Austrian immigration

2011-01-29 08:39:31

In the U.S. census of 2000 and the Canadian census of 2001, 735,128 Americans and 147,585 Canadians claimed Austrian ancestry. Because German speakers were divided among several states during the great European age of immigration (1820–1920), yet almost always embarked for the New World from German ports, it is difficult to determine exactly how many immigrants came from various states of the old German Confederation (to the 1860s); from the German Empire (from 1870); or from Austria and the Sudeten regions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Between 1861 and 1910, the U.S. Bureau of Immigration drew no distinctions among more than a dozen ethnic groups emigrating from the empire (see Austro-Hungarian immigration). After 1919, Austrian immigration corresponds to the successor state of Austria, one of six created from the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire following World War I. Austrian immigrants, many of whom were Jewish, tended to settle in New York, Chicago, and other large cities during the 19th and early 20th centuries. New York City remains the center of Austrian settlement in the United States, though there are growing concentrations in California and Florida. Although Austrians tended to settle on the Canadian prairies during the first half of the 20th century, by the end of the century, the greatest concentration was in Toronto, with significant pockets of settlement in other cities of Ontario. In both the United States and Canada, Austrians assimilated rapidly and were not inclined to join purely Austrian groups.
Austria is a mountainous, landlocked country of 31,900 square miles, lying between 46 and 49 degrees north latitude. It is surrounded by Switzerland and Liechtenstein on the west; Germany and the Czech Republic on the north, Slovakia and Hungary on the east, and Italy and Slovenia on the south. Its population of 8,150,835 is 99 percent ethnic German, 78 percent of whom are Roman Catholic. From the Middle Ages, Austria formed the core of a large multiethnic empire that was finally broken apart following defeat in World War I.
After the war, the economic situation was unsettled in the old German-speaking center of the empire, leading 18,000 Austrians to immigrate to the United States between 1919 and 1924. With the imposition of restrictive quotas in the Johnson-Reed Act (1924), Austrian immigration was first limited to 785 per year, though it was revised upward to 1,413 in 1929. Eventually another 16,000 immigrated between 1924 and 1937. As a result of American restrictions, Austrian immigration to Canada, Argentina, and Brazil increased, with more than 5,000 settling in Canada during the interwar years. With mounting pressure on European Jews in the 1930s, Jewish Austrians of means increasingly sought opportunities to leave. President Franklin Roosevelt relaxed restrictions on refugee immigrants in 1937, leading to an increase in visas. Between the incorporation of Austria into the German Reich in 1938 and the entry of the United States into World War II in 1941, 29,000 Austrian Jews entered the United States, most of whom were well educated, and many of whom were internationally renowned in their various fields of study (see World War II and immigration). In the first two decades following World War II, more than 100,000 Austrians immigrated to the United States, the numbers boosted by the allocation of nonquota visas for refugees and their families during the 1950s. Immigration declined and return migration quickened, however, as Austria established a strong economy and effective social service system by the mid-1960s. Between 1992 and 2002, average annual immigration was just under 500.
Most immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Canada were not from the present-day country of Austria. Of perhaps 200,000 immigrants prior to World War I, most were Slavic; probably fewer than 10,000 were German speakers from the modern region of Austria. A large number came from the province of Burgenland. Prior to World War I, most of these settled on the prairies of Saskatchewan, where they were joined by small numbers of Burgenlanders from the United States. Following World War I, they were designated “nonpreferred” because of their association with the defeated Central Powers. As a result, during the 1920s and 1930s, about 5,000 Austrians immigrated to Canada, with most settling in the western provinces, around 70 percent in Manitoba alone. After World War II, Austria faced a long and difficult rebuilding process that prompted many Austrians to immigrate to Canada, with the majority settling in Ontario. Of the 22,130 Austrian immigrants in Canada in 2001, about 62 percent (13,645) arrived prior to 1961.