national socialism Archive

Hooliganism I can live with: football in Nazi Vienna.

Hooliganism I can live with: football in Nazi Vienna.

I have to be honest with you: I really look down upon soccer (football) hooliganism and I don’t understand the level of hysteria that often occurs at (and, especially, after) soccer matches in parts of Europe and the UK. But I have enjoyed reading about this kind of hooliganism in Vienna during the Nazi era:

On November 18, 1940, some 52,000 fans jammed into Vienna’s soccer stadium in the Prater for a game between Vienna’s Admira and the German champion Schalke 04. The stadium crowd was unruly and ready for trouble. And trouble, political trouble, there was aplenty, despite a massive display of uniformed and plainclothes police and the presence of an impressive array of Nazi brass led by [Baldur von] Schirach and his wife. Let a German player commit a foul, or worse, get away with it, and fans’ anger exploded into anti-German, even anti-Nazi, expletives. As the [Neues Wiener Tagblatt] noted, the crowd ignored Austrian infractions, or worse, cheered them. It didn’t help that Schalke played a tough, even brutal, brand of football. And when the referee disallowed Admira’s go-ahead goal after the teams were tied 1 to 1, the crowd exploded with soccer war style fury. Fans grew totally out of hand when an Admira forward headed the ball into the net, and the referee called that goal back too and the game ended in a tie.

Just how serious was the riot? The Gestapo cabled uncertain reports back and forth from Berlin, suggesting that they would need 10,000 police to pick out ringleaders of so large a mob. What’s more, even with the sizable contingent of police on hand that day, nobody was around when so-called hooligans smashed the window of Schirach’s limousine and slashed its tired. Soccer would remain a Gestapo problem for the rest of the war; especially when, seven months later, the Viennese got revenge of a different sort. Before 90,000 fans in Berlin’s stadium Rapid cannonaded Schalke 04 into submission. [p. 182-3]

That’s from Thomas Weyr’s excellent book, The Setting of the Pearl: Vienna Under Hitler (Amazon US, UK, CA, DE [english]). Weyr later quotes a witness, Kurt Neubauer:

I was at the Stadium when Admira played Schalke 04 and yelled my head off at the Piefkes. Soccer gave you a chance to protest. [p. 226]

(Piefke is an Austrian derogatory term used against Germans … to this day!)

I’m interested in the topic of sport as one of the very, very few forms of public protest available to Germans and Austrians under Nazism. The Austrian expert in this arena, according to the results of my web searches, appears to be the historian Dr. Matthias Marschik. He has an article, Between Manipulation and Resistance: Viennese Football in the Nazi Era, which I’d love to read but appears to be available only after payment.

The Viennese family into which I married supports the FK Austria Wien football side, as opposed to their bitter rivals, SK Rapid Wien, so I naturally find FK Austria Wien’s history particularly interesting. This is especially so since they were the Vienna side that seems to have suffered the most after the Anschluss by virtue of the fact that they were the team most associated with Jewish people. I found a very interesting article, unfortunately only in German, titled Fußball unterm Hakenkreuz (“Football under the Swastika”). The article’s authorsinterviewed the son of FK Austria Wien’s pre-Anschluss club president, Dr Emanuel Schwarz, himself Jewish. After the Anschluss, Dr Schwarz was, of course, unceremoniously relieved of his duties and he wisely began seeking an exit visa. His replacement as the head of the club, an SA Sturmbannführer, began his new duties by taking away one of Dr Schwarz’s trophies. The Schwarz family managed to get it back after the war.

According to the article (my translation),

A large portion of the club’s management had to escape Austria after the Anschluss. Robert Lang, the club manager, escaped to Yugoslavia, but was later captured there by the Nazis and murdered. President Schwarz was able to stay for a short while because he was, for a time, protected by the fact that he married a non-Jew; he stayed in Vienna only to await permission to travel to the USA. As this was not forthcoming, he eventually fled to Bologna, thanks in large part to his contacts within Italian football. With help from the FIFA president Jules Rimet, he received permission to emigrate to France in 1939. He went underground when the Germans invaded France. … The later national team manager Walter Nausch and Karl Geyer left Vienna with their jewish wives.

Amazingly, the team survived during the Nazi years, but wasn’t very successful, never finishing higher than fourth in the Gauliga Ostmark, as the Austrian league was called during the Nazi era. More amazingly, “FK Austria Wien” appears to be the only institution in the “Ostmark” to have retained the word “Austria” in their name.

Photo credit: the lead photo in this article shows the inside of Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike Generic 2.0 license. Attribution:

In the Hausarchiv: Vienna, Germany?

In the Hausarchiv: Vienna, Germany?

Vienna, GermanyAmateur history nerd that I am, I’m quite pleased to have married into a family which has retained all sorts of books, newspapers and magazines dating from about 1920 onwards. The “In the Hausarchiv” series gives an occasional look at the things I’ve come across in our own “house archive”.

This week’s “In the Hausarchiv” presents a booklet full of attractive photos of the beautiful city in which I live, Vienna. Sounds nice, right? But this book is about Vienna, Germany! Is this the same Vienna I live in? Of course it is…

At midnight on March 11, 1938, the last Austrian government of the first republic — that of Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg — resigned office and on March 12, 1938, German troops entered Austria without resistance.  In German this event is referred to as the Anschluss, or union.  Austria ceased to exist, and instead became the Eastern March (Ostmark) of the Greater German Empire (Großdeutsches Reich.)  During this period, until the fall of the National Socialist regime, the word “Austria” (Österreich) was out of favor (perhaps even illegal?), and to insist on using it was certainly to invite arrest.

(The most famous visible sign of the Austrian Resistance to National Socialism, the “O5″ which appears to this day on one of the outside walls of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, signifies Österreich, or more accurately the alternative spelling of Oesterreich: the letter “O” followed by the number 5, signifying the fifth letter of the alphabet, “e”: Oesterreich).

This “Wien, Deutschland” book featured here is from 1939, a year following the Anschluss.  The cover shows a drawing of part of the Schönbrunn Palace, looking out from the main part of the palace towards the gardens and the Glorietta (the structure on the hill.)

The photo shown below, which also appears in this book, is of Vienna’s Rathaus. I’ve painstakingly blurred out every occurrence I could find of the swastika — and there were many — to be sure the image doesn’t show up on some other website which proudly features swastikas. The caption to the photo reads, “The Rathaus on 1. May of the year of the Liberation of the Ostmark.”

Vienna Rathaus 1938

Richard Overy, “Interrrogations: The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands, 1945″

Richard Overy, “Interrrogations: The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands, 1945″

Interrogations (Amazon US, UK, CA, DE [english]) includes partial transcripts from the interrogations held at Nuremberg or locations relevant to similar trials such as the “Doctors’ Trial”. The following people appear in the book either as having been interrogated or having submitted an affidavit or other type of testimony:

Overy begins the book with a 200 page introduction that provides context for the transcripts and recalls some of their highlights. 300 pages of transcripts then follow. Some of the transcripts are not from interrogations, but rather from secret tapings of conversations between prisoners.

As you would imagine, it all makes for fascinating reading. I read the book a few years and marked a few passages. I’ll share a few of those now.

In this section, Albert Speer speaks of Adolf Hitler’s belief in his own destiny, particularly in light of the attempts on his life, all of which he escaped:

Out of innumerable isolated incidents, he had pieced together a firm conviction that his whole career, with its many unfavorable events and setbacks, was predestined by providence to take him to the goal which it had set him. In all difficult situations and decisions this belief of his served as a primary argument. The more his overworked condition caused him to lose his original gift of detaching himself in his thinking from the pressure of current events, and the more he was cornered by the course of events, the more emphasis he would place on this argument of his ‘predestined fate’.

The incomprehensible fact that he escaped injury on the 20 July [1944] gave him new foundation for this belief. Dr Goebbels’ press campaign about Frederick the Great and the course of the Seven Years War confirmed him in this belief and gave it a new incentive. Towards the end he even saw in Roosevelt’s unexpected death a parallel to Frederick the Great’s history; – the Empress Elizabeth had died shortly before the end of the Seven Years War, thus rescuing Frederick the Great out of a seemingly hopeless situation.

It is true that he cited this parallel in his first moment of elation on receipt of the news. [p. 235-6 of 2002 Penguin Paperback]

Speer again, on Hitler fancying himself a military leader:

His [Hitler’s] reaction to 20 July was indicative of the high opinion he had of himself as a military leader. He stressed the fact that the occurrence on 20 July historically justified him in his military decisions, in spite of the fact that during the last few years he had nothing but setbacks. These, however, he ascribed to the continuous treachery and intentional misinterpretation of his orders.

He issued an order that all the daily conferences on the situation should be taken down in shorthand verbatim, as he wanted to prove to posterity that he had always judged the position currently and given the right orders. Actually these documents are devastating for him and his entourage. [246]

Hermann Goering on Hitler, dead or alive, and the whereabouts of Martin Bormann:

Question: Do you think the Fuehrer is dead?

Goering: Absolutely, no doubt about it.

Question: What makes you think so?

Goering: Well, this is quite out of the question. We always knew the Fuehrer would kill himself if things were coming to an end. We always knew that. There is not the least doubt about it.

Question: Well, was there any understanding or agreement to that effect?

Goering: Yes, he said this only too clearly and too explicitly to different people, and we all knew about this exactly.

Question: What about Bormann?

Goering: (Throwing his hands into the air) If I had my say in it, I hope he is frying in Hell, but I don’t know about it… [311-312]

From a taped conversation between Ernst von Gottstein, identified as Hauptbauleiter OT, Gauamtsleiter für Technik, Gau Kärnten (Carinthia in today’s Austria) and Eugen Horak, identified as “Interpreter in Gruppe VI/C of the RSHA”, RHSA being the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or the Reich Main Security Office:

Horak: I was present in Vienna when they were loading up people for one of those mass evacuations. Hundreds were crammed into wagons, which normally took a couple of cows. And they were thoroughly beaten up as well. I went up to a young SS man and asked if the beating up was really necessary. He laughed and said they were only scum anyway. You know the whole thing was so unnecessary and one could well have got along without it … what was the purpose of all that beating up? I have nothing at all against the gas chambers. A time can come when it is useful to the race to eliminate certain elements. Extermination is one thing, but there is no need to torture your victims beforehand. [372]

I found that particular passage particularly brutal and offensive. And that’s what makes this book useful as a selection of original sources: I think it’s important to be able to read the actual thoughts of the very real people who were part of this regime, no matter how ugly those thoughts may be.

(Photo credit: the lead graphic for this article is a combination of four photos found at Wikimedia Commons and described as being in the public domain because they are photos from the Federal Government of the United States. From left to right, the photos are of the following persons: Hermann Goering, Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Jodl, Arthur Seyss-Inquart.)

Resource: Digitized versions of NS Frauen-Warte

Resource: Digitized versions of NS Frauen-Warte

I was looking at a post at the German Propaganda Archive blog showing an example of the National Socialist “Frauen-Warte“, an official, bi-weekly women’s illustrated published by the party.  A search on the main site of the German Propaganda Archive led me to their full page on Frauen-Warte, which in turn mentions the digitized collection of the magazine which is available via the web at a site maintained by the University of Heidelberg.  So here we have yet another great resource, free and available to all of us netizens.

The purpose of the magazine was, of course, to put forward the National Socialist vision of women’s role in their society.  Stereotypically, this included a lot of what you would expect: care for the children, support the men, manage the house.  The higher purpose was service to the State; therefore, when the times called for it, the magazine also celebrated service outside of the home, or at least so it seems by looking at the first issue of 1941 as an example.  1941 was a war year, so to find the National Socialists emphasizing woman’s role outside of the home is not surprising, given that their men were busy being slaughtered on the Eastern Front.  As such, we’re told in the article “Die faschistische Frau im Dienste der Nation” how women in fascist Italy are working as trolley conductors, farmers, machine workers, etc., while their men fight.    The article’s German author assures her readers that their Italian counterparts took on these new roles with the greatest of enthusiasm.  (Die Frauen sind dem Aufruf auf die hochherzigste Art gefolgt.)

Propaganda though it all may be, the covert art for each issue is worth having a look at.  Some of it is really striking.

“Auschwitz” by Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan Van Pelt

“Auschwitz” by Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan Van Pelt

Auschwitz (Amazon US, UK, DE [english], DE [german]) is probably my favorite of the history-related books I’ve read so far in 2009.   Young Stalin (Amazon US, UK, CA, DE [english], DE [german]) comes in a close second, but it’s off-topic in this blog!

I first discovered Auschwitz because one of its authors, Robert Jan Van Pelt, testified on behalf of Deborah Lipstadt in the libel suit brought against her by David Irving.  I read Lipstadt’s History on Trial (Amazon US, UK, CA, DE [english]), in which she mentions Van Pelt on several occasions.  I found the description of his testimony concerning architectural evidence at Auschwitz to be very interesting and thought I’d follow up by reading the book he co-authored with Dwork.

The book begins by sketching Auschwitz as an “ordinary town with an ordinary 700-year-old history.”  The town was established as German (“Auschwitz”) but had long periods of being Polish (“Oswiecim”).  Even at its German founding it was in the close vicinity of several Polish towns.  It was, in other words, a border town, a fact which played a very important role in its future.   After the total polonification of the area, Germany made several turns towards the East (1700s, 1800s); though Germans tended to see these movements as returns towards an East that was naturally theirs.

I’m close to embarking on an overly-detailed look at the book, but I’ll stop now (well, soon) and simply say “read it” if you are at all interested in that part of history.  As a non-professional, I’m not in any position to critique or formally review the book, so I can only tell you what I particularly liked about it: the inclusion of some early history of Auschwitz/Oswiecim; the portions of its National Socialist history that pre-dated its use as a concentration camp (we immediately — and rightly — think “concentration camp” and “gas” when hearing Auschwitz mentioned, so it was interesting to read about the pre-concentration camp days it spent under the National Socialists), the fascinating detail of the architectural record and the evidence it provides as to how Auschwitz was actually used.

Highly recommended (of course, since it’s a Book of the Week!)

(Photo credit: flickr user One from RM. / CC BY 2.0.)