Engelbert Dollfuss

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Engelbert Dollfuss
Engelbert Dollfuss.png
Dollfuss pictured as Kaiserschütze (1933)
Chancellor of Austria
In office
20 May 1932 25 July 1934
President Wilhelm Miklas
DeputyFranz Winkler
Emil Fey
Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg
Preceded by Karl Buresch
Succeeded by Kurt Schuschnigg (acting)
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
20 May 1932 10 July 1934
Preceded by Karl Buresch
Succeeded by Stephan Tauschitz
Minister of Agriculture
In office
18 March 1931 25 June 1934
Chancellor Otto Ender
Karl Buresch
Preceded byAndreas Thaler
Succeeded by Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg
Leader of the Fatherland Front
In office
20 May 1933 25 July 1934
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded by Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg
Personal details
Born(1892-10-04)4 October 1892
Texingtal, Lower Austria, Austria-Hungary
Died25 July 1934(1934-07-25) (aged 41)
Vienna, Austria
Cause of death Assassination
Resting place Hietzinger Cemetery, Vienna, Austria
Political party Fatherland Front (1933–1934)
Other political
Christian Social Party (until 1933)
Spouse(s) Alwine Dollfuß
Alma mater University of Vienna
Military service
Allegiance Flag of Austria-Hungary (1869-1918).svg Austria-Hungary
Branch/service Austro-Hungarian Army
Years of service19141918
Rank Unterjager der k.k. Gebirgstruppe 1907-18.png Corporal
Unit Kaiserschützen
Awards Military Merit Cross 3rd Class

Engelbert Dollfuss (German : Engelbert Dollfuß, IPA: [ˈɛŋəlbɛʁt ˈdɔlfuːs] ; 4 October 1892 – 25 July 1934) was an Austrian Christian Social and Patriotic Front statesman. Having served as Minister for Forests and Agriculture, he ascended to Federal Chancellor in 1932 in the midst of a crisis for the conservative government. In early 1933, he shut down parliament, banned the Austrian Nazi party and assumed dictatorial powers. Suppressing the Socialist movement in February 1934, he cemented the rule of "Austrofascism" through the authoritarian First of May Constitution . Dollfuss was assassinated as part of a failed coup attempt by Nazi agents in 1934. His successor Kurt Schuschnigg maintained the regime until Adolf Hitler's annexation of Austria in 1938.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a country of nearly 9 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The territory of Austria covers 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi). The terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 m (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 m (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other local official languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.

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.


Early life

Dollfuss' birthplace in Texing 2009-09-19 Dr. Dollfuss Museum in Texing, Outside.jpg
Dollfuss' birthplace in Texing

He was born in Texing in Lower Austria to unmarried mother Josepha Dollfuss and her lover Joseph Weninger. The couple, of peasant origin, was unable to get married due to financial problems. A few months after her son's birth, Josepha married landowner Leopold Schmutz in Kirnberg, who did not, however, adopt Engelbert as his own child. Dollfuss, who was raised as a devout Roman Catholic, received a scholarship for the minor seminary of the Archdiocese of Vienna in Hollabrunn in 1904. Having obtained his Matura degree in 1913, he first decided to continue his studies at the Vienna seminary but subsequently switched to study law at the University of Vienna.

Texingtal Place in Lower Austria, Austria

Texingtal is a town in the district of Melk in the Austrian state of Lower Austria.

Lower Austria State of Austria

Lower Austria is the northeasternmost of the nine states of Austria. Since 1986, the capital of Lower Austria has been St. Polten, the most recently designated capital in Austria. Previously, Lower Austria's capital was Vienna, even though Vienna has not officially been part of Lower Austria since 1921. With a land area of 19,186 km2 (7,408 sq mi) and a population of 1.612 million people, Lower Austria is the country's largest state; it is the second most populous after the federal state of Vienna.

Kirnberg an der Mank Place in Lower Austria, Austria

Kirnberg an der Mank is a town in the district of Melk in the Austrian state of Lower Austria.

At the outbreak of World War I, Dollfuss had difficulty gaining admission into the Austro-Hungarian Army as he was only 153 centimetres (5 ft 0 in) tall. [1] Indeed, according to The New York Times , who reported a series of jokes, including how in the coffee houses of Vienna, one could order a "Dollfuss" cup of coffee instead of a "Short Black" cup of coffee (black being the color of the Christian Democratic political faction), Dollfuss stood no more than 150 centimetres (4 ft 11 in) tall. Dollfuss' diminutive stature would remain an object of satire all his life; among his nicknames were 'Millimetternich' (blending 'millimeter' and Metternich), and 'Jockey'.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Austro-Hungarian Army ground force of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy from 1867 to 1918

The Austro-Hungarian Army was the ground force of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy from 1867 to 1918. It was composed of three parts: the joint army, the Imperial Austrian Landwehr, and the Royal Hungarian Honvéd.

<i>The New York Times</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper based in New York City

The New York Times is an American newspaper based in New York City with worldwide influence and readership. Founded in 1851, the paper has won 125 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The Times is ranked 17th in the world by circulation and 2nd in the U.S.

Dollfuss was eventually accepted and joined the Tyrolean Landesschützen regiment at Brixen and by the end of 1914 was sent to the Italian Front. Serving as commander of a machine gun detachment, he was a highly decorated soldier and was briefly taken by the Italian forces as a prisoner of war in 1918.[ citation needed ] After the war he returned to studies in Vienna, joining a Catholic male student fraternity ( Studentenverbindung ), became co-founder of the German Student Union in Austria and acted as a representative at the Cartellverband umbrella organization. Together with occasional allies like Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Robert Hohlbaum and Hermann Neubacher, he distinguished himself as a German nationalist and antisemite.[ citation needed ]


The k.k. Landesschützen - from January 16, 1917 Kaiserschützen - has been three regiments of Austro-Hungarian mountain infantry during the kaiserliche und königliche Monarchie. As a rule, only Tyrolean and Vorarlbergen men were hired in the Landesschützen.

Brixen Comune in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Italy

Brixen is a town in South Tyrol in northern Italy, located about 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of Bolzano.

Italian Front (World War I) military campaign, part of World War I

The Italian Front or Alpine Front was a series of battles at the border between Austria-Hungary and Italy, fought between 1915 and 1918 in World War I. Following the secret promises made by the Allies in the Treaty of London, Italy entered the war in order to annex the Austrian Littoral and northern Dalmatia, and the territories of present-day Trentino and South Tyrol. Although Italy had hoped to gain the territories with a surprise offensive, the front soon bogged down into trench warfare, similar to the Western Front fought in France, but at high altitudes and with very cold winters. Fighting along the front displaced much of the civilian population, of which several thousand died from malnutrition and illness in Italian and Austrian refugee camps. The Allied victory at Vittorio Veneto, the disintegration of Austria-Hungary and the Italian capture of Trento, Bolzano and Trieste ended the military operations.

From 1919 he worked as secretary of the Austrian Farmers' Association (Bauernbund) and was sent to study economics at the University of Berlin. There Engelbert met Alwine Glienke (1897–1973), a German woman from a Protestant family, whom he married in 1921. [2] The couple had one son and two daughters, with one daughter dying during early childhood.

Humboldt University of Berlin university in Berlin, Germany

Humboldt University of Berlin is a university in the central borough of Mitte in Berlin, Germany. It was established by Frederick William III on the initiative of Wilhelm von Humboldt, Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Ernst Daniel Schleiermacher as the University of Berlin in 1809, and opened in 1810, making it the oldest of Berlin's four universities. From 1810 until its closure in 1945, it was named Friedrich Wilhelm University. During the Cold War the university found itself in East Berlin and was de facto split in two when the Free University of Berlin opened in West Berlin. The university received its current name in honour of Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt in 1949.

Dollfuss finished his studies and obtained the doctor of law degree in 1922. He worked as a secretary of the Lower Austrian Chamber of Agriculture and in 1927 became its director. A great admirer of Karl Freiherr von Vogelsang's teachings, he became a member of the conservative Christian Social Party (CS) and promoted the establishment of agricultural cooperatives as well as the implementation of social insurance and unemployment benefits for farm workers against inner party disapproval. At the instigation of his party colleague Chancellor Carl Vaugoin, he was appointed president of the Austrian Federal Railways in 1930 (Dollfuss would push off Vaugoin to this post three years later).

Karl Freiherr von Vogelsang Austrian politician

Karl Freiherr von Vogelsang, a journalist, politician and Catholic social reformer, was one of the mentors of the Christian Social movement in Austria-Hungary.

Agricultural cooperative cooperative where farmers pool their resources in certain areas of activity

An agricultural cooperative, also known as a farmers' co-op, is a cooperative where farmers pool their resources in certain areas of activity. A broad typology of agricultural cooperatives distinguishes between 'agricultural service cooperatives', which provide various services to their individually farming members, and 'agricultural production cooperatives', where production resources are pooled and members farm jointly. Examples of agricultural production cooperatives include collective farms in former socialist countries, the kibbutzim in Israel, collectively governed community shared agriculture, Longo Mai co-operatives and Nicaraguan production co-operatives.

Unemployment benefits are payments made by back authorized bodies to unemployed people. In the United States, benefits are funded by a compulsory governmental insurance system, not taxes on individual citizens. Depending on the jurisdiction and the status of the person, those sums may be small, covering only basic needs, or may compensate the lost time proportionally to the previous earned salary.

In the 1930 legislative election, the Social Democrats emerged as the strongest party and Vaugoin resigned as chancellor. In March 1931, Dollfuss was named Minister of Agriculture and Forests in the short-lived coalition cabinet of Chancellor Otto Ender. When Ender resigned a few months later at the height of the Creditanstalt affair, he maintained this office under Ender's successor Karl Buresch. However, the political situation became more and more unstable after a failed Heimwehr coup d'état and the Nazi Party reaching a significant level of votes in several Landtag elections. The CS lost its Greater German allies in parliament and when the Social Democrats requested the dissolution of the National Council, the Buresch cabinet resigned on 20 May 1932.

Chancellor of Austria

On 10 May 1932, Dollfuss, age 39 and with only one year's experience in the Federal Government, was offered the office of Chancellor by President Wilhelm Miklas, also a member of the Christian-Social Party. Dollfuss refused to reply, instead spending the night in his favourite church praying, returning in the morning for a bath and a spartan meal before replying to the President he would accept the offer. [3] Dollfuss was sworn in on 20 May 1932 as head of a coalition government between the Christian-Social Party, the Landbund — a right-wing agrarian party — and Heimatblock, the parliamentary wing of the Heimwehr , a paramilitary ultra-nationalist group. The coalition assumed the pressing task of tackling the problems of the Great Depression. Much of the Austro-Hungarian Empire's industry had been situated in the areas that became part of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia after World War I as a result of the Treaty of Saint-Germain. Postwar Austria was therefore economically disadvantaged.

Dollfuss' majority in Parliament was marginal; his government had only a one-vote majority. [4]

Dollfuss as dictator of Austria

Chancellor Dollfuss in Geneva, 1933 DollfussEnGinebra1933.jpeg
Chancellor Dollfuss in Geneva, 1933

In March 1933, an argument arose over irregularities in the voting procedure. The Social Democratic president of the National Council (the lower house of parliament) Karl Renner resigned to be able to cast a vote as a parliament member. As a consequence, the two vice presidents, belonging to other parties, resigned as well to be able to vote. Without a president, the parliament could not conclude the session. Dollfuss took the three resignations as a pretext to declare that the National Council had become unworkable, and advised President Wilhelm Miklas to issue a decree adjourning it indefinitely. When the National Council wanted to reconvene days after the resignation of the three presidents, Dollfuss had police bar entrance to parliament, effectively eliminating democracy in Austria. From that point onwards, he governed as dictator by emergency decree with absolute power.

Dollfuss was concerned that with German National Socialist leader Adolf Hitler becoming Chancellor of Germany in 1933, the Austrian National Socialists (DNSAP) could gain a significant minority in future elections (according to fascism scholar Stanley G. Payne, should elections have been held in 1933, the DNSAP could have mustered about 25% of the votes – contemporary Time magazine analysts suggest a higher support of 50%, with a 75% approval rate in the Tyrol region bordering Nazi Germany). [5] [3] In addition, the Soviet Union's influence in Europe had increased throughout the 1920s and early 1930s. Dollfuss banned the communists on 26 May 1933 and the DNSAP on 19 June 1933. Under the banner of Christian Social Party, he later established a one-party dictatorship rule largely modeled after fascism in Italy, banning all other Austrian parties including the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDAPÖ). Social Democrats however continued to exist as an independent organization, nevertheless, without its paramilitary Republikanischer Schutzbund, which until 31 March 1933 [6] could have mustered tens of thousands against Dollfuss' government.


Dollfuss modeled Austrofascism according to Catholic corporatist ideals with anti-secularist tones and in a similar way to Italian fascism, dropping Austrian pretenses of unification with Germany as long as the Nazi Party remained in power. In August 1933, Benito Mussolini's regime issued a guarantee of Austrian independence. Dollfuss also exchanged 'Secret Letters' with Mussolini about ways to guarantee Austrian independence. Mussolini was interested in Austria forming a buffer zone against Nazi Germany. Dollfuss always stressed the similarity of the regimes of Hitler in Germany and Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union, and was convinced that Austrofascism and Italian fascism could counter totalitarian national socialism and communism in Europe.

In September 1933 Dollfuss merged his Christian Social Party with elements of other nationalist and conservative groups, including the Heimwehr, which encompassed many workers who were unhappy with the radical leadership of the socialist party, to form the Vaterländische Front , though the Heimwehr continued to exist as an independent organization until 1936, when Dollfuss' successor Kurt von Schuschnigg forcibly merged it into the Front, instead creating the unabidingly loyal Frontmiliz as paramilitary task force. Dollfuss escaped an assassination attempt in October 1933 by Rudolf Dertill, a 22-year-old who had been ejected from the military for his national socialist views.

Austrian civil war

In February 1934 the security forces provoked arrests of Social Democrats and unjustified searches for weapons of the Social Democrats' already outlawed Republikanischer Schutzbund. After the Dollfuss dictatorship took steps against known Social Democrats, the Social Democrats called for nationwide resistance against the government. A civil war began, which lasted sixteen days, from 12 until 27 February. Fierce fighting took place primarily in the East of Austria, especially in the streets of some outer Vienna districts, where large fortress-like municipal workers' buildings were situated, and in the northern, industrial areas of the province of Styria, where Nazi agents[ citation needed ] had great interest in a bloodbath between security forces and workers' militias. The resistance was suppressed by police and military power. The Social Democrats were outlawed, [7] and their leaders were imprisoned or fled abroad.

New constitution

Dollfuss staged a parliamentary session with just his party members present in April 1934 to have his new constitution approved, effectively the second constitution in the world espousing corporatist ideas after that of the Portuguese Estado Novo . [8] The session retrospectively made all the decrees already passed since March 1933 legal. The new constitution became effective on 1 May 1934 and swept away the last remnants of democracy and the system of the first Austrian Republic.


Dollfuss was assassinated on 25 July 1934 by ten Austrian Nazis (Paul Hudl, Franz Holzweber, Otto Planetta and others) [9] of Regiment 89 [10] who entered the Chancellery building and shot him in an attempted coup d'état, the July Putsch. [11] Mussolini had no hesitation in attributing the attack to the German dictator: the news reached him at Cesena, where he was examining the plans for a psychiatric hospital. The Duce personally gave the announcement to Dollfuss' widow, who was a guest at his villa in Riccione with her children. He also put at the disposal of Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg, who spent a holiday in Venice, a plane that allowed the prince to rush back to Vienna and to face the assailants with his militia, with the permission of President Wilhelm Miklas. [12]

Mussolini also mobilised a part of the Italian army on the Austrian border and threatened Hitler with war in the event of a German invasion of Austria to thwart the putsch. Then he announced to the world: "The independence of Austria, for which he has fallen, is a principle that has been defended and will be defended by Italy even more strenuously", and then replaced in the main square of Bolzano the statue [13] of Walther von der Vogelweide, a Germanic troubadour, with that of Drusus, a Roman general who conquered part of Germany. This was the greatest moment of friction between Fascism and National Socialism and Mussolini himself came down several times to reaffirm the differences in the field. The assassination of Dollfuss was accompanied by uprisings in many regions in Austria, resulting in further deaths. In Carinthia, a large contingent of northern German Nazis tried to seize power but were subdued by the Italian units nearby. At first Hitler was jubilant, but the Italian reaction surprised him. Hitler became convinced that he could not face a conflict with the Western European powers, and he officially denied liability, stating his regret for the murder of the Austrian Prime Minister. He replaced the ambassador to Vienna with Franz von Papen and prevented the conspirators entering Germany, also expelling them from the Austrian Nazi Party. The Nazi assassins in Vienna, after declaring the formation of a new government under Austrian Nazi Anton Rintelen, previously exiled by Dollfuss as Austrian Ambassador to Rome, surrendered after threats from Austrian military of blowing up the Chancellery using dynamite, and were subsequently tried and executed by hanging. [11] Kurt Schuschnigg, previously Minister of Education, was appointed new chancellor of Austria after a few days, assuming the office from Dollfuss’ deputy Starhemberg.

Out of a population of 6.5 million, approximately 500,000 Austrians were present at Dollfuss’ burial in Vienna. [11] He is interred in the Hietzing cemetery in Vienna [14] beside his wife Alwine Dollfuss (d. 1973) and two of his children, Hannerl and Eva, all of whom were in Italy as guests of Rachele Mussolini at the time of his death, an event which saw Mussolini himself shed tears over his slain ally. [3] [15]

In literature

In Bertolt Brecht's 1941 play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui , Dollfuss is represented by the character "Dullfeet". [16]



  1. Gudula Walterskirchen: Engelbert Dollfuß - Arbeitermörder oder Heldenkanzler. Vienna 2004.
  2. "Wer war Engelbert Dollfuß?" (in German). Artikel33. Retrieved 2018-03-04.
  3. 1 2 3 "AUSTRIA: Eve of Renewal". Time. September 25, 1933.
  4. Portisch, Hugo; Sepp Riff (1989). Österreich I (Die unterschätzte Republik). Vienna, Austria: Verlag Kremayr und Scheriau. p. 415. ISBN   3-218-00485-3.
  5. Stanley G. Payne, A History of Fascism 1914-1945
  6. "DöW - Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance". braintrust.at. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  7. "Protokolle des Ministerrates der Ersten Republik, Volume 8, Part 6" (in German). 1985. p. xvii. ISBN   3-7046-0004-0 . Retrieved 2018-03-04.
  8. Stanley G. Payne, Civil War in Europe, 1905-1949, 2011, p. 108.
  9. [ dead link ]
  10. "Pics of Planetta and Holzweber (1934 coup) - Axis History Forum". Axis History Forum. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  11. 1 2 3 "AUSTRIA: Death for Freedom". Time. August 6, 1934. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  12. Richard Lamb, Mussolini and the British, 1997, p. 149
  13. de:Walther-Denkmal (Bozen)
  14. "Vienna Tourist Guide: Dollfuss Hietzinger Friedhof". Hedwig Abraham. Retrieved 6 February 2010. (includes photographs)
  15. "Rudolf Dollfuß - Traueranzeige und Parte 05.11.2011 - ASPETOS". Archived from the original on 2012-04-28. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  16. Mel Gussow (May 9, 1991). "Review/Theater; Brecht's Cauliflower King In Another Resistible Rise". The New York Times . The New York Times Company . Retrieved 24 September 2014.

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Political offices
Preceded by
Karl Buresch
Chancellor of Austria
Succeeded by
Kurt Schuschnigg