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The Resistance in Austria, 1938-1945

The Resistance in Austria, 1938-1945

Copyright Date: 1984
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    The Resistance in Austria, 1938-1945
    Book Description:

    The Resistance in Austria, 1938-1945 was first published in 1984. The Austrians were the first people outside the German Reich to fall under Hitler’s rule, and they remained under the Nazi regime longer than any others. For modern Austria -- one of several states created with the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918 -- the interwar years were marked by economic instability and political polarization; the idea of Anschluss -- unification with Germany -- appealed to many Austrians, even though it was expressly forbidden by the 1919 peace treaty. When Anschluss finally happened, in March 1938, it was imposed on Austria by Germany. The change of power went smoothly, and German troops were greeted by cheering crowds. Nazi rule was accepted by those who felt that Austrians were part of the German nation, or that the country’s serious economic and social problems could best be solved within a dynamic and prosperous Greater Germany. Only a minority of Austrians clung to pre-Anschluss concepts of national identity, and from their ranks came the even tinier minority that formed the Austrian Resistance. Radomir Luza’s Resistance in Austria is the first scholarly treatment of the subject to appear in English. Based largely on primary sources, including interviews with surviving resisters, Luza’s book is an objective yet compelling account of the movement’s origins and development. The Austrian Resistance was made up of people of conscience who spanned the political spectrum. Luza describes the early Resistance as an array of clandestine movements with a constantly changing cast, as Gestapo arrests eroded the front ranks of activists. In the years between Anschluss and the war’s end, nine fairly distinct groups participated in the Resistance, sometimes in concert, sometimes alone, but always with a remarkable sense of solidarity, and at least one motivating factor -- Austrian patriotism -- that overrode ideological differences. These groups ranged from Legitimists, who supported a Habsburg restoration, to the Communists -- highly organized, long familiar with an underground existence, and always subject to death in Nazi purges. Luza also shows how the Austrian Resistance differed from that in other occupied countries. The presence of a strong native National Socialist Party meant that Austrian resisters could not count on wide support in the populace; they were isolated internally as well as from the outside world. Luza’s book centers upon three main phases of the Resistance that evolved gradually under the impact of Nazi policies and the war itself. During the initial phase, diverse political groups, reacting with moral revulsion to the Nazi takeover, made an effort to reestablish Austrian independence. Infiltrated by the Gestapo, the main Communist, Legitimist, and Conservative-Catholic networks were destroyed by the end of 1940. A second, less amateurish generation of resisters took shape between 1941 and 1943. The role of Austrian Communists, and the arrests that silenced them and wrecked their networks, is the main theme of this phase. In the final state of Resistance, hardened survivors and new recruits became more focussed in their efforts; contacts with the United States and the Soviet Union -- and with Austrian military resisters -- made plans for armed uprising possible. Aside from these localized insurgencies in the spring of 1945, the principal activities of the Austrian Resistance were intelligence-gathering and sabotage. Its military significance was virtually nil but, as Luza makes clear, its moral, political, and psychological role was of vital importance -- to the individuals involved and, finally, in the postwar emergence of an independent Austrian state.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6353-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    • 1 Austria, the Anschluss, and the Resistance
      (pp. 3-18)

      The collapse of the Habsburg Empire and the foundation of the democratic Republic in November 1918, restricted to the German-speaking central core of the former Empire, mark the starting point of the wearisome road to the formation of the modern Austrian nation after 1945. The new state faced severe problems. The victorious Allied powers determined Austria's immediate postwar development by prohibiting inclusion of Austria into Germany—the Anschluss—in the 1919 Peace Treaty of Saint Germain. The most urgent task facing this residue of a once vast Empire, which inherited 22.3 percent of the inhabitants—6,710,233 persons—and 32.4 percent...

    • 2 The Labor Movement in the Authoritarian State
      (pp. 19-24)

      On February 12, 1934, the largest political party, the SPÖ, went underground, its authority dissipated in the aftermath of the fiasco of its call for the general strike. Only in Linz, in the workers' quarters of Vienna and Upper Styria, and in a few Socialist strongholds did the Party's paramilitary wing, the Republican Schutzbund (SB), take up arms against the Dollfuss regime to press vainly for the restoration of parliamentary democracy.¹ After suffering a crushing defeat, a few of the SPÖ representatives, including the Party's most prominent leader, Otto Bauer, escaped to Brno in Czechoslovakia, where they established the Foreign...

  6. PART ONE. The First Steps:: The Non-Marxist Alternative

    • 3 The Legitimist Resistance
      (pp. 29-42)

      The abrupt collapse of Schuschnigg's authoritarian regime in March 1938 demonstrated the growing irrelevance of the Austrian right, composed of the Fatherland Front (VF), the exmilitants of the dissolved paramilitary Home Front (HS), and the Legitimist movement. Although claiming to be the official political movement of the authoritarian system, the VF remained very much peripheral. Gathering hundreds of thousands of people, whose adherence was very often compulsory, the VF served merely to frighten members of the prohibited political parties into unwilling support of the government. With nothing to back it, the VF disintegrated almost overnight when the Gestapo took many...

    • 4 The Non-Marxist Youth Movement
      (pp. 43-48)

      Traditionally, Austrian and German youth had been highly organized in diverse groups and movements. The differences between the movements were especially pronounced between the pro-Marxists and the less politically conscious. In general, the labor movement tended to exercise close control, to limit the independence of its youth sections, and to deny any special political role to its youth. On the other end of the political spectrum, religious and bündisch (fraternal youth group) affiliations satisfied the organizational needs of the middle-class young.¹ Although the Catholic and bündisch organizations barred party politics, the anti-Socialist attitude of the Austrian Church and the principles...

    • 5 The Traditionalists
      (pp. 49-61)

      Although many different impulses activated the Catholic or conservative underground, its conception of its leading role within the Austrian political tradition was the primary motivation. Traditionalist groups drew members from the former HS and CSP followers, hard hit by the Anschluss. The emergence and strength of the organizations were, however, largely due to the pervasive influence and exceptional quality of their founders, whose policy was to destroy the Nazi regime from without, through war or economic collapse, rather than from within. However, the Resistance chiefs saw that if they were to contribute toward the Nazi defeat they would have to...

    • 6 Jehovah's Witnesses
      (pp. 62-65)

      Among the chief sufferers from the constraints of the regime was the society called Jehovah's Witnesses, which carried out its mission through the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in the United States and through the International Bible Students Association (Internationale Vereinigung Ernster Bibelforscher, IBV) in the Reich and Austria.¹ The Nazis outlawed the Society because as ministers of Jehovah's Kingdom, Jehovah's Witnesses owed allegiance to no government, state, or nation; they participated in no wars, honored no flag, and refused to be drafted, to bear arms, or to use the Hitler salute. They would not vote, recognize racial laws, nor...

    • 7 The Persecution of the Catholic Church
      (pp. 66-76)

      Because approximately 90 percent of the population belonged to the Roman Catholic Church, the National Socialists considered it a most dangerous rival.¹ Like the Communist organization, the Catholic Church sought to guide the individual in every facet of life. Gradually the Nazi policies deeply disturbed the Austrian Church, but initially its bishops tread warily, anxious as they were to find amodus vivendiwith the new regime and to buy religious freedom at an acceptable price. All appeared well when on March 18, 1938 the bishops issued a declaration urging the faithful to endorse the Anschluss. Their endorsement was meant...

  7. PART TWO. The Left-Wing Democratic Alternative

    • 8 The Socialists
      (pp. 79-87)

      In the early morning hours of March 11, 1938, the last Revolutionary Socialist (RS) conference endorsed its Central Committee's direction to all members prohibiting clandestine work for the next three months. The newly established exile RS central organ in Paris (Auslandsvertretung der österreichischen Sozialisten, AVÖS) heartily endorsed the decision to dissolve its home underground network immediately.¹ Knowing that the powerful Nazi security organs possessed the names of 5,000 illegal RS cadres, the RS leadership opted for prudent restraint. In its view, those activists who had attracted Nazi attention should cease illegal work. In the future, an entirely new personnel alignment...

    • 9 Between Austria and Germany: The Revolutionary Socialists of Austria (RSÖ)
      (pp. 88-96)

      A sense of involvement in the struggle against National Socialism developed in a number of Socialists long before 1938. A few had volunteered to take over clandestine assignments after the Weimar Republic collapsed in 1933 when the SPD presidium moved to exile in Prague (the SOPADE). To organize the chains of contacts with the undergound in the Reich and to get information on the situation there, SOPADE set up outposts along the Czechoslovak-German border. The twenty-seven-year-old librarian, Waldemar von Knoeringen, an SPD official who had escaped from Munich to Austria and then to Czechoslovakia, was responsible for liaison with the...

  8. PART THREE. The KPÖ in the Resistance:: The Communist Cadres and the Socialist Rank and File

    • 10 The Beginning
      (pp. 99-113)

      On the night of March 11-12, 1938, senior KPÖ officials assembled in Prague drafted a resounding answer to the Nazi occupation of Austria. In its proclamation, the Party advocated continuing its policy of national unity designed to acquire it political respectability in an anti-Nazi struggle that would unite the Austrian patriotic forces. "On March 11 the last liberation war of the Austrian people started. . . . Through her own power and with the assistance of the world peace front, a free, independent Austria will be reborn."¹ The commitment to Austrian identity and to the struggle against Nazi domination played...

    • 11 In Full Swing
      (pp. 114-124)

      In the spring of 1940, the survival of Communist cells depended on the performance of local chiefs. The strength of the Viennese underground owed much to a few personalities who united the fragmented groups. Although signs of strains were evident in their relationships, their hostility toward the regime bound them together. The Party bounced back and gradually three principal centers emerged, based on cells in the large industrial plans and the huge municipal enterprises and utilities. One group under Mathias Pista, a city official, controlled the work in Floridsdorf.¹ A second under Gustav Kiesel, a compositor, and Leopold Tomasek, embraced...

    • 12 The Battle
      (pp. 125-133)

      The January 1941 crackdown by the Gestapo intended to stifle the disaffection at the factory level that had been caused by the growing disparity between fixed wages and rising prices, the economic inequalities between the Reich and Austria, and German economic exploitation of the Austrian economy. The regime was well aware of its limited active support among some segments of the working population. Haunted by the events of November 1918, the authorities tried to combat the war's disruptive consequences both by alleviating justified grievances and by displaying police power. In February, the Viennese Reichsstatthalter and Gauleiter Baldur von Schirach submitted...

    • 13 The Defeat
      (pp. 134-145)

      No major letup occurred in the Communist Resistance after the arrest of Gabler. The Party's never-tiring propaganda, countless underground meetings, Radio Moscow and BBC broadcasts, and the successes of the Red Army revived the KPÖ fortunes. Remarkable activism and devotion permitted the Party to sustain casualties unacceptable to democratic forces and enabled it to act as spokesman for the militant segment of the working classes. However, in the final analysis, it was the Soviet-Nazi conflict that nourished fresh political expectations and helped reinforce a distinctive view of the Austrian future. The Party firmly kept to its original strategy of seeking...

    • 14 The End
      (pp. 146-156)

      Side by side with the Party chain of command ran parallel Communist apparatuses. In 1941, a Slovene locksmith, Karel Hudomalj, had built up an independent network in Vienna parallel to the KP organization. Hudomalj was not an ordinary Communist. After years of study in Moscow, he had returned to Yugoslavia to become a member of the Yugoslav KP's Central Committee. After 1936, he had worked in France among Yugoslav workers. In 1941 he proceeded with his conspiratorial work in Vienna.¹ A practical man of strong character and steady nerves, Hudomalj set up the "Anti-Hitler Committee" in November 1942 that, two...

  9. PART FOUR. The Revival, 1943-1944

    • 15 Preparations
      (pp. 158-166)

      After 1938, political opposition in Austria ceased. A host of political leaders were imprisoned in the concentration camps or were in forced retirement. In the camps, the former politicians formed a loosely knit community, cutting across party line, age, and social position. In Dachau, Socialists and Christian Socials, formerly bitter enemies, exchanged views, fully understanding that there could be no return to the wrecked post-1933 regime. They discerned among themselves a need for frank discussion and scrupulous self-examination, a readiness to accept the responsibilities for fatal past errors, and a fervor to cooperate in the future. In setting forth their...

    • 16 The Consolidation of the Resistance
      (pp. 167-177)

      Although the circle around Becker had successfully established the 05 and the Committee of Seven, it never exercised effective control over the individual networks. Many groups, including not a few that cooperated with the 05, worked independently. But coordination was gradual. In this clandestine world, Major Stillfried played a key part in building a flexible line, composed of civilians and military, reaching out from a core in his Office of Censorship of Foreign Letters in Vienna in 1939 to the German military in Berlin and eventually in Italy.¹ In Vienna he cooperated with Colonel Count Rudolf von Marogna-Redwitz, head of...

    • 17 Christian Democracy
      (pp. 178-190)

      Between 1939 and 1945, the democratic elements of the former Christian Social party (CSP), who had been pushed into the background after 1933 by the authoritarian regime, gained momentum in and through the Resistance. Within the elements, three main tendencies emerged that were as much the product of historical precedent as the reflection of new needs and opportunities. These tendencies were those of the democratic Catholic activists, the Christian trade unionists, and the Austrian Peasants' Union.¹

      The first rather loosely structured tendency, that of the democratic Catholic activists, saw Allied victory as the only way to obtain Austrian independence. Some...

  10. PART FIVE. From Conspiracy to Armed Action

    • 18 Guerrilla Warfare
      (pp. 193-209)

      The Communist-led insurgency continued in the rugged mountain terrain of the Carinthian-Yugoslav border country, where the nature of the territory allowed combat parties to survive, and where their small size did not initially provoke the Nazis into large punitive expeditions. Guerrilla activity increased in 1943. The Slovenes fiercely resented their persecution and the Nazi resettlement plans.¹ The Austrian Slovenes had been made to feel second-class, which stung even more bitterly when the end of the regime seemed in sight.

      As traditional Slovene grievances against the Greater-German nationalists intensified after 1938, some young Carinthian Slovenes in the Rosen and Gail Valleys...

    • 19 The Constitution of a Resistance Center and Its International Recognition
      (pp. 210-226)

      By the fall of 1944 the establishment of links to the Western powers seemed as important as gathering support in the country. Having reduced the underground's initial fragmentation, the 05 and the Committee of Seven looked for international recognition.¹ But the difficulties in breaking out of political isolation were almost insurmountable. Without any contact with Austrian exiles and without any effective link with the Allies, they could not relay political intelligence to the West. In turn, the Allies could not commit supplies to the Austrian movements, whose existence they had ignored, nor could they execute subversive actions without a logistical...

    • 20 The Military Resistance and the Liberation of Vienna
      (pp. 227-242)

      For the few soldiers whose primary loyalty was to Austria, clandestine action remained the natural option. To defy Hitler, however, they had to overcome moral issues that civilians did not have to face. Contrary to the tradition of disciplined military service, they had to ignore their military oath to the Führer and disregard the time-honored principle of keeping out of politics. The National Socialist refusal to allow purely Austrian units further restricted the possibilities for clandestine work in the military sector. By the end of 1943, the military realized the great disadvantages of the traditional conspiratorial methods. They decided that...

    • 21 The Insurgency in Tyrol
      (pp. 243-258)

      Outside of Vienna, Tyrol became the locus of clandestine work. Its compact geographical position, enclosed by extensive Alpine ranges, helped shape a strong political subculture that firmly entrenched itself in the mountain valleys. That the inhabitants were active Catholics further bound them together in a province where the National Socialists continually encountered difficulties. The social and economic structure of the region, based mostly on the small independent farmer, the traditional guarantor of Tyrolian patriotism, also strengthened the vital regional sentiment. The strong geographical local boundaries between various subareas discouraged wide-ranging social relations and helped to insulate the traditional Catholic hegemony....

    • 22 The Liberation in the Provinces
      (pp. 259-270)

      By late April all of Austria had become a frontline zone as the Allied armies pushed back the outmanned and outgunned Wehrmacht. Behind the battle lines, the Resistance took the lead in anti-German activity. But its actions, which occurred at different times and places, only further divided the underground, already split into different regions and lacking a single center. Some survivors of Gestapo raids on the original networks, who had withdrawn from clandestine work, rejoined in the last years of the war. New adherents joined late in 1944 and in 1945, when victory seemed likely.

      At this stage, former party...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 273-288)

    If the average citizens had endorsed the Anschluss in 1938, they had done so to live in peace and prosperity, but by the spring of 1945 they felt that their country had sacrificed its own interests to those of Germany for too long. The prevailing mood reflected national pride, economic fear, and sheer warweariness. But the occupation had had positive effects. In spontaneously reintroducing the party system at the provincial and local level, the citizens certainly demonstrated that they prized democracy the more for having lost it. They understood now that strong political parties were crucial to a democratic system....

  12. Appendix: The Profile of the Resistance as an Elite
    (pp. 291-322)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 325-342)
  14. Index
    (pp. 345-366)
  15. Backmatter
    (pp. 367-367)