Austrian Civil War

The Austrian Civil War (German: Österreichischer Bürgerkrieg), also known as the February Uprising (German: Februarkämpfe), is a term sometimes used for a few days of skirmishes between Fascist and Socialist forces between 12 February and 16 February 1934, in Austria. The clashes started in Linz and took place principally in the cities of Vienna, Graz, Bruck an der Mur, Judenburg, Wiener Neustadt and Steyr, but also in some other industrial cities of eastern and central Austria.

Austrian Civil War
Part of the Interwar Period
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-00805, Wien, Februarkämpfe, Bundesheer 2

Soldiers of the Austrian Federal Army in Vienna, 12 February 1934
Date12 February 1934 – 16 February 1934
Various cities in Austria
Result Austrofascist victory
Demise of Multi-party system
Consolidation of power by Patriotic Front

SDAPOe logo.svg SDAPÖ


First Austrian Republic

Commanders and leaders
Richard Bernaschek
Ludwig Bernaschek
Engelbert Dollfuss
Emil Fey
80,000 in all of Austria[1]
17,500 soldiers in Vienna[2]
Floridsdorf cache:
over 2,500 rifles
250 revolvers
1,500 hand grenades
10,000 rounds of ammunition[3]
Entire Federal Army, police, gendarmeries, and paramilitary Heimwehr forces
Casualties and losses
Estimated 137[2]
196[4] to 1,000 possibly killed[5]
399 wounded[2]
10 executed later[4]
Estimated between 105[2] to 118 killed in action[4]
319 wounded[2]

Origins of the conflict

The Schlingerhof in Floridsdorf, where a large cache of weapons was based, and in 1934 used by the Republikanischer Schutzbund

After the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (following the First World War), the state of Austria — largely comprising the German-speaking parts of the former empire — became constituted as a parliamentary democracy. Two major factions dominated politics in the new nation: socialists (represented politically by the Social Democratic Workers' Party) and conservatives (politically represented by the Christian Social Party). The socialists found their strongholds in the working class districts of the cities, while the conservatives could build on the support of the rural population and of most of the upper classes. The conservatives also maintained close alliances with the Roman Catholic Church, and could count among their ranks some leading clerics.

As in most of the nascent European democracies of the time, politics in Austria took on a highly ideological flavour. Both the socialist and the conservative camp did not merely consist of political parties, but possessed far-ranging power structures, including their own paramilitary forces. The conservatives began organising the Heimwehr (German: Homeguard) in 1921–23; in response, the Social Democrats organised paramilitaries called the Republikanischer Schutzbund (German: Republican Protection Association) after 1923. Altercations and clashes between these forces (at political rallies, etc.) occurred frequently.

A first major incident ensued early in 1927, when members of Hermann Hiltl's Frontkämpfervereinigung ("Front Fighters Union" — a paramilitary association likewise affiliated with the conservative camp) shot and killed an eight-year-old boy and a war veteran marching with the Schutzbund in a peaceful counter-demonstration in Schattendorf (Burgenland). In July, three defendants in the case were acquitted, which led to outrage in the left-wing camp. On 15 July 1927, a general strike occurred, and demonstrations took place in the capital. After the storming of a police station, security forces started shooting at demonstrators. An angry group of people then set fire to the Palace of Justice (Justizpalast), seen as a symbol of a flawed and partial judicial system. Altogether, 89 people (85 of them demonstrators) lost their lives in this July revolt, and many hundreds suffered injury. Surprisingly, the violence soon died down and the factions took their battle from the streets back into the political institutions.

However, the travails of the First Republic only got worse in the following years. The Great Depression also showed its effects in Austria, resulting in high unemployment and massive inflation. In addition, from 1933 — the year Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of GermanyNational Socialist sympathisers (who wanted a unification of Austria with Hitler's Germany) threatened the Austrian state from within.


On 4 March 1933, Christian Social Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuß suspended the Austrian Parliament. In a close vote (on railway workers' wages) in the National Council, each of the three presidents of parliament resigned their position in order to cast a ballot, leaving nobody to preside over the meeting. Even though the bylaws could have resolved this situation, Dollfuss used this opportunity to declare that parliament had ceased to function, and blocked all attempts to reconvene it, also threatening to use military force against the parliamentarians, should they try to reconvene. The Social Democratic Party had thus lost its major platform for political action. The conservatives, facing pressure and violence not only from the left but also from Nazis infiltrating from Germany, could now rule by decree on the basis of a 1917 emergency law, without checks on their power, and began to suspend civil liberties. They banned the Schutzbund and imprisoned many of its members.

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-00329, Wien, Februarkämpfe, Bundesheer
February fights: Federal Army soldiers take position in front of the Vienna State Opera

On 12 February 1934, a force, led by Heimwehr commander in Vienna Emil Fey, searched Hotel Schiff in Linz, a property belonging to the Social Democratic Party. Linz Schutzbund commander Richard Bernaschek was the first to actively resist, sparking off armed conflict between a conglomeration of the Heimwehr, the police, the gendarmerie and the regular Federal Army against the outlawed, but still existent, socialist Schutzbund.[6] Skirmishes between the two camps spread to other cities and towns in Austria, with the heat of the action occurring in Vienna. There, members of the Schutzbund barricaded themselves in city council housing estates (Gemeindebauten), the symbols and strongholds for the socialist movement in Austria, such as Karl-Marx-Hof. Police and paramilitaries took up positions outside these fortified complexes and the parties exchanged fire, initially only with small arms. Fighting also occurred in industrial towns such as Steyr, Sankt Pölten, Weiz, Eggenberg (Graz), Kapfenberg, Bruck an der Mur, Graz, Ebensee and Wörgl.

An apparently decisive moment in the events came with the entry of the Austrian armed forces into the conflict. Though the army remained still a comparatively independent institution, chancellor Dollfuss ordered Karl-Marx-Hof shelled with light artillery, endangering the lives of thousands of civilians and destroying many flats before forcing the socialist fighters to surrender.[7] The fighting ended in Vienna and Upper Austria by 13 February, but continued heavily in Styrian cities, especially in Bruck an der Mur and Judenburg, until 14 or 15 February. After that, there were only small groups of socialists fighting against the armed forces, or fleeing from them. By 16 February 1934, the Austrian Civil War had ended.


Linz, Hafen - Gedenkstein für Hans Preiner 1934
Memorial stone for a police officer killed on 12 February 1934 in Linz during the war

Several hundred people (including paramilitaries, members of the security forces and civilians) died in the armed conflict; more than a thousand suffered wounds. The authorities tried and executed nine Schutzbund leaders under the provisions of martial law. In addition, over 1,500 arrests were made. Leading socialist politicians, such as Otto Bauer, were forced into exile.[8] John Gunther reported that Schutzbund members received "mercilessly severe" sentences.[9]

The incidents of February 1934 were taken as a pretext by the government to prohibit the Social Democratic Party and its affiliated trade unions altogether. In May, the conservatives replaced the democratic constitution by a corporatist constitution modelled along the lines of Benito Mussolini's fascist Italy; therefore the socialists coined the term 'Austrofascism' although the underlying ideology was essentially that of the most conservative elements in the Austrian Catholic clergy, a feature inconsistent with both Italian Fascism and Nazism. The Patriotic Front (Vaterländische Front), into which the Heimwehr and the Christian Social Party were merged, became the only legal political party in the resulting authoritarian regime, the Ständestaat.

Long-term effects

Buergerkriegsdenkmal Linz
Memorial to the victims and fighters at the place where the civil war started, in the courtyard of the Hotel Schiff in Linz.

Though small in scale in an international comparison (and small in scale indeed in the light of the events of the Second World War which soon followed), the Austrian Civil War nevertheless proved a decisive moment in the history of the Republic. After the Second World War, when Austria re-emerged on the political landscape as a sovereign nation, politics again fell under the domination of the Social Democrats and the conservatives, who now formed a party called the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP). However, so as to avoid a repeat of the bitter divisions of the First Republic, the leaders of the Second Republic were determined to put the idea of broad consensus at the heart of the new political system. The concept of the 'Grand Coalition' was introduced, in which the two major parties (Social Democrats and People's Party) shared in the government and avoided open confrontation. This system brought with it stability and continuity, but ultimately led to other political repercussions (also see Proporz). But the events of the Austrian Civil War had persuaded many in the political establishment (and, indeed, the population at large) that a slow pace of political reform was a small price to pay for social calm.

Austrian political parties often stand accused of having done little to come to terms with the past. Even at the beginning of the 21st century, Austria's society bears the clear marks of division into the "red" (socialist) and "black" (conservative) areas of influence that trace back to the time of the First Republic and its civil war. This continues to cause extensive parallelisation even where ideology rarely plays a role, such as in first aid services, automotive organisations and science.

See also



  1. ^ Jelavich 183.
  2. ^ a b c d e Brook-Shepherd 281.
  3. ^ Brook-Shepherd 282.
  4. ^ a b c Jelavich 202.
  5. ^ Lehne 136.
  6. ^ Brook-Shepherd 280–81.
  7. ^ Reppe 79.
  8. ^ Brook-Shepherd 283.
  9. ^ Gunther, John (1940). Inside Europe. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 416.


  • Brook-Shepherd, Gordon (December 1996). The Austrians: A Thousand-Year Odyssey. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-638255-X.
  • Jelavich, Barbara (December 1989). Modern Austria: Empire & Republic 1815–1986. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-31625-1.
  • Lehne, Inge; Lonnie Johnson (December 1985). Vienna: The Past in the Present. Österreichischer Bundesverlag Gesellschaft, Wien. ISBN 3-215-05758-1.
  • Reppe, Susanne (December 1993). Der Karl-Marx-Hof. Picus Verlag, Wien. ISBN 3-85452-118-9.
This article includes information translated from the German-language Wikipedia article de:Österreichischer Bürgerkrieg. The German-language article cites the following sources:
  • Erika Weinzierl: Der Februar 1934 und die Folgen für Österreich. Picus Verlag, Wien 1994, ISBN 3-85452-331-9
  • Irene Etzersdorfer / Hans Schafranek (Hrsg.): Der Februar 1934 in Wien. Erzählte Geschichte. Verlag Autorenkollektiv. Wien 1984, ISBN 3-85442-030-7
  • Hans Schafranek, "Die Führung waren wir selber" — Militanz und Resignation im Februar 1934 am Beispiel Kaisermühlen, in: Helmut Konrad/Wolfgang Maderthaner (Hrsg.), Neuere Studien zur Arbeitergeschichte, Bd. II: Beiträge zur politischen Geschichte, Wien 1984, S. 439–69.
  • Stephan Neuhäuser (Hrsg.): “Wir werden ganze Arbeit leisten“ — Der austrofaschistische Staatsstreich 1934. Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2004, ISBN 3-8334-0873-1
  • Emmerich Tálos, Wolfgang Neugebauer (Hrsg.): Austrofaschismus. Politik, Ökonomie, Kultur. 1933–1938. 5. Auflage. LIT Verlag, Wien 2005, ISBN 3-8258-7712-4
  • Robert Streibel: Februar in der Provinz. Eine Spurensicherung zum 12. Februar 1934 in Niederösterreich, Grünbach Edition Geschichte der Heimat 1994, ISBN 3-900943-20-6.
  • Strohal, Eberhard (1988). Die Erste Republik (series title: kurz & bündig). Vienna: hpt-Verlag.

Anschluss (German: [ˈʔanʃlʊs] (listen) "joining") refers to the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany on 12 March 1938. The word's German spelling, until the German orthography reform of 1996, was Anschluß and it was also known as the Anschluss Österreichs (pronunciation , English: Annexation of Austria).

Prior to the Anschluss, there had been strong support from people of all backgrounds – not just Nazis – in both Austria and Germany for a union of the two countries. The desire for a union formed an integral part of the Nazi "Heim ins Reich" movement to bring ethnic Germans outside Nazi Germany into Greater Germany. Earlier, Nazi Germany had provided support for the Austrian National Socialist Party (Austrian Nazi Party) in its bid to seize power from Austria's Fatherland Front government.

The idea of an Anschluss (a united Austria and Germany that would form a "Greater Germany") began after the unification of Germany excluded Austria and the German Austrians from the Prussian-dominated German Empire in 1871. Following the end of World War I with the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1918, the newly formed Republic of German-Austria attempted to form a union with Germany, but the Treaty of Saint Germain (10 September 1919) and the Treaty of Versailles (28 June 1919) forbade both the union and the continued use of the name "German-Austria" (Deutschösterreich); and stripped Austria of some of its territories, such as the Sudetenland.

Emil Fey

Emil Fey (23 March 1886 – 16 March 1938) was an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army, leader of the right-wing paramilitary Heimwehr forces and politician of the First Austrian Republic. He served as Vice-Chancellor of Austria (German: Vizekanzler) from 1933 to 1934, leading the country into the period of Austrofascism under Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss. Fey played a vital role in the violent suppression of the Republikanischer Schutzbund and the Social Democratic Workers' Party during the 1934 Austrian Civil War.

Engelbert Dollfuss

Engelbert Dollfuss (German: Engelbert Dollfuß, IPA: [ˈɛŋəlbɛʁt ˈdɔlfuːs]; 4 October 1892 – 25 July 1934) was an Austrian Christian Social and Patriotic Front statesman. Having served as Minister for Forests and Agriculture, he ascended to Federal Chancellor in 1932 in the midst of a crisis for the conservative government. In early 1933, he shut down parliament, banned the Austrian Nazi party and assumed dictatorial powers. Suppressing the Socialist movement in February 1934, he cemented the rule of "Austrofascism" through the authoritarian First of May Constitution. Dollfuss was assassinated as part of a failed coup attempt by Nazi agents in 1934. His successor Kurt Schuschnigg maintained the regime until Adolf Hitler's annexation of Austria in 1938.

Federal State of Austria

The Federal State of Austria (Austrian German: Bundesstaat Österreich ; colloquially known as the Ständestaat, "Corporate State") was a continuation of the First Austrian Republic between 1934 and 1938 when it was a one-party state led by the clerico-fascist Fatherland Front. The Ständestaat concept, derived from the notion of Stände ("estates" or "corporations"), was propaganda advocated by leading regime politicians such as Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt Schuschnigg. The result was an authoritarian government based on a mix of Italian Fascist and conservative Catholic influences.

It ended in March 1938 with the Anschluss (the Nazi annexation of Austria). Austria would not become an independent country again until 1955, when the Austrian State Treaty ended the Allied occupation of Austria.

First Austrian Republic

The First Austrian Republic (German: Republik Österreich) was created after the signing of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye on 10 September 1919—the settlement after the end of World War I which ended the Habsburg rump state of Republic of German-Austria—and ended with the establishment of the Austrofascist Federal State of Austria based upon a dictatorship of Engelbert Dollfuss and the Fatherland's Front in 1934. The Republic's constitution was enacted in 1 October 1920 and amended on 7 December 1929. The republican period was increasingly marked by violent strife between those with left-wing and right-wing views, leading to the July Revolt of 1927 and the Austrian Civil War of 1934.


The Heimwehr (German: [ˈhaɪmˌveːɐ̯], Home Guard) or sometimes Heimatschutz (German: [ˈhaɪmatˌʃʊts], Homeland Protection)

were a nationalist, initially paramilitary group operating within Austria during the 1920s and 1930s; they were similar in methods, organisation, and ideology to Germany's Freikorps. Although opposed to parliamentary democracy, the Heimwehr maintained a political wing known as the Heimatblock, which cooperated with Engelbert Dollfuss' conservative government. In 1936, the Heimwehr was absorbed into the Fatherland Front by decree of Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg and replaced by a militia supposedly less inclined towards uproar against the regime, the Frontmiliz.

Hotel Schiff

The Hotel Schiff is a hotel in Linz. In 1934 it was the starting point of the Austrian Civil War.

The Gasthof Zum Goldenen Schiff was built in 1788 on a site which had been used since 1563 by the Brethren of the Poor.

Julius Deutsch

Julius Deutsch (February 2, 1884, Lackenbach, Austria-Hungary – January 17, 1968, Vienna, Austria) was a politician in the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Austria, member of Parliament between 1920-1933 and co-founder and leader of the Social Democrat militia "Republikanischer Schutzbund" (Republican Defense Association).

July Putsch

The July Putsch was a failed coup d'état attempt against the Austrofascist regime by Austrian Nazis, which took place between 25 – 30 July 1934.

Just a few months after the Austrian Civil War Austrian Nazis and German SS soldiers attacked the Chancellery in Vienna in an attempt to depose the ruling Fatherland Front government under Engelbert Dollfuss in favor of replacing it with a pro-Nazi government under Anton Rintelen of the Christian Social Party. The Nazi putsch ultimately failed as the majority of the Austrian population and Federal forces remained loyal to the government. The Nazis did however succeed in killing Chancellor Dollfuss, though Kurt Schuschnigg succeeded him and the Austrofascist regime remained in power.

A German invasion of Austria in support of the putsch was averted due to the guarantee of independence and diplomatic support Austria received from Fascist Italy.

Karl Marx-Hof

Karl-Marx-Hof (English: Karl Marx Court) is one of the best-known Gemeindebauten (English: municipal tenement complexes) in Vienna, situated in Heiligenstadt, a neighbourhood of the 19th district of Vienna, Döbling.

At over a kilometre in length (1,100 metres (0.68 mi)) and spanning four Straßenbahn (tram) stops, Karl-Marx-Hof is the longest single residential building in the world.

Karl Seitz

Karl Josef Seitz (German pronunciation: [kaʁl zaɪ̯ts] (listen); 4 September 1869 – 3 February 1950) was an Austrian politician of the Social Democratic Workers' Party. He served as member of the Imperial Council, President of the National Council and Mayor of Vienna.

Koloman Wallisch

Koloman Wallisch (born 28 February 1889 in Lugosch, Austria-Hungary, today Lugoj, Romania; died 19 February 1934 in Leoben, Austria) was a socialist labor leader in Austria.

Wallisch was national secretary of the Austrian socialist party SPÖ and a delegate in the Austrian national assembly from 1930 to 1934.

After calling for a general strike in 1934, he took to arms and tried to take over Bruck an der Mur during the Austrian Civil War. After the Austrian national guard was approaching the city, he fled into the mountains with 320 followers to wage guerrilla warfare. However, he was captured by the authorities on February 18, 1934 and after a brief interrogation and trial, he was executed by Josef Lang using an Austrian version of the Garrote (Würgegalgen) in the courtyard of Leoben.

After World War II, three Austrian cities - Leoben, Bruck an der Mur and Kapfenberg named city squares in his honor and Bertolt Brecht wrote a poem about his struggles.In 1983, a movie was made documenting his life and times.

List of museums in Austria

This is a list of museums in Austria.

National Fascist Party (Argentina)

The National Fascist Party of Argentina (Partido Nacional Fascista) was a fascist political party formed in 1923. In 1932, a group broke away from the party to form the Argentine Fascist Party, which eventually became a mass movement in the Córdoba region of Argentina.

Olga Hahn-Neurath

Olga Hahn-Neurath (German: [haːn ˈnɔʏʀaːt]; Hebrew: אולגה האן-נוירת‎; July 20, 1882 – July 20, 1937) was an Austrian mathematician and philosopher. She is best known for being a member of the Vienna Circle. She was sister of the mathematician Hans Hahn.

Born in Vienna, Hahn enrolled as a student for math and philosophy studies at the University of Vienna in 1902. She became blind in 1904, when she was 22. In 1911, she became the third ever female graduate in philosophy at Vienna University. Her doctoral thesis, published at 1911, received great compliments from her instructor, Adolf Stöhr, the successor to the chair of Ludwig Boltzmann. Her main interest in math was in the field of Boolean algebra.

In 1912 she married Otto Neurath whom she met during her studies. Olga became a regular participant in the Vienna Circle discussions. Following the defeat of Red Vienna in the Austrian Civil War (February 1934), she fled, through Poland and Denmark to the Netherlands, where she joined her husband. She died on her birthday three years later in The Hague, following an operation.

Ostmärkische Sturmscharen

The Ostmärkische Sturmscharen (German pronunciation: [ˈʔɔstmɛʁkɪʃə ˈʃtʊʁmʃaːʁən], Eastern March Stormtroopers) was a right-wing paramilitary group in Austria, founded on 7 December 1930. Recruited from the Katholische Jugend (Catholic Youth), later from journeymen and teacher organisations, it formed an opposition to both to the nationalist Heimwehr forces and the Social Democratic Republikanischer Schutzbund. The Christian Social politician Kurt Schuschnigg was its "Reichsführer".

Founded in Innsbruck, Tyrol, the Ostmärkische Sturmscharen spread over the entire Austrian territory when the association's headquarters were relocated to Vienna in 1933. The organisation then comprised about 15,000 members according to their own figures, though it never became very popular. Nevertheless, in Lower Austria they incorporated the local Heimwehr and received massive support from the Austrian Bauernbund (Farmers' League) organisation. The Bauernbund chairman Leopold Figl, post-war Chancellor of Austria, acted as Lower Austrian "Landesführer".

On the eve of the Austrian Civil War, the Märkische Sturmscharen increasingly adopted a Catholic clerical fascist and antisemite stance. Martial sports and military training became fundamental, and the association began to deploy paramilitary task force formations. Engelbert Dollfuss, Austrian chancellor since 1932, attempted to strengthen them as a counterweight to the radical Heimwehr forces. Sturmscharen troopers also participated in the violent suppression of the Schutzbund revolt in February 1934.

After the Austrofascist Federal State of Austria was established in 1934, Schuschnigg became chancellor upon Dollfuss' assassination during the Nazi July Putsch and the Austrian right-wing paramilitary forces were gradually absorbed by the Fatherland Front (Vaterländische Front, VF) unity party. On 11 April 1936, the Ostmärkische Sturmscharen declared themselves a cultural organisation, hence the final merger of all defence forces into the VF by decree of Chancellor Schuschnigg in October was for them merely a formality. After the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany in 1938, some former members of the Sturmscharen engaged in resistance to Nazism.

Otto Bauer

Otto Bauer (5 September 1881 – 4 July 1938) was an Austrian Social Democrat who is considered one of the leading thinkers of the left-socialist Austro-Marxist grouping. He was also an early inspiration for both the New Left movement and Eurocommunism in their attempt to find a "Third way" to democratic socialism.

Pál Szende

Pál Szende (born as Pál Schwarz, 7 February 1879 – 15 July 1934) was a Hungarian politician, who served as Minister of Finance between 1918 and 1919. From 1904 he worked as a lawyer. He participated in the radical political movement along with Oszkár Jászi. After the establishment of the Hungarian Soviet Republic he lived in Vienna. Szende took part in the Austrian Civil War after that he escaped to Czechoslovakia then Romania, where he died. Pál Szende is buried in the city of Seini, Romania.

Republikanischer Schutzbund

The Republikanischer Schutzbund (German: [ʁepubliˈkaːnɪʃɐ ˈʃʊtsˌbʊnt] (listen), Republican Protection League) was an Austrian paramilitary organization established in 1923 by the Social Democratic Party (SDAPÖ) to secure power in the face of rising political radicalization after World War I.

It had a Czech section associated with the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Workers Party in the Republic of Austria.


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