In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Vienna was a thriving center of Jewish culture and accomplishment, despite strong currents of political and social antisemitism. More than 90% of Austria’s 186,000 Jews lived in Vienna in 1938, the year of the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria into the Third Reich). After annexation, a series of anti-Jewish ordinances went into effective immediately, with some actions, such as forcing Jews to scrub the streets on the hands and knees, designed to humiliate the Jewish community. Thousands of Jews emigrated between 1938 and the beginning of the war, though around 50,000 remained. Most of this remnant were departed to camps and killing sites in Latvia, Belarus, and Poland. In 1944 thousands of Hungarian Jews were brought to Austria to work in forced labor camps near Vienna.

Among the several Holocaust memorials in Vienna are the giant concrete shelves of books in the Judenplatz, another book-themed memorial to the gay victims of Nazism, a memorial to all victims of Nazism, and the controversial collection of pieces—including the representation of a street scrubbing Jew—comprising the Monument against War and Fascism in Albertinaplatz.