ORT in Austria

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In 1946 a nursing-assistant course was opened in the Bad Gastein DP camp, south of Salzburg. This was followed by a trade school in Vienna in December that year. By the end of 1947 additional schools had opened in Bindermichl, Ebelsberg, Hallein, Hofgastein, Linz, Riedenburg, Salzburg, Steyr, Wegscheid and Wels, and enrolment had risen to over 1,000. Trades taught ranged from dressmaking to technical chemistry, optics and building trades. Newly introduced courses included window glazing, upholstery, invisible-mending, pastry-making and engraving trades. In addition, English and Hebrew language courses were held in Vienna, Hallein, Asten and Wels.

As in other countries, ORT’s work with Holocaust survivors in Austria came to an end in the late 1940s. As emigration progressed and the DPs were leaving for other countries, ORT schools in Austria closed down and by the end of 1950, only schools in Vienna and Hallein were still running.

In 1953, an agreement was made with the United States Escapee Program, whereby ORT was given responsibility for the vocational training of all refugees in Austria. The activities in Vienna were run in municipal school buildings until 1954, when the school moved to a building of its own, in the premises of a former Jewish orphanage. The programme trained workers and craftsmen in a wide range of trades, including: leather work, trouser-making, radio repairs, auto-mechanics, locksmithing and welding; construction, electrical installation, tile-setting, hairdressing, sales, confectionery, driving, and more.  At the same time, increasing importance was given to the instruction of foreign languages, mainly English, with a view to emigration. The Hungarian Revolution in October 1956 caused the exodus of 180,000 Hungarians, 18,000 of whom were Jewish. Between 1958 and 1960, ORT gave vocational training to more than 2,500 of these refugees.  The events in Czechoslovakia and the attitude of the Polish government towards its Jewish minority also provoked an increased Jewish emigration via Vienna, which for a time, made the Austrian ORT programme relevant. However, in the 1960s, the city had become a transit city, with refugees only passing through briefly, removing the need for vocational training. In July 1969 it was decided that ORT operations should cease in Vienna. Between January 1946 and December 1969, 20,530 adults were admitted to ORT’s courses and 12,521 completed the full study cycle, passed their final examinations and obtained diplomas.