Evidence found in the form of ancient artifacts demonstrates the presence of a Jewish community in Austria as early as the time of the Roman empire and corroborates the previous assumption that Jews settled in what later became Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia in the third century B.C.E.
It is believed that the flow of Jewish immigration in the region increased after the rebellion against the Roman occupation of Judea. Many Jews were sold as slaves and were shipped across the empire. Others emigrated of their own accord.
However documentary evidence points to the first true settlement of Jews in the 12th century. A charter of privileges was granted by Emperor Frederick II in 1238, giving the Jewish community extensive autonomy. But over the course of the following eight centuries this status was to change, and the commercial and political clout of the Jews in the Austrian Empire would rise and fall many times over
In 1420, the status of the Jewish community hit a low point when a Jewish person from Upper Austria was charged with the desecration of the sacramental bread. This led Albert the Fifth to order the imprisonment of all of the Jews in Austria. Two hundred and ten Jews were burnt alive in public and the rest were deported from Austria, leaving their homes and belongings behind.