Julius Müller: The Jews of Vienna and their Moravian Hometowns by Julius Müller


Migration as an Aspect of Jewish HistoryMigration as an Aspect of Jewish History

The marriage records (1850-1890) of Sechshaus/Fünfhaus, a heavily Jewish neighborhood of Vienna, show that a significant number of Jewish families came to Vienna from several towns of southwestern and central Moravia. Nikolsburg (Mikulov) is the most frequently mentioned town, but also represented are Misslitz (Miroslav), Eisgrub (Lednice), Bisenz (Bzenec), Trebitsch (Trebic), Gross Meseritsch (Velke Mezirici), Pohrlitz (Pohorelice), Mährische Weisskirchen (Hranice na Morave), Leipnik (Lipnik nad Becvou) and Prossnitz (Prostejov). In general, the phenomenon of migration and resettlement reflects the troubled history of Jews in Central Europe. The mutual support and solidarity of Jewish communities was often the only mechanism for survival.

Over the centuries, the Jewish settlements in southwestern and central Moravia absorbed waves of refugees expelled from Moravian royal towns—Iglau (Jihlava) in 1426; Brünn (Brno), Znaim (Znojmo), Olmutz (Olomouc), Mährisch Neustadt (Unicov) in 1454; and Neu Tischein (Novy Jicin) in 1563. They were followed by Jews fleeing the terror of Chmelnicki´s Cossaks during an uprising in 1648–56 in Poland, Latvia and Belarus, and later those expelled from Vienna and Lower Austria in 1670. For example, 80 Viennese families were allowed to settle in Nikolsburg to merge with 146 Jewish families who already lived there. This event was reflected in the subsequent appearance of surnames such as Wiener and Östreicher. Some Jewish families expelled from Prague in 1744 and from Silesia in 1745 found refuge in Moravian towns and adopted surnames such as Prager and Schlesinger.

Much later, emancipation and civic liberation in 50ties and 60ties of 19th century redirected the migration - this time out of Moravian towns into the larger cities, including Vienna and Mährisch Ostrau (today, Ostrava). The end of civic and economic discritimination opened new opportunities. Family bonds, the tradition of trading and former business contacts enabled Jewish entrepreneurs to evolve dynamically—at least for a limited period of time—and to contribute to the larger society economically, politically, socially and culturally.


Jewish Settlements in Moravia Jewish settlements in Moravia

In 1726, Emperor Charles VI imposed limits on the number of tolerated Jewish families in Bohemia and Moravia in a decree entitled Familiant Law By law, the number of Jewish families in Moravia was not to exceed 5,106, slightly modified to 5,400 in 1789 somewhat later.To prevent any increase over this limit, only first-born sons were allowed to marry and to have children. In addition, during the period 1726–1848 , the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia were threatened several times with total expulsion, although this never actually occurred. In 1848–49, the concept of restriction was abolished, partly re-introduced soon after, and only fully annulled in 1867.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Jewish communities in Moravian towns were relatively large, representing a significant percentage of the total population. Nikolsburg had 620 tolerated families, 42 percent of the population in 1836; 328 Jewish families lived in Prosnitz, where they represented 17 percent of the population in 1834), Leipnik had 255 families, 27 percent in 1834; 260 families lived in Trebic, accounting for 23 percent of the population in 1835; and 82 Misslitz had families, 17 percent in 1801.


The Multiple Reasons for MigrationThe Multiple Reasons for Migration

Marriage restrictions served as incentives for Jewish tradesmen to emigrate from Moravia, primarily to Upper Hungary (today Slovakia) and Lower Austria, where the Familiant Law did not apply. The number of tolerated Jewish families in Vienna inner city was strictly regulated in the 18th and mid-19th century, so the Moravian tradesmen in Vienna had to keep their Moravian domicile. It seems that marriage restrictions made the second-, third-borns more flexible and moveable. The relevance of such a statement can be easily proven by studying the marriage records of Sechshaus/Fünfhaus and birth records of Moravian towns. Those who moved to and married in Vienna seldom were the first-born sons.

In the birth records of Mährische Weisskirchen, Moravia, one finds Moses Morgenstern, second-born son in 1820, married in 1855 in Fünfhaus, Vienna; Max Meisel born as second-born son in 1841, married in 1865, in Vienna.

In the birth records of Leipnik, one finds Baruch Spiegel, second-born son in 1809, married in 1858 in Fünfhaus, Vienna; Hirsch aka Herman Bellak, third-born son in 1823, married in 1857, in Vienna; and Michl Zerkowitz, fourth-born son in 1825, married in 1859, in Vienna.

The birth records of Trebitsch list Marcus Austerlitz, second-born son in 1822, married in 1855, in Vienna; Bernard Sorer, second-born son in 1825, married in 1856, in Vienna; Michal Wiener, third-born son in 1829, married in 1861, in Vienna; Moses Reich, third-born son in 1831 (married in 1857, in Vienna; and Isak Taussig, third-born son in 1827, married in 1858, in Vienna.

Another limitation imposed on the Jewish population of Bohemia and Moravia was a lack of occupational opportunities. Since medieval times, Jews were forbidden to own land (until 1841, and in some areas not until 1861), and they were excluded from practicing most crafts. Their primary sources of living were peddling and trading, renting potash houses and distilleries. in mid-19th century they made a living based also from renting tanneries, pubs, breweries and mills, collecting tolls for local landlords, renting farmsteads and trading in agricultural products. Jews were not allowed to manufacture goods until the end of the 18th century. After about 1800, those who had first manufactures, (those who could ever have any manufactures in the history) (e.g., print works), were allowed to settle outside of the Jewish quarter and could buy real estate, but still were registered as members of their former Jewish community and paid taxes to the taxation office of the former hometown. Marriages performed in Fünfhaus were duplicated - the marriages were recorded both places - in the marriage books of their Moravian hometowns and in Vienna books as well.

Another impetus to settle elsewhere might have been a desire to escape from the tiny, densely populated environment of the Moravian Jewish quarters. In 1726–28 the Austrian government had decided to separate and completely isolate Jewish communities from their non-Jewish neighbors. At the same time, there was tendency of Jewish families to live conveniently close to each other.


The combination of the external governmental pressure and the inner propensity of Jewish families to live close resulted in the formation of the Jewish quarters—where the living conditions were rather harsh.

Jewish families in Moravia lived in densely populated houses in the Jewish street(s), usually near the church (so they could be supervised) and near the landlord´s seat (to be “protected”). The narrow Jewish streets and alleys in Trebitsch, in Gross Meseritsch, in Leipnik, in Prossnitz and elsewhere reflected a similar housing pattern. The small houses, often subdivided into several sections to provide housing for more than one family (frequently as many as four families), were interconnected by several corridors, passages and bridge-paths.


Continuity of Family Business in Moravia and in Vienna

A brief comparative study was conducted by the author to identify the professions of the Moravian ancestors of following generation of Viennesse Jewish tradesmen and entrerpreneurs in 19th century Nikolsburg records of reflect specific business preferences within various branches of the same Jewish families. For example, Hermann and Meier Trebitsch, and Leopold, Ezechiel and Max Pollitzer were involved in the textile business (schnittwaren handlsmänner); Hugo and Moses Krakauer were hardware shopkeepers; Bernard Teltscher and Heinrich Gollerstepper were wine shopkeepers.

After migration to Vienna, family members tended to pursue the same or similar businesses. For example, Salomon Trebitsch of Nikolsburg became cotton and silk cloth fabricant in Fünfhaus at house number.185; Israel H. Pollitzer of Nikolsburg became silk cloth fabricant living in Fünfhaus at number160. Other Pollitzer family members were involved in the linen business in Vienna. Leipnik records show that the grandfather of Herman Bellak’s grandfather was wool tradesman, as were most of the Leipnik Bellaks of Leipnik. Similarly, Joachim Wertheimer, silk and sheep wool fabricant of Fünfhaus number 175, was the son of Salomon Wertheimer, wool tradesman in Leipnik. Similar data showing certain family traditions may be found in the records of Fünfhaus and the records of Misslitz for the Brückner, Weiniger and Lindner families, and for the Schnabl, Sorer and Wiener families in the records of Trebitsch.

Not only family business tradition, but also other factors lay behind the enormous business development and success of the Jews in Vienna and in Moravian and Bohemian towns in 19th and first decades of 20th century. Within the limits imposed on Moravia Jewry, the lack of occupational opportunities produced significant flexibility, Although most Jewish tradesmen were peddlers at the beginning of their business careers, they tended not to stick with only one type of item or product.

For example, Hirsch (aka Hermann) Bisenz of Nikolsburg was recorded in Fünfhaus as wiktualinhandler in 1860 and as flour tradesman a few years later. The same shift can be observed in case of Adolf Teltscher and/or Moritz Pisk, both from Nikolsburg. Franz Pisk of Nikolsburg was recorded in Vienna as horse tradesman in 1862 and as a textile fabrics tradesman a few years later. When one adds also the fact that someone such as a Grünwald (involved in textile fabrics tradesman in his hometown of Misslitz), in Vienna married into the Seidel family (involved in eisen handl in Misslitz, it becomes clear that a more detailed study might produce an illustrative portrait of family networks and subsequent business evolution. Such a study likely would generate better understanding of why a particular family was involved in one type of business in its Moravian hometown but evolved into a different type of business in Vienna—likely as a result of newly formed family bonds, partnerships and intertwined business traditions. It would be no surprise, then, to discover that someone from the leather business in Moravia became a textile fabricant/industrialist in Vienna.


Pathway to Vienna

During the 19th century, Jewish tradesmen gradually moved from Moravian towns to small villages in Nieder Österreich along the route from Znaim to Vienna. Here are some examples: In Jetzlersdorf lived Moses Weiniger of Misslitz, shopkeeper in 1866; lived Salomon Weiniger of Misslitz, pedlar lived in Schöngraben in 1858; in Obritz, and later in Mailberg lived Josue Simon Brückner of Misslitz, stalkeeper in 1860 and 1872, respectively); in Seefeld we lived Herman Koppelman Grünwald of Misslitz, shopkeeper 1871; in Haugsdorf is Marcus Weiniger of Misslitz, shopkeeper 1871. Similarly, one can find several Jewish as shopkeepers from Nikolsburg lived in Nieder Österreich: Bernard Neuspiel in Nappersdorf, Alois Pisk in Ollersdorf, Herman Wengraf in Laa and Ignatz Wengraf in Neulengbach.

Jews who moved from Moravian Jewish quarters to Nieder Österreich, adopted a different housing pattern—scattered among their non-Jewish neighbors. In the small villages of Nieder Österreich, Jewish tradesmen usually traded in several agricultural products and /or ran small stores.



A clear link exists between some of Vienna districts and the Moravian hometowns of Jewish tradesmen and entrerpreneurs. The interaction was quite complex, based both on historic background and personal circumstances. Several political restrictions on Jews in Moravia resulted in migration of family members, especially the non-firstborn sons, to Vienna and/orNieder Österreich during the first half of the 19th century. Comparative studies on profession and social roles in „old“ and „new“ hometowns could be quite inspiring. Family history research can provide significant insight into the phenomenon of migration and business development in particular places. To study partnerships and development of manufacturers/factories from the family historian´s point of view can produce significant insight into entrepreneurial activities of Moravian Jews in Vienna.



References :

1. Gold, H., Die Juden und Judengemeinden Mährens in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart, Brünn, Moravia, 1929.

2. Jewish records of Leipnik, Mährische Weisskirchen, Misslitz, Nikolsburg, Trebitsch, section HBMa, National Archive, Prague.

3. Jewish records of Sechshaus/Fünfhaus, Archive of Israelitische Kultus Gemeinde in Wien.

4. Klenovsky, J., Historic Sites of Jewish Mikulov, (Mikulov, Moravia, 2000).

5. Klenovsky, J., Jewish Sites of Trebic (in Czech). , (Brno, Moravia, 1995).