A dictator's apprencticeship
by Brigitte Hamann
A wave of immigrants around
After 1867, the political
distribution of power in the Dual Monarchy continuously diminished
the significance of the empire's Germans, first on account of the
split into Cisleithania and Transleithania, and then within the
empire's Western half as a result of the basic laws of 1867, which
guaranteed national rights to every citizen. The introduction of
universal, equal suffrage in 1906 finally reduced the Germans' significance
to the place they had by virtue of their share of the population.
In Cisleithania, this was no more than 35.6 percent, and in all
of Austro-Hungary , much less. In this new democratic system the
Germans were forced to relinquish their former position of predominance,
to share their rule with the empire's other nationalities, and ultimately
to submit them- selves to the non-German majority.
Cisleithania, the Czechs were the most powerful nation after the
Germans; they were highly educated and economically very productive,
and they represented a fierce competition to the German-Bohemians,
particularly because they were a source of cheaper labor. Under
the fierce national pressure, many German-Bohemian workers emigrated
to Saxony or Lower Austria. Czechs immigrated, and thus several
German-speaking communities tended to become bilingual, all the
more so because the Czech birth rate was much higher than the German.
give an example : around 1850, the Southern Bohemian city of Budweis
was almost exclusively German. In 1880, Germans and Czechs had an
approximately equal share of the population. By 1910, the Germans'
share was only 38.2 percent, with their number declining. Also counting
the suburbs, there still were 228,019 Czechs and 41,975 Germans
around 1880 - roughly 82 percent compared to 18 percent. In 1900,
the ratio was 92.3 percent to 7.5 percent. In 1910, there were no
Germans on the city council.
1909 the German embassy transmitted a concerned report to Berlin
: "The Germans in the Sudeten lands have long since been on the
defensive against the Czechs."Formally they still had equal rights,
but in reality, they are being Slavicized or pushed back. ... The
Czechs' tactics aim toward not leaving any part of Bohemia exclusively
in 1905 there was a satisfactory national compromise in Moravia,
the negotiations on a compromise with Bohemia was drawn out for
years, led to several governments being toppled, and never came
to a conclusion. The problem of the capital, Prague, turned out
to be unsolvable. The Czechs insisted on Prague's being an exclusively
Czech city. The German minority wanted a bilingual Prague. In return,
the Czechs demanded a bilingual Vienna.
1851 and 1910, the quota of Czechs in Vienna increased approximately
tenfold. By 1910, one out of five residents was of Czech origin,
and immigration kept increasing. Thus a development toward a bilingual
Lower Austria and a bilingual capital, Vienna, was certainly possible,
but only if the immigrants remained Czech rather than assimilate.
In Mein Kampf Hitler mentions this issue, which was a consistently
hot topic during his youth in Vienna : Purely German towns ,
indirectly through government officialdom, were slowly but steadily
pushed into the mixed- language danger zones. Even in Lower
Austria this process began to make increasingly rapid progress,
and many Czechs considered Vienna their largest city.
about "Slavization" were by no means confined to the followers of
the radical-national parties. All German parties emphazised their
nationality - albeit in various degrees of intensity-even the German
Social Democrats, the liberal parties, and the Christian Socials.
The German self-image of being part of an elite faced strong, growing,
national and economic self-confidence on the part of the Czechs.
statistician Anton Schubert tried to establish alienation as a fact
by performing "ethnic examinations" in every village and every ministry.
He took as a basis not the everyday language people used, but where
they came from, which he deduced by their names - a thoroughly questionable
approach, considering the fact that the population had been mixed
for centuries. According to this method, about one in four people
in Vienna today would be a "Slav".
that was not enough to portray alienation as sharply as necessary,
Schubert eliminated from the start a few social groups as "non-German",
for example, the aristocrats even if they were German-speaking,
and "nationally indifferent middle-class Germans," mainly the Liberals.
One of the results of these calculations, for instance, was that
only .8 percent of federal centers was in German hands: "Today the
centers are entirely ruled by Czechs, Poles, Southern Slavs, and
noblemen; yet the real German is dead and extinct there." These
statistics appeared in 1905--06 in three volumes and were constantly
quoted, serving as welcome national-political ammunition.
method of painting a horrific picture of "Slavization" with the
help of highly questionable means was widespread. To give one example
from the Unadulterated German Words of 1908 about the "Slavization
attempts" of Czech railway workers : In the Lower Austrian town
of Amstetten, it said, "fifty sons of Wenzel" were already employed
in a workshop, one sixth of all employees. When those concerned
demanded that this situation be corrected" the publication argued
it could not get into the fact "that the corrector only counts six
Czechs in the workshop by no longer counting Slovenians and those
Czechs who had lived there for quite a while already, as Germans
rather than Czechs."
displayed his familiarity with these kinds of numbers when, as late
as 1942, he remarked during a dinner with Heydrich : The Czechs,
he said, are masters of subversion" and that the example of Vienna
proved this Before the world war, there had only been some 120
Germans among the l,800 Austro-Hungarian court officials
"everyone else" all the way to the top-ranking posts, was Czech
According to official numbers, if counted the traditional way-by
everyday language spoken - of 6.293 ministry officials on January
1, 1914, 4.772 (75.8 percent) were German and only 653 (10.8 percent)
there is no doubt that in Vienna, which on account of unemployment,
the housing shortage, inflation" and unstable political conditions
was in a difficult situation to begin with, the natives" fear of
additional immigrants" in particular the Czechs, was very real.
A Viennese proverb at the time exemplifies that: "There's only one
imperial city" there's only one Vienna, the Viennese are outside"
the Bohemians within!"
cannot tell precisely how many Czechs lived in Vienna around 1910.
All we know is that the number established in the census of 1910,
approximately 100.000, is too low. If the Czechs in Vienna did not
want to subject themselves to harsh discrimination, they were forced
to indicate in the questionnaires German as their native language,
and were therefore registered as Germans. The legal citizens of
Vienna were considered German anyway.
we count according Vienna's population's origins, we arrive at an
entirely different picture. According to this method, slightly less
than five hundred thousand of Vienna's two million people were from
the Bohemian countries. If we include the parent generation, this
number almost doubles, with the quota of Czechs being larger than
that of the Ger- mans.!! Yet it would be a mistake to draw a conclusion
from the immigration figures of Czechs to the Czech population quota.
For assimilation often took place so quickly that the immigrants
were already "Germanized" after just a few years.
Czechs came to Vienna as industrial workers, as maids, cooks, nannies,
cobblers, tailors, and musicians. Because many of them lived with
their employers, they were dispersed over all the districts and
did not live together in one concentrated area, such as the Viennese
Jews did in Leopoldstadt. This furthered assimilation.
touts also brought very young, often only ten-year-old boys, who
were selected by Viennese craftsmen at the Franz Josef train station
as if at a slave market. By paying a premium and reimbursing travel
costs they took the children, who usually did not speak a word of
German. Around 1910 there were already more than twice as many Czech
apprentices as Germans with the Viennese tailors, cobblers, and
carpenters, who tended to be of Czech origin themselves.
from the Czech residents of Vienna, there were many seasonal workers
who worked only from spring until fall, at construction sites or
in brickworks, and in the wintertime returned to their families
in Bohemia. Furthermore, many young men came to Vienna for only
a few years, made some money there, gained experience, and then
returned to Bohemia. There they bought a store or a house, thereby
furthering the economic boom in Bohemia. Thus there certainly were
many Czechs in Vienna, but always different ones. Historian Monika
Glettler compared this to a "hotel which is always occupied, but
always by different people."
German-nationals vented all their anger at "Slavization", exacerbated
by Czech acts of terrorism against the Germans in Prague and the
paralyzation of Parliament by the Czech National Socialists in Vienna
at the weakest link of the chain: the Viennese Czechs. Most of them
were apolitical and wanted to live and work in peace. Yet they got
caught against their will in the machinery of the national battles
in Bohemia and were used by the Czech radicals as a means of propaganda
in Vienna, particularly after the events of the anniversary year,
when a state of emergency was declared in Prague. The German radicals,
on the other hand, used the Viennese Czechs as pawns to hurt the
overpowering Czechs in Bohemia.
short, in Prague as in Vienna it was the weakest ones who were hurt
and could no longer live in peace. If there was an act of terror
in Prague against the German minority, the next day there was going
to be an act of terror in Vienna against the Czech minority, and
vice versa. If in Prague German stores were boycotted with the slogan
"Don't buy from Germans," Czech stores were boycotted in Vienna
with the slogan "Don't buy from Czechs" - and vice versa.
gathering of Czechs in Vienna was now threatened by riots. The German
nationalists fanned the fear of the "rule of the Slavs" and maintained
"that Austria's large cities, built by German strength and German
diligence, were now threatened by Slavdom. Prague had already fallen,
Brünn was engaged in a difficult fight with the opponent, and
to the disgrace of Germans, Vienna was called the largest Slavic
city on the continent today."
Czechs' growing economic self-confidence was noted with suspicion.
In 1912 there were already four large Czech banks in Vienna. The
Brigittenauer Bezirks-Nachrichten complained about their
obvious success and eagerness to do business: Czech banks were open
from 8:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M., but German banks only from 9:00
A.M. until 4:00 P.M. Furthermore, the Czechs enticed customers by
offering them higher interest. According to the Christian Social
newspaper, the numerous small Czech savings and loan institutions
tried "to make first advances toward bilingualism with their Czech
signs in the streets of Vienna."
Pan-Germans called on people to boycott Czech newspapers and threatened
to publicize the names of those store owners who sold them. German
companies that employed non-German workers were ostracized economically
and socially. According to a newspaper report, an itinerant speaker
from the Südmark said, "Throwing out 200 Bohemians is a better
national deed than 300 protest rallies and 1,000 shouts of Heil."
reason was too small to trigger controversy. For example, when the
Czech cashier of an Austro-Hungarian musicians' welfare association
took off with eight thousand kronen, the Alldeutsches Tagblatt
wrote that the man was "a dilettante as a musician, he is hardly
good enough to turn the pages of the sheet music, and with his ears,
which stick out, his earth pale complexion, his low forehead, his
awkward round head, and his malicious gaze he only too closely resembles
those "individuals" and "thieves" whom you can watch in Präuscher's
waxworks in the Prater for twenty heller." This subliminally suggested
the image of the "inferior" Czech, quite similarly to the way Vienna's
cartoon newspaper Kikeriki practiced on a daily basis. The
Pan-Germans believed that the "Czechization of the city" equaled
cultural regression" and furthermore that tourism would decrease
"if the streets of Vienna are made unsafe by the Czech mob."
Budweiser beer was boycotted. The windowpanes of the Budweiser beer
parlor were repeatedly smashed. Innkeepers who served Czech associations
were forced to fire them. If they did not" they were terrorized:
in one tavern" Czech newspapers were tom up and a bust that Czechs
had put up there was covered with army treasury coupons.
the foundlings and orphans were drawn into the national controversy.
Because they were overcrowded, the foundling hospitals had for years
passed many children on to foster families - to farmers in the area,
but also to poor Czech families. The German-nationals started protesting
against that: the children, they said, were being "Czechisized"
and "alienated from Germandom".
Lueger appeased them by building a large municipal foundling hospital.
The foster children were taken away from the Czech families and
instead raised in the new institution, in the spirit of the Christian
Socials: German and Catholic. Hermann Bielohlawek, a Christian Social
of Czech origin, was among those proudly mentioning the new regulation
: "Hundreds of German children who during the liberal era were Slavicized
by Czech foster parents" would now be "preserved for their people"
on account of the reform of foundling care.
German parties vehemently rejected Czech complaints in Parliament.
Interrupted by many interjections, Pan-German Vinzenz Malik said
sarcastically: "We don't mind if the Czechs and other nations live
here in Vienna, but they have to be nice and modest. They are here
as guests, and we will never allow them to be impertinent. If they
are, we will always proceed against them and be ready to face the
and more Czechs were afraid to socialize with one another. Czech
gymnastics or savings clubs,reading circles, and hiking and biking
clubs became smaller. A plea to the Viennese Czechs to shop only
in Czech stores was dismally unsuccessful: of thousands of Czech
shop owners in Vienna, only a few had their names put on the Czech
list-because they were afraid of terror, and worried to lose their
German customers. Tired of the battle, they heeded the police's
advice to resort to self-help, taking their Czech company signs
off and putting up German signs instead.
those years many people in Vienna left their families' Bohemian
past behind and Germanized their names to once and for all rid themselves
of all difficulties. Others tried to make up for their Czech origin,
which they felt to be a flaw, with an all the stronger pledge to
Germandom, as did, for instance, Christian Social Bielohlawek, who
emphatically said in the Lower Austrian assembly : "Some who are
Germans by license assault me for not being German enough and because
my name vaguely indicates that fact. My accent tells them that I
am no Czech. Yet among those who attack me at every opportunity,
there is one who used to bear the name Vrputofatel and who now calls
himself Emanuel Weidenhoffer." He was a deputy of the German Nationals.