On account of insufficient source material it is difficult to establish the fate as well as the numbers of Jews from Austria who after the »Anschluss« had fled to the dictatorial Kingdom of Yugoslavia. They were there surprised by the German invasion in 1941. After the German surprise attack in April 1941, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia with its authoritarian government was disbanded and the land partitioned, with provinces falling to the German Reich, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria as well the Croatian Ustascha-state under German influence.
Next to the SS it was the German army who played a central role in the murder of Jews in Serbia, which at the time was under German military administration. Many Austrians were co-responsible for war crimes in Serbia as well as in other areas of former Yugoslavia; some as Generals, like Franz Böhme, Lothar Rendulic or Alexander Löhr; some also in the lower ranks of the army. The relatively high participation of Austrians was no coincidence: since the Habsburgs and the World War I, Austrians were thought of as experts for the Balkans.
About 80,000 Jews lived in Yugoslavia (of these 23,000 in Serbia), approximately 60,000 to 65,000 of whom were murdered. The exact number of Jews from Austria who lost their lives in Serbia at the time of occupation by the German army is difficult to establish. Jonny Moser estimates their number in the whole area of the former Yugoslavia to about 1660. Only the victims of the so-called Kladovo transport, all in all about 920, are known by name. Over 1200 Jews from Vienna, Berlin, Danzig and former Czechoslovakia tried in 1939 to reach Palestine from Bratislava via the Danube. Their trip ended in the Serbian Danube-port of Kladovo due to organizational difficulties. From here the refugees where relocated to the internment camp at Sabac in July of 1941. From August 1941, Sabac served also as concentration camp for Jews from Serbia and the Banat. As »atonement« for a partisan attack, all Jewish men from camp Sabac – overwhelmingly Austrian men from the Kladovo transport (about 400) – were murdered by units of the army on 12/13 October 1941. The remaining 750 to 800 Jewish women and children were taken to the newly erected concentration camp of Sajmiste, a suburb of Belgrade, where the Jews from Belgrade were also interned. Commander of the camp was the Austrian SS-Untersturmführer Herbert Andorfer who was responsible for the murder in gasvans of approximately 7500 Jewish prisoners, mostly women, up to May 1942. Andorfer was sentenced in January 1962 in West Germany to two-and-a-half year's imprisonment.
The Croatian Ustascha-state (Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska – NDH), was 1941 de facto occupied by the German army, but remained formally independent. It acquired jurisdiction over Bosnia-Herczegovina, the Dalmatian coast however was occupied by Italy. In the course of growing anti-Jewish repression many Jews were deported into Croation concentration camps. Not only Austrian, but also tens of thousands of Croatian Jews as well as Serbs and Roma, so-called »fremdländische Elemente« (foreign elements) were deported, with the help of high ranking SS officers and the Ustascha-regime, mostly to Jasenovac and Auschwitz and murdered there.
A few Austrian Jews succeeded in escaping to Palestine, others to Dalmatia and thence to Italy, or were taken after stopovers in several refugee camps erected by the Italian authorities, to the island of Rab in July 1943. There they lived in relative security till the Italian capitulation in September 1943. From September 1943 onwards many of the 2000 refugees on the island joined the Croatian resistance fighters, who helped others move into already liberated areas in northern Dalmatia. 300 persons, mostly old and sick people as well as women and children, remained on the island. After its capture by German troops they were deported to Auschwitz.