Resistance: hanging of K. Biedermann (with A. Huth and R. Raschke) on April 8, 1945, in Vienna-Floridsdorf, Am Spitz.
Resistance Movement, Austrian: A broad-based illegal resistance movement against National Socialism formed only relatively late, in the summer and autumn of 1938, due to several factors: the fact that annexation (Anschluß) to Germany on 13 March, 1938, had not met with armed resistance, the thoroughness with which power was seized by the National Socialists, the immediate start of persecution throughout Austria, the large-scale propaganda campaign in favour of the new regime, and a number of declarations in favour of the Anschluß made on the part of Austrian institutions or by personalities in the public limelight (especially by Austrian bishops and by K. Renner in an interview). Unlike resistance fighters in other occupied countries, Austrians had to operate in an environment infiltrated by informers and fanatical adherents of the regime. The biggest organised groups were affiliated either with the workers´ movement (mainly in the industrial centres in Upper Austria) or with the Catholic and middle-class sector of society. In their fight, these two groups united adherents of diverse political views: Social Democrats, Communists and other left-wing groups on the one hand, and former Christian-Socialists and Heimwehr members, monarchists and Catholics on the other hand.
The resistance groups were motivated by different political, ideological, social, ethic and patriotic ideas. Their main activity was to distribute illegal printed works, such as handbills, leaflets and journals, which was aimed at breaking the monopoly on shaping public opinion assumed by the Nazi regime. The main motivation for resistance of the religious community of the "International Bible Students Association" (Jehova´s Witnesses), banned in Austria from 1935/36) was their refusal to do military service. Armed resistance groups started to form in 1942, mostly on the initiative of the Communists (particularly among the Slovenian partisans in south Carinthia, Leoben-Donawitz Group). Towards the end of the war, numerous non-partisan resistance groups sprang up, drawing their activists from different political and social quarters; one of their main objectives of this time was to prevent unnecessary fighting and loss of life. The biggest such group was "Group 05" (K. Biedermann, A. Huth, R. Raschke), which co-operated with the army resistance group of Wehrkreiskommando XVII (defence district) in Vienna (led by Major C. Szokoll). The Tyrolean resistance movement under K. Gruber liberated Innsbruck even before the first US troops arrived. The spectrum of unorganised resistance or opposition by isolated persons stretched from an anti-Nazi attitude and demoralising utterances to illegally listening to foreign radio stations and sabotage, and to actively helping the persecuted (Jews, foreign workers, prisoners of war, etc.). Some 2,700 Austrians were sentenced to death and executed as active resistance fighters, around 32,000 persons (resistance fighters and victims of preventive persecution) died in concentration camps and prisons, particularly in those run by the Gestapo, and an estimated 15,000 Austrians died in action as Allied soldiers, partisans, or fighters in the European resistance movement. Around 100,000 Austrian citizens were imprisoned for political reasons.
While Austria´s liberation in from the Nazi regime was achieved by the allied forces alone (World War II), the fight put up by the resistance played its part in Austria´s political and moral rehabilitation and was even of great political significance, being acknowledged as the contribution of Austria to its own liberation demanded by the Allied Powers in the Moscow Declaration of November 1, 1943. The patriotic and uncompromising commitment to Austria as an independent nation and state, strengthened through resistance, persecution and emigration, was to become one of the intellectual and political cornerstones of the Second Republic.
Secret sign of recognition of the resistance Group 05 at St. Stephen´s Cathedral, Vienna.
Literature: R. Luža, Der Widerstand in Österreich 1938-45, Vienna 1985; W. Neugebauer, Widerstand und Opposition, in: E. Talos et. al. (eds.), NS-Herrschaft in Österreich 1938-45, 1988; S. Ganglmair, Widerstand und Verfolgung in Österreich 1938-1945, 1988; Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (ed.), Widerstand und Verfolgung 1934-45 in österreichischen Bundesländern (series, issues published to date: Vienna, Burgenland, Upper Austria, Tirol, Lower Austria, Salzburg).