Attack the Carinthian consensus!
Stop the Ulrichsberg meeting!
Preservation of traditions in Carinthia
Since 1958, every autumn an annual meeting takes place by the "Europa-Heimkehrergedenkstätte" (Europe homecomer memorial) at the Ulrichsberg in Carinthia, where veterans of the Wehrmacht and the (Waffen-)SS and their relations and ideological heirs meet up in unison with top politicians in order to participate in what is probably the biggest meeting of former "volunteers" in the German-speaking countries. With support from the Austrian army, approval of (almost) all political parties in Carinthia/Koroška and the sympathies of the local population, delegations and Kameradschaften from Germany, Norway, Belgium, Finland, France, Sweden, Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands travel to the festivities every year.
The purpose is to commemorate the comrades who were killed in the war and their "decent fulfilment of their duties" as soldiers. In doing so, the myth of their death in combat and their "self-sacrifice" for the "freedom of the Fatherland" in both World Wars as well as in the Carinthian "Abwehrkampf"1 is being cultivated. This myth reverses the relation of victims and culprits and promotes fascist, anti-Slovenian and revisionist traditions. While the alleged "victims" of the partisans are commemorated, their role in the liberation is not mentioned; the actions of the soldiers, on the other hand, are glorified, their crimes either being downplayed, denied or reinterpreted as necessary actions of war.
The festivities are arranged and organised by the "Verein für die Heimkehrergedenkstätte 'Ulrichsberg'" ("Organisation for the memorial for homecomers 'Ulrichsberg'"), which was founded in 1960 as an amalgamation of, among others, the "Österreichischer Kameradschaftsbund" (an association of former soldiers of the German Wehrmacht), the "Kärntner Abwehrkämpferbund" (Association of Carinthian defence fighters), the "Kärntner Heimatdienst" (an association of Carinthian organisations with a long tradition of aggressive anti-Slovenian policies which also served as a platform for the (illegal) NSDAP in the First Austrian Republic), the "Kameradschaft ehemaliger Gebirgsjäger" (Kameradschaft of former members of the mountain troops of the Wehrmacht), the "Kameradschaft IV Kärnten" (an association of veterans of the Waffen-SS in Carinthia), the "Heimkehrerverband Kärnten" (an association of so-called "homecomers" from the war which has around 600 members in Carinthia and regularly works together with organisations of the extreme right), the "Kärntner Landsmannschaft" (part of the "Kärntner Heimatdienst", this organisation tries to preserve an alleged "German" Carinthian tradition) and the "Volksdeutsche Landsmannschaft" (an association of different organisations of so-called "displaced ethnic Germans", for example from Poland or the Czech Republic, in Austria).
Ulrichsberg - A "who's who" of the German-language Nazi scene
One of the regulars at the festivities is the Nazi-icon Florentine Rost van Tonningen, as is her close friend, Heinrich Himmler's daughter Gudrun Burwitz. Other regular participants include members of the German Nazi-organisation "Ordensgemeinschaft der Ritterkreuzträger" (an association of soldiers who were awarded the Ritterkreuz, a high decoration in Nazi Germany) and of the National Socialist "Hilfsgemeinschaft auf Gegenseitigkeit ehemaliger Angehöriger der Waffen-SS" (HIAG; "community for mutual help of former members of the Waffen-SS").
Some of the neo-Nazis who have appeared at the Ulrichsberg in the last 15 years were Andreas T., hailing from Carinthia himself, who was convicted for National Socialist activities and has been set free again meanwhile; Herbert S., former cadre of the "Nationalistische Front", which has meanwhile been banned; Adolf S., who was also convicted for National Socialist activities; Peter N., former cadre of the "Völkischer Bund", which has also been banned meanwhile; and Meinolf S., former leader of the banned neo-Nazi organisation "Nationalistische Front".
One of the key figures and permanent co-organisers of the Ulrichsberg meeting is the Kameradschaft IV (K IV), a right-wing extremist organisation of veterans of the Waffen-SS. The K IV derives its name from the argumentation that the Waffen-SS, which was declared to be a part of the SS and therefore a criminal organisation by the Court of Nuremberg, was actually the fourth part of the Wehrmacht and therefore "harmless".
Traditionally on the day before the Ulrichsberg meeting, the Kameradschaft IV also organises their own accompanying event, the so-called Krumpendorf meeting, which is supposed to function as a link between "the young" and "the old". In the past, the most well-known neo-Nazi who was announced to give a talk has been the neo-Nazi lawyer Jürgen Rieger. Though not a Nazi, also Jörg Haider, current governor of Carinthia and an "Abwehrkämpfer" (defence fighter) himself belongs to the appreciated guests, and in 1995 he expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the assembled soldiers of the (Waffen-)SS in Krumpendorf during a speech which caused quite a stir.
Commemorative year 2005
Rather than being exceptional, such appearances of top politicians are very much part of the Austrian political normality. Especially in the course of the "Gedankenjahr 2005" (a commemorative year declared by the Austrian government to celebrate the 60 years of existence of the Second Republic and the 50th anniversary of the Austrian State Treaty), the brown marsh once again spills over into the mainstream of Austrian politics. For example, in interviews John Gudenus, member of the "Bundesrat" (Federal Council, the second chamber of the Austrian parliament), formerly of the FPÖ, denies the existence of gas chambers on the territory of the Third Reich. Another member of the Bundesrat, Siegfried Kampl, the mayor of Gurk who originally hails from Carinthia, used his speech during a meeting of the Bundesrat to have a word about the "brutal persecution of Nazis" and refers to people who deserted from the Wehrmacht as "comrade killers".
The social-democratic former deputy governor of Carinthia, Rudolf Gallob (Ulrichsberg Community), concludes to this: "He will be met with a lot of approval of all those who have made their experiences with partisans. For example, if you know that Carinthian partisans shot at Carinthian soldiers." The chairman of the Bundesrat, on the other hand, Peter Mitterer (also hailing from Carinthia) does not want to comment on the National Socialist past at all, since he has a "value-free" attitude towards it.
Yet this sort of conception of history is political normality in Carinthia even outside of the ranks of the (former) FPÖ. The German nationalist consensus in Carinthia/Koroška persists across the boundaries of different political parties. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that numerous top politicians of the conservative ÖVP and the social-democratic SPÖ have attended the Ulrichsberg meeting in the last 20 years: current federal ministers as well as former ministers, and pretty much everything the province of Carinthia has to offer, from social-democratic governors downwards.
For instance, the mayor of Klagenfurt, Harald Scheucher of the conservative ÖVP - son of Blasius Scheucher (former vice-mayor of Klagenfurt, but also a member of the mountain troops during World War II and one of the founding members of the Ulrichsberg meeting) - is a good example how the preservation of such traditions is being inherited across generations of politicians. While the mayor of course cannot be blamed for his family background, the fact that he takes the Ulrichsberg community boldly under his wings demonstrates the widespread identification with the glorification of war and of the deeds of the Wehrmacht, as well as with the "Abwehrkampf" of the "German-Carinthians".
Lobbying for the rehabilitation of the culprits
Ever since its foundation, an important function of the Ulrichsberg Community has been the lobbying for the release and rehabilitation of convicted war criminals. For example, already in the 1950s a delegation of "homecomers" led by the then-mayor of Klagenfurt, the aforementioned Blasius Scheucher, requested the immediate release of the mass-murderer Walter Reder at the Italian consulate. The demand for the release of Reder was to play an important role during the Ulrichsberg festivities of the following years as well: " (...) if all peoples stood underneath the cross, there would be no prisoners of war, then Major Walter Reder would be free as well and not only the winners would be right, then there would be reconciliation." (Ulrichsberg meeting 1974)
The former SS-Obersturmbannführer (an officer of high rank in the SS) Walter Reder was responsible for a massacre in the Italian village of Marzabotto near Bologna in September 1944. Most of the 1830 victims of the massacre were old people, women and children. Reder was sentenced for life in 1951. When he was released from prison in 1985, he was welcomed at the airport by then-Minister of Defence Frischenschlager as the "last Austrian prisoner of war".
However, most of the war crimes which were committed by the units of the SS and the Wehrmacht which are being commemorated at the Ulrichsberg were only prosecuted sluggishly - that is, if they were prosecuted at all. Even today, in case of a charge or conviction, the culprits - who live in Austria and Germany in most cases - are usually not bothered, let alone extradited. One example of this are the current proceedings dealing with war crimes of the mountain troops (who also have their commemorative plaques at the Ulrichsberg) in Greece.
"I would like to find one of the soldiers and ask him, why did you do that?" This question was put forward by Christina Dimou, one of the survivors from the Greek village of Kommeno, when she participated in the protests against the cultivation of mountain troops traditions in Mittenwald, Bavaria, in 2003. When she was only 13 years old, she had to experience the destruction of her village, Kommeno in Northern Greece, by a unit of the Wehrmacht, in the course of which 317 people were shot. The unit of the Wehrmacht in question was the 12th company of the mountain troops regiment 98 of the first mountain troops division.
The massacre committed in the Greek village of Kommeno on August 16th, 1943 by the mountain troops of the German Wehrmacht was not an exception; the catalogue of war crimes of the mountain troops also includes the shooting of about 5000 Italian prisoners of war on the Greek island of Kephallonia in September 1943. The trail of blood caused by terrible war crimes of this elite unit connects Finland, the Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Italy, France and Greece. "Sanction of atonement" and "retaliation" were the terms of war propaganda which soldiers used as a justification for the murdering of civilians and the plundering, burning down and destruction of villages. The battle report of the massacre in Kommeno would later report the following: "Loot: about 150 dead civilians, 16 heads of cattle, 1 truck, 5 Italian carbines, 1 Italian submachine gun."
Since "völkischer" German nationalism is the fundamental ideology of the Ulrichsberg Community and its member organisations, one of its features is a paranoia of all things Slovenian. Unsurprisingly, the representatives of a "German Carinthia" refuse to accept the bilingual reality. They go as far as bitterly fighting every bilingual place name sign. Even today, Austria still does not fulfil its obligations towards the Carinthian Slovenians (as they are specified in the State Treaty, article 7), bilingual education in schools is being foiled and the Slovenian language is being fought.
Revisionist misconstructions of history, as they are held up at the Ulrichsberg but as they are also disseminated in travelling exhibitions organised by the province of Carinthia, continuously refer to the image of the evil "Tito-Communist partisans". The advocates of the Wehrmacht wrongly depict the political fight of the partisans against National Socialism as a chain of crimes allegedly inspired by Yugoslavian nationalism and, in continuation of Nazi-propaganda, refer to the partisans as criminal "gangs", thus denying the political character of their resistance. Also, the Carinthian governor Haider, then of the FPÖ, flat out refused to present the "Decoration for the liberation of Austria" (bestowed by the federal government) to Carinthian resistance fighters.
The partisans were not only antifascist fighters, they were also the saviours of several prisoners who managed to flee from the concentration camp Loibl, one of the subcamps of the camp in Mauthausen. The concentration camps Loibl South and North had been established in order to provide forced labour forces for the construction of the Loibl-tunnel. Those who were no longer fit to work were usually either beaten to death or killed by injections of gasoline. While a memorial for the victims was established shortly after the end of the war on the Yugoslavian/Slovenian side of the border, it was only in 1995 that a plaque commemorating the slave-workers who had to dig the tunnel was put up in Austria by the initiative "Mauthausen aktiv Kärnten/Koroška".
While the armed antifascist fight of the partisans - in a completely distorted version - is exploited in the "German-Carinthian" historical awareness, other chapters of the Slovenian history of Carinthia are concealed altogether, such as the "resettlement" of about 1000 Carinthian Slovenians on April 14th/15th, 1942. Within the period of an hour, people had to leave their houses in order to at first be brought to Ebenthal, where they had to confirm the handing over of their property, received a number to be used instead of their name and were then sent on to concentration camps in the "Altreich". These victims are not a part of the "German-Carinthian" remembrance at all, and neither are the dead of the "Peršmanhof", where a unit of the SS committed a massacre on April 25th, 1945, killing 11 people.
No compensation for the victims
While the murderers from that period have not been prosecuted for their crimes and can even have their years of service counted for their pension, the compensation payments for the victims of National Socialism are still being delayed today. Deserters from the Wehrmacht are still not recognised as a group of victims by the Austrian state, but have to prove individually that they offered resistance because of their political convictions and didn't "only" refuse to take part in this criminal war because they were shirkers who breached their "duty and honour" as soldiers.
Victims of crimes of the Wehrmacht still have little chance to receive compensation today. Such "collateral damages" of civilians simply do not fit into the official conception of history, showing soldiers who are committed to their "honour and devotion", as it is presented at the Ulrichsberg meeting. Also, the countries of the culprits (Austria and Germany) are not willing to take responsibility for the crimes of the Wehrmacht.
No forgiving, no forgetting!
We ask all antifascists and antimilitarists to take part in the protest actions against the preservation of traditions of the "homecomers" at the Ulrichsberg. Between September 16th and September 18th, 2005, we want to do our best to make sure that this meeting of soldiers receives the attention and acknowledgement it deserves!
Against revisionist myths of victims!
For the disbanding of the Ulrichsberg meeting!
For the punishment of the last living criminals of war!
For an immediate rehabilitation of deserters from the Wehrmacht!
For an immediate compensation for all victims of National Socialism!