wave of immigrants around 1900]
battle for the Nibelung district]
battle for the Komensky district]
on the Czechs]
A dictator's apprencticeship
by Brigitte Hamann
for the Nibelung district
In the summer of 1909
the German-national terror reached one of its peaks. It was triggered
by an insignificant event: a Viennese Czech tourist club planned
a Sunday boat trip on the Danube to Wachau" failing to consider
the fact that many hundred years before, the Nibelungs had roamed
through that very landscape" which was why the German- nationals
claimed the area for themselves as "arch-Germanic. Here, in Wachau,
was where the Schönerians had celebrated the two-thousand-
year anniversary of the Battle of Noreia at the summer solstice
in 1888 and introduced their Germanic calendar. Here was where the
German- Templars around Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels had their
order's castle" Werfenstein.
At any rate, the Pan-Germans
were not willing to allow the "desecration" of the German Wachau
by the "Slavs" and called on all pan-German clubs to travel to Melk
and "receive" the Czechs there, for as the Alldeutsches Tagblatt
wrote, a mass rally such as the state of Lower Austria has never
seen, shall destroy the desire of these Slavic intruders, and of
those Social Democratic gentlemen too" ever again to feel like going
on such "harmless' tourist outings," and, in the words of a spokes
- man of the "League of Germans in Lower Austria", Melk will
resemble an army camp this Sunday-already , four to five thousand
guests are announced."
Many members of the Czech
tourist club were workers and members of the Social Democratic Party"
which offered to help them in their troubled situation. Yet the
club refused the offer, as it did not want to politicize the conflict
The Arbeiterzeitung at
any rate, took a clear stand, in a scoffing editorial on the "Wachau
Landsturm" : "Six hundred tourists with their wives and children
a danger to German Melk! And the ghosts of the Nibelungs are being
conjured up! Our worst enemy couldn't have construed a more ridiculous
situation for the German people in Austria." The editorial continued
by saying that the tourists were workers "who have laid aside dime
after dime for a long time to afford the modest and harmless pleasure
of a ride on the Danube for themselves and their families. If for
no other reason, the brutality alone would be disgusting with which
the hard-earned, sorely deserved pleasure for people who surely
have hardly any joy and recreation is being interfered with and
spoiled, for the sake of a pathetic brawl." Such "absurd brawling"
created "a situation which is intolerable in a metropolis."
During a talk with Vienna's
police president, the tourist club's president agreed to the suggestion
not to dock the boat in Melk so as not to endanger "the women and
children on board." Under German-national pressure, the Chapter
of Melk kept its gate locked anyway, and Melk's innkeepers wanted
to "refuse serving food and drink to the tourists." The club's president
promised that the club would "preserve its character as an apolitical
tourist and entertainment club at all cost" and also do without
national flags and emblems.
After this compromise was
reached, the authorities permitted the trip. This meant total police
protection during the entire ride. The military was kept ready.
Mounted police oversaw the embarkation near the Reich Bridge on
Saturday evening, and police also closed bridges over the Danube
to prevent protesters from throwing stink bombs and fireworks on
the boat. In any case, the federal authorities did everything they
could to protect the citizens' rights.
The German-nationals protested
against these police measures: "Since the Government didn't protect
the Germans", they said, "the Germans would have to resort
to self-help." To underscore that, rioters roamed through the city,
broke out into shouts of "Boo! " in front of Social Democrat deputy
Franz Schuhmeier's house, and made much noise in front of taverns
where Czechs met.
The much-discussed Wachau
trip turned out to be relatively harmless: toward six in the morning
the boat Franz Josef passed Melk's dock in a considerable
distance. Because the early train from Vienna still had not arrived"
the number of demonstrators was limited. Waving black-red gold flags,
they rushed to the embankment. "They menacingly brandished their
sticks, there was a deafening noise, and there were piercing whistles
and roaring shouts of "Boo!" in the air"-this is how the Arbeiterzeitung
described the event. Several trains with demonstrators arrived
in the morning. The mood heated up under the influence of the heat
When the boat returned around
noon, the early-morning spectacle repeated itself. According to
the Alldeutsches Tagblatt, approximately nine thousand demonstrators
lined up against the Czechs at the dock, which was not used: "Thousands
of Germans were posted in along line. The black-red-gold flags fluttered
in the wind" and indignant shouts rose powerfully across the river
to the blinding white boat with its Czech cargo" which couldn't
be set ashore. The "Wacht am Rhein' concluded the magnificent defense
rally of Melk." Afterward the demonstrators went into the taverns,
where more speeches were held. T o quote an example: "This defense
has achieved everything it set out to achieve-keeping the Czech
club from touching the German Wachau's soil with their Czech club
motto. ... Let us rejoice, Germans at the success of our defense!"
The Third Reich made a point
of picking up the Wachau's German - national tradition. Thus at
a significant date, the day of the referendum on the "Greater German
Empire," on April 10, 1938, the NSDAP's Völkischer Beobachter
published an enthusiastic two-page article, "The Wachau as a
German Stronghold." Germans had settled there as far back as the
Stone Age, it reported: "Proud Germans grew up on magnificent soil."
"Heroic Germanic courage" had vanquished all enemies" even the Romans
: " They slayed lions which were sicked on them in battle with oak
sticks from the German forest." The article described the era of
the Hapsburgs and the World War: "Degenerate people, aliens in the
German nation" roamed through the Ostmark with a false
name of God and their Heimat on their lips. German heroism
and the German spirit were maimed and disfigured, and ridiculed.
...The German character was considered strange in their own country."
The article concluded : "Then
one day loud, unanimous shouts of joy rose to the sky : " Adolf
Hitler has liberated the Ostmark" ...Only now have the land
of the Nibelungs and Wachau regained their true destination: to
be a bulwark of the Greater German Empire."