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CERH 1257577 19 January 2017
European review of history: Revue Europйenne D'histoire, 2017
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Denunciation and the decline of the Habsburg home front during the First World War Tamara Scheer 5 Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for social science History, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Nationalism played a role in almost all cases of denunciation that Received 16 March 2016
occurred in the Habsburg Monarchy during the First World War. But Accepted 28 October 2016
nationalism was never the only motive behind denunciation and the basis for decisions made by state authorities. Accusations were also
KEYWORDS First World War; Habsburg
influenced by the wartime food shortages, pre-war animosities and Monarchy; denunciation;
prejudices as well as conflicts among different social classes, religious home front; State of
groups, and political ideologies. Nevertheless, almost all denouncers Emergency; Austria;
mentioned nationality to stress the importance of their information. Hungary; nationalism
This paper examines the work of the Habsburg War Surveillance Office,
which was responsible for dealing with denunciation in wartime
Austria-Hungary. It investigates this institution's reaction to cases
of denunciation from across the Habsburg Monarchy and to which
extent nationalities questions played a role. Although according to the
Austrian constitution all languages were to be treated equally, the War
Surveillance Office treated German-language denunciations more
seriously than those in other languages, so non-German-speakers
also wrote their denunciations in German.
There were three reasons for the execution of the local Greek-Catholic priest:
his nationality, religious conflict, and a hen.
Shortly before the outbreak of the war the priest killed one of the teacher's hens after it had
eaten the melon seeds from his garden bed.
Jaroslav Hasek, The Good Soldier Svejk1
This article analyzes the Habsburg War Surveillance Office (k.u.k. Kriegsьberwachungsamt) 30 in Vienna, an institution that became a symbol for Austria-Hungary's authoritarian wartime regime. This department had been planned years before the July Crisis of 1914, mainly to ensure smooth mobilization of the population in times of war and major state crisis. During wartime it was responsible for governing Cisleithanian Austrian civil society with the help of emergency laws, which were decreed by the government in late July 1914. During the First 35 World War civilian governments, often together with the military, took over civil responsibilities across the home fronts of the belligerent states by limiting or even abandoning civilian rights.2 Although citizens suffered because of the harsh and oppressive measures, many of them used this war regime for their own interests. I analyze the War Surveillance Office's reaction
CONTACT Tamara Scheer [email protected] © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
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to civilians who made use of the wartime measures imposed on the home front in order to
denounce their fellow civilians. Although the motives for denunciations as well as the reaction
of the state authorities often reflected the decades-old nationality and language conflicts of
the Monarchy, they were even more connected to pre-war animosities and personal rivalries.
The historiography of authoritarian regimes like Nazi Germany, East Germany, and the
Soviet Union show that denunciation was not only dependent on the legal framework of
the state. It is also an outcome of civilians' willingness to participate in it.3 Robert Gellately
points out the importance of denunciation for ordinary people, who, although "socially
and politically powerless[,] can find ways to be taken seriously. Their words are followed up
10 relentlessly and their opinions are given more meaning than ever." He terms this "manip-
ulation of the system from below."4
A number of historians have addressed the issue of wartime denunciation. In Vienna
and the Fall of the Habsburg Empire, Maureen Healy describes the wartime situation in the
imperial capital that food shortages and martial law influenced. Both shortages and martial
15 law created ideal circumstances for denunciation. Employing letters of denunciation sent
to the Viennese police, Healy designates this phenomenon to rumors and censorship in the
framework of a "crisis of truth" on the home front.5 She argues that residents of the imperial
capital used denunciation as "an act of self-representation."6 This behavior of Viennese resi-
dents encouraged "the breakdown of community" during the war. Martin Moll has analyzed
20 denunciation in Styria, which includes Slovene- and German-speakers involved as both
denouncers and those denounced. He distinguishes between two major motives behind
denunciation: national-political animosities or personal animosities, such as revenge.7 In
another case study, Irina Marin focuses on Habsburg General Nikolaus Cena, an ethnic
Romanian, whom Hungarian civil authorities denounced in his Transylvanian hometown
25 for "subversive behavior," a phrase military authorities employed to describe a wide range
of disloyal behavior, including espionage or speaking against the monarchy, the monarch,
or the military regime. This case reflects a power struggle between the Habsburg Army
commands and local civil authorities. Local Hungarian authorities suspected Habsburg
Romanians in general of acting disloyally, and the general's rank did not prevent his arrest.
30 Even supported by the War Ministry he remained imprisoned for several months.8 Nancy
M. Wingfield has written about a particular social group that was the target of denunci-
ation: clandestine prostitutes and women accused of practicing clandestine prostitution.
The same women were sometimes also accused of criminal misbehavior and/or political
misdeeds. Wingfield works with documents from several regions in Cisleithanian Austria
35 and demonstrates that denunciation need not be connected to nationality or language.9
What these diverse cases of denunciation, denouncers, and denounced share in common
is that the War Surveillance Office, which was part of the Imperial War Ministry, or one of
its subordinate departments, ended up examining most of them. These letters show that
German-speaking Habsburg residents most commonly denounced people who spoke other
40 languages or whom they perceived as nationally different, or "Other." But this does not
necessarily mean that the denouncers were ethnic Germans, as Healy and Moll have also
concluded. Citizens of different nationalities denounced one another. In the multilingual and
multiethnic Habsburg Monarchy, language used played an important role in identifying the
loyalty of the denouncer. Indeed, the War Surveillance Office often treated cases differently
45 based on their understanding of the denouncer's ethnic identity. In many cases, denouncers
intentionally chose to use a particular language like Czech or German to write the police.
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I analyze the internal debate of state authorities engaged in denunciation, as well as letters that were addressed either directly to the War Surveillance Office, or forwarded there by the police and cases reported by military institutions across the monarchy. Many of these letters reflected local national antipathies that can ­ as Svejk shows ­ be traced back to the 5 pre-war period. No matter the reason for a denunciation, even when it did not address important "subversive behavior" such as espionage, but "only" black-marketing or having extra-marital sexual relations, denouncers often played the nationalism card. Both the legal framework of the state and the state's representatives' suspicions about certain nationalities encouraged citizens to believe that using a nationalist argument might make their denun10 ciation more effective. Analysis of documents from the War Surveillance Office make it apparent that its department employees reacted differently to similar cases. It mattered if in the state authorities' eyes the people involved belonged to a disloyal or loyal nationality. In cases of anonymous letters the language used became an important category to be supposed of being loyal or disloyal. German was disproportionately used for denunciations, but this 15 did not necessarily mean that German speakers were more often denouncers than others. Nevertheless, when analyzing the documents of the War Surveillance Office it becomes apparent that officials tended to trust Germans or writers who used German more than other nationalities. Therefore some groups of citizens suffered more often under the oppressive war regime. This accelerated what Maureen Healy called the "breakdown of community." 20 Therefore, denunciation helped encourage the decline of the Habsburg home front. In his study of Graz, Moll argues that the locals adopted a "self-designated" role as the German bulwark "against [disloyal] South Slav aspirations."10 German-language newspapers throughout the monarchy provide evidence that citizens adopted the role of loyal Germans protecting the monarchy against other nationalist aspirations (in the Styrian case, above all 25 Slovenes).11 In this article, I survey the War Surveillance Office's reactions to these denunciations. Did the army or the higher institutions support a so-called German "side" when they dealt with denunciations? What role did German play as a language of denunciation? Did Habsburg Germans receive preferential treatment by the War Surveillance Office or other state authorities involved even in cases of false accusations? This article thus also 30 analyzes the reaction of the War Surveillance Office to those denunciations that proved to be false or maliciously motivated, and asks which role the nationalities question played in denunciations, although it was not necessarily the central question. Nationality was only one motive among several. The Good Soldier Svejk points to additional motives such as religious conflict and personal animosities, which could often be traced back to the pre-war 35 years. Denunciations also reflected wartime conditions, including economic and political rivalries as well as food shortages. The terminology used to describe denunciations is also important for my analysis. Administrative sources commonly employed the term Anzeige rather than Denunzierung. Denunzierung is used almost exclusively when contemporaries -- state representatives as 40 well as citizens -- referred to an accusation they perceived as unjustified.12 Nineteenthcentury German-language dictionaries and encyclopedias define denunciation as Anzeige machen, which means reporting actions that violate the law. At the same time encyclopedias reveal that the term had already undergone a change in meaning before the First World War. Brockhaus usage at the end of the nineteenth century argued that the term Anzeigen 45 had become more frequently used in recent years for malicious accusations in vernacular language ("jetzt nur noch in ьblem Sinn: anzeigen, angeben").13 Thus, denunciation was
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usually used by Habsburg state authorities and newspapers when the motive was malicious. All other notes citizens sent to state authorities were usually designated Anzeige.
Habsburg denunciation practices Two major issues played major roles in the Habsburg Monarchy's political debates from 5 the late nineteenth century up to the outbreak of the First World War: the nationality/ language question and the Compromise (Ausgleich) with Hungary in 1867. Between 1867 and 1918, Austria and Hungary instituted different political programs in regard to their ethnically and linguistically diverse citizens. The Austrian Constitution of 1867 granted citizens of each nationality Equal Rights and the right to use their language in public life.14 10 Common institutions, such as the Habsburg Army, recognized 11 languages: Croatian, Czech, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Ruthenian, Serbian, Slovak, and Slovene.15 In a process known as Magyarization, the dominant Hungarian elites attempted to construct a political Hungarian nation with Hungarian as the state language. Although ethnic Hungarians accounted for only about half the population, citizens of other nation15 alities and languages had progressively fewer rights.16 Wartime Austria-Hungary was governed by two different states of emergency, the Austrian and the Hungarian, which were both implemented in July 1914. The Kriegsьberwachungsamt had been planned as a common institution responsible for the whole Monarchy. Nevertheless, it was only responsible for Cisleithanian Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina and designated 20 military zones in the Kingdom of Hungary that bordered the fighting fronts. In Cisleithanian Austria, the army took over many civil responsibilities, while in Hungary the minister president together with his government was responsible for the implementation and interpretation of emergency laws. In wartime Hungary the War Surveillance Commission (Hadi felьgyeleti Bizottsбg) was set up. It was less powerful than the War Surveillance Office as 25 it had no authority to issue directives to state institutions. It usually only collected issues related to the emergency laws and forwarded them to the responsible ministries and state offices. Although the War Surveillance Office was not responsible for Hungary, it often cooperated with the War Surveillance Commission. Hungarian liaison officers worked in Vienna.17 The Hungarian Commission, like Austria's War Surveillance Office, treated 30 Hungarian as language that demonstrated loyalty to the war regimes.18 One of the War Surveillance Office's first public acts was an announcement in the press on August 3, 1914 following the German declaration of war on Tsarist Russia, which was published in most of the Monarchy's newspapers. (This information was also distributed in poster form.) In addition to the declaration of war, the announcement also informed 35 readers that numerous "subversive elements" were active in Austria-Hungary. The War Surveillance Office reminded members of the public of their "patriotic duty" to counter this threat by sending them "reliable information" about the disloyal behavior of fellow men. Only two days later, on August 5, the War Surveillance Office publicly addressed this issue again. The official Austrian state newspaper, Wiener Zeitung, announced that too many 40 people had responded to the call since it was published. The article reminded readers to report only reliable information and not to write to the War Surveillance Office, but rather to the nearest police office.19 Nevertheless, this order soon ended in, as Healy comments, "myriad letters of denunciation sent to overworked police forces."20
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The majority of the letters that made their way to the War Surveillance Office were writ-
ten in German. Cisleithanian Austrian Constitutional Law permitted denouncers to write in
other languages too, but many people chose to use the Austrian lingua franca. The residents
of the Monarchy who wrote letters could employ other official languages, including Czech
5 or Italian, but the documents of the War Surveillance Office indicate that non-German-lan-
guage communications constituted only a minority. Writing in German did not necessarily
mean that all of the denouncers were Habsburg Germans. Indeed, the grammar and style
used in many of the letters indicates that many writers were non-native speakers. Therefore,
examples from linguistically mixed regions are of extraordinary interest.21 It is important to
10 understand why a bilingual inhabitant of Laibach, today Ljubljana, decided to denounce a
fellow citizen in German if it were not his first language. It seems likely that already in the
early days of the war civilians believed writing in German would indicate their loyalty to the
Monarchy, and that the information provided in the letter would be treated more seriously
by state authorities. The evidence available from the War Surveillance Office also appears to
15 indicate that their employees considered German-language letters to be more reliable than
letters written in other languages.22 If German (and Hungarian) were a language of loyalty, it
is useful to determine if state authorities suspected others of being disloyal. Nevertheless, it
is necessary to distinguish between the language used for denunciation and when language
use in public became the motive for denunciation.
Some Habsburg languages, such as Serbian, Romanian, and Italian, were also used by
people from hostile countries. Enemy belligerents also spoke English, French, and Russian.
The use of these languages was often the motive behind accusations. There are many exam-
ples of German-speakers reporting "strange looking people" who they were sure must be
involved in "subversive" activities because they were using a language other than German.
25 This was true even when the German denouncers did not recognize the language being
spoken by the people they were reporting on.23 The War Surveillance Office tended to start
investigations after such accusations, which gave these denouncers the feeling of acting in
accordance with the war regime. They were "taken seriously," to quote Gellately, and to be
taken into consideration by state officials meant they tended to denounce again.24 A con-
30 temporary observer who became a subject of an investigation during wartime, the Czech
nationalist poet Josef Svatopluk Machar, wrote that Czechs lived in constant fear, since there
were spies and anonymous denouncers everywhere in the Bohemian and Moravian Lands.
He asserted that the wartime situation under military rule was particularly bad for Czechs
because they were often imprisoned and interrogated by people who did not know how to
35 speak Czech fluently.25 Not being able to speak to court judges and policemen occurred
across Austria-Hungary for citizens who spoke languages other than the linguae francae,
German or Hungarian, or Polish in Galicia and Croat in Croatia. They more often came
into conflict with state institutions.
Using poor language in letters of denunciation was not necessarily an indication that
40 a non-native speaker was involved. It could also reflect that the denouncer belonged to
a lower, less-educated, social class. Gellately has written that in the case of the National
Socialist regime "most denouncers we find in the police files came from the lower end of
the social scale," but that at the same time "the police everywhere act with less restraint
when complaints come from a better social class."26 The War Surveillance Office's files for
45 the most part contain reports from members of the lower and middle classes as indicated
by writers' names and professions. The documents also reveal that those from the upper
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classes often made oral denunciations. They might call up a mayor, policeman, or army
officer of their acquaintance. Members of the lower classes also made oral denunciations,
however. While police searched someone's home for incriminating information as the result
of a denunciation, for example, neighbors might start talking with the police and provide
5 additional information about misbehavior of their fellow men. These kinds of accusations
show that the denouncers often lived in close proximity to the denounced. They often lived
in the same neighborhood. Those who wrote denunciations often provided the police with
personal information about their neighbors too.27 However, these letters often reflected
the fact that the denouncer had not been eyewitness to incriminating situation s/he was
10 alleging. In these cases, the phrase "man sagt" (one says) was often used. In Silesian Orlau
(today, Orlovб in the Czech Republic) Anton Sramsk was accused several times of being
a Russophile by fellow men. The investigators from the Silesian provincial government
sent his case to the War Surveillance Office, writing that Sramsk is "commonly known as a
Russophile," thus they could not provide the name of a particular denouncer.28
Denunciations were often anonymous. They might be signed with initials or "a patriot,"
"a worried citizen," "Veritas," or "a German guest."29 Women sometimes revealed their
gender in anonymous denouncement letters when they styled themselves using the female
form of the words "a great patriot" (eine groЯe Patriotin).30 Anonymous denunciation was
not just a Habsburg phenomenon, of course. Olaf Stieglitz has studied denunciation in the
20 United States starting from the late nineteenth century until recent times. He argues that
denouncers justified their actions with a patriotic sense of duty. Nevertheless, their motives
were usually different ones. They aimed only to legitimize their actions by claiming patriot-
ism.31 Argued with a patriotic sense of duty, that is, when signing the letter with "a patriot"
as above, citizens often not only wrote a denunciation letter but also offered their ongoing
25 support in detecting "subversive behavior" by trying to become an official informant. In
most cases, it is unclear how the War Surveillance Office reacted to such offers because the
outcomes of many cases are not preserved in the archives. Eduard Popper, a salesman from
Pilsen,who had not been mobilized offered his support, noting that he volunteered because
of his "patriotic feeling for the emperor and fatherland." He promised to detect "civilians in
30 Bohemia who spread worrying news about the front lines and hold subversive speeches."32
It was not only individual citizens who became denouncers. Even political parties accused
each other of Denunziantentum publicly in their newspapers. The Social Democrats accused
German National Party members of showing their loyalty to the state by denouncing their
party enemies, in particular for acting disloyal. They called the German National Party's patri-
35 otic motives into question and termed their behavior "undisguised denunciation" ("unverhьll-
tes Denunziantentum").33 The social democratic party newspaper, Arbeiterzeitung, argued
that the German National Party regularly and improperly denounced Social Democrats,
terming such behavior "political pretentiousness" ("politisches Angebertum").
As the Svejk quotation shows, Austrian citizens used denunciation as revenge against
40 their neighbors, family members, and colleagues. Some denunciations were the direct result
of incidents that long predated the war's outbreak. In many cases people denounced each
other out of a mixture of motives. Denunciations often reflected the Habsburg nationality
issue, but regional national struggles were also a traceable cause of denunciations. For
example, Germans from Trient (today, Trento) tended to denounce Italian-speaking resi-
45 dents, while Galician Poles denounced Ruthenians.34 Documents in the military archives
refer to mass denunciations among Bosnian-Herzegovinian citizens. These files show that
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especially Catholics/Croats and Muslims/Bosnians denounced Orthodox/Serbs.35 Again,
German was identified as the language of loyalty suitable for denunciation, even in Habsburg
regions where it was not the lingua franca. For example, in southern Hungary and Bosnia-
Herzegovina the use of the Cyrillic alphabet in a denunciation did not elicit the same
5 reaction from state authorities as a letter written in the Latin alphabet, as becomes obvious
when investigating the files of the War Surveillance Office.36
What happened when Habsburg Germans were denounced? They were often targeted
for subversive behavior, as when they interacted with "the enemy" in public. Two women in
Leoben, Styria, were accused of Russophilia and spying for Russia. The unnamed denouncer
10 reported without providing more detailed information that he had witnessed Russian
POWs visiting the two women, even before the war.37 In a signed letter, Eugen Magen
denounced a certain Dr Jantsch of speaking disloyally towards the state ("wegen staatsfein-
dlicher ДuЯerung"). Magen wrote that he heard Jantsch speaking in French to a woman
unknown to him. When the police interrogated him, Jantsch claimed to have only very
15 limited understanding of French, but what he clearly understood was that the two accused
had spoken badly about him ("meint die beiden hдtten ihn beschimpft").38 What becomes
obvious is that private space was evaporating on the home front. Two women walking on
the street talking to each other, or a family gathered around a table in a pub, had to worry
about whether or not others were eavesdropping in order to catch them "acting disloyally."
Letters not only reflect personal animosities and national prejudices, but also connect the
accusations with the daily rivalry for food, or as Healy puts it: "The wartime paternalism of
Habsburg rule was insufficient salve for national hostilities at the local level exacerbated by
acute material distress."39 One denouncer even pointed out this rivalry in her denunciation
letter sent to the Viennese Police Office: "Privation is more severe than one might expect. It
25 turns human beings into beasts" ("Die Noth ist grцЯer als Sie glauben. Sie macht die Menschen
zu Bestien").40 Often, denounced individuals possessed a good that the denouncer wanted. Or
the denouncer suggested that the person they were denouncing had unjustified possession
or enriched sources of food. An anonymous denouncer ended one letter with the words "in
the interest of our poor soldiers fighting at the front." Before that, the writer had pointed out
30 that a woman and her husband, who was an Army officer, were exchanging huge amounts
of money and goods. The letters make it clear that people on the home front were fighting
a war of distribution over goods, especially food. Some denouncers accused others of sub-
versive behavior and suggested their neighbors were living a bacchanal lifestyle in times of
war and practicing usury.41 Denouncers often targeted Jewish citizens with accusations of
35 wastefulness and usury. These accusations increased across the monarchy during the war.42
Reactions of the War Surveillance Office When planning for a state of emergency before 1914, the army and civil ministries presumed that Austria-Hungary would be threatened by Socialists and Communists. The closer the war came, the more emphasis was placed on certain nationalities and their presumptive disloyalty 40 towards the Habsburg monarchy. In particular, Czechs, Habsburg-Serbs, and Italians were presumed to be disloyal to the overall state. The War Surveillance Office was set up specifically to deal with "anti-monarchic behavior" ("monarchiefeindlichem Verhalten"), or behavior designed to damage the monarchy. The office was responsible for investigating denunciations, for censoring letters, media relations, for POWs, and internment of Austrian citizens.43
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The Habsburg Monarchy was not a centralized state before, or during, the war.44 Besides the implementation of an Austrian and Hungarian state of emergency, denunciation cases reflected the communication problems that occurred between lower administrative units (police, communities, towns) and the ministries and the War Surveillance Office, which 5 consisted of representatives from most Austrian and all three imperial ministries. Different wartime laws and different local practice resulted in different wartime conditions. There was no "single" Habsburg home front, but many. Moreover, every administrative office lacked enough skilled personnel for home-front duties. This included the War Surveillance Office as well as all subordinate offices.45 This problem is not only reflected in the administrative 10 documents but also in the memoirs of people who came into conflict with the state. Machar published a Czech-language booklet during the war about his experiences with denunciation and his own imprisonment. He claimed that the people who dealt with his case were totally inexperienced and only rarely spoke Czech.46 Using the example of Trieste, the historian Borut Klabjan points to a peak in denuncia15 tions during the first weeks of the war.47 A similar situation is traceable everywhere in the Monarchy. From July until September 9, 1914, the Vienna police reported approximately 459 house searches followed by 277 arrests.48 In his book on Styria Moll demonstrates that beginning in 1915 there was a decrease in denunciations as well as in the situation reports sent from the Corps Commands to the War Surveillance Office. The decrease was caused 20 by two phenomena: fewer denunciations occurred, because after a while denouncers were arrested for false accusations; and the War Surveillance Office decided not to take all accusations seriously and forwarded letters to local police headquarters. In 1917/18, almost no denunciation cases can be found in the files of the War Surveillance Office. Although there was a decrease in denunciations, the topic remained on the agenda of the civil and military 25 administration until the end of the war. As shown in the previous chapter, the government called on citizens to denounce Russophiles in 1914. Soon, Emperor Francis Joseph felt compelled to react to the numerous arrests and detentions of supposed political traitors throughout his empire. He ordered his state institutions to react only in cases of substantial evidence ("schwerwiegender 30 Verdachtsmomente"), because "unjustified arrests push even loyal people in a subversive direction" ("durch unberechtigte Verhaftungen auch loyale Elemente in eine staatsschдdliche Richtung getrieben werden").49 Chief of the General Staff, Franz Conrad von Hцtzendorf, characterized mostly as a hardliner and the mastermind of the authoritarian regime during the First World War, was forced to react to his emperor's order. Conrad sent a note to the 35 Austrian Council of Ministers arguing that numerous politically reliable and unsuspicious people were imprisoned in Galicia. Especially after the retreat of the Austro-Hungarian army from Galicia and after its Russian occupation, many Ruthenians were accused of espionage and sentenced to death. Conrad commented on this, noting that "it is in the interest of the army's High Command to support the loyal Ukrainians in Eastern Galicia and to strengthen 40 their patriotic feelings." He turned the Austrian Ministerial President's attention to other aspects of denunciation, identity, and loyalty. He mentioned that all officials had to take note that many accusations were made only by "political opponents" of the Ukrainians, in his eyes "Polish nationalists," to eliminate their political opponents.50 The longer the war lasted, the more state institutions, among them the War Surveillance 45 Office, had to deal with people who made false denunciations. After she had made numerous false denunciations, Jadwiga Augustyn, a housewife-widow of a civil servant from Rzeszуw,
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Galicia, today in Poland, was arrested. We know about her case as she wrote to the Galician
Refugee Office in Graz when she was kept in Thalerhof, which housed an internment camp
in close proximity. She reported about not knowing why she had been imprisoned. Her case
was then forwarded to the War Surveillance Office to decide if she should be released or
5 not.51 Although the detectors of subversive elements declared themselves to be loyal in their
often anonymous letters, authorities did not always consider them as such. In the end, the
War Surveillance Office classified Augustyn as someone damaging the stability of the home
front. Despite strict censorship in the Austrian half of the monarchy, newspapers regularly
reported on denunciation cases. Several newspapers reported that in Cracow the "Polish"
10 journalist Siegmund Rosner was sentenced to six years in prison after denouncing several
high-ranking people ("hochgeachtete Persцnlichkeiten").52 The situation reports sent to the
War Surveillance Office by the 15 different Corps Commands which covered the Habsburg
territory show that there were a lot of denouncers who ended up in prison for making false
accusations, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.53
In addition to reports on denunciation in the Monarchy, newspapers reported on other
countries' reactions to denunciation. The Prager Tagblatt hypothesized that the British gov-
ernment's motive for increasing the reward for sunken German ships was to "motivate neu-
tral ships to carry out espionage."54 The daily printed "Excerpts from the Daily Press" (Auszug
aus der Tagespresse) that the Habsburg War Press Office (k.u.k. Kriegspressequartier) had
20 compiled from foreign countries frequently pointed out cases of denunciation in the other
belligerent states.55 They were a more or less indirect way of explaining to Habsburg citizens
how state institutions expected them to behave. On the one hand, the Rosner case mentioned
earlier suggested to them that they should not make false accusations, but on the other hand,
it also suggested that the war could only be won if citizens supported the state by reporting
25 disloyalty. The War Surveillance Office frequently invited journalists to press conferences
where they were told what to write and what they were not allowed to discuss in public.56
The denunciation cases that were sent to the War Surveillance Office show that Habsburg
Germans were considered more trustworthy than other nationalities, regardless of whether
they were the denouncers or the denounced. That was true even in cases where, as denounc-
30 ers, they had neither seen nor heard an infringement themselves but had simply reported
rumors. Leaders of the German School Association (Deutscher Schulverein) located in
Vienna wrote to the Imperial War Ministry in Vienna in October 1914 denouncing the dep-
uty mayor of the Bohemian town of Schьttenhofen (today Susice in the Czech Republic) as
a Serbophile. The School Association information came from "an always reliable source." In
35 this case, although there were no eyewitnesses, the only reason the War Surveillance Office
started an investigation was because the "always reliable" members of the German school
association had sent the letter.57 Judson shows in Guardians of the Nation that the conflict
between local German and Czech nationalists was intense even before the outbreak of the
First World War and only increased during the war when all sides engaged made use of the
40 oppressive war regulations.58
The longer the war lasted, the more the War Surveillance Office had to deal with cases
of people who had been imprisoned after having been denounced. The imprisoned then
usually wrote to the War Surveillance Office begging to be released. They argued that their
imprisonment was exclusively the result of false and malicious denunciations, and frequently
45 mentioned their Austrian or German identity or ties. This seemingly happened as they
wanted to show their loyalty towards the War Surveillance Office, which was expected to
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treat ethnic Germans better than other nationalities. The Italian Marius von Nipoti argued
that although he was an Italian citizen he had grown up in Austria and been educated by
his Habsburg-German mother in Graz. He did not even speak fluent Italian, he argued, and
could, therefore, only be treated as an Austrian-friendly German. He added that he loved
5 Austria, which he called his "natural homeland."59 Nipoti was one among many who made
this argument. In his letter to the War Surveillance Office a Czech salesman who had had
been arrested for subversive behavior wrote about his identity and loyalty. He argued that
he was imprisoned after his former business partner made a groundless denunciation out
of revenge. He argued that he had never acted "subversively" and provided two examples
10 that underscored his loyalty. Before the outbreak of war, he wrote, all of his friends were
Habsburg-Germans. When the first trains with wounded soldiers arrived in his hometown,
he organized relief with help from all the local women and did not differentiate between
Czechs and Germans. He claimed that he even opened a war welfare event with a patriotic
Habsburg speech.60 The Czech salesman shared the same fate as Nipoti. They remained
15 imprisoned.
The Italian citizen Eugen Bigatto, who lived in Austria when the war broke out, was
interned because of his allegedly subversive behavior. Bigatto's attorney argued that he was
only sentenced as the result of a false accusation from one of "his known enemies" ("von
seinen ihm bekannten Feinden"), a local Croatian judge and a former Habsburg officer. The
20 attorney pointed out that Bigatto as an Italian citizen had conflicts with the Croatian com-
munity authorities of Capodistria (today, Koper, Slovenia) even before the war. The attorney
added that despite Bigatto's Italian national identity, he "never did anything against Austria
and was a loyal civil servant" ("dass derselbe aber ein durchaus loyaler Staatsbeamter war,
der nicht das Geringste gegen Цsterreich tat").61
Denunciation and its effects were not only shaped by someone's nationality, but also
depended on the social standing of the people involved. The outcome of a denunciation
was also dependent on the place where it happened. In the area around Vienna, where
there had been animosities against Czechs even before 1914, speaking Czech was a far more
precarious choice than speaking Czech in Sarajevo. Also, the same crime could be assessed
30 differently by local state institutions and the outcomes were dependent on the officer han-
dling the case. Therefore, different treatment occurred throughout the monarchy for the
same or similar crimes. This created constantly increasing insecurity. Certain nationalities
and language speakers were constantly concerned about how to behave correctly in order to
avoid punishment. As particular nationalities were on the daily denunciation agenda, this
35 meant that Czechs, Habsburg Serbs, and Italians were treated far worse by state authorities
and felt more insecure than Hungarians or Habsburg Germans. For certain nationalities
therefore it was much easier to get into conflict with state authorities.
People increasingly believed that anyone who used Czech in public was acting disloy-
ally, and as the state authorities reacted to such accusations, their prejudices were proved
40 right. Reports of the Viennese Police Office show that even people leaving churches after
religious services who sang in Czech elicited the anger of passersby ("Missfallen bei den
Passanten").62 The Bohemian ninth Corps Command frequently sent bimonthly reports to
the War Ministry respectively to the War Surveillance Office. On December 16, 1915 they
wrote that the Czech court servant, Josef Rajny, sang the emperor's anthem in Czech in a pub
45 in Postelberg (today Postoloprty in the Czech Republic). This happened in a region where
the situation reports frequently reported Habsburg Germans singing German national songs
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such as Die Wacht am Rhein or even refused to sing the Habsburg anthem, instead of singing the German. Nevertheless, while Vienna told the commander of the ninth Corps Command not to report about German nationalism any more, Rajny end up in the report, as other guests saw him spitting on the floor after finishing the Habsburg emperor's anthem. They 5 denounced him as being disloyal, and the local police started an investigation.63 Moreover, what was reported as an instance of state-damaging disloyalty before the war, e.g. singing German national songs such as Die Wacht am Rhein or waving a German flag, was, thanks to the alliance with Germany, no longer treated as a crime. Therefore, German nationalists were less often the victims of denunciation than they had been before the war. Furthermore, 10 when Czechs complained about the fact that German nationalism was no longer punished, they became the target of denunciations for speaking against the German ally, which fell under the category "subversive behavior."64 This unequal treatment resulted from the special Habsburg political situation, reflected the state's multiethnic composition, and increased the oppressive nature of the state of emergency.
15 Conclusion
In The Habsburg Empire: A New History, Judson connects the ultimate fall of the monarchy
to the emergency legislation. The Austrian state abandoned the decades-old Rechtsstaat
(and the normal expectations around the Rechtsstaat and justice). In the end, the state
lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens.65 What made the regime even more oppres-
20 sive was that certain groups of citizens suffered disproportionately from the harshness of
emergency laws. Thousands of citizens took active part in the implementation of emergency
laws through denunciation. But this process does not differ from other cases where a state
of emergency was implemented. The Habsburg case was even more complicated, because
two different emergency regimes were set up, one in Hungary and one in Austria and
25 Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Denunciation worsened conditions on the home front. It affected all regions of the mon-
archy, all nationalities and social classes, and both men and women. There were multiple
motives for denunciation: personal, class-based, fear, patriotism, and the political situation.
Although national affiliation and language usage were not the driving motives behind all
30 denunciations, they played a major role in the handling and outcome of denunciation cases.
Imperial authorities such as the War Surveillance Office tended to trust certain nationalities
more than others and took letters written in so-called loyal languages more seriously. But,
as Svejk shows, the war was only an accelerator of existing pre-war animosities. Therefore,
the state of emergency and denunciation, or ­ put another way ­ the state's harsh war gov-
35 ernment with the enthusiastic support of many citizens, led to the decline of the Habsburg
home fronts, and not simply defeat on the fighting front.
1.Hasek, Die Abenteuer des braven Soldaten Schwejk, 95.
2.For an overview of the state of emergency and the emergency laws, see Agamben, State of
3. Gellately, "Denunciation as a Subject of historical research," 16­29; Hornung, Denunziation
als soziale Praxis; Kozlov, "Denunciation and Its Functions in Soviet Governance," 867­98.
4.Gellately, "Denunciation as a Subject of Historical Research," 17.
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5.Healy, Vienna and the Fall of the Habsburg Empire, 122.
6.Healy, Vienna and the Fall of the Habsburg Empire, 24.
7.Moll, Kein Burgfrieden.
8.Marin, "World War I and Internal Repression," 195­208.
9.Wingfield, "The Enemy," 568­98.
10.Moll, Kein Burgfrieden, 81.
11.This phenomenon did not start during the First World War but was also apparent, for example,
during the First Balkan War in 1912. See: Scheer, "Habsburg Empire's German Speaking Public
Sphere and the First Balkan War," 301­19.
12.Цsterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv/Kriegsьberwachungsamt, Nr. 38645,
Bьro des Galizischen Landesausschusses fьr die Fьrsorge fьr Kriegsflьchtlinge an
Perlustrierungskommission in der k.k. Statthalterei in Graz, 14.8.1915.
13.Autorenkollektiv. Brockhaus' Konversationslexikon. F. A. Brockhaus in Leipzig, Berlin und
Wien, 14. Auflage: 1894­1896, Denuncierung.
14.Staatsgrundgesetz vom 21. Dezember 1867, Art. 19, in: Reichsgesetzblatt, Nr. 142.
15.On the so-called regimental language system in the Habsburg common army and the Austrian
army during the First World War, see Scheer, "Habsburg Languages at War."
16.Dolmбnyos, "Kritik der Lex Apponyi," 233­304.
17.Scheer, War Surveillance Office.
18.See Galбntai, Hungary in the First World War. As a most recent comparison between the
Hungarian and Austrian home front see: Healy, Bronson, and Musa, "Social Conflict and
Control, Protest and Repression (Austria-Hungary)."
19.N.N., "Die Mitwirkung der Цffentlichkeit an der Bekдmpfung staatsfeindlicher Umtriebe,"
Wiener Zeitung, 5.8.1914, 7­8. Original quotation in German: "Diese Mitteilungen dьrfen sich
aber naturgemдЯ nicht auf bloЯe Vermutungen stьtzen, sondern es mьssen ihnen bestimmte
beweisbare Tatsachen zugrunde liegen. Auch handelt es sich bei der ganzen Frage ьberhaupt
nur um solche staatsgefдhrlichen Elemente, die offenbar vom Gegner zum Zwecke der
Spionage oder zur Ausfьhrung verrдterischer Anschlдge geworben worden sind."
20.See Healy, Bronson, and Musa, "Social Conflict and Control, Protest and Repression (Austria-
21.See Judson, Guardians of the Nation.
22.This information, as well as following general conclusions, is the outcome of an archival
examination of the all together 300 boxes of the War Surveillance Office's correspondence
during the First World War. This collection is available in the Viennese Austrian State
Archives, War Archive, Kriegsьberwachungsamt (after 1917 called Ministerialkommission
im Kriegsministerium).
23.Archiv der Bundespolizeidirektion Wien, St 1917, Kt. 4, Nr. 50225/K/17.
24.Gellately, "Denunciation as a Subject of Historical Research," 17.
25.Machar, k.u.k. Kriminal, 7. German original: "Menschen aller Schichten und Stдnde lebten
unter stдndiger Polizeiaufsicht, Gasthдuser, Cafes, Theater, Promenaden wimmelten von
Spitzeln und die Spionage drang selbst in die Familien ein, es regnete anonyme Anzeigen
aus allen Ecken und Enden und auf Grund solcher erfolgten Verhцre, Hausdurchsuchungen,
Verhaftungen, Einkerkerungen, [...] alle bьrgerlichen Rechte waren aufgehoben, es gab keine
persцnlichen, keine verfassungsgemдЯen Freiheiten, es gab bloЯ Militдrgerichte und diese
arbeiteten, wie sie arbeiten mussten, tschechische Menschen wurden verhцrt und abgeurteilt
von Richtern, die kein tschechisches Wцrtchen kannten."
26.Gellately, "Denunciation as a Subject of Historical Research," 27
27.Archiv der Bundespolizeidirektion Wien, K 9868/1915.
28.Цsterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv/Kriegsьberwachungsamt, Nr. 5853,
Strafanzeige gegen die Beamtensgattin Maria Holes, k.k. Schlesisches Landesprдsidium
an Kriegsьberwachungsamt, 18.12.1914. Original quotation in German: "Die цffentliche
Meinung bezeichnete den Oberingenieur und Betriebsleiter Anton Sramsk [...] als einen
gefдhrlichen Russophilen."
29.See Archiv der Bundespolizeidirektion Wien, K 9868/1915, as well as K 1874/1914.
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30.Archiv der Bundespolizeidirektion Wien, K 9868/1915.
31.Stieglitz, Undercover, 137.
32.Цsterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv/Kriegsьberwachungsamt, Nr. 6000, Eduard
Popper an das Kriegsministerium, 1.10.1914.
33.N.N., "Sittliche Motive," Arbeiterzeitung, 13.5.1916, 4.
34.As one example from Trieste see: Klabjan, "Od Trsta do Sarajeva in nazaj," 762f. See also the
articles by Elisabeth Haid on Galicia, Alessandro Livio's on Trentino in this special issue.
35.Цsterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv/Territoralkommanden, 15. Korpskommando,
Konv. Reservat Militдrkommandobefehle, Reservat-Militдrkommandobefehl Nr. 5, 21.9.1914.
36.As only one example where for a duration of a couple of weeks all Cyrillic letters were ignored:
Цsterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv/Kriegsьberwachungsamt, Nr. 9135, 8.11.1914.
37.Цsterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv/Kriegsьberwachungsamt, Nr. 5912, Anzeige.
38.Archiv der Bundespolizeidirektion Wien, St 1917, Kt. 4, Nr. 50225/K/17.
39.Healy, Bronson, and Musa, "Social Conflict and Control, Protest and Repression (Austria-
40.Archiv der Bundespolizeidirektion Wien, K 42262/1917.
41.Archiv der Bundespolizeidirektion Wien, K 9868/1915.
42.As only one example: Vojenskэ Ъstedni Archiv (Prague), IX. Korpskommando, Prдs, 52-1,
Situational Report to the War Surveillance Office, 22.6.1915.
43.Redlich, Цsterreichische Regierung und Verwaltung im Weltkriege, 88.
44.Gammerl, Staatsbьrger, Untertanen und Andere, 100.
45.For the case of the War Surveillance Office, see: Scheer, Die RingstraЯenfront. A lack of skilled
personnel was also traceable in subordinated offices: Rachamimov, "Arbiters of Allegiance,"
157­77. See also: Lukan, "Die politische Meinung der slowenischen Bevцlkerung," 217­83.
46.Machar, k.u.k. Kriminal, 62. Original quotation in German language: "Klicnik! Das ist nicht
jener BeschlieЯer, Herr Gehringer, der in Friedenszeiten Raseur in Ottakring war und jetzt
der Hьter verdдchtiger und gefдhrlicher tschechischer Individuen ist."
47.Klabjan, "Od Trsta do Sarajeva in nazaj," 762f.
48.Archiv der Bundespolizeidirektion Wien, Stimmungsbericht 1914
49.Цsterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv/Kriegsьberwachungsamt, Nr. 5263, 17.9.1914.
50.Цsterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv/Kriegsьberwachungsamt, Nr. 5892,
Armeeoberkommando an k.k. Ministerratsprдsidium.
51.Цsterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv/Kriegsьberwachungsamt, Nr. 38645, Bьro
des Galizischen Landesausschusses fьr die Fьrsorge fьr Kriegsflьchtlinge an k.k.
Perlustrierungskommission in der k.k. Statthalterei in Graz, 14.8.1915.
52.N.N. "Ein verurteilter Journalist," Neues Wiener Journal, 22.12.1915, 10; as well as: N.N.
"Verurteilung eines polnischen Journalisten," Prager Tagblatt, 21.12.1915, 2.
53.Vojenskэ Ъstedni Archiv (Prague), IX. Korpskommando, Prдs, 52-1, Situational Report to
KЬA, October 1915.
54.N.N. "Die Prдmie fьr die Denunzierung deutscher Kriegsschiffe erhцht," Prager Tagblatt,
23.10.1914, 3.
55.As only one example: N.N. "Denunzierung von Antipatrioten," Auszug aus der Tagespresse,
6.1.1918, 8. Reflecting an article published in the Italian Il Popolo d'Italia (3.1.1918).
56.Scheer, RingstraЯenfront, 123­4.
57.Цsterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv/Kriegsьberwachungsamt, Nr. 6007, Deutscher
Schulverein in Wien an das Kriegsministerium, 1.10.1914.
58.Judson, Guardians of the Nation, 90­2.
59.Цsterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv/Kriegsьberwachungsamt, Nr. 38644, Brief des
Marius de Nipoti an Kriegsьberwachungsamt, 10.8.1915.
60.Цsterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv/Kriegsьberwachungsamt, Nr. 5853, k.k.
Schlesisches Landesprдsidium an das Kriegsьberwachungsamt, 18.12.1914.
61.Цsterreichisches Staatsarchiv/Kriegsarchiv/Kriegsьberwachungsamt, Nr. 38756, Gegenstand:
Eugen Bigatto Konfinierung.
62.Archiv der Bundespolizeidirektion Wien, Stimmungsbericht 1915.
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63.Vojenskэ Ъstedni Archiv (Prague), IX. Korpskommando, Prдs, 52-1, Situational Report to
KЬA, 16.12.1915.
64.Vojenskэ Ъstedni Archiv (Prague), IX. Korpskommando, Prдs, 52-1, Situational Report to
KЬA, October 1915.
65.Judson, The Habsburg Empire, 393­4, 430, 432.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.
Funding This work was supported by Austrian Science Fund [grant number T-602].
10 Notes on contributor Tamara Scheer is a researcher at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Historical Social Science and lecturer at the Institute for East European History at the University of Vienna. Previously, she worked as a university assistant (postdoc) at the Andrassy University in Budapest. She is currently working on her fourth monograph dealing with Language Diversity and Multi-linguliasm in the 15 Habsburg Army, 1868­1914. Previously, she has published on Habsburg Presence in Ottoman Sanjak of Novipazar `Minimale Kosten, absolut kein Blut!:' Цsterreich-Ungarns Prдsenz im Sandzak von Novipazar (1879­1908) (Peter Lang, 2013); the Habsburg State of Emergency during the First World War Die RingstraЯenfront ­ Цsterreich-Ungarn, das Kriegsьberwachungsamt und der Ausnahmezustand wдhrend des Ersten Weltkriegs (HGM, 2010), and Habsburg Occupation Policies during the First 20 World War Zwischen Front und Heimat: Цsterreich-Ungarns Militдrverwaltungen im Ersten Weltkrieg (Peter Lang, 2009).
ORCID Tamara Scheer
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T Scheer

File: proof-cover-sheet.pdf
Title: Denunciation and the decline of the Habsburg home front during the First World War
Author: T Scheer
Author: Tamara Scheer
Keywords: First World War; Habsburg Monarchy; denunciation; home front; State of Emergency; Austria; Hungary; nationalism
Published: Thu Jan 19 13:22:59 2017
Pages: 18
File size: 1.02 Mb

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