Most petroleum engineers are Republicans

Federal Army

The small military associations in the First Republic

In addition to the large military associations, the Republican Protection Association and Heimwehr (Heimatschutz), many small paramilitary groups had emerged in Austria during the interwar period. Similar to home guards, these often did not have a uniform structure. A large number of these small military associations dissolved themselves after a few years, were banned or were absorbed into other organizations.

The exact number of members and the organization of most of the small military organizations will probably remain unknown, because there is little archive material that allows conclusions to be drawn. The journalistic activities of these groups (posters, postillas, newspapers, ...) do not paint a clear picture either, since it is generally propaganda material. If one takes the editions and the publication periods of these publications as a yardstick, it is noticeable that most printed works had only small editions and quickly disappeared again. The newspaper of the Studentenfreikorps, the "Heimatschutz-Student", appeared z. B. only in the years 1932/33 and 1935/36.

Ideologically, the majority of the small military organizations were mostly right of center, some even extreme right, because in the area of ​​the "left" the dominance of the Republican Protection Association of Austrian Social Democrats prevented the emergence of other noteworthy left (e.g. communist) military organizations. (In Germany, on the other hand, the social democratic Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold, the German counterpart to the Schutzbund, faced the communist Red Front Fighters League.) Smaller parties in Austria - such as the conservative Landbund - were also held by paramilitary associations (Bauernfront, Green Wehr, Green Front) . Even individual professional groups such as railway workers, streetcar workers or postal workers founded organizations carrying weapons (railway service, tram service, post and telegraph service) as well as the Christian gymnastics associations (military departments of the Christian-German gymnastics association in Austria).

In the way they appeared and in their goals, some of these military associations were hardly distinguishable from one another even by contemporary observers - unless they were visually and ideologically clearly identifiable associations such as the Sturmabteilung (SA) and the Schutzstaffel (SS) of the National Socialists.

The small defense associations "right of the center" seemed to be united in the "fight against Marxism", but violent conflicts with each other and with the home guards did not fail to materialize. In several small military associations, Christian-social views met with monarchist up to German national and National Socialist views. Even "sectarian" tendencies and world views could develop in this way.

A special feature was the entanglement with each other - many people joined several associations at the same time. But the organizations also joined forces with others, separated again or founded new associations and paramilitary groups with splinter groups. Examples are the Student Freikorps and the Academic Legion. Both joined the Home Guard as a group and then became part of it.

The end of the smaller military units mostly took place through self-dissolution, the merging into another group, but at the latest with the forced dissolution by the government in 1936 and the associated integration into the Fatherland Front and its sub-organizations. Only the associations of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), the SA and the SS (banned since 1933), evaded this compulsory integration.

Typical of all smaller military units with the exception of the SA and the SS, which received support from Germany, was their relative military and - related - political weakness. There was often a lack of weapons (unless the government allocated them to the associations from state depots), of uniforms, of a tight organization and of regulated funding.

The paramilitary groups described below show the diversity, but only include the larger and more important of the military associations that existed at the time.

The Ostara - an early paramilitary group

In 1919 the tiny Austrian Monarchist Party (PÖM) founded the League of Intrepid in Vienna, from which the Ostara Self-Protection Association arose. (Ostara / Eostrae was considered a Germanic spring goddess from whose name the word Easter is supposedly derived published between 1905 and 1931. Note) Although the violent Ostara could hardly muster more than 200 to 300 men, there were violent clashes with Social Democrats in 1922/23, whereby (on February 17, 1923) even one was killed. After the death of Kaiser Karl (1922) any attempt at restoration seemed impossible because Karl's son Otto von Habsburg was only ten years old. The Ostara slipped into insignificance, but still enjoyed good contacts with the church and the home guards. Some Ostara members also appear in the Vienna Homeland Security. However, this tiny monarchist association never achieved military or domestic political importance.

The Ostmärkischen Sturmscharen

The Ostmärkische Sturmscharen were founded with the help of the church - especially the later Archbishop of Salzburg, Sigismund Waitz - on December 7th 1930 in Innsbruck. They were under the leadership of the future Federal Chancellor Dr. Kurt Schuschnigg. Initially intended as an ecclesiastical reform movement, from 1933 onwards a military association was formed, which was also to act against the home guard. Schuschnigg, himself a Tyrolean, might want to create his own paramilitary power with the Ostmärkische Sturmscharen. The membership pool was formed by the Catholic journeyman and teacher organizations. Catholic clerics were also very involved in the Ostmärkische Sturmscharen, mainly as pastors and trainers.

Even Chancellor Dollfuss was positive about the Ostmärkische Sturmscharen, because he considered them to be more predictable than the quarreling, unstable Home Guard. Allegedly in 1933 the storm troops had around 15,000 members. During the February fighting in 1934, the storm troops also intervened and allegedly also had to mourn deaths. (However, the armed forces and the police bore the brunt of the fighting.) From 1934 onwards, the Ostmärkische Sturmscharen enjoyed government protection and in Styria they even managed to briefly outperform the home guards.

Despite strong mutual distrust, the Homeland Security and the Ostmärkische Sturmscharen merged their youth organizations in 1935. Just like the Homeland Security, Chancellor Schuschnigg converted the Ostmärkische Sturmscharen into a cultural organization and had their weapons collected. He tried to integrate former members into the front militia. The dissolution of all military associations in October 1936 therefore only affected the Ostmärkische Sturmscharen formally.

Like the Heimwehr, the Ostmärkische Sturmscharen in Lower Austria had a strong life of their own (Niederösterreichische Sturmscharen). They enjoyed the support of the farmers 'union (as well as the Lower Austrian Heimwehr under Julius Raab) and provided the regional leader with the Lower Austrian farmers' union director, Ing.Leopold Figl.

The Ostmärkische Sturmscharen were uniformly uniformed. They wore gray shirts, pants and caps as well as black ties or armbands with a Christian symbol.

Excursus Ing.Leopold Figl (1902 - 1965):

Born in Rust in Lower Austria (Tulln district), Leopold Figl studied at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna from 1923. In 1931 he became deputy director of the Lower Austrian Farmers' Union and in 1933 its director. Figl also acted as the regional leader of the Lower Austrian storm troops. In the corporate state Figl exposed himself as loyal to the regime (in 1937 he became chairman of the Reichsbauernbundes). I.a. therefore he was arrested on April 12, 1938 and taken to Dachau by the National Socialists (in the so-called "Prominent Transport"). Released in 1943, he worked as a petroleum engineer in Lower Austria before being arrested again in 1944 and taken to Mauthausen. This was followed by charges of "high treason" and transfer to the Vienna Regional Court. He escaped the threatened death sentence by the end of the war.

Before the end of the war, Leopold Figl re-founded the Bauernbund (April 14, 1945). Three days later he launched the ÖVP with Leopold Kunschak, Hans Pernter, Lois Weinberger, Julius Raab and Felix Hurdes. First Figl acted as provisional governor of Lower Austria and as State Secretary of the Renner government before he became Federal Chancellor after winning the National Council elections on December 20, 1945. He held this office until 1953. After criticism from within the party that he was too willing to compromise with the SPÖ, he was replaced by Julius Raab. Figl became Foreign Minister and, as such, played a key role in the conclusion of the State Treaty in 1955. (With the words "Austria is free!" He showed this document to the cheering crowd in front of the Belvedere.) In 1959 the socialist Bruno Kreisky replaced Figl as foreign minister. Figl was President of the National Council from 1959 to 1962 and then Governor of Lower Austria until his death in 1965.

Ing. Leopold Figl, who was considered a supporter of Engelbert Dollfuss and who was involved in the "Fatherland Front", transformed himself into a convinced democrat and compromise politician during and after the war years.

Excursus Dr. Kurt Schuschnigg (1897-1977):

Kurt Schuschnigg was born in Reif (South Tyrol, today Riva del Garda) as the son of an officer. He graduated from the Jesuit Jesuit elite school "Stella Matutina" in Feldkirch and took part in the First World War. He then studied law in Innsbruck and opened his own law firm in 1924.

Schuschnigg was involved in the Christian Social Party and in 1927 won a seat on the National Council. Schuschnigg took part in the founding and development of the Ostmärkische Sturmscharen because he had great distrust of the home guards. In 1932 he became Minister of Justice and in 1933 also Minister of Education. At his instigation, the death penalty was reintroduced in Austria in 1933. In 1934 he had eight Schutzbund leaders - including the seriously wounded Karl Münichreiter - executed as a "deterrent example".

After the assassination of Engelbert Dollfuss, Kurt Schuschnigg succeeded him as Federal Chancellor. His attempts, directed against the Third Reich, to make the Austro-Fascist federal state the "second German state", failed miserably. After the invasion in March 1938, Schuschnigg was in custody (including in the Sachsenhausen, Flossenbürg and Dachau concentration camps).

Liberated by the Americans in 1945, Schuschnigg went to the United States and became a professor of constitutional law in St. Louis. In 1968 he returned to Austria without ever being held responsible for his role in the corporate state. Schuschnigg died on November 18, 1977 in Mutters (Tyrol).

The League of Freedom

The Freedom League was a military association of Christian-social workers established on July 17, 1927 (two days after the Palace of Justice fire). It was supposed to prevent "social democratic industrial terror" and protect its own assemblies. Despite the "common enemy", the Heimwehr also counted among the opponents of the Freedom League, which was under the leadership of the Christian-social workers' leader Leopold Kunschak.

Regardless of these rivalries, a leader of the Freedom League was also present in Korneuburg on May 18, 1930 (see "Die Heimwehr" in TD 1/2010, box "Der Korneuburger Eid"), but in contrast to the leader of the Lower Austrian Heimwehr, Julius Raab, refused the present functionary of the Freedom League was the only one to take the "Korneuburg Oath". Whether the Freedom League took up arms against the Social Democrats in February 1934 is still a matter of dispute.

After the civil wars of February and July 1934, numerous former Social Democrats and National Socialists poured into the Freedom Association, so that in 1935 it supposedly numbered over 30,000 men. Most of the new members had probably not changed their minds, but they expected the Freedom Association to provide protection and work. Due to the now integrated National Socialists, however, the Freedom League drifted to the right and now maintained good contacts with the German ambassador in Austria, Franz von Papen. In 1936 the Freedom League was already openly advocating anti-Semitic tendencies. Gustav Blenk, commander of the Academic Corps of the Freedom League, admitted frankly that the Freedom Association "ended up being nothing but Nazis". Funding came from the Christian and later from the unified trade unions. Although the Freedom League was officially dissolved in October 1936, it continued to exist unofficially until 1938.

The uniform of the Freedom League consisted of yellow-green windbreakers, black trousers, black or yellow-green caps with black lacquer visors and red-white-red cockades in a wreath of thorns.

The Front Fighter Association

The Paramilitary Front Fighters Association (also Front Fighters Association of German-Austria) founded in April 1920 led many former soldiers of the imperial armed forces in its ranks. Commanders were mostly former officers, such as Colonels Hermann Hiltl and Oskar Zeiß and Major Kopschitz.

The goals of the Front Fighter Association were to fight "on an Aryan basis against the elements destroying the people such as Social Democrats and Communists", to maintain camaraderie and to unite the "entire German people".

The Front Fighter Association organized numerous memorial days and marches as well as field exercises and took an offensive against the Social Democrats and the Republican Protection Association, but kept their distance from the Home Guard.

The Front Fighters Association achieved sad notoriety due to the events in Schattendorf (Burgenland) on January 30, 1927. Schutzbündler had taken action there against an event by Front Fighters and had already forced many of them to get back on a train at the station. On the march back, members of the Schutzbund entered the Tscharmann inn in a victorious mood, insulted those present and threw stones. Three frontline fighters located there fired shotguns at the Schutzbund, who had already withdrawn, killing an invalid and an eight-year-old child. The acquittal of the perpetrators on July 15, 1927 triggered a mass protest by workers in Vienna. They moved into the city center and set the Palace of Justice on fire. The police then shot into the crowd. The result was 94 dead and more than 1,000 injured.

Brown-yellow windbreakers, riding breeches, high heels and black hoods with neck protection served as uniforms for the front fighter association. The front fighter badge showed a hand on a sword pommel, a laurel branch and a laurel wreath. Military decorations of the monarchy were also often worn.

In the early thirties, the National Socialists infiltrated the Front Fighter Association, whereupon it was officially dissolved in 1935.

The National Socialist Associations

From 1922 the National Socialists were very active, especially in Vienna. The district group founded in Favoriten that year also set up its own stewardship troop (later Sturmabteilung - SA), led by Hans Lechner from Munich. Around 10,000 of the 34,000 party members registered in 1923 are said to have served in this police force. On March 4, 1923, there were first clashes with social democratic security police in Favoriten - and the first deaths.

After 1923, the SA wore brown shirts (from 1932, among other things, the standardized model of the German clothing company Hugo Boss), brown ties, breeches (riding breeches), shaft caps (cap-like caps) and swastika armbands. The "Austrian" SS, however, generally wore civilian clothes, occasionally with swastika armbands.

The significant rise of the NSDAP in Austria - and with it the SA and SS - only began with the economic crisis and the decline of the Heimwehr. From 1932 onwards there were more and more clashes between the "Brown Shirts", the Heimwehr and the Schutzbund, z. B. in Vienna-Simmering and Innsbruck (the so-called "Saalschlacht von Hötting").

In the last elections of the First Republic, the NSDAP, which also held large assemblies in Austria, won significantly more votes. After Hitler came to power in Germany (January 30, 1933), the SA and the SS, operating in civilian clothes, hit Austria with a wave of terror. There were attacks and acts of sabotage almost every day until, after an assassination attempt in Krems, the Austrian government banned the NSDAP and its associations on June 19, 1933. These dived into illegality and continued the fight from underground.

After the civil war in February 1934, the Nazi terror increased and reached its peak in June 1934. The poorly coordinated June putsch by the National Socialists, who are now openly again, was carried out by the SS in Vienna and mostly by the SA in the federal states. However, Hitler's actions against the SA leadership in Germany had contributed to the fact that the SA acted only hesitantly in Austria. The rivalry between the SA and the (in Germany more elitist) SS had also played a role.The July coup was put down by the armed forces and the Heimwehr, but Chancellor Dollfuss was murdered by NSDAP people in the wake of the coup. The Austrian National Socialists were thus still illegally. While the "brown shirts" were banned, the Nazi marches with white shirts (once even with a bare upper body) took place.

After the Berchtesgaden Agreement between Austria and Germany (February 12, 1938), the National Socialists and their associations went public again in uniform. In the meantime, however, the influence of the SA had declined sharply and the influence of the SS had increased sharply. With the invasion of March 1938, both associations were practically legalized, but the Patriotic Front was dissolved.


Author: Mag. Martin Prieschl, born in 1976. In 2004 military service in the 13th Panzer Grenadier Battalion, member of the Upper Austria militia battalion. Studied law and history at the University of Salzburg. Degree in history 2003 with distinction; Award of the Federal Ministry for Education and the Arts for the best students 2003/2004; Training as archivist at the Institute for Austrian Historical Research and the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences (archive, librarianship, documentation); Dissertation at the University of Vienna. In addition to numerous publications including Activities in publishing; Intern in the war archive; in the house, court and state archives and in the parliamentary archives as well as coordinator and co-designer of the exhibition "Liberal Politics in Austria" (Parliament 2006). Since March 2007 archivist of the Evangelical Churches A and HB as well as archivist of the dioceses of Lower Austria and Salzburg-Tyrol. Since 2009 managing director of Archivtechnik & Systeme.