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Winfried R. Garscha
The Failed Expulsion of "Germanness": Political, Judicial and Cultural Aspects of Anti-German Resentments, 1945-1948
In February 1946 the US occupation authorities suspend- ed the social-democratic daily “Linzer Tagblatt” temporar- ily, because it had published an op-ed emphasizing Austria being part of German culture. The author rejected the proclamation of a distinct Austrian nation as attempt to trivialize Austrian participation in the Nazi crimes.
Contrary to that the political elites in Vienna proclaimed an overemphasis of “Austrianness” in culture, language and history as a method to shift the Nazi blame on to the Germans and to get rid as soon as possible from Allied tutelage.
Austrian judiciary prosecuted Nazi crimes committed by Austrians. More than 13,000 defendants had found guilty, around 80% among them though for having been members of the clandestine Nazi party before 1938, which was prosecuted as "high treason". By that judiciary contributed to the externalization of the crimes as "un- Austrian".
An almost unknown aspect of the Austro-German relations in the immediate post-war era is the forced transfer of some 150,000 German citizens from October 1945 until summer 1946, accompanied by xenophobic effusions in Viennese newspapers.
Main partisans of a rigid "Austrification" of everyday culture were conservative and communist journalists. Their apparent concern was to strengthen an anti-Nazi Austrian identity by fueling anti-German resentments.
The paper provides examples from the vocabulary on feature pages until female haircut, and prove that the campaign failed. Identification of a majority of the population with their own independent nation during the following decades was result of economic prosperity and international reputation; and not of expulsion of "Germanness" from Austria.
The paper was given on April 26, 2009
at the Annual Symposium of the Modern Austrian Literature and Culture Association/MALCA, nowadays "Austrian Studies Association" ("Verfreundete Nachbarn": The German-Austrian Encounter in Literature, Film and Cultural Discourse), in Atlanta, Georgia.
When, in July 1945, the U.S., the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union agreed upon the division of Germany and Austria into four occupation zones respectively, they made a distinction between Germany and Austria with regard to the assessment of Germany as a defeated and Austria as a liberated country. The soviets published an official declaration in Moscow on August 9th calling Austria a "liberated" rather than a "conquered" country. The United States published their statement in the form of an article of a member of the US senate in the "Wiener Zeitung" on August 10 th 1945. It can be taken for sure that the publication of the article in the official newspaper of the Austrian government was authorized at least by the US occupation authorities if not the State Department. The US statement explained to the Austrian readers the difference between Allied occupation policy in Germany and Austria. The Allied occupation of Germany targeted the eradication of German militarism and Nazism. The aim of the occupation of Austria, however, was to foster the birth of a free and independent nation.
The US Occupation Authorities Suspend a Social-Democratic Newspaper (February 1946)
Despite this declaration, the main target of US occupation in Austria with respect to Austrian interior politics was De-Nazification and democratization. Fostering of Austrian patriotism was not part of this concept. But in February 1946 an incident in Linz on the Danube, which was part of the American occupation zone, showed that not only the Soviets but also the U.S. were suspicious against any sign of pan-Germanism. Immediately after the social-democratic daily "Linzer Tagblatt" had published, on February 7th 1945, an op-ed article emphasizing Austria being part of German culture, the US occupation authorities suspended the newspaper for a period of four weeks. The anonymous author was one of the leading figures of the local social democratic party, Alois Oberhummer, who had been member of the first Upper Austrian provincial government before he was appointed as one of the editors of the party newspaper. The US occupation authorities demanded Oberhummer’s instant dismissal and an official rejection of the article by the party, unless they would revoke the publication license for the social democratic daily.
What had caused this vivid reaction?
Oberhummer polemicized in his op-ed article against all those who believe that if might be possible to leave the German nation like an association, a political party or a religious community. I quote: "Es wäre Volksverrat, wenn wir uns des deutschen Volkes, dessen bester Teil wir sind, schämen würden"– as you see, not only conservatives of the beginning of the century, but also some social-democrats were convinced that Austrians, if being German, have to be the better Germans. And he continued that, despite the abominable Nazi crimes, no people "auch kein Siegervolk – von den kleinen wollen wir gar nicht reden – das Recht [habe], uns unsere Kulturhöhe zu bestreiten". The small nations he spoke of, were peoples like the Czechs, the victorious nations were those who implemented their own culture policy in occupied Austria. With respect to this critique against American policy in Austria the reaction of the occupation authorities seems natural.
But it is astonishing that also historians share the point of view of the American censor and prove to be unable to understand the intention of the op-ed article. They reduce the article to some blaming quotations or qualify it, as it did Felix Kreissler in his famous study "Der Österreicher und seine Nation. Ein Lernprozeß mit Hindernissen", as a proof for the persistence of pan-German resentments inside the social-democratic party. I quote: "Eine solche Konzentration des pangermanistischen Giftes, in der man alle Schlager der nationalsozialistischen Propaganda wieder findet, bis zur ‘deutschen Mission’ Österreichs, die soeben in Blut und Schlamm untergegangen war, knüpfte – wie wenn nichts geschehen wäre – dort an, wo das Dritte Reich begonnen und aufgehört hatte. Eine solche Sprache – außer daß sie zeigte, daß ihr Autor absolut nichts aus der Geschichte gelernt hatte, mußte für die Verantwortlichen der österreichischen Politik ein Warnsignal sein. Eine Warnung, daß trotz der Begeisterung der Befreiungstage, der […] großen Worte über die österreichische Kultur, es noch sehr viel zu tun gab, um aus den Worten eine Realität […] zu machen."
I quoted Kreissler that exhaustively, because his diction is typical for left wing Austrian patriotism of that time as it was represented by journalists like Eva Priester who later became one of the celebrities of Bruno Frei’s daily "Der Abend", or the communist politician and writer Ernst Fischer, who had published, already in his Moscow exile, a brochure with the title "Der österreichische Volkscharakter", in which he confronted German and Austrian attitude in a rather schematical manner. Fischer war also the first editor of "Neues Österreich", a common newspaper of the People’s Party, the Socialist Party and the Communist Party, and minister of education in the Provisional government of 1945.
For a reader who has witnessed the discussions about Austria's past in the last 20, 25 years, it seems obvious that Oberhummer's op-ed article, despite its kind of pan-German reminiscent mood, was all but a repetition of the hits of Nazi propaganda. The author rejected the proclamation of a distinct Austrian nation as attempt to trivialize Austrian participation in the Nazi crimes. The whole article is an appeal to share with the Germans both the defeat and the responsibility for the crimes which had been committed in the name of Germany.
With regard to the predominance of the "first victim" myth of the following decades it seems flabbergasting how clearly the author addresses Austrian co-responsibility for Nazi crimes. But it is also remarkable that the only way of accepting this responsibility at that time seemed to be the prolongation of the social-democratic idea of Austria as part of the German nation, which had been the inspiration in 1938 for some embarrassing reactions towards the "Anschluss".
For the conservative People's Party the defeat of Germany and the resurrection of Austria provided a chance to reanimate some political concepts which had been constitutive for the Austro-fascist "corporate state" from 1934 till 1938. The new monthly of the People’s Party, the "Österreichische Monatshefte", declared in its first number in October 1945 Austria as "ein Hort jener christlich-abendländischen Kultur, welche die Vormachtstellung Europas begründet hat", which, by the way, draw a borderline not only against Nazism and socialism, because they were not "Christian", but also against the U.S. and the Soviet Union, because these were no European powers.
For the majority of the constituency of the People's Party though the first task of the Second Austrian Republic was not the dissociation from Germany, but the re-building of Austria in a way that people could feel at home again in an "Austrian" Austria. The Viennese historian and political scientist Ernst Bruckmüller called this feeling once a "Gefühl der Wiederbeheimatung in Österreich". The most productive concept was tying up the restoration of Austria in 1945 up to the imperial history of Austria and its re-interpretation in a way that the Holy Empire was no more the "Heilige Römische Reich deutscher Nation" as it had been seen by German nationalism of the 19 th century but in a rather Habsburgian interpretation. Whereas this positive attitude towards the Habsburg monarchy marked a controversial issue with the social democrats, that would lead to a severe political crisis in the 1960s, both social democrats, like Karl Renner, and conservatives found a common issue in promoting pre-Habsburg Austria by celebrating 950 years of Austria in 1946. In the year 996 Emperor Otto III issued a document in which the bishops of Freising in Bavaria were granted land in Neuhofen on the Ybbs. The region of the property transfer was called “Ostarrichi” in this document. Therefore the document was presented to the public as a kind of birth certificate of Austria, because its name was mentioned first in this document. Although the historical term “Ostarrichi” referred to Upper and Lower Austria, the celebrations of Austria’s assumed 950 th birthday included events and publications in all four occupations zones of Austria.
Another benchmark of Austrian identity was Austrian landscape, which provided a matter of identification without any political connotation. Examples for this kind of nationalizing of the landscape can be found in the media, but also at schools. And the efficiency of this concept can be studied in opinion polls where the Austrian landscape ranks among the most important issues the Austrians are proud of. This landscape was made by god especially for the Austrians, as pupils could learn in a post-war children’s book called "Wie der liebe Gott Österreich erschuf".
These were forms of self-assurance which did not need a German counterpart.
But some of the leaders of the People’s Party followed a concept of a more emphatic dissociation from Germany, especially in the field of education. In this respect they met with the communists. Ernst Fischer's successor as minister of education, Felix Hurdes, adopted Fischer’s concept of replacing German in the curriculum by "language of instruction", "Unterrichtssprache". It did not last very long, and the "Unterrichtssprache" was called after the minister who had implemented it: "Hurdestanisch"
Ernst Bruckmüller, whom I mentioned already, defended Fischer's and Hurdes' idea, because it made a stand against the indoctrination of the Austrian youth during the Nazi era:
"Nationen definieren sich in Abgrenzungen. Für die Österreicher war für ihre eigene Nationsbildung die Abgrenzung von den Deutschen, mit denen man sich sprachlich als verwandt erfährt, am problematischsten, aber auch am wichtigsten. Diese Abgrenzungen geschahen, nicht immer elegant, aber langfristig letztlich ebenso wirkungsvoll wie die 'deutsche' Imprägnierung der Schülergeneration 1920 bis 1933."
Hurdes' ministry issued an own dictionary of Austrian German, the so called "Kleines österreichisches Wörterbuch", which declared more or less the Viennese variant of German as mandatory Austrian. The Styrian or Tyrolian "Tomate" for instance had to be replaced by the Viennese "Paradeiser", because "Tomate" was regarded as "German" term. Contrary to those early attempts to regulate "correct" Austrian German as distinct from German German, the "Österreichisches Wörterbuch" of later decades has become a useful tool which also documents current developments of German language in Austria.
Punishment of Nazi Criminals
Along with education it was judiciary which was challenged by the necessity of re-Austrification. The complete law system had been Nazified between 1938 and 1945, although central pillars of the Austrian judicial system – the penal code and the civil code – had been modified only to some extent. But Nazi dictatorship had also brought legal innovations that were regarded as progressive. The most important among the was the replacement of denominational marriage by a new marriage act, which, after the eradication of some Nazi elements of the law, has been in force until present.
Austrian judiciary also prosecuted Nazi crimes committed by Austrians. This was a delicate task, because on the one hand Austria depicted itself in official documents as Hitler's first victim, on the other hand in the court room almost every week trials took place in which Austrian perpetrators were accused for monstrous crimes. More than 13,000 defendants had found guilty, more than 4,000 of them for crimes like denunciation of neighbors or working colleagues at the Gestapo, for the whole variety of violation of human dignity, for assault and battery, or for murder. But around 80% among the convicted had committed a punishable crime by having been members of the clandestine Nazi party before 1938, which was prosecuted as "high treason". By that judiciary contributed to the externalization of the crimes as "un-Austrian". And it was the unmasterable task of brining over 100,000 people before court who had been clandestine members of the Nazi party before 1938, the so called "Illegale", which choked the whole judiciary and impeded the prosecution of many Nazi war criminals who had went into hiding.
Anti-German Xenophobia and the Transfer of 150,000 German Citizens from Austria to Germany (1945-1946), and German Reprisals
An almost unknown aspect of the Austro-German relations in the immediate post-war era is the forced transfer of some 150,000 German citizens from October 1945 until summer 1946, accompanied by xenophobic effusions in Viennese newspapers.
The Potsdam Agreement of August 2nd 1945 stated that a transfer to Germany of German populations in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary had to be undertaken. But when the Allied Control Council for Germany, on November 20 th 1945, agreed upon the concrete population transfer plan, also Austria was included. The reason for this might have been the fact that in some regions of Austria, e.g. in Tyrol, already during the short weeks of American occupation immediately after the liberation German citizens had been deported to neighboring Bavaria, a measure which was continued in a much more rigid way after the French had adopted military and civil power in their occupation zone. In October 1945 the Allies began to count German citizens in Austria, but simultaneously the first large scale deportations took place. On October 19 th the American military administration in Salzburg issued an order for all German citizens in the US zone to leave Austria by November 1 st, unless they will receive no food ration cards. The order had to be supervised by the mayors who themselves had a vital interest to reduce the number of people to be provided with food. In order to be able to accommodate tens of thousands of displaced persons from the East, it seemed an appropriate method to deport Germans to the West. In an open letter to the Allied Council for Austria, the Austrian state secretary for foreign affairs, Karl Gruber, demanded the immediate expulsion of all Germans from Austria. On October 31 st the US authorities counted 99,518 individuals being transferred from Austria to Germany. On November 8 th the Allied Council for Austria calculated that still 104,000 German citizens and an additional number of 226,000 ethnic Germans, most of them refugees, lived in Austria. The French zone in South West Germany, and the American zone in Bavaria and Hesse should host 150,000 out of them each. In January 1946 Germans living in the Soviet occupation zone were transferred to Germany. By November 1947 an official number of 250, 848 Germans had been “repatriated” to Germany, 52,485 more had been allowed to stay in Austria, either because they were needed for economic reconstruction or of humanitarian reasons. Later it turned out that the actual number of ethnic Germans was mush higher, at least 100,000 had failed to register.
But not only Germans were expelled from Austria, also Austrians had to leave Germany. In 1945 almost 200,000 Austrians lived in Germany, most of them mobilized skilled workers in the war industry, but also inmates of prisons and concentration camps. Most of them wanted to be repatriated to Austria as quickly as possible. A special problem was the fate of around 6,000 neglected Viennese children who had been evacuated by the Nazi authorities in the last weeks of the war, and who, almost without any caring, lived under shabby conditions in Bavaria. Only in fall 1945 officers of the Viennese youth care administration succeeded in bringing home those children.
In February 1946, as a reprisal for the expulsion of Germans from Austria, the German local administration of North Baden, which was part of the US occupation zone, ordered the immediate deportation of Austrians. They were allowed to carry with them only those personal belongings which they could bear by themselves. Only Austrians married to a German, members of the resistance and Austrians who had lived in Germany since 1928 should be exempted. Later the deadline was changed into September 1st 1939. By November 1947 an official number of 74,907 Austrians had been trepatriated to Austria: some eight thousand out of them from Berlin and the Soviet occupation zone, more than three thousand from the British zone, less than two thousand from the French zone, but 61.558 from the American zone, which was a result of the deportations from North Baden and North Württemberg.
At the end of my paper I want to deal with an example how theater was used to strengthen an anti-Nazi Austrian identity by fueling anti-German resentments – and to show that this was a highly disputed issue.
In summer 1948 the Viennese "Theater in der Scala" performed a play about an ordinary Austrian in the Nazi time – "Der Bockerer" by Peter Preses and Ulrich Becher. The play gets many of its comical effects from the antagonism between Germans and Austrians, but Peter Roessler, Professor for Dramaturgy at the Max Reinhardt Seminar, has pointed out that the main character, the recalcitrant Viennese butcher Karl Bockerer, in his private life is surrounded by Austrian Nazis, and that it is just a German, a watchmaker from Berlin, who explains to Bockerer the reality of the concentration camps. It is a misunderstanding of the play, as Roessler puts it, to transform Bockerer’s subversive wit into an ethnic characteristic of Austrians. But is was exactly that misunderstanding which characterized the stage reviews in most of the newspapers, among them the "Wiener Zeitung", the Soviet "Österreichische Zeitung" and the American "Wiener Kurier".
In the "Wiener Zeitung" you could find almost all clichés of the golden Viennese hart, which allegedly shipwrecked Nazism in Austria. The drama critic called the "Bockerer" a genuine popular play, a "ernst-heitere Apotheose des richtigen, ewigen Wienertums, das sich mitten in dem großen Irrenhaus, in das ein überspanntes 'Herrenmenschentum' das Mitteleuropa der letzten 'Tausend Jahre' verwandelte, seinen unbeirrbar gesunden Menschenverstand und auch sein goldenes Herz bewahrte. [...] Die grundgescheite Regie [...] bringt das Krampfige in der dem Österreicher aufoktroyierten, ihm zutiefst wesensfremden totalitären Ideologie in wirksamsten Gegensatz zu der legeren Selbstverständlichkeit des Angestammten."
The most appropriate scene in the critic's eye is three bellowing German Nazis who shout "Siegheil, Volksgenosse!..." at a Heurigen restaurant. They are portrayed as a trifolium of repulsiveness, to whom Bockerer snarls his "Kein Echo hier an der schönen blauen Donau".
It was only the "Welt am Abend" of the French occupation authorities, where the re-migrated lyric poet Martin Rathsprecher doubted what the program claimed to be a genuine figure because it was modelled according to an existing butcher:
Denn für die Glaubwürdigkeit und Lebensechtheit einer Kunstgestalt ist es völlig irrelevant, ob sie im wirklichen Leben gestanden, sie bezieht ihre Wahrheit aus ganz anderen Quellen, und eine Anekdote – oder mehrere –, die sich im Alltag zutragen, sind deswegen noch lange nicht der Grund, auf dem ein künstlerisches Leben wächst. [...] Wer [...] die hysterisch-ekstatischen Begrüßungsschreie der Wiener in jenen unglücklichen Märztagen  noch im Ohr hat, dem bedeutet die Tatsache, dass es irgendwo einen Fleischhauer gab, der einem SA-Jungen an den Leib rückte, kaum der Erwähnung und schon gar nicht der dramatischen Behandlung wert, umso weniger, als gerade das Kleinbürgertum die größten Schreier stellte. Es ist schäbig, hinterher so zu tun, als wäre vorher alles in Ordnung gewesen. Das geschieht hier. Es war aber ganz und gar nicht in Ordnung. Und in derselben Woche, in der steiermärkische Regierungsämter sich weigern, die Beschlagnahme des nazistischen 'Heimatrufes' [this was a neo-Nazi periodical, published in 1948 in Graz, Styria] anzuordnen, in derselben Woche hören wir von der Bühne der Scala herunter:
Älterer Parteigenosse aus Berlin: 'Sieg-Heil!' (Stille).
Bockerer: 'Dafür gibt’s kein Echo im Donauland.'
Und das Publikum nahm diese Lüge als Wahrheit und klatschte Beifall. Ein klarer Fall von politischer Anamnese, von zweckbestimmter Vergesslichkeit bösen Geschehens. Nein, meine Herren! Es gab im Donauland mehr Echo, als man heute wahrhaben möchte, ja, es gibt noch, da die Stimme der Nazibarbarei längst verhallt und verklungen, Nachtragsecho genug in so manchem Amt und Bundesland."
The author of the article, Rathsprecher, alluded to the first signs of a return of Nazi ideology, after the De-Nazification process had come to an end in 1947. It was in 1948 when Austrian police discovered a clandestine Neo-Nazi network, some of those people were brought before trial and got sentences of up to 20 years.
In many provincial towns the old antagonism between the elites of catholic-conservative civil servants and some industrials on the one hand and pan-German, protestant academia and high-degree professionals on the other hand could be seen again. The anti-German campaign had failed. In 1956, after the end of Allied tutelage, an opinion poll showed that still 46% of the Austrians were convinced that they belong to the German nation.
Former Worshipers of "Pan-Germanism" Adopt Austrian Nationalism
Identification of a majority of the population with their own independent nation during the following decades was result of economic prosperity and international reputation, and, not to forget, successes in soccer and skiing, also in competition with Germans.
The forced expulsion of "Germanness" from Austria was a flop. By modern mass media and as a result of mass tourism Austria became more "German" than it was even in the "Anschluss" era. But at the same time the conviction of the overwhelming majority of the Austrians to belong to an own nation, grew, and became predominant in a way that even Jörg Haider, who had started his political career under the auspices if pan-Germanism converted to Austrian nationalism. Whereas in the 1980s he had declared the Austrian nation as an ideological bastard, in 1995 he launched a plebiscite under the title "Austria first".
As you see, also in Austria, nationalism is no more attributed solely to pan-Germanism, as it was during more than a century. The first signs of a distinctive Austrian nationalism, which is attributed to the "own" nation state, as it is "normal" in any European nation, could be observed in den anti-German campaign of the immediate post-war period, although this national Austrian enthusiasm was not yet perceived as "nationalistic" – neither by its "hyper-patriotic" protagonists nor by its "pan-German" opponents.
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