Part 9: Vienna in the Second World War (1939 to 1945)
The national socialists’ extermination policy turned Vienna into a “Gau” (state district) of the “Great German State” and spared virtually no one. In Vienna political resistance to Hitler came from civilian groups who made themselves known by distributing pamphlets and by carrying out acts of sabotage in armament companies and in transport enterprises. The Gestapo did not only persecute organised resistance but also “mini-resisters”. As from 1942 people who listened to foreign broadcasts could face a death sentence; for the formulation and telling of subversive jokes the punishment was 1-2 years in prison. Between 1938 and 1945 14,500 cases were handled by the Vienna Provincial Court concerning the spreading of rumours.
Resistance against Hitler
In 1944 the walls of Viennese houses began to be adorned with the cipher “05” standing for Oesterreich (Austria). Fritz and Otto Molden, Hans Becker and the journalist Raoul Bumballa organised a free supra-party group for the restoration of a free Austria and established contacts abroad with the Allies. This was unfortunately only a minority group operating on the fringes. Because the anti-semitism prevalent in Vienna since the turn of the century had become perniciously entwined with the Nazi policy of exterminating the Jewish people.
In November 1938 the synagogues of Vienna, that is to say the religious and social pivotal points of the Jewish citizenry, fell victim to the destructive rage of a November pogrom, cynically referred to as the “Crystal Night”. Denunciation and deportation, about which for a long time no one claimed to know anything, were everyday occurrences. These barbaric years ruined Vienna. The upshot of the war in Vienna: 52 air raids claimed 8,769 deaths; ten days of street fighting a further 2,266. Almost 47,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, 86,875 Vienna apartments made uninhabitable. 850,000 m3 of debris were piled in the streets.