Austria Introduction 1938

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Kitty Werthmann

Truly America is the Greatest Country in the World. Don't Let Freedom Slip Away, 
By: Kitty Werthmann

What I am about to tell you is something you've probably never heard or will ever read in history books. I believe that I am an eyewitness to history.

I cannot tell you that Hitler took Austria by tanks and guns; it would distort history.  We elected him by a landslide - 98% of the vote. I've never read that in any American publications.  Everyone thinks that Hitler just rolled in with his tanks and took Austria by force.

In 1938, Austria was in deep Depression.  Nearly one-third of our workforce was unemployed.  We had 25% inflation and 25% bank loan interest rates.

Farmers and business people were declaring bankruptcy daily.  Young people were going from house to house begging for food.  Not that they didn't want to work; there simply weren't any jobs.  My mother was a Christian woman and believed in helping people in need.  Every day we cooked a big kettle of soup and baked bread to feed those poor, hungry people - about 30 daily.

The Communist Party and the National Socialist Party were fighting each other.  Blocks and blocks of cities like Vienna , Linz, and Graz were destroyed.  The people became desperate and petitioned the government to let them decide what kind of government they wanted.

We looked to our neighbor on the north, Germany , where Hitler had been in power since 1933.  We had been told that they didn't have unemployment or crime, and they had a high standard of living.  Nothing was ever said about persecution of any group -- Jewish or otherwise.  We were led to believe that everyone was happy. We wanted the same way of life in Austria. We were promised that a vote for Hitler would mean the end of unemployment and help for the family.  Hitler also said that businesses would be assisted, and farmers would get their farms back.  Ninety-eight percent of the population voted to annex Austria to Germany and have Hitler for our ruler.

We were overjoyed, and for three days we danced in the streets and had candlelight parades.  The new government opened up big field kitchens and everyone was fed.

After the election, German officials were appointed, and like a miracle, we suddenly had law and order.  Three or four weeks later, everyone was employed.  The government made sure that a lot of work was created through the Public Work Service.

Hitler decided we should have equal rights for women.  Before this, it was a custom that married Austrian women did not work outside the home.  An able-bodied husband would be looked down on if he couldn't support his family.  Many women in the teaching profession were elated that they could retain the jobs they previously had been required to give up for marriage.

Hitler Targets Education - Eliminates Religious Instruction for Children:
Our education was nationalized.  I attended a very good public school.  The population was predominantly Catholic, so we had religion in our schools. The day we elected Hitler (March 13, 1938), I walked into my schoolroom to find the crucifix replaced by Hitler's picture hanging next to a Nazi flag. Our teacher, a very devout woman, stood up and told the class we wouldn't pray or have religion anymore.  Instead, we sang "Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles," and had physical education.

Sunday became National Youth Day with compulsory attendance.  Parents were not pleased about the sudden change in curriculum.  They were told that if they did not send us, they would receive a stiff letter of warning the first time.  The second time they would be fined the equivalent of $300, and the third time they would be subject to jail.  The first two hours consisted of political indoctrination.  The rest of the day we had sports.  As time went along, we loved it.  Oh, we had so much fun and got our sports equipment free.  We would go home and gleefully tell our parents about the wonderful time we had.

My mother was very unhappy.  When the next term started, she took me out of public school and put me in a convent.  I told her she couldn't do that and she told me that someday when I grew up, I would be grateful.  There was a very good curriculum, but hardly any fun - no sports, and no political indoctrination.  I hated it at first but felt I could tolerate it.

Every once in a while, on holidays, I went home.  I would go back to my old friends and ask what was going on and what they were doing.  Their loose lifestyle was very alarming to me.  They lived without religion.  By that time unwed mothers were glorified for having a baby for Hitler.  It seemed strange to me that our society changed so suddenly.  As time went along, I realized what a great deed my mother did so that I wasn't exposed to that kind of humanistic philosophy.

Equal Rights Hits Home:
In 1939, the war started and a food bank was established.  All food was rationed and could only be purchased using food stamps.  At the same time, a full-employment law was passed which meant if you didn't work, you didn't get a ration card, and if you didn't have a card, you starved to death. Women who stayed home to raise their families didn't have any marketable skills and often had to take jobs more suited for men.

Soon after this, the draft was implemented.  It was compulsory for young people, male and female, to give one year to the labor corps.  During the day, the girls worked on the farms, and at night they returned to their barracks for military training just like the boys.  They were trained to be anti-aircraft gunners and participated in the signal corps.  After the labor corps, they were not discharged but were used in the front lines.  When I go back to Austria to visit my family and friends, most of these women are emotional cripples because they just were not equipped to handle the horrors of combat.  Three months before I turned 18, I was severely injured in an air raid attack.  I nearly had a leg amputated, so I was spared having to go into the labor corps and into military service.   

Hitler Restructured the Family Through Daycare: 
When the mothers had to go out into the work force, the government immediately established child care centers.  You could take your children ages 4 weeks to school age and leave them there around-the-clock, 7 days a week, under the total care of the government.  The state raised a whole generation of children. There were no motherly women to take care of the children, just people highly trained in child psychology.  By this time, no one talked about equal rights.  We knew we had been had.

Health Care and Small Business Suffer Under Government
Before Hitler, we had very good medical care.  Many American doctors trained at the University of Vienna .  After Hitler, health care was socialized, free for everyone.  Doctors were salaried by the government.  The problem was, since it was free, the people were going to the doctors for everything. When the good doctor arrived at his office at 8 a.m., 40 people were already waiting and, at the same time, the hospitals were full.  If you needed elective surgery, you had to wait a year or two for your turn.  There was no money for research as it was poured into socialized medicine.  Research at the medical schools literally stopped, so the best doctors left Austria and emigrated to other countries.

As for healthcare, our tax rates went up to 80% of our income.  Newlyweds immediately received a $1,000 loan from the government to establish a household. We had big programs for families.  All day care and education were free.  High schools were taken over by the government and college tuition was subsidized. Everyone was entitled to free handouts, such as food stamps, clothing, and housing.

We had another agency designed to monitor business.  My brother-in-law owned a restaurant that had square tables.  Government officials told him he had to replace them with round tables because people might bump themselves on the corners.  Then they said he had to have additional bathroom facilities. It was just a small dairy business with a snack bar.  He couldn't meet all the demands.  Soon, he went out of business.  If the government owned the large businesses and not many small ones existed, it could be in control.

We had consumer protection.  We were told how to shop and what to buy.  Free enterprise was essentially abolished.  We had a planning agency specially designed for farmers.  The agents would go to the farms, count the live-stock, then tell the farmers what to produce, and how to produce it.

"Mercy Killing" Redefined:
In 1944, I was a student teacher in a small village in the Alps .  The villagers were surrounded by mountain passes which, in the winter, were closed off with snow, causing people to be isolated.  So people intermarried and offspring were sometimes retarded.  When I arrived, I was told there were 15 mentally retarded adults, but they were all useful and did good manual work.  I knew one, named Vincent, very well.  He was a janitor of the school.  One day I looked out the window and saw Vincent and others getting into a van.  I asked my superior where they were going.  She said to an institution where the State Health Department would teach them a trade, and to read and write.  The families were required to sign papers with a little clause that they could not visit for 6 months.  They were told visits would interfere with the program and might cause homesickness.

As time passed, letters started to dribble back saying these people died a natural, merciful death.  The villagers were not fooled.  We suspected what was happening.  Those people left in excellent physical health and all died within 6 months.  We called this euthanasia.   

The Final Steps - Gun Laws:  
Next came gun registration.. People were getting injured by guns.  Hitler said that the real way to catch criminals (we still had a few) was by matching serial numbers on guns.  Most citizens were law abiding and dutifully marched to the police station to register their firearms.  Not long after-wards, the police said that it was best for everyone to turn in their guns.  The authorities already knew who had them, so it was futile not to comply voluntarily.

No more freedom of speech. Anyone who said something against the government was taken away.  We knew many people who were arrested, not only Jews, but also priests and ministers who spoke up.

Totalitarianism didn't come quickly, it took 5 years from 1938 until 1943, to realize full dictatorship in Austria. Had it happened overnight, my countrymen would have fought to the last breath.  Instead, we had creeping gradualism.  Now, our only weapons were broom handles.  The whole idea sounds almost unbelievable that the state, little by little eroded our freedom.

After World War II, Russian troops occupied Austria .  Women were raped, preteen to elderly.  The press never wrote about this either.  When the Soviets left in 1955, they took everything that they could, dismantling whole factories in the process.  They sawed down whole orchards of fruit, and what they couldn't destroy, they burned.  We called it The Burned Earth. Most of the population barricaded themselves in their houses.  Women hid in their cellars for 6 weeks as the troops mobilized.  Those who couldn't, paid the price.  There is a monument in Vienna today, dedicated to those women who were massacred by the Russians.  This is an eye witness account.

"It's true..those of us who sailed past the Statue of Liberty came to a country of unbelievable freedom and opportunity.   America Truly is the Greatest Country in the World. Don't Let Freedom Slip Away"After America , There is No Place to Go"

Austrian Research
120 camps in 1948, some are listed here: 42,075 residents in 1947
20,174 residents in 1949
19,122 residents in 1950
If your camp isn't here, e-mail me and I'll add it.

And open thank you to Klaus Forhinger and Herta M. for all the hard work they did helping me find the archives, city offices and updating these Austrian pages.

Click here to download to your desktop the 2011 Excel spreadsheet (in German) of camps and camp info: AustriaCampsV7.xls provided by Klaus.

Explanation of the used colour code:
- black: old entries till the current internet version V3
- red: new entries since version V3
- violet: other than DP camps (concentration, slave labour, Prisoners Of War)
- pink: still to verify
- grey: used after 1955 (end of the Austrian occupation)

Old version is in English: 2007 version Excel worksheet which Klaus Fohringer provided which shows camps, regions, zones and proxity. He did a lot of work for you. Take a look. It should download to your desktop. DPL Osterreich2.xls

Austrian archives -

2/10/2017 Fachliche Interessen
Zur detaillierten geschichtlichen Aufarbeitung der damaligen Lager wurde eine fachliche "IG" im heutigen Oberösterreich gegründet.
Diese IG nimmt alle Anfragen zu allen Lagern des Zeitraumes 1934 - 1964 entgegen, sammelt Unterlagen zu allen Typen von Lagern und erteilt Auskünfte zu Themen, die ursächlich mit den damaligen Lagern in Verbindung stehen. Einschlägige Anfragen, aber auch Ablieferung von Dokumenten, Fotos und Akten können gerichtet werden an folgende Mailadresse:

A Professional Interest Group (IG) was established for the story of the camps (baracks) in Upper Austria.
For a detailed historical reappraisal of the former camps, a professional Interest Group was founded in today's Upper Austria.

This IG takes all requests to all the camps of the period 1934 - 1960'ies contrary, gathers documentation on all types of bearings and provides information on topics that are causally related to the former camps in conjunction.

Relevant requests, but also the delivery of documents, photos and files of interest can be sent to the following email address:

The Kriegsarchiv website - Karen Hob submitted 11/16/08
The Kriegsarchiv website now has a number of PDFs that are the very ones I have used in my conference presentations with a number of added charts.

First click on Familienforschung, then click on Kriegsarchiv
One, as an example, is an index of all the names mentioned in von Wrede's history of the A-H army.
Most of the names will be officers but every here and there Wrede may have mentioned a common soldier.

See and download the PDF at:

The main page where it is possible to select titles is at:

The items on the lower half of the page include the charts from von Wrede's books showing which regiments were recruited in Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary, Galicia and Bukowina up to about 1868 and others.

Click on all of the links under Forschungstipps / research tips.

A very good copy of the 1898 recruiting map (stayed pretty much the same up to 1914) is at:

Galicia: Registration sheets of officers who joined the Polish army in 1918.
Submitted by Laurence Krupnak

Most of the registration sheets of draftees from Galicia (Southern Poland, Western Ukraine) have been destroyed (Centralne Archivwum Wojskowe, PL-00910 Warszawa-Rembertów)

Alan Newark 12/19/04 Already at this point, it is fair to argue that many more primary sources have been discovered in semi-archival deposits of banks and companies as well as museums. Although these sources are in many cases highly fragmentary, in total they constitute much more than what has previously been available for historical research.
Archives that had been closed or had limited access in East Central Europe and Russia were found to contain material from the Nazi period. Due to general disinterest in thorough historical documentation combined with underlying fears of facing the "truth" with respect to the Nazi period, most of the banks and companies involved in the recent legal disputes rarely established professionally structured archives that also contained material from outside sources (such as the fragmentary collections of the Creditanstalt-Bankverein, which in the 1980s ended academic research started by Eduard März in 1973 and never approached a professional archival solution beyond the level of board meeting minutes. In the mid-1970s they destroyed a large collection of documents.

The former Oesterreichische Laenderbank's documentation is even more fragmentary, whereas the former Zentralsparkasse in Vienna, now part of the Bank Austria group, still has a large deposit of archival documentation

Other companies like the Voest Alpine Stahl AG in Linz forgot about the existence of the largest collection of documents that were stored in the cellar of a "Luftschutz" tower and contained more than 30,000 personnel records of forced labor and German workers. In comparison, like in most of the Austrian and German companies, the personnel records of the Volkswagen AG have been completely destroyed.

Alan Newark / United Kingdom

Map source: USHMM

Austria, by Colonel Charles J. Farinacci, MC (Ret.):
"The rapid collapse of the German Army in Austria in May 1945 found the quadripartite powers somewhat unprepared for the complex public health problems which confronted them. In the first days of the occupation, the major task facing the U.S. Army was that of halting, under conditions of extreme filth, malnutrition, and starvation, the spread of serious communicabl e diseases by disease-infested victims of Nazi oppression among a civilian population that was both demoralized and confused.

Land Upper Austria and, to a lesser degree, Land Salzburg, in the spring and summer of 1945 were foci of such problems. In addition to the indigenous population....estimated at somewhat more than 1 million inhabitants, there were an estimated 700,000 displaced persons and refugees, including about 80,000 concentration camp inmates of five large camps, 200,000 displaced Austrian refugees, and 250,000 disarmed enemy forces (prisoners of war).

"The Four Power Declaration of 4 July 1945 stated that Austria had been restored to its 1937 (pre-Anschluss) frontiers; it was administratively divided into eight provinces and the city of Vienna. The same Allied agreement divided Austria into four occupation zones.

"The Soviet zone included (1) the province of Burgenland (which had a common frontier with Hungary), (2) the province of Lower Austria (Vienna, which lies within it, received quadripartite occupation), and (3) that part of the province of Upper Austria (M lviertel) which lies on the north bank of the Danube River and shares a common frontier with Czechoslovakia and a small part of West Germany.

"The U.S. zone consisted of (1) the province of Salzburg, and (2) that part of the province of Upper Austria lying on the south bank of the Danube River, both of which have common frontiers with West Germany.

"The French zone, bordering on Switzerland and Italy, consisted of the provinces of Tirol and Vorarlberg.." For more, see:

18.1.2023: Hello,
My name is Franziska Lamp and for my dissertation project at the University of Vienna, which is looking at migration policies in Austria after the Second World War (, I am conducting narrative, oral history interviews on the life stories of former Displaced Persons (DPs) and refugees who spent parts of their lives in Austrian DP / refugee-camps after the end of World War II. If you have any information about experiences and memories of life in these camps or would like to give me an interview, please feel free to contact me under the following email:
Department of Contemporary History
University of Vienna
Spitalgasse 2-4, Hof 1
1090 Vienna

Kind regards and thank you so much again for your help and for creating this great website!
Franziska Maria Lamp, BA BA MA
Wissenschaftliche Projektmitarbeiterin & Doktorandin/ PhD-Researcher
Institut für Zeitgeschichte/Department of Contemporary History
Universität Wien /University of Vienna
Spitalgasse 2-4, Hof 1
1090 Wien / Vienna

Project homepage:

Recent Publications:
"The `unmarried mother': Single-mother families in displaced persons camps
in post-World War II Austria, in: Routed, Migration & (Im)mobility Magazine,

"'…ob er mit seiner Eheschließung der Volksgemeinschaft nützt,'“ in:
Junges Forschungsnetzwerk Frauen- und Geschlechtergeschichte,

DP camps information on Austria A-C

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