Maria Theresa’s Dark Side

ORF-E | 2023
1 x 45 min -or- 1 x 52 min
Available worldwide except for Germany, France and Czech Republic

Just before Christmas 1744, a calamitous event with consequences for all of Europe is set in motion in Vienna, the capital of the Habsburg Empire. Against the prevalent spirit of tolerance and enlightenment, the young empress Maria Theresa orders the expulsion of Jews from Prague, accusing them of disloyalty. Prague’s Jews launch a campaign across Europe, hoping to exert pressure on the monarch to change her mind. The imperial palace receives untold numbers of letters, emissaries from England and the Netherlands make their case in person and even the pope pleads for clemency. The pleas for mercy fall on deaf ears… This television documentary explores how Maria Theresa, the self-styled “Mother of the Peoples”, could simultaneously refer to Jews as a “plague”, and why this dark side of her reign has, for so long, been largely ignored. The film examines the last great persecution of European Jewry prior to the Holocaust in a compelling, dramatic fashion. In the face of rising racism and anti-Semitism, the film is a timely reminder of the dangers of intolerance and religious persecution.

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