From After The Reich By GILES MACDONOGH
(I apologise! The commentary is in Russia. The sub-titles in German! But do enjoy the visuals! )
The Red Army appeared in the wake of the retreating Germans. The Viennese were in the dark. The wireless had ceased to function and the last newspapers appeared on 7 April– some were printed on the 8th, but they were not distributed. There was then a total news breakdown until communications were restored with the issue of the communist-backed NeuesÖsterreich on the 15 th. All that remained was Mundfunk– a play on Rundfunk or radio station, but meaning word of mouth, or gossip. 6 ‘On the 7 th the Red Army occupied the giant Anker bakery in Favoriten, cuttingoff the city from its main source of bread. For the next ten days the Viennese were reduced to 250 grams of bread each daily. It got worse: citizens had to make do with 500 grams to a kilo of bread a week: ‘A slice of bread was a considerate present.
Nazism had become a solely German commodity and Nazis were there-fore Germans, or honorary ones. Threatened with plunder, the Viennese had directed the soldiers to the homes of the Pgs (Parteigenosse- Party comrade of member of the Nazi Party). It was open season on the Nazis, and many of them who remained in the city tried to cast out the evidence as best they could. Large numbers committed suicide, like the coal merchant whose business was in the same building as Margarétha’saunt, or the banker Josef Joham’s friends, the Böhm-Bawerks. The husband had ﬂed. His wife, sister and daughter all took their own lives. The Russians shot a neighbour, Christoph Bauer, son of a well-known architect, presumably because they believed him to be a Nazi. His mother hadto bury him in the garden. The Soviet secret police or GPU ﬂushed out another called Hackmüller from the house next door. He was alleged to have been the Gauleiter Baldur von Schirach’s secretary. 25 Schöner prudently left his watch at home and went out in a curious combination of clothes that was meant to remove any suspicion of bourgeoisie: skiing trousers, hobnail mountain boots and a Styrian hat. Later he added an old coat made in the 1920 s and was careful to leave his tie at home. Wearing spectacles was also risky. The Russians saw all men in glasses as fascists or ‘burschuj’, and picked on them.
The ﬁghting continued in the areas of the city that bordered the Danube. The Russians were across the canal in the Leopoldstadt– the 2 ndBezirk– which explained the terrible damage done to the quay as the two sides continued the shelling. On the 10 th the Russians moved into the Prater Park and occupied the race-track at the Freudenau without a ﬁght.The Germans were only cleared from the Leopoldstadt on the 13 th. A day later they were ﬂushed out of Brigittenau, and the city was ﬁnally at peace. 35 Schöner was free, however, to wander on towards the cathedral.On the corner of the Stock-im-Eisen Platz the Haas Haus was burning.No one attempted to put out the ﬂames. Soldiers stood around watching.It was not known who had started the ﬁre: German shells or Viennese looters. A third possibility was the Russians.
On one of his walks around the city Schöner was struck by the sight of a female Red Army soldier directing trafﬁc in the Wiedner Hauptstrasse dressed in a very short skirt. Margaréthahad admired these women too, particularly the blondes. The trafﬁc inquestion was Russian carts loaded with booty. These lined the Rennweg. Cows and foals were tethered behind and the vehicles were piled high withsuitcases, balalaikas, sewing machines, radios and gramophones: ‘it was thepicture of a gypsy train’. The Russians had even stolen the tyres andengines of the cars. As Schöner walked on he witnessed a horse being skinned on the Wollzeile. The Stephansplatz was all burned out from theHaas Haus to the Rotenturmstrasse. The Hotel Bristol near the Opera hadbeen gutted by ﬁre. There were no ﬁre engines to extinguish the ﬂames.When the Viennese found a pump it was so weak that the water hardlymade it to the ﬁrst ﬂoor. 48 Cardinal Innitzer’s palace had been pillaged, andthe primate had ﬂed. Schöner doffed his cap at the sight of the cathedral, denuded of its roof. It had been set alight after the departure of theGermans. ‘It is a sight that grabs everyone by the heart.
It was only at the end of April that the Western Allies appeared at the Austrian border. The Americans took Innsbruck, Salzburg and Linz; the British came up through Italy on the 28 th and marched into Carinthia and Styria before meeting up with Soviet forces. That same day the Nazi fellow traveller Joham was rejected as a member of the provisional government. Loudspeakers played ‘O Du mein Österreich’. The Russians stood by and tacitly blessed the regime they had ushered in. The British, however, had had their worst fears conﬁrmed, and promptly refused to recognise Renner’s government. The Americans followed suit. Renner responded by hailing Stalin as the ‘greatest military commander of all time’. Later Schöner met a friend who had just returned from suburban Weidling. There had been persistent raping at his country house. A seventeen-year-old girl who had tried to defend herself had been shot. ‘On the periphery it is much worse than it is in the inner city.
This Gestapo man killed himself and his family rather than fall into Russian hands
It was May Day, and a big parade was laid on for the Russians. Austrian ﬂags had been made out of old swastikas, and the women had fashioned headscarves out of the same material. The people wore red carnations and greeted one another with the word ‘Freiheit’ or ‘freedom’, rather than theusual ‘Grüss Gott!’ The Russians made the city a present of tons of provi-sions. The Viennese said it was all food they had plundered from them in the ﬁrst place. 70 The gift was supposed to last for a month. It meant a daily ration of 1 , 620 calories for heavy workers, 970 for white-collar staff and 833 for children. 71 The French arrived in Bregenz on Lake Constance that sameday. On 6 May they had established themselves in a small part of their zone, the Upper Tyrol. By the time of the German capitulation on 8 May, the whole of Austria was occupied. Just in case anyone was to forget, the French put up signposts for their own troops: ‘Ici Autriche, pays ami’ (This is Austria, these are our friends)
The Russian army officers watch. Their feelings then?
The Russians trying to prove that they were civilized?
This is all that remained of the Nazis
This German soldier won't be fighting anymore
Remains of the day
They suffered the most. The common people of Austria