Kurt Schuschnigg

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Kurt Schuschnigg (1936)

Kurt Alois Josef Johann Schuschnigg (officially Edler von Schuschnigg from 1898 to 1919 ; * December 14, 1897 in Riva on Lake Garda , Austria-Hungary ; †  November 18, 1977 in Mutters , Tyrol ) was an Austrian politician.

In the mitkonzipierten of him as justice minister austrofaschistischen " corporate state " he was from 29 July 1934 to the 11 March 1938 dictatorial reigning Chancellor of the State of Austria. From 1936 Schuschnigg also took over the leadership of the Austrian unity party Patriotic Front and carried the title "Federal Chancellor and Front Leader".

After the " Anschluss of Austria " he was imprisoned by the National Socialists until 1945 as a " protective prisoner " in various concentration camps. After the end of World War II , he became a citizen of the United States and was a professor of constitutional law there. In 1968 he returned to Austria, where he died in 1977.



Kurt Schuschnigg was the son of an old Austrian officer family based in Tyrol , his grandfather Alois Schuschnigg was raised to hereditary nobility in 1898 due to the regulations on the systematic nobility . The family's roots lie on the Radsberg near Klagenfurt . The family was of Slovene-Carinthian descent ( Slovene spelling of the name Schuschnigg: "Šušnik"). His father was the officer Artur Schuschnigg (1865–1938), his mother Anna, née Wopfner (1872–1935), a sister of the historian Hermann Wopfner . His younger brother was the future art historian and radio worker Artur Schuschnigg (1904–1990).

Young years and politics

Kurt Schuschnigg attended the Jesuit high school " Stella Matutina " in Feldkirch . After graduating from high school , in the summer of 1915 he volunteered for one year for military service in the First World War . He achieved the rank of lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian army and fought a. a. in the 6th Isonzo battle . At the end of the war he was taken prisoner in Italy, from which he returned to Austria in September 1919. After studying law (Dr. iur.) At the Universities of Freiburg im Breisgau and Innsbruck , he opened a law firm in 1924 . In Innsbruck he was a member of the Catholic student union AV Austria Innsbruck since 1919 , then in the CV , today in the ÖCV . He was also one of the founders of the KAV Rheno-Danubia Innsbruck.

At the same time he was also involved in the Christian Social Party . From 1927 on he was the youngest member of the National Council . Since he mistrusted the Heimwehr , he founded his own military association in 1930, the emphatically Catholic and anti-Semitic Ostmärkische Sturmscharen .

In 1926 he married Herma Masera, with whom he had a son (Kurt, 1926-2018). She died on July 13, 1935 in a car accident near Pichling near Linz (memorial stone on Bundesstrasse 1). Kurt Schuschnigg survived the accident with a shoulder fracture. Rumors of an attack persist to this day. In reality it was a technical problem.

Justice Minister against Democracy

Buresch government (1932). From left, seated: Vaugoin, Winkler, Buresch, Weidenhoffer, Federal President Miklas; standing: Dollfuss, Schuschnigg, Czermak, Resch

In 1932 he became Minister of Justice in the cabinet of Chancellor Karl Buresch or in the federal government Dollfuss I . Even then, the federal government was openly discussing the elimination of democracy. Schuschnigg is mentioned in the minutes of the Council of Ministers of June 17, 1932, chaired by Dollfuss, with the statement that “the government […] is faced with the decision whether it can continue to take responsibility for working with parliament and whether the next change of cabinet does not mean anything should be with the elimination of parliament ”.

In 1933 Schuschnigg also became Minister of Education. The death penalty , abolished in 1920, was reintroduced at his instigation with the martial law of November 11, 1933.

"Workers Murder" or "Faux Pas"

After the February uprising in 1934, also known as the civil war , Schuschnigg, in his capacity as Minister of Justice, refused to submit requests for clemency from February fighters to the Federal President . Rather, as a deterrent example to end the fighting more quickly , Schuschnigg had eight of the dozen death sentences carried out immediately, including the seriously wounded Karl Münichreiter . That is why Dollfuss and Schuschnigg were still called “workers murderers” decades later by the Social Democrats. Many years later, in a television interview, Schuschnigg described Münichreiter's execution as a “ faux pas ”.

Federal Chancellor 1934–1938

Kurt Schuschnigg in Geneva in 1934

Domestic politics

After Engelbert Dollfuss - which the off Parliament , all parties banned and the Constitutional Court paralyzed had - the July Putsch by Austrian Nazis otto planetta was assassinated, he was succeeded Schuschnigg 1934, Office of the Chancellor . From 1934 to 1936 he lived in the Palais Augarten , then until March 1938 in a wing of the Upper Belvedere in Vienna.

The government is Schuschnigg in research alternately as a half-fascism , semi-fascist dictatorship , clerical-fascism or Austrofascism referred. As Dollfuss ruled dictatorially, Schuschnigg tried to shape the Austro-Fascist “corporate state” according to his ideas, but he did not succeed. He tried to position Austria as a second, Christian, “better German state” compared to the German Empire .

In September 1934, the number of political prisoners held in detention camps and notaries reached 13,338. A total of around 16,000 Austrians were imprisoned in the “corporate state” for political reasons.

In May 1935 he passed the “Federal Law for the Protection of the Reputation of Austria”, with which foreign press products in particular could be banned.

Foreign policy

Schuschnigg with Galeazzo Ciano and Guido Schmidt (from right to left), at the three-party conference in Vienna on November 12, 1936

Dependent on a protective power, he became even more dependent on Benito Mussolini's fascism than had been the case under Dollfuss. After the occupation of Ethiopia by Italy , the internationally isolated Mussolini needed Hitler's backing, which brought Austria under increasing pressure from the German Empire.

In 1936 the so-called July Agreement came about , in which Hitler recognized Austria's sovereignty and lifted the one-thousand-mark barrier introduced in 1933 , but demanded that Austrian foreign policy should correspond to that of Germany. In addition, the politicians close to National Socialism Edmund Glaise-Horstenau (as minister without portfolio ) and Guido Schmidt (as State Secretary for Foreign Affairs) were accepted into the government and Arthur Seyß-Inquart into the State Council. Many National Socialists allowed themselves to be superficially integrated into the regime under the guise of the so-called " People's Political Unit " within the framework of the unity party Patriotic Front .

In a secret part of this July Agreement , many Nazi newspapers that had previously been banned were allowed again. Among other things, this step ushered in the fall of Austrofascism. Schuschnigg also had difficulties with the representatives of the Heimwehr in the government.

The "connection" of Austria

Truck with Schuschnigg's supporters (poster photos), call for elections for independence, March 10, 1938

Hitler increased the pressure from the beginning of 1938. On February 12, 1938, Schuschnigg was summoned to the Berghof by Hitler - to dictate the Berchtesgaden Agreement . Hitler forced Schuschnigg to include the National Socialist Arthur Seyss-Inquart as Minister of the Interior in his cabinet. Schuschnigg turned down an offer by the illegal Social Democrats to support the struggle for Austria's independence, as the Social Democrats made the re-admission of their party and free trade unions a condition. In a public speech on February 24, 1938, he invoked Austria's independence: “Until death! Red White Red! Austria! ”The content and tone of Schuschnigg's speech caused initial irritation among Hitler.

Schuschnigg tried to hold a referendum on Austria's independence, which would have been supported by the illegal social democrats and communists. The original concept still referred to a referendum. However, this would have been unconstitutional on the basis of Article 65, since it was only intended in the event of a conflict between the government and the Federal President or the legislature. Interior Minister Seyß-Inquart and Minister Edmund Glaise-Horstenau immediately explained to their Federal Chancellor that the vote in this form was unconstitutional. According to the constitution, the Chancellor determined the guidelines of politics, so he was also allowed to hold a referendum on these guidelines, and no law was necessary for this. The slogan would contain a “yes” “no change”, but only a “reaffirmation” of the constitution, and this would not require a Council of Ministers decision. In addition, Minister Glaise-Horstenau was on a lecture tour in Germany these days; the Council of Ministers would therefore not have been complete.

In a speech on March 9, 1938 in Innsbruck, at a mass meeting of the Fatherland Front, Schuschnigg announced the referendum for Sunday, March 13, 1938. This surprise coup was not administratively prepared.

The question should be whether the people want a “free and German, independent and social, Christian and united Austria” or not. Schuschnigg failed to ask the cabinet about this, as it was not a referendum, but a referendum. The counting of votes should be done by the Fatherland Front alone . The members of the public service should vote in their departments under supervision on the day before the election and hand over their completed ballot papers openly to their superiors. The intention that only ballot papers with the imprint “YES” should be given out in the polling stations had been abandoned.

Whether the plebiscite was a “flight forward” by the Austrian Chancellor or a “serious mistake”, Hitler changed his strategy and set about achieving his goal immediately: He ordered the mobilization of the 8th Army planned for the invasion and refused Seyss-Inquart on March 10th to issue an ultimatum and to mobilize the Austrian party supporters.

Apparently Hitler feared that the vote could result in a majority against the "Anschluss". Under pressure from Berlin, Schuschnigg had to cancel the referendum on March 10th. On March 11, when the Austrian National Socialists had already taken power in many places and German police experts arrived in Vienna by plane, Schuschnigg was forced to resign. Seyss-Inquart took over the chancellorship for three days, which was forced upon Federal President Wilhelm Miklas as an ultimatum, as was the new government proposed afterwards. Otherwise, the German Reich government threatened "the invasion of German troops into Austria for this hour".

On the evening of March 11, 1938, beginning at 7:47 p.m., Schuschnigg gave a radio address in the Federal Chancellery, which was broadcast by RAVAG , the Austrian broadcaster at the time, from the headquarters in Johannesgasse in Vienna. This farewell speech, which has become historical and is often quoted in parts, is presented in today's overall scientific analysis as ambivalent and contradictory beyond the well-known final sentence "God protect Austria!" to protect the invasion of Germany should have included. On the other hand, it reflects the image of the common German blood and the German nation with the German-national mood, which was still strongly anchored at that time, as well as of an Austria that should be perceived as the better Germany. In assignment of the President, he said in his speech that "we [the government] of violence soft", but that was to be shed under any circumstances "German blood", so the army - which he described as Wehrmacht names - had not received a deployment order. The farewell speech in full:


Today has presented us with a difficult and decisive situation. I have been assigned to report to the Austrian people about the events of the day: The German Reich Government has given the Federal President a limited ultimatum, according to which the Federal President can appoint a candidate proposed to him as Federal Chancellor and approve the government according to the proposals of the German Reich Government otherwise the invasion of German troops into Austria was envisaged for this hour. I realize in front of the world that news that was circulated in Austria, that there had been labor unrest, that rivers of blood had flowed, that the government was not in control of the situation, that its own could not have brought order, was invented from A to Z. are.

The Federal President instructs me to inform the Austrian people that we are giving way to violence!

Because we are not inclined to shed German blood at any price, even in this serious hour, we have given our armed forces the order, in the event that the invasion is carried out, without substantial resistance, without resistance, to withdraw and the decisions wait for the next few hours. The Federal President has entrusted General of the Infantry Schilhawsky, the General Troop Inspector, with the management of the Wehrmacht. The further instructions to the Wehrmacht will be issued through him.

So I say goodbye to the Austrian people at this hour with a German word and a heartfelt wish: God protect Austria! "

- Kurt Schuschnigg : radio address, archived in the Austrian media library .

On the next day, March 12th, the German armed forces finally crossed the border at Braunau and marched into Austria without resistance. The Federal Government of Seyß-Inquart implemented the " Anschluss of Austria " on March 13th in harmony with the Reich Government in Berlin by law. Federal President Miklas did not want to sign this law and resigned. Since the rights of the Federal President passed to the Chancellor in this case, Seyss-Inquart signed it as head of state and as Federal Chancellor. Both offices went under by the law, which was supplemented in April 1939 by the " Ostmarkgesetz ".

Gestapo prisoner in Vienna

From then on, Schuschnigg was under house arrest in the Belvedere and was imprisoned by the Vienna Gestapo in the former Hotel Métropole , the Vienna Gestapo headquarters , from the end of May . Shortly afterwards he married Vera (1904–1959), née Czernin von Chudenitz, as a prisoner in his second marriage . She had been divorced from Count Leopold Fugger von Babenhausen in 1937 ; the marriage had also been ecclesiastically annulled . Schuschnigg later had a daughter with Vera.

The prison conditions in Vienna were bad and harassed. In addition, Schuschnigg was considered suicidal , which is why he was constantly watched. "When he was relocated to Munich in autumn 1938 , the 1.83 meter tall Schuschnigg weighed just over 40 kilos."

Prisoner in concentration camps 1939–1945

Schuschnigg was interrogated at the Reich Security Main Office on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse in Berlin and then imprisoned in several concentration camps: first in Dachau , then in Flossenbürg and, from 1941, finally in Sachsenhausen . In Sachsenhausen concentration camp he was allowed to live in a separate house, where his wife and children, who were not imprisoned, accompanied him.

Like other imprisoned important politicians, socialists and Protestant church leaders (e.g. Martin Niemöller ), Schuschnigg was granted prominent status, which meant preferential treatment and some easing of detention. A so-called Eastern worker took care of the household and accompanied Schuschnigg's wife to the town to go shopping. Schuschnigg's son Kurt went daily from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp to the grammar school and later stayed with his father during his naval service on vacation. The admission to be allowed to live with the prisoner presupposed the willingness of the family to keep absolute silence about the concentration camp and the stay of Schuschnigg.

Schuschnigg allegedly also had the option of having his furniture and his extensive library brought to the house he lived in in the concentration camp. The diet is said to have consisted of " diplomatic meals " with a daily bottle of wine. These privileges were granted in view of the show trial against Schuschnigg planned after the final victory . The aim of this was to demonstrate to the international post-war public the generosity of the “Third Reich” even towards its enemies.

Liberation 1945

In the spring of 1945 Schuschnigg was transferred from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp to the Dachau concentration camp . There, over 130 other prominent special inmates and clan prisoners from various concentration camps were brought together as hostages . Under the orders of SS-Obersturmführer Edgar Stiller and SS-Untersturmführer Bader, who had the order to liquidate the prisoners in case of doubt, they broke into three groups on April 17, 24 (including Schuschnigg) and April 26, 1945 with buses and Lorries in the Dolomites. In Niederdorf in South Tyrol, on April 30, the Wehrmacht - Captain Wichard von Alvensleben, on the orders of his superior Heinrich von Vietinghoff and his company, forced the SS to surrender and withdraw. On May 4, 1945, Schuschnigg, his wife Vera and daughter Elisabeth, like the other hostages, were finally freed by the Americans .

American citizen

After the liberation, the Schuschniggs moved to Italy, where they lived for two years. Kurt and Vera Schuschnigg then emigrated to the USA with their six-year-old daughter Maria Dolores Elisabeth through the mediation of a friend from their time in Innsbruck , where they arrived in New York in 1947 on the ship Saturnia . The family settled in St. Louis ( Missouri ), where Kurt Schuschnigg taught at the Jesuit College Saint Louis University until 1967 as a professor of state and political science. Like the private high school that Schuschnigg attended when he was at school in Austria, this university was run by the Jesuits. In 1956, the Schuschniggs received American citizenship . In 1963 he stated "somewhat baffled" (ORF) in a letter: "It's funny that nowhere in my life has I been uninterrupted longer than in St. Louis."

In 1968 Schuschnigg returned to Austria, but was no longer politically active. He spent the last years of his life up to his death in 1977, being provided for since 1963 by a “stately political pension” (ORF), which he had acquired from his time as Minister of Justice and Chancellor, in his hometown in Tyrol.

After his return, Schuschnigg was not held responsible by the Austrian judiciary "for the break with the democratic constitution of 1920/29, which he had already systematically brought about as Minister of Justice under Engelbert Dollfuss." He hardly ever dealt critically with his political decisions up to 1938.

His grave is in the cemetery in Mutters.


  • Austria three times . Publisher Thomas Hegner, Vienna 1937.
  • A requiem in red-white-red. Records of inmate Dr. Oyster . Amstutz, Zurich 1946.
  • Austria. A historical show . Publishing house Thomas More, Sarnen 1946.
  • In the fight against Hitler. Overcoming the connection idea . Amalthea, Vienna 1988, ISBN 3-85002-256-0 .
  • Dieter A. Binder (Ed.): Destroy immediately. The confidential letters of Kurt and Vera von Schuschnigg 1938–1945 . Amalthea, Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-85002-393-1 .


The fate of the so-called prominent clan prisoners u. a. Schuschniggs shortly before the end of the war was filmed in a two-part ZDF / ARTE drama documentary We, Geiseln der SS , which was broadcast in two parts of 52 minutes each on April 7, 2015 in ARTE and on April 14, 2015 as a 45-minute summary We, Hostages of the SS Odyssey was broadcast on ZDF for the first time before the end of the war . A 90-minute version was created for ORF , which premiered on April 10, 2015. Schuschnigg was played by Martin Thaler in this film .


Web links

Commons : Kurt Schuschnigg  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. The mother of the Federal Chancellor †. In:  Salzburger Chronik. Tagblatt with the illustrated supplement “Die Woche im Bild” , August 21, 1935, p. 5 (online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / sch.
  2. ^ Kurt Edler von Schuschnigg. In: ÖStA . 2014, accessed August 12, 2018 .
  3. ^ Gerhard Hartmann: Kurt von Schuschnigg. ÖCV , December 12, 2017, accessed on August 12, 2018 .
  4. ^ Schuschnigg son died in New York. Courier, October 30, 2018, accessed November 1, 2018 .
  5. Kurt Schuschnigg junior: "What else should my father have done?" Courier, March 11, 2018, accessed November 1, 2018 .
  6. ^ Fatal accident with the Chancellor's limousine. Upper Austrian news
  7. Ministers' Protocol No. 808, p. 244, quoted from: Emmerich Tálos, Wolfgang Neugebauer (Ed.): Austrofaschismus ”. Articles on politics, economics and culture 1934–1938. 2nd Edition. Verlag für Gesellschaftskritik, Vienna 1984, ISBN 3-900351-30-9 , p. 39.
  8. Wolfgang Neugebauer: Repression apparatus - and measures. In: Emmerich Tálos (ed.): Austrofaschismus. Politics - Economy - Culture 1933–1938 . Verlag Lit, Vienna 2005, ISBN 978-3-8258-7712-5 , pp. 298–321, here: p. 301.
  9. ^ Arnold Suppan : Yugoslavia and Austria 1918–1938. Bilateral foreign policy in the European environment. Verlag für Geschichte u. Politics, Vienna 1996, ISBN 3-486-56166-9 , p. 89; and Ludwig Jedlicka (ed.): From the Justizpalast to Heldenplatz. Studies and documentation from 1927 to 1938 . Österreichische Staatsdruckerei, Vienna 1975, p. 201.
  10. Wolfgang Neugebauer: Repression apparatus - and measures . In: Emmerich Tálos (ed.): Austrofaschismus. Politics - Economy - Culture 1933–1938. Verlag Lit, Vienna 2005, ISBN 978-3-8258-7712-5 , pp. 298–321, here: p. 303.
  11. ^ Arnold Suppan: Yugoslavia and Austria 1918–1938. Bilateral foreign policy in the European environment. Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, Vienna 1996, ISBN 3-486-56166-9 , p. 94.
  12. Wolfgang Neugebauer: Repression apparatus - and measures. In: Emmerich Tálos (ed.): Austrofaschismus. Politics - Economy - Culture 1933–1938 . Verlag Lit, Vienna 2005, ISBN 978-3-8258-7712-5 , pp. 298–321, here: p. 314.
  13. Federal Law Gazette No. 214 (1935). “Federal Law for the Protection of the Reputation of Austria”; forbidden printed matter published in the official section of the Wiener Zeitung .
  14. quoted from: Georg Christoph Berger Waldenegg: Hitler, Göring, Mussolini and the “Anschluss” of Austria to the German Reich. In: Vierteljahrshefte zur Zeitgeschichte 51, issue 2, Munich 2003, p. 162. ( full text (PDF; 7.98 MB) on the IFZ Munich website , accessed on July 21, 2014).
  15. a b Gerhard Urbanek: Rejection of reality or panic reaction “Patriotic” communication policy in Austria between the July Agreement 1936, Berchtesgaden Protocol and “Anschluss” 1938 . Vienna 2011, p. 64 f .
  16. Gerhard Botz : Schuschnigg's planned “referendum” and Hitler's “referendum” in Austria. A comparison. In: Rudolf Neck (Hrsg.): Anschluss 1938. Protocol of the symposium in Vienna on March 14th and 15th, 1978. Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, Vienna 1981, ISBN 3-7028-0168-5 , pp. 220–243.
  17. ^ Norbert Schausberger : On the prehistory of the annexation of Austria . In: Heinz Arnberger (ed.): “Anschluss” 1938. A documentation. Österreichischer Bundesverlag, Vienna 1988, p. 15.
  18. ^ Henning Köhler: Germany on the way to itself. A history of the century. Hohenheim-Verlag, Stuttgart 2002, p. 344.
  19. Illustration in Nebelspalter
  20. a b c Last radio address as Austrian Chancellor by Kurt Schuschnigg on March 11, 1938. ( Radio address by the Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg with a declaration of renunciation of force in the event of a German invasion. (MP3 audio, 02:51 min.)) On March 11 1938 in the online archive of the Austrian Media Library .
  21. Unconditional loyalty to the leader . In: Der Spiegel . No. 11 , 1968 ( online - excerpts from a letter from Schuschnigg to Hitler).
  22. ^ The New York Times , June 4, 1938.
  23. ^ Anton Hopfgartner: Kurt Schuschnigg. One man against Hitler. Styria, Graz / Vienna 1989, ISBN 3-222-11911-2 , p. 233.
  24. ^ Herbert Lackner: The tragic chancellor. In: profile No. 9 (39th year) February 25, 2008, p. 45 ( online version ).
  25. Dieter A. Binder (Ed.): Destroy immediately. The confidential letters of Kurt and Vera von Schuschnigg 1938–1945. Amalthea, Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-85002-393-1 .
  26. Peter Koblank: The Liberation of Special Prisoners and Kinship Prisoners in South Tyrol. Online edition Myth Elser, 2006.
  27. a b Passenger search for Schuschnigg on the website of the Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation, accessed on March 11, 2018.
  28. a b Andreas Novak , Gregor Stuhlpfarrer: The second life of Kurt Schuschnigg. In: science.ORF.at, March 9, 2018, accessed on March 11, 2018.
  29. Siegfried Mattl : Dangerous naivety before the story. In: science.ORF.at, undated, accessed on March 11, 2018.
  30. We hostages of the SS - 1st part: Journey into the unknown and We hostages of the SS - 2nd part: On a knife's edge on vimeo.com.