AT the edge of Boston’s Public Garden stands a statue of Wendell Phillips. I read and then reread its inscription: —
Liberty knows nothing but victories.
And I thought to myself: I hope that the youth of America will engrave these words in their hearts! Only those who were forced to live in the dark atmosphere of Central Europe realize the precious heritage that is freedom. Only they can appreciate the true value of liberty, free thought and free speech. Here, four thousand miles from that cemetery, it is hard to realize the effects of terror, persecution, and oppression.
Many of my American friends tell me that, after all, the Austrians must have been Nazis at heart if they received Hitler with such enthusiasm in Vienna. Yes, everybody tries to judge the tree by the fruit it brought forth. But who really knows the strange methods that were used by the gardeners to graft such fruit? I thought that nineteen years’ experience in Central Europe had made me acquainted with the soul of the Viennese. And I can vouch that, even at the beginning of last March, 80 per cent of the Viennese (I consider this a moderate estimate) were anti-Nazi. The great majority of the population of Lower Austria was also anti-Nazi. But it is equally true that a preponderance of the population of the western provinces sympathized with the National Socialists. Most of my American and English friends who visited Austria spent part of their holidays in Salzburg or in the Tirol, where they seem to have received the impression that the country was strongly Nazi. I do not deny that the Nazis were strong in these particular provinces, yet I doubt if their strength exceeded 40 per cent.
Why did the foreigner obtain the impression that Austria was Nazi? The tourist, as a rule, comes into contact with the lower bourgeoisie and their satellites, with the baker, the grocer, the innkeeper, the hotel owner, his waiters and maids. Naziism is the creed of just this group. Before the war a clever Spanish philosopher said that the monism of Haeckel and Bolsche was the religion of the half-baked. Naziism is the political creed of the half-baked. But the workingman was busy in the factories or in the sawmills and out of reach of the tourist; the peasant was grumbling — perhaps his discontent was mistaken for Naziism. But neither the peasants nor the workers were Nazis. They were opposed to the then-existing régime in Austria, they were skeptical of the achievements of Schuschnigg, but their opposition did not mean that they approved Naziism.
Yet I had long realized that if Hitler took Austria he would find an enthusiastic crowd, or at least a crowd whose cheering would create the impression of being enthusiastic. Years ago I described in an English newspaper a conversation with some Socialist workers who told me that in case of a Hitler invasion they would vote for Hitler. When I asked why, they explained: ‘ We shall not be able to vote for the creed in which we believe — namely, Social Democracy. And if we cannot vote for our faith, then naturally we are not going to risk our life — we simply will vote for Herr Hitler, to avoid persecution.’
Yet this is not enough to explain the enthusiastic reception which Hitler received in Vienna. The Social Democrats were responsible for some cheering, but there were other factors. When the Social Democrats were in power in Vienna, they thought that their rule would last for a long time to come; and in carrying out their social-reform schemes they converted the Municipality of Vienna into the largest single enterprise in Austria, employing more than 65,000 people. This meant that the bread of 250,000 people was dependent upon the Vienna Municipality. Another quarter of a million people were dependent on the city indirectly through contracts, tenders, and so forth. The magnificent achievements of the Socialists assured a Socialist majority at the polls; the voters were grateful for the new housing, the fine welfare institutions, and the firstclass educational system for their children — and their bread also depended on the goodwill of their benefactors.
When, in February 1934, the Socialist Party was destroyed in the civil war, its heritage went into the hands of the followers of Dollfuss and Schuschnigg, and it will be remembered that Schuschnigg was able to mobilize large masses at his various Fatherland Front gatherings. The cheers were spare, but the crowd was large. The reason is clear: the masses felt it obligatory to appear at the meetings. But Schuschnigg did not bother about the intensity of the enthusiasm.
Naziism is more thorough. When the Nazis took over Vienna on March 12, they in turn controlled the half-million men who were dependent upon the city for their livelihood. The Nazis were not satisfied with ordering out the crowd to cheer — they ordered people to cheer at the top of their voices. And the masses knew that this was no joke. Twenty thousand German police, storm troops, and Gestapo were rushed to Vienna to keep order during Hitler’s stay; scores of Dr. Goebbels’s agitators came in planes and automobiles to make the reception of Hitler as impressive as possible.
My house was opposite a school. We saw how German agitators spent hours teaching youths to cheer, and to sing the ‘Horst Wessel’ song. Well-trained German cheer leaders were practising in other schoolrooms. And the people cheered because — who knows? — perhaps the man next to you belongs to the Gestapo and will make a note of your name if he sees you standing with sealed lips when the Führer is passing by. This is the psychology of terror, which is hard to understand in a free country.
I remember the open postcard which an Austrian lady sent to a friend of mine in New York and which passed the vigilance of the German censor: ‘There is much apparent enthusiasm here, but very little rejoicing.’ This postcard expressed the true spirit of Vienna.
For five consecutive nights aeroplanes circled in almost uninterrupted sequence over Vienna — heavy bombers. One of them was enough to keep you awake, but scores of them drove away all sleep from your eyes, and so you lay sleepless, terrified in your bed. At 4 A.M. when the planes returned to their hangars and you were just prepared to fall asleep, then suddenly the drums of the S. S. (the Black Guards) were heard, drumming as if at an execution.
Then came the crowds, cheering, singing, marching, apparently hysterical. But those who know Vienna, and the Viennese, were not deluded: ‘There is much apparent enthusiasm, but no rejoicing.’ Not even Seyss-Inquart had cause to rejoice. He soon was degraded to an inferior position, though he could keep his high-sounding title of Statthalter, or governor. But the master of Austria was Herr Joseph Buerckel, whose merit was that he terrorized the Catholic Saar district into submission to the Nazis. Those Austrian Nazis, who believed that Naziism meant their heyday, were gravely disappointed. German officials were thrust into all posts of vantage, leaving the Austrians to carry out the dirty part of the work.
The Germans came as conquerors — their entry became a huge looting expedition. Austria, after all, had milk and cream and butter and cheese; it had cattle and meat and sausages and bread; the doorknobs were of real brass, the trolley wires real copper — goods which Germany badly needed. And these goods were systematically carried away to Germany.
The German looting went hand in hand with the hold-up campaign of the Austrian Nazis, especially of the SturmAbteilungen, the S. A. Here robbery was combined with torture. The treatment of the Jews during the first weeks in Austria was such that even Göring was terrified. ‘We must stop this immediately after the plebiscite,’ he muttered to a friend the day after his entry into Vienna. He feared that the Austrian Nazi youth would completely disorganize Austrian economics by the persecution of the Jews. He had no sentimental sympathy for the Jews — he only thought that a too quick elimination of the Israelitic population might jeopardize his four-year plan in Vienna.
The Nazi youth were hysterical. I remember that a long time ago I discussed with a former Nazi leader the possibility of the Anschluss. I was of the opinion that the civilized nature of the Viennese would not permit such excesses as occurred when the National Socialists took over power in Germany. But my friend remarked with a knowing look: —
‘Don’t you cherish any such illusions! I know my “golden Vienna heart,”’ he remarked. ‘The excesses will be more terrible and brutal than in Germany.’
Novelists and writers liked to talk about the ‘golden Vienna heart’ (goldenes Wiener Herz), which was a euphemism for the reputed kindheartedness of the Viennese. But my friend knew his Vienna better than I did. And the terror was incredible. The brutality of the Austrian S. S. and S. A. surpassed all ‘achievements’ of their fellow storm troopers in Germany.
How can we explain this phenomenon? As a rule, the majority of the Viennese were, and I suppose still are, extremely kindhearted and gentle. The revolution of 1918 in Vienna was bloodless chiefly because the well-disciplined and intelligent Social Democratic Party took over the leadership. But I once saw the Vienna underworld out of control on July 15, 1927. Two Socialists had been killed by Fascists, and when the Fascist offenders were acquitted (by a jury consisting of Social Democrats) the Socialists grew angry and arranged a monster demonstration in the city. I noticed how, early in the morning of that day, strange crowds of the Vienna underworld joined the demonstrating groups of Socialists. Harangued by mysterious leaders, this mob was determined to make trouble. The Palace of Justice was set on fire, and opponents were brutally attacked. When the fire brigade was ordered out to extinguish the fire, the hooligans attacked the fire engines and mobbed Mayor Seitz, the Socialist leader, who, standing on the running board of a fire engine, tried to pacify the angry crowd.
I analyzed that turbulent crowd and came to the conclusion that it was the underworld from the outlying proletarian districts of Simmering, Meidling, Hernals, and Ottakring. Here were elements which prior to 1927 had joined the Communist Party. But in recent years this mob of the periphery was increasingly attracted to the National Socialist crowd. Its members realized that in the Socialist and Communist camp there was no longer any hope for a revolution, and their adventurous nature therefore drove them into the Nazi Party, where they hoped one day to witness the coming ’fun.'
The Nazi Party could enroll these people readily — first because most of them were unemployed (in many cases they did not seek serious work); secondly because the anti-Semitic motto of the Nazis appealed to idlers who saw that the Jews had money whereas they were poor; and thirdly because the underworld of every big city supports an extremist party, whether of the Right or of the Left.
By 1933 these dark figures of the subterranean life of Vienna hoped to see the Nazi Party rise to power. But the ‘conquest’ of Vienna was delayed, and, with the impatience of the crowd, their bloodthirstiness increased. Thus the sudden conquest of Austria by Hitler found a mob intent on making the celebration a ‘big business.’ It was terrifying to see these hooligans in action. They were the same badly dressed crowd that had appeared in 1927, except that the swastika armlet now denoted that they were acting, not as hooligans, but as a kind of police of the Nazi Party. The goat had been made gardener in the cabbage patch.
Their first act was, quite characteristically, to commandeer the automobiles of rich Jews. More than five hundred automobiles were so requisitioned in the first five days — and, incidentally, many of the owners were not Jewish. On commandeered motor lorries these armed brutes systematically visited the Jewish quarters and looted the shops and flats of Jews. Not only were the stores robbed, but even the counters, desks, and shelves were removed on these vans.
If a Jew resisted or protested, he was beaten up and taken to prison. Many were delivered to the mercy of their servants and concierges. The first question which these storm troopers asked of the concierges and servants was whether the Jews had treated them well. If the concierge was decent, it often meant alleviation for the Jews, though it did not save them from having their flats plundered. I know of several cases where the decency of a servant girl saved the Jewish landlord. In one instance when the storm troopers started to loot in the bedroom, the servant went to a distant telephone and called out the police motorized unit. And the police intervened in time, arresting the looters. But later these same decent policemen and servants found their way to concentration camps.
The treatment of less prosperous Jews was equally horrible. They were beaten up and tortured and sent to prison. In the prisons and the storm troop headquarters they were ordered to clean lavatories. It was a heartbreaking scene to see Jewish men and women cleaning the streets of Vienna, scrubbing hard at the pavements in their best clothes.
One of the favorite occupations of the storm troopers was to visit the cinemas, order the attendants to switch on the lights, and then command: ‘All those women who are Jewish stand up!’ They would examine the vanity bags of these ladies, take out the purses and the money, and then order them out to clean the streets.
The president of the Jewish community of Vienna, Desider Friedmann, was ordered to scrub the streets. So was General Sommer, but he begged to be excused for a second, and then returned in his full-dress uniform, with all his wartime decoration. He was let off that time, but was taken to prison later on.
The palaces of the rich Jews were sacked by the hooligans. An American friend was eyewitness when the Nazis entered the proud mansion of Baron Louis Rothschild and emptied it of everything to the last nail. In 1931 the Austrian Government officially estimated the value of the furniture and art treasures in that house at five million dollars. In one night all these art treasures were loaded on trucks and removed to an unknown destination. Titians and Tintorettos were thrown together with furniture and carpets and hastily carried off.
It would be a mistake to believe that only the Jews were victimized. The entire Austrian Government was arrested, except Guido Schmidt and Seyss-Inquart. The Chancellor himself is kept in custody at the villa where he used to live. This villa was in reality one of the household buildings of the entourage of the former crown princes in the Belvedere, and it is a simple building. It is surrounded by three other houses which are jammed with storm troopers who guard the former Chancellor. His friends fear that Schuschnigg will meet a sad fate.
Major Fey, once upon a time Vice Chancellor, was found dead in his house in the Reisnerstrasse. Even if this former Vice Chancellor did play a sinister role in Austria’s recent history, one cannot help regretting the brutal revenge upon him and his whole family. The German reports alleged suicide, but the rumor still persists that he and his family were exterminated by storm troopers. And the same fate met Guido Baron von Neustädter-Stürmer.
Why did the Nazis try the extermination of these two men, who had both, at one time or another, tried to help the Nazis into power? The reason is that the National Socialists attempted to stage a trial in which Otto Planetta (now the Austrian Nazi martyr, like Horst Wessel in Germany) should be exculpated from the charge of having murdered Dollfuss. The Nazis want to make the world believe that Planetta did not kill Dollfuss, but that Fey was the little Chancellor’s murderer and that Schuschnigg’s régime sent Planetta unjustly to the gallows. But Fey would not have confessed, like the Russian commissars, and it was safer to make him the victim of his own suicide. And Neustädter-Stürmer had to die because he promised a safe-conduct to the 144 Nazis entrapped in the Chancellor’s office during the ill-famed Putsch of July 25, 1934 and did not keep his promise.
Among those who are suffering within the barbed wires of the Dachau concentration camp we must mention the permanent secretary of the Austrian Foreign Office, the pro-French Baron von Hornbostel, one of the most pleasant men of the old régime. A much-hated man in the same camp is Richard Schmitz, mayor of Vienna from 1934 to 1938. Schmitz was confessedly proFrench and was one of the most active men in organizing the success of Schuschnigg’s plebiscite. Since he was a monarchist, and in addition had tried to gain the workers’ support for the plebiscite, he is especially hated by the Nazis, and will probably be tried on a high-treason charge.
The two former press chiefs of the Schuschnigg régime, Colonel Walter Adam and Eduard Ludwig, had to wash lavatories and automobiles for weeks, and now are submitted to physical illtreatment in Dachau. Probably even worse is the lot of the polite and able press officer of the Austrian Chancellor’s office, Dr. Ludwig Kleinwächter. Though many years ago he was known as the author of a book in favor of the Anschluss, he is tortured to-day because he is of Jewish origin, and because he allegedly asked help on the phone from England after the Schuschnigg régime had fallen.
It would be impossible to enumerate all those who either are imprisoned or have committed suicide. The witty Egon Friedel, author, playwright, and actor, killed himself. Professor Nobel, one of the best men of the Vienna medical school, committed suicide with his wife. Professor Freud escaped imprisonment only because of the intervention of foreign powers. Professor Heinrich Neumann, though he was the physician of the Duke of Windsor, was for many weeks imprisoned. Official figures put the suicides at less than five hundred, but a conservative estimate places it close to three thousand.
Vienna’s entire cultural life was ruined overnight. The famous Vienna medical school exists no longer; its professors are either in exile or in prison, or have lost their jobs. Vienna’s music has been silenced. The great attraction of the Salzburg Festivals, Arturo Toscanini, swore not to conduct any more in Austria. Bruno Walter, the Jewish-born musical director of the Vienna Opera, cannot return to his native land. Lothar Wallenstein, the scenic manager of the Opera, was dismissed. The famous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra lost its first violinist, Professor Artur Rosé, and full half its talented musicians.
Even the stars of the lighter music are taboo in Nazi Austria. Franz Lehár, though an Aryan, cannot produce his works in Austria because he has a Jewish wife; probably Johann Strauss, composer of the ‘Blue Danube,’ will be put on the proscribed list because he had Jewish blood and his third wife was Jewish. Eysler, composer of many famous operettasand well-known tunes, committed suicide, according to an official report.
Herr Hitler, who knows his compatriots, wants to break the spirit of Vienna. The American music lover and intellectual adored the easygoing, lighthearted spirit of Vienna. But Hitler decided that the Prussian drill sergeant must convert Vienna to an efficient city. There is no place for Gemütlichkeit in Vienna — Goring proclaimed in Linz that the easygoing spirit must disappear.
And the Germans settled down to carry out this command. Thousands of children will be taken to Berlin and elsewhere to receive schooling in German institutes; German foremen, agitators, and organizers are being sent to the Austrian factories.
And the doom of the café has also been decreed. The Vienna café was an institution: a meeting place where one could have a cup of coffee, read the local and foreign papers, and talk to one’s friends. It was a substitute for the club, but more democratic and less exclusive. The café was responsible for the spirit of a Schnitzler, of a Molnar, of Johann Strauss and Lehár. This spirit is not permitted to survive. If the storm troopers come to a café and find too many ‘idlers,’ they take the unfortunate people to a concentration camp. And with the café the gay spirit of Vienna will be stamped out. Hatred is celebrating its victories in Vienna.