Background: On 3 April 1945 the Russians were at the gates of Vienna. In one of the last calls to defend the city, the following article calls on Vienna’s citizens to fight to the death. They may die honorably or die in a cowardly way the article suggests, but it implies that one way or the other they will die. Ten days later Vienna fell to the Soviets. I translate the article from the Vienna edition of the Nazi Party’s newspaper.
Other articles in this issue include the proclamation of the Werewolves, the supposed last-ditch fighters in occupied areas (which proved more or less illusionary), a story that the citizens of Schweinheim had caused great difficulties for the advancing Americans, and a report from an American who claims the Allies are trying to trick the Germans into surrendering. Page two reports that seven Hitler Youth destroyed seven Soviet tanks. The want ad section is particularly interesting. One week before the end, there were job openings, people looking for jobs, offers for radio tubes, shoes, women’s coats, and lost items. Blackout hours were 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The source: “Die Stunde der Bewährung,” Völkischer Beobachter (Vienna Edition), 3 April 1945, p. 1. The issue is available on ANNO, the admirable Austrian program of digitizing newspapers.
The Hour of Testing
The hour hand of the great clock of history is nearing twelve. The enemy is at the gates of our Gau, at the gates of Vienna, the city that to us is the dearest piece of ground within our great and beloved fatherland. We are all called to defend our home earth, and we will defend it with all of the strengths at our disposal. The seriousness of the hour forbids empty phrases. Only the naked truth is before is, and it is: Win or die.
This is not a unique moment. The great duty we now have was also laid in past times on our ancestors when a seemingly overpowering storm of Turks were at Vienna’s walls. Brave Viennese hearts and the steadfast and unshakable faith of our forefathers overcame the crisis then. They defeated the attack and freed our city. They certainly had it no easier, those Viennese of 1529 and 1683, than we do today. Death was no easier then and standing at one’s post was no less painful than today, but they held out and won the battle, not leaving the Reich in the lurch. Today we are called to follow their example, to hold our heart in both hands and to stand fast against an enemy whose wildness and murderous rage resembles that of Kara Mustafa’s hordes who had promised to place the crescent flag on St. Stephen’s steeple. No genuine Viennese and no one who is somehow bound to this city, no matter in what other Gaue of our Fatherland his cradle may have been, will flee from the duty that now calls him. Today the Volkssturm and all who know how to bear and use a weapon stand alongside our brave soldiers of the Wehrmacht. In the hour of the greatest testing, each will show how he understands loyalty to the homeland and love for his people. The Viennese Volkssturm man above all fights for what is dear to him, for his wife and children and grandchildren, for his own freedom as well as his own life and that of his family. This certainly is a source of strength and courage which rises to such heights only in moments of greatest need, and which later the individual himself may find amazing. We know that from a thousand examples in this war. We Viennese are all determined to stand and fight bravely at our posts with a strength and a power that the enemy cannot overcome, even were he to attack us with threefold the numbers as now. We are once again the bulwark of the Reich in the southeast, an honored historical title that shines to us today from the past. Because of this fame, this honor, we want to fight and remain firm and unshakable, come what may.
And keep one more thing before your eyes when temptation strikes, when a moment of weakness comes, a phrase spoken in an old German city that was fighting just as Vienna is today for life and freedom, a phrase that is both a grave admonition and inspiration:
He who fears death with honor will die with shame!
This phrase inspires us. The weak may be guided by it, the brave will find further encouragement from it in this time when freedom, life, and the homeland are at stake. We Viennese will show ourselves worth of the great hour. That is our oath that we give at a moment when all is at stake.
Go to the 1933-1945 Page.
Go to the German Propaganda Archive Home Page.