Conscription practices in 18 century Galicia #poland #galicia

Moses Jefferson


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.

Kind regards,
Moses Jefferson
Genealogist & Researcher of Jewish History
London, UK

Madeleine Isenberg

Hi Moses,

While I see you submitted this to the discussion group last December, I'm trying to catch up on the too many emails filling up my email.

I don't know who may have replied to you, but whether a duplication or not, have you seen Erwin A. Schmiedl's book, (dual language, German and English), "Jews in the Habsburg Armed Forces, 1788-1918?"  I actually have a copy and was in touch with him a few times.  I think that would answer some of your questions.

You can also see more about that on the KehilaLinks page I created for Nowy Targ:

Madeleine Isenberg
Beverly Hills, CA
Researching: GOLDMAN, STEINER, LANGER, GLÜCKSMAN, STOTTER in various parts of Galicia, Poland
(Nowy Targ, Nowy Sanz, Wachsmund, Dembno, Lapuszna, Krakow, Ochotnica) who migrated into Kezmarok or
nearby towns in northern Slovakia and Czech Republic (i.e., those who lived/had businesses in Moravska Ostrava);
GOLDSTEIN in Sena or Szina, Szkaros and Kosice, Slovakia; Tolcsva and Tokaj, Hungary.
GOLDBERG, TARNOWSKI in Chmielnik and KHANISHKEVITCH in Kielce, Poland