People from Galicia:
Austrians, Poles, Ruthenian, Jews?


from a discussion thread if Jews from Galicia were considered Poles or Austrian or else:

From 1772 to 1918, Galicia was part of the Austrian (later Austrian-Hungarian) empire. Poland ceased to exist after the third division - with a short interruption during the Napoleon area - till 1918.

From a nationality (state/passport/army) point of view, they were nationals of Austria-Hungary, as all the other inhabitants of the Empire. After the "Ausgleich" 1867, the empire had an (imperial-royal) Austrian and a (royal) Hungarian part, Galicia was part of the Austrian half. Both together formed the imperial (Austrian) and royal (Hungarian) empire ("k.u.k."). In this empire, so, there have been distinctions: Germans, Hungarians, etc. which have been made by the language the inhabitants declared to be their main language in the census. Which means, that in a city like Lemberg, one person would have declared to be "German", the neighbor "Ruthenian" (= Russian-speaking, today Ukrainian) and another one "Polish". Yiddish, as far as my knowledge goes, was not one of the official languages. The Austrian army recognized eleven official languages in which the army regulations have been printed.

Galicia [ga-li-sha] = English
Galicja [ga-li-tz-ya] = Polish
Galizien [ga-li-tz-yen] = German
[ga-li-tz-ye] = Yiddish
[ga-li-tz-ya] = Hebrew

Source: Shuki Ecker

To be Jewish was an expression of the religion. In Austria - up to 1938 and the annexation by Hitler-Germany - the churches kept the civil records. Which means that a Jewish person would register with the Jewish community for birth, marriage and death; a Greek-catholic with their parish, the same for roman-catholic, a protestant HB, a protestant AB, an orthodox, .. The Austrian army knew five main religions and had five different uniforms for the different field chaplains.. 


The last thing to know is the "Heimatzuständigkeit" (the city responsibility). This means, which city had to care for a specific citizen. In most cases, this was the city where someone was born. This was important if someone wanted to receive welfare, because it was the city who had to pay for it. People migrating, say from Galicia to Vienna, might still have Heimatzuständigkeit in their old hometown, and Heimatzuständigkeit would not transfer automatically when people moved. One of my ancestors, also born in Galicia, had Heimatzuständigkeit in the city where he grew up, and this up to his death - he himself had moved on as an adult to several other cities. I guess that cities had a right to accept/refuse the right of Heimatzuständigkeit. In any case, there was no "Jewish" Heimatzuständigkeit, but of course the Heimatzuständigkeit of cities mainly populated by Jews, specially in Galicia.

In the mid of all this is the question of culture. Reading books like Soma Morgenstern 'In another time', this Jewish family practiced Yiddish, German, Ruthenian and Polish language and lived happily in this big cultural 'melange' that constituted the Austrian-Hungarian empire. Others might have been more German-centered, still mastering several languages and taking pieces from the other cultures. The question Jew "OR" something might have sound as odd to them as they sound to me today - "AND" would have been the answer for most of them till the national movement caught on in many areas.

To sum up, the question Jew vs. Austrian (or else) is not the right question. Someone could be Jew (registered in the Jewish community), Pole (by language declaration), Galician (by Heimatzuständigkeit), Austrian-Hungarian for the army service/passport and speaking Yiddish.

Nationality, at this time, had not the same meaning as today. Crossing borders was easier as today. Many migrants to the US profited from these open borders. The situation changed after the breakup of the Austrian-Hungarian empire when nationality became more important. In general, the Heimatzuständigkeit decided for the nationality, also there had been a possibility to opt for one or another nationality.