Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg (politician)

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Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg, 1932

Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg (born May 10, 1899 in Eferding , Austria-Hungary , † March 15, 1956 in Schruns , Vorarlberg ), Prince until 1919 , was an Austrian politician and home guard leader . From 1920 to 1930 Starhemberg was a member of the Federal Council , in 1930 the top candidate on the home bloc list and briefly interior minister, member of the National Council and, from 1934 to 1936 in the Dollfuss-Schuschnigg dictatorship, federal leader of the Fatherland Front and vice-chancellor .


Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg was the son of Prince Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg and Fanny Starhemberg (actually Franziska, née Countess von Larisch-Moennich).

During the First World War Starhemberg enlisted in the army and served as an ensign on the Italian front . In 1919 the republican German Austria abolished the title of nobility . From 1920 on he studied economics in Innsbruck , where he joined the Corps Rhaetia . In 1921 he signed up for the Freikorps Oberland and took part in the 1921 assault on Annaberg . After the dissolution of the Freikorps , Starhemberg, like many other members of the Freikorps and also members of the newly founded "Bund Oberland", came closer to Hitler . Starhemberg took part in his march on the Feldherrnhalle in 1923, but later presented himself as a staunch opponent of Hitler.

In 1930 Starhemberg became federal leader of the Austrian Heimwehr , a right-wing paramilitary organization, which a little later split into a Christian-social wing under Major Emil Fey and an Austro-Fascist wing under Starhemberg.

At the same time and closely related to it, his political career began. In 1930 he was a member of the short-lived Vaugoin cabinet as Minister of the Interior; he joined the elections in the same year - after failed coalition negotiations with the National Socialists ; the alliance failed because Starhemberg presumed to be the leader  - with a “ home bloc ”, which, however, was not to be successful. In 1932 Starhemberg supported Federal Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss in his efforts to transform Austria into a fascist state based on the Italian model. He himself asked Mussolini for the (illegal) delivery of weapons for the Heimwehr via the Hirtenberg cartridge factory , which led to the Hirtenberg arms affair .

After the military suppression of the February uprising of the Austrian Social Democrats in 1934, in which the Home Guard played a central role, Starhemberg was entrusted by Dollfuss with the office of Vice Chancellor . When a little later, in July 1934, the Austrian National Socialists attempted an uprising and Dollfuss was murdered, Starhemberg and the Home Guard played a leading role in suppressing this putsch. After the coup , he campaigned against the execution of the death sentences of nine coup plotters, but was unable to assert himself against Fey .

At first, Starhemberg was considered the favorite for the post of Federal Chancellor, but did not get a chance for various reasons: Federal President Wilhelm Miklas refused to appoint a Heimwehr leader as Chancellor, and leading Christian-social politicians threatened revelations about Starhemberg's private life. There was also a peculiar passivity of Starhemberg himself on this issue, and so the previous Minister of Education, Kurt Schuschnigg , finally took over the office.

The newly appointed Federal Chancellor, who also ruled in an authoritarian manner, left Starhemberg in office; In addition, he was entrusted with the role of Minister of Security and took over the leadership of the unity party Patriotic Front . In a commemorative address by Starhemberg for Engelbert Dollfuss on July 27, 1934, the main features of his political program can be seen: Here he described Austria as the “barricade of Europe” against Bolshevism, as well as against the “screaming, criminal demagogy of nationalism”. The cultural world looks at the Austrians as fighters “against the barbarism of the twentieth century”; He regards it with the new Schuschnigg government as the "sacred legacy" of the murdered Chancellor, "never to make the slightest compromise with National Socialism , never to make concessions that could impair our full independence and freedom, our honor and dignity". Like other Austrofascists, Starhemberg saw the restoration of the Habsburgs as the - ultimately utopian - ultimate goal of his policy.

Two years later, after Austria's foreign policy rapprochement with the German Reich (agreement of July 11, 1936) and Kurt Schuschnigg's ban on home guards, Starhemberg resigned from all government functions. One of the main reasons for this was his conviction that only strong ties to Italy would ensure Austria's independence ; a view with which he found himself in clear contrast to Schuschnigg's foreign policy course.

However, around the same time Italy, diplomatically isolated after the Abyssinian War, began to move closer and closer to Germany, so that the chances of success of such an alternative were questionable. The fact that Starhemberg was also implicated in the Phoenix scandal of 1936 made it easy for Schuschnigg to remove his rival from the center of power. In the summer of 1936 in Győr, Starhemberg discussed with Arthur Seyss-Inquart the possibilities of establishing an authoritarian, German-national government in Austria with the involvement of “moderate” National Socialists. Under the impression of this domestic political threat, Chancellor Schuschnigg officially dissolved the Home Guard movement in October 1936.

Starhemberg emigrated to Switzerland in 1937 with his wife, the castle actress Nora Gregor . From there, after the annexation of Austria in 1938, he had evidence submitted that "before the reunification of the Ostmark with the Reich, he saw salvation for Austria only in an alliance with National Socialism". In January 1936 in Vienna he had publicly rejected the alliance “with German tribes in the form that Austria would be incorporated into a centralized empire” and, on the other hand, recommended “healthy monarchical propaganda” - the desired monarchy in Austria was only possible “if it corresponds to historical-traditional thinking ”.

In 1939 he sold his vineyards in the Wachau to his tenants. This led to the founding of the Wachau winegrowers' cooperative , which is now known as the Wachau domain . In 1940 he went to France. During World War II , Starhemberg served in the British and French Free Air Forces , from which he resigned after the Soviet Union had allied itself with the Allies . Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg lived in Argentina from 1942 to 1955 .

Commemoration of the Litz Chapel in Schruns

After the Second World War, there was a protracted legal dispute between Starhemberg and the Austrian state over the restitution of the goods expropriated by the Nazi regime in 1939. Starhemberg's lawyer Ludwig Draxler applied for restitution in 1947, which soon became a political issue. In December 1951 the Administrative Court decided in favor of the applicants Draxler and Starhemberg. The SPÖ and KPÖ demanded that Starhemberg's property be forfeited in favor of the republic. The ÖVP avoided standing directly on the side of the former Heimwehr leader, but demanded that all restitution cases should be handled according to the same rules and that no politically justified exceptions should be made. Finally, in March 1952, the governing coalition agreed on a compromise, according to which the property should be legally restituted, but remain under permanent public administration. On July 1, 1954, the Constitutional Court overturned this legal compromise as unconstitutional and ordered immediate restitution.

At the end of 1955, Starhemberg, who had recently received an Austrian passport again, returned to Austria via Switzerland, where, after visiting relatives in Carinthia, he went to Schruns for a spa stay . There he was photographed during a walk by Georg Auer , an editor of the communist Volksstimme . Starhemberg attacked the photographer with a walking stick and got so excited that he suffered a heart attack and died on the spot.

Starhemberg's political failure was attributed by contemporaries and historians not least to its unsteady and erratic character, which often made it difficult for its supporters to understand his actions. Former leader of the Republican Protection Association , Julius Deutsch , said Starhemberg was

“In itself not a malevolent person; he even had a certain fairness, but his recklessness pushed him from adventure to adventure; impulsive, active, gossips the most inconsistent stuff. "

In recent research, parallels have also been drawn between Starhemberg's political rhetoric and that of Jörg Haider .


  • W. Chiba: Das Heimatschutz-Gedenkzeichen 1934 , in: Zeitschrift der Österreichischen Gesellschaft für Ordenskunde No. 61 - February 2006 (a short biography of Starhemberg is attached)
  • Walter Goldinger / Dieter A. Binder : History of the Republic of Austria 1918–1938 . Publishing house for history and politics, Vienna-Munich, 1992 ISBN 3-7028-0315-7
  • Ludwig Jedlicka : ER Prince Starhemberg and the political development in Austria in the spring of 1938 , in: Ludwig Jedlicka: From old to new Austria - case studies on Austrian contemporary history 1900–1975 . Verlag Niederösterreichisches Pressehaus, St. Pölten - Vienna 1975
  • Martin Prieschl: Starhemberg - Der Fürst in der Fremde , in: Austria 1938–1945 - Documents , Archiv-Verlag, Braunschweig 2008.
  • Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg: Between Hitler and Mussolini , 1942
  • Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg: Memoirs , with an introduction by Heinrich Drimmel . Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna - Munich 1971
  • Walter Wiltschegg: The Home Guard. An irresistible popular movement? (= Studies and Sources on Austrian Contemporary History, Volume 7), Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, Vienna 1985, ISBN 3-7028-0221-5 .
  • Gudula Walterskirchen : Starhemberg or The Traces of the Thirties. Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-85002-469-5
  • Helmut Wohnout: An “outrage of all working people”? The Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg restitution case . in: Michael Gehler / Hubert Sickinger (ed.): Political affairs and scandals in Austria. From Mayerling to Waldheim . Kulturverlag Thaur, Vienna-Munich, 1996 ISBN 3-85400-005-7 , pp. 398-418.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Wiltschegg (1985), pp. 198ff.
  2. a b A noble Mr. Karl , website of the daily newspaper Der Standard , Vienna, December 12, 2011, and newspaper of December 13, 2011, p. 14.
  3. ^ Gudula Walterskirchen: The blind spots of history: Austria 1927-1938 . Kremayr & Scheriau, Vienna 2017, p. 83 .
  4. Walterskirchen (2002), p. 105f.
  5. ^ The government agrees with Dollfuss' program. In:  Neue Freie Presse , July 28, 1934, p. 3 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / nfp
  6. Goldinger / Binder (1992), p. 262
  7. See the news about the Appeal of the Fatherland Front on January 20, 1936 in Vienna under January brought the following ( page no longer available , search in web archives: February issue (PDF; 2.0 MB) ) of the Weisse Blätter .@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  8. ^ Wohnout (1996), p. 414
  9. Hubert Sickinger, Michael Gehler (ed.): Political affairs and scandals in Austria. From Mayerling to Waldheim. Kulturverlag, Innsbruck / Vienna 2007, ISBN 978-3-7065-4331-6 , p. 416.
  10. Wiltschegg (1985), p. 215
  11. Walterskirchen (2002), p. 300ff.