The Vienna Rothschilds. A Thriller

Jewish Museum Vienna 12 December 2021

Exhibition at the Vienna Jewish Museum Dorotheergasse 12.12.2021 - 05.06.2022

The history of the Rothschilds in Vienna goes back to the arrival of Salomon von Rothschild in the capital of the Habsburg Empire in 1816. He became a close collaborator and financier of the Austrian State Chancellor Prince Klemens von Metternich. Salomon Rothschild quickly rose to be one of Austria’s leading entrepreneurs. Over the years, the Rothschild name has become synonymous with unimaginable wealth. This image served both as a positive symbol for a Jewish success story and philanthropic commitment, and as a negative cliché in anti-Semitic propaganda. This depicted the Rothschilds as representatives of an international plutocracy and as the hub of a “Jewish world conspiracy.”

From the beginning, the Viennese Rothschilds were ensnarled in major political, economic, and social conflicts, had to assert themselves against competitors, and were confronted with anti-Semitic stereotypes. But they repeatedly stood up for their oppressed and persecuted fellow believers as well. The Rothschilds also established numerous educational and charitable foundations for both Jewish and non-denominational institutions.

In 1938, the Gestapo arrested Louis Rothschild and held him hostage to extort the Rothschild’s entire fortune. Released from custody more than a year later, he was finally able to emigrate to the USA. After the end of the Second World War, the Viennese Rothschilds had a large part of their stolen property restituted, but in order to obtain an export license for several of their artworks, they had to forcibly donate essential pieces to Austrian museums. They were basically robbed a second time. It was not until 1999 that these coerced donations were restituted. Yet the story of the Rothschilds in Austria continues: To this day, a Rothschild grandson is fighting in court for the future of his ancestors’ endowment, the Nathaniel Freiherr von Rothschild Endowment for the Mentally Ill, today’s Neurological Rehabilitation Center Rosenhügel. A commission of experts instituted by the Vienna provincial government investigated the foundation’s history, but only up until the year 1963. In November 2021, the commission recommended that commemorative plaques be mounted on the pavilions on Rosenhügel.
This exhibition seeks to highlight the family’s achievements for the city of Vienna and the country, and to explore the material and immaterial legacy of the Rothschilds in Austria.

Curators: Gabriele Kohlbauer-Fritz, Tom Juncker
Exhibition design: Schuberth & Schuberth

Visitor information:

Opening and short tour of the exhibition by Director Dr Danielle Spira and curators Gabriele Kohlbauer-Fritz and Tom Juncker on YouTube at

Exhibition information:

Catalogue of the exhibition in German and English at

Report of the Rothschild commission

Following a decision by the Vienna State Parliament on March 12, 2020, an independent commission of experts examined the history of the Nathaniel Freiherr von Rothschild Foundation for the Mentally Ill on behalf of the Social Affairs, Health and Sport, and Culture and Science business groups .

The commission consisted of Univ.-Prof. in Dr. in Ilse Reiter-Zatloukal (Head), Mag. Dr. Gerhard Baumgartner, Univ.-Prof. GDR. Oliver Rathkolb, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Roman Sandgruber and Dr. in Ulrike Zimmerl.

The results have been available since November 18, 2021.

Detailed review of the foundation's history

In 15 chapters, the report deals in detail with the foundation and its institutions in Döbling (Maria-Theresien-Schlössel) and Hietzing (Rosenhügel). The foundation in 1907, supported by the philanthropic commitment of the founder Nathaniel von Rothschild, the imminent changes during the First World War and the consequences of hyperinflation, the dissolution under Nazi rule and the re-establishment in the post-war period, taking into account the Role of the City and State of Vienna.

The focus of the research was on questions about the history of the foundation and the foundation's assets up to the beginning of the 1960s. For this period in particular, the sources and thus the history of the foundation were so far only incompletely known.

A summary summarizes the main results at the end of the report. Relevant documents can be found in the appendix.


Source of information about the Commission and the Nathaniel Freiherr von Rothschild Foundation for the Mentally Ill is in German (text as in English above) at,, all the above, including the exhibition information, accessed 12 December 2021
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