Austria in the time of National Socialism

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Ostmark 1941: Reichsgaue, rural and urban districts

Austria in the time of National Socialism describes the section of the history of Austria from the "Anschluss" to the Nazi- ruled German Reich on March 13, 1938, to the end of the Second World War and the re-establishment of the republic in spring 1945.

The temporary end of Austria's statehood and the takeover of power by the National Socialists (see National Socialist Period ) was preceded by political and social tensions ( Austro-Fascist corporate state , Austrian civil war , attempted Nazi coup, etc.) and economic crises, the First Republic , which collapsed in 1918 the dual monarchy Austria-Hungary at the end of the First World War as German Austria arose and wanted to join democratic Germany until it was banned by the victorious powers in 1919.

The seven-year Nazi rule in Austria was followed by ten years of occupation , until the country regained its state sovereignty in 1955 with the Austrian State Treaty and the withdrawal of the Allied troops . During these ten years, under the pressure of the four occupying powers (USA, USSR, United Kingdom and France), denazification was legally regulated with the Prohibition Act 1947 and Austrian war criminals, participants in the Holocaust , Porajmos , crimes of the Wehrmacht, etc. a. by people's courts in Austria and at theNuremberg Trials convicted; Investigating and prosecuting Nazi crimes and restoring stolen property were soon put on the back burner. The international interest that began with the Waldheim affair in 1986 and the generation change meant that the academic, social, political and legal reappraisal of the Nazi dictatorship in the country continues to this day.

After the "Anschluss" with Germany, the German traffic regulations came into force throughout Austria, which means that since September 19, 1938, people have generally driven right in Austria. Before that, the country was divided into left and right driving zones.


The areas claimed by the National Assembly in 1918 included a. also the Sudetenland
Karl Renner (front row, center) in Saint-Germain (1919)

In 1918, after the end of the First World War , the break-up of the multi-ethnic dual state Austria-Hungary and the abolition of the Austrian monarchy, three major political camps initially faced each other in the young republic:

Smaller parties, such as the Communist ( KPÖ ) and the National Socialist ( German National Socialist Workers' Party , DNSAP), were not represented in the Provisional or Constituent National Assembly and also not in the National Council elected for the first time in 1920 (see National Council election in Austria 1920 and others).

SDAP, Großdeutsche - also called Pan-Germans - and DNSAP clearly advocated, albeit for different reasons, the unification of German Austria with the now also republican German Reich ( Weimar Republic ). The Christian Socials were also in favor of this union, but at the beginning they were divided because they partly supported the continuation of the monarchy and partly the republic. While the KPÖ only spoke out against the Anschluss in the course of the 1920s and 1930s, the monarchists initially opposed it and only endorsed it later, after the Munich Soviet Republic had failed and the German Reich was governed conservatively.

With the decision of the Provisional National Assembly of German Austria on November 12, 1918 to proclaim the republic, the question of monarchy was settled. In the spring of 1919 , the winners of the war clearly signaled to the state government that they wanted to unite with Germany that this intention was illusory. On September 10, 1919, Karl Renner (SDAP), the first state chancellor , signed the treaty of Saint-Germain the war winner with the Republic of Austria (the name part Germanwas ignored) contained the independence requirement for Austria (and thus implicitly the ban on affiliation). Under the new name of the Republic of Austria, the country was now anchored under international law as an independent state .

First republic

The life and politics of the following years were marked by great economic difficulties (loss of industrial areas and raw material sources in the now independent Czechoslovakia , hyperinflation ) and an increasing contrast between the political camps. From 1918 to 1920 the Social Democrats provided the head of government of a red-black coalition, after which the Christian Socials ruled, often in coalition with the German Nationals.

On May 31, 1922, Prelate Ignaz Seipel was elected Chancellor of the CS-led government by the National Council. He succeeded in improving the economic situation with financial help from the League of Nations ( Geneva restructuring 1922, currency reform 1925). Seipel was ideologically strictly anti-Marxist and above all anxious to push back the influence of the Social Democrats as far as possible - both sides viewed the conflict as one between social classes .

At the federal level, the bourgeois coalition governed, which on the Christian social side was also closely linked to the Roman Catholic Church . In the 1920s, the SDAP developed a counter-model , especially in Vienna, where it ruled with a large majority under the mayors Jakob Reumann and Karl Seitz , and to a lesser extent in the industrial regions of Styria and Upper Austria, too : this also primarily through social housing internationally known " Red Vienna ".

Deployment of the Republican Schutzbund in Wiener Neustadt October 7, 1928

From the beginning, the First Republic was characterized by a weak commitment to the state's monopoly of violence . The army was as specified by the Allies limited to a maximum of 30,000 troops, police ill-equipped.

As early as 1918, the first “Heimatwehren” had been formed (see “ Carinthian defensive battle ”). In 1920, the first Heimwehr was founded in Tyrol under the leadership of Regional Councilor Richard Steidle ( CS ) and with the help of the Bavarian " Organization Escherich " (cf. Black Reichswehr ) ; it was soon followed by others in the other federal states . After members of the monarchist " Ostara " shot a worker in 1923 , the Social Democrats themselves founded the Republican Protection Association .

Other paramilitary groups were the German-Austrian Front Fighter Association , which was formed from former combatants in the war , the Catholic-oriented Ostmärkische Sturmscharen , the Christian-German gymnasts and the Patriotic Protection Association of the National Socialists, initially not taken seriously as "swastika members", which later became part of the Austrian SA .

On November 14, 1903 , the German Workers' Party was founded in the Bohemian town of Aussig ( Ústí nad Labem ), then part of Imperial Austria . The party was German-nationalist and anti-clerical , but initially not markedly anti-Semitic. Above all, she saw herself as a representative of the German-Austrians in the “Volkstumskampf” of the multi-ethnic empire. In 1909 the trainee lawyer Walter Riehl joined the party, who in May 1918 became its deputy chairman and managing director.

During their “Reichsparteitag” on May 4 and 5, 1918, the name was changed to German National Socialist Workers' Party (DNSAP). With the collapse of the monarchy, the party split into a Czechoslovak part under the leadership of Hans Knirsch and a German-Austrian part under Riehl. From 1920 the Austrian DNSAP worked closely with the National Socialist German Workers 'Party (NSDAP), which emerged from the German Workers' Party (DAP) founded in Munich in 1919 , and in which Adolf Hitler took over leadership in 1921. The DNSAP had about 23,000 members in 1923 and was only a marginal phenomenon in the political landscape of Austria.

After Hitler had become head of the German National Socialists, disputes soon sparked within the DNSAP over the question of whether the party should steer the essentially democratic-parliamentary course, for which Riehl advocated, or the revolutionary-extra-parliamentary course of Hitler. The decision was made at a party convention held in Salzburg in August 1923 in the spirit of Hitler. Riehl put all his functions back and founded the German Social Association , which was to remain completely insignificant, but in 1924 resulted in its exclusion from the DNSAP.

The internal disputes, however, continued under Riehl's successor, the foreman Karl Schulz . Since Schulz was also committed to the democratic rules of the game and was an opponent of Hitler's sole claim to leadership, the Austrian National Socialists split again in 1926. On May 4, 1926, the Viennese middle school professor Richard Suchewirth founded the National Socialist German Workers' Association in Vienna , which unconditionally subordinated itself to Hitler's claim to leadership and to distinguish it from the other Nazi groups with the addition of the Hitler movement . From August 1926, this party was founded as the NSDAP Hitler movement .

In Italy , Benito Mussolini had become Prime Minister in 1922. In the following years he set up a fascist dictatorship and became an important ally of the Christian Socialists and a supporter of the Heimwehr.

In the National Council election in April 1927 , the NSDAP in the Völkisch Social Block electoral alliance achieved 0.74% with 26,991 votes and thus could not achieve a mandate (in the Weinviertel it ran alone and achieved 779 votes). The strongest force - ahead of the Social Democrats - was the unity list , which, under the leadership of the Christian Socialists, also included the German National Greater German People's Party (GVP) and the National Socialist Riehl and Schulz groups. During these years there were numerous violent clashes between the various armed associations, which repeatedly resulted in deaths (see Schattendorfer judgment , Vienna Justizpalastbrand ).

The National Council election in November 1930 brought a relative majority for the SDAP. The Christian Social Party fell back to second place, but continued to form the government in coalition with the GVP and the Landbund . The NSDAP failed to make it into parliament with 3.6%, but in the following years it was able to receive numerous votes from various German national groups and parties, so that its membership rose sharply from 1930 , also as a result of the global economic crisis .

In the state elections held on April 24, 1932 in Lower Austria , Salzburg and Vienna, as well as the municipal council elections held at the same time in Styria and Carinthia , it achieved significant gains. One of their slogans was: 500,000 unemployed - 400,000 Jews - the way out is very easy! Votes National Socialist .

Dictatorship, civil war and prohibition of the NSDAP

Engelbert Dollfuss (September 1933)

The Christian Socialists ruling since 1920, led by Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss since 1932 , were now threatened in their power not only by the SDAP. The former Federal Chancellor and Prelate Ignaz Seipel had already sought to establish a corporate state on the basis of Christian social teaching , in particular the encyclical " Rerum Novarum " (1891) and the encyclical " Quadragesimo anno " (1931) . The prerequisite for this was the abolition of parliamentarism . A crisis of rules of procedure in the National Council on March 4, 1933 (according to the government's reading of the government, the " self-elimination of parliament ") offered Dollfuss the welcome opportunity.

On May 20, 1933, the Fatherland Front (VF) was founded as a “non-partisan”, but Catholic-oriented and clearly anti-Marxist, political organization of all Austrians loyal to their fatherland . The KPÖ's ban followed on May 26th. On May 30, the Republican Protection Association was banned, and free thinkers also fell victim to the wave of bans. The NSDAP usually achieved less than 25% of the votes in municipal council elections, but provided more than 40% in the elections in Zwettl and Innsbruckfor unrest among the ruling VF. In addition, a wave of terrorism from Nazi supporters reached its climax when four people were killed and 48 injured in attacks in the first weeks of June 1933.

In the German Reich, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor by Reich President Paul von Hindenburg on January 30, 1933 (cf. “ Seizure of Power ”). The SDAP subsequently deleted the goal of merging with the now National Socialist German Reich from the party program. National Socialists, who had fled to Bavaria after their party was banned in Austria , founded the “ Austrian Legion” there". She was housed in her own camps and received military training. The terror carried out by NSDAP supporters in Austria was supported logistically, financially and materially from the neighboring country. As part of extensive agitation against Austria, the German government imposed the one-thousand-mark ban on June 1, 1933, after the Bavarian Justice Minister Hans Frank was expelled from Austria on May 15 for interfering in the country's internal affairs : German citizens now had to pay a fee of 1,000 Reichsmarks before starting a trip to Austria  ; a severe blow to tourism in Austria .

The Austrian NSDAP was banned on June 19, 1933. The triggering moment was an attack with hand grenades in Krems . The Nazi terror decreased in the following months, but there were still five dead and 52 injured by the end of the year.

The Federal Army during the Civil War in Vienna (February 1934)

On February 12, 1934, there was a momentous incident in Linz when members of the Heimwehr, deployed as auxiliary police, tried to break into a party home of the SDAP in order to look for weapons from the now banned Schutzbund. The armed conflict spread across the country and expanded into the civil war in February 1934 (social-democratic version) and the February uprising (government version). The police and the Heimwehr departments supporting them under the orders of the Heimwehr leader and Minister of the Interior Emil Fey were able to decide the fighting for themselves together with the armed forces until February 14th. The SDAP, all other social democratic organizations and trade unions were banned immediately, numerous arrests, the reintroduction of the death penalty and the crippling of the Constitutional Court by not filling vacant judge posts.

After the political opposition had been completely eliminated, the republic was transformed into the Austro-Fascist “corporate state”. On May 1, 1934, Dollfuss announced the authoritarian "May constitution ".

Attempted Nazi coup and growing German influence

Deployment of the Patriotic Front (1936)

From the beginning of 1934 another wave of terrorist attacks by the National Socialists rocked the country. The targets were no longer individuals as before, but primarily state institutions. In the first half of 1934, 17 people died and 171 were injured. On July 25, the National Socialists attempted a putsch under the leadership of SS Standard 89 (see July Putsch ). Around 150 members of this standard broke into the Federal Chancellery in Vienna, where Dollfuss was so badly injured by gunfire that he succumbed to his injuries a few hours later. Another group occupied the RAVAG building, the state broadcaster, and forced an announcement according to which the Dollfuss government resigned and Anton Rintelen was the new head of government. This false report was intended as a signal for a Nazi uprising in the federal states, which only partially took place. The coup was finally put down after some extremely bloody fighting.

In Styria and Carinthia, the fighting lasted until July 27 and 30, 1934, respectively. Members of the "Austrian Legion" tried to advance from Bavaria via the Mühlviertel to Linz , but were thrown back at the border near Kollerschlag . Several thousand supporters of the NSDAP were arrested, and up to 4,000 fled across the border into the German Reich and Yugoslavia. In Bavaria, many joined the “Austrian Legion” (or were incorporated into it), which was officially dissolved a little later, but actually only moved further north and renamed “Hilfswerk Nord-West”. Fascist Italy, protecting power and close ally of the regime in Vienna, relocated soldiers to the Austrian Brenner border during the days of the coup attempt in order to deter German troops from a possible invasion of Austria.

The German government declared that it had nothing to do with the attempted coup. She now proceeded to infiltrate the political system in Austria with confidants. The illegal NSDAP continued to be supported, but sympathizers who did not belong to the party were of increasing importance. These included, among others, the Greater German exponents Franz Langoth , the Vice Mayor of Innsbruck Walter Pembaur , Anton Reinthaller as well as Edmund Glaise-Horstenau , Taras Borodajkewycz and Arthur Seyß-Inquart .

Kurt Schuschnigg (probably October 1936)

Italy began on October 3, 1935 with the conquest of Abyssinia ( Abyssinia War ). After that, Mussolini was largely isolated internationally and came closer to Hitler. For the ruling Fatherland Front, this meant the loss of an important protective power. Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg , successor to the murdered Engelbert Dollfuss, now had to look for ways to improve relations with the German Reich. Like his predecessor, he wanted to preserve Austria's independence. For him, the country was the second and - due to its Catholic foundation - the better German state .

On July 11, 1936, Schuschnigg concluded the so-called July Agreement with the German government : imprisoned National Socialists were given amnesty (the NSDAP remained banned), and Nazi newspapers were permitted again. Schuschnigg also undertook to accept two of the National Socialists' representatives into the government: Edmund Glaise-Horstenau became Federal Minister for National Affairs and Guido Schmidt became State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry. Arthur Seyß-Inquart was accepted into the Council of State, an advisory body to the government. In return, the German Reich lifted the thousand-mark block. The infiltration of the Austro-Fascist corporate state by the National Socialists was further facilitated in 1937 by enabling them to join the Fatherland Front. "People's political units" were set up throughout Austria, some of which were headed by National Socialists and served as a legal camouflage for their reorganization.

From 1937 it became clear that the annexation of Austria from the German point of view was only a matter of time. On the first pages of his book " Mein Kampf " (1924/25), the native Austrian Hitler had already stated his demand that German Austria must return to the great German mother country . The "overthrow" of Austria and the Czech Republic , as the Czech Republic was called pejoratively at that time, was also part of his strategic planning, as recorded in the Hoßbach minutes of November 5, 1937.

Hermann Göring , after Hitler the “second man in the National Socialist state”, had already made several statements in this regard. On a wall in his hunting lodge Carinhall there was already a map of “Greater Germany” on which no border between Austria and Germany was drawn. For Göring, who was also responsible for economic policy in the German Reich, Austria had very attractive resources: German armaments policy had almost exhausted gold and foreign exchange reserves. In the vaults of the Oesterreichische Nationalbankhowever, there were still extensive stocks. In addition, Austria had important raw materials such as iron ore and crude oil and more than 500,000 unemployed people, including many skilled workers who could be employed in the armaments industry.

Franz von Papen , German ambassador in Vienna from 1936

Franz von Papen , the German ambassador in Vienna, arranged a meeting between Hitler and Schuschnigg on February 12, 1938 on Obersalzberg in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria . The German Chancellor openly threatened to invade Austria and forced Schuschnigg to adopt a series of measures to favor the Austrian National Socialists. The Berchtesgaden Agreement guaranteed free political activity for the NSDAP, which had been banned since 1933, and helped Arthur Seyß-Inquart to become Minister of the Interior on February 16, 1938 . The long-time supreme soldier of Austria, the chief of the general staff, also became Field Marshal Lieutenant Alfred Jansa retired, whose opposition to National Socialism was evident and who was an advocate of a military confrontation in the event of the invasion of the Wehrmacht ("Jansa Plan").

End of the corporate state

Despite the increasing influence of the German Empire on Austrian domestic and economic policy, Schuschnigg still wanted to keep Austria as a separate state. Without discussing this with Hitler or informing him, on March 9, 1938, four weeks after the meeting at Berghof , he announced that he would hold a referendum on the independence of Austria on the following Sunday, March 13, 1938. Hitler responded with mobilizationthe 8th Army planned for the invasion. Edmund Glaise-Horstenau, who was in Berlin at the time, brought Hitler's ultimatum from there, which Göring also confirmed in telephone calls with Schuschnigg. The German government demanded that the referendum be postponed or canceled. On the afternoon of March 11th, Schuschnigg agreed. Now Hitler also called for his resignation, which took place that same evening.

Incorporation into the German Empire

Arthur Seyß-Inquart and Adolf Hitler (1938)

The connection"

Transfer of power

After the resignation of Federal Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg , Federal President Wilhelm Miklas commissioned Arthur Seyß-Inquart with the formation of a new government on the same evening, as demanded by the German side, after an unsuccessful survey with Christian social politicians . From March 11th to 13th, 1938 he was head of government of Austria and had to complete the “Anschluss”, although he made the office of Federal Chancellor he had just assumed obsolete. He would have preferred Austria to be brought into line with Hitler as head of both states.

As early as March 11th, Austrian National Socialists, z. B. in Graz , the power, wherever security organs were already beginning to vacillate to whom they should dedicate their loyalty in the interest of their future career. The exponents of the corporate state left the field without resistance. In the opinion of many Austrian Nazi activists, they did not need troops to march in from Germany to take power.

Starting on the evening of March 11, the SA and SS arrested around 72,000 people in the following weeks, especially in Vienna , including politicians from the First Republic, intellectuals, functionaries of the corporate state and, above all, Jews. Most were from the Nazis as celebrities transport referred to in the Dachau concentration camp deported. Jewish associations were dissolved.

Arrival of Hitler and the German Wehrmacht

Civilians Greet the Invading Wehrmacht (March 13, 1938)

On the morning of March 12th, German troops and police officers, a total of around 65,000 men, some of whom were heavily armed, crossed the Austrian borders (cf. " Company Otto ") and were greeted with cheers by the population. In Vienna met at the airport Aspern the realm leader SS Heinrich Himmler one accompanied by SS and police officers to take over the Austrian police conduct. Where this has not yet happened, Austrian supporters of the NSDAP and members of the SS and SA occupied public buildings and offices.

On the evening of March 12th, Hitler and Seyss-Inquart met in Linz. Inspired by the jubilation of many Austrians, Hitler decided there to carry out “reunification” without the transition periods planned earlier. From the balcony of the Linz town hall, he announced the creation of the “Greater German Empire” . On the following day, March 13, 1938, the Seyss-Inquart government passed the “Law on the Reunification of Austria with the German Reich” in its second session. When Seyß-Inquart passed the connection law to Miklas, who was in office in the same building, today's Federal Chancellerysubmitted for signature, Miklas resigned and left it to Seyss-Inquart to sign the law as interim head of state. From March 15, 1938 to April 30, 1939, Seyß-Inquart was then Reichsstatthalter with the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer, head of the Austrian provincial government . His task was to dissolve the Austrian federal authorities and to integrate the administration into those of the German Empire.

Heldenplatz and "referendum"

Hitler's speech in Vienna on March 15, 1938

On March 15, Hitler, who had spent the previous two days in his birthplace Braunau am Inn , arrived in Vienna and gave his speech on Heldenplatz to the cheering of tens of thousands of people, in which he made the greatest enforcement report of his life: As Führer and Chancellor of the German nation and the Reich, I am now announcing the entry of my homeland into the German Reich before German history . The Upper Austrian Ernst Kaltenbrunner , sentenced to death and executed in the Nuremberg trial of the main war criminals in 1946, was promoted to SS Brigadführer and leader of the SS Upper Section Austria.

Ballot paper for voting on April 10, 1938

A “referendum” on the “Anschluss” that had already taken place was scheduled for April 10th . In the weeks after March 12th, the whole of Austria was covered with a previously unknown propaganda. Hitler himself, Joseph Goebbels , Hermann Göring , Rudolf Hess and other leading representatives of the National Socialist regime appeared at meticulously staged events and gave speeches. Even the press and radio ( RAVAG ), which were brought into line, had no other topic than the yes to the reunification of Austria with the German Reich . Prominent Austrians like Cardinal Theodor Innitzer, who signed a declaration by the bishops with Heil Hitler , and politicians, including the Social Democrat Karl Renner , campaigned for approval. According to official, highly questionable information, 99.73% in Austria and in the German Reich , the " Altreich ", 99.08% voted for the "Anschluss".

8% of those actually entitled to vote were excluded from the vote; around 200,000 Jews, around 177,000 “ mixed race ” and those previously arrested for political or “racial” reasons. The so-called “referendum” was therefore classified by outside observers as a Nazi propaganda instrument, in no way as a fair expression of the will of the Austrian people.

Spontaneous persecution of the Jews

Uniforms and civilians watch as Jewish Austrians are forced to clean sidewalks. Vienna (March / April 1938)

In many places, Jewish Austrians were victims of attacks and humiliation during these weeks . Many were robbed of their shops and apartments, which were then seized by those who had previously driven away with the help of the SA and fanatical private individuals. Jews were forced to put on their best clothes and then on their hands and knees in so-called rubbing areas with brushes to clean the sidewalk of pro-Schuschnigg slogans. The writer Carl Zuckmayer described these days of the follow-up pogrom in his autobiography (1966) as a nightmare painting by Hieronymus Bosch[...]. The air was filled with an incessant, harsh, hysterical screeching from the throats of men and women, which went on for days and nights. And all people lost their face, like distorted grimaces: some in fear, others in lies, others in wild, hate-filled triumph. [...] I experienced the first days of Nazi rule in Berlin. None of this could be compared to those days in Vienna. [...] What was unleashed here was the revolt of envy, resentment, bitterness, blind, malicious vengeance - and all other voices were condemned to silence.

However, according to Martin Haidinger and Günther Steinbach, the sudden outbreak of rampant violence on the streets of Vienna hungnot to do with the fact that there was a more radical anti-Semitism among Austrians or Viennese than among Germans. Rather, the cause lay in the specific Austrian history between 1934 and 1938, which - as in so many other phases before - differed significantly from German history. The four-year ban on the Nazi party and the imprisonment of many Nazi functionaries created special mentalities among the Austrian Nazis; In addition, people with connections to the underworld were able to develop particularly well during the prohibition period - after all, illegal activities are not for everyone. The sudden eruption of violence was also related to the hasty developments during the "Anschluss": the Austrian National Socialists knew on Friday, March 11, 1938,


The German Reich 1939

On March 18, Albert Hoffmann was installed as a so-called Stiko , whose task it was to carry out the ideological harmonization of clubs, organizations and associations. This also included the various chambers . For this purpose, their assets were determined, which represented the basis for the construction levy and the fee to cover the costs of the agency.

Josef Bürckel , previously Reich Commissioner for the "reorganization" of the Saar area , became "Reich Commissioner for the reunification of Austria with the German Reich" on April 23, 1938. As acting head of the NSDAP, he was also charged with reorganizing the party in Austria and, as Reich Commissioner, was responsible for the mass deportations of Austrian Jews.

With the entry into force of the " Law on the Development of Administration in the Ostmark " (Ostmarkgesetz) on May 1, 1939, the Austrian provincial government was dissolved, whereby the powers of Reichsstatthalter Seyß-Inquart were transferred to Reichskommissar Bürckel. The previous state governors were defined as Reichsstatthalter , the states Reichsgaue and the territorial changes. The implementation of the provisions of the Ostmark Act, i.e. the dissolution of all remaining Austrian administrative structures and their integration into those of the German Reich, was completed on March 31, 1940. Bürckel's duties as "Reich Commissioner for Reunification" were thus completed, and Baldur von Schirach followed him from 1940 until the end of the war in 1945as Reich Governor and Gauleiter of Vienna.


Swearing-in of recruits on Heldenplatz in Vienna (December 1938)

The armed forces offered no resistance on government orders when German troops marched into Austria.

The integration of the armed forces into the Wehrmacht was completed by March 29, the majority of the military, officers and soldiers, were taken over into the Wehrmacht by autumn 1938 (see also NS hierarchy ). Officers who refused to take the oath on Hitler were forced to retire. Austria was subsequently divided into the two military districts XVII (northern Austria, southern Czechoslovakia) with headquarters in Vienna and XVIII (southern Austria, northern Slovenia) with headquarters in Salzburg. The Austrian Army was incorporated into Army Group 5 and two-year military service was introduced.

The relatively low numerical weight of the former Austria within the so-called Greater German Reich corresponded to the fact that in only a few formations (presumably the majority of the mountain divisions ) the soldiers from the "Ostmark" made up a significant majority. In the course of the war, many Austrians were drafted into or transferred to units of the Wehrmacht in the "Old Reich". By contrast, they were clearly underrepresented in the Air Force and Navy . Only after the conquest of Norway ( enterprise Weserübungen ), in particular the city Narvik , with which the German empire itself the access to the ore deposits around Kirunasecured, the role of the "Ostmark" mountain troops (led by the Bavarian General Eduard Dietl ) was used for propaganda purposes.


The police were subordinated to the Reichsführer SS and chief of the German police in the Reich Ministry of the Interior , Heinrich Himmler , and their organizational structure was adjusted. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, as the leader of the Austrian SS, was entrusted with the processing of all police agendas and formed two departments, each headed by an inspector: on the one hand the uniformed police force ( protective police , gendarmerie and community enforcement police ) and on the other hand the security police ( secret state police and criminal police ). After the formation of the new Reichsgauetook Higher SS and Police Leader in the two "ostmärkischen" military districts XVII (Vienna) and XVIII (Salzburg), the functions of Kaltenbrunner.

The Vienna headquarters of the Secret State Police (Gestapo) was established on March 15, 1938 by Sipo and SD chief Reinhard Heydrich on behalf of Himmler. With 900 officials it was the largest Gestapo unit in Austria (2000 officers in total) and after the Secret State Police Office in Berlin it was also the largest Gestapo unit in the German Reich.

Lands as Reichsgaue

Structure of the Ostmark

Hitler initially replaced the name Austria, which he did not like, with "Ostmark", a translation for marcha orientalis , the medieval core region of later Austria (cf. Ostarrîchi ) , which had been widespread since the 19th century . From 1942 the name was, if it was deemed necessary to give the territories of the former Austria a comprehensive name, “ Danube and Alpine Reichsgaue ”. This was intended to erase any reference to the historical independence of the country, to which the designation "Ostmark" had indicated, and consequently from July 1942 a different designation was punished with severe punishment (under certain circumstances placement in a concentration camp).

When Josef Bürckel took up his post as "Reich Commissioner for the Reunification of Austria with the German Reich", he planned to reorganize the national territory into four districts instead of the nine federal states. The project failed not least because of objections from regional Nazi functionaries, who feared that such a step would not meet with understanding among the traditionally connected population and would damage the authority of the regime.

The Gaue of the NSDAP next to the Reichsgauen

The national territory, the previous federal states , was divided into Reichsgaue with the Ostmarkgesetz 1939 , which corresponded to the division of the Gaue of the NSDAP from May 31, 1938: Carinthia , Lower Danube (previously Lower Austria ), Upper Danube (previously Upper Austria ), Salzburg , Styria and Vienna . Vorarlberg was, though Vorarlberg Nazi officials a merger with Schwaben had preferred to Tyrol together for Gau Tirol Vorarlberg. Northern Burgenlandwas incorporated into the Reichsgau Niederdonau, the southern part of Styria. Tyrol had to cede the district of Lienz ( East Tyrol ) as the district of Lienz to Carinthia. This was also a signal to Mussolini that Hitler would not make any claims on South Tyrol . Furthermore, individual regions have also been reassigned. So the Styrian part of the Salzkammergut ( Ausseerland ) was added to the Upper Austrian "reunified" and the Upper Danube Gau, the Kleine Walsertal was incorporated into Swabia and the municipality of Jungholz Upper Bavaria.

With the signing of the Munich Agreement on September 30, 1938, the German-populated areas that had belonged to Czechoslovakia since 1918 were annexed to the German Reich. Initially, they were subordinate to their own Gauleiter as "order management" . With the "Law for the structure of the Sudeten German territories" of March 25, 1939, South Moravia ( Znaim and Nikolsburg ) was assigned to the Lower Danube district and the area around Krumau to the Upper Danube district.

In the course of the Balkan War and the occupation of Yugoslavia , parts of Slovenia were incorporated into the German Empire as provisional administrative areas in 1941 . The occupied areas of Carinthia and Carniola were connected to Gau Carinthia and Lower Styria to Gau Styria as CdZ areas .


The administrative structure was closely interwoven with the organization of the NSDAP. The seven Reichsgauen were each headed by Reichsstatthalter, who were subordinate to the Interior Minister in Berlin and who were also NSDAP Gauleiter who were subordinate to the central NSDAP leadership in Munich. The Reichsgaue were for the party in the whole of Greater Germany in circles, these in turn divided into local groups, cells and at the lowest level in blocks: the " Blockwarte " contributed significantly to the surveillance of the entire population. On October 1, 1938, the German municipal code was introduced in the areas of the former Austria , enforcing the Führer principleprovided at community level. (The congregations had already been organized undemocratically in the corporate state since 1934.)

Unlike in the " Altreich ", state and party functions in the "Ostmark" were always held in personal union. Prussia, Bavaria and Saxony, for example, were administered by (politically insignificant) NSDAP prime ministers and not by Reich governors (a reminiscence of the long statehood of these countries) and were far too large to form only one Reichsgau for the party. The disbanded Austrian states, on the other hand, were comparable in size to the German Reichsgaue, so the Reichsstatthalter was always also a Gauleiter here (and was also called that when he did not act for the NSDAP, but for the state).

Division of Burgenland

During the “Anschluss”, the Burgenland National Socialist Tobias Portschy took over the role of Governor. He campaigned against “foreign races”, especially “gypsies”; The " Gypsy detention camp Lackenbach " was set up in Burgenland . The direct involvement in specific persecution measures could not be proven to Portschy after 1945.

As planned in Berlin, Burgenland was dissolved as an independent administrative unit by Reich law on October 15, 1938. The cities of Eisenstadt and Rust and the districts of Eisenstadt, Mattersburg, Neusiedl am See and Oberpullendorf came to Lower Austria, known as Reichsgau Niederdonau from 1939 onwards . The districts of Oberwart, Jennersdorf and Güssing came to Styria, where Portschy then officiated as deputy Gauleiter.

In the last months of the war, attempts were made in the Burgenland region to erect the “ southeast wall ” against the Red Army advancing from Hungary . For this purpose, the local Nazi rulers used mainly forced laborers and Jewish concentration camp prisoners under grueling conditions . In March 1945, the Rechnitz massacre took place, in which local Nazi functionaries moved out after a feast with Margit von Batthyány at Rechnitz Castle and murdered 180 people a few hours before the arrival of the Soviet troops.

Greater Vienna

dark: Vienna until 1938
light: extensions to Greater Vienna from 1938
medium: remained with Vienna until today

The Carinthian Odilo Globocnik became the first Gauleiter and Reich Governor of Vienna . In 1939 he was transferred to Poland as SS and police leader (see " Aktion Reinhardt "); he was followed by Josef Bürckel , who in turn succeeded Baldur von Schirach in 1940 . Schirach held these positions until the end of the war in 1945.

By a party order of June 1, 1938, the city of Vienna was initially divided into nine (later ten) districts. 436 local groups were set up, comprising a total of 2,470 cells and 14,254 blocks. The on unterster level of the Nazi hierarchy to " block wardens subordinate block" "helpers" were responsible for an average of about 30 to 40 inhabitants.

On October 15, 1938, 97 surrounding municipalities were integrated into what was now the Reichsgau Vienna by Reich law, creating the districts XXII ( Groß-Enzersdorf ), XXIII ( Schwechat ), XXIV ( Mödling ), XXV ( Liesing ) and XXVI ( Klosterneuburg ) at the expense of Lower Austria . As a result, Greater Vienna with 1,224 km² became the largest city in the German Empire in terms of area.

Reinhard Heydrich , head of the security service , confiscated the Hotel Metropol on Franz-Josefs-Kai shortly after the "Anschluss" and set it up as the Gestapo headquarters . With about 900 employees led by officers from the "Altreich", the Gestapo office in Vienna had about as many employees as the Gestapo headquarters in Prague (these two offices were the largest in the Reich); Apparently the German leadership assessed the population of the "Donaugaue" not only as loyal and party-conform.

The "Jewish question" was in Vienna - edited from the moment the Nazi seizure of power "actionistically" to humiliate Jewish Vienna, often in spontaneous actions of the neighbors, the neighbors or - to the astonishment of many German who saw the issue sober mobs , who quickly gathered together. In the second phase, systematic robbery, expulsion and murder followed (see History of Vienna , History of the Jews in Austria ), combined with Adolf Eichmann's activity in Vienna. Of over 200,000 Jewish Viennese in 1938, only a few dozen could be found alive in Vienna in April 1945.

Vienna was bombed intensively in the last months of the war and was finally liberated by the Red Army in the “Battle of Vienna” in mid-April 1945. Theodor Körner became Vienna's first post-war mayor.

Among the structures and facilities that were erected between 1938 and 1945, the six flak towers built in 1942 until shortly before the end of the war , the Lobau oil port and the Albern grain port are the most visible evidence of those years. It is interesting that none of the six flak towers shot down an enemy aircraft.


In Carinthia , the takeover of power at all administrative levels, including all municipalities, was completed on March 12, 1938. The party organization was initially very strong in Carinthia, with 6.5% of the population of Austria, Carinthia made up 7.2% (1942: 6.53%) of the NSDAP members.

The Gau Carinthia was 1,938 in October Tyrol affiliated, 1941, the Mießtal and the Upper Carniola .

After the conquest of Yugoslavia in 1941 there were plans to relocate the Carinthian Slovenes , around 20,000 to 50,000 people, to the Lublin area . Due to the war, protests and increasing partisan activity, these plans were only partially implemented. In April 1942, 1075 Carinthian Slovenes were expelled from their farms and deported to the “Altreich” while their sons were “enlisted”, ie were serving in the Wehrmacht. The courts were to take over ethnic Germans resettled in the Reich .

The anti-Slovenian policy led to an increased influx of partisan movements. In April 1941 the Liberation Front / Osvobodilna Fronta (OF) was founded; its members mostly came from southern Carinthia and in this sparsely populated, very mountainous part of the country had the advantage of great local knowledge and secret support from those who lived there. The fight against partisans tied up many soldiers: in 1944/45 around 15,000 men were stationed in southern Carinthia.

Around 500 partisans were killed in action by the end of the war. This was the only continuous, organized and armed resistance in Austria against the Nazi dictatorship and thus an important contribution of Austria to its liberation, as demanded in the Moscow Declaration of the Allies in 1943 .

Another 2,400 Carinthians fell victim to Nazi persecution: disabled people, Jews, resistance fighters, Sinti and Roma. The Loibl concentration camp and the Klagenfurt-Lendorf subcamp were among the numerous satellite camps of the Mauthausen concentration camp . 62,000 prisoners of war and civilians had to do forced labor in Carinthia.

Especially Klagenfurt and the traffic junction Villach were targets of Allied air raids from 1944, Villach was the most heavily damaged city in Austria after Wiener Neustadt . Allied troops only reached Carinthia after the armistice, so that Carinthia was spared from heavy fighting.

On May 7, 1945, representatives of the democratic parties peacefully took over the administration from the Nazi rulers Gauleiter Friedrich Rainer and Gauhauptmann Meinrad Natmeßnig . On May 8th, British troops arrived in Klagenfurt, a few hours later also Yugoslav troops, who wanted to establish the connection of Carinthian areas to Yugoslavia. Under pressure from the British and Soviet authorities, they had to withdraw from Carinthia in May, and many Carinthians were abducted and killed by Yugoslav troops.

Lower Austria - Lower Danube

Gauleiter was Hugo jury . The administrative headquarters remained in Vienna, and Krems was elevated to the status of the “Gau capital”. While the municipalities surrounding Vienna were incorporated into the Reichsgau Wien , the northern part of Burgenland (cities Eisenstadt and Rust , districts Eisenstadt , Mattersburg , Neusiedl am See and Oberpullendorf ) became part of the Reichgau Niederdonau in October 1938 . On the basis of the Munich Agreement , the South Moravian , German-populated areas with the cities of Znojmo and Znojmo came in October 1938Nikolsburg to the Gau Niederdonau, so that it did not experience any losses overall.

To the east of the city of Schwechat , part of Vienna from 1938–1954, an Air Force airfield was created, from which Vienna Airport developed.

Around the community of Döllersheim in the Waldviertel , the birthplace of Hitler's grandfather, and 40 neighboring communities, an "Heeresguts district", the largest military training area in the German Reich, was created from 1941. The population was expelled and resettled (today Allentsteig military training area ). During the war, the area served as a collection point for combat units that were relocated to the eastern fronts, and a collection camp for booty and a prisoner of war camp were set up.

Due to the strategically favorable location, heavy industry (aircraft construction, etc.) important to the war effort was established along the thermal line and camps for forced laborers were set up in the last years of the war. In the final phase of the war, the Vienna Operation in 1945 was the last battle of the war in Lower Austria.

Upper Austria - Upper Danube

The Nibelungen Bridge in Linz, the "godfather city of the Führer"

On March 14, 1938 August Eigruber , previously Gauleiter of Upper Austria of the banned NSDAP, took over the post of governor . On April 12, 1940 he was sworn in as Reich Governor of the Reichsgau Upper Danube. The first deputy Gauleiter was Rudolf Lengauer from Schwanenstadt from March 18, 1938 . He was followed on May 23rd by Hans Eisenkolb , who was replaced by Christian Opdenhoff on May 7th, 1940 . As part of the Dachau processesEigruber was sentenced to death after the end of the war because of his responsibility for the crimes in Mauthausen concentration camp and executed on May 28, 1947. After Viktor Bentz's murder on March 15, 1938, SS-Untersturmführer Josef Plakolm became the Linz police director .

With the reorganization of Oberdonau into two city districts (Linz, Steyr ) and 13 administrative districts on November 1, 1938, the districts of Eferding and Urfahr-Umgebung were dissolved and Ebelsberg and St. Magdalena were incorporated into the capital. The communities Lichtenegg and Pernau became part of the city of Wels . The South Bohemian, German-populated areas came to the German Reich in October 1938 on the basis of the Munich Agreement and became part of the Upper Danube Gau.

The Mauthausen concentration camp east of Linz, which was fatal for a large number of inmates , was built a few weeks after the National Socialists came to power. Unlike the concentration camps in the “Altreich” or the extermination camps in Poland hidden deep in the forests, the Mauthausen concentration camp was built on a ridge, visible from afar, as a threatening demonstration of power by the regime. In 1943, the Ebensee concentration camp near the Traunsee was put into operation as a sub- camp . From 1940–1944 there was a notorious euthanasia facility in Hartheim Castle, west of Linz . In addition to Hitler, two other well-known Nazi criminals are connected to Upper Austria: Ernst Kaltenbrunner was born here, Adolf Eichmannlived here for 20 years. The two met at school in Linz and were later particularly zealous exponents of the Nazi killing machine.

Hermann Göring at the groundbreaking ceremony for the "Reichswerke" named after him (May 1938)
Linz - the "godfather city of the Führer"

Hitler attended secondary school in Linz from 1900 to 1903 while the family lived in Leonding near Linz. After dropping out of school, he lived with his mother for several years from 1905 - his father Alois had died in 1903 - in the city. During this time he began making sketches of buildings and drawing designs for various structures and even a redesign of the city.

In Hitler's plans, the city, which he described as the " godfather city of the Führer ", assumed a special place after he took office (see also the world capital Germania ). After the end of the war it was not only to be the place where he wanted to spend his retirement, but also to be fundamentally redesigned. He planned to develop it into a Danube metropolis that not only had no comparison with Vienna or Budapest (“ Deutsches Budapest“) Shy away, but should outflank these cities. In addition, a number of magnificent buildings, a boulevard and the largest art and picture gallery in the world were to be built there. Their holdings were to be brought together from the museums and collections of the entire German Reich and as part of the Linz special order as looted art in the conquered countries and through expropriation from primarily Jewish collectors. Hitler had plans and models of the city with him until the end in the Führerbunker , but neither the museum nor the boulevard were realized. During the war, the focus of investments was in the arms industry.

In addition to the representative buildings, Linz was also to be developed into a center of heavy industry. As early as May 4, 1938, the Reichswerke AG for ore mining and ironworks Hermann Göring for the production of iron and steel was founded; The groundbreaking ceremony by Hermann Göring followed on May 13th .

Evidence of Hitler's plans for Linz still visible today include the Nibelungen Bridge over the Danube, which he ordered to be built on May 13, 1938, as well as the striking bridgehead buildings that belonged to it between the bridge and the main square. The character of Linz as an industrial city also dates back to the time of National Socialism: with the establishment of the six square kilometer industrial plants of the Hermann Göring Werke (from 1946 VÖEST , today Voestalpine ) and the nitrogen works Ostmark (from 1946 Austrian nitrogen works , then Chemie Linz and today Agrolinz Melamine International) and residential complexes with around 10,000 apartments, mainly intended for workers in the new large industrial companies.


Heinrich Himmler and Karl Wolff in Salzburg (1938)

Two National Socialist authorities with supraregional importance were installed in Salzburg. The Salzburg Gauleiter had been Reich Defense Commissioner for Military District XVIII since September 1, 1939, and the leader of the SS upper section of the Alpine region was also the Higher SS and Police Leader .

The Catholic Church, traditionally firmly rooted in Salzburg, had to accept severe cuts in its power despite resistance and attempts to reach an agreement with the new rulers. As in all of Austria, the Catholic school system was banned and parts of the Church's property were confiscated.

The rebuilt Salzburg synagogue

From a cultural point of view, Salzburg should be freed from its “clerical and Jewish” character. On April 30, 1938, on the initiative of Karl Springenschmids , there was the only book burning in the "Ostmark" area on Residenzplatz. In 1938 the Jewish community in Salzburg numbered around 200 people, many of whom fled into exile or moved to Vienna after the Anschluss. The synagogue was destroyed during the November pogroms in 1938 (“Reichskristallnacht”), and Jewish-owned shops were devastated or expropriated. All male Jews in the city of Salzburg were arrested in the course of the riots. A little later, Gauleiter Friedrich Rainer announced that Salzburg was "free of Jews". The Salzburg Festivalwere continued during the years of Nazi rule, only in 1944 they were canceled by order of Joseph Goebbels , like all festivals in the German Reich, as a result of the attempted coup of July 20, 1944 . Due to the lack of important artists who had either been forced into exile or refused to participate, the festival lost its importance in these years.

On March 21, 1938, Hitler himself, very professionally staged, broke ground at Walserberg for the extension of the Reichsautobahn from Salzburg via Linz to Vienna (today the Westautobahn , A1). Of the announced 300 kilometers, only a symbolic 17 km to Eugendorf were planned and built , as there was a picturesque curve on this route, particularly suitable for propaganda photos.

The Allied bombing raids in 1944 and 1945 mainly affected the city of Salzburg (station district, city center) and the places Grödig , Hallein , Bischofshofen and Schwarzach im Pongau . The state capital was reached on May 4, 1945 by US troops and taken without a fight.


In Styria , especially in Graz , a number of large demonstrations and rallies by supporters of the NSDAP took place in the weeks leading up to March 12, 1938, especially from February 19 to 24. A change of power and “Anschluss” were called for, with violent attacks on political opponents. When the Schuschnigg regime showed signs of weakness on March 11, 1938, the Styrian National Socialists took power long before German troops arrived.

After Austria was incorporated into the German Empire, the Styrian raw material and industrial areas were quickly incorporated into the four-year plan. The ore deposits ( Eisenerzer Alpen , Erzberg) and the production facilities in the Mur-Mürz furrow were of particular importance . Prisoners of war and forced laborers were also used to work there. From 1700 in 1939 the number rose to 4514 forced laborers and 1871 prisoners of war who had to work on the Erzberg by 1944. The sick were brought to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Upper Austria, which was the “KL. Eisenerz “operation. As in Carinthia, around 80% of those who were used for forced labor in Styria came from Slovenia, the northern part of which became the CdZ area from 1941 Lower Styria was subordinate to the Reich Governor and Gauleiter of the NSDAP for the Gau Steiermark , Siegfried Uiberreither , and was to be Germanized.

From the dissolved Burgenland , the southern districts of Güssing , Jennersdorf and Oberwart were connected to the Reichsgau Steiermark in October 1938 .

In the last years of the war partisan groups formed around Leoben , Donawitz and in the area of ​​the Koralpe , some of which maintained contact with the Yugoslav partisans .

From 1944, Graz and the industrial regions were particularly affected by the Allied bombing raids.

Graz - the “city of popular uprising”
Already on February 24, 1938, before the “Anschluss” and while the NSDAP was still banned in Austria, Nazi supporters of Graz, with the consent of the mayor, managed to hang the swastika flag on the town hall City was named as the "stronghold of National Socialism". The students from Graz universities also took part in the marches and were in large numbers members of the SA and SS. They then welcomed the unification with the German Reich and suggested that the university should be renamed "Adolf Hitler University" . The universities of Graz were, in their understanding, the south-eastern outpost of German science, "pioneers of Germanism" and a "bulwark against the dangers from the east".

Immediately after the National Socialists came to power, representatives of the other parties were arrested and around 2,400 Graz residents, who were considered Jews under the Nuremberg Laws, were persecuted, robbed of their property, forced to emigrate or deported to Vienna. The ceremonial hall and synagogue were destroyed in November 1938. In March 1940, Styria was considered "Jew-free". On the occasion of a celebration on July 25, 1938, in which the Styrian National Socialists commemorated the putschists of 1934 with the motto “And you have won” , Hitler awarded the city the title “City of Popular Uprising”.

See also: History of Styria


North Tyrol and Vorarlberg were merged to form the Reichsgau Tirol-Vorarlberg in April 1938 . The party organization consisted of 10 districts, 335 local groups, 813 cells and 4821 blocks (as of 1940). Franz Hofer from Innsbruck was appointed Gauleiter and Reich Governor . It was based in the newly built "Gauhaus" in Innsbruck.

Before 1938, the Nazi ideology had hardly found any echo in the population, in which clerical anti-Semitism (e.g. Anderl von Rinn ) was deeply rooted. Even after the “Anschluss”, National Socialism was partly in opposition to the Tyrolean self-image and patriotism. The fact that East Tyrol was not attached to Gau Tirol-Vorarlberg but to Gau Carinthia was a concession made by Hitler to his ally Mussolini, but a disappointment for those Tyroleans who had expected the new rulers to unite with South Tyrol . The so-called “ option“, The resettlement agreement between the German Reich and Italy, resulted in around 70,000 South Tyroleans moving to North and East Tyrol from 1940, of which around 25,000 returned to their homeland after the end of the war.

The relationship between Vorarlberg and Tyroleans and the NSDAP changed over the years. In 1942 Tirol-Vorarlberg was the Austrian district with 70,348 party members with the highest number of NSDAP members in relation to the population.

After Italy left the war in September 1943, South Tyrol was defined as part of the military " Alpine Foreland operational zone " and placed under Gauleiter Hofer; the political unification of the parts of Tyrol was not completed.


All assets of the Austrian state passed to the German Reich. The considerable gold holdings of the Austrian National Bank, worth 2.7 billion schillings, or around 1.4 billion Reichsmarks , were transferred to Berlin. It was eighteen times the German currency reserves that Reichsbank President Hjalmar Schacht had made available to the government for consumption, up to 77 million Reichsmarks. The part of Austria's gold and foreign exchange reserves that was deposited with the Bank of England was handed over to Berlin without any problems by Governor Montagu Norman .

In the course of the introduction of the Reichsmark, the Austrian Schilling was exchanged at an exchange rate of 1.5 Schilling to 1  Reichsmark ; this in no way corresponded to the real value of the two currencies, but made it considerably easier for the German government and German companies to take over Austrian assets. The boards of directors of large companies, banks, insurance companies and other important companies were gradually filled with people loyal to the regime and, of course, had to be “full Arians”. Companies owned by Jewish Austrians were immediately placed under temporary administration and gradually expropriated, and Jewish managers were removed within a few hours.

The integration of the Austrian economy into the four-year plan of the German Reich began immediately after the "Anschluss" on March 12, 1938. Six of the state's 21 joint stock banks were liquidated, the five largest institutions from the “Old Reich” were incorporated, including the Österreichische Länderbank , Österreichisches Credit-Institut , Niederösterreichische Handels- und Gewerbebank and Girozentrale.

A considerable part of the Austrian companies went under political pressure and often with the support of the "brought back into the Reich" banks to German corporations, so that the share of German companies in the capital of Austrian stock corporations rose from 9% in 1938 to 57% before the end of the war. The incorporation of Austrian companies into German corporations often took place amid considerable power struggles. Examples are the struggle for control of Creditanstalt-Bankverein (CA-BV) among the opponents Deutsches Reich, Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank and the struggle for control of Alpine Montan AG between VESTAG and Hermann-Göring-Werken.

Other companies that were sold, leased to German groups or managed by them as "hostile property" included: Austria Email , the Bleiberger Bergwerks-Union , Böhler , Borregaard in Hallein, Harlander , Hofherr-Schrantz , Leykam-Druck , ÖAF , ÖAMAG , Perlmooser Zement ( Kaltenleutgabe ), Treibacher Chemische Werke , Veitscher Magnesitwerke and Waagner-Biro .

For many Austrians, the reorganization and reorientation of the economy initially meant an improvement in the previously precarious situation. New jobs were created primarily in agriculture and industry, including in major projects such as the “Hermann-Göring-Werken” near Linz (today voestalpine ) and in the Linz shipyard (today ÖSWAG , founded on June 24, 1938 as the first armaments company in Upper Austria). The often mentioned motorway construction and also the construction of the Kaprun power plantIn this regard, however, played no role, the former because of the few kilometers built just for groundbreaking propaganda and film and photo shoots near Salzburg, and Kaprun, because the activities there never went beyond the taking of rock samples and the beginning of setting up the construction site.

The systematic exclusion of Jewish citizens from economic life and from the public service was also essential in creating jobs. Within a year of the “Anschluss” there was practically no more unemployment. In addition to the employees in the country itself, around 100,000 workers, mainly skilled workers, were ordered to the "Old Reich". Young men were initially called up for the Reich Labor Service and left as job seekers for some time. At the beginning of the war they were drafted into the Wehrmacht, girls had to help out in agriculture as part of the BDM activities.

The fact that the economic measures corresponded to the plans for military rearmament mostly did not arouse any surprise among people who noticed - on the contrary, the "Shame of Versailles" (meaning the Treaty of Versailles 1919) had long restricted Germany's self-confidence. Critics of the rearmament were treated by the secret police and criminalized; their opinion never reached the (manipulated) public. Hitler's specific war plans were known only to a very few initiates.


In terms of architecture, the NS administration pursued a style that had little to do with the “blood and soil philosophy” of other areas of art. Architects who had built in Austria before 1938, such as Josef Hoffmann , were often still in business; buildings built back then are hardly noticeable today. The building was built in a functional style with elements of the local architecture. Examples are the two bridgehead structures on the Nibelungen Bridge in Linz and the SS barracks in the pheasant garden of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, now known as the Maria Theresa barracks . In terms of residential construction, the South Tyrolean settlements are for the then Optanten from South Tyrolto be found throughout Austria. Projects classified as “gigantomania”, as Hitler loved them, such as the Führerbauten in Linz or the extension of Vienna's Ringstrasse to the Danube to create a huge parade ground, were not carried out because of the war.

As the bombing war approached, six flak towers were erected in Vienna as functional military buildings . After the war, clad in marble, they should have served as monumental war memorials. In the last few decades, they have been discussed again and again for various uses.


Like all social groups, the opera, operetta and concert halls were also subject to the requirements of the Nazi dictatorship. Political events were often held directly in the large buildings. There were also works of art that directly related to political developments and celebrated them. One example is Franz Schmidt's : German Resurrection. A festive song (1938/1939), which was premiered on April 24, 1940 in the Wiener Musikverein and describes the situation in Austria before and during the unification with the German Reich.

State crimes


Immediately after March 11, a wave of "wild Aryanizations" set in throughout Austria. Businesses of Austrian Jews were looted by spontaneously formed “requisitioning commands” consisting of civilians with swastika armbands and members of the SA. Companies and apartments were withdrawn from their owners on flimsy grounds or simply taken over after the Jewish owners had been evicted. These encroachments reached such proportions that the Reich government finally explicitly sought to prevent this approach and only permitted expropriations in accordance with the law. It made no difference to the victims. The following state-organized confiscations and forced sales at minimal prices, which were deposited in blocked accounts inaccessible to the owner, ensured that Jewish Austrians and opponents of the regime were robbed without gaps, that the regime benefited from the robbery and that the state could intervene in particular where there was a supra-regional influence economically significant company went.

In the course of " Aryanizations ", around 1,700 vehicles were confiscated by August 10, 1938 and around 44,000 apartments by May 1939. Mobile property, from household items to works of art, was freely sold or auctioned through auction houses. The Dorotheum played a leading role in what is now the "Ostmark"inside. Particularly valuable items, such as works of art, were mostly given to museums or universities, but it was not uncommon for them to be bought cheaply from private individuals close to the Nazi regime or from functionaries of the regime. The Vienna Jewish Community was forced to pay half a million Reichsmarks as an “atonement” for supporting the referendum planned by Schuschnigg. Like all proceeds of the “Aryanization”, this sum was immediately transferred to Berlin.

Under enormous financial burdens, many fled to those countries that were ready to accept Jews or politically persecuted people. The National Socialist regime earned money from this flight by collecting the “ Reich Flight Tax” (25% of the reported assets), the “ Emigration Tax” and the “Social Compensation Tax” from the emigrants and forcing them to “Aryanize” their other assets. In the Völkischer Beobachter , the party organ of the NSDAP, it was said with the words Der Jew must go - his Gerstl stays there! commented ("Gerstl" is colloquially for money). In the case of wealthy citizens of Jewish descent who were themselves non-believers, the deprivation of property was partly also carried out through the so-called Gildemeester campaign . With celebrities, such as B. the Rothschild family , there was blackmail with hostage taking.

The country's economic structure has been fundamentally transformed. For example, if there were 157 pharmacies in Austria in 1938 that were run by Jews, in February 1939 only three were left; all the others had been "Aryanized" within less than a year. The Herzmansky department store and the Gerngross department store in Vienna's Mariahilfer Strasse, two of the largest department stores in Austria at the time, were expropriated as well as numerous businesses and companies and handed over to non-Jewish shareholders. By 1940, 18,800 of the 25,440 Jewish-owned companies in 1938 had been liquidated. Banks are not included in these figures. Of the 100 or so private banks that were considered to be owned by Jews, eight were “Aryanized” and all the others were taken over, closed and dissolved by temporary administrators. The assets flowed directly to the regime or related companies.

Persecution and assassination

Swearing in of the Austrian police on Adolf Hitler by Heinrich Himmler, March 16, 1938

Political opponents, intellectuals and artists

The persecution of political opponents, like that of Jews , began immediately after the "Anschluss". Within a few weeks around 60,000 people were arrested and mainly deported to the Dachau concentration camp . The police, now subordinate to Heinrich Himmler , had been integrated into the German police apparatus; all documents of the Austro-Fascist regime were available to the authorities. Therefore, it was easy for the new rulers to become exponents of the communists and the social democrats (see Revolutionary Socialists of Austria), who had been banned and persecuted as parties since 1934, and detained for a few days to a few years. In addition to these groups, representatives and functionaries of the corporate state regime from 1934–1938, which the NSDAP had banned in Austria and forced the National Socialists into illegality, were rigorously persecuted. To a lesser extent, outspoken Christian Democrats and monarchists have also been the target of persecution.

Among the first to be brought to Dachau were Leopold Figl , Richard Schmitz and Alfons Gorbach , who had belonged to the Patriotic Front. Well-known Social Democrats among those arrested were Robert Danneberg ( murdered in Auschwitz in 1942 ), Franz Olah , Käthe Leichter (murdered in Ravensbrück) and Karl Seitz . Even Franz Koritschoner , a leading Communist Party officials of the First Republic, who had emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1929, was killed after his expulsion from the Soviet Union in the concentration camp Auschwitz.

The exhibition " Degenerate Art " in Salzburg (1938)

Artists and scientists were persecuted or at least severely restricted in their work by the National Socialist regime if they did not correspond to its ideology. Austrian authors, including Franz Werfel , Sigmund Freud , Egon Erwin Kisch , Arthur Schnitzler and Stefan Zweig, were also affected by the book burning in Germany in 1933 . After the “Anschluss”, politically and ideologically undesirable artists and intellectuals of Jewish descent were deported in large numbers. The most famous victims include the actor Paul Morgan (murdered in 1938 in Buchenwald concentration camp), the playwright Jura Soyfer (1939 in Buchenwald), the cabaret artist Fritz Grünbaum (1941 in the Dachau concentration camp ) and the librettist Fritz Löhner-Beda (1942 in the Auschwitz concentration camp ). The “non-Jew” Robert Stolz emigrated of his own accord. Anyone who happened not to be in Austria during the subsequent days, like Friedrich Torberg , did not return to the country to avoid persecution. The first safe country, even when fleeing across the green border, was often Czechoslovakia . Egon Friedell died by suicide.

Viktor Frankl survived more than two years of imprisonment ( Theresienstadt ghetto , Auschwitz concentration camp, 9 concentration camp near Türkheim ) before he was liberated by the US Army on April 27, 1945. His father died in Theresienstadt, his mother in Auschwitz and his wife in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp . Under the impression of the experienced, he later wrote the book ... Say yes to life anyway. A psychologist experienced the concentration camp , in which, despite the horror and dehumanization experienced in the camps, he came to the conclusion that reconciliation, not retribution, would be the only effective form of coming to terms with it - one that is respected by many, but also much criticized view.

See also: Degenerate Music , List of Forbidden Authors During the National Socialism


Raid by the SS in the building of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde in Vienna immediately after the “Anschluss” in March 1938

Anti - Semitic agitation had existed in Austria long before the “Anschluss”. Hitler himself, who moved to Vienna in 1909 at the age of 20 and got to know the writings of the racial ideologist and anti-Semite Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels and the anti-Semitic polemics of politicians such as Georg Ritter von Schönerer ( Pan-German Association ) and the Mayor of Vienna Karl Lueger shaped by this milieu. After the First World War, representatives of both political parties and the Catholic Church came out against Jews and Judaism . In 1925, for example, Bishop Sigismund Waitz warned(Innsbruck) before the global danger of greedy, usurious, infidel Judaism, whose power has increased tremendously. The Christian Social Party partly openly used anti-Semitic clichés in the election campaign. In the course of the global economic crisis from 1929 onwards, there was repeated talk of Jewish “raffling” (speculative) capital as opposed to non-Jewish “creative” capital. The Austrofascism from 1934 urged Jews in the organization of the Catholic " corporate state " to the edge of society (see, clerical fascism ). Don't buy from Jews was a well-known slogan even before the country was incorporated into the National Socialist German Reich, but at that time it was hardly effective.

Memorial plaque of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Vienna ,
Mauthausen Memorial

The Nuremberg Laws came into force in Austria on May 20, 1938. At the time of the “Anschluss”, after some had already emigrated, there were 201,000 to 214,000 people living in Austria who, according to these laws, were considered to be “full, half, quarter, and eighth Jews” (more than 180,000 of them in Vienna). In the months after the “Anschluss”, these people had to move to Vienna from all parts of Austria. The robbery (see this section) began. Egon Friedell , who wrote to Ödön von Horváth on March 11, 1938 : In any case, I am always ready to travel in every sense, took his own life by jumping out the window five days later when Gestapo officers tried to pick him up. Many other persecuted people also committed suicide.

During the November pogroms ("Reichskristallnacht"), the SA in rural areas and the SS in the cities were ordered by Joseph Goebbels in the whole empire, including Vienna, Klagenfurt, Linz, Graz, Salzburg, Innsbruck and several places in Lower Austria Organized spontaneous looking terror and committed acts of violence against Jews and Jewish institutions. 27 people were killed, including Richard Berger , the head of Innsbruck's religious community . About 6,500 Jews were arrested, half of whom were deported to concentration camps , mainly to Dachau. Almost all synagogues were set on fire and the ruins torn down. The fromJoseph Kornhäusel built the city ​​temple in Vienna 1., Seitenstettengasse, remained externally undamaged, as arson was out of the question because of the surrounding houses.

One year after the “Anschluss” there were still around 91,000 so-called “full Jews” and 22,000 “mixed race” living in Vienna. From 1940 remaining in the "Ostmark" Jews in large numbers in the were Terezin concentration camp or one of the ghettos in occupied Poland deported . Baldur von Schirach, as Gauleiter of Vienna responsible for it, described this as his contribution to European culture . The Shoah killed around 65,500 Jewish Austrians.


According to the National Socialist racial ideology,Gypsies ” were considered an undesirable ethnic group comparable to the Jews. In 1939 Adolf Eichmann suggested that the "Gypsy question" should be resolved at the same time as the "Jewish question".

In Burgenland , the “ Gypsy detention camp Lackenbach ” was built for the Burgenland Roma . The detainees had to do forced labor . At the beginning of November 1941, 5007 Roma were deported in cattle wagons from the Reichsgauen Niederdonau and Styria to the Litzmannstadt ghetto in Łódź . Almost all of them belonged to the Burgenland Roma group, more than half of them were children. Around 2000 “gypsies” were selected from those interned in the Lackenbach camp, the remaining 3015 came from the Styrian Gau: in 2011 from the Oberwart district (they were transported from the Pinkafeld collection camp), 1004 from the remaining Gau districts (removal from the Fürstenfeld collection camp ). The respective district administrators were responsible for the selection. The survivors of the rapidly spreading typhus were asphyxiated in gas vans in January 1942 in the Kulmhof (Chelmno) extermination camp, which had now been installed . Not a single one of the Roma deported to Łódź survived.

Of the approximately 11,000 Roma in the "Ostmark", around 86% were murdered.

Bible Students

Jehovah's Witnesses , Quakers, and other smaller religious groups grouped together as Bible Students were persecuted and their followers deported to concentration camps. Many, especially Jehovah's Witnesses, have been convicted of conscientious objection and several hundred children have been taken away from their custody.


Members of the large religious communities ( Roman Catholic , Protestant ) remained largely unmolested during the Nazi era . On the other hand, those priests who openly spoke out against the regime, who participated in the resistance or who hid the persecuted in rectories were at risk. Even the Prince-Bishop of Seckau , Ferdinand Stanislaus Pawlikowski , known for his negative attitude towards National Socialism , became the only bishop in the “ Greater German Reich ” after the occupationarrested and only released after intervention by the Vatican. Between 1938 and 1945 a total of 724 Austrian priests were arrested, 20 of whom died in custody or were sentenced to death and executed. More than 300 priests were expelled from the country and over 1,500 priests were banned from preaching and teaching.

The Catholic Church was severely restricted in its activities, particularly in the field of youth work. Church schools were closed and pastoral care for young people was banned. There are also a number of monasteries ( Admont , Altenburg , St. Florian , Göttweig , Klosterneuburg , Kremsmünster , Lambach , St. Lambrecht , Stams , Wilhering , St. Paul Abbey in Lavanttal)) was lifted and their properties confiscated. 188 other male and female monasteries were closed, over 1,400 Catholic private schools, homes and educational institutions were closed, church assets were confiscated, and the religious fund (established by Emperor Joseph II from the assets of abolished monasteries to finance newly created parishes) was dissolved. The Augustinian monastery of Klosterneuburg was turned into an Adolf Hitler school.

Over 6000 church associations, works and foundations were banned. The Catholic registry papers and finally the church newspapers were discontinued. The “Catholic German Reich Soldiers Association”, which emerged from the Marian Soldiers Congregation founded by the then military bishop Pawlikowski (peak in 1935: approx. 7,000 members), was dissolved on March 13, 1938, the chairman of this lay organization, Major Franz Heckenast , was replaced by arrested by the National Socialists in 1938 and died in Buchenwald concentration camp .

The Evangelical Church in Austria, which had already had a German national character, welcomed the “Anschluss” without reservation and had hardly any problems with the Nazi regime.


Homosexuals were viewed by the National Socialists as "anti-social", which is why they too were persecuted and deported to concentration camps, where they had to wear the pink triangle . In contrast to the "Altreich", where homosexuality between men was prosecuted according to § 175 RStG, according to § 129 Paragraph 1 lit. b StG also banned homosexuality between women. This provision remained in force after the “Anschluss”; That is why lesbian women were imprisoned in the “Ostmark” .

See also: Homosexuality in the time of National Socialism

Disabled person

As also not conforming to the ideology of the “pure, Aryan , Germanic master race ”, physically and mentally handicapped people were victims of the “ destruction of life unworthy of life ”. In a program euphemistically referred to as euthanasia ( Greek for a good, easy death ), Aktion T4 , they were murdered in specially set up killing centers such as Hartheim Castle in Upper Austria using fatal "medical experiments" (for example Am Spiegelgrund in Vienna, where the doctor Heinrich Gross (1915-2005) worked).

Concentration camps and killing centers

Prisoners of the Ebensee camp after the liberation
Mauthausen Memorial (2002)

The largest concentration camp in Austria was the Mauthausen concentration camp east of Linz. It was part of the "double bearing system Mauthausen / Gusen " and included a total of 49 sub-bearing ( KZ-side bearing Bretstein , Redl-Zipf , Steyr-Münichholz subcamp , KZ Ebensee u. A.). In August 1938, six months after the “Anschluss”, it was used by the SS as a branch of the Dachau concentration campfounded. From March 1939 it was expanded into an independent camp. The inmates had to do the most difficult work under inhumane conditions, in which their death was accepted at any time, unless it was brought about on purpose.

On February 2, 1945, around 500 prisoners, mostly Soviet officers, tried to escape from the Mauthausen concentration camp. The majority died in the hail of bullets from the guards while trying to escape. Only about 150 of them managed to reach the surrounding forests. This was followed by a three-week search operation, referred to by the SS as the " Mühlviertler Hasenjagd ". Only a few weeks before the end of the war, in addition to the SS, SA, Gendarmerie, Wehrmacht, Volkssturm and Hitler Youth, parts of the incited civilian population in the area took part. If refugee concentration camp inmates were discovered, they were usually shot or killed on the spot. The camp manager had ordered no one to be brought back to the camp alive. Only 11 Soviet officers are known to have survived, thanks in part to the help of individual civilians.

By the end of the war, around 200,000 people from more than 30 nations were deported to Mauthausen and its sub-camps; around 100,000 were murdered or died in the course of the "labor deployment".

Since November 23, 1940 Roma were imprisoned in the " Gypsy detention camp Lackenbach " (Burgenland). From there, the inmates were to be taken to extermination camps in Poland or other concentration camps. During the detention in the detention center , they had to do forced labor. Of the total of around 4,000 prisoners, more than 3,000 were killed in Lackenbach or one of the camps to which they were taken from there.

In addition to the concentration camps, there were also killing centers such as the one in Hartheim Castle , where a total of around 30,000 people with disabilities, the elderly or the sick were murdered in a gas chamber as part of “ Aktion T4 ” and “ Special treatment 14f13 ”. Terms such as German haters , communists and Polish fanatics were also entered in the medical records . People also died in Austrian hospitals as part of Nazi medicine. On Spiegelgrund alone , part of the hospital complex on Baumgartner Höhe in Vienna, around 700 children, some of them mentally handicapped, were murdered.

"Foreign workers" and forced labor

In the winter of 1939/1940, due to the conscription to the Wehrmacht and the intensive armaments production, a greater shortage of workers became noticeable. Poles, Czechs and, through intergovernmental agreements, Slovaks, Italians and Yugoslavs were employed as so-called “foreign workers” in agriculture.

After the occupation of Poland, prisoners of war were also committed to forced labor for the first time . On March 31, 1941, a list showed a total of 96,999 prisoners of war who were used in military districts XVII and XVIII, the territory of Austria, as forced labor, mostly for the construction of industrial plants and in agriculture and forestry. Men, women and young people over the age of 15 were arbitrarily picked up in the occupied territories and taken away for forced labor. The communities were obliged to provide a fixed number of workers each; if they did not do this, farmsteads or entire villages were burned down.

In his Poznan speech on October 4, 1943, Heinrich Himmler stated in front of SS leaders: How the Russians are doing, how the Czechs are doing, I don't care at all. […] Whether the other peoples live in prosperity or whether they perish from hunger, that interests me only insofar as we need them as slaves for our culture […] .

The living and working conditions of foreign workers and prisoners of war were, according to the National Socialist racial ideology, heavily dependent on their origin. "Western workers" (French, Italians, Belgians, Dutch) were treated better than those from Hungary and Southeastern Europe. Workers from Poland, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and the Soviet Union were at the bottom of the hierarchy. They received the lowest food rations, the worst housing and were most shielded from any contact with the local population.

Austrians as perpetrators

Adolf Hitler , born in Braunau am Inn and raised in various places in Upper Austria, regarded Austria as his, even though he served on the German side in World War I, renounced citizenship in 1925 and had been a citizen of the German Reich since February 26, 1932 (unloved) home; however, Austria was not a state for him, but part of the entire German Empire.

The extent to which the population in the “Ostmark” or “Altreich” was permeated by the racist ideology of the National Socialists or how much they accepted it is still the subject of research. For example, while the American sociologist and political scientist Daniel Goldhagen described the population of the German Reich as “Hitler's willing executors”, Ella Lingens from Vienna, who worked in the resistance, put on the other handIt was important to note that passive and active resistance was quite widespread. The opposition to the ruling regime was made more difficult by its efficient administrative and monitoring structure and the brutal sanctioning of even the slightest deviation from the party line. Even a critical sentence about the situation of the food supply could lead to admission to a concentration camp and thus to death. But even someone who "overheard" such a statement, i.e. did not report it, already risked his life and u. U. that of his close relatives.

In the population are xenophobic and racist attitudes ( anti-Semitism , anti-Gypsyism , anti-Slavism ) and the "traditional" enemies (France as opponents in previous wars, the " Bolsheviks " u. A.) Is widely used, so that the Nazi propaganda here while strengthening and radicalizing worked , but was able to build on already existing resentments and attitudes for many. In the First Republic, social democracy was defeated by political opponents with “ Jewish Bolshevism" connected; the corporate state disadvantaged Jewish Austrians from 1934–1938. In 1938 there were also economic interests such as the prospect of taking over apartments, shops or companies from " enemies of the people " reported to the authorities . The denunciation of “ pests of the people ”, for example people who sheltered the persecuted or helped them escape, was often not so ideologically motivated as it was linked to the prospect of personal enrichment.

Eight (out of a total of 75) concentration camp commanders , 40% of the concentration camp overseers, 14% of the SS members and 70 to 80% of Eichmann's 15-strong staff were Austrians (with a population of 8%). Eichmann, who was born in Germany but grew up in Austria, made use of the ropes he was known for from Vienna times, because as a non-academic he was partially cut by his colleagues from the "Altreich".

An above-average number of Austrians took part in SS Einsatzgruppen in the mass shootings of Jews and other civilians in the rear area of ​​the Eastern Front. The contemporary historian Bertrand Perz, however, considers the 40% share of Austrians in the concentration camp personnel to be exaggerated and assumes around 13 to 20 percent. Since them in light of the kuk was attributed monarchy "Ostkompetenz", they were often used in the east of the German dominion: the concentration camp Treblinka was successively from Irmfried Eberl and Franz Stangl conducted, the concentration camp Sobibor from Franz Reichleitnerand again Franz Stangl. The commanders of the Theresienstadt concentration camp were the Austrians Anton Burger , Karl Rahm and Siegfried Seidl . Amon Göth ("The Butcher of Plaszow") headed the Plaszow concentration camp , Herbert Andorfer the Sajmište concentration camp (Belgrade).

The following Austrians, among others, were also known as perpetrators, from Gestapo officials to doctors participating in "euthanasia" programs to those who were significantly involved in the planning and implementation of the Holocaust:

Ernst Kaltenbrunner as a defendant during the Nuremberg trial of the main war criminals


In Austria, around 2,700 active members of the Nazi judiciary fell victim to the resistance, were convicted and executed for their activities. About 10,000 were murdered in Gestapo prisons. In Vienna Regional Court 600 resistance fighters were the 1938-1945 guillotine (see also executioner Johann realm-hard ) executed, others on the execution site Kagran . The decapitated corpses were then transferred to the Anatomical Institute of the University of Vienna, and later the body parts were placed in shaft graves in the Vienna Central Cemeteryburied in secret. In Graz, too, from August 1943, people who resisted the Nazi dictatorship were murdered with a guillotine. Regarding the motivation and dignity of the resistance fighters, the words in the farewell letter of the Tyrolean Walter Caldonazzi before his execution are often quoted: "We don't die as criminals, but as Austrians who loved their homeland and as opponents of this war, this genocide."

The documentation archive of the Austrian resistance estimates the total number of Austrians involved in the resistance at 100,000. The Austrian resistance had to act in isolation without the support of a government in exile. With the exception of the Communists, who were led from Moscow, the resistance groups were largely on their own. A fundamental peculiarity of the Austrian resistance is that the party-political fragmentation typical of Austria also extends deep into the resistance and exile organizations and the attempt at loose, non-partisan leadership (Provisional Austrian National Committee, O5) formed. In addition to these individual groups, members of loose connections such as the Austrian Action , there was also individual resistance. What most of the groups had in common was that the Gestapo succeeded in enforcing them through agents such as Otto Hartmann, Kurt Koppel, Hans Pav or Eduard Korbel. The plans of the resistance group around Karl Burian to blow up the Gestapo headquarters in Vienna are an attempt to even take offensive action against the Gestapo itself . The only broad public protest against National Socialism was the demonstration by 6,000 Catholic youths on October 7, 1938 in front of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna.

Social Democrats and Communists

Social democrats and communists had to act “illegally” as early as 1934 during the time of Austrofascism , as their parties were banned; many of them had been detained for some time. But they had intact underground organizations. After the “Anschluss” of Austria and the first waves of arrests, they dissolved the central structures and in 1940/1941 organized themselves into small local groups that had little contact with one another in order to make persecution more difficult. A communist slogan at that time was: You are now the party . Attempts to set up a central line led to the uncovering of communist structures by the secret agents smuggled in by the Gestapo.

Railway workers and industrial workers carried out acts of sabotage again. There were also various small groups in the tradition of Leon Trotsky, which the Gestapo called the "Czech section of the KPÖ", were anarchist influenced or were formed by former Spanish fighters. Compared to the massive resistance of the communists, the socialist resistance turned out to be quite weak. While the KP "burned" their cadres and thus lost the most active employees, the SP cadres went into hiding and kept quiet. One explanation lies in the large German attitude of the Social Democrats, which only later gave way to a delicate Austrian patriotism. Nevertheless, as early as 1938, many members of the Revolutionary Socialists and Socialist Workers' Aid were persecuted, exposed and arrested.Robert Danneberg .

Roman Catholic Church
In memory of the nun Maria Restituta , who was executed in 1943 for “favoring the enemy and preparing for high treason”

The leading exponents of the Roman Catholic Church , who had been closely linked to the Austro-Fascist regime in 1934–1938 and whose bishops had advocated the “Anschluss”, soon saw that the hoped-for coexistence with the National Socialist rulers was not mutually exclusive would meet. The influence of the church was severely restricted: Church schools were closed and religious instruction became an optional subject, instead of which pupils in the Hitler Youth were to be active; they were no longer financed by the religious funds confiscated by the Nazi state , but by newly introduced church contributionsof the members, marriages in the registry office became compulsory (see Marriage Act (Austria) ) and judicial divorces were introduced for Catholics as well.

On October 7, 1938, a Friday of the Sacred Heart of Jesus , Cardinal Theodor Innitzer called young people to a devotion for the Rosary Festival in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna . About 6000 mostly young Catholics followed the call and answered Innitzer's sermon, in which he stated only one is your leader: Jesus Christ , with an ovation. After the prayer, many of those present gathered in front of the Archbishop's Palace next to the cathedral and shouted: We want to see our bishop. State and party responded to the unexpected rallies with numerous arrests; the next day, members of the Hitler Youth stormed and devastated the palace, the police looked on inactive. On October 13th, Gauleiter Josef Bürckel gave a speech against politicizing clergy in front of more than 200,000 demonstration participants on Heldenplatz . The rally participants showed banners with slogans like priests on the gallows and Innitzer and Jud, a brood .

From then on, the church leadership largely avoided open confrontations with those in power. No public protest was raised against the deportation of the Jewish population, but the bishops spoke out clearly against the killing of the physically or mentally handicapped . While bishops only denounced the murder of “people of foreign races and origins” in a pastoral letter on June 19, 1943 and stood up “for the innocent people”, simple priests such as Marcel Callo , Johann Gruber , Konrad Just , Hermann Kagerer , Carl performed Lampert , Andreas Rieser , Matthias Spanlang andJohann Steinbock faced considerable resistance much earlier. Christian lay people and individual priests supported the persecuted and hid them in church buildings. Resistance to the fascist regime could also be refusal to oath the oath (e.g. Franz Reinisch ), individual acts of resistance ("anti-subversive" statements, "broadcast crimes" etc.), the prevention of National Socialist propaganda in religious instruction as by Josef Steinkelderer, spontaneous protests against anti-church measures and the formation of resistance groups (see e.g. the group around Heinrich Maier) be. Priests, their services and community events were therefore monitored by the Gestapo. But there were also priests, like Alois Knecht from Vorarlberg, who began his Sunday sermon on September 17, 1939 with the words "The war is the greatest evil that can hit mankind, and yet we have another war" and therefore for Was sent to a concentration camp for five years, denounced by members of the parish.

The Viennese chaplain Heinrich Maier founded the resistance group Maier-Messner-Caldonazzi with the Tyrolean Walter Caldonazzi and Franz Josef Messner , the general director of the Semperit-Werke . This Catholic-Conservative group, which also includes Andreas Hoferbelonged to, was later described as "perhaps the most spectacular individual group of the Austrian resistance" and had a high political-military status. The aim of the group was to bring about the end of the regime of terror through a military defeat as quickly as possible and to re-establish a free and democratic Austria. To this end, the group forwarded top-secret blueprints for the V-2 missile and the Tiger tank and site plans for secret production facilities and the armaments industry to the Allies. As a result, the Allied air strikes were supposed to protect civilian targets and hit more weapons production facilities.

Among the best-known activists who were executed as traitors or for " undermining military strength " include the conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter , the nun Maria Restituta , the priests Jakob Gapp and Otto Neururer , the father Franz Reinisch , Marie Schönfeld , Franz Schönfeld , the provicer Carl Lampert and the Augustinian canon Roman Karl Scholz . Scholz's group alone comprised around 200 people.

Cardinal Innitzer set up an "Archbishop's Aid for Non-Aryan Christians" in his house, which helped baptized Jews and members of other Christian denominations to leave the German Reich and to obtain the necessary documents, as well as to organize legal advice and medical assistance. The relief agency maintained contact with those deported to the concentration camp for as long as possible. Of the 23 employees at the aid agency, twelve were of Jewish origin as defined by the Nuremberg Laws , eight of them were murdered during the Nazi era.

In 1940 the SS designated the Dachau concentration camp with its own priestly block as the central internment site for Christian clergymen, who were often severely tortured. In addition, there were always special excesses against the priests. For example, on Christmas Eve 1938, the Austrian prelate was fainted under the Yule tree on the roll call square. On a Maundy Thursday, SS guards scourged the Austrian chaplain Andreas Rieser on the naked torso until the blood splattered, and then wound a crown of thorns made of barbed wire on him. On Good Friday 1940, sixty priests were "crucified" by hanging on a stake for an hour. The priests Martin Spannlang and Otto Neururer were killed in the Buchenwald concentration camp by crucifixion with their heads gagged downwards.

Legitimist (monarchist) resistance

The Gestapo particularly focused on combating legitimist resistance groups. Their common goal - overthrowing the Nazi regime, reestablishing an independent Austria under Habsburg leadership - was a particular provocation and challenge for the Nazi regime. In particular, because Hitler was bursting with hatred of the Habsburg family. The central person in these efforts, Otto Habsburg , was wanted on a wanted record, his assets were confiscated on Hitler's personal orders, and his followers were persecuted. The leading representative of Habsburg in Austria, Hans Karl Zeßner-Spitzenbergwas taken to the Dachau concentration camp on the first transport, where he died on August 1, 1938. Monarchist groups include, for example, the resistance group around Karl Burian with the "Monarchist Central Committee" he founded, the resistance networks around Wilhelm Hebra and Josef Eder, the Austrian Popular Front around Wilhelm Zemljak , parts of the Greater Austrian freedom movement around Jakob Kastelic , the group around Johann Müller , Alfred Gruber and Franz Waschnigg, the resistance movement around Karl Polly called the Austrian Workers' Party and the goal of a social people's monarchy, the Illegal Österreichische Kaisertreue Frontaround Leopold Hof or the anti-fascist Austrian Emperor Loyalty Front around Karl Wanner (Lambertrunde). As early as 1938 to 1940, the Gestapo had smashed a number of legitimist resistance groups of young people who had developed from the Austrian Young People and the Bündische Jugend .

The group around Karl Burian was particularly dangerous from the Gestapo's point of view. On the one hand, this group was in direct contact with Otto Habsburg, and on the other, Burian himself planned to take offensive action against the Gestapo. With the original house plans of the Gestapo headquarters on Morzinplatz, which the expropriated Jewish legitimist co-owner Karl Friedinger procured, the resistance group planned an explosives attack. Betrayed by the Gestapo spy and informants from the Abwehrsstelle Vienna, Josef Materna, the legitimist activists fell into the hands of the Gestapo.

There were also individual Christian monarchist resistance fighters such as Franz Schönfeld and Marie Schönfeld . Many of these resistance fighters were executed. The severity of the persecution can already be seen in the proceedings against the old, seriously ill and frail Marie Eckert, who was four years old because of the possession of a self-written note found in her wallet with the text "We want an emperor by God's grace and not a blood murderer from Berchtesgaden" Prison was sentenced. For a long time Johann Sanitzer, who was notorious for his brutality, was in charge of the Gestapo Viennathe department responsible for the legitimist and Austrian patriotic resistance. Starting in November 1943 in particular, Volksgerichtshof negotiations were held against more than 300 Austrian separatists and legitimists in Regensburg, Salzburg and Vienna, which subsequently led to numerous death sentences and prison sentences. Until then, many monarchist resistance fighters had been sent directly to the concentration camp without a trial on the basis of Hitler's orders. 800 to 1,000 monarchist resistance fighters were executed.

Ernst Karl Winter founded the “Austrian American Center” in New York in 1939, a non-partisan national committee with a legitimist background. This organized regular demonstrations and marches and published weekly publications. In the USA there was also the “Austrian American League” as a pro-Habsburg organization.

Evangelical Church and Free Churches

The Swedish Israel Mission in Vienna helped Protestant Jews in particular, so that many of them were able to leave in good time. The Baptist preacher Arnold Köster , who worked in Vienna, often also criticized the characteristics of National Socialism in sermons and lectures.

Erwin von Lahousen on the witness stand at the Nuremberg trials in 1948

After the German troops marched into Austria, the Austrian Armed Forces were brought into line. 126 professional soldiers and civil servants refused to take the oath on Hitler and were immediately dismissed. A special feature was the refusal of the commander of the Theresian Military Academy, Major General Rudolf Towarek , to hand over the academy in Wiener Neustadt to the German armed forces . He had the guard deployed with the bayonet attached and thus denied the Wehrmacht access to the castle for several days. Possible resistance to the Nazi regime was pursued; so became General Wilhelm Zehnerkilled by the Gestapo. A total of twelve officers were taken to concentration camps immediately after the invasion, seven of whom did not survive the camps. Sixteen officers were sent to prisons and numerous soldiers of all ranks were driven to suicide.

On March 7, 1943, Austrian Erwin von Lahousen and Admiral Wilhelm Canaris brought explosives to the headquarters of Army Group Center in Smolensk for an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler . This was placed on March 13, 1943 by Henning von Tresckow and Lieutenant Fabian von Schlabrendorff in Hitler's plane. However, the explosive charge did not detonate for unexplained reasons. July 20, 1944If the attempt on Hitler and the coup attempt by officers of the German armed forces and state officials failed, the possibilities of military resistance to overthrow the system were exhausted. Those involved also included the Austrians Robert Bernardis (Lieutenant Colonel in the General Staff; sentenced to death and executed by the People's Court in Berlin on August 8, 1944 ), the Chief of Staff in Military District XVII (Vienna), Colonel i. G. Heinrich Kodré (he survived Mauthausen concentration camp ), and Major Carl Szokoll , who went undetected.

The behavior of Walter Krajnc is also an example of military resistance . Krajnc, a member of the "Kampfgruppe Tirol" resistance group, was just a simple Wehrmacht soldier. He joined the French Resistance and worked for them as a radio operator, was denounced for critical statements in connection with the shooting of hostages and sentenced to death by a court martial because of his contacts with the Resistance and shot on July 29, 1944.

In “ Operation Radetzky ”, officers - including Major Carl Szokoll again - tried in the last days of the war to shorten the battle for Vienna by surrendering without a fight and thus to prevent the city from being destroyed. Oberfeldwebel Ferdinand Käs was able to reach the headquarters of the Soviet Army in Hochwolkersdorf in southern Lower Austria and convey the group's proposals to the "Russians". The operation was betrayed, however: three close collaborators of Szokoll, Major Karl Biedermann (born 1890, commander of the Greater Vienna Army Patrol ), Captain Alfred Huth (born 1918) and Lieutenant Rudolf Raschke(born 1923), were hung on street lamps in Floridsdorf on April 8, 1945 .

Resistance and partisan groups
Code of the resistance group O5 at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna

Members of various resistance groups founded the "Provisional Austrian National Committee". The best-known of these groups was the one under the code “ O5 ” (the O and the E , marked as the fifth letter of the alphabet, stood for OE or Austria ). Members included the publicist Fritz Molden , who was the group’s contact with the Western Allies in exile in Switzerland, and the future Federal President Adolf Schärf . Group O5 also works closely with the officers involved in “Operation Radetzky”.

Partisan groups that had been active especially since 1944 existed in Styria and Carinthia, for example in Leoben , Judenburg , Selzthal , Gailtal and Karawanken . They carried out small raids on SS units and the field gendarmerie . In addition, the Austrian partisans organized and supported the escape of foreign forced laborers. The South Carinthian partisan groups, consisting mostly of Carinthian Slovenes, acted across borders and worked with Yugoslav partisanstogether, at the side of which from November 1944 an "Austrian Freedom Battalion" fought against the German occupiers. The partisan's actions forced the Nazi regime to deploy many soldiers in the country instead of at the front.


Individuals who did not belong to any organization or group also occasionally acted in resistance, for example by providing shelter to Jews and other persecuted people. Some of them, including Gottfried von Eine , Ella Lingens and Hermann Langbein , were honored as “Righteous Among the Nations” at the Israeli Yad Vashem memorial after the war .

Austrians in exile

Austrians who saw the disaster coming had emigrated before March 12, 1938. They “chose” exile out of concern for their lives or their economic existence or because they did not want to live in a dictatorship. In the days of the “Anschluss” and afterwards, when the danger became immediately tangible and attacks on Jewish Austrians and the persecution of political opponents hinted at what was to come, many of those who had previously believed that it would not be so bad fled become . However, the Nazi regime immediately introduced strict border controls and arrested many refugees from the trains.

Some managed to flee to Czechoslovakia via the “green border”, Switzerland soon increased its border controls and not infrequently sent refugees back (“The boat is full”). From March to November 1938 130,000 people managed to leave the country legally and illegally. Among the most famous artists who had to emigrate were the composers Arnold Schönberg and Hermann Leopoldi , the filmmakers Leon Askin , Fritz Lang , Josef von Sternberg and Billy Wilder (née Samuel Wilder ), the theater director Max Reinhardt , the cabaret artists Karl Farkas and Hugo Wiener andGerhard Bronner and the writers Hermann Broch , Anton Kuh and Franz Werfel . Friedrich Torberg , who experienced the “Anschluss” in Prague, never returned to Vienna. Robert Musil and Robert Stolz emigrated out of disgust for National Socialism. Erich Fried fled to London with his mother after his father was killed in May 1938 during an interrogation by the Gestapo. Stefan Zweig , who had fled to Brazil via London, New York, Argentina and Paraguay, took himself there on February 22, 1942 with his wife Charlotte Altmannlife out of mourning over the destruction of his spiritual home Europe .

The prize money was extracted from the 1936 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Otto Loewi , before he left the country. Other scientists who went into exile were Sigmund Freud , Erwin Schrödinger , Kurt Gödel , Martin Buber , Karl Popper , Lise Meitner and Walter Hollitscher . Among those who emigrated for political reasons and because of the racial laws was the social democrat Bruno Kreiskywho found asylum in Sweden and later became one of the most influential personalities of the Second Republic as Federal Chancellor. Some of the emigrants took an active part in the fight against the Nazi regime on the Allied side. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein , who lived in England as early as the 1930s, volunteered for a medical research group there during the war. The satirist Georg Kreisler , who fled in 1938 and had been a US citizen since 1943, was stationed as a soldier in Europe.

Few of the emigrants returned after the war. After 1945 there were  no official efforts - with the exception of the Vienna City Councilor for Culture Viktor Matejka - to persuade the displaced to return. One of the few exceptions was Karl Popper, who was offered his own institute at the University of Vienna. However, he felt little inclination to return from England to bombed Vienna, but made himself available to Otto and Fritz Molden for the Forum Alpbach in Tyrol. For Austria, bloodletting meant not only the loss of part of its population, but also of large parts of its creative and intellectual elite.

Austrian organizations in exile were:

  • Austrian Democratic Union (August 1941–1945), London
  • In 1939 Ernst Karl Winter founded the Austrian American Center, the first non-partisan national committee in New York . This organized regular demonstrations and marches and published weekly publications. In the USA there were also the Austrian American League and the Austrian Action with the later Austrian National Committee as organizations .
  • Young Austria , emigrant organization of young Austrians in Great Britain
  • Free Austrian Movement , umbrella organization for Austrian organizations in exile in Great Britain
  • Non-partisan: Austrian Freedom Front


According to current research, Austrians were represented among the leading officers of the Wehrmacht in a ratio of approximately 1:10, analogous to the population ratio Altreich: Alpine and Danube plains. This is comparable to the situation with the Gestapo and the police. In the occupied territories of Southeast Europe they took z. B. several of the higher ranks. A total of around 1.25 million Austrians did military service in the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS . There was unconditional conscription with an alternative merciless death penalty; how many of the Austrians served voluntarily cannot be determined.

247,000 Austrians fell or went missing. The armed forces and police as a whole were sworn in to Adolf Hitler personally by Heinrich Himmler in March 1938 (" Führereid "); Officers who refused to take the oath on Hitler, like Jewish officers, were forced to retire and were severely discriminated against. Because of their elitist character and the sometimes spectacular privileges and numerous perks (accelerated academic career, apartments), young men initially volunteered for the SS; From 1944 onwards, however, forced recruitment was carried out due to a lack of reports to the SS and the Waffen SS.

The effects of the war economy quickly became noticeable for the population .

On August 28, 1939, four days before the start of the Second World War, food stamps and vouchers for petrol were issued throughout Germany (including Austria) . This was intended to prevent people from hoarding food and other goods (e.g. against the background of widespread hunger during the First World War, see e.g. turnip winter ).

After the rapid successes in Poland and in the western campaign (1940 - conquest of the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and France), the population was very confident that the war would be over quickly and end victoriously.

The war in Yugoslavia ( Balkan campaign 1940–1941 ) and the subsequent attack on the Soviet Union ( Russian campaign 1941–1945 ), the largest country in the world by area, gradually led to growing skepticism and concerns. The end of Hitler's quick successes with the failure of the conquest of Moscow in the winter of 1941/42 and the disgraceful defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad (1942/43) marked a decisive turning point in the course of the war, also in the perception of the population. The obituaries in the “ Völkischer Beobachter ”, in which the death of fathers and sons was reported in proud mourning , became more numerous, and soldiers on leave from the fronttold of the horror they had experienced. The supply situation also became increasingly problematic. Food, heating material and "textile materials" ( textiles was frowned upon as an "un-German" word) were becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Women were made compulsory for the Reich labor service .

After the Western Allies conquered Italy from the south from 1943 ( Operation Husky ) and started to liberate France with the landing in Normandy on June 6, 1944 ( Operation Neptune ), the war moved ever closer to the "Danube and Alpine Gaue" approach. They had previously been called the “Reich Air-raid Shelters” because they came within the range of Allied bomber groups only late.

On November 1, 1943, the Foreign Ministers of the Soviet Union , Great Britain and the USA passed the Moscow Declaration . In it they declared the occupation of Austria by Germany on March 15, 1938 as null and void. In Austria only people found out about it who listened to “ enemy broadcasts ” at risk of death.

Air raids on Austria

Shortly before the occupation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia by the German Reich and Italy, the first air raids on Austrian territory during World War II by the Yugoslav Air Force took place on April 6, 1941. 60 wagons were destroyed at the Graz freight station.

Since Austria was not bombed any further until 1943 or was at the limit of the range of British and American long-range bombers and their escort fighters, it was long known as the "air raid shelter of the German Reich". Therefore, the German arms industry relocated large parts of its production to Austria. In May 1943, North Africa and then southern Italy were liberated by the Allies, bringing the whole of Austria within the immediate reach and attention of the British and American air fleets. From November 1943, Foggia was the base of the 15th US Air Force and the 205th bomb squadron of the Royal Air Force. From the summer of 1943 to mid-1944, the focus of the allied bomber units was basically directed almost exclusively on the arms and steel industry in the Wiener Neustadt, Linz and Steyr area.Office of Strategic Services , the Allied General Staffs, also through the resistance group around Heinrich Maier , who wanted to shift the bombing away from residential areas to the armaments industry, were informed of exact location sketches of the industry that was then hit.

After this was largely destroyed, the oil industry in the Vienna area was attacked and finally, from the end of 1944, the transport hubs of the Deutsche Reichsbahn. It should be emphasized that from the spring of 1945 many Austrian cities became targets of the American bomber units. One railway junction after the other was hit, causing extensive destruction in civilian residential areas because bombs were often dropped through the cloud cover using a radar that was newly developed at the time.

On August 13, 1943, the Allied air forces reached Austria for the first time with 61 B-24 bomber aircraft of the 9th US Air Force ( USAAF ) from the Bizerta base in Tunisia . The target of the attack were the Messerschmitt works in Wiener Neustadt . 185 fatalities from this attack were officially announced.

In a massive attack on November 2, 1943, aircraft production was hit hard. In April and May 1944, the two main plants, important ancillary plants and relocation plants were finally destroyed. Wiener Neustadt, in whose Raxwerke the V2 rocket partially manufactured and in whose Wiener Neustädter aircraft factory in 1942 almost 50 percent of all single-engine Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters manufactured in the German Reich were produced, was to become one of the hardest hit cities in Austria by the end of the war ; the 29 air strikes, during which 55,000 bombs were dropped, destroyed 88% of the city's buildings and claimed 790 lives (see air strikes on Wiener Neustadt ).

On December 14 and 19, 1943 Innsbruck was also the target of air raids; 339 people died. The goal of the Allies, which was pursued in the long term until the end of the war, was to interrupt the supply lines of German troops via the Brenner Pass to Italy.

Destruction in the Vienna Arsenal (1944)

In February 1944, massive air strikes by large British and American associations began on targets in Austria (“ Big Week ”). In February and April 1944 there were extensive attacks on the aircraft and ball bearing industry in Steyr.

The first bombardment of Greater Vienna followed on March 17, 1944, targeting the refinery and loading points in Lobau . The first attacks on the built-up urban area followed in the summer of 1944. On September 10th and December 11th, 1944, the Vienna Arsenal and the Südbahnhof were so badly affected by Allied bomber groups that the main building of the Army History Museum and numerous depots and apartments of Bombs were hit and badly damaged or destroyed.

60 Soviet bombers first reached the Vienna area on February 22, 1945. The worst attack, which killed so many people that the otherwise usual obituaries were not printed in the “Völkischer Beobachter”, took place on March 12, 1945 by the USAAF - exactly seven years after the “Anschluss”. The total of 53 bomb attacks up to the end of the war killed 8,769 people in the city, 6,214 buildings were completely destroyed, 12,929 were badly destroyed, and 27,719 were slightly damaged. (Main article: Air strikes on Vienna )

Battle tower Arenbergpark, one of the six
flak towers built in Vienna

From autumn 1944 onwards, further main destinations were Graz with its armaments factories in Steyr-Daimler-Puch (56 attacks, 1980 deaths), Klagenfurt (48 attacks, 477 deaths), Villach with the traffic junction Vienna-Venice and Munich-Balkans (37 attacks, 266 Dead), Innsbruck (22 attacks, 504 dead) and the industrial region of the Mur-Mürz-Furche as well as those places to which some of the armaments factories of the German Reich had previously been relocated: Schwechat , Zwölfaxing and Hallein with their aircraft engine factories , the tank production in Steyr , weapons production in the "Hermann-Göring-Werken" inSt. Valentin near Linz and in Upper Styria, fuel production in Moosbierbaum and the refineries near Vienna. 1,679 people died in the 22 air raids on Linz ; 531 people died in 16 attacks in Salzburg (see air raids on Salzburg ). On April 21, 1945, Attnang-Puchheim was badly hit as an important rail hub and reloading station for the secret missile test facility in Zipf.

Allied air strikes caused a total of around 24,300 deaths among Austria's civilian population. Including the soldiers, refugees, prisoners of war and slave labor affected, around 35,000 people died and around 57,000 were wounded. In summary, far fewer civilian targets were hit by air strikes in Austria than in Germany, but mainly the armaments industry and transport hubs, which meant that the old buildings were largely preserved. There was no area bombing like on Hamburg, Pforzheim or Dresden in Austria.

Battle for Vienna

In March 1945 the Red Army in Hungary penetrated the area between Lake Balaton and the Danube . In 1944, the German side began building the “ Southeast Wall ” there. The fortifications should extend from the White Carpathians in the north to Zagreb in the south, but could no longer be completed. Around 30,000 Hungarian Jews were used to build it, of whom around 13,000 were killed by hunger, illness and exertion or were shot by the guards (the Rechnitz massacre and the massacre of Deutsch Schützen). The 17,000 who survived were brought to Mauthausen concentration camp.

The “ Volkssturm ” was also used to fill the positions - all men between the ages of 16 and 60 who were not yet capable of fighting. Badly equipped and not militarily trained, the defenders could not withstand the unfinished positions of the advancing Soviet army. On March 29th, the Soviet troops crossed the Austrian border at Klostermarienberg and reached Vienna on April 6th.

On April 2, Hitler declared Vienna a "defense area" (posters announced: "Women and children are recommended to leave the city."). The struggle should be fought to the end by all means, regardless of the loss of buildings or lives. Before infrastructure facilities could fall into the hands of the enemy, they should be destroyed (" Nero order ").

Members of a military resistance group in the military district command then tried to arrange the surrender of the city to the Soviet troops without a fight in " Operation Radetzky ", but this only partially succeeded. The action was betrayed, and those next to Major d. G. Carl Szokoll with lead officers Major d. G. Karl Biedermann (Chief of the Greater Vienna Army Patrol ), Captain Alfred Huth and First Lieutenant Rudolf Raschke were arrested and hanged in public on April 8th. On April 13, the Battle of Vienna , which killed around 19,000 German and 18,000 Soviet soldiers, came to an end.

The Soviet troops then advanced in the Weinviertel north to the Thaya , in the west to the Erlauf and in the south to the Semmering . In the further western parts of Lower Austria, the remaining units of the SS and individual Wehrmacht units carried out massacres of prisoners in the Stein detention center in Krems an der Donau (“ Kremser Hasenjagd ”) and groups of forced laborers in the last weeks of the war . Young soldiers who had only recently been drafted as part of the "Volkssturm" but did not want to take part in the hopeless fight were shot dead or hanged.

Advance of the Western Allies

On April 28, coming from Kempten im Allgäu, near Vils in Tirol, the first of the Western Allies US soldiers entered Austrian territory. The command staff were prepared for sustained resistance in the “ Alpine fortress ”, but the plans for this were only partially implemented on the German side. On April 29, French soldiers crossed the border at Hohenweiler and Unterhochsteg in Vorarlberg. Moroccan units of the Foreign Legion followed the next day. The French units subsequently penetrated  to the Arlberg without encountering any resistance - with the exception of a battle near Götzisin front. The units of the Wehrmacht were already in the process of being disbanded due to desertion , and the efforts of parts of the population to avoid fighting contributed to this.

After fighting over the Fernpass and the Porta Claudia , US troops got deeper into Tyrol. In the Ötztal they were greeted by a partisan group led by the student Wolfgang Pfaundler . They had managed to get the area under their control shortly before. Resistance fighters also succeeded in capturing General Hans Böhaimb , the commander of the Innsbruck-Nord division group , in the regional capital Innsbruck . They had already announced the end of National Socialist rule on the city's radio station and had decorated the houses with red, white and red flags when the US soldiers arrived on May 3rd.

The city of Salzburg was reached on the morning of May 4, 1945 by American combat units from the Munich area, which forestalled the units coming from Tyrol. After an agreement allegedly reached orally on April 30th with Gauleiter Gustav Adolf Scheel , the combat commander of the city, Colonel Hans Leppertinger, made an appeal to the residents of Salzburg via radio. In it he took responsibility for the surrender of the city without a fight.

Liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp, photo from May 6, 1945

August Eigruber , Gauleiter of "Oberdonau", sentenced to death in the Mauthausen trial in 1946 and executed in 1947, did not want to give up the fight. He had deserters and concentration camp prisoners killed, the Nazi officials who had fled Vienna arrested and planned to destroy the art treasures from all over Europe hidden in the Altaussee salt mine . As a result of the ongoing fighting, the Allies flew further bomber attacks against Linz, Wels and Attnang-Puchheim, which killed hundreds of people in the last days of the war. On May 5, the military commander of Linz finally surrendered, and US troops were the last of the concentration camps of the German Reich to liberate the Mauthausen concentration camp.

US troops arrive at the main square in Linz, May 1945

End of war

Soviet soldiers in Vienna, 1945

Vienna was liberated from the Nazi regime in mid-April 1945 through the so-called Vienna Operation of the Red Army . The Socialist Party of Austria (today: Social Democratic Party) was constituted on April 16 . One day later, on April 17th, the Austrian People's Party was founded as a pool for the bourgeois and rural population. The Communist Party of Austria was also founded . Meanwhile there was still fighting west of Vienna. On April 27, 1945 eleven days before the capitulation of the German forces on May 8, was that of SPÖ , ÖVP and KPO signedDeclaration of Independence, the Republic of Austria re-established (it is unofficially referred to as the Second Republic). On the same day, the first state government was constituted under Karl Renner and two days later, representatives of the Red Army symbolically took possession of the parliament building .

While the Red Army conquered Austria from the east, British troops from Italy advanced in the direction of Carinthia and Styria, Tito's partisans from Yugoslavia in the same direction, US troops from Bavaria to Salzburg and Upper Austria, and French troops from Württemberg to Vorarlberg. Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945. On May 7, 1945, Colonel General Alfred Jodl signed the unconditional total surrender of the Wehrmacht in Reims (France) . The following day, in the Lower Austrian town of Erlauf, US and Soviet troops met for the first time in Austria on each other. The existing film footage of this encounter was shot in a side street in Amstetten ; by then US units had advanced.

The borders of the occupation zones (see: Occupied Post-War Austria ) had already been agreed beforehand. The Nazi regime in Tyrol , where a resistance movement was active, ended before the US troops arrived. The much- touted Alpine fortress in the Salzkammergut , in which the National Socialists wanted to barricade themselves in order to continue the fight, turned out to be a chimera; some high-ranking Nazi criminals were arrested in mountain huts in the Salzkammergut.

The Royal Air Force near Klagenfurt in Carinthia, 1945

Carinthia and Styria were assigned to the British Army. In order to avoid further fights and a division, Carinthian politicians of the until then banned democratic parties tried to dissuade Gauleiter Friedrich Rainer from conducting a "defensive battle" based on the model of the " Carinthian defensive battle " of 1918/19. On May 6th and 7th, the power of government was handed over from Rainer to the representatives of the parties, and Hans Piesch took over the office of governor . The armed resistance has now ended and the new state government sought contact with the advancing British troops. On May 8th (“ VE Day“) Reached both the first British tank units and Yugoslav partisans in Klagenfurt. Under pressure from the British commander, the partisans had to withdraw again. Tito's demands for Austria to cede territory to Yugoslavia were not supported by the Allies.

On May 9, the day on which the total surrender of the Wehrmacht came into effect, Soviet troops reached Graz and, after Gauleiter Siegfried Uiberreither was convinced by the local Wehrmacht leadership that his plans for military resistance were doomed to failure, moved into the city without a fight City a. A new state government was formed there under the Social Democrat Reinhard Machold . Large parts of Styria were initially under Soviet military administration. Southern Styria was still partly occupied by partisans and Bulgarian troops. In the following months Great Britain took over the military administration of the entire territory of the two federal states.

Museum reception

The Second World War in Austria is documented in detail in the Army History Museum in Vienna. Beginning with the "Anschluss" of Austria and the associated takeover of the Armed Forces by the German Armed Forces, the range spanned the topics of aerial warfare , total war and the battle for Vienna .

On May 9, 2015. in the peace community Erlauf the museum Erlauf remembers opened in which the carried there historic handshake between the Soviet General Dmitri Dritschkin and the US General Reinhart is documented in a comprehensive permanent exhibition on May 8 1945th

Victim record

  • Approximately 247,000 military personnel either dead or declared dead; According to other information, 380,000 dead (including 100,000 missing)
  • around 65,500 murdered Jews of Austrian nationality
  • around 35,000 civilians died as a result of fighting and bombing
  • around 16,000 others were murdered in concentration camps , 8,000 of them as "gypsies"
  • around 10,000 people were killed in Gestapo custody and more than 6,000 in prisons in countries occupied by the German Reich
  • around 2,700 people sentenced to death and executed as resistance fighters
  • about 114,000 seriously injured in the war
  • about 57,000 civilians injured

In research, the term looted gold refers to the valuables stolen by the Nazi regime. These came mainly from the “Aryanized” property of people who had to flee or were locked up in concentration camps and mostly murdered there. But the gold from the currency reserve of the Austrian central bank was immediately taken to Berlin. The whereabouts of the looted gold after the Second World War is largely unclear.

Re-establishment of Austria

Passers-by in front of a shop window in which the US military posted photos from concentration camps (Linz, May 1945)
Occupation zones (1945 to 1955)

On April 4, 1945, Karl Renner , who had been State Chancellor of the First Republic from 1918 to 1920, only wanted to protest against the behavior of the soldiers in Hochwolkersdorf in front of the responsible general of the Red Army. However, the 75-year-old was recognized as an ex-politician and after several steps in the Soviet Union, ultimately with Josef Stalin , who knew Renner from his stay in Vienna before the First World War, asked whether he could help restore Austria; Renner agreed on the condition that his assignment would come from Austrian politicians. From Eichbüchl Castle Renner got in touch with Adolf Schärf and the Christian Social Finance Minister Josef Kollmannon. In mid-April the parties, some of which had been banned since 1938 and some since 1934, were reconstituted. The first representatives of the former SDAP and the Revolutionary Socialists formed the Socialist Party of Austria (SPÖ) on April 14, under the provisional chairmanship of Adolf Schärfs (the last SDAP chairman, Karl Seitz , had not yet returned from German imprisonment). The Austrian Federation of Trade Unions followed the next day. For the time being, the representatives of the former Christian Social Party came together in three leagues ( farmers' association , economic association and workers and salaried employees ); on April 17th the foundation ofAustrian People's Party (ÖVP) with its first chairman Leopold Figl . The Communist Party (KPÖ) had continued to exist since the First Republic, despite the ban.

Renner arrived in Vienna on April 21, and within a week formed the first provisional post-war government of the Republic of Austria; the deliberations took place in the Red Salon of the Vienna City Hall. On April 27, the three parties proclaimed Austria's independence and set up the new government ( Provisional State Government Renner 1945 ); on April 29, they took possession of the parliament building . On May 1, 1945, the Constitutional Transition Act came into force. Renner as State Chancellor was supported by a political cabinet council with representatives of the three parties, consisting of Adolf Schärf (SPÖ), Leopold Figl (ÖVP) and Johann Koplenig(KPÖ). The ministers were designated as state secretaries, the later state secretaries as undersecretaries. The territory was restored to the pre-1938 borders. All of these resolutions were initially only binding in the “Soviet zone”; the Western Allies thought Renner was a puppet of Stalin and did not recognize his government until months later. The occupying powers also reserved the veto against Austrian decisions; this regulation was not relaxed until 1947.

On May 8, 1945, the Prohibition Act was passed, the first paragraph of which states: The NSDAP, its armed forces associations (SS, SA, NSKK, NSFK), their branches and affiliated associations as well as all National Socialist organizations and institutions have been dissolved; their regeneration is prohibited. Paragraph 3 regulates the provisions on the registration of former NSDAP members and finally the criminal offense of re-activating NSDAP, which still exists today .

Denazification began immediately throughout Austria . When the members of the NSDAP, the SS and other organizations of the National Socialist regime were registered, a total of 537,632 people were recorded. This number lacks on the one hand those who could evade registration, on the other hand it also includes mere followers who saw it as opportune to join the NSDAP. 41,906 people were classified as “heavily burdened”, ie in management positions and as decision-makers or involved in crimes.

On the basis of the Prohibition Act, trials took place before specially established people's courts from 1945 to 1955 . 136,829 judicial preliminary investigations on suspicion of Nazi crimes or membership in the then banned NSDAP from 1933 to 1938 led to 23,477 judgments, 13,607 of which were convictions. Around 2,000 judgments were made for violent crimes on behalf of the Nazi regime, of which 43 were death sentences (30 were carried out, two other convicts committed suicide before they were carried out), 29 life sentences and 650 sentences between five and twenty years.

The separation of the 440,000 less polluted from the 96,000 polluted by the National Socialist Act passed by the National Council on July 24, 1946 was a result of the insight that it was impossible to impose atonement on half a million people for several years, making them second-class citizens and with them also punished their families. The Allied Council thwarted this plan to quickly put an end to the less burdened by claiming that the National Socialist Law was being tightened up numerous times. Another year later (1947), however, the Allies were also able to recognize that almost half a million people, who had been excluded from studies and numerous professions for years, did not win for democracy, but were put in the same boat with the polluted.

An example of judgments after 1945 is the search for 500 Soviet prisoners of war who had escaped from Mauthausen, known as the “ Mühlviertler Hasenjagd ”. It is generally assumed that none of the participants was punished for this cruel "hunt". In fact, in addition to smaller sentences, in this case at least three sentences of ten, one of twelve and one of twenty-year stricter dungeons were pronounced and carried out.

In later years, however, the Austrian judiciary applied a cold amnesty (as Simon Wiesenthal called the situation) by failing to investigate suspects or conducting investigations with no intention of success. There were various approaches to this in the Austrian judiciary, such as on the one hand the Viennese criminal lawyer Wilhelm Malaniuk urged for a proper criminal investigation of the Nazi crimes, others like Theodor Rittler triedPropagating legal theoretical foundations, which meant that many Nazi crimes went unpunished. On the other hand, the previous statute of limitations of twenty years for murder was lifted, as it seemed unbearable not to be able to bring any NS mass murderers to justice after 1965. After criticism from committed publicists, it was not until the 1990s that people began tracking down suspects of Nazi crimes who were still alive and precisely investigating their crimes.

On May 15, 1955, Austria regained its full sovereignty with the signing of the Austrian State Treaty , which came into force on July 27, 1955. The treaty stipulated the ban on affiliation and the Habsburg law , which had already been pronounced in 1919 . More than 50 years later, the processing of the Nazi raids, expropriations and asset deprivation has not yet been completed.

Working up and repression

In 1945, “ denazification ” had primarily meant holding perpetrators accountable and removing officials from their offices in administration and business. People's courts also passed death sentences. Those polluted were excluded from the National Council election in 1945. Four years later it only meant that former supporters of the Nazi regime had officially turned away from it and were now active in other parties. The western occupying powers of Austria had after the beginning of the Cold Wartheir interest in prosecuting Nazi perpetrators greatly reduced; the new enemy were the communists, and many former Nazi supporters had already fought against the communists in the Nazi state and were now valued for these experiences.

At the latest after the founding of the Association of Independents (VdU; predecessor of the Freedom Party of Austria , FPÖ), a collective movement of former NSDAP members, Greater Germans and those who had not found a political home in any other party, in the National Council election in 1949 with 11, 7% immediately reached third place, the two large popular parties (SPÖ and ÖVP) also tried to win over these voters. In Austria, for example, former Nazi functionaries were accepted into party organizations and areas such as the judiciary, universities and state-owned companies.

The lack of men in general and of skilled workers in particular was cited as a further reason for the only partially completed denazification. On the other hand, after the end of the war there were no official efforts to persuade those who had fled into exile to return, not even specialists; partly because officials and managers feared new competitors among the possible returnees, initially also because the food supply was problematic and there was a lack of apartments.

"Reparation" for forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners and the most complete possible return of stolen property ( restitution ) were not intended for a long time. In the majority of society there was no awareness of the legal and moral problems of their own past; Even decades later, those who pointed to Austria's complicity were often insulted as “dirtiers”. The documentation archive of the Austrian resistance was only founded in 1963 .

Austria: first victim or partly responsible

For decades - and in some cases even today - the complicity of Austrians in the war and the crimes of the Nazi regime was not perceived or suppressed by large sections of the population. The “victim myth”, which stated that Austria was the first victim of Hitler's aggression , was used for a long time by both the population and politicians in order not to have to face their own responsibility.

An integral part of this view is the reference to the Moscow Declaration of 1943, in which the Allied Foreign Ministers declared: The governments of the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States of America are of the same opinion that Austria, the first free country, the Hitler's typical aggressive policy should fall victim to be liberated from German rule. The rest of the text of the declaration remains unmentioned, mostly not known at all: Austria is also reminded that it bears a responsibility for participating in the war on the side of Hitler-Germany, which it cannot escape.The declaration also pointed out, however, that in the final settlement, consideration should be given to what part the Austrians themselves contributed to their liberation, and should also motivate people to resist the Nazi regime.

The majority of Austrians continued to regard themselves as victims of the Nazi regime for a long time , because they had been seduced or merely fulfilled their duty ; the majority justified themselves by saying that they had no other choice . The interpretation of terms such as “victim”, “returnees” and “expellees” made it clear how Austria's role was mostly perceived: The victims were primarily the soldiers killed in the war, not those murdered in the concentration camps and not the resistance fighters who were executed Conscientious objectors, returneeswere those returning from captivity, not those few who returned home from emigration, and those displaced were members of German ethnic groups from Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia , not Jews . What most did not address was that the "Anschluss" had been cheered by tens of thousands and many had benefited from Aryanizations .

It was not until 1991 that the state admitted in a declaration by Chancellor Franz Vranitzky to the National Council that Austrians shared responsibility for the suffering that occurred during the Nazi era.

Confrontation with the past

In 1962 , the work of the National Socialist Taras Borodajkewycz , who had risen to professor at the University of World Trade and who repeatedly presented Nazi and anti-Semitic views in his lectures, caused a sensation in a magazine article by Heinz Fischer , who was elected Federal President in 2004 . During a demonstration against Borodajkewycz in March 1965, the demonstrators clashed with a counter-demonstration organized by the Ring Freedom Students , the FPÖ's student organization. The former resistance fighter, who was only watching, became Ernst Kirchwegerinjured so badly by a counter-demonstrator that he died a few days later; he was the first political casualty in the Second Republic. Borodajkewicz was subsequently forced to retire.

The SPÖ minority government under Bruno Kreisky in 1970 comprised several people who were burdened by their Nazi past. The former SS member Hans Öllinger was Minister of Agriculture; When his SS membership became known, Öllinger had to resign five weeks after the formation of the government. His successor was Oskar Weihs , who had been a member of the NSDAP . Building Minister Josef Moser and Transport Minister Erwin Frühbauer were NSDAP members, Interior Minister Otto Rösch had belonged to the SA .

The foreign public was sensitive to these members of the government. Kreisky himself took Friedrich Peter , a former member of a murder brigade of the Waffen SS and then FPÖ supervisor, against Simon Wiesenthal in protection, which led to the " Kreisky-Peter-Wiesenthal Affair ". Peter had made Kreisky's minority government possible by the FPÖ MPs refusing to vote against them, and was rewarded for this with a reform of the electoral system that favored small parties.

SPÖ Justice Minister Christian Broda was u. a. attested by Simon Wiesenthal to carry out a "cold amnesty". Public prosecutors often failed to vigorously investigate suspicions and to bring charges against alleged Nazi perpetrators. The Minister of Justice, as the chief of the prosecutors, covered up these omissions.

"Waldheim Affair", VAPO and the rise of Jörg Haider

The year 1986 marked a turning point in dealing with history. The former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim ran for the office of Federal President, supported by the ÖVP. During the election campaign it became known that in his previously published autobiography his role during the Second World War had been sketchily and partially misrepresented (e.g. regarding his membership in the SA and his activities in the Balkans). Waldheim u. a. misleadingly informed a US MP who asked him about his role in the war. The “ Waldheim Affair“Therefore received considerable attention in the US and other countries; But it also led to the behavior of Austrians during the National Socialist era being the subject of a large number of Austrian publications and discussions. During the election campaign, anti-Semitic clichés were brought into play by some (e.g. the “ East Coast ” as a code for the US politics and economy that are supposedly dominated by Jews), also because the World Jewish Congress in New York is in charge of the press relations was against Waldheim and ultimately enforced Waldheim's placement on the “watch list”. The majority of voters agreed with Waldheim that he was only doing his duty, and he won the election. Since then, Waldheim has been banned from entering the United States; in many other countries he was not welcome as a state visitor. Only many years later did Waldheim regret having expressed himself in such a misleading way in 1986.

Erich Fried wrote about this in “Not displacing, not getting used” (1987): The so-called bridge building, i.e. the attempt to promote the understanding of the youth for the war generation by pasting contradictions and dark spots or hushing them up, does not serve the continuity of the Austrian one Culture, but the continuity of certain types of Austrian unculture!

In 1986 the Viennese right-wing extremist and revisionist Gottfried Küssel founded the People's Loyal Extra-Parliamentary Opposition ( VAPO ). In the fall of 1986 Jörg Haider took over the leadership of the FPÖ and sidelined the liberal wing of the party. The SPÖ then ended the coalition government with the FPÖ. The political contrast between the FPÖ and the SPÖ in particular had a formative influence on domestic politics in the years that followed.


On June 8, 1991, Federal Chancellor Franz Vranitzky gave a speech in the National Council in which an Austrian head of government relativized the “victim myth” for the first time and addressed the complicity of Austrians in the Second World War and its consequences: there is a share of responsibility for the suffering, which is not Austria as a state, but probably the citizens of this country over other people and peoples. […] We are committed to all deeds in our history […] and just as we claim the good for ourselves, we have to apologize for the bad - to the survivors and the descendants of the dead.

In 1991 Haider had to go after unemployment in a state parliament debate: That didn't happen in the Third Reich , because they had a proper employment policy in the Third Reich. resign from the office of governor of Carinthia (he was re-elected in 1999 and 2004). Again he caused a sensation and criticism in 1995 when, as a speaker at a meeting of SS and Wehrmacht veterans, he described them as decent people [...] who have a character and who stand by their convictions even in the face of the greatest headwind and their convictions to this day have remained faithful , praised.

In November 1997, the Austrian Parliament decided to introduce a day of remembrance against violence and racism in memory of the victims of National Socialism as a historical-political compromise of the political camps at that time and set the date to May 5th - the day of the liberation of the National Socialist concentration camp Mauthausen by the US -Army  - festival (see section Remembrance Day in Austria ).

With the formation of the Schüssel I coalition government from the FPÖ and ÖVP in February 2000, the domestic political situation worsened again. Elsewhere in the EU , Haider's party's participation in government - also in the face of parties such as the Republicans in Germany, Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National in France and the Belgian Vlaams Blok  - caused concern. The governments of the other 14 EU countries decided to limit bilateral political contacts with the Austrian government to the minimum necessary, not to receive Austrian ambassadors and not to consider Austrian applicants for vacancies in the EU administration.

In Austria, supporters and members of the FPÖ-ÖVP coalition government always referred to these measures as sanctions against Austria and were vehemently criticized. Among the government opponents there were both supporters and critics of the measures. In civil society, the coalition's rejection was most evident in the so-called Thursday demonstrations. The former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari , the German international law expert Jochen Frowein and the former Spanish EU Commissioner Marcelino Oreja were commissioned to resolve the situation, which observers considered to be in disputein which the situation in Austria should be evaluated. After Ahtisaari, Frowein and Oreja finally described the procedure as counterproductive, the measures of the 14 EU states were lifted, some of which had already become more critical of the measures.

The restitution of the Klimt painting Adele Bloch-Bauer I to Maria Altmann and her co-heirs took place in 2006 after years of legal dispute

However, the fact that a far-reaching rethinking has taken place in recent years - or at least it became clear that Austria could be isolated internationally without these measures - was only shown, among other things, by the establishment of the historian's commission to investigate property deprivation in the territory of the Republic of Austria during the Nazi regime -Time and provisions or compensation (as well as economic and social benefits) of the Republic of Austria from 1945 (active between 1998 and 2003) and the laws on the restitution of stolen property and property (1946/1947/1949, 1998) and on compensation payments to former forced laborers .

In the current political debate, for example, the reactions to statements by the FPÖ Federal Councilors Siegfried Kampl and John Gudenus in 2005 showed increasing awareness. In a contribution to the discussion about the rehabilitation of Wehrmacht deserters, Kampl described them as in part comrade killers and spoke of brutal Nazi persecution after 1945 with regard to denazification . After initial hesitation, the opposition protests were also joined by the ÖVP, and a change in the law was passed (" Lex Kampl "), which prevented Kampl from assuming the chairmanship of the Federal Council, for which it was scheduled.

In interviews, Gudenus had previously described compensation payments to victims of the Nazi regime as protection money and had to resign as a member of the National Council as early as 1995 after indirectly questioning the existence of gas chambers. In 2005, now a Federal Councilor, he repeated these statements several times and only resigned from his mandate as a result of public and political protests. On April 26, 2006, he was sentenced to one year conditional imprisonment in accordance with Section 3h of the Prohibition Act ( NS re-engagement ).

The Constitutional Court has rightly recognized that the uncompromising rejection of National Socialism is one of the republic's basic principles. Nevertheless, the majority of ÖVP and SPÖ MPs elected Martin Graf (FPÖ), a member of a right-wing extremist fraternity and a declared opponent of the “basic anti-fascist consensus”, as the third president of the National Council. National Council presidents cannot be voted out; At times there was a discussion about which rules could be used to make them deselected, but such considerations have been abandoned since Graf's office ended in 2013 at the latest.


Holocaust Memorial ( Judenplatz , Vienna)
Holocaust memorial in the Salzburg train station district
Memorial against war and fascism by Alfred Hrdlicka (Vienna)

Dealing with the past in Austria is still very inconsistent and often strongly influenced by political considerations. While z. B. For the persecuted Burgenland Roma in Lackenbach in 1984 a memorial was unveiled in memory of the "Gypsy detention camp", the desire to put up a memorial plaque in Kemeten failed due to the lack of interest of the local council. Before the war, 200 Roma lived in the Burgenland town and were deported in 1941. Only five of them returned to Kemeten after 1945.

In the summer of 2004 there were domestic political disputes about how to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the death of Robert Bernardis from Linz , who was involved in the attempted coup on July 20, 1944 and was therefore hanged on August 8 in Berlin. Opposition politicians (SPÖ, Greens ) as well as a number of prominent private individuals suggested that a barracks be renamed the Robert Bernardis barracks . The ÖVP-FPÖ federal government refused (the FPÖ is generally not interested in commemorating Nazi victims, but the ÖVP could not decide on a barracks name or a corresponding year name for the graduates of the military academy). Defense Minister Günther Platter(ÖVP) finally decided to erect a memorial in the courtyard of the Towarek barracks (army sergeant school) in Enns . In this context, the Green politician Terezija Stoisits pointed out that on May 8, 2004 a barracks in Northern Germany was named after Sergeant Anton Schmid, who came from Austria . Schmid was convicted by a court martial of the Wehrmacht to death and shot on 13 April 1942 after being in the ghetto of Vilnius had saved the lives of hundreds of Jews.

The resistance performance of the Austrian Erwin von Lahousen , who also volunteered as a key witness at the Nuremberg trials, has remained unappreciated to this day and has never been the subject of public discussion, while Robert Bernardis, for example, on Reformation Day 2008 (October 31) by the Protestant Church and Federal President Heinz Fischer was honored again.

In many places, soon after the war, the fallen soldiers were commemorated by adding the new lists of names to war memorials for the First World War . The fallen soldiers of the Second World War were mostly recorded like those of the First World War under words such as “They found the hero's death for their homeland”. Names of the Nazi victims who came from the town or who were murdered in town generally do not appear on such monuments. It was not until much later that (not consistently) separate monuments were erected for these victims.

The community service ( military service ), in Austria as a so-called memorial service be made, d. H. by working in places or institutions of remembrance of the history of Austria in the time of National Socialism. Around 15 civil servants are deployed in the archive of the Mauthausen Memorial and in Mauthausen itself. On September 1, 1992, the first Austrian civil service provider began his memorial service in the museum of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Andreas Maislinger took over the idea from Aktion Sühnezeichen . Every year about 30 people doing civil service become involved in the memorial serviceSent Holocaust memorials and related institutions in Europe, Israel, the USA, South America and China.

Memorial in the former Mauthausen concentration camp

The largest Austrian memorial to commemorate the National Socialist crimes is the Mauthausen concentration camp . Other organizations and projects dedicated to commemoration, documentation and research are among others

The Austrian National Fund, which is subordinate to parliament, deals with symbolic payments to those robbed and exploited by the Nazi regime.

At a memorial event on March 12, 2008 in the Parliament in Vienna, the President of the National Council, Barbara Prammer , spoke very clearly about the events seventy years earlier:

Night of Silence ( Heldenplatz , Vienna, March 12/13, 2008)

“March 12, 1938 is connected with many pictures, impressions and questions. First and foremost, there are images of jubilation [...] which give the impression that all of Austria has been on the street. And there are the images of humiliation, of the "burial of all human dignity", as the writer Carl Zuckmayer called it. The violence and the public spectacles of humiliation of Jews began before the Wehrmacht had crossed the border. [...]
The persecution in Austria and especially in Vienna went beyond what was known in National Socialist Germany. The public humiliation was more blatant, the expropriation better organized, the forced emigration faster. These weeks became in many ways a model for what humans are capable of.
[...] after 1945 many saw themselves [...] as victims of economic, social and personal constraints [...] a fiction of history was created; Austria is often only portrayed as a nation of victims. This made it easier to avoid confrontation with the crimes of National Socialism and to ward off guilt. […] Few of the survivors of the concentration camps who returned to Austria were warmly welcomed. The return of expropriated property was refused because they saw themselves as a victim of "foreign tyranny". Those who returned disturbed this self-image. "

- Barbara Prammer : Memorial event on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the invasion of German troops in Austria

In the spring of 2009, the heads of state of Austria and Slovenia, Heinz Fischer and Danilo Türk , met for a commemoration ceremony for the Loibl concentration camp on the Slovenian-Austrian border (the Loibl Pass connects Carinthia with northern Slovenia). Carinthian governor Gerhard Dörfler (then BZÖ ) avoided taking part in the commemoration with a flimsy reason.

In 2014, the memorial for those persecuted by Nazi military justice , known as the deserters memorial , was presented to the public on Vienna's Ballhausplatz . The processing of the National Socialist history of Austria has not yet been completed.

Remembrance day in Austria

See also

Portal: National Socialism  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of National Socialism


History and research

Eyewitness accounts

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Die Presse : Right-hand driving regulations: Are we driving on the wrong side? accessed on Aug. 8, 2018.
  2. ^ Gerhard Jagschitz : The putsch. The National Socialists in Austria in 1934. Verlag Styria, Graz / Vienna / Cologne 1976, ISBN 3-222-10884-6 .
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  4. Austrian National Library : Photo: truck with the inscription: '500,000 unemployed 400,000 Jews, the way out is very easy! Vote for National Socialist ', Vienna 1932
  5. Siegwald Ganglmair / DÖW : The way to the "connection"
  6. ^ Gerhard Jagschitz : The Austrian corporate state 1934-1938. In: Erika Weinzierl , Kurt Skalnik : Austria 1918–1938. History of the First Republic. Volume 1, Verlag Styria, Graz 1983; see also the preamble to the “May Constitution”.
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  8. ^ Bundespolizeidirektion Wien (Ed.): 80 Years of the Vienna Security Guard. Verlag für Jugend und Volk, Vienna 1949, p. 99.
  9. quoted from: Carl Zuckmayer: As if it were a piece of me. Memories , S. Fischer Corporation, New York 1966. (Paperback edition: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1989, ISBN 3-596-21049-6 , p. 61 f.)
  10. Martin Haidinger , Günther Steinbach : Our Hitler. The Austrians and their compatriot. Ecowin Verlag, Salzburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-902404-71-8 , p. 357.
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  12. ^ Manfred Scheuch: Austria in the 20th century . Christian Brandstätter, Vienna / Munich 2000, ISBN 3-85498-029-9 (section “1938–1945 Austria under Hitler's rule”, p. 120).
  13. ^ Wolfgang Neugebauer : The Austrian Resistance 1938–1945 . Edition Steinbauer, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-902494-28-3 , p. 25 .
  14. (Vienna under the Nazi regime)
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  16. ^ Chronicle of Upper Austria
  17. DHM : Database "Collection of the special order Linz"
  18. ^ History of the IKG in Tyrol and Vorarlberg ( Memento from November 18, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  19. Cable, copper and art. Walter Bondy and his family environment. 2008 (PDF; 748 kB), cf. P. 5.
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  22. Wolfgang Häusler : The year 1938 and the Austrian Jews . In: Documentation archive of the Austrian resistance (ed.): "Anschluss" 1938 . Österreichischer Bundesverlag, Vienna 1988, ISBN 3-215-06898-2 , p. 89 .
  23. Press information on the final report of the Austrian Commission of Historians ( Memento from July 31, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 103 kB)
  24. ^ The deportations to Łódź in 1941
  25. Michael Zimmermann : The decision for a gypsy camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau. In: ders. (Ed.): Between education and destruction. Gypsy Policy and Gypsy Research in Europe in the 20th Century. Stuttgart 2007, review .
  26. ^ Rolf Steininger : Austria, Germany, and the Cold War. From the Anschluss to the State Treaty 1933–1955. Berghahn Books, New York 2008, ISBN 978-1-84545-326-8 , pp. 14-15.
    John Weiss: The Long Road to the Holocaust. The history of hostility towards Jews in Germany and Austria. Ullstein, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-548-26544-8 , pp. 241-242.
  27. ^ Rolf Steininger: The State Treaty. Austria in the shadow of the German question and the Cold War 1938–1955-. Studien-Verlag, Innsbruck / Vienna 2005, ISBN 3-7065-4017-7 , p. 23.
  28. ^ Bertrand Perz: The Austrian part in the Nazi crimes. Comments on the debate. In: Helmut Kramer, Karin Liebhart , Friedrich Stadler (eds.): Austrian nation, culture, exile and resistance. In memoriam Felix Kreissler. Lit, Vienna 2006, ISBN 3-8258-9518-1 , pp. 223–234, here: p. 225. (PDF)
  29. Willi Weinert: "You can put me out, but not the fire" - biographies of the resistance fighters executed in the Vienna Regional Court. A guide through Group 40 at the Vienna Central Cemetery and to sacrificial graves in Vienna's cemeteries. Wiener Stern-Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-9502478-2-4 , pp. 38–48.
  30. ^ The Graves of Group 40, accessed on June 14, 2012.
  31. Documentation archive of Austrian resistance : Resistance in Austria - An overview ( Memento from March 25, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  32. ^ Wolfgang Neugebauer : The Austrian Resistance 1938–1945. Steinbauer, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-902494-28-3 , order of magnitude, results and importance of resistance, pp. 236-240.
  33. Yearbook of the DÖW (2012), p. 37.
  34. ^ Ernst Hanisch: Austrian History 1890-1990. The long shadow of the state. 1994, p. 378.
  35. See Ernst Hanisch: Austrian History 1890–1990 . 1994, p. 391.
  36. ^ Lothar Wettstein: Josef Bürckel: Gauleiter Reichsstatthalter Crisis Manager Adolf Hitler. 2nd Edition. 2010, Section 12.3, pp. 445–449, (
  37. ^ Günther Haller: The church and the afflicted generation. In: The press. January 5, 2018.
  38. Fritz Molden : The fire in the night. Victims and meaning of the Austrian resistance 1938–1945 . Amalthea, Vienna 1988, p. 122.
  39. ^ Franz Loidl: Chaplain Heinrich Maier - a victim of the National Socialist system of violence. In: Herbert Schambeck (Ed.): Church and State. Fritz Eckert on his 65th birthday . Duncker & Humblot, Vienna 1976, pp. 271-292.
  40. Peter Broucek: The Austrian Identity in the Resistance 1938-1945. In: Military resistance: studies on the Austrian state sentiment and Nazi defense. Böhlau, 2008, p. 163 , accessed on August 3, 2017 .
  41. Horst Schreiber , Christopher Grüner (Hrsg.): Those who died for the freedom of Austria: The liberation monument in Innsbruck. Processes of remembering. Universitätsverlag Wagner, Innsbruck 2016, p. 72.
  42. See, among other things, Hansjakob Stehle: The spies from the rectory. In: The time. January 5, 1996; Judgment of the People's Court GZ 5H 96/44 u. a, p. 7ff.
  43. Andrea Hurton, Hans Schafranek: In the network of traitors. In: . June 4, 2010. Retrieved August 3, 2017 .
  44. ^ ORF: The Church and the Resistance to the Nazi Regime , January 21, 2005.
  45. Jean Bernhard: Pastor block 25,487th Dachau 1941-42. 2004, p. 44; Walter Ferber: 55 months in Dachau: A factual report. 1993, p. 20; Sadistic Passion Play. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . April 1, 2015.
  46. See e.g. B. Erika Weinzierl: Church resistance to National Socialism. In: Topics of contemporary history and the present. Vienna 2004, ISBN 3-8258-7549-0 , pp. 76–85.
  47. So explicitly: Elisabeth Boeckl-Klamper, Thomas Mang, Wolfgang Neugebauer: Gestapo-Leitstelle Wien 1938–1945. Edition Steinbauer, Vienna 2018, ISBN 978-3-902494-83-2 , p. 302.
  48. Elizabeth Boeckl Klamper, Thomas Mang, Wolfgang Neugebauer: Gestapo headquarters in Vienna from 1938 to 1945 . Edition Steinbauer, Vienna 2018, ISBN 978-3-902494-83-2 , p. 300 .
  49. Elizabeth Boeckl Klamper, Thomas Mang, Wolfgang Neugebauer: Gestapo headquarters in Vienna from 1938 to 1945 . Edition Steinbauer, Vienna 2018, ISBN 978-3-902494-83-2 , p. 299 ff .
  50. See judgments of the People's Court GZ 5H 18/44 u. 8 J 203/43.
  51. Hans Schafranek: Resistance and betrayal: Gestapo spikes in the anti-fascist underground. Czernin, Vienna 2017, ISBN 978-3-7076-0622-5 , pp. 161–248.
  52. See also Elisabeth Boeckl-Klamper, Thomas Mang, Wolfgang Neugebauer: Gestapo-Leitstelle Wien 1938–1945. Edition Steinbauer, Vienna 2018, ISBN 978-3-902494-83-2 , pp. 299–305.
  53. ^ Richard Kurfürst ("West"): When Vienna was on fire. The great reminder report about the April days of 1945. Publishing house of the Austrian Trade Union Federation, Vienna 1960.
  54. ^ Felix Czeike : Historical Lexicon Vienna. Volume 1: A – Da. Kremayr & Scheriau, Vienna 1992, ISBN 3-218-00543-4 , p. 373.
  55. See Carl Zuckmayer's autobiography As if it were a piece by me and Walter Kanitz's Close Call .
  56. see also Marietta Bearman et al: Out of Austria: The Austrian Center in London in World War II . London: Tauris Academic Studies, 2008. Paperback 2020, ISBN 978-1350172449 .
  57. Hansjakob Stehle: The spies from the rectory. In: The time. January 5, 1996; Peter Broucek: The Austrian Identity in the Resistance 1938–1945. In: Military resistance: studies on the Austrian state sentiment and Nazi defense. Böhlau Verlag , 2008, p. 163 , accessed on August 3, 2017 . ; Peter Pirker: Subversion of German Rule: The British War Intelligence Service SOE and Austria . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht , Göttingen 2012, ISBN 978-3-89971-990-1 , p. 252 ff . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
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  59. Manfried Rauchsteiner: Phoenix from the ashes. Destruction and reconstruction of the Army History Museum 1944 to 1955. Volume accompanying the special exhibition of the Army History Museum June 21 to October 20, 2005, Vienna 2005, pp. 12–24.
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  61. Archive of the state capital Bregenz: May 1, 1945 - The longest day ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Retrieved on September 25, 2015.
  62. Heinz Dopsch , Hans Spatzenegger (ed.): History of Salzburg. Anton Pustet University Press, Salzburg 1988, ISBN 3-7025-0275-0 .
  63. ^ Hugo Portisch, Sepp Riff: Austria II. The rebirth of our state. Kremayr & Scheriau, Vienna 1985, ISBN 3-218-00422-5 , pp. 286-287.
  64. ^ Manfried Rauchsteiner , Manfred Litscher (Ed.): The Army History Museum in Vienna . Graz, Vienna 2000, pp. 72-73.
  65. Erlauf remembered ; accessed on November 21, 2015.
  66. Percy Ernst Schramm : History of the Second World War . 2nd expanded edition. Verlag AG Ploetz , Würzburg 1960, DNB  451510127 , p. 80 ("[...] of which the Republic of Austria accounts for 280,000 dead and 100,000 missing people; in addition there are 305,000 injured persons, including women and children (investigation status at the end of 1955) [...]").
  67. Erika Weinzierl , Kurt Skalnik (Ed.): Austria. The second republic . 1st edition. tape 1 . Verlag Styria , Graz / Vienna 1972, p. 126 ("[...] of the Austrians in the German Wehrmacht were killed or missing 380,000 [...]").
  68. See, among others, Claudia Kuretsidis-Haider: The reception of Nazi processes in Austria by the media, politics and society in the first post-war decade. In: Jörg Osterloh (Ed.): Nazi Trials and the German Public - Occupation, Early Federal Republic and GDR. 2011, ISBN 978-3-525-36921-0 , p. 415.
    Claudia Kuretsidis-Haider: "The people sit in court": the Austrian judiciary and Nazi crimes using the example of the Engerau trials 1945–1954. 2006, ISBN 3-7065-4126-2 , p. 55 ff.
    Wilhelm Malaniuk: Textbook of criminal law. Volume 1, year ?, p. 113 and 385.
  69. "From the Allies, who wanted to give Austria an incentive to (more) resistance against the German military machine in Moscow, 1943" in: Anton Pelinka : Comment: "Anschluss" - annexation, occupation, or what else?, March 8, 2008 (accessed October 26, 2010).
  70. Survey published on September 11, 1987 in the weekly press .
  71. Christa Zöchling: Kreisky's coup. In: profile. 46.2006 (Nov. 13), p. 26.
  72. Gerald Lamprecht: Day of Remembrance Against Violence and Racism in Memory of the Victims of National Socialism - May 5th . On: Internet portal of the Austrian Ministry of Education ; PDF , accessed May 4, 2011.
  73. Barbara Prammer : Memorial event on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the invasion of German troops in Austria . Shorthand transcript, March 12, 2008.
  74. Commemoration of Austria's “Anschluss” in 1938: top politicians oppose forgetting their own guilt. In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . March 13, 2008, p. 3.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on May 5, 2006 in this version .