Holy Roman Empire. It gained sovereignty in 1806. As a former principality of the Holy Roman Empire, Liechtenstein had many economic and cultural ties to Austria. The economic devastation caused by World War I caused Liechtenstein to sever its ties with Austria and economically align itself with Switzerland. Through World War II, Liechtenstein remained neutral.

According to a 2005 study, about 240 Jewish refugees fled during the Nazi area, and found safety in the neutral alpine principality during World War II. In addition, the principality allowed 144 Jews to become citizens “in return for high fees” during the Nazi era. Most of those new citizens (Neubürger) never lived in Liechtenstein but chose to immigrate to another country. Being citizens of Liechtenstein made it easier for these Jews to establish themselves in other western countries.

Like many western nations, Liechtenstein tightened its immigration laws in 1938. An unknown number of Jews were turned back between 1938 and 1939. At least 132 requests for entry visas were refused.

Sandwiched between neutral Switzerland and Nazi-controlled Austria, Liechtenstein had little room to maneuver. Not unlike other western European nations, Liechtenstein mostly welcomed wealthy Jews, who were expected to spend their money in the country or who created jobs by establishing companies in the prinicpiality.

The family of Liechtenstein’s Prince Franz Josef II bought property and art objects taken from Jews in Austria and Czechoslovakia and rented Jewish inmates from a Nazi SS concentration camp near Vienna for forced labor on nearby royal estates, according to the 2005 study.

Today, the Jewish community of Liechtenstein numbers only about a dozen people out of a population of approximately 34,247.

Sources: Wikipedia; Jewish News Weekly