O5 is the abbreviation of the most famous Austrian resistance group against National Socialism , which appeared from 1944. As a kind of “ideological over-organization” of various resistance groups, their “trademark” O5 stood across party lines and ideologies for the common struggle for a free Austria. The O5 sign on St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna is a reminder of this.
Symbol of resistance
The cipher O5 was invented by the Styrian medical student Jörg Untereiner. 5 stands for the fifth letter in the alphabet, E ; put together, the abbreviation OE or Ö , an abbreviation for Austria . In 1944 this symbol of resistance was first placed on several buildings, especially in Vienna and Innsbruck . At St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, for example, the O5 sign, which is now a protected monument, can be seen to the right of the giant gate . Originally it was painted white; as it faded it was replaced by the engraving.
Creation and networking
The initiator of the group was Hans (von) Becker , the former head of propaganda for the Fatherland Front in the corporate state . Immediately after Austria was "annexed" to Hitler's Germany , he was imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp . After his release in December 1940, he began to establish contacts with various opponents of the Nazi regime in Austria and in some cases in neighboring countries. In the early days, this network was dominated by conservative bourgeois forces, and to a large extent it consisted of sons of upper-class families and members of the former nobility, such as Alfons Stillfried , Wilhelm Thurn and Taxis or Nikolaus Maasburg . From 1944, contacts were made with social democrats and communists .
The main focus of the resistance movement was conspiracy against the Nazi regime and political networking in order to be able to act at the moment of liberation from National Socialism.
O5 took a decidedly pro-Austrian position and thus stood in contrast to those opponents of the Nazi regime who wanted to keep Austria's annexation to Germany even after its suppression ( Adolf Schärf later reported on a secret visit by German Social Democrats to Vienna in 1943, who were surprised , heard from him The connection is dead ).
The O5 was particularly important because it was able to establish a permanent connection with the Western Allies through Fritz Molden . The young Wehrmacht soldier Molden deserted to the Italian partisans in the summer of 1944 and then made his way to Switzerland . There he won the trust of Allen Dulles , the head of the American Office of Strategic Services in Bern . He was supported in Switzerland by the Austrians in exile Kurt Grimm and Hans Thalberg as the so-called liaison office for Switzerland , which also included Emanuel Treu . Molden used forged papers to commute between Vienna, Innsbruck and Switzerland to hold talks and transmit messages, thus helping to activate the resistance cells.
For strategic reasons, the O5 exaggerated the size and strength of the Austrian resistance to the Allies and acted as a summary of all Austrian resistance groups. In an exposé to the Allies in March 1945, a combat strength of 70,000 men was even claimed. While the share of communist forces in the resistance movement against the American secret service was given as very low at 10 percent, communist organizations in exile described the communist forces as "by far the strongest group" in the O5.
The movement cooperated with other cells of the Austrian resistance, above all with a military resistance group formed by Major Carl Szokoll in military district command XVII and the Tyrolean resistance movement . The designation O5 described an initially rather disorganized group under a uniform name. This can also be seen in the descriptions of resistance member Johannes Eidlitz , who negotiated a cooperation with Szokoll in the final phase of the war:
“He [Szokoll] was only willing to get involved with the O5, to negotiate with the O5. We asked if he couldn't tell us what the O5 is. And he said that the O5 is Austria's resistance organization. We had previously believed that this was us. [...] We knew that they only wanted the O5, but we couldn't find an O5. We said quite simply: We are the O5. We are now forming a committee of seven that leads the O5. "
In November 1944, Becker and his colleagues created a committee of seven as a governing body, including Becker, the bourgeois Raoul Bumballa-Burenau , Viktor Müllner , the writer Georg Fraser , the social democrat Eduard Seitz, the liberal Emil Oswald and, as a representative of the communists, Klotilda Hrdlicka belonged to.
After Becker's arrest on February 28, 1945, Bumballa-Burenau took over the chairmanship of the Committee of Seven and Franz Sobek became its deputy.
In December 1944, the so-called Provisional Austrian National Committee (POEN) was formed from people from the O5 network , which was to represent the core of a future provisional Austrian government. Besides Becker, its members included Josef Ezdorf, Friedrich Maurig, Ernst Molden , Heinrich Otto Spitz, Alfons Stillfried, Alfred Verdross and Bertha Lemberger. According to Fritz Molden, Adolf Schärf for the Social Democrats and Viktor Matejka for the Communists are also said to have been a member of the POEN. Both had contacts with the O5, but denied having ever been a member of this body, and Matejka did not join the KPÖ until April 1945 .
Through its representatives abroad, Ernst Lemberger and Franz Marek , who held talks with Allies and organizations in exile in London and Paris in March 1945 , the POEN succeeded in getting the Allies to take it seriously in the course of spring 1945.
Sergeant Ferdinand Käs made contact with the 9th Guard Army of the 3rd Ukrainian Front for negotiations on the planned surrender of Vienna to the Red Army without a fight based on an agreement on military cooperation between the POEN and the Soviet Union .
The arrests of many of its members in the first few months of 1945 prevented the POEN from becoming politically active after the war.
End of war
Agathe Croÿ made the Viennese Palais Auersperg available to the resistance fighters for meetings, which developed into a center of the O5 in the last days of the war. Already during the liberation of Vienna , the O5 tried to set up new administrative structures for Vienna from April 11, 1945.
However, this plan met with resistance from the three new political parties that were being established, which were already preparing for the first National Council elections of the Second Republic (held in November 1945) and who did not value bipartisan institutions: Adolf Schärf from the SPÖ said that they were in the group recognizing a main influence of the communists, Lois Weinberger from the ÖVP located “various elements” and “dubious figures” in the palace and for Ernst Fischer from the KPÖ this was a “band of crooks, swindlers and naive people.” The politicians saw the construction a new administration as the task of the parties and the influence of the - from their point of view not legitimized - resistance movement should be eliminated as quickly as possible. The Soviet city commander of Vienna Alexej Blagodatow ordered the registration of public and political organizations on April 21, 1945, which in fact meant the dissolution of the O5. The future Federal President Adolf Schärf stated in retrospect that the group lacked political professionals.
At the suggestion of the ÖVP, Raoul Bumballa-Burenau was accepted into the provisional state government Renner 1945 on April 27, 1945 , but turned away from the ÖVP that same year. The former resistance movement was no longer represented in the Federal Government of Figl I , which was appointed on the basis of the National Council elections on December 20, 1945 , and some of its members were integrated into the new parties.
Reception in the Second Republic
After the war, due to contradicting eyewitness reports and a research situation in which not all sources have been exhaustively evaluated, an image of the O5 as the umbrella organization of all Austrian resistance groups, whose work and influence was clearly overrated, developed in the public perception. Thus the reputation of the O5 corresponded more to their propagandistically exaggerated self-portrayal towards the Allies than to reality. Carl Szokoll mentioned this discrepancy shortly after the war:
“During the days of the struggle for the liberation of Vienna, I was able to convince myself that the military as well as the political value of the O5 was disproportionate to the propaganda it carried out before. In various conversations with O5 leaders after the liberation of Vienna, I did not come across a single active act worth mentioning. "
“The O5 cannot be portrayed as the Austrian resistance movement, as is done by some contemporary witnesses and historians; it was one of the most important resistance groups, mainly due to its political ambitions and allied contacts, but by no means the umbrella organization or leadership group of the Austrian resistance. "
The historian Oliver Rathkolb described the O5 as not an organization in the true sense of the word, but rather an “ideological over-organization”, which has become known abroad, above all for its propaganda effect. It is indisputable, however, that it represented a political force that had conspired against the Nazi regime and, at least in Vienna, had an apparatus that could have resumed administration after the liberation.
In the film The Third Man from 1949, the famous final chase sequence in the sewer network of Vienna shows an O5 on the sewer wall in one shot.
- Oliver Rathkolb : Raoul Bumballa, a political nonconformist 1945. Case study on the function of the O-5 in the resistance and in party restoration . In: Rudolf G. Ardelt , Wolfgang JA Huber, Anton Staudinger (Ed.): Suppression and Emancipation. Festschrift for Erika Weinzierl. For the 60th birthday . Geyer Edition, Vienna / Salzburg 1985, ISBN 3-85090-119-X , p. 295-317 .
- Wolfgang Neugebauer : The Austrian Resistance 1938–1945 . Edition Steinbauer, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-902494-28-3 , p. 196-198 .
- Manfred Mugrauer: A "gang of crooks, swindlers and naive people". The resistance movement O5 and the Communist Party of Austria . In: DÖW (Ed.): Yearbook 2016: Fanatiker, Duty Fulfiller, Resistant. Reichsgaue Niederdonau, Greater Vienna . Vienna 2016, ISBN 978-3-901142-66-6 , pp. 101–139 ( chapter online on the DÖW website (PDF; 542 kB)).
- Christian Reder : Deformed bourgeoisie . Mandelbaum, Vienna 2016, ISBN 978-3-85476-495-3 , p. 15-65 .
- Fritz Molden : The fire in the night . Amalthea, Vienna / Munich 1988, ISBN 3-85002-262-5 , p. 31-32, 35 .
- Friedrich Heer : The Struggle for Austrian Identity , Hermann Böhlaus Nachf., Graz 1981, ISBN 3-205-07155-7 , p. 441.
- Johannes Eidlitz : The bike suddenly ran, so to speak. DÖW, accessed on January 8, 2018 .
- Erwin A. Schmidl (ed.): Austria in the early Cold War 1945–1958: spies, partisans, war plans . Böhlau, Vienna 2000, ISBN 978-3-205-99216-5 , p. 82 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
- You didn't associate with these people. In: Profile . May 22, 2004, accessed January 18, 2018 .
- Brigitte Bailer : Resistance fighters and politically persecuted people in the Second Republic . In: DÖW (Ed.): Yearbook 2013: Opferschicksale. Resistance and Persecution under National Socialism . Vienna 2013, ISBN 978-3-901142-63-5 , pp. 283 ff .
- See Mugrauer 2016, p. 117.
- See Neugebauer 2008, p. 196.
- See Rathkolb 1985, p. 299.