occupation Archive

In the Hausarchiv: Neues Oesterreich, 5 June 1945

In the Hausarchiv: Neues Oesterreich, 5 June 1945

Amateur 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”.

Last Wednesday’s “In the Hausarchiv” featured a post-war edition of the Wiener Zeitung.  Today I do something similar by featuring the 5 June 1945 edition of “New Austria” (Neues Oesterreich), “the organ of democratic unification” (Organ der demokratischen Einigung).

I believe this is the earliest post-war edition of a newspaper here in the Hausarchiv.  Given that this edition is numbered 38, one presumes it was being published as early as late April 1945, which would have been quite soon after the Red Army had entered Vienna (ca. 13 April 1945).

Because the paper has no information concerning its publisher, and considering the moniker “organ of democratic unification”, I thought it safe to conclude that this was the newspaper published by the provisional government.  A visit to the online Austrian encyclopedia project, aeiou, confirmed this:

Neues Österreich, first Austrian post-war newspaper set up on April 23, 1945 as the “voice of democratic agreement”. The Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), the Austrian Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and the Austrian Communist Party (KPÖ) were responsible for its contents …

(You can see that their translation of “Organ der demokratischen Einigung” differs from the translation I came up with before finding their entry on the topic.  When in doubt, go with theirs not mine!)

In this edition of Neues Oesterreich, the lead headline reads, “Mass murder in Graz: 143 unidentifiable corpses left behind by the Gestapo” (my translation).  The article concludes that these corpses belonged to prisoners held by the Gestapo and the SS and that, rather than being shown any mercy, these prisoners were simply murdered just before their captors fled from the approaching Red Army.  Only one body could be identified, that of Dr. Julia Pongracic.

Most interesting from the historical perspective is the account of the speech by the governor of Styria (where Graz is located), given at the memorial service for these victims.  In the speech, the governor, Reinhold Machold, underscores Austrian resistance to National Socialism, as well he might do, given that the Soviets were occupying his part of Austria.  Compared to the occupation zones of the other three Allies, the Soviet zone was rather more punishing in the sense that the Red Army uprooted and physically moved to the Soviet Union much machinery and other equipment for industrial production.  After emphasizing Austrian resistance, Machold concludes:

We would hope and plead that the victors [the Allies], for whom we are grateful for freeing us from this Nazi pest, shall keep this in mind as they decide the fate of our poor, plagued, tormented, unhappy Austrian Volk. [my translation]

(Wir wollen hoffen und wir bitten darum, daß die Sieger, denen wir dankbar dafür sind, daß die uns von dieser nazistischen Pest befreit haben, dies bedenken und in Rechnung stellen mögen, wenn sie endgültig über das Schicksal unseres armen, geplagten und gepeinigten, unglücklichen österreichischen Volkes entscheiden werden.)

The question of seeing Austrians as Mittäter oder Opfer (perpetrators or victims) is a big one, and one which I will no doubt write about here someday.

In the Hausarchiv: Wiener Zeitung, 4 November 1945

In the Hausarchiv: Wiener Zeitung, 4 November 1945

Amateur 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”.

Today’s “In the Hausarchiv” features the Sunday, 4 November 1945, edition of the newspaper the Wiener Zeitung.  The lead article’s headline reads “Bardossy war der Verräter” (“Bardossy was the betrayer”).  It concerns the trial in Budapest of the former Hungarian Prime Minister Laszlo Bardossy, later convicted of war crimes and then executed in 1946.

Reading through the article, I was surprised at how condemnatory it seemed for something written on just the second day of the trial.  You can see that from the headline alone, but also within the text, with passages such as “[Bardossy] did everything within his power to quash any remaining vestiges of Hungary’s independence and force it to become  a vassal of the Germans.” (My translation.)  The article purports to report on Bardossy’s testimony, yet I imagine Bardossy came nowhere near describing his own actions with such self-condemnation.

But of course the tone of the article is not that surprising when we remember that these were still the early months of the occupation of Austria by the Soviets, the Americans, the British and the French.  The Soviets, in particular, would have been most interested in portraying a Hungarian fascist in this way.   Only later did I realize the byline of the article reads “TASS”, the Soviet news agency.  You can see “TASS” in the photo accompanying this entry.  I simply didn’t notice it when I first read the article.

One other very short article caught my eye.  I assume the article, which is rather anecdotal and offers no information as to the date of its events, describes an event that happened before the end of the war and therefore while the National Socialists were still in power.  A certain August Herat, lorry driver, turned down cash and instead accepted 10 sacks of potatoes, 450 kg of peas, and some pork fat for transporting potatoes for Marie Baburek, who owned a stand at the Naschmarkt.   During his trip he also received a goose and 6 liters of wine.  But bad luck: Ms Baburek decided to snitch on him for this obvious violation of wartime commerce laws.  The unlucky Mr. Herat was fined 200 Reichsmark (which is why I assume this occurred during the National Socialist regime — though perhaps the Reichsmark were still in circulation in November 1945 as new currency was awaited?) and sentenced to six months in prison.

Fun with the CIA Archives

Fun with the CIA Archives

History nerds love archival material and celebrate the fact that more and more becomes available digitally on the web. In addition to the U.S. State Department Office of the Historian and the excellent UK National Archives, both of which I will discuss one day soon, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) search site contains lots of useful information for professional and amateur historians alike.

The earliest mention of Austria which I came across at the site is contained within a February 1947 report by the Central Intelligence Group (the establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency would be signed into law later in the year) concerning the “Situation in Austria” (document id: NARA # NN3-263-92-005). If you don’t know much about the immediate post-WWII years in Austria, I can recommend it as a subject for study. While most attention was focused on Germany and especially Berlin, Austria was also experiencing quite an interesting time from a historical perspective. The battle lines of the cold war in Germany were fairly clear. In Austria, however, the situation was more uncertain.

Whither Austria? Within whose sphere of influence would Austria find itself? The countries to its east were completely occupied by the Soviets, whereas Austria was being governed by the four allied countries: the U.S., the U.K., France and the U.S.S.R. So too was Germany, but Germany was large enough to consider it feasible to partition between west and east. Austria was simply too small. Because it was also important to ensure that Austria not remain dependent on Germany (which had annexed it in 1938), the country needed to be large enough to be self-sustaining and have normal trade relations with multiple countries, not just Germany.

With that context in mind, the CIA report mentioned and linked-to above makes interesting reading. Of course it is only one agency’s assessment of what was happening in the Austria of 1947 and therefore should be considered as one piece of research, not the definitive story.

Here are a few excerpts of the report to whet your appetite:

The four occupying powers have recognized a coalition government in Austria which was formed after the national elections of November 1945.  The authority of the government is still limited by the conditions of four-power occupation and particularly by the hostile attitude of the USSR.


The USSR desires an Austrian regime subservient to Soviet policy.  Unsuccessful in its attempts to influence the Austrian Government by infiltration and intimidation, the USSR has concentrated on establishing control over the Austrian economy.  The USSR has implemented its policy in Austria by propaganda aimed at discrediting the government and by actions designed to disrupt its political and economic authority.  In order to further their economic aims, the Soviets have removed industrial machinery on a large scale, seized industrial assets, and forced factories to produce for the USSR. [Page 2]