Austria

History

Austria was occupied by the German Reich in March 1938 and annexed after a plebiscite. Many Austrians welcomed this “Anschluss”, after which they were treated equally as Germans – a separate Austrian identity was denied by the Nazis. Austria was integrated into the general administration of the German Reich, and subdivided into Reichsgaue in 1939. In 1945, the Red Army took Vienna and eastern parts of the country, while the Western Allies occupied the western and southern sections.

In 1938, Austria had a total population of about 6,753,000 people. After the “Anschluss”, between 201,000 and 214,000 of them, including refugees from Germany, were persecuted as Jews under the Nuremberg Laws. The Austrian Nazi Party, which had been outlawed before the “Anschluss”, however, did not target only the Jews, but also other perceived “racial” enemies, such as the Roma, their political opponents, the disabled, and others. In the process, Austrians became involved in all types of Nazi crimes. In the first days and weeks of Nazi rule, Jews were subjected to brutal outbreaks of violence, including theft and murder. Subsequently, most Jews in the provinces were forced to move to Vienna. After the pogrom in November 1938, about 6,500 male Jews from Austria were imprisoned, and 4,000 among them were sent to the Dachau concentration camp. By late 1939, more than half of the German-Jewish refugees had resorted to emigration to escape from Nazi anti-Jewish measures in Austria. During the war, the remaining Jews in Austria were subjected to ever increasing isolation by new regulations, including the forced transferal to smaller quarters and the introduction of the obligatory Jewish Star in 1941. Austrian Jews were subsequently deported to Minsk, to camps and ghettos in Poland and to the Theresienstadt ghetto in Bohemia. Most of those who survived there were subsequently deported to extermination camps. Overall, around 66,000 Austrian Jews perished in the Holocaust.

Archival Situation

Austria exhibits a highly differentiated archival system without much centralisation. In addition to the Federal Archives and its departments (governed by the Bundesarchivgesetz), each Austrian Land has its own State Archive (each governed by the respective state Archivgesetz or statute). There are over 50 city archives. The religious communities in Austria, first and foremost bodies and organisations of the Catholic Church, have a rich array of archival institutions. There are also university archives, archives of noble houses (in particular the Liechtenstein archives) and a number of other, mostly topical archives as well as libraries holding archival material.

EHRI Research (Summary)

Key institutions identified by EHRI include the Austrian State Archive (Österreichisches Staatsarchiv/ Archiv der Republik) and the respective state archives of the Austrian Länder, which hold surviving files of central and regional administrative bodies as well as post-war investigations; the state operated Archive of the Mauthausen Memorial, which contains files of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp complex; the Dokumentationsarchiv des Österreichischen Widerstandes, which contains material from private hands as well as serving as a hub for highly pertinent copied files accrued from dozens of archives; the Archiv der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde Wien, which contains the files of the Vienna Jewish Community, which encompassed the vast majority of Austrian Jews; the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute; and the Forschungsstelle Nachkriegsjustiz, which has collected the scattered information on post-war trials for Nazi war crimes. EHRI has identified a number of general and Holocaust-relevant archival guides and online resources, a full list of which is available in the EHRI extensive report on Austria.

EHRI Research (Extensive)

A. EHRI approach to Austria: Pre-existing research and archival guides, expert support

In the case of Austria, EHRI could rely on a number of pre-existing works on the Holocaust. For further research on Austrian archives, EHRI enlisted two specialists, Mag.a Susanne Uslu-Pauer, and Mag. Wolfgang Schellenbacher. Uslu-Pauer, who is currently Head of the Archive of the Jewish Community in Vienna, has published a number of works, especially on post-war criminal persecution of Nazi crimes:

  • [2008] (with Eva Holpfer), Vor dem Volksgericht. Verfahren gegen burgenländische NS-Täter 1945-1955, Eisenstadt 2008,
  • [2007] Strafrechtliche Verfolgung von nationalsozialistischen Tötungsverbrechen vor dem Volksgericht Wien, in: Kriegsverbrechen, NS-Gewaltverbrechen und die europäische Strafjustiz von Nürnberg bis Den Haag, edited bei Heimo Halbrainer, Graz 2007 (= Veröffentlichung der Forschungsstelle Nachkriegsjustiz, Bd. 1), pp. 221-235,
  • [2006] (with Eleonore Lappin and Manfred Wieninger), Ungarisch-jüdische Zwangsarbeiterinnen und Zwangsarbeiter in Niederösterreich 1944/45, St. Pölten 2006,
  • [2006] “Vernichtungswut und Kadavergehorsam”. Strafrechtliche Verfolgung von Endphaseverbrechen am Beispiel der sogenannten Todesmärsche, in: Albrich, Thomas (Ed.), Holocaust und Kriegsverbrechen vor Gericht. Der Fall Österreich, Innsbruck 2006, pp. 179-204.

Wolfgang Schellenbacher who works at the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (Dokumentationsarchiv des Österreichischen Widerstandes, DÖW) and has been enlisted by EHRI at the Jewish Museum in Prague, has completed a Master’s thesis on health institutions at the Theresienstadt Ghetto at the University of Vienna, and contributed to the publication of a Theresienstadt inmate’s diary:

  • [2010] Das Gesundheitswesen im Ghetto Theresienstadt 1941-1945, Vienna 2010,
  • [2007] “Langsam gewöhnen wir uns an das Ghettoleben”. Ein Tagebuch aus Theresienstadt. Eva Mändl Roubičková. Hrsg. von Veronika Springmann. Unter Mitarbeit von Wolfgang Schellenbacher, Hamburg 2007.

Highly useful for EHRI’s identification efforts was a general overview of archives in Austria, Germany and Switzerland:

  • [2009] Archive in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. Ein Adressenverzeichnis (Münster: Ardey, 2009). Book + CD-ROM.

The publications of the Austrian Historians’ Commission (Österreichische Historikerkommission), which are available and searchable online at http://www.boehlau.at/histkom, are also helpful. Furthermore, the following platform is an important and specifically Holocaust-relevant online resource:

This resource is dedicated to issues of expropriation between 1938 and 1945, and to issues of restitution and compensation after 1945. The platform itself is a "signpost". Researchers will find detailed information about resources that can provide them with valuable assistance in their research (for example: in which Austrian archives can I find documents on expropriation?, where can I conduct research on citizenship revocation?, or how can I find out whether a specific property or rental was “aryanised”?). The platform offers an overview of the legal foundations of both the Nazi expropriation of property as well as restitution and compensation from the Republic of Austria after 1945. The platform gives direct access to the original texts of all the laws relevant to this context. There are also bibliographic references and explanations of individual terms. The information is in German.

Among the more traditional research tools, the following guide is worth mentioning:

  • [1995, 1991] Boberach, Heinz (Ed.), Inventar archivalischer Quellen des NS-Staates. Die Überlieferungen von Behörden und Einrichtungen des Reichs, der Länder und der NSDAP, 2 Teile, (Munich: Saur, 1991, 1995). Also included in the commercial database “Deutsche Geschichte im 20. Jahrhundert Online: Nationalsozialismus, Holocaust, Widerstand und Exil 1933-1945”, http://db.saur.de/DGO.

B. Characteristics of the Austrian archival system and specific challenges

Austria exhibits a highly differentiated archival system without much centralisation. In addition to the Federal Archives and its departments (governed by the Bundesarchivgesetz), each of the Austrian Länder has its own State Archive (each governed by the respective state Archivgesetz or statute). There are over 50 city archives. The religious communities in Austria, first and foremost bodies and organisations of the Catholic Church, exhibit a rich array of archival institutions. University archives, archives of noble houses (in particular the Liechtenstein archives) and a number of other, mostly topical archives as well as libraries holding archival material also exist.

Key institutions identified by EHRI include the Austrian State Archive (Österreichisches Staatsarchiv/ Archiv der Republik), which has an online search engine (http://www.archivinformationssystem.at/suchinfo.aspx), and the respective state archives of the Austrian Länder, which hold surviving files of central and regional administrative bodies as well as post-war investigations. Likewise important are the state operated Archive of the Mauthausen Memorial, which contains files of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp complex; the Dokumentationsarchiv des Österreichischen Widerstandes (DÖW), which contains material from private hands as well as serving as a hub for highly pertinent copied files accrued from dozens of archives; the Archiv der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde (IKG) Wien, which contains the files of the Vienna Jewish Community encompassing the vast majority of Austrian Jews; the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute; and the Forschungsstelle Nachkriegsjustiz, which has collected the scattered information on post-war trials for Nazi war crimes.

C. EHRI identification and description results on Austria

C.I. In Austria

In Austria, EHRI identified 200 state, municipal and church archives. While well over 25% is clustered in or around Vienna, there are also important archives in all Austrian Bundesländer.

C.II. In other countries

EHRI has yet to determine which archival institutions and collections outside of Austria are relevant to Holocaust research on Austria.