Engelbert Dollfuß

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Engelbert Dollfuß
Engelbert Dollfuss.png
Born 4 October 1892
Texingtal, Austro-Hungarian Empire
Died 25 July 1934 (aged 41)
Vienna, Austria
Nationality Austrian
Occupation soldier, politician
Party Christian Social Party
Fatherland's Front
Religion Catholic

Term 20 May 1932 – 25 July 1934
Predecessor Karl Buresch
Successor Kurt Schuschnigg

Engelbert Dollfuß (October 4, 1892July 25, 1934), also known as Engelbert Dollfuss, was an Austrian Christian Social and Patriotic Front statesman, who was chancellor of Austria from 1932 and national conservative leader of Austria from 1933 until his assassination in 1934 by Austrians supportive of National Socialist Germany.

Early life

Born in Texing in Lower Austria as the child of the single and deeply religious mother Josepha Dollfuss by an unknown father, Dollfuss was educated at a Roman Catholic seminary before deciding to study Law at the University of Vienna and then Economics at the University of Berlin.

Dollfuss had difficulty gaining admission into the Austro-Hungarian army in World War I due to his short stature – according to The New York Times he stood at 150 cm (4'11"),[1] but was eventually accepted and sent to the Alpine Front. He was a highly decorated soldier and was briefly taken prisoner by the Italians as a POW in 1918.[citation needed] After the war he worked for the Agriculture ministry as secretary of the Farmers' Association and became director of the Lower Austrian Chamber of Agriculture in 1927, and in 1930 as a member of the conservative Christian Social Party was appointed president of the Federal Railway System. (One of the founders of the CS was a hero of Dollfuss's, Karl Freiherr von Vogelsang.) The following year he was named minister of agriculture and forests.

Chancellor of Austria

Dollfuss became Chancellor on May 20, 1932 as head of a coalition government, with the pressing goal of tackling the problems of the Great Depression, in a state (post-Versailles Austria) that was economically disadvantaged by the loss of a large part of the former Austro-Hungarian empire's manufacturing industry situated in Bohemia and Moravia. Much of Austria-Hungary's industry had been situated in the areas that were separated into Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia with the Treaty of Versailles, and thus this manufacturing power was lost to Austria after World War I. Dollfuss's majority in Parliament was marginal (he had only a one-vote majority)[2].

Dollfuss as leader of Austria

In March 1933, an argument arose over irregularities in the voting procedure. The president of the National Council (the lower house) resigned to be able to cast a vote as a parliament member. As a consequence the two vice presidents, belonging to other parties, resigned as well to be able to vote. As a consequence, the parliament could not conclude the session. Dollfuss took the resignation of all three presidents as a pretext to declare that the National Council had become unworkable, and advised President Wilhelm Miklas to issue a decree adjourning it indefinitely. When the National Council wanted to reconvene days after the resignation of the three presidents, Dollfuss barred entrance to parliament by police force, effectively eliminating democracy in Austria. From that point onwards he governed as dictator by emergency decree with absolute power.

One motive of Dollfuss' actions was that with Adolf Hitler becoming German Chancellor in 1933, it looked increasingly likely that the Austrian National Socialists (DNSAP) would gain a significant minority in future elections. On the other hand, the Soviet Union's influence in Europe had increased throughout the 1920s and early 1930s. Dollfuss thus banned the DNSAP in June 1933 and the communists later on. Under the banner of Christian Social Party, he later on established a one-party autocratic rule, banning all other Austrian parties including the Social Democrats.

Corporative State

Although largely based on a Political Catholicism, the Ständestaat was given an extra boost, by imitating to some degree organisational elements of fascism in Italy. Dollfuss looked to Italy in support, especially also against the National Socialists and gained a guarantee for Austria's independence by Italy in August 1933. He also exchanged 'Secret Letters' with Benito Mussolini about ways to guarantee Austrian independence. Mussolini was interested in Austria forming a buffer zone against Germany. From the position of Dollfuss; he regarded Hitler's and Stalin's government's as too similar for comfort. He was convinced that Austria-Italy could counterweight both National Socialism and Communism in Europe.

In September 1933 Dollfuss merged his Christian Social Party, the nationalist paramilitary Heimwehr (Home Guard) (which encompassed many workers who were unhappy with the radical leadership of the socialist party) and other nationalist and conservative groups to form the Vaterländische Front. Dollfuss escaped an assassination attempt in October 1933 by Rudolf Dertill, a 22-year old who had been ejected from the military for his National-Socialist views.

Austrian civil war and new constitution

In February 1934, National Socialist supporters in the security forces provoked arrests of Social Democrats and searches for weapons of the Social Democrats' already outlawed Republikanischer Schutzbund. Due to the steps of the Dollfuss dictatorship against known Social Democrats, the Social Democrats called for nationwide resistance against the Government which almost ended in a civil war. A civil war began, which lasted from February 12 until February 27, with partly fierce fighting primarily in the East of Austria, especially in the streets of some outer Vienna districts, where large fortress-like municipal workers' buildings were situated, and in the northern, industrial areas of the province of Styria. As a consequence of the resistance, which was suppressed by police and military power, the Social Democrats were outlawed [3], and its leaders were imprisoned or fled abroad.

New constitution

Dollfuss staged a parliamentary session with just his party members present in April 1934 to have his new constitution approved as well as made all the decrees already passed since March 1933 "legal". The new constitution became effective on May 1, 1934 and swept away the last remains of democracy and the system of the first Austrian Republic.

Adolf Hitler and Engelbert Dollfuss.


Dollfuss was assassinated in July 25, 1934 by ten Austrian National Socialists (Paul Hudl, Franz Holzweber, Otto Planetta and others) who entered the Chancellery building and shot him in an attempted coup d'état, the July Putsch.[4] Another reason the putsch was thwarted was that Mussolini mobilized a part of the Italian army on the Austrian border and threatened Hitler with war in the event of a German invasion of Austria. The assassination of Dollfuss was accompanied by Italian uprisings in many regions in Italy, resulting in further deaths. In Carinthia a large contingent of northern German National socialists tried to seize power but were subdued by the Italian units near by. The assassins in Vienna surrendered and were executed. Kurt Schuschnigg became the new chancellor of Austria.

Dollfuss is buried in the Hietzing cemetery in Vienna[5] alongside his wife Alwine Dollfuss (d. 1973) and two of his children, Hannerl and Eva.

See also


  1. "Wireless to THE NEW YORK TIMES.". The New York Times. 1933-06-13. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F50B11FD395C16738DDDAA0994DE405B838FF1D3. Retrieved 2008-08-28. "Dr. Englebert Dollfuss, Austria's 40-year-old 4-foot 11-inch Chancellor" 
  2. Portisch, Hugo; Sepp Riff (1989). Österreich I (Die unterschätzte Republik). Vienna, Austria: Verlag Kremayr und Scheriau, 415. ISBN 3218004853. 
  3. Protokolle des Ministerrates der Ersten Republik, Volume 8, Part 6. ISBN 3704600040. Google Book Search. Retrieved on February 6, 2010.
  4. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,747609-1,00.html
  5. Vienna Tourist Guide: Dollfuss Hietzinger Friedhof. Hedwig Abraham. Retrieved on 6 February 2010. (includes photographs)
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