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Jewish settlers were already registered in Vienna as early as the 12th century. Most became successful as bankers and tradesmen at that time and were able to build their first synagogue soon after. As in so many other countries of Europe the persecution and expulsion of Jews had a deep effect on the historical development and cultural influence of the times.
After centuries of resettlements and danger the Jewish community enjoyed a period of 'peace' in Vienna in the mid 19th century. They were granted equal rights. For the first time they were allowed to own properties, attend universities and even become civil servants under the Habsburg Empire. This 'golden age' had a big impact on the cultural heritage of Vienna today. It is due to many world famous artists, intellectuals, bankers and businesspeople of Jewish descent that Vienna became one of the most important capitals of Central Eastern Europe by the end of the 19th century.
Vienna's Jewish community accounted for nearly 10% of the population by the mid 1930's. This number was dramatically reduced as nearly 70% were either expelled or killed during the Second World War. The City of Vienna today takes this fact as a responsibility - and has over the past decades spent considerable time and effort to commemorate and inform the next generations about crimes committed during that period of Austria's history.
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