Austria, annexation, World War II, and the Nazi past.
Latest hand-picked WWII news. See also: Vienna and Nazi relics, WW2 Uniforms, Nazi Hunters, Hitler: Berghof - Eagles Nest, Relics related to Nazi Leaders.
Mmemorial to deserters from Wehrmacht has been unveiled in Vienna, Austria
A memorial to deserters from the Wehrmacht has been unveiled in the centre of the Austrian capital, Vienna. It follows a decision by Austria`s parliament in 2009 to rehabilitate thousands of soldiers criminalised by the Nazis for desertion. Historian and campaigner Thomas Geldmacher says around 20,000 Austrians are believed to have deserted from the Wehrmacht, many in the last chaotic days of World War Two. It is thought that around 1,500 Austrian deserters faced the firing squad. Those who survived were regarded as traitors until 2009, when the Austrian parliament agreed to rehabilitate soldiers criminalised by the Nazis.
When Hitler Took Austria: A Memoir of Heroic Faith by the Chancellor`s Son (book review)
When Hitler Took Austria shines a bright light on the events of the late 1930s in Austria from a very particular point of view: that of a chancellor`s son. A major portion of this memoir focuses on the author`s father, Kurt von Schuschnigg the elder, both as Chancellor of Austria prior to the German invasion (1934–1938) and as a prisoner of Hitler`s government. The recollections in the book as a whole, and in the pre-Anschluss portion in particular, are made up of a precise and engaging intertwining of history and personal memory. Von Schuschnigg sets his own youthful exploits against the backdrop of serious events that his country faced in the run-up to WWII.
Survey: 11% of Austrian teens think Hitler "did many good things for the people"
Austrians are shocked by a new survey which shows that 11% young people think Adolf Hitler was not all bad and that he did "did many good things for the people". The country was taken over by Hitler - himself an Austrian by birth - in 1938. Welcomed by euphoric crowds at the time, post-war Austrian retreated to a psychological comfort zone whereby they classified themselves as the `first victims` of the Nazi regime. Perhaps more sinisterly, in a statement that harks directly back to the Nazis, 18% declared that "Jews have now, like before, too much influence over the world economy".
Viennese historian: Hitler personally planned the failed 1934 putsch in Vienna
Adolf Hitler himself planned a failed Nazi coup in 1934 that culminated in the assassination of the Austrian chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss. Based on journal entries by Joseph Goebbels, historian Kurt Bauer concluded the failed "July putsch" of 1934 was devised "by Adolf Hitler personally". On July 25, 1934, Austrian Nazis attacked the chancellery in Vienna, hoping to force the government to resign and set up a regime favorable to the Third Reich. The coup failed, but Until now, the action was seen as a local initiative by Austrian Nazis. After a high-level meeting with Hitler on July 22, 1934, Goebbels wrote in his diary: "Sunday: at the Fuehrer`s ... Austrian question. Whether it will work? I`m very sceptical."
Vienna to honour Austria`s Wehrmacht deserters with a memorial
Vienna plans to erect a memorial in honour of soldiers who deserted from the Wehrmacht. The city council has yet to decide the location, but campaigners want it to be placed in Heldenplatz (Heroes Square) alongside war memorials. The square is also where Hitler, born in Austria, addressed crowds in 1938 when Austria was annexed to the Third Reich. Up to 20,000 Austrians deserted from the Wehrmacht, especially in the last days of World War II. In large parts of the Austrian population deserters are still considered cowards, traitors, and even comrade-killers. A monument will hopefully change that view.
Plans for Austria`s huge Nazi-era flak towers spark controversy
Scattered through Vienna are 6 huge anti-aircraft towers, a reminder of the city`s Nazi past. The flak towers, built by forced labour, were set up 1942-1945. Architectural historian Ute Bauer says their main purpose was propaganda: "The towers were... a sign of the military strength of the Third Reich... In 1943 when the towers were built, the authorities already knew the bombers flew higher - so they were of no military use, but they built them regardless." One of the flak towers houses an aquarium and another is used by the Austrian army. But what to do with the other relics - getting rid of the reinforced concrete is difficult.
One of Hitler`s closest surviving relatives tracked down on a cattle farm in Austria
One of Hitler`s closest living relatives has been tracked down on a cattle farm in a remote village in northern Austria. Gerhard Koppensteiner - who looks like the Führer - wants to play down the connection. Gerhar, whose grandmother was the dictator`s first cousin, said: "This has haunted my family all our lives. It is a terrible burden. I grew up knowing I was related to him. How do you learn to live with that?" Neighbours in the mountain village near the Czech border know of the Hitler connection, but one of them explained: "You can`t hold Hitler`s crimes against them."
Exhibition in Vienna explores Austria`s Wehrmacht deserters
When Richard Wadani travelled back to Austria from Britain in 1946, he was not hailed as a hero who fought the Nazis but a coward. Wadani deserted the Wehrmacht in 1944 to join the British army to fight the Nazis. When he showed up in Austria after the war in British uniform, the official yelled at him: "How dare you serve in a foreign army?" Now an exhibition in Vienna explores Wehrmacht deserters. There are no memorials for army deserters in Austria - politicians are unwilling to support rehabilitation, saying "desertion is still a crime." 1.3 million Austrians served in the Wehrmacht after their country was annexed by Third Reich in 1938.
Austria frees SS man who took part in the killing of 8,000 - A day after being deported from US
A former SS man who took part in the extermination of 8,000 Jews in one day at the Trawniki camp in 1943 has been freed by Austria - a day after he was deported from the US. The US justice department said that Josias Kumpf had admitted that he stood guard over a pit where prisoners were being gunned down and "finished off" the wounded. Austrian justice ministry spokeswoman Katharina Swoboda said Kumpf would not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations relating to his crimes had expired in 1965. "We have always pointed out to the U.S. that he cannot be charged here with the crimes of which he is accused."
Hans Hass, who served in Wehrmacht`s "Fighters of the Sea" battalion, turns 90
Austrian diving legend and documentary film maker Hans Hass - who was part of Adolf Hitler`s elite diving squad in WW2 and became an environmental campaigner late in life - turns 90. He is viewed as a visionary of deep-sea diving and one of the most important influences for the development of underwater film-making. During World War II, Hass served in the Nazi Wehrmacht. Due to his diving skills, he was sent to the "Fighters of the Sea" battalion - set up to explore Allied port facilities, to eliminate the Allied vessels and to destroy bridges and floodgates in inland waters.
Paul Hofmann, author and foe of Nazis, passes away at 96
Paul Hofmann, a Viennese who opposed the rise of Nazism and acted as an informer for the Allies while serving on the staff of the German commandants of Nazi occupied Rome during World War II and later became a travel book author, passed away at the age 96. With the Anschluss, Adolf Hitler had made Austria a part of the Third Reich, and Hofmann was drafted into the Wehrmacht and sent to Rome. For the next 3 years he was interpreter for two consecutive Nazi commanders, General Rainer Stahel and the notorious General Kurt Mälzer, a brutal and imperious air force officer who styled himself the king of Rome.
Linz, Hitler`s Austrian culture capital, faces Nazi past to be Europe`s culture capital of 2009
Adolf Hitler had huge plans for Linz - the small city where he grew up - which is now preparing to become Europe`s 2009 capital of culture. He wanted to make Linz into one of the five Führer cities of Third Reich, along with Berlin, Hamburg, Nuremberg and Munich. Linz is looking into its Nazi past in "the Fuhrer`s Capital of Culture" -exhibition, which reveals some of the designs Hitler commissioned: A series of grandiose buildings surrounded by huge boulevards and a parade ground. The exhibit includes some items that are rarely on display, like some Nazi propaganda material, portraits of Hitler and photos show Führer studying scale models of the city.
Nazi Waffen SS veterans honored in 50th Ulrichsberg gathering in Austria
500 people honoured Waffen SS veterans at the 50th Ulrichsberg gathering on top of the Ulrichsberg mountain, paying homage to the Third Reich soldiers` "sense of sacrifice" in a stronghold of the far-right leader Jorg Haider. Among the people were representatives from veterans` groups and from the Austrian army, as well as younger neo-Nazis and retired soldiers with the banners of the Flemish SS volunteers. "We want to... remember that a war does not have any winners, only victims... We also want to remind people that we only did our duty in fighting with the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS after the Anschluss," explained Rudolf Gallob.
Austrian newsstands selling papers published during the time of Nazi rule
Austrian newsstands are selling papers published during the time of Nazi rule, showing how press saw the era. An image of a procession of uniformed Nazis marching through the Austria`s capital fills the front page of the Neuigkeits-Welt-Blatt above the headline "The `Day of the Legion` in Vienna." "Everywhere heart-felt rallies were given for the legionnaires, the self-sacrificing pioneers of the National Socialist movement in German-Austria," the caption reads. The legionnaires had indeed had their day, as they could finally admit publicly to their loyalty to the previously banned Nazi party.
When the Nazis marched into Austrian on March 12, 1938 [photo galleries]
On March 11, 1938 Austrian chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg addressed his people. He bade them farewell with ominous words: "God protect Austria." The next day at 5:00 a.m., SS leader Heinrich Himmler landed at the Aspern Airport in Vienna. Next the German army crossed the border into Austria. "Operation Otto," as the military element of the Austrian takeover was known, and the "reunification of Austria with the German Reich," as Hitler formulated it for a law, was in full swing. Hitler headed first to Linz, where he had spent part of his childhood, and then to Vienna, where excited crowds waited.
Austria: Majority opposes continued investigation of Nazi past
A poll reveals that 60% of Austrians oppose continued probe of the country`s Nazi past, while 36% support continued study of it. The percentage opposing it hasn`t changed since 2000, but that supporting it has increased by 4 percentage points since then. People with low educational levels are more opposed to it than those with higher levels. No respondent thinks that all Austrians would have voted in favour of the 1938 "Anchluss" or German annexation of Austria, on the other hand 5% did in 1976.
Austria opens "painful" exhibit on annexation by Nazi Germany
Austria opened an exhibition showing how Jews of the State Opera were purged under Nazi rule as the nation began solemn commemorations of its annexation by Nazi Germany 70 years ago. Vienna`s opera house is one focus of post-World War II Austria`s guilt about the way it rapidly accepted the Nazi takeover and, after the WWII ended, reinstated few of those oppressed during the Third Reich. Scenes of German troops being welcomed like saviors when they marched in on March 12, 1938 still haunt many Austrians. One historian has estimated that one third actively supported the annexation.
Tiny Austrian village Silbertal faces its Nazi past - Mass murderer Josef Vallaster
The mayor of Silbertal, where Ernest Hemingway skied down majestic slopes, has began a project that most Austrians would rather forget: facing the nation`s Nazi past. Mayor Willi Saly wants to find out what drove Josef Vallaster to become one of the most brutal camp guards of WWII. He took part in the deaths of 250,000 at the Sobibor and Belzec, and of 20,000 mentally disabled persons in Nartheim. "At first, we couldn`t believe that a man from our village could be such a dreadful monster." Saly`s mission is unique in a country that has been unwilling to face its Nazi past. Unlike most areas occupied by Third Reich, many Austrians welcomed Germany`s annexation in 1938.
Austria: Conveniently forgetting their 150,000 Waffen SS soldiers
Germany has made a good effort to remember the horrors of the Nazis, while Japan is a nation in denial. And then there is Austria. The convenient truth is that Austria did not exist after it was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938. That did not keep 800,000 Austrians from serving in the Wehrmacht, or 150,000 in the Waffen SS, or a high number of high-ranking nazis being Austrians. Nor does it deny the delightful welcome the Nazis got and the enthusiasm for the Anschluss (though some have argued it had more to do with escaping the unrest of the First Republic). If you want to understand Austria, look around Vienna: The past is almost solely imperial Austria, Habsburgs.
Austria Hunts for Nazi Fugitives Alois Brunner and Aribert Heim
One was a doctor who injected poison into the hearts of prisoners. The other was once an aide to Adolf Eichmann. Austria wants to find Alois Brunner and Aribert Heim, both in their 90s if still alive. A notice posted on the Justice Ministry`s site features photos and descriptions of Brunner and Heim and offers rewards for information leading to their capture. Brunner, the most-wanted Nazi war criminal is described as having mutilated hands and one eye, after reportedly being disfigured by mail bombs. Brunner lived in Syria for decades and was last seen there in 2001. Heim presumably lives in Spain or South America.
UN chief Kurt Waldheim with Nazi military service past dies at 88
Kurt Waldheim, the former UN secretary general whose election as Austrian president in the 1980s triggered an outcry after his Nazi military service was revealed, died at 88. His legacy will forever be tainted by the disclosure that he belonged to a German army unit that committed atrocities in the Balkans. The revelations led to a huge loss of prestige for Austria - although a commission of historians found no evidence that he had committed war crimes. Waldheim was placed on a US watchlist of undesirable aliens, and he was often referred to as the "lonely man in the palace" because he rarely travelled as many leaders shunned him.
Nazi hunter brands Austria a "paradise" for Nazis (Article no longer available from the original source)
Austria`s legal system and its insufficient zeal in investigating alleged crimes committed under Hitler`s Third Reich make it a "paradise for Nazi war criminals," a top Nazi hunter said. Frustrated at slow progress in finding suspected war criminals in Austria and bringing them to court, Simon Wiesenthal Center director Efraim Zuroff came to Vienna for talks with ministers aimed at accelerating the process. "The law in this country does more to protect Nazis than to bring them to justice," Zuroff told. "There is a system here that makes Austria a paradise for Nazi war criminals, plain and simple."
"Sieg Heil" - Hitler message lands Austrian in trouble
A man who used an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler as the greeting on his cellphone answering service went on trial in Austria, where such statements are a crime. Message said: "I swear unswerving loyalty to Adolf Hitler! I swear absolute obedience! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!" He faces a fine if convicted under a law that makes Nazi propaganda a crime in Austria.
A watercolor by Hitler for sale on Ebay-Austria
A painting titled "Muenchen," (Munich) bearing the signature of the former Nazi dictator and described by the seller as a "rarity", was put up for auction at an asking price of 2,100 euros on eBay.at. Another watercolor by Hitler, titled "Bad Gastein," received at least 25 bids before selling for more than 4,500 euros. Austrian-born Hitler famously had ambitions to become an artist and was turned down by the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. His production of paintings and sketches was prolific but experts see little artistic merit in them and major auction-houses shy away from them because of their author`s bloodstained career.
Nazi apologist finds his works in Austrian prison
Austria`s authorities were facing embarrassment yesterday after it emerged that the controversial historian David Irving had discovered two of his books inside the prison where he was held. Irving stumbled across copies of Hitler`s War and Schlacht im Eismeer (Battle in the Arctic Sea) while browsing through the 6,400-volume library of Graz`s prison. A delighted Irving asked warders if he could sign his own works. They agreed.
Hitler`s dosshouse saved as warning to future generations
Austria has vetoed moves to turn the Vienna dosshouse where Adolf Hitler once lived into a hotel as part of a new drive to preserve Nazi-era buildings as cultural monuments. Until now such landmarks as the Meldemann Strasse homeless hostel, where Hitler stayed as a penniless painter, were deliberately exempted from conservation orders. But heritage chiefs now want them retained as sombre warnings to future generations.
Austria`s pro-Nazi priests, who helped Hitler`s henchmen escape
Stefan Moritz`s book about Austria`s pro-Nazi priests, who helped thousands of Hitler`s henchmen escape, is raising enormous controversy in the 80% catholic Austria. A listing of pro-Hitler Austrian clergy staying in or promoted to leading positions after the war. It included Bishop Alois Hudal, who boasted of helping about 50,000 war crimes suspects to hide or escape. Among them was Franz Stangl, commander of Treblinka concentration camp in Poland where 800,000 Jews were killed. He was arrested in Brazil after two decades on the run with a false passport procured through Bishop Hudal.