Emancipation and New Opportunities
The spirit of the French Revolution opened doors for Jews throughout Europe. Within four years, all French and German ghettos were abolished. Jews were granted complete citizenship in Holland (1796) and in Prussia (1812). But the liberalization of laws and lifting restrictions on the Jews did not proceed rapidly or smoothly—there were reversals as well. There were centuries of hatred and hostility to surmount. Prejudice and anti-Semitism couldn't simply vanish from the European continent.
In Germany, where 300 German principalities had joined to make up thirty-nine states at the Congress of Vienna held in 1815, a reactionary mood prevailed. Renewed German patriotism and nostalgia for the German folk spirit sparked hostility toward the non-Germans. The Jews—perceived to be “Asiatic aliens”—were particularly vulnerable. Only after 1830 did liberalism begin to take hold; by the mid-nineteenth century, all German states had extended equal rights to the Jews.
In 1848, following the Austrian revolution, religious equality was established and it was not rescinded even after the Hapsburg monarchy was restored. In 1867, Austria declared the permanent emancipation of the Jews.
In Italy, following the fall of Napoleon, there was an increase in antagonism toward the Jews. It was not until 1848 that the Jews in Tuscany and Sardinia were granted permanent emancipation. Other Italian cities followed suit until Rome bestowed full citizenship upon its Jewish residents in 1870. The Jews in Switzerland did not receive citizenship until 1874, and the Jews in Spain had to wait until 1918.
Once open, the doors could not be completely shut again. With the right to participate fully in their society, the Jewish people of Europe saw many opportunities open to them. They were free to obtain higher education (though, in some countries, quota systems persisted) and pursue all aspects of commerce and other professions.