Approximately 70,000 Austrian Jews perished during the Holocaust and over 100,000 emigrated - mainly to the United States, South America and the United Kingdom. Austria was liberated in April 1945 and from May the country was occupied by the Allies and under the Allied Commission for Austria, divided similarly to Germany into four zones - American, British, French and Soviet. Vienna itself was also divided into four sectors and an international zone.
After the war a few thousand Jews returned to Austria and joined those who survived in camps and in hiding. Additionally about 130,000 DPs passed through Austria between its liberation and the mass emigration of 1948. ORT’s work with Holocaust survivors in Austria started in the end of 1946, about a year after establishment of ORT vocational courses in the DP camps of Germany. In December 1946, the first ORT school was opened in Vienna.
ORT school district: Austria
Jewish residents in 1946: 1500
Courses taught included: Nurse-aid training
Closed: March 1946
Bad Gastein was a small camp for Jewish DPs based in requisitioned hotels in the spa holiday town. It housed 1500 DPs and offered them very good conditions of living and extensive community life administered by UNRRA and the camp’s committee. Bad Gastein operated a number of schools, both secular and religious, and a People’s University. There was vibrant cultural life based around a theatre group and a choir. DPs could also attend a large variety of vocational training. In the DP hospital of Hofgastein, one of the most modern hospitals in Europe, ORT operated for 20 students a nurse-aid training course, the first ORT course of this type in Austria.
ORT school district: Austria
Jewish residents in 1947:1200
ORT school opened: February 1948
Courses taught: Electronics and locksmiths training.
Wels housed 1200 DPs in old army barracks with very basic rooms which, shared by 4 to 16 people, were constantly overcrowded. Despite the poor infrastructure, the camp's inhabitants managed to forge a well functioning community life, based mainly around different aspects of Jewish culture. They organized Yiddish movie screenings and productions of Jewish plays. The local library was supplied with Hebrew books. The camp’s kindergarten had Palestinian folktales painted on its walls. ORT’s mission in Wels started in February 1948. Three months later there were 44 students studying radio technology and locksmiths training.
ORT school district:Austria
ORT schools:Linz Bindermichl, Wegscheid, Ebelsberg
Courses taught:Auto repair, carpentry, tailoring, electricians’ training, shoe-upper manufacture and needle work, auto mechanics, locksmiths training, electro mechanics, cabinet making and goldsmiths training.
The area around Linz, the regional capital of upper Austria, became after the war a major assembly center for displaced persons and refugees. In the first five years after the war at least 150,000 Jewish DP passed through the region. ORTs activities in the area were concentrated in two permanent camps of Ebelsberg and Bindermichl as well as large refugee center in Wegsheid, a transit camp opened in June 1946. It was the largest Jewish transit camp in Austria and housed about 3,000 to 4,000 inhabitants.
ORT school district: Austria
ORT schools: Salzburg, Beth Bialik, Riedenburg, Hallein
Courses taught included: Locksmiths training, auto mechanics, electro-engineering, radio technology, carpentry, cutting out of men’s and women’s garments, dressmaking, corset-making, millinery, dental mechanics, nurse's training, trouser making, lingerie making, confectionery baking, beautician training and upholstery.
Over 13,000 Jews, mainly from Hungary and Poland, lived in the three permanent and five transit camps in and around Salzburg. The largest ORT undertaking in the area was the central school in Salzburg- the organization’s first vocational training establishment in Austria. Annexes to the main school and smaller schools were also functioning in Beth Bialik, Riedenburg and Hallein camps.
ORT school district: Austria
Courses taught included: auto mechanics, radio technology, electro-engineering, dental mechanics, dressmaking, lingerie making, cosmetics and hairdressing, mending, tie making, confectionery and metal turning.
ORT courses in Vienna were opened at the end of 1946 to cater for the needs of DPs from the camps scattered in and around the city. The first ORT training courses in the city were established in the premises of the State Vocational High School and were run in the evenings, after the school’s regular classes ended. The staff consisted of 54 professional instructors. Already by October 1947, less than a year after it was founded, there were 556 applicants for 340 places offered in the Vienna school.
DP Camps in Austria
In 1938 Austria with its Jewish population of 192,000 was annexed by Nazi Germany. Almost immediately after the annexation, the Nazis started implementing strict anti-Jewish legislation. During the Kristallnacht (‘night of the broken glass’) in November 1938, most of the synagogues in Vienna were burned and thousands of Jews were deported to concentration camps. After the outbreak of the war Austrian Jews were deported to Eastern Europe and later to extermination camps. Approximately 70,000 Austrian Jews perished during the Holocaust, over 100,000 emigrated - mainly to the United States, South America and the United Kingdom.
Austria was liberated in April 1945. From May 1945 the country was occupied by the Allies and under the Allied Commission for Austria, divided similarly to Germany into four zones - American, British, French and Soviet. Vienna itself was also divided into four sectors and an international zone.
After the war a few thousand Jews returned to Austria and joined those who survived in camps and in hiding. Additionally about 130,000 DPs passed through Austria between its liberation and the mass emigration of 1948.
The first DP camps in Austria were opened by UNRRA in 1945. They were administered by UNRRA (later IRO) and the US Army. There were altogether twelve camps for Jewish DPs in Austria. The majority of them were closed by 1952.
ORT’s work with Holocaust survivors in Austria started in the end of 1946, about a year after establishment of ORT vocational courses in the DP camps of Germany. From the very beginning, work in the two countries was developing in a slightly different way.
Firstly, according to ORT report: ‘Contrary to the development in Germany, ORT found in Austria no spontaneously created training workshop etc. Everything had to be planned and done from the very beginning. This fact, together with the lack of premises for training workshops, caused a delay in our work, but at the same time made for systematic procedure. The equipment for the various workshops was sent from Switzerland.' Secondly, since most of the Jewish DPs in Austria were concentrated in camps surrounding larger cities, it was decided to organize central ORT schools and training workshops in the larger cities of Salzburg, Linz and Steyr rather than in the camps. This way the trainees could escape the atmosphere of the camp for the duration of the classes and finally feel fully liberated. The transitional character of Austrian DP camps meant that ORT’s training in Austria was based on accelerated training courses rather than more thorough, full time training.
In December 1946, the first ORT trade school in Austria was opened in Vienna. In March 1947, ORT institutions in Austria had an enrolment of 148, and only six months later, in October 1947, of 1065 trainees. 340 of these students attended the vocational school in Vienna. By the end of 1947 additional schools were open in Ebelsberg, Steyr, Wels, Salzburg, Hofgastein, Hallein, Linz and Bindermilch. At that time the schools conducted programs in 50 trades ranging from dressmaking to technical chemistry, optics and building trades. Newly introduced courses included window glazing, upholstery, invisible-mending, pastry-making and engraving trades
‘The DPs wanted to be trained primarily in modern technical trades, while in the needle trades-formerly one of the Jewish traditional male trades- 97 per cent of our students were women. This choice of modern technical and industrial trades was encouraged by our organization in order to facilitate the resettlement of its students in such industrial countries as the United States, Canada and Australia and also for Israel, where the need for highly qualified manpower was a vital problem for the future’-reported ORT.
As in other countries, ORT’s work with Holocaust survivors in Austria came to end in late 1940’s.As emigration progressed and the DPs were leaving for Australia, Canada, United States and Israel ORT schools in Austria were closing down and by the end of 1950, only schools in Vienna and Hallein were still running vocational courses. Additionally, English and Hebrew language courses were held in Vienna, Hallein, Asten and Wels.
World ORT Archive: d07a150: Partial Report: Illustrating the Expenditure incurred During the First Quarter of 1947 p.15
World ORT Archive: d05a019: Three Years of ORT Activities. Report for the period August 1946- June 1949. Submitted to the Congress of the World ORT Union Paris, July 10th- 15th 1949 p. 79