Jewish Community, Catholic Church and associations - expropriation during the Nazi era

The Nazi regime also confiscated property owned by churches, religious communities, associations, foundations and funds.

Jewish community Vienna

By 13 March 1938 all offices of the main Jewish and Zionist organisations were destroyed and closed, files and money were confiscated and functionaries were arrested. All organisations that represented Jewish interests were paralysed. The Jewish Community Vienna and the Palestine Office were forced to reopen on 2 May 1938 and on 3 May 1938 respectively and were faced with an entirely new scope of tasks in accordance with Nazi policies. In fact, they were abused as instruments of persecution and deportation. Due to an official Gestapo instruction the previously imprisoned Josef Löwenherz was entrusted with managing the Jewish Community's affairs. The Nazi authorities thought this would make it easier to get access to Jewish institutions. Instead of pursuing religious, social and cultural tasks as originally intended the Jewish Community was increasingly instrumentalised to organise the emigration of its members and provide for the Jews who stayed in Vienna.

The community's extensive tasks had to be accomplished in a tense financial situation. In November 1942 the community's assets and tasks were transferred to the "Council of Elders". Approximately 283,000 Reichsmark were made available to the Council upon dissolution of the Jewish Community. The rest of the approximately 6.5 million Reichsmark had to be paid to the emigration fund. The Jewish Community and the Council of Elders became instruments of persecution and deportation.

Until 1942 all Jews, who were not registered members of the Jewish Community, were represented by the Jewish Community Vienna and the "Gildemeester-Aktion" (which was established to speed up forced emigration and was called "Auswanderungshilfsstelle für Nichtglaubensjuden" after 1939). These were subject to rigid controls by the "Central Office for Jewish Emigration" and its head Adolf Eichmann. As Jewish communities outside Vienna were dissolved (by 1940) the remaining funds were transferred to the Vienna Jewish Community.

The Catholic Church

The dense network of Catholic institutions and the Church's deep roots in society proved a serious threat to the Nazi regime that wanted to gain total control. To implement their ideological claim as sole representatives of the people the Nazis eliminated the Church's influence on education: confessional education and catholic associations were dissolved or forced to dissolve. Austria was declared an area not bound by a concordat (this means an agreement between the Holy See and a government in religious matters).

The Nazis took hold of the properties of the Catholic Church in Austria. A church tax system replaced state payments and the "religious fund" (proceeds from church assets confiscated by Emperor Joseph II. According to the records of important meetings the church tax system was introduced so that large numbers of Catholics would leave the church. Christian churches also lost their state support. Many Catholic associations were dissolved. Expropriation also affected 26 big monasteries with extensive agricultural enterprises, trade businesses and art treasures.

Parts of the Protestant and Catholic churches, however, also showed a rather positive attitude towards the "Anschluss". The Protestant churches also suffered substantial financial losses due to the anti-religious measures of the Nazis and the introduction of the church tax system.

Associations, foundations and funds

The "Office of the Commissioner of Suspensions", installed on 18 March 1938, was responsible for ideological conformity and material exploitation of associations, organisations and federations. Official actions were extended to other organisations such as chambers, unions, guilds, religious communities, Catholic congregations, the Vaterländische Front ("Fatherland Front"), insurance associations, professional organisations and representations of interests.

The net assets of the associations were used to expand the NSDAP and cover the expenses of the "Office of the Commissioner of Suspensions".

Associations were dissolved, merged with other (primarily) Nazi organisations or put under Nazi influence. The assets of dissolved associations were confiscated. In total approximately 70,000 associations and organisations went through the hands of the "Commissioner of Suspensions" who was in office until 30 November 1939. Foundations and funds were of special importance because of the value of their assets. The value of the assets seized by the "Commissioner of Suspensions" was between 236 and 253 million Reichsmark. The NSDAP and its sub-organisations, municipalities and umbrella organisations, restructured or created by the Nazis such as the Chamber of Commerce in Vienna benefitted from these transactions. The assets of Jewish organisations were partly used to finance the flight of Jews or provide for those who stayed in Vienna.

Contact for this page:
City of Vienna | Chief Executive Office - Executive Group for Legal Affairs
Contact form