Austria in WW2 and beyond

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#1
Had a couple of visits to Austria recently and set me wondering about their part in Adolf's Spiel Zohne Grenzen ( apart from fathering the fatherless) .

Not least from a brief conversation with a friend at work who, on learning where I was off to told me his dad had been there...as an unwilling Gastarbeiter from 1943-45, in Stalag XVIII.

I was mooching about Innsbruck airport and reading the history of aviation in the area.....and what struck me was the curious blank between late thirties and early fifties during what the photo captions refer to coyly as the period of the NS administration.

Anyone know where I can find out some more about particularly Allied Operations in 1945 there ?

I know that US units in Southern Germany were involved in Western Tyrol and that British Army (38th bde) provided guardforce for the surrendering Vlassov's Cossacks in Austria ( qv Operation Keelhaul ? ) but beyond that not much.

I would be interested to know more about RAF Bomber Command targeting. Innsbruck got a bit of a battering and I imagine rail links beteeen Germany and Italy were high priority.

Found this bit of background reading which students of early Cold War may find interesting;
SOURCE Austria Table of Contents

AUSTRIA AND WORLD WAR II
Absorption of Austria into the Third Reich
Most Austrian proponents of the Anschluss had foreseen a gradual coordination and merger of the two German states that would preserve some semblance of Austrian identity. But, influenced by the tumultuous welcome he received on his arrival, Hitler made an impromptu decision for quick and total absorption of Austria into the Third Reich.
The Anschluss violated various international agreements, but the European powers offered only perfunctory opposition. Italy had acquiesced to the invasion beforehand, and in return Hitler later agreed to allow Italy to retain the South Tirol despite his aggressive policies elsewhere to bring all German populations into the Third Reich. Britain was following a policy of appeasement in 1938 and was unwilling to risk war over Austria's independence, while France, traditionally the strongest foe of German unification, was incapable of unilateral military action.
To provide a legal facade for the Anschluss, Hitler arranged a plebiscite for April 10, 1938. The Nazis portrayed the plebiscite as a vote on pan-Germanism and claimed a 99.7 percent vote in favour of the Anschluss. Although the outcome was undoubtedly influenced by Nazi intimidation, the Anschluss enjoyed broad popular support. Nevertheless, the positive vote reflected the Austrians' desire for change far more than it did widespread support for Hitler and Nazism. Unification offered a way out of the political turmoil of the First Republic, and ties with the larger German economy promised economic revitalization. Many Austrians probably also harboured unrealistic notions of Austria's position within the Third Reich, expecting an arrangement similar to the Dual Monarchy in which Austria and Germany would be equal partners. And the full dimensions of Nazi barbarism were not yet apparent. Underlying these factors, however, was the widespread appeal of pan-Germanism that cut across political lines. Austrians had traditionally thought of themselves as Germans, and the Austrian nationalism cultivated by Dollfuss and Schuschnigg had not taken root. Although the SDAP had moderated its long-standing support for unification when Hitler came to power in Germany, Karl Renner urged a yes vote in the Nazi-organized plebiscite. Once unification was a fact, other Socialist leaders felt that the Nazi regime was not sufficient reason to reject the fulfilment of what they viewed as a progressive goal of German nationalism.
Hitler moved quickly to suppress what little independent identity and national unity Austria had. The name Austria was banned, provinces were freed of central administration from Vienna, and provincial loyalty and identification were cultivated. In addition, Austrian Nazis and Nazi sympathizers who might have become effective national leaders were transferred to relatively unimportant jobs in the administration of the Third Reich or, after World War II began, were sent to administer the occupied territories. Thus, a disproportionate number of Austrians came to be in charge of the bureaucracy overseeing the implementation of the Nazis' extermination of the Jews and other peoples and groups deemed undesirable.
In comparison with non-German minorities, the political repression suffered by German Austrians was lenient but still effective in preventing significant organized resistance. The left had already been the target of political repression before the Anschluss, but as early as March 1938, conservative political leaders associated with the Dollfuss-Schuschnigg regime were also subject to arrest and detention. Some 20,000 people were arrested in the early days of the Anschluss. Most were quickly released, but some, like Schuschnigg, were held at the Dachau concentration camp throughout the Nazi era. During the entire 1938-45 period, some 100,000 Austrians were arrested on political charges. About 34,000 of these died in prisons or concentration camps, and some 2,700 were executed. Prior to the Anschluss plebiscite, the Nazis courted and received the support of the Roman Catholic hierarchy for annexation. After the plebiscite, the church desired to maintain loyal cooperation with what was perceived as legitimate state authority, but the Nazis were just as eager to eliminate the church's influence in society on both the institutional and the ideological level.

In July 1938, the government declared the 1934 concordat void and closed Catholic education institutions, dissolved some 6,000 church-affiliated associations, and took control of the Catholic press. In August relations between the church hierarchy and the state were broken off. Although it did not see its role as supporting open resistance to the Nazi state, the Catholic Church, as the only legal entity propagating an ideology intrinsically hostile to Nazism, was a focus of opposition to the regime and was closely watched by the state. The persecution of the church over the next several years was designed to gradually wear it down by depriving it of resources and institutional unity. These measures, which evoked popular resentment, were eased in late 1941 because of the need to maintain public support of the regime during the war. Nevertheless, by detaching the church from the state, the policies had the effect of increasing the church's legitimacy and credibility and helped lay the groundwork for a more positive redefinition of the church's role in society after the war.

World War II and the Defeat of Nazi Germany
In a strict sense, Austria was not a participant in World War II because it did not formally exist when the war began with the invasion of Poland in September 1939. On an individual level, however, some 800,000 Austrians were drafted into the army (the German Wehrmacht), and another 150,000 served in the Waffen SS, an elite Nazi military unit. Austrians were integrated into German units, and no specifically Austrian military brigades were formed.
Austrians loyally supported Germany through the early years of World War II. The early German military victories and Austria's geographic location beyond the reach of Allied bombers shielded the Austrian population from the full impact of the war. Only after the German defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad in early 1943, when the course of the war increasingly turned against Germany, did popular support for the war and for the Anschluss begin to erode.
More important for Austria's future, however, was the evolution in the Allies' position on Austria. In November 1943, the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union, Britain, and the United States met and issued the Moscow Declaration. In contrast to the earlier Allied acceptance of the Anschluss, the declaration described Austria as "the first victim of Hitlerite aggression" and called for the reestablishment of an independent Austria. At the same time, however, the declaration also held Austria liable for its participation in the war, effectively giving it the status of an enemy state.
Allied advances in Italy in 1943 enabled bombers regularly to attack Austrian industrial and transportation centers. The winter of 1944-45 saw an intensification of the air campaign and steady advances toward Austria by the Soviet Union's Red Army. On March 30, 1945, the Red Army entered Austrian territory and captured Vienna on April 13. Although the Germans resisted the Soviet advances into eastern Austria, the Western Allies--the United States, Britain, and France--met minimal resistance as they advanced into the country. United States forces began entering Austria on April 30, and French and British troops soon followed. On May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered unconditionally.
Foundation of the Second Republic
As the Soviet troops advanced on Vienna, they occupied the town where Socialist leader Karl Renner lived in retirement. Despite his anti-Soviet reputation, Renner was chosen by the Soviet leaders to form and head a provisional government, apparently believing the aging politician would be an easily manipulated figurehead. Renner, however, established authority based on his leadership role in the last freely elected parliament, not on the backing of the Soviet Union. Conditions did not permit the members of the old parliament to be summoned, as had been done in 1918, so Renner turned to the leaders of the three nonfascist parties that the Soviet leaders had already allowed to become active and established a provisional city administration in Vienna in early April. The three parties consisted of the Socialist Party of Austria (Sozialistische Partei Österreichs--SPÖ), a reorganization of the SDAP; the Austrian People's Party (Österreichische Volkspartei--ÖVP), a reorganization of the CSP; and the Communist Party of Austria (Kommunistische Partei Österreichs--KPÖ).
Renner apportioned ministries in the provisional government's cabinet roughly based on the political balance of the pre-1934 era, but the nationalist bloc was excluded and Communist representation increased. The SPÖ held ten ministries; the ÖVP, nine; and the KPÖ, only three, but these included the important ministries of interior, which controlled the police, and of education. Three additional ministries were held by members without party affiliation. Because of widespread distrust of the Communists, Renner created undersecretary positions for the two other parties in the Communist-headed ministries.
On April 27, 1945, the provisional government issued a decree nullifying the Anschluss and reestablishing an independent, democratic Republic of Austria under the 1920 constitution as amended in 1929. Germany had yet to surrender, however, and the formation of a provisional government in Soviet-occupied Austria surprised the Western Allies, who had yet to enter Austria. The Western Allies feared that the provisional government was a puppet of the Soviet Union and declined to recognize it. This decision left the Renner government dependent on the Soviet Union but forced it to allow the provisional government the means to establish reasonable credibility so Western acceptance could be won. Thus, as pre-1938 political figures became active in the areas occupied by United States, British, and French troops, the Renner government was allowed to establish contact with them despite initial Soviet plans to seal off its occupation zone.
The four Allied powers had not agreed to any firm plans for Austria prior to the war's end, and only in early July 1945 were the borders dividing the country into four occupation zones finally set. Vienna's city center was placed under Four Power control, while the rest of the city was divided into specific occupation zones. Supreme authority in Austria was wielded by the Allied Council, in which the Four Powers were represented by their zonal commanders. Each of the four Allies held veto power over the decisions of the council.
The Allied Council held its first meeting in early September, but the Western Allies still declined to recognize the Renner government. Soon thereafter the provisional government held a meeting in Vienna attended by representatives from parties from all the occupation zones. Unlike the situation after World War I, the provinces displayed no separatist tendencies--the experience of the Anschluss and World War II had forged an appreciation of a common Austrian identity. The provisional government was expanded to accommodate national representation, and the representatives agreed to national elections. Because of these developments, the Allied Council recognized the provisional government on October 20, 1945
 
#2
I served with a guy who was part of the Army of Occupation in Austria at the ed of WW2. He reckoned that there were loads of un-repentant Nazis there. In his opinion, the Austrian people were, in general, more Nazi the the Germans as the average German showed some remorse but he said he hardly ever met an Austrian who did.
 
#4
Pretty much read the same also there was an active resistance to the Russian occupation until they pulled out. Never hear much about their armed forces either all I could tell you is they bought all the old 110mm guns once the AS90 came into service was a small peice on SSVC news
 
#5
I knew an Austrian woman who was a teenager during WWII, she would happily talk about her experiences before and after the Russian occupation but never, ever about the time during it.
 

jim24

LE
Book Reviewer
#6
It would appear that some complete units of the Austrian Army became units in the German Army, The 44th Reichgrenadier Division ( Hoch and Deutschmeister) was one such unit, they even carried the old standard of the type used in the Imperial Austro Hungarian Army.
As to the bombing it seems that Bomber Command did not carry out any really large raids against Austrian targets but this does not mean that raids were not carried out by other units such as the RAF in Italy or the LNSF ect
The USAAC most certainly did bomb Austria, from August 1943 the US 15th Airforce in Italy, at times in coordination with the 8th Airforce from the UK, carried out a very heavy campaign of raids on Austrian targets,
Now I have a list of every one of these raids as there is a very good book "Air War Europe" which gives details of every USAAC operation in the ETO so if you have a specific date or town let me know if you need further info
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#7
Now I have a list of every one of these raids as there is a very good book "Air War Europe" which gives details of every USAAC operation in the ETO so if you have a specific date or town let me know if you need further info
Thanks jim,


one of the visits I did whilst there was to Kufstein, a large mediaeval castle which ( as you might expect) commands an excellent tactical position above the river (Inn ?) and dominating one of the routes to Munich.

Dit here. Festung Kufstein - Geschichte

Be interested to know if USAAC/Allied forces targeted Kufstein and secondly, whether it was garrisoned in WW2 and by what kind of units.
 

jim24

LE
Book Reviewer
#9

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#10
Thanks Jim

Coo - ten raids on pretty lil Innsbruck in 1944......makes you wonder how many ac were involved in a typical sortie and how much ordnance they delivered.....and why ?

I'm guessing that by that stage of the war Krupp munitions factories and massed ground unit formations were scarce.....

( Nature of the beast......I've never got my head around why Brookman's Park qualified as a 'legitimate military objective' either.....)

Edit: Saw this account in one of the links you gave. A WWII veteran remembering some of his time with the British Army garrison in Austria late 1945:
SOURCE
Austria's Capital City

When we arrived in Vienna, towards the end of November, our first impressions of the city were not of the best. Not only was the cold of winter setting in, we were quartered in a dreary, unheated ugly building with an intermittent electrical service. Why such a drab structure should be located close to the Schönbrunn Palace, made one wonder!
A few days after we had settled in, I was ordered to report to Captain Irwin. On arrival, I was surprised to see that Jimmy Wiggins had also been summoned. The OC first said, as it was obvious that it was not possible to set up our own Recreation Centre in Vienna, I was to run the Squadron Office while Corporal Nelson was away on leave. Having dropped that minor bombshell, the impact was lessened when he went on to say that both Jimmy and I were to get our third stripes.

As the days grew darker, ever blowing winds from Siberia made that winter one of the coldest Vienna had ever experienced. The much damaged city, although in the Russian Occupational Zone, was divided as the rest of the country into four zones. Apart from military vehicles, including jeeps carrying MPs from each nation, there were few people, military or civilian, seen venturing out in the bitter cold.
During the three months that the Regiment was part of British Troops Austria, other than the extreme cold, only a couple of events are worth recording - the day when all Austrian currency had to be handed in and seeing the Harlem Globe Trotters work their magic on the basketball court. The former was distressing for many of us as, on arrival in Wolfsberg we were able to change lira into Austrian money without any questions being asked - not only that, we could use schillings to buy sterling to be sent home!
Just after the turn of the New Year, my Squadron returned to Wolfsberg, to rejoin the Regiment which had received orders to prepare for a move to Germany. Our sojourn in Austria came to an end on 13th January 1946.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
#11
A good source for Bomber command raids is "The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book, 1939-45". It's by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt. It details every significant raid made during the war, with aircraft numbers, bomb tonnages, losses, etc. If the raid was a heavy one, there are also often damage reports from the target city.

Wordsmith
 

jim24

LE
Book Reviewer
#12
Unfortunately the numbers of aircraft are not given on all raids. Some of the 15th Airforce raids were only in single figures of aircraft , but, on the 5th November 1944 they put 500 B17s and B24s along with 337 P38s and P51s as escort on an attack on Vienna/Floridsdorf oil refinery, claiming 10 German fighters shot down, this was 15AFs largest single target mission
 

jim24

LE
Book Reviewer
#13
Theres an interesting bit in Stephen Ambrose's Book "Wild Blue" about Sen George McGovern saying on a TV show in Austria in 1985 that he was only sorry for one bomb that had hung up and eventually dropped on an Austrian farm house, The Owner of the farm phoned the TV station to say the no one was hurt and that he had been Anti Nazi. "I thought that if the bombing of my farm reduced the war by one minute ,it was well worth it" he said
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#14
One of the aerial reconnaissance shots taken over Austria in 1945 on the TARA site (LINK) is titled Sortie SA_60_1110

Presumably somewhere this correlates to briefing for the sortie : target to be observed, etc.

Is that detail in Air War Europe or where plse ?
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#15
I remember being told a year or two back that a post-war German's favourite joke was:

Q. How many people died in the first World War?
A. One Austrian too few.
 
#16
I remember being told a year or two back that a post-war German's favourite joke was:

Q. How many people died in the first World War?
A. One Austrian too few.
A very good simplification.

The Austrians were just as much to blame as the Germans, but could just simply blame it all on the germans afterwards.
 

jim24

LE
Book Reviewer
#17
One of the aerial reconnaissance shots taken over Austria in 1945 on the TARA site (LINK) is titled Sortie SA_60_1110

Presumably somewhere this correlates to briefing for the sortie : target to be observed, etc.

Is that detail in Air War Europe or where plse ?
if the Sortie number is the date then
"On the 10th November 400 B17/24 were recalled or abort because of bad weather, over 100 bombers are able to attack 2 bridges and Marshalling yards in five un-named locations"
 
#18
As far as Austria was concerned, the most common RAF raiders would have been 205 Group, based in Italy around Foggia, flying Wellingtons, Halifaxes and Liberators. Their contribution (not part of Bomber Command) is all too often forgotten. A former UK Defence Attache to Bucharest (Col Macdonald) wrote a very good book on their campaign against Rumania (Through Darkness to Light), since his main Remembrance responsibility was wreaths on their graves.

Innsbruck airport in particular was also for a while the home, very late in the war, for Galland's JV44 "squadron of experten" flying the Me262.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#20
Interesting piece on Austria's role ( Victim or willing Accomplice?) under the Third Reich

BBC - History - World Wars: Austria and Nazism: Owning Up to the Past

Further to this thread - Can anyone point me towards a map of military units in Austria 38 - 45 ?

Nazi victims' mass graves found in Austria under football pitch
Two mass graves containing scores of people murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War have been found underneath an army football pitch in Austria, government officials said on Friday.
8:20PM GMT 12 Mar 2010
Some of the remains may be the bodies of US pilots shot down and imprisoned during the war.

Police Col. Rudolf Gollia, an interior ministry spokesman, said his ministry plans talks with the owners of the site to discuss exhumation.

The mass graves are located in bomb craters underneath the army sports field in the southern city of Graz. Officials said they contain about 70 bodies of victims killed by the SS to eliminate witnesses to Nazi atrocities shortly before Soviet troops arrived.

The graves were identified from wartime photos, made from US bombers, showing open graves and bodies.

A statement on the Austrian army website said up to 219 people were massacred at the location during the final days of the Second World War in an attempt to cover up atrocities committed there.

The site originally contained hundreds of victims but many were moved by the officer in charge of the wartime facility out of fears that he would be found responsible for the killing. The exhumation and reburials were stopped, however, because of the approach of the Soviet Army.

While the relocated bodies were subsequently found and given a proper burial, about 70 of the dead remained unaccounted until the discovery of the graves.

The army statement said that the investigation also established the identities of two suspected perpetrators who subsequently fled to Germany and could still be alive. It gave no details as to the suspect's identities.


Thanks

Don Cabra
 

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