Klahr    Alfred Klahr Gesellschaft

Verein zur Erforschung der Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung

Drechslergasse 42, A–1140 Wien

Tel.: (+43–1) 982 10 86, E-Mail: klahr.gesellschaft@aon.at




Willi Weinert: »Mich könnt ihr löschen, aber nicht das Feuer«

Ein Führer durch den Ehrenhain der Gruppe 40 am Wiener Zentralfriedhof für die hingerichteten WiderstandskämpferInnen


Facing the Group 40 at Vienna´s Central Cemetary – part of the Honour Grove where executed Austrian victims of ideological and political persecution during the period between 1938 and 1945 have been interred1 – the viewer is confronted with many small memorial stones, arranged irregularly in eight double rows. Most of them are made of cast stone, installed at the end of the fifties when the Group 40 was refurbished, and holding one to three names engraved at the polished front. They replaced the temporary wooden crosses erected just after 1945 by family members and friends. There are also some stone slabs mounted on a metal stand, some of them having weathered the time, such as the one for the couple Maria and Rudolf Fischer. In some cases family members and friends erected individual grave stones, such as the ones for Rudolf and Oskar Klekner, Georg Strecha and Hans Zeidler. On others only the family name has been preserved (with not always the correct spelling). Sometimes the dates of birth and death are missing or merely nicknames make identification extremely difficult. In one case it was nevertheless possible. Some are but marked „Unknown Victim“ and others briefly recount the story of life and death of the victims, persecuted and eventually decapitated by a ruthless regime which denied even the fundamental humanitarian rights. Here are some of the texts: Died for Austria´s freedom – Your life was a continued struggle, Your death our commitment (Johann Dragosits); You died so that Austria could be resurrected (Hedy Urach); You suffered so that we could live (Friedrich Muzyka, 1945); You were everything for us – husband, father, brother and comrade (Franz Bernert); He died for Austria – may the people appreciate his sacrifice (Fritz Hedrich); What is preserved herein was the whole world for me (Otto Rosenberger); He died for Austria (Otto Kubak); For us you gave your life – we shall never forget you (Franz Neubauer); He died for Austria´s freedom (Ferdinand Kosztelny); If the seed is embedded in the soil, it dies but it bears many a precious fruit (H.G.Heintschl-Heinegg) On a broken piece of stone, originally a commemorative plaque for Alfred Fenz found amid the scrubs proliferating in Group 40 and detected in the course of our investigations, this message was identified: You fought and You died for Austria´s freedom – we shall never forget You. There is still space where a medallion must have been – bearing his photograph . However, on the cast slab later erected there is no trace of it and the text was reduced to Died for Austria´s freedom.
In Group 40 there are almost 400 gravestones – in memory of about 500 persons. In this paper more than 570 names are mentioned that were associated with Group 40 because in the biographies names of persons were also included which appear in the list of persons in Group 40 with allocated numbers though no stones or plaques were found. There are also stones for persons who (according to the Administration of the Cemetary) were exhumed and at the request of their relatives transferred to other cemetaries. It has turned out that in some cases the location of the gravestones does not correspond to the numbers allocated by the Registry. Often up to four persons were allocated to one grave, buried in a pit-like structure, indicating Roman numerals I – IV in the records. We also have to bear in mind that most of the dead were sent to the Anatomical Institute for purposes of autopsy (mostly the head was used) and only parts of the remains of different persons were interred together (as confirmed by contemporary witnesses); this implies that the memorial site has more of a symbolic character than other sites where the name corresponds to the person interred therein. (cf. Chapter Zum Umgang mit den Leichen der Hingerichteten , p. 27)
In contrast to all those buried in Graves of Honour at Vienna´s Central Cemetary who are listed painstakingly in a catalogue, only older people, friends or comrades or those especially interested in this part of history know exactly whose grave may be found where in Group 40. For all others the chances are slim for obtaining more precise information as to details concerning this Grove of Honour. Since up to now there has been practically no information available to identify the names chiselled into stone (except to specialists), the idea took shape that perhaps a kind of catalogue or small booklet might make it easier to find one´s way through the Grove of Honour in Group 40.
This booklet therefore is addressed to generations who were born and raised after the Fascist era. The short biographies were thus complemented by quotations from indictments and sentences, by facsimiles of contemporary documents, by excerpts from last letters and messages secretly smuggled out of prisons, by poems about and from these victims of Nazi terror – resistance fighters in the broadest sense of the term; readers are supposed to get an impression of this very special chapter of Austrian history and should be reminded that the fight and the death of these men and women paved the way toward a free and independent Austria.
The scope of all those buried there ranges from Hans-Georg von Heintschel-Heinegg, student at a Catholic Theological Seminary who was to become a priest, to the revolutionary socialist Eduard Göth and to Hedwig Urach, member of the Central Committee of the Austrian Communist Party.
This „catalogue“ should ensure that these brave people must not be forgotten. Though their approaches differed, they all had one common aim: to actively fight the Nazi regime. And since in those days no legal resistance was possible, they had to act in secrecy, violating the laws of the Third Reich, laws that were brutal and inhuman. They were observed, arrested, indicted and murdered. Execution was the technical term to describe the ultimate punishment, a successful attempt to turn injustice into a twist so as to give it a legal justification. Humanitarian help and solidarity (e.g. in connection with activities of the Rote Hilfe) were considered high treason against the regime. This gave the Nazi courts of justice the possibility to pass a death sentence even where it concerned very young people (some of them were not even 19 years when they were sentenced to death and decapitated, such as J. Machac or L. Sicka). On the other hand the regime also executed F. Heger who was 75 years old.
Friedrich Heer, the famous Austrian historian, writer and humanist who was closely associated with Alfred Rabofsky during the Resistance, spoke at a memorial ceremony on September 18, 1954 at the Federal Courthouse in Vienna where Rabofsky had been executed. The key issues in Heer‘s speech were the many memorial services held at that time where official Austria tried to convert the horrible and senseless deaths suffered by masses of young soldiers on the battlefield into acts of heroism. We want to learn from their death, said Heer. We want to learn that turning these dead of World War II into heroes will in no way enable us to cope with the future. What we need, he exclaimed, is a new birth, a new world, a new Europe, a young Austria. This new Austria cannot be built up on the senselessly sacrificed masses of war dead. The gate to the future is embodied in those who died a lonely death – victims of a terrorist regime. And Alfred Rabofsky was one of them. From this young typesetter we can learn what our foremost needs are today: Strength and hope without illusions, power to resist an apparently omnipotent machinery and the knowledge that there will always be people for whom their conscience is more important than fear and anxiety.2
And this attitude is still valid – even after half a century. If the biographies of all those mentioned were complemented by all the existing information about their lives and their struggle against Fascism and the Nazis, it would turn out to be a large tome – a useful one – even though it would in no sense be an equivalent for what these people were willing to give ... their lives.
This small handbook of course cannot do justice to all this. It is merely based on material already in print, it adds some excerpts from documents, tries to complement and correct in some instances. There are no detailed references as to sources and quotations. They were all taken from the literature indicated in the annex or from documents supplied by archives as listed.3
At the end of October 1943 the Foreign Ministers of the Allies met in Moscow and consented to a brief Declaration about Austria. Herein it said: „Austria is reminded, however, that she has a responsibility, which she cannot evade, for participation in the war at the side of Hitlerite Germany, and that in the final settlement account will inevitably be taken of her own contribution to her liberation.“
Many of the persons reported about in this booklet had taken up their struggle in all its manifold aspects against Hitler Germany and for a free Austria long before this Declaration; and while they did not represent the masses, they were the heralds of a better Austria, standing upright in their fight against the grave diggers of the Republic of Austria, against the highly decorated Air Force fighter pilots, the Austrian SS officers, the thugs operating in the concentration camps, the judges pronouncing death warrants, etc.
This brochure should contribute toward retaining the memories of those opposed to a seemingly invincible dictatorship and who were on the right track as a minority determined to fight. Their lives and their deaths should enlighten future generations, encourage them to uphold the noble principles of our heroes and themselves live a life worthy of human dignity.

1/ In Group 40 there are also the graves of Czech victims that had been arrested during a resistance operation and subsequently executed at the Federal Courthouse in Vienna. There are also memorial plaques for Franz Schuster and Rudolf Klekner the elder who were murdered in the Buchenwald concentration camp, for Arthur Schnierer who survived the Oswiecim and Buchenwald concentration camps but died soon after his liberation as a result of the inhuman treatment he suffered as an inmate. The stone of Franz Strohmer also reminds us of his brother Hans with his wife Ida who were transferred from a forced labour camp at Oberlanzendorf to the Mauthausen concentration camp. Hans was shot by the SS during the transfer, his wife reached Mauthausen but was murdered there. Another memorial is dedicated to Karl Trtilek who was also murdered at Mauthausen. The Grove was also the burial place for soldiers who were tried at a military court and then sentenced to death and executed either at the Federal Courthouse in Vienna (on June 16, 1944 three deserters from the German Army were not decapitated but hung on special order) or at the rifle range Kagran such as Hermann Plackholm and Johann Zak. Between 1940 and 1945 at least 129 persons met their execution at this rifle range. In Group 40 there is also a memorial stone für Josef Horsky who died of tyohoid fever at the Federal Court House I. Since no number of the grave is known, he was probably not buried in the Group. Marie Reder also died at the Prison Hospital. A. Brunner (Nr. 223) was not executed (cf. p. 39, Footnote 1 as well as his personal history p. 49f).
It is rumored that in Group 40 also victims from the bombings were interred. Possibly these are persons with no other records than what could be deciphered from the commemorative stones.
Those who met their death sentence at the Federal Courthouse in Vienna were also interred in other burial sites of the Vienna Central Cemetary, such as a large group of railway men who were executed on June 30, 1941. They were buried in Group 37 together with another group put to death on September 30, 1942. After 1945 some were transferred to Group 40, others such as Michael Esmann, Andreas Waste, Ludwig Höfnik (recte Höffernig), Josef Kuchler, Karl Zimmermann, Max Zitter and Peter Schlömmer were exhumed on April 24, 1947, cremated and their urns transferred to Villach.
From the records at the Administration of the Cemetary we may infer that Group 40 has been used as a burial site since 1890 (lowest layer). The second layer has been occupied since 1891, the third one between 1909-10 and 1942-47. The fourth layer was used between 1942 and 1947. May 10, 1947 was the final date of occupancy. Afterwards until the fifties there were only transfers, such as from those bodies originally coming from the Anatomical Institute who were interred in Group 40.
2/ From »Der Neue Mahnruf«, 10/1954, Das Zeugnis eines jungen Menschen.
3/ It was not the author´s intention to present a complete history of Group 40 in this little booklet, in other words also publish a list of occupancies by executed persons and by all those interred there including those exhumed in 1945 and transferred to other burial sites. Whether a few of the memorial stones in Group 40 actually refer to victims of the bombs or perhaps to somebody who was executed as a „criminal“ by the Nazi judicial system is irrelevant because of its little significance . Many of those sentenced by military courts and shot at the Kagran rifle range were also buried in Group 40. Most of them were deserters, among them also persons from other countries who met their fate in Vienna. After more than 60 years efforts are being made to rehabilitate those who were sentenced as traitors to their country (even after 1945 no sentence was revoked posthumously). Such rehabilitation has already been implemented in Germany. (W. Manoschek, Opfer der NS-Militärjustiz, Vienna 2003)


Zurück Home Nach oben