I wonder if anyone has some historical knowledge how the early conscription of Jews to the Austrian (Habsburg) army might have been executed.
First some background: In 1788 a war broke out between the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire (also known as the Astro-Turkish War), the ruling Emperor at the time was Joseph II son of the vicious Empress Maria Theresa. On February the 18th, Joseph II ordered (against the advice of his war cabinet) that his Jewish subjects in Galicia be conscripted to the military to assist in the new waging war. Only in June the same year did the decree apply for all of Joseph’s provinces (Lower Austria, Vienna, Bohemia, and part of Moravia). The Jews at the time were deeply saddened by the evil decree and petitioned against it, but failed in all attempts. However it is my understanding that many Jewish communities (and individuals) found some loophole in the system to avoid the draft either by paying for a substitute (mercenaries) or through bribes or taxes, but nevertheless many poor and unlucky boys were drafted, and fought bravely among the gentiles in the following wars including the Napoleonic wars, and those that followed.
However in my research I cannot find much literature written on this topic, which applies directly to the Jewish community. I seems that the early Josephine period isn’t documented as well as the later period (Franz Joseph’s reign and the First World War).
My key takeaway questions are as follows;
- from what age did the conscription apply?
- was service in the Austrian army a lifetime job?
- where would the newly recruited soldiers have been take to? (either a regional base or to the capital of Galicia - Lviv/Lemberg at that time).
- how where the exemption-permits negotiated? (were they privately ordained, or each community had to provide a percentage of their population, etc.)
I’m aware there are many stories (some even legendary!) out there in regard to this topic, but I’m looking for more reliable sources or perhaps evidential documentation.
Genealogist & Researcher of Jewish History