After the Anschluss with Austria in March 1938, on August 20, 1938, the Central Office for Jewish Emigration opened in Vienna, Austria. Between August 1938 and June 1939, this office, headed by Adolf Eichmann, “facilitated” the emigration of 110,000 Austrian Jews.
The Central Office, located in the Palais Albert Rothschild, was responsible for resolving emigration issues related to citizenship, foreign citizen’s rights, foreign currencies, emigration quotas, and the taxation of assets. It was the only institution that could issue exit permits for Jews until Jewish emigration was banned on October 18, 1941. The Central Office in Vienna became the model for similar agencies run by the Nazis in Prague and Amsterdam.
The Central Office under Eichmann, coerced Jewish leaders to take an active role in the bureaucracy of emigration. It was the first example of a ‘Jewish Council’ operating under full Nazi control. The Central Office was established to simplify emigration procedures issuing “documents of compliance” if no arrears were owed for rents, fees, taxes, and that the ‘Jewish Capital Levy’ and the ‘Reich Flight Tax’ had been paid. Those able to leave had to pay an ‘emigration payment’ that was means tested to cover the travel costs of poorer Jews. The objective of this process was the theft of Jewish assets.
With the beginning of World War II Nazi policy changed from emigration to deportation. The Central Office implemented deportation transports to Nisko, Poland in October 1939 with further deportations to ghettos in Poland in February and March 1941. In 1938 there were approximately 206,000 Jews in Austria. By the end of 1942, only 8,000 remained. The Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Vienna was directly responsible for the deportation of at least 48,000 Austrian Jews, most were murdered.
Eichmann moved to the Gestapo in 1940 as director of Reich Security Main Office’s (RSHA) section IV D 4 (Clearing Activities), becoming director of section IV B 4 (Jewish Affairs) in March 1941. Eichmann’s presentation at the Wannsee Conference, a high-level meeting of Nazi Party and German government officials to discuss the coordination of the so-called “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” in January 1942, outlined his central role in the implementation of the policy of genocide. It was in this capacity that Eichmann was responsible for the deportation of more than 1.5 million Jews from all over Europe, to killing centers and killing sites in occupied Poland and in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union.
When discussing the Central Office for Jewish Emigration in your classroom, focus on the larger meaning of the expansion and escalation of German anti-Jewish policy and the effect this would have on the path to genocide.