{hautgauche}  

[A wave of immigrants around 1900]  
[The battle for the Nibelung district]  
[The battle for the Komensky district]
[Attempts at mediation]
[Hitler on the Czechs]

Hitler's Vienna
A dictator's apprencticeship
by Brigitte Hamann

The battle for the Komensky schools

In their effort to make Vienna a bilingual city, the Czech-nationals leaned on clause nineteen of the national basic law of 1867 : "The State acknowledges the equality of all traditional languages in schools, public offices" and public life." All nationalities had the right to raise their children in their mother tongue with the government's support.

Furthermore "the languages of all minorities who had a share of more than 25 percent of the population were legally recognized as "traditional languages" which gave these minorities a number of rights "for example" the right to form their own parties" to nominate their own city councilmen" and to keep their own schools. Yet due to Lueger's Germanization campaign" at the 1910 census, officially the Czechs in Vienna had only 6.5 percent.

The sensitive topic of schools kindled harsh conflicts. Since 1883 the Czech school association Komensky had administered a Czech private school in Vienna's district of Favoriten which greatly bothered the German-nationals. Komenksy teachers were constantly harassed by the Viennese authorities and were frequently checked and spied on. A retired teacher lost his Viennese civil rights because he taught in the Komsenky school. The reason given was that this was "not only infamous treason against his hometown" which fed him and bestowed a post and honors on him, but also a violation of the Viennese citizens" oath." Under the headline "Only German Teachers for Viennese Children" the Deutsches Volksblatt said that during the last census a district teacher" who was mentioned by name" had indicated "Czech" as his everyday language. He should be rigorously dismissed: "The people no longer abide the City of Vienna. ..hiring a Slav" who is always an enemy of the people.
...We finally have to set an example!"

Czechs in Vienna "Komensky Schule"

During the riots about the trip on the Danube" violent acts were committed in protest against a garden party of the Komensky club in the Simmering labor district in August 1909. There was brawling. People threw beer mugs. The compartments of a streetcar were seized" Czech- speaking passengers were insulted. Traffic was stopped.

Mounted police had a very difficult time keeping the approximately two thousand Czech "defense fighters" who fled from the overpowering crowd in fear. For lack of the real victims" the demonstrators then attacked the police with canes" and threw rocks and beer mugs at the police horses. Finally they withdrew" "singing folkish songs" marched through the city in rows of eight" and sang" bareheaded" the "Wacht am Rhein" and the Bismarck song at Schwarzenberg Square" in front of the French embassy" of all places. The final speech culminated in the demand that the empire"s capital, Vienna" be German and remain German.

The tension was exacerbated by more and more hectic collections for the various national school associations. In 1909" the year of crisis, the Czech School Association's collection brought in 1.4 million kronen" which was more than the simultaneous collections by the Polish and the German school associations. Thus Lower Austria and Vienna had enough money for Czech schools. Czechs as well as Germans quoted an official number of 22.513 Czech pupils in Vienna-with the former pointing out the significant lack of school yards for Czech children and the latter painting the grisly picture of the "Slavization of Vienna" on the wall. The German-national parties and the Christian Socials thus tried harder than ever to push through the "lex Kolisko" a proposal for making German the only language in all the schools of Lower Austria and Vienna" independent of the size of their national minorities. This was in contradiction to clause nineteen, and the Social Democrats cautioned that this would be dangerous: "You are not serving. ..national peace but are throwing a burning torch into all states and state parliaments" whipping up the individual parties to fight for every school."

The situation became worse for the German minorities in the Slavic regions. In Galicia "for instance" where the German minority demanded the same as the Czechs demanded in Vienna " Vienna's school policy served as an excuse to reject the demands. The Polish newspaper Nowa Reforma wrote in 1909 : "In all of Galicia there are fewer Germans than Czechs in Vienna. If the Czechs in Vienna are not recognized as a people and their language not regarded as "traditional," then there is much more justification in adopting this view to the Germans in Galicia. ...At any rate, by supporting the lex Kolisko the Germans have lost every right to make any demands in Galicia."

In 1909 the Emperor tried to pour oil on the waters by making a compromise. He signed the "lex Kolisko," but only partially" granting German as the obligatory language of instruction only in schools for teachers and technical high schools in Lower Austria" but not in public and middle-class schools {which after all were the main issue). This exacerbated the indignation on both sides.

Lueger "on the other hand" received enthusiastic national applause when during the Vienna residents' oath he once again confirmed: "This oath now possesses heightened significance" because there are attempts to give our city a bilingual character. If Vienna becomes bilingual" then it loses the significance it has had until now. For Vienna can only be the Empire's capital and imperial residence if it is monolingual. For if one wanted to draw a conclusion from bilingualism" Vienna would not be bilingual but become mono- or multilingual-a situation which would be downright intolerable. "Alluding to the Komensky schools" he added: "I will strictly see to it that there is only one German school here in my hometown of Vienna" and not any other."

The state "which found itself obliged to protect the basic laws, including the rights of the minorities" was once again confronted with Lueger's policy of Germanization. The "people of Vienna" was clearly on Lueger's side, in opposition to the government and the emperor.

In 1911 the riots spread over to Vienna's second Czech school" which was being established in the Third District. The situation was confused because the authorities could not come to an agreement: The ministry of education allowed the school to be run until further notice, but the state education council ordered that the school be closed. The situation deteriorated all the more as the Czech National Socialists interfered vehemently, which turned the anger even of moderate people in Vienna against the Czechs.

The daily struggle for power was carried on the backs of the pupils. The City of Vienna closed the new building because of alleged flaws in sanitary facilities-the flaws consisting of coat hooks that were too low. The federal authorities ordered the school to be reopened. New harassments followed, and it was closed again. Allegedly the building was too narrow for the alleyway, plus the barking of the dogs in the nearby School of Veterinary Medicine interfered with instruction, and so forth. There was no end to the back-and-forth about the Komensky schools.

Toward the end of September 1911 the police sealed off the gates of the Czech schools, locking the students out. People were very bitter" particularly because these disturbances coincided with the unrest about inflation. The Czech National Socialists took up their Viennese compatriots' cause: on October 5, 1911, they took the Komensky pupils and their parents into Parliament, which led to brawls between German and Czech deputies in the parliament building's columned hall. On November 3, 1912. Four thousand Viennese rallied" shouting the slogan: "Down with the Czech school!" The problem remained unresolved until 1918.

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