The Heimwehr (German: [ˈhaɪmˌveːɐ̯], Home Guard) or sometimes Heimatschutz (German: [ˈhaɪmatˌʃʊts], Homeland Protection)[1] 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.

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-00842A, Wiener Neustadt, Aufmarsch der Heimwehren
Heimwehr march in Wiener Neustadt, 1931

Origins and reorganization

Engelbert Dollfuss
Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuß wearing the Heimwehr uniform (1933)

Formed mainly from demobilised soldiers after World War I, the Heimwehr were initially formed as loosely organized militias to defend the borders of Austria. As with Germany's Freikorps, there was no formal national leadership or political program at the beginning, but rather local groupings which responded actively to whatever they considered to be ideologically unpalatable. In Carinthia, for example, they formed to protect their region from Slovene and Yugoslav troops.[2] Ignaz Seipel, Christian Social Austrian Chancellor at the time, reorganized the Heimwehr as an "answer to the Socialist Schutzbund"[3] in an attempt to curb socialist power. The increasing politicalization of militias led to the Heimwehr involvement in helping the police suppress the July Revolt of 1927.

The most distinctive part of the Heimwehren uniforms was a green loden hat with the tail feather of a black grouse (which had earlier been the Symbol of the Tyrolean Kaiserschützen). Therefore, Heimwehr fighters were ridiculed by their opponents as "rooster tails" (Hahnenschwanzler).[4]


Bundesarchiv Bild 102-10358, Führer der österreichischen Heimwehren
Heimwehr leader Richard Steidle (centre), Baron Hans von Pranckh (right) and Baron von Bachofen-Echt (left), September 1930

The Heimwehr continued to lack any real national coherence up to 1930, when Heimwehr leaders committed themselves to the Korneuburg Oath, which established an Austrian conservative nationalism base (as distinct from the pan-German nationalism of the Nazi Party), a rejection of liberal democracy and Marxism, in favour of a more autocratic government, and a rejection of "class struggle" (see Austrofascism).[5] This initiative was spearheaded by Richard Steidle, who was supported by German emigre Waldemar Pabst in his attempts to convince the Heimwehr to support the corporatist-state economic policy which Benito Mussolini was putting into practice in Italy.[6]

When Walter Pfrimer, regional head in Styria attempted a coup in 1931, he received no support from other Heimwehr leaders. After this, many Heimwehr groupings, including the Styrian section, increasingly defected to the Nazi Party.[7]

Tensions continued between Austrian section of the Nazi Party, who believed in a pan-Germanic state, which would bring Austria into a Greater German Empire and the Heimwehr, who believed that Austria should remain an independent nation. This led to low level violence, including one incident where Nazi Party members attacked a Heimwehr march with eggs.[8]


After Engelbert Dollfuss created the Fatherland Front in 1934, he gained control over and incorporated the Heimwehr into other right-wing militaries with the help of Heimwehr leader Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg. Politically, the Heimwehr suffered a decline in support and significance due to the pan-German, nationalist allure of the Nazis and Italy's gradual reorientation of its foreign policy towards Germany. As a result of these factors, Dollfuss' successor, Kurt Schuschnigg, absorbed the remaining Heimwehr elements into the Fatherland Front in 1936, and it ceased to exist as a political grouping. Ernst Starhemberg was left out of the new governmental order in an attempt to end rivalries between private armies.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Jelavich, Barbara (December 1989). Modern Austria : Empire & Republic 1815-1986. Cambridge University Press. p. 182. ISBN 0-521-31625-1.
  2. ^ Brook-Shepherd, Gordon (December 1996). The Austrians : a thousand-year odyssey. HarperCollins. p. 235. ISBN 0-00-638255-X.
  3. ^ Brook-Shepherd, Gordon (December 1996). The Austrians : a thousand-year odyssey. HarperCollins. p. 261. ISBN 0-00-638255-X.
  4. ^ Diem, Peter (1995). Die Symbole Österreichs: Zeit und Geschichte in Zeichen. Kremayr & Scheriau. p. 141.
  5. ^ Brook-Shepherd, Gordon (December 1996). The Austrians : a thousand-year odyssey. HarperCollins. p. 265. ISBN 0-00-638255-X.
  6. ^ R.J.B. Bosworth, The Oxford Handbook of Fascism, Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 439
  7. ^ Aicher, Martina (2012). "Heimwehren (Österreich)". Organisationen, Institutionen, Bewegungen. Handbuch des Antisemitismus. 5. de Gruyter. p. 310.
  8. ^ Milwaukee Sentinel, May 15, 1933 https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=OE5QAAAAIBAJ&sjid=OA0EAAAAIBAJ&dq=waukesha%20county&pg=3070%2C2306546
  9. ^ "Mother's Helper". Time Magazine. 15 May 1936. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
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.


Austrofascism (German: Austrofaschismus) was the authoritarian system installed in Austria with the May Constitution of 1934, which ceased with the annexation of the newly founded Federal State of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938. It was based on a ruling party, the Fatherland Front (Vaterländische Front) and the Heimwehr (Home Guard) paramilitary militia. Leaders were Engelbert Dollfuss and, after Dollfuss's assassination, Kurt Schuschnigg, who were previously politicians of the Christian Social Party, which was quickly integrated into the new movement.

Austrofascism, which was Catholic and corporatist and espoused Austrian nationalism, must be contrasted with Austrian National Socialism, which was pan-German and anti-semitic in outlook.

Defence of the Polish Post Office in Danzig

The Defence of the Polish Post Office in Danzig (Gdańsk) was one of the first acts of World War II in Europe, as part of the Invasion of Poland.On September 1, 1939, Polish personnel defended the building for some 15 hours against assaults by the SS Heimwehr Danzig (SS Danzig Home Defense), local SA formations and special units of Danzig police. All but four of the defenders, who were able to escape from the building during the surrender, were sentenced to death by a German court martial as illegal combatants on October 5, 1939 and executed.

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.

Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg

Prince Ernst Rüdiger Camillo von Starhemberg, also known as Ernst Rüdiger Camillo Starhemberg, (Eferding, 10 May 1899 – Schruns, 15 March 1956) was an Austrian nationalist and conservative politician prior to World War II, a leader of the Heimwehr and later of the Fatherland Front. He was the 1,163rd Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece, Austrian Order.

Starhemberg served in the Bundesrat between 1920 and 1930, as Minister of Interior in 1930, Vice-Chancellor in 1934 and subsequently Acting Chancellor and Leader of the Front after the murder of Engelbert Dollfuss, relinquishing the former position after a few days. Disenchanted by the moderate ways of Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg, he was ousted from power in 1936, when the Heimwehr was dissolved, and fled the country after the Anschluss to avoid retaliation from vengeful Nazis.

Ernst Streeruwitz

Ernst Streeruwitz (born Ernst Streer Ritter von Streeruwitz on September 23, 1874 in Mies; died October 19, 1952 in Vienna) was an Austrian military officer, businessman, political scientist, and politician. A member of the industrialist wing of the Christian Social Party, Streeruwitz served on the National Council from November 1923 to October 1930 and as the country's chancellor and minister of foreign affairs from May to September 1929.

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.

Georg Escherich

Georg Escherich (born 4 January 1870 in Schwandorf - died 26 August 1941 in Munich) was a German politician, representative of the Bavarian People's Party. By profession he was a forester.In 1919 he became head of the Bavarian Einwohnerwehren, anti-communist home guard groups set up by General Ludwig Maercker. The following year Escherich organised his supporters into the 'Orgesch' (from 'Organisation Escherich), an anti-Semitic paramilitary group. This new group quickly established links with the Heimwehr in Austria and gave weapons to the units commanded by Richard Steidle and Walter Pfrimer. Escherich was a close ally of Rudolf Kanzler, the leader of 'Orka', who was also close to the Heimwehr.The Orgesch was disarmed and disbanded on the orders of the Allies in 1921 as part of wider moves against the private armies that had sprouted up in Germany since the armistice. He returned in 1928 by founding a Bavarian Heimatschutz, a name also used by the Styrian Heimwehr of his ally Pfrimer, although this group was less significant due to the growth on the right of militia such as the Sturmabteilung and the Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten, and was disbanded in 1933 when Adolf Hitler took power.

Hans Friedemann Götze

Hans Friedemann Goetze (November 3, 1897 – May 27, 1940) was a Nazi Standartenführer (Colonel) of the German Waffen-SS and commander of SS Heimwehr Danzig (Danzig Home Defence). He was a son of SS-Brigadeführer Friedemann Goetze. He was shot and killed by a British sniper while leading Infanterie Regiment 3 of the 3rd SS Division Totenkopf near Le Paradis.

On 8 September 1939 members of the SS Heimwehr Danzig killed 33 Polish civilians in the village of Ksiazki.

Home guard

Home guard is a title given to various military organizations at various times, with the implication of an emergency or reserve force raised for local defense.

The term "home guard" was first officially used in the American Civil War, starting with units formed by German immigrants in Missouri, and may derive from possible historic use of the term Heimwehr ("home guard") to describe units officially known as Landwehr ("country guard"), or from an attempted translation of landwehr.

Johannes Schober

Johannes "Johann" Schober (born November 14, 1874 in Perg; died August 19, 1932 in Baden bei Wien) was an Austrian jurist, law enforcement official, and politician. Schober was appointed Vienna Chief of Police in 1918 and became the founding president of Interpol in 1923, holding both positions until his death. He served as the chancellor of Austria from June 1921 to May 1922 and again from September 1929 to September 1930. He also served ten stints as an acting minister, variously leading the ministries of education, finance, commerce, foreign affairs, justice, and the interior, sometimes just for a few days or weeks at a time. Although Schober was elected to the National Council as the leader of a loose coalition of Greater German People's Party and Landbund near the end of his career, he never formally joined any political party. Schober remains the only chancellor in Austrian history with no official ideological affiliation.

Károly Csáky

Count Károly Csáky de Körösszeg et Adorján (10 April 1873 – 30 April 1945) was a Hungarian military officer and politician, who served as Minister of Defence between 1923 and 1929. During World War I he fought on the Eastern Front, where he seriously injured. After the establishment of the Hungarian Soviet Republic he demobilized. In 1923 István Bethlen appointed him as Minister of Defence. As a minister he favoured the Allies examining the cessation of its commission's function, and he covered the gun-running being directed into the country. He also supported the Austrian Heimwehr in the interest of a right wing extremist military coup. In 1929 he resigned from his position. His father was Albin Csáky, a former Minister of Education.

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.

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.

Richard Steidle

Richard Steidle (20 September 1881 in Merano, South Tyrol – 30 August 1940 in Buchenwald concentration camp) was an Austrian lawyer and the leader of the paramilitary Heimwehr in Tyrol. He was a leading representative of the pro-independence tendency on the far right of Austrian politics and as such was opposed to the Nazi Party which supported the incorporation of Austria into a Großdeutschland.

SS Heimwehr Danzig

SS Heimwehr "Danzig" was an SS unit established in the Free City of Danzig (today Gdańsk and environs, Poland) before the Second World War. It fought with the German Army against the Polish Army during the invasion of Poland, and some of its members committed a massacre of Polish civilians. After this it became part of the 3rd SS Totenkopf Division and ceased to exist as an independent unit.

Also known as Heimwehr Danzig (Danzig Home Defense), it was officially established on 20 June 1939, when the Danzig senate under Albert Forster decided to set up its own armed force; a cadre of this new unit primarily formed the Danzig SS Wachsturmbann "Eimann".

Streeruwitz government

In Austrian politics, the Streeruwitz government (German: Regierung Streeruwitz) was a short-lived right-of-center coalition government led by Ernst Streeruwitz, in office from May 4, 1929 to September 26, 1929. The coalition consisted of the Christian Social Party, the Greater German People's Party, and the Landbund. Although its majority in the National Council was narrow, it was a broad alliance sociologically; the coalition represented much of the middle class as well as most of the agricultural sector, along with banking and industrial interests. Its main opponents were the Social Democratic Party to the left and the extra-parliamentary Heimwehr movement to the right.

Assembled with some difficulty after the abrupt resignation of the fifth Seipel government, one of the main goals of the Streeruwitz cabinet was to mitigate Austria's enduring economic crisis. Another main goal was to reach a compromise with the Heimwehr, who were aiming to transform Austria from a parliamentary democracy to an authoritarian presidential state along the lines of Mussolini's Italy and Horthy's Hungary.

Waldemar Pabst

Ernst Julius Waldemar Pabst (24 December 1880 in Berlin – 29 May 1970 in Düsseldorf) was a German soldier and political activist, involved in far right and anti-communist activity in both his homeland and Austria. As a serving officer Pabst gained notoriety for ordering the executions of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in 1919 as well as for his leading role in the coterie of ultra-nationalist conspirators around Wolfgang Kapp. In Austria he played a central part in organising rightist militia groups before being deported due to his activities. Pabst subsequently faded from public life in Nazi Germany as he was never more than loosely associated with the Nazis.

Walter Pfrimer

Walter Pfrimer (born 22 December 1881 in Marburg an der Drau – died 31 May 1968 in Judenburg) was an Austrian politician and leader of the Heimwehr in Styria. He was the leader of a failed putsch in 1931.

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