Austrian Legion

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The Austrian Legion was a paramilitary unit set up from 1933 onwards , which was recruited from Austrian National Socialists who had fled to the German Reich . Its members, predominantly SA men, were initially trained and armed in various camps in Bavaria and were scheduled for a possible German invasion of Austria. The military threat potential that the Legion represented, but also the fact that it was involved in a variety of activities directed against Austria, made the Legion a permanent domestic and foreign political unrest factor, especially in 1933 and 1934.



The " seizure of power " by Adolf Hitler in the German Reich on January 30, 1933 and the success in the Reichstag elections on March 5, 1933 also resulted in a considerable increase in membership in the Austrian NSDAP and an unprecedented euphoria for victory. Due to the “ self-elimination of parliament ” on March 4, 1933 and the taking of an “authoritarian course” by Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss , however, the legal activities for the Austrian National Socialists were drastically restricted in the following months. The domestic political fronts now hardened noticeably until the Austrian government finally imposed a ban on the party on June 19, 1933 as a result of the increasingly violent behavior of the supporters of the NSDAP.

The now illegal activities of the supporters of the NSDAP caused the number of National Socialists who fled Austria to the German Reich for political crimes to rise rapidly in the following months. The question of the accommodation and employment of these refugees became an increasingly urgent problem for the German authorities and led to their organizational registration in the Austrian Legion , which was set up on June 7, 1933 . The legionaries were housed in a barrack camp in Lechfeld (also: Klosterlechfeld ) that had existed since the Franco-Prussian War and that the SA had appropriated for this purpose. As early as the first half of July 1933 ten of the Lechfeld camp barracks were occupied by around 250 legionnaires, and the remaining barracks had to be renovated in a hurry due to the rapid growth of the legion. In this initial phase, the legionaries received military training from the Bavarian State Police and were also given weapons. An attempt by the Austrian Federal Chancellery in August / September 1933 to spy on the Legion by secret police ended in September with the arrest of two Austrian secret police by the Bavarian Political Police in Munich. The two police officers were later exchanged for arrested Austrian National Socialists.

Designation and organizational subordination

During the first few weeks, the troops housed in the Lechfeld camp were officially referred to as SA Austria . On the occasion of an appeal in August 1933, it was first called the Austrian Legion , and this term appeared in the Austrian press on August 4, 1933. In official communication with other NS departments of the terminal was Austrian Legion but only after the " connection " of Austria used the German Reich in March 1938th

For camouflage reasons, the terms “Sportschule Fischer” and later “Hilfswerk Nord-West” (HWNW) were used. It should also be noted that there is no official founding document of the Legion and also no “ precisely defined definition of their function or legitimation by German state or Nazi party offices” . “Only a printed photo in the book The Austrian Legionnaire , published in 1940 , which shows 18 uniformed legionnaires grouped behind a board with the inscription“ 100 days of Austrian Legion June 7th - September 15th ”provides information about their exact details Time of origin.

Another photo of unknown origin shows the “östr. Legion Lechfeld 1933 “with music train. From June 1933 to March 1934, the legionaries were part of the so-called SA Upper Group VIII (= Austria). This was renamed to Obergruppe XI on March 27, 1934 and existed under this name until October of this year. Up to the July coup 1934, the upper group XI also included the illegal Austrian SA units and was under the command of Hermann Reschnys (1898–1971).

July Coup and Conversion of the Legion

Although Hitler had forbidden Reschny in the spring of 1934 to pursue those plans that resulted in a violent overthrow of the Austrian federal government, and thus also forbade a possible deployment of the Austrian Legion in Austria, Reschny gave up completely because of the putsch of the SS in Vienna had been surprised, in the evening hours of July 25, 1934, the SA brigades in Upper Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol and Carinthia gave the order to strike by radio. The alertness of the legionaries in the German camps was soon lifted again, but in the morning hours of July 27th, around 40 to 50 members of the legion crossed the Austrian border on their own at Kollerschlag and were repulsed.

The failure of the putsch not only compromised the SA leadership , it also placed an immense foreign policy burden on Hitler. The latter now completely distanced himself from the Austrian National Socialists: On July 27, 1934, he banned all political leaders in the Reich who were concerned with Austrian affairs from any further activity or support of the Austrian putschists. On August 3, the Austrian national leadership of the NSDAP, to which he attributed sole responsibility for the failed uprising, was dissolved. Hitler's anger particularly hit the Austrian Legion , which in August 1934 had to hand over its entire weapons inventory (10,300 rifles and carbines , around 340 MG , 1,300,000 rounds of ammunition) to the Reichswehr and to withdraw it from its locations near the Austrian border and store it in the Moved north of the empire. After its official dissolution, it was to be converted into a pure care facility for Austrian Nazi refugees under the name Hilfswerk Nordwest . But it did not come to that after all; rather, “ on the German side , they were content with the“ fiction ”of a dissolution of the Legion. “However, in the following years there were a number of other relocations of the teams and also a restructuring of the Legion, in which three brigades were formed instead of the previous storm bans and standards .

The End

However, when Austria was annexed on March 13, 1938, the Legion was not called in, rather it was initially determined that it was not allowed to return to Austria at all. However, through an intervention with Hitler, the SA leader and commander of the Legion, Hermann Reschny, was able to march into the Ostmark , formerly Austria, closed and armed in early April 1938 . Because of this time lag to the " Anschluss ", it was no longer possible to establish a connection with it and it was difficult for their relatives to claim positions in the Austrian NSDAP. The reason for this was that after the “ Anschluss ” the party structures of the Austrian NSDAP were liquidated and the leadership positions were filled in order to align the party, which tended towards separatism, with a unified empire. After their return, the Legion, around 10,000 men, was disarmed, disbanded and largely integrated into professional life.


The Austrian Legion functioned primarily as a politico-military threat instrument by Hitler against Austria. In the German Reich, the Legion, following its self-image, prepared for military intervention in Austria. Nazi terror in Austria was also supported through the Legion. Legionnaires not only smuggled propaganda material, weapons and explosives into Austria, but were also often active as leaders of the terror groups operating here. This constant threat posed by the Legion explains not only the special interest that the Austrian security authorities devoted to the escape of their citizens to Germany, but also the significant deterioration in relations between the two states after the ban on the NSDAP.

Legion camp

The camps of the Austrian Legion in the German Reich are estimated to be at least twelve, with the Lechfeld camp being the first and central camp. Since Lechfeld was not suitable for winter, but Nazi refugees from Austria kept coming, a new central camp was built next to Bad Aibling , where the ex-Austrians received basic military training as infantrymen. A news tower was set up in the Senden-Gerlenhofen camp near Ulm, where the legionaries were prepared for secret service tasks in Austria. Motorized storms were built up in the Egmating camp near Munich. A so-called recreation camp for legionaries was built in Langenargen . The Deggingen camp was set up as a new reception camp for the HWNW. In addition, camps in Bocholt (later the main camp VI F ) and Dorsten were built in 1935 , which Bokisch / Zirbs described as the most beautiful camps of the Legion.


  • Michael Holzmann: "and is the Legion on the post assigned to it". The Austrian Legion as an instrument of early Nazi aggression policy. Lit, Münster 2018, ISBN 9783643140395 .
  • Michael Holzmann: The Austrian SA and its illusion of “Greater Germany”. Völkisch nationalism in Austria until 1933. Pro Business, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-863860868 .
  • Hans Schafranek : Mercenaries for the Anschluss. The Austrian Legion 1933–1938. Czernin Verlag, Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-7076-0331-6 .
  • Jürgen W. Schmidt: A German-Austrian secret service conflict from the early days of the Third Reich. In: Jürgen W. Schmidt (Ed.): Secret services, military and politics in Germany. Ludwigsfelde 2008, ISBN 978-3-933022-55-4 , pp. 316-340.
  • Gerhard Jagschitz : The putsch. The National Socialists in Austria in 1934. Styria, Graz / Vienna / Cologne 1976, ISBN 3-222-10884-6 .
  • Marius Lange: The Austrian Legion in Bocholt 1935–1938 and the construction of the city forest camp , in: Stadt Bocholt (Hrsg.): History of the Bocholter city forest camp , Bocholt 2015.

See also

References and comments

  1. In Austria, flight was a criminal offense of “high treason” and resulted in expatriation . The "expatriation registers" preserved in the archive of the republic show that as of October 28, 1934 the number of legally expatriated persons from all over Germany was 3,879. Around a quarter of all Nazi refugees came from Styria, but Carinthia and Salzburg were far more overrepresented in relation to their population. See Kurt Bauer : Structure and dynamics of illegal National Socialism in the Upper Styrian industrial region 1933/34. Phil. Diploma thesis, Vienna 1998, p. 59. ( PDF file; 1.05 MB )
  2. Schafranek (2010), p. 34f.
  3. a b Schafranek (2010), p. 37.
  4. Schafranek (2010), p. 32.
  5. See the corresponding picture in Schafranek (2010), p. 31.
  6. Hellwig Heinzel: The connection 1938: The Austrian Legion. In: The postage stamp. Vol. 59, 5.11 = May 2011, ZDB -ID 2189145-X , p. 19.
  7. Schafranek (2010), p. 157.
  8. Schafranek (2010), p. 161.
  9. Schafranek (2010), p. 172f.
  10. ^ Gerhard Jagschitz : From "Movement" to Apparatus. On the phenomenology of the NSDAP 1938 to 1945. In: Emmerich Tálos , Ernst Hanisch , Wolfgang Neugebauer (eds.): NS rule in Austria. Verlag für Gesellschaftskritik, Vienna 1988, ISBN 3-900351-84-8 , pp. 88–122 ( Austrian texts on social criticism 36).
  11. See Schafranek (2010), pp. 89–131.
  12. Wolfgang Weber : From Silbertal to Sobibor. About Josef Vallaster and National Socialism in the Montafon. Rheticus-Gesellschaft , Feldkirch 2008, ISBN 978-3-902601-07-0 , p. 34 ( series of publications by the Rheticus-Gesellschaft 48).
  13. ^ Austrian Legion in Westmünsterland. Retrieved on March 28, 2019 (German).