Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars

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However, new evidence and a growing mass of research about Austria's role during the Third Reich suggests that the argument that the vast majority of its citizens were willing accomplices to Nazi rule has become incontrovertible. Less than a month after German troops marched into Austria, Hitler ordered that the invasion be ratified by plebiscite.

The poll conducted on 10 April showed that Subsequent claims that the results were doctored by the Nazis were later substantiated. But recent research suggests that the actual number in favour of Nazi rule was still about two thirds of the electorate. Professor Gerhard Botz, a historian at Vienna University who has researched the period closely, said yesterday: "Hitler was welcomed into the country as a successful Austrian who was returning home from abroad and suddenly letting his own people take part in his successes.

He was a sort of ersatz monarch. Gershon Evan, an Austrian Jew whose parents were arrested and killed by the Nazis, recalled during a television broadcast yesterday how quickly racial persecution took hold in Vienna, a city in which every 10th citizen was then Jewish. Austria's Jewish community numbered some , before the Second World War and was considered one of Europe's most vibrant. Most, like Mr Evan, managed to flee the country after the Anschluss, but 65, were murdered in the Nazi death camps. New research has shown that the number of Austrians who held key positions in Nazi concentration camps was disproportionately high.

Today, Austria is home to 10, Jews. Film footage of the jubilant reception given to Hitler in Vienna has frequently been dismissed in Austria as stage-managed Nazi propaganda. However, new independent film material about the period was shown for the first time in Germany this week. The colour footage, shown on Germany's ZDF channel, was taken from 90 minutes of film shot by an Austrian forester called Marilius Mayer in March The film shows images of a provincial town in which the locals have turned out en masse to demonstrate their support for the invading Nazis.

The streets are hung with hundreds of red, black and white swastika banners and the town square has been hastily renamed "Adolf Hitler Platz". Earlier this week a poignant ceremony was conducted by Vienna's now tiny Jewish community to mark the anniversary. Seventy years after it was forcibly shut down and taken over by the invading Nazis, members gathered to reopen the Hakoah sports club — an institution that once produced Olympic champions for Austria. The club was evidence enough of the prevailing attitudes in s Austria before it was shut down.

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It existed because the overwhelming majority of the city's other sporting organisations refused to accept Jews as members. Hakoah, founded in and named after the Hebrew word for "strength", produced athletes who won Olympic medals in swimming and wrestling. After the Second World War, Vienna's surviving Jews refounded the club but their attempts to return to their former premises were thwarted by bureaucracy and official reluctance to acknowledge Austria's Nazi role or pay compensation.

Ronald Gelbard, the manager of the reopened Hakoah club, insisted that Austria's non-Jews were welcome. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists? Try Independent Premium free for 1 month. Independent Premium Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Premium.

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The Nazi Period, World War II and the Holocaust

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Geoffrey Macnab. Tech news. Tech culture. News videos. Explainer videos. Eichmann was very much under his father's influence, and older male authority figures would continue to mould his life. Nevertheless, he did not work hard or do well at school and left without any qualifications. His father, who had meanwhile started an oil-extraction business, gave him a job. Eichmann worked on the surface and in underground oil-shale tunnels before moving to an apprenticeship with an electrical engineering firm. In his father used family contacts to get him a job with another oil company.

Little attention has been paid to Eichmann's work experience, but it had a significant bearing on his career in the SS. While he continued to live at home, he ranged over Upper Austria selling oil products, locating sites for petrol stations, and setting them up. He also arranged kerosene deliveries.

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On Saturday he conscientiously completed his paperwork and reported to his superiors. Eichmann did well and was transferred to the Salzburg district. But by he had tired of the job and, anyway, was laid off. He had learned a lot, though: how to identify prime sites at communication junctions, how to timetable and organise deliveries, how to sell a product and persuade people to do your bidding. After he was made redundant he went north to Germany, partly in search of work but mainly in fulfilment of a new passion: politics. Like many Germans his father lost his wealth during the post-war economic crisis and had the embittering experience of starting all over again.

Later, Eichmann joined the Linz branch of the Heimschutz, a right wing paramilitary association of army veterans. He considered joining a Masonic club that recommended itself to him because it excluded Jews. Instead, in April , he joined the Nazi party. At the instigation of the local gauleiter, who knew his family, he attended a Nazi rally and was approached by an SS man called Ernst Kaltenbrunner, whose father had business dealings with Eichmann senior.

Kaltenbrunner must have known that Eichmann was ripe for the party because he told him: 'You belong to us'. Eichmann combined commerce with activism in the Austrian SS until , when the party was outlawed and Kaltenbrunner arranged for him to go to Germany. He spent some time at an SS training centre and with an exiled Austrian SS unit before he was posted to Dachau concentration camp. Eichmann claimed that he joined the SD by error, but it suited his talents. He worked as a clerk in the section that monitored Freemasons before he was spotted by the head of the Jewish section of the SD, Edler von Mildenstein, who became his next 'mentor'.

He encouraged Eichmann to study Jewish society and history so as better to understand the Jewish enemy. Eichmann excelled and earned a series of promotions, but the SD was a minor part of the SS machine at this time and its Jewish section was a backwater. Other departments of the Third Reich set the pace regarding policy on the Jews. Eichmann rose to prominence in this field only because from the mid s the SD under Reinhardt Heydrich targeted Jewish issues and built a reputation as a centre for clear, scientific thinking on race.

While rabble-rousers like Joseph Goebbels railed against the Jews, and called for ever harsher but directionless measures against them, the SD quietly promoted Jewish emigration. To this end Eichmann contacted Zionist envoys and even made a visit to Palestine in This trip, aborted after one day, revealed the true extent of his sympathy for Zionism: he warned the SD that it would be foolish to promote a strong Jewish state.

Instead, it should encourage Jewish emigration to backward countries where they would live in poverty. Soon after he completed this mission, Eichmann was assigned to the SD in Vienna. Eichmann was given the task of accelerating Jewish emigration and easing the numerous bottlenecks through which aspiring emigrants had to pass. Eichmann used business practice to create order. He surveyed the relevant agencies and ordered them to locate their offices in one place.

He ordered the creation of a central Jewish organisation so that he would have leaders with whom to negotiate, and allowed Zionist organisations to operate. Money was extracted from well off Jews to fund the emigration of the mass of poor Jews. Finally, he established an 'assembly line' system whereby a Jew could up at the Central Emigration Office with his papers and proceed from desk to desk until he arrived at the end, with a passport and an exit visa but stripped of his property, cash and rights.

Within a few months, the office had emigrated , Jews. After this triumph, Eichmann was ordered to set up a similar office in occupied Prague, and in October was appointed to Department IV D 4 of the Gestapo in Berlin, which handled emigration from the Reich. The rational 'Jewish policy' advocated by the SD men now held sway, but emigration opportunities were few and Germany had just acquired over a million more Jews in conquered Poland. Eichmann explored a fresh option: deporting the Jews to a designated Jewish territory.

He travelled to Poland to identify an appropriate location and then ordered that thousands of Czech and Viennese Jews be rounded up and sent eastwards to lay the basis for this 'territorial solution'. Within a few months, however, the plan was scrapped. Eichmann's office lacked the resources for it and other SS projects had preference. At the same time he was brutally evicting hundreds of thousands of Poles and Jews to make way for ethnic Germans transplanted from Eastern Europe into the newly annexed areas of the Reich.

As a temporary measure the displaced Jews were packed into ghettos, but where would they go eventually? He devoted great energy and research skills to the scheme, but it too foundered. When Germany invaded Russia in June an expectation swept through the agencies responsible for Jewish affairs.

Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars
Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars
Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars
Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars
Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars
Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars
Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars
Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars

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