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May 29: Full Citizenship for Jews in Austria-Hungary

May 29, 2014
FranzJosephThe Austro-Hungarian Compromise, which created a new alliance between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Austrian Empire, was accepted by the restored Hungarian Diet, or legislature, on this date in 1868. While many in Hungary considered the Compromise a betrayal of the revolution of 1848, in which they had sought full Hungarian independence and democracy, it did bring full citizenship to the 350,000 Jews living in the Empire, who had lost many of the rights won in those revolutionary years after Emperor Franz Joseph I rescinded some of them in 1852 — including the right to own land, to teach, and to pursue various other professions. (Jews became very active during this time in journalism and publishing, leading to the development of a progressive, secular, democratic branch of the Austrian press.) By the time of the Compromise, Vienna was the center of Jewish life in the Empire, with the majority of the city’s 40,000 Jews of Bohemian, Moravian, Hungarian, or Galician origin. These numbers would swell during World War I, following several decades of Austrian Jewish cultural flowering, assimilation, and prosperity — which were also met with extensive anti-Semitic organizing. Jewish “businessmen, farsighted investors, gifted scientists and inventive technicians... enabled Austria-Hungary to become one of the world’s most economically prosperous and culturally productive nations. Jewish entrepreneurs developed the railways, financed the coalmines, set up Pilsner beer production, pioneered sugar refining, consolidated the iron and steel industries, controlled the leading banks and newspapers, and were prominent in the leather goods, furniture, clothing and food-processing trades.” -Edward Timms, Times Literary Supplement