The American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance are pleased to announce the annual Radomir Luza Prize for an outstanding work in the field of Austrian and/or Czechoslovak history in the 20th Century with a special focus on Austrian/Czechoslovak Studies in the World War II Era. This prize, initiated in 2012 by Center Austria: The Marshall Plan Center for European Studies at the University of New Orleans, has been bestowed since 2017 by the German Studies Association (GSA) and carries a cash award of $1000.00. It seeks seeks to encourage research in the history of Austria and Czechoslovakia focusing on the time period of the 1930s and 1940s, i.e. on the fields Professor Radomír Luža worked in.
To be eligible for the 2023 Radomir Luza Prize competition, the book or dissertation must have been published (or a dissertation defended) between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022. Authors must be citizens or resident aliens (holders of “green cards”) of the United States or Canada. Dissertations must have been awarded by a North American University. The language of the work must be English.
To be considered for the Radomir Luza Prize competition, please send a
copy of your work electronically to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The deadline for submissions is August 15, 2023. The winner(s) will be notified before September 5.
The awarding ceremony will take place at the Forty-Seventh Annual Conference of the German Studies Association to be held from October 5 through 8, 2023, at Le Centre Sheraton Montreal Hotel in Montréal, Québec, Canada.
Elisabeth Boeckl-Klamper , Thomas Mang, and Wolfgang Neugebauer, The Vienna Gestapo 1938-1945: Crimes, Perpetrators, Victims. (Berghahn, New York and Oxford, 2022). $ 153,45.
Readers familiar with the Anschluss era in
Austria, including the mass appeal of Hitler and National Socialism as well as
the large number of Austrian officials involved in the expulsion and massacre
of their Jewish fellow citizens, will be astonished, even shocked, by the
revelations in this outstanding study. Based on exhaustive research in Germany,
Israel, the United States, Slovenia the Russian Federation, and Austria itself,
the authors demonstrate that with a staff of merely 900 officials and employees
the Vienna Gestapo controlled not only most of the “Ostmark,” but also became the largest Gestapo headquarters in Greater
Germany. Furthermore, many of its officials distinguished themselves as
commanders of SS Einsatzgruppen and even Nazi extermination centers.
book is divided into fourteen chapters, but in fact constitutes three main
parts: the first discusses the establishment, organization, personnel, and
routine business undertaken at Gestapo headquarters, the second the brutal
persecution of the Jews and résistance groups, the third post war prosecutions
of Gestapo officials by the judiciary of the Second Austrian Republic.
authors begin by explaining that even before the Anschluss refugee Austrian
Nazis in the Altreich, most notably, Rudolf Mildner and Adolf Eichmann had
drawn up extensive plans for the establishment of a Gestapo branch in Vienna
that would control of much of Lower Austria as well. And because most of the
police force, such as the chief, Otto Steinhäusl, were themselves Nazis or
sympathetic to Hitler’s movement it took only a few days for the Vienna Gestapo
to begin operations. On 26 March, for example, the Gestapo seized the capacious
Metropole Hotel as headquarters. Simultaneously, agents began rounding up Jews
and leaders of the hated Christian Corporative regime to be dispatched to
Dachau. Here and throughout the book the writers stress that with sole
exception of Franz Huber, a Bavarian Gestapo official working closely with
Reinhard Heydrich, leading members of the Vienna Gestapo were highly educated
Austrians committed to Nazi ideology. Section heads tended to be lower middle
class in background, though a number possessed much needed technical skills,
others seeking job security. Between seventeen and thirty percent of the staff
were women, employed as clerical workers and typists. None committed
atrocities, but as the authors stress, they supported the regime and were fully
aware of Gestapo crimes, including the deportation and extermination of the
Jews, even in Auschwitz. Postwar claims to the contrary, only ten percent of
the Vienna Gestapo were Reich Germans; rotating on a regular basis they served
only a brief spell in the Metropole Hotel.
the East German Stasi or the Soviet KGB, the authors demonstrate that the
Vienna Gestapo was not a large organization capable of monitoring the entire
population in those areas it controlled. Instead, the Gestapo relied on
informants and denouncers. The authors also take partial issue with Robert
Gellately’s contention that the Nazi state was a “self-policing society.”
Whether this was the case remains an open question. However, there can be no
doubt that Hitler’s regime was both popular and enjoyed the support of an
overwhelming majority of the Austrian people. To be sure, few were aware of the
brutalities of Gestapo imposed on their victims, but historical scholarship has
revealed that hundreds of Viennese onlookers cheered as they witnessed trucks
carrying Jews to collection centers to be deported to concentration camps or
extermination centers in the East.
the second part of this study (chapters 9-17), the authors discuss the savage
torture and persecution of the Jews and other resistance groups. The cruel,
vindictive, and murderous persecution of Austrian Jewry has been described and
analyzed for decades, particularly by historians of the Holocaust. Under the
auspices of Gestapo office II B 4 Viennese Jews were robbed of their assets,
forced to emigrate, ghettoized, and in 1941-42 driven to collection points where
they were dispatched to extermination centers. As mentioned earlier, there is
little new in these pages, although the authors provide exact amounts of Jewish
assets seized by the regime, for example as early as 28 June 1938 the Nazis
seized, RM 3,903,391, often keeping some of the belongings for themselves. And
after Kristallnacht in November, the Vienna Gestapo shipped RM 1,000,000 in
jewelry to Berlin, Finally, the authors calculate that Schirach, Ebner, and
Huber were responsible for the murder of 48,000 individuals in the Holocaust.
discussing the persecution of the Roman Catholic Church the authors remind
readers that the Nazis confronted a dilemma. On the one hand, the regime did
not wish to alienate the overwhelmingly Catholic population, not least because
the Anschluss had been welcomed by Cardinal Theodor Innitzer. On the other
hand, the Gestapo sought both to seize clerical property and challenge the
Christian religion itself. Unsurprisingly, it was Gestapo Deputy Chief Karl
Ebner, who orchestrated the assault. While formally leaving the Church in 1938,
he retained many friends among the higher clergy, who helped him pick and
choose what was to be secularized or expropriated. These measures included the
imposition of a church tax, seizing the nearby abbey of Klosterneuburg,
confiscating various pamphlets, and monitoring the homilies of parish priests
and curates. At the same time, the Gestapo proceeded brutally against organized
Catholic Conservative resistance groups, most notably those led by Karl Roman
Scholz, Jakob Kastelic, and Karl Lederer. To this list may be added Sister
Maria Restituta. All of whom, as well as many of their followers, were savagely
beaten and sent to the guillotine. The Vienna Gestapo also persecuted and
murdered members of smaller Catholic Conservative factions, though not as
viciously as they did Communist groups.
the Vienna Gestapo proceeded mercilessly against Communist resistance cells is
both well known and documented, particularly during the period following
Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. All but a handful of KP members apprehended
by the Gestapo were tortured to death or executed. In March, 1944, for example,
a third of all arrests, including those taken into custody for pretty crimes,
were Communists. Nearly all of these had been betrayed by paid informants. The
stool-pigeons, in turn, broadcast false information that enabled the Gestapo to
track down and capture Soviet parachutists. In dealing with Revolutionary
Socialists the Vienna Gestapo pursued policies of ambiguity. On the one hand, those
of Jewish origin, such as Käthe Leichter, were dispatched to concentration
camps or extermination centers, On the other, a number who had participated in
the February 1934 uprising tended to be well treated, in some cases hired as
municipal workers or employees. The authors provide details on the maltreatment
of Socialist resisters, as well as those who had fought against Franco in the
Spanish Civil War, but for the most part concede that given their relatively
small numbers they managed to avoid Gestapo detection and arrest.
pages devoted to the suppression of non-organized resistance are exceptionally
revealing. The authors note that defeatist statements, malicious gossip,
anti-Hitler jokes, and listening to foreign radio broadcasts were not uncommon.
Some, such as simple wisecracks, were not even hostile to the Nazi regime. As
might be expected, those accused of what were minor misdemeanors were conveyed
by anonymous letters, many of which revealed knowledge of the Holocaust. The
Gestapo responded by taking drastic measures against the accused. Of those
arrested for “radio crimes,” for example, nearly all were imprisoned and over
half condemned to death. The objective here was to intimidate the population,
by demonstrating that even minor crimes would not go unpunished. Much worse was
the fate of those apprehended for helping or hiding Jews in the eyes of the
regime a capital offense. No fewer than 1,532 “Jewish Helpers” were captured
and subsequently murdered. The fact that only 110 Austrians have been honored
as members of the “righteous among nations” at Yad Vashem, the authors lugubriously
conclude, proves once again the ubiquitous anti-Semitic sentiment that
prevailed in the ”Ostmark” during the Anschluss era.
the Vienna Gestapo was only marginally involved in the persecution of
homosexuals as was the case elsewhere in Hitler’s domain. However, their agents
did establish an “Arbeitserziehungslager” in Oberlanzendorf, apparently the
only one in annexed Austria. Regulations stipulated that incarcerated
youngsters should have taught proper work habits, but Gestapo men preferred shackling,
beatings, and short rations, so that many boys died of disease and physical
abuse. At this point the authors modulate to describe the activities of those Viennese
Gestapo officials posted on “external deployment,” that is, the mass murder of
hostages, partisans, POWs, Jews and other undesirables throughout Nazi occupied
Europe. Among the most prominent were Heinrich Berger, who orchestrated the
Lidice and Lezaky massacres in 1942 and Karl Macher, who committed numerous
crimes in Greece. The authors provide the names of other Individuals, including
agents operating in France against refugee Austrian Communists. In 1948 an
Austrian Volksgericht sentenced Berger to eleven years in prison, but the
authors point out that he served only two years behind bars; in contrast,
Macher was less fortunate in that he was re-arrested in 1970 and sentenced to
thirty months in prison. As for those Gestapo officials most responsible for
the spasm of 1945 massacres that occurred in Vienna and Lower Austria –
Mildner, Huber, and Ebner – all three escaped retribution or punishment. On the
other hand, the authors remind us that some of the mass murders that took place
in April, 1945 were often spontaneous and in a number of cases undertaken by
civilians seeking revenge for the Allied bombing raids.
In the final third of their study the
authors address the prosecution of Vienna Gestapo officials by the postwar
Austrian government. This was no easy task as most Gestapo records had been
burned or destroyed. Even so, by the end of May 1945, somewhere between 2,000
to 5,500 Nazis had been taken into custody. A few months later the Renner
government established Volksgerichte (people’s courts) to try Nazi war criminals.
It is remarkable that in the following decade 136,829 individuals were
arraigned, 28,148 indicted, and 13,607 convicted, including 43 who were
sentenced to death. Aside from major figures such as Seyß-Inquart, Kaltenbrunner,
Schirach and five others who were tried in Nuremburg, died, or disappeared, the
Volksgericht managed to identify and try many important officials of the Vienna
Gestapo, the most important of whom, the authors contend, were Karl Ebner,
Othmar Trenker, Karl Silberbauer, Anton Brödl and Johann Sanitzer.
why the authors chose to discuss the cases of these seven perpetrators is not
altogether clear, but the selection can be regarded as paradigmatic. Franz
Huber, for example, had been interned in Nuremberg-Langwasser after the war. In
April, 1948 camp authorities requested that his file be forwarded to them for
examination. The Vienna police responded with only exiguous information. As a
consequence, a German Spruchkammer classified him as a “lesser offender,”
sentencing him to one year’s probation and the payment of a small fine. Two
years later, he was retried but judged to be a “particularly hardworking police
officer.” Soon thereafter the CIA recruited Huber as source of information
about the Soviet Union and shortly after permitted him to join Reinhard
Gehlen’s Bundesnachrichtendienst. In short, the man who had headed the largest
regional Gestapo headquarters in Hitler’s realm received little more than a
slap on the hand, retiring in 1967 with a sizeable pension.
Ebner, Deputy Chief of the Vienna Gestapo responsible for the deportation of
Jews to the East, also received relatively lenient treatment. British
authorities remanded him to the Austrian judiciary in 1947 to be tried the
following year. Prosecutors presented irrefutable evidence of Ebner’s major
role in the looting and deportation of the Jews, for which he was sentenced to
20 years in prison. However, the court also took into account the testimony of twenty-three
higher clergymen, prelates, and officials of the Catholic Cartellverband whom
Ebner had protected as “reinsurance.” All but four maintained that the
defendant has saved the lives of many people, thus saving him from what should
have been a death sentence. In 1953 Ebner was pardoned and in 1960 his academic
Trenker’s career trajectory and postwar fate resembled that of Ebner. Known for
his brutal treatment of Gestapo victims, Trenker was tried by the Volksgericht
in December, 1948. Like other high ranking Gestapo officials, he denied the
indictment by relying on a technicality to contend that he had not been
Department Head as charged. Further, the authors reveal, the state prosecutor
behaved more as a defense counsel than a prosecuting attorney. The court thus
sentenced him to eighteen months in prison for “illegality” (because of his
clandestine membership in the Nazi party before the Anschluss), but released
him for time already served in an American compound in Salzburg. The verdict
aroused such outrage that in October, 1949 Trenker was tried again, found guilty
of “enhanced interrogation,” and sentenced to five years behind bars. A few
months later, however, he was released on probation and in 1957 awarded a civil
Silberbauer was arrested and tried, in part for his role as a Gestapo official
in the Netherlands. In Amsterdam SS-Hauptscharführer Silberbauer had
participated in the arrest of Anne Frank. But this was unknown to the Austrian
prosecutors. The tribunal realized that Silberbauer was not a major war
criminal and sentenced him to one year in prison. In 1952 Silberbauer applied
for the case to be reopened. In 1954 he was tried and acquitted, but not
permitted to continue his career as a Vienna police officer. In 1963 Simon
Wiesenthal revealed that Silberbauer had been in charge of the house search in
August 1944. Silberbauer was arrested again, but soon released with reference
to his previous trial.
Brödl had been one of the most brutal, violent thugs in the Vienna Gestapo. In 1947
he surrendered to the authorities, pleading guilty to crimes against humanity.
But he was never brought to trial, as physicians and psychiatrists recommended
that be sent Steinhof psychiatric hospital to determine whether he was mentally
sane. The physicians drew different conclusions, but in 1955 agreed that Brödl
was not only delusionary paranoid but also a danger to society. Whether Brödl
was mentally unbalanced, the authors agree, will never be known. But like other
Vienna Gestapo officials, he escaped punishment.
trial and punishment of Johann Sanitzer, one of the main officials of the
Vienna Gestapo, differed somewhat from that of others brought before the bench
for extreme brutality, illegality, and “enhanced interrogation.” Because had
studied German history and philosophy, Sanitzer came close to outwitting the
prosecution, cleverly pleading guilty to some crimes while denying others. In
addition, he had pursued a policy of “reinsurance” so that even Karl Seitz,
Lord Mayor of Vienna testified on his behalf. Nevertheless, in 1949 the court
sentenced Sanitzer to life in prison. Two months later, Soviet occupying officers
removed him from Stein penitentiary and took him to Moscow where he was no
doubt tortured, beaten, and brutally treated. Not until the signing of the
State Treaty in 1955 was he repatriated to Austria, where he was eventually
pardoned. In a sense, Sanitzer was a major Gestapo official who did manage to
escape severe punishment and retribution, albeit not at the hands of his own
is one to make of this remarkable book? The authors themselves provide an
answer, writing that “the Vienna Gestapo was the most important instrument of
terror in Austria.” (p. 358). With a staff of merely 900 individuals it
exercised authority over 3.6 million people, controlling parts of Slovakia,
Hungary, Yugoslavia, Italy, and even border areas of Switzerland. In short, the
power of the Vienna Gestapo has been underestimated. While much the information
in the book is repetitious relying, for example, on numerous accounts of
Austrian resistance movements, it does provide a great many previously unknown
details. In addition, it reveals the significant role of informants in
apprehending and persecuting opponents, both real and imagined. Arguably, the
most revealing and disturbing section of the study focuses on the prosecution
of Gestapo officiboals by the judiciary of the Second Austrian Republic. For a
great many reasons, including the lack of hard evidence, the authors admit that
the judgments were far too lenient. To this may added that those indicted and
tried, literally got away with murder.
Andreas Kranebitter assumes directorship of the DÖW on April 1,2023
The Board of Trustees (“Stiftungsrat”) of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance has named Dr. Andreas Kranebitter as the new Director of the DÖW.
Kranebitter, currently working in research in the
United States, was chosen from among eighteen applicants. He assumes
directorship in April 2023.
The change in leadership was prompted by the
retirement of Gerhard Baumgartner, who successfully led the institution since
2014, and will now dedicate himself to his further studies in the history of
the Roma in Austria.
Federal Minister for Education, Science, and Research Martin Polaschek: “The DÖW is a highly respected research institution on resistance, persecution, the Holocaust, Nazi- and postwar justice, as well as right wing extremism after 1945. It thus has central significance for Austrian society and research. I am delighted that with Andreas Kranebitter, a demonstrated expert is taking over the leadership of the DÖW, and I wish him good luck in the forthcoming challenges. At the same time, I would like to sincerely thank Gerhard Baumgartner for his professional work as director of the DÖW.”
Photo: Joel Mason-Gaines, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Dr. Kranebitter, born in 1982 in Vienna, studied sociology and political science. His theses were awarded the Herbert Steiner and the Irma Rosenberg prizes. He began his career in the Mauthausen concentration camp Memorial , where he rose to the directorship of research, and became responsible for essential parts of its new exhibit. Most recently he was director of the archive of the history of sociology at the University of Graz. In the past, Kranebitter and the DÖW worked often together on mutual projects.
Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig congratulated Andreas Kranebitter on his hiring: “With him, leadership is being transferred to a profound scientist with extensive experience in the long-standing debate regarding Austrian history, because sixty years after its founding, the DÖW is taking on a central role in the fight against right wing extremism, neofascism, and racism. The fact-based reappraisal of our history is essential to faithfully comply with the principle, ‘Study, Preserve, and Pass on to the next generation’. That has been a commitment to which the DÖW has subscribed, and which has been tirelessly furthered in past years under the leadership of Gerhard Baumgartner. I would like to express my great thanks to him for that.”
The Board of Trustees of the DÖW is convinced that Dr. Kranebitter on the one hand, will in loyal fashion continue the work of the DÖW, but on the other hand will set new momentum.
In a first statement Kranebitter expressed his pleasure: “The DÖW is a unique institution in Austria that combines the historical analysis of Nazism, with sociological research and documentation of current far right extremism and antisemitism. I am delighted to assume the leadership of this tradition-rich institution, and will dedicate myself to this task with great strength and long breath.”
Since 2020 this prize, namend after the distinguished historian Radomír Luža, has been hosted by the German Studies Association. The prize is being awarded by the American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance and Center Austria: the Austrian Marshall Plan Center for European Studies of the University of New Orleans. Luža, who was professor for European and German history at Tulane University, New Orleans, for more than 25 years. He published the first academic studies about Nazi persecution and resistance in Austria: “Austro-German Relations in the Anschluss Era” (1975) and “The resistance in Austria, 1938-1945” (1984).
The awarding ceremony is part of the annual conferences of the German Studies Association. This year’s prizes were awarded to Zachary Doleshal, Sam Houston State University (Huntsville, Tx), and Chad Bryant, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance seeks
a Scientific Director beginning 1/1/2023.
The Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance (hereafter
DÖW), supported by the Republic of Austria and the City of Vienna, was established
in 1963 by former resistance fighters as well as by dedicated scholars, and has
been an official Foundation since 1983. The central topics of interest include research
and communication regarding resistance and persecution in Austria from 1933 to
1938, and from 1938 through 1945; the Holocaust; Roma and Sinti; exile; Nazi
medical crimes; Nazi and postwar justice; right wing extremism and antisemitism
after 1945; and restitution and compensation after 1945.
In addition, the work of the DÖW includes gathering
thematically relevant sources; scientifically organizing; and archiving them.
The DÖW maintains an archive and library comprising extensive collections and
data sets, used in consultative services to students and researchers;
journalists; and other interested parties. The DÖW dedicates itself to the
communication of contemporary material to young students in particular, but
also to adult education. The latter is supported by a permanent exhibit space
and two memorials.
The scientific manager/director is responsible for the
strategic vision of the DÖW, leading its managers and staff, including
budgeting in accordance with Article 10 of the founding charter of the DÖW. Likewise,
the director is responsible for the DÖW’s research projects; conceiving of proposals;
and the acquisition of third-party funds for research and development projects
on a domestic, European, and transnational basis.
These activities proceed in close collaboration with
the Foundation Committee (Stiftungsrat), its Foundation Chair, and the
Association Chair of the DÖW (Vereinsvorstand). There is also collaboration
with victims’ and concentration camp organizations, as well as research
institutes and societies domestically and abroad. The scientific
manager/director represents the DÖW in the domestic and international
scientific community, in various advisory groups and before the public and the
Experience in leading a scientific or academic
institution. Managerial talent and experience (business leadership, financial
planning, account maintenance, supervision of personnel; and internal and
external representation). [Weighting: 30%]
Knowledge of Austrian educational and research
structures, experience in political relations and administration. [Weighting:
Leadership qualities, teamwork, social competence, well
developed communications skills, and experience in media relations. [Weighting:
Internationally recognized archival, documentary,
reporting and research activity in the area of contemporary history; and
specifically contemporary Austrian history including: resistance against the
Nazi regime; Nazi persecution for racist and/or political reasons (in
particular, of Jews, national and religious minorities, and Roma and Sinti);
Nazi crimes; the Nazi movement in Austria; right wing extremism; research in antisemitism
and genocide; denazification and reparations; social measures for Nazi victims
after 1945. [Weighting: 30%]
Knowledge and experience in conceiving, innovating, and
implementing documentary and communications projects. Knowledge and experience
in completing research projects, as well as dissemination of their findings.
Completion of a doctoral/PhD program, preferably in history, cultural
science, or social science. Mastery in reading and writing English and German
at a discourse level. Additional language skills would be desirable.
Hiring is on a full time basis. Service begins January 1, 2023.
Remuneration follows the Collective Agreement (Kollektivvertrag) of the
Employees of the Universities of October 1, 2009 in the pertinent version
(paragraph 49. Salary system for scientific and artistic university personnel,
Salary Group A1); the minimum monthly gross pay is 5,321.70 Euros.
Please submit your application with CV and list of publications, as well
as other documents worthy of consideration by email no later than August 19,
2022 to the Chair of the Foundation Council (Stiftungsrat), Dr. Michael Häupl,
Equal Treatment Provision (Gleichbehandlungsklausel): In order to
increase the proportion of women, women are emphatically encouraged to apply.
According to Paragraph 11b and Paragraph 11c of the federal Equal Treatment Law
(Gleichbehandlungsgesetz) women applicants who match with the best qualified
male applicant, are favored for the position.
All applicants will receive confirmation of submission of their
application within seven working days.
The American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance/Vienna, supported by Center Austria: The Marshall Plan Center for European Studies at the University of New Orleans, are pleased to announce the annual Radomir Luza Prize for an outstanding work in the field of Austrian and/or Czechoslovak History in the 20th Century. This prize carries a cash award of $1000.00 and seeks to encourage research in the abovementioned fields focusing on the fields Professor Radomír Luža worked in.
To be eligible for the 2021 Radomir Luza Prize competition, the book or dissertation must have been published (or a dissertation defended) between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021. Authors must be citizens or resident aliens (holders of “green cards”) of the United States or Canada. Dissertations must have been awarded by a North American University. The language of the work must be English.
To be considered for the Radomir Luza Prize competition, please send a copy of your work electronically to: email@example.com
The deadline for submissions has been extended to August 30, 2022.
The winner will be announced at the GSA convention to be held in Houston, Tx, from September 15 until 18 2022 at the Hilton Americas Hotel in Houston, Texas.
The American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance/Vienna, supported by Center Austria: The Marshall Plan Center for European Studies at the University of New Orleans, are pleased to announce the Ninth annual Radomir Luza Prize for an outstanding work in the field of Austrian and/or Czechoslovak History in the 20th Century. This prize carries a cash award of $1000.00 and seeks to encourage research in the abovementioned fields focusing on the fields Professor Radomír Luža worked in.
To be eligible for the 2021 Radomir Luza Prize competition, the book or dissertation must have been published (or a dissertation defended) between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020. Authors must be citizens or resident aliens (holders of “green cards”) of the United States or Canada. Dissertations must have been awarded by a North American University. The language of the work must be English.
An American with an extraordinarily long-standing
relationship with the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance turns 90 on
August 19, 2020: Franz S. Leichter, the younger son of Käthe Leichter
(1895—1942), outstanding Austrian economist, women’s rights activist, and
After the short civil war of February 1934, Käthe Leichter
and her husband, the social-democratic journalist Otto Leichter, fled to Zurich
together with their two sons, Heinz and Franz, where they remained for several
months. After the “Anschluss” of March 1938 the Nazis tried to arrest Otto
Leichter, but he managed to escape to Czechoslovakia under a false passport.
Käthe Leichter and her two sons applied for legal emigration. However, she was
arrested by the Gestapo on May 30, 1938. Friends of the family looked after her
children. Otto Leichter, who meanwhile had fled to Paris, made every effort to
rescue his sons. A maid and good friend of the family accepted the risk of
traveling abroad with Franz, posing as Franz’s mother. Franz’s brother Heinz was able to leave the
country with legal emigration papers. After the beginning of World War II, the
French authorities arrested Otto Leichter as an “enemy alien.” The kids had to
stay in homes for children—Franz in the south, Heinz near Paris. After three
months their father was released and he and the boys were reunited, albeit
without their mother, who was deported to Ravensbrück, the Nazi concentration
camp for women, in January 1940. When the German Wehrmacht overran France in
May 1940, they fled Paris together with hundreds of thousands of French nationals
and refugees from Germany and Austria. After some weeks in Montauban, they left
France with a forged exit certificate, traveled across Spain to Lisbon, and took
a Greek steamer to the United States. In late September the ship landed in
Hoboken, NJ. Muriel Gardiner, one of the greatest rescuers of Austrian refugees
in the US, helped the two sons gain admission to a boarding school in
In May 1942, Franz and Heinz learned about the death of
their mother. The Gestapo had issued a notification that she had died because
of circulatory disturbance in Ravensbrück; actually, she had been gassed in the
euthanasia killing center of Bernburg.
Otto Leichter tried to return home to Vienna, but after two
years he moved back to the US, where he died in 1973. Heinz (Henry) and Franz
became attorneys-at-law. In the 1960s Franz entered politics and joined the
Democratic Party. When, after six years in the Assembly and 24 years in the
Senate, he withdrew from the New York State legislature in 1998, the “Times” characterized
him “as something of a maverick in Albany—one who would as willingly attack
Democratic governors as he would Republican ones. A loud critic of state tax
subsidies to businesses, Mr. Leichter has also railed against the state’s
campaign finance laws, which he considers lax. As a liberal Democrat in a
Republican-controlled Senate, Mr. Leichter said he viewed his job as ‘raising
issues and making noise.’” (New York Times, April 21, 1998)
Whenever Franz travels to Vienna, he visits the family grave
at the Zentralfriedhof. An urn next to the tombstone contains soil from
Ravensbrück. For several months a leaflet has hung from that urn, bearing a
poem written by Käthe Leichter in the concentration camp in late 1941 or early
1942. In the first lines of this poem she is talking about her troubled sleep
and a dream about her two sons:
I was with my children. Covered both and told them: “Mum comes soon, be good and don’t cry”. We sat still, my husband and I, for not waking the children. Suddenly I started up from my sleep, saw the moonlight on the iron bedstead, Me lying there, among so many and yet so lonely and cold: Me in Ravensbrück, you in Sachsenhausen, in Dachau or Buchenwald…
The American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance/Vienna, supported by Center Austria: The Marshall Plan Center for European Studies at the University of New Orleans, are pleased to announce the Eight annual Radomir Luza Prize for an outstanding work in the field of Austrian and/or Czechoslovak History in the 20th Century. This prize carries a cash award of $1000.00 and seeks to encourage research in the abovementioned fields focusing on the fields Professor Radomír Luža worked in.
To be eligible for the 2020 Radomir Luza Prize competition, the book or dissertation must have been published (or a dissertation defended) between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019. Authors must be citizens or resident aliens (holders of “green cards”) of the United States or Canada. Dissertations must have been awarded by a North American University. The language of the work must be English.
The Annual Meeting 2019 of the American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance took place on October 5th, 2019, from 6:00 to 7:00 pm at the Hilton Portland Downtown (venue of the Forty-Third Annual Conference of the German Studies Association)
Other topics of the annual meeting included: the state of the association with respect to members, finances and the development of this website.
Because this year there were no eligible applications for the Radomir-Luza-Prize, Board members decided to change the requirements: it will be awarded for an outstanding work released during the previous year not only in the field of Austrian and/or Czechoslovak World War II studies, but in future will also include the much broader scope of Austrian and/or Czechoslovak history between 1918-1989. The other stipulations still apply: To be eligible for consideration in the Radomir Luza Prize competition, the book must have been published, or the dissertation defended, between January 1st and December 31st of the year prior to the announcement. Authors must be citizens or resident aliens (holders of “green cards”) of the United States or Canada. Dissertations must have been awarded by a North American University. The language of the work must be English.
No elections were necessary for President, Vice President and Immediate Past President, the Luza Prize Committee or for the Secretary/Treasurer.
However, three departing members were replaced by three new members for the period 2019 through 2022. Those present expressed their sincere thanks to those who had served as board members for the years 2016-2019: Robert von DASSANOWSKY, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Lisa D. SILVERMAN, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and Felix TWERASER, University of West Georgia. They were replaced by:
Marc LANDRY, University of New Orleans,
Helga SCHRECKENBERGER, University of Vermont, and
Jacqueline VANSANT, University of Michigan-Dearborn.
Complete information about the board is available here.
Among “any other business” the topic “recent developments with regard to the Gusen concentration camp memorial” (near Mauthausen) was raised. Winfried Garscha informed those present about the information letter from the Mauthausen Memorial to the members of the International Advisory Board concerning the speculative character of a German documentary, broadcast by ZDF, and about the efforts of the Memorial to clarify the questions raised in this documentary.
Those present gave thanks to the director of the Austrian Cultural Forum New York for continuous logistical support of the Association’s activities and invited the members to pay their annual dues.