Austrian Resistance

Last updated
Sign of the Austrian resistance movement at the St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna Stephansdom O5.jpg
Sign of the Austrian resistance movement at the St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna

The Austrian Resistance launched in response to the rise in fascism across Europe and, more specifically, to the Anschluss in 1938 and resulting occupation of Austria by Germany. An estimated 100,000 people were reported to have participated in this resistance with thousands subsequently imprisoned or executed for their anti-Nazi activities. In addition to armed resistance efforts, "silent heroes" helped Jewish men, women and children evade persecution by Nazi authorities by hiding at-risk individuals at their homes or in other safe houses, storing or exchanging their property to raise funds to support them, and/or helping them to flee the country. Each of these resistance members lived dangerously because such assistance to the Jewish community was punishable by imprisonment at concentration camps and, ultimately, by death. Among these "silent heroes" were Rosa Stallbaumer and her husband, Anton. Arrested by the Gestapo in 1942, they were both sent to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. [1] Although Anton survived, Rosa Stallbaumer did not; transferred to Auschwitz, she died there a week before her 45th birthday. [2]


Overview Austrian resistance organizations and groups

Group of women. One woman wears an Austrian resistance Edelweiss - Patch, which comes from a former hunting clothes; and a pinstripe (in German: Nadelstreif) blazer. Other girls standing close to the car, talking and flirting with Wehrmacht soldier. The car has a PL font over turn signal. It could be a soldier who came from the front or one who cares about the engagement of the soldiers on the Eastern Front.Two further girls dressed in French style (shoes and hair). Two young men wear work uniforms. One a woodwork robe the other a baker or cook robe. Estimated time & location: Summer 1941, Lower Austria - Surrounding: Amstetten-Mauer. (Photo source: Austrian Resistance.jpg
Group of women. One woman wears an Austrian resistance Edelweiss – Patch, which comes from a former hunting clothes; and a pinstripe (in German: Nadelstreif) blazer. Other girls standing close to the car, talking and flirting with Wehrmacht soldier. The car has a PL font over turn signal. It could be a soldier who came from the front or one who cares about the engagement of the soldiers on the Eastern Front.Two further girls dressed in French style (shoes and hair). Two young men wear work uniforms. One a woodwork robe the other a baker or cook robe. Estimated time & location: Summer 1941, Lower Austria – Surrounding: Amstetten-Mauer . (Photo source:

Some memories of silent heroes:

"My grandfather owned a cattle dealer company and had been often away from home. As my grandmother told me, often spending two or three weeks out for business. He was busy doing business in the Yugoslavia border area, and he later told me in person, that border guards were distracted with simple tricks to cross the border more or less save. One day, back at home, the neighbor was standing at our door, handing us the letter of accession to the NSDAP, my grandfather was astonished, because the neighbor said, you would be locked up and in the worst case, you would be dead. " (E. H.)

“Until 1938 my great-grandfather had an economically well-situated inn in a hiking, skiing and hunting area.

Shortly before his death, he told me: "Over the years we had been housing jewish business people and industrialists. Some hunting and economic grounds also owned by a jewish family. As soon as politicians start to realize that Austria is suffering the same fate as in Germany, opportunities and strategies have already been taken to protect themselves and exit options have been established.

Before The Anschluss land and properties, were sold and overwritten (incorporated). Our friends, friends of friends and partners brought additionally everything to us due to the departure and stored in the attic and in the basement. After the war they visited us again and got their property back. They expressed their thanks also in the form of gifts and new business opportunities. " (S.K.)

The members of the Resistance, limited primarily to adherents of the restoration of the Habsburg dynasty and the political left, operated in isolation from the Austrian mainstream during the war years. Other strands of Austrian resistance included Catholics and monarchists.[ citation needed ] However, it is notable that several Austrian nationalists, some of them even with fascist sympathies, also resisted, opposed to the destruction of the Austrian state. The most prominent unifying symbol was former Crown Prince, Otto von Habsburg.


The movement had a prehistory of socialist and communist activism against the era of Austrofascism from 1934. Although the Austrofascist regime was itself intensely hostile to Nazism, especially after the Austrian Nazis' failed coup attempt in 1934, known as the July Putsch.

The sign of the Austrian resistance was O5, where the 5 stands for E and OE is the abbreviation of Österreich with Ö as OE. This sign may be seen at the Stephansdom in Vienna.

Notable activists included Josef Plieseis and Hilde Zimmermann.

The symbol and voice of Austrian resistance was Crown Prince Otto von Habsburg who, had the monarchy been reestablished, would have been Kaiser of Austria. [12]


Much as opposing the Nazis was difficult, as maintaining organizational cohesion post the Anschluss constituted a penal offence, resistance activities were maintained throughout the period. The resistance mainly: issued counter-Nazi political leaflets; collected donations, which were mostly distributed to families of those arrested; and provided the Allies with information.

Military resistance was limited to occasional sabotage to both key civil and military installations, with most resisting by avoiding postings to the active war fronts.

Most armed resistance was undertaken in Carinthia. [13] Carinthian Slovenes formed a nucleus to the resistance after targeted deportations and forced Germanisation by the Nazi regime in 1942 led to the establishment of forest bands. As much of the Slovene Lands in Yugoslavia had been annexed to the Reich in 1941 and were subject to the same tactics of ethnic cleansing in northern Slovenia the group's activities should be seen in the context of the Yugoslavian Slovene Partisan operations.

The Moscow Declarations of 1943 laid a framework for the establishment of a free Austria after the victory over Nazi Germany. It stated that "Austria is reminded, however that she has a responsibility, which she cannot evade, for participation in the war on the side of Hitlerite Germany, and that in the final settlement account will inevitably be taken of her own contribution to her liberation." [14]

Habsburg Opposition

Former Crown Prince Otto von Habsburg denounced Nazism, stating:

He strongly opposed the Anschluss, and in 1938 requested Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg to resist Nazi Germany and supported an international intervention, and offered to return from exile to take over the reins of government in order to repel the Nazis. According to Gerald Warner, "Austrian Jews were among the strongest supporters of a Habsburg restoration, since they believed the dynasty would give the nation sufficient resolve to stand up to the Third Reich". [16] Following the German annexation of Austria, Otto (who had been allowed to come back to Austria to publicly campaign against the Anschluss), was sentenced to death by the Nazi regime; Rudolf Hess ordered that Otto was to be executed immediately if caught, as ordered by Adolf Hitler. [17] The leaders of the Austrian legitimist movement, i.e. supporters of Otto, were arrested by the Nazis and largely executed. Otto's cousins Maximilian, Duke of Hohenberg, and Prince Ernst of Hohenberg, both sons of the late Archduke Francis Ferdinand, whose assassination in 1914 precipitated World War One, were arrested in Vienna by the Gestapo and sent to Dachau where they remained throughout Nazi rule. Otto was involved in helping around 50,000 Austrians, including tens of thousands of Austrian Jews, flee the country at the beginning of the Second World War. [18]

During his wartime exile in the United States, Otto and his younger brothers founded an "Austrian Battalion" in the United States Army, but it was delayed and never saw actual combat. [19]

Religious group resistance

The organizational cohesion offence was most keenly felt by the Austrian religious community. The Nazis, via both the civil Gestapo and police, and the military Schutzstaffel (SS), implemented both anti-religious and anti-Austrian-patriotic measures. This brought about disparate resistance from many established religious groups, whose core members came mainly from the establishment of Austrian high society. [20]

Catholic Church

Although tolerated to a large extent, noted anti-Catholic measures and regional imposition of such brought about the formation of three large regional Catholic-based resistance groups. [20]

The first purge and arrest round occurred in Spring 1940, when the three groups had held talks on merging, in which over 100 activists were arrested, interrogated and some individuals tortured. After this, the leaders sought closer ties to the main body of the Austrian resistance movement, and although remaining separate in part for security reasons, began feeding both directly and indirectly information to the United States Military Intelligence Service (MIS). [20]

Amongst the Catholic group's members were Burgtheater actor Otto Hartmann, a spy in paid service of the Gestapo. In late 1944, his information led to the arrest of 10 key Catholic resistance organisation leaders, who were all tortured and then sentenced to death. These included the main contacts with the American MIS, Semperit Director General Franz Josef Messner (1896-1945, killed in the gas chambers at the Mauthausen concentration camp), and Chaplain Dr. Heinrich Maier (1908-1945) executed on 22 March 1945 as the last victim of the Nazi régime in Vienna. [21] Other detainees were sentenced to long prison terms, which some survived but many were killed before the final surrender. [20]

The exile community in London

The main organised exile group during the Second World War was based around the Austrian Office in London, centre to the 30,000 strong exile community. [22] The Austrian Society, or "Austrian Office", was home to both the monarchist Austrian League and liberal Austrian Democratic Union. [23]

Battle for Castle Itter

The Austrian Resistance were involved in the Battle for Castle Itter, the Austrian village of Itter in the North Tyrol, was fought on 5 May, only three days before German's unconditional surrender came into effect. Troops of the 23rd Tank Battalion of the US 12th Armored Division led by Lieutenant John C. "Jack" Lee, Jr., anti-Nazi German Army soldiers, and imprisoned French VIPs defended the castle against an attacking force from the 17th Waffen-SS Panzer Grenadier Division until relief from the American 142nd Infantry Regiment arrived. [24]


Austrian society has had an ambivalent attitude both toward the Nazi government from 1938 to 1945 and the few that actively resisted it. Since large portions of Austrian society either actively or tacitly supported the Nazi regime, the Allied forces treated Austria as a belligerent party in the war and maintained occupation of it after the Nazi capitulation. On the other hand, the Moscow Declaration labeled Austria as a free and democratic society before the war, and considered its capture an act of liberation.

See also

Related Research Articles

Otto von Habsburg German politician and last crown prince of Austria-Hungary

Otto von Habsburg, also known by his traditional royal title of Archduke Otto of Austria, was the last Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary from 1916 until the dissolution of the empire in 1919, a realm which comprised modern-day Austria, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and parts of Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. He became the pretender to the former thrones, Head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, and Sovereign of the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1922, upon the death of his father. He resigned as Sovereign of the Golden Fleece in 2000 and as head of the Imperial House in 2007.

Austrians are a Germanic nation and ethnic group, native to modern Austria and South Tyrol that share a common Austrian culture, Austrian descent and Austrian history. The English term Austrians was applied to the population of Habsburg Austria from the 17th or 18th century. Subsequently, during the 19th century, it referred to the citizens of the Empire of Austria (1804–1867), and from 1867 until 1918 to the citizens of Cisleithania. In the closest sense, the term Austria originally referred to the historical March of Austria, corresponding roughly to the Vienna Basin in what is today Lower Austria.

The Christian Social Party was a major conservative political party in the Cisleithanian crown lands of Austria-Hungary and in the First Republic of Austria, from 1891 to 1934. The party was also affiliated with Austrian nationalism that sought to keep Catholic Austria out of the state of Germany founded in 1871, that it viewed as Protestant Prussian-dominated, and identified Austrians on the basis of their predominantly Catholic religious identity as opposed to the predominantly Protestant religious identity of the Prussians. It is a predecessor of the contemporary Austrian People's Party.

Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen Österreichs Austrian Scouting and Guiding organization

Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen Österreichs is the largest Scouting and Guiding organization in Austria and the only one approved by World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM). The association claims more than 300 troops with more than 85,000 Scouts nationwide. WOSM and WAGGGS give quite smaller membership values for the PPÖ: 9,503 Scouts and 10,508 Guides.

The Communist Youth of Austria is an independent Marxist–Leninist Youth Organization.

Ernst Florian Winter Austrian historian and politologist

Ernst Florian Winter was an Austrian-American historian and political scientist, the first director of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna after World War II, and chairman of the International Council of the Austrian Service Abroad.

Emil Fey austrian politician and warrior

Emil Fey was an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army, leader of the right-wing paramilitary Heimwehr forces and politician of the First Austrian Republic. He served as Vice-Chancellor of Austria from 1933 to 1934, leading the country into the period of Austrofascism under Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss. Fey played a vital role in the violent suppression of the Republikanischer Schutzbund and the Social Democratic Workers' Party during the 1934 Austrian Civil War.

<i>Anschluss</i> Annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany

Anschluss refers to the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany on 12 March 1938. The word's German spelling, until the German orthography reform of 1996, was Anschluß and it was also known as the Anschluss Österreichs.

Charlotte M. Teuber-Weckersdorf was one of the most important Girl Guides Leader of Austria and an Austrian university professor.

Wilhelm Teuber-Weckersdorf was an Austro-Hungarian officer and a Scouting pioneer in Austria, popularly known within the Scouting movement as "Willy Teuber" or "Onkel Teuber".

The Österreichische Freiheitsfront was an antifascist organization created by Austrian and German communist refugees in Brussels during the Second World War occupation of Belgium by Nazi Germany. It took an active part in the Belgian Resistance.

Hilde Zimmermann Austrian resistance member

Hilde (Wundsam) Zimmermann, was a member of the Austrian Resistance. Arrested for her efforts to fight fascism, she was deported with her mother and childhood friend by Nazi officials to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany; she then went on to survive both her imprisonment there and a death march.

German nationalism in Austria political ideology

German nationalism is a political ideology and historical current in Austrian politics. It arose in the 19th century as a nationalist movement amongst the German-speaking population of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It favours close ties with Germany, which it views as the nation-state for all ethnic Germans, and the possibility of the incorporation of Austria into a Greater Germany.

Hans Maršálek Austrian resistance member

Hans Maršálek was an Austrian typesetter, political activist, detective, and historian. A devout socialist and active in the resistance, he was arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned in the Mauthausen concentration camp. After the war, he joined the Austrian political police and was instrumental in tracking down and convicting numerous Nazi criminals. He also became the main chronicler of the camp's history, helped establish the Mauthausen Memorial Museum, and published several books.

Victim theory is a term that derives from contemporary history. It is commonly used to describe a manner of argumentation widely spread throughout Austria after World War II concerning the time period before the Anschluss respectively the role of Austria in the time of National Socialism. According to these manners of argumentation, the state of Austria was the first victim to fall prey to the aggressive foreign policy of the National Socialists. A synonym for victim theory is victim myth . Since the victim theory effectuated a suppressing of the fact of Austrian collaboration concerning the atrocities of the National Socialists, it is often declared to be the "Lie of Life" of the Second Austrian Republic.

Otto Hartmann (1904–1994) was an Austrian stage and film actor. Following Austria's incorporation into Nazi Germany, Hartman acted as an informer for the authorities (Gestapo). In punishment for this he was imprisoned after the Second World War had ended.

Karl Biedermann was commander of the Austrian Heimwehr, Major of Wehrmacht and a member of German resistance to Nazism.

Roman Karl Scholz Austrian priest

Roman Karl Scholz was an Austrian author and Augustinian canon regular at Klosterneuburg. He became a resistance activist after attending a Nuremberg Rally in 1936 and was executed fewer than eight years later.

Marianne "Mariandl" Feldhammer was an Austrian resistance activist during the Nazi years. She was one of the most important women in the "Willy-Fred" group around Sepp Plieseis. She was the only woman who knew the way to the so-called "Hedgehog" used by anti-Nazi partisans, to which by the end of the war she had herself made several deliveries of food and/or messages.

Viktor Riemann was an Austrian author, commentator, journalist and politician (VdU). He sat as a member of the "Nationalrat" between 1949 and 1956.


  1. Morse, Steven and Peter Landé. Dachau Concentration Camp Records (online database): Retrieved online April 11, 2018.
  2. "Rosa Stallbaumer," in 124 Victims of the Resistance: Short Biographies , in The Eduard-Wallnöfer-Platz in Innsbruck. Bregenz, Austria: Verein Nationalsozialismus und Holocaust: Gedächtnis und Gegenwart (Association National Socialism and the Holocaust: Memory and Present), retrieved online April 6, 2018.
  3. Neugebauer, Wolfgang. Koralmpartisanen.
  4. Mugrauer, Manfred (2018). ""Geplante Sabotage am Erzberg"". Mitteilungen des DÖW. 238: 1 f.
  5. Neugebauer, Wolfgang (2018). "Der österreichische Widerstand 1938 -1945" (PDF). DÖW Publication: 22–23.
  6. Carl, Harry (2015). Abwehr General Erwin Lahousen. Böhlau Wien.
  7. Muigg, Mario (2007). "Geheim- und Nachrichtendienste in und aus Österreich 1918-1938 (page 68,69,71)" (PDF).
  8. Johnson, David Alan (2007). Betrayal: The True Story of J. Edgar Hoover and the Nazi Saboteurs Captured During WWII. Hippocrene Books, Inc.
  9. "NS Opfer". 3 April 2018. Archived from the original on 3 April 2018.
  10. Neugebauer, Wolfgang (2018). "Der österreichische Widerstand 1938-1945" (PDF). DÖW Publication.
  11. "Zur Erinnerung - Was war, was ist, was bleibt". (in German). Retrieved 2018-08-17.
  12. "MercatorNet: Otto von Habsburg, son of Austria's last emperor and champion of European unity, has died".
  13. The Resistance in Austria, 1938–1945 Radomír Luza, University of Minnesota Press, 1984
  14. "MOSCOW CONFERENCE, October, 1943".
  15. Gunther, John (1936). Inside Europe. Harper & Brothers. pp. 321–323.
  16. Warner, Gerald (20 November 2008). "Otto von Habsburg's 96th birthday telescopes European history". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 6 July 2011.
  17. Scally, Derek (5 July 2011). "Death of former 'kaiser in exile' and last heir to Austro-Hungarian throne". The Irish Times. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  18. "Otto Hapsburg, eldest son of Austria's last emperor, dies at 98". Retrieved 6 July 2011.
  19. "Otto von Habsburg, oldest son of Austria-Hungary's last emperor, dies at age 98". Newser. Retrieved 6 July 2011.
  20. 1 2 3 4 "DÖW - Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (DÖW) - Memorial Room for the Victims of the Gestapo Vienna - "They Took the Other Road" - Organized Resistance in Austria".
  21. Wolfgang Neugebauer (2008). Der österreichische Widerstand (in German). Vienna: Edition Steinbauer. pp. 154–155.
  22. Marietta Bearman. Out of Austria: The Austrian Centre in London in World War II. London: Tauris Academic Studies, 2008. ISBN   9781441600073. "The Austrian Centre was established in London in 1939 by Austrians seeking refuge from Nazi Germany, of whom 30,000 had reached Britain by the outbreak of World War II. It soon developed into a comprehensive social, cultural and political organisation with a theatre and a weekly newspaper of its ".
  23. Marietta Bearman. Out of Austria: The Austrian Centre in London in World War II. London: Tauris Academic Studies, 2008. ISBN   9781441600073. "143 Seven Sisters Road, notably, was the address of the Austrian Centre's Finsbury Park branch. This ties in neatly with a minute in a Home Office file from early 1947, referring to British security reports on the ..."