Part 8: Red Vienna and the Black Province (1918 to 1938)
With the disintegration of the monarchy the status of Vienna was altered. It ceased to be the Residence of a 12-nationality empire with 50 million inhabitants and became the capital of the small Republic of Austria. A constitutional law of 29 December 1921 made Vienna a federal province in its own right. In the municipal council the social-democratic party held an absolute majority and nominated the Bürgermeister. First Jacob Neumann, later Karl Seitz.
The Vienna school of communal policy
The key points of what later became the well-known “Vienna School of Communal Policy” were all related to social-, educational- and health-matters as well as housing policy. Modern municipal housing blocks brought a new look to the city. Baths, out-patient clinics, a sports stadium, the crematorium and new green spaces were created. In the field of social-welfare the main emphasis was placed on child-care and youth-care, with the building of new kindergartens, after-school supervision centres, nursing homes and maternity advice centres. Children’s playgrounds, paediatric hospitals and children’s refuges were all built too.
In the schools an additional medical service was installed and meals were provided for the children, with school-milk given free of charge. The person mainly responsible for these social- and health-initiatives was the city councillor for welfare matters, Julius Tandler. In the Vienna educational system Otto Glöckel introduced pedagogical reforms. Apart from the gratis distribution of educational materials and gratis school attendance he set up the “work school” in place of the old “learn and drill school”.
The Palace of Justice on fire
The tense domestic political situation between “Red Vienna” and the “Black Province” came to its first critical head on 15 July 1927 with the burning of the Palace of Justice. This had been provoked by a judicial error, but the differences arising between the social-democratic “Schutzbund” and the Christian-Social “Heimwehr” militias could not be bridged over. The spiralling crisis intensified. The catastrophic results were the dissolution of parliament in 1933 and the 1934 civil war in Vienna. They had been preceded by repeated demands from Benito Mussolini to the Austrian federal chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss to counter Marxism as well as to dismiss the leadership of the Chamber of Labour and to arrest leading figures of the Schutzbund.
The corporate state
The suspension of the Social-Democratic Party and the proclamation of the corporate state put an end to the democratic constitution. Vienna ceased to be a federal province and was declared the “direct federal capital”. During the “corporate state” era possibilities for creating employment were seen in the realisation of major projects, especially road-building e.g. the Höhenstraße.
Politically, on the other hand, things weren't as constructive. During a first national-socialist putsch on 25 July 1934 chancellor Dollfuss was murdered, on 12 March 1938 German troops marched into the country and completed the “Anschluss” (annexation) by Nazi Germany which the Nazis sealed with a plebiscite on 10 April (in which 99.5% of the Viennese voted “Yes”). Already on 1 April a whole batch of senior officials, ministers, the Bürgermeister, members of the Heimatdienst and of the Vaterländischer Front, Jewish merchants and intellectuals had been sent to the Dachau (see photo) concentration camp.