Irene Harand

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Irene Harand

Irene Harand (1900-1975) was an Austrian leader in Vienna who vigorously attacked the evils of Nazism, anti-Semitism, and religious intolerance and was honored by Israel for her efforts.

Only in the mid-1980s did it become apparent that not all of the horrors of Nazism originated in the nation that Adolf Hitler and his movement gained control over in 1933. A series of events made it clear that Hitler's Austrian homeland also played a significant role. For many decades Austria had enjoyed a reputation as a land of beautiful Alpine scenery, good food, and glorious musical traditions. Few Austrians and virtually no foreigners seemed interested in the darker sides of their country's recent past. Despite the fact that many Austrians had welcomed the German forces when Hitler annexed his home-land to Germany in March 1938, this was largely forgotten during World War II, when the Allied Powers issued their Moscow Declaration of November 1943, which solemnly proclaimed that Austria had been the "first victim" of Nazi aggression. This policy was as much based on a strong desire on the part of the anti-Nazi coalition to rapidly build up an independent Austrian nation, and thus ensure a permanently weakened Germany after the war, as it was grounded in an accurate understanding of contemporary history. Austrians took advantage of these attitudes after 1945 by creating a stable series of governments that played down internal political differences by ignoring ideology and emphasizing national solidarity. The bloody and deeply divisive Nazi past was simply swept under the rug, to most Austrians' immense relief.

In 1986 four decades of Austrian national amnesia about the Nazi past came to an abrupt end when it was revealed that one of the serious candidates for the office of president that year, former United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, had not told the truth in his memoirs about his war service in the Nazi-occupied Balkans. The lively debate that grew out of this revelation opened a Pandora's box of details about that nation's recent past, particularly the difficult topic of its historic relationship with its Jewish citizens. This subject was discussed with even more passion starting in March 1988, when the 50th anniversary of the Nazi annexation ( Anschluss) of Austria was commemorated by both government and private citizens. As a traumatic chapter of Austrian history finally began to be examined, nearly forgotten episodes surfaced from an often painfully repressed national memory.

The history of Christian hostility to Jews is a long and complex story with theological, economic, social, and psychological origins. In short, Europe's Jewish minority even in the Middle Ages was tolerated only when it served a purpose for the Christian majority in each nation. Christian moral teachings forbade the lending of money for interest (usury), but with the rise of a money economy such activity was necessary for any developing society; consequently, the presence of Jewish bankers, money lenders, and merchants became essential for rulers if they wanted to rule strong and powerful states. However, when plagues, famines, or wars destabilized the social fabric it was common to single out the Jews as scapegoats and blame them for the calamities. Bloody persecutions followed. Being at the crossroads of central Europe, Austria had a thriving economic and intellectual life that attracted Jews at various times in its history, but while they enjoyed periods of prosperity and toleration, they also endured episodes of persecution.

Accompanying the religious fanaticism of the Crusades in the 11th and 12th centuries there came specific charges against Europe's Jews—including what was seen to be their collective murder of Jesus and continuing rejection of him as the Messiah. Jews were also accused of economic exploitation because of their involvement with money-lending. But most serious was the charge leveled by some of the clergy that held the Jews responsible for poisoning wells, murdering Christian children, and desecrating the consecrated wafers so as to mock the sacrifice of Jesus. As early as 1420-21, Archduke Albrecht V of Austria ordered that Jews be expelled from Vienna, blaming them for supplying arms to the forces of the Bohemian heretic Jan Hus. As would be the case in later centuries, these "reasons" were little more than pretexts for attacking the Jews. It was easy to find a scapegoat for one's woes in a group that had stubbornly remained religiously and ethnically distinct within the larger Christian society. Wiping clean the slate of indebtedness to Jewish money lenders was doubtless an attractive idea at a time when the costs of financing a war against Hussite rebels had become onerous. The combination of religious, cultural, and economic motives in Christian persecution of Jews would reappear in later centuries as the two communities continued to interact in an increasingly complex political and economic environment.

Austria's Jews began to emerge from their traditional ghetto world in the mid-18th century when the Empress Maria Theresa decreed in 1764 that they could engage in certain types of trade as well as continue their traditional activities as money lenders and changers, bankers, and jewel merchants. The Empress was by no means kindly disposed toward Jews, having once stated that she knew of "no worse plague" afflicting her empire, but she moved in the direction of a limited form of tolerance because her advisers made it clear that her realm stood to benefit economically. Far greater reforms affecting Jews in the Habsburg realm took place in the reign of Maria Theresa's son, Emperor Joseph II, which began in 1780. A thoroughgoing reformer, Joseph not only freed the Jews from such traditional burdens as having to wear a Jewish badge— a yellow Star of David —on their clothing but also encouraged their cultural as well as economic integration. The 1782 Patent of Toleration ended the requirement that Jews live in their own ghettos and opened up the trades and most professions to them.

By the mid-19th century, a significant number of Austrian and Hungarian Jews had broken away from traditional Jewish religious and cultural patterns and were now part of the modern economy, actively participating in the cultural and intellectual life of Budapest, Prague, and Vienna. Yet Jews remained second-class citizens, at least in part because the authoritarian nature of the regime denied all its subjects, not only Jews, basic constitutional rights that had been at least partially achieved in Great Britain and the United States. It was therefore not surprising that Jews participated when a massive 1848 uprising took place in Vienna against the reactionary regime of Prince Klemens von Metternich, who had headed the Austrian government for more than a generation. After the revolution was crushed, conservatives often blamed Jews for its excesses, suggesting that Jewish intellectuals were dangerous hotheads who could invariably be found in the vanguard of radical movements.

The Austrian Constitution of December 21, 1867, granted all of Emperor Francis Joseph II's subjects full civil liberties. Vienna's Jews took advantage of their new freedoms by engaging in commercial and financial enterprises as well as by preparing for the medical and legal professions by enrolling in universities. Many fortunes were made in the 1860s and early 1870s by Jewish financiers, and by the end of the 19th century a high percentage of Vienna's physicians and attorneys were of Jewish background; most of the city's newspapers were Jewish-owned. But these successes were threatened by a dark cloud. When the Vienna (as well as the Berlin) stock market experienced a severe crash in 1873, Jewish financiers and speculators involved in the collapse were blamed for the entire scandal despite the presence of non-Jews who were also implicated in the complex web of corruption. The financial catastrophe unleashed a general economic downturn. Workers and small shopkeepers lost their livelihood. While the causes of the depression were multi-factored, and few could prescribe a simple cure, many believed they knew the element responsible—the Jews.

By 1875, when the conservative publicist Baron Karl von Vogelsang founded his newspaper Vaterland, many Christian Viennese responded to his analysis of the modern causes of poverty and social instability. Vogelsang—whose Catholic conservatism was based on an idealized vision of the social harmony that characterized the Middle Ages— identified Jews with virtually all of the evils of his age, seeing them as the vanguard of such socially disruptive systems as capitalism, economic laissez-faire liberalism, materialism, and atheism. Although Vogelsang was harshly critical of what he defined as a corrosive "Jewish spirit, " and advocated the creation of a new and "re-Christianized" social order, he did not attack the Jewish religion. Neither did he consider Jews to be biologically different or inferior to Christians. Rather, he hoped that the situation would be remedied when Jews converted to Roman Catholicism, abandoning their reputed love of secular wealth and power.

Others who criticized Austria's Jewish community looked at the problem from a different perspective. In France and Germany a number of writers claimed to have discovered objective, indeed "scientific, " causes of the social ills of the time. First published in the 1850s, the racial theories of French author Count Arthur Joseph de Gobineau now appeared to some to hold the key to an understanding of the social chaos confronting the 19th century. Gobineau argued that the only creative element in history was the white race, and that other human races, including the Jews and other Semitic peoples, had acted only as parasites. Gobineau himself was not hostile to Jews, and had hoped to make a strong case for the preservation of the privileges of the French aristocracy, arguing that they were racially the most creative and valuable segment of society. But others adapted Gobineau's pseudoscientific notions to their own ideological agendas, particularly in the troubled decade of the 1870s. In 1879 the German author Wilhelm Marr coined the term "anti-Semitic, " contrasting the innocent and trusting German "race" to Jews who were forever rootless, cunning, and deceitful, while in the same year the German historian Heinrich von Treitschke defined the "Jewish problem" as a question of national survival.

By 1881 German and Austrian anti-Semitism was carried to new extremes when the University of Berlin professor Eugen Dühring published a violently anti-Semitic book entitled The Jewish Question as a Race, Morals and Cultural Question. Dühring asserted that the Jews were a distinct biological entity, a racial group that could never be assimilated or Christianized. These notions were highly attractive to ambitious politicians who could use them as a means of appealing to social groups in the population that had recently suffered from the ravages of unrestricted laissez-faire capitalism, or who felt themselves threatened by Jewish competitors in the job market. Fear of Jewish job competition was particularly strong at Austrian universities and technical institutes, where the number of Jewish students in many fields—particularly law and medicine—was much higher than that of the Jewish percentage of the overall population. By the late 1870s many student fraternities (Burschenschaften) had begun to exclude Jews from membership, arguing they did not possess German moral qualities, could never duel or drink beer as well as pure-blooded "Aryans, " and were thus not fitted for membership in such exclusive circles.

By the mid-1880s the radicalized racist students of Vienna and Graz had found their champion in an up-and-coming politician named Georg von Schönerer (1842-1921). Schönerer's father had been an extremely successful railroad engineer who had at one time worked for the Jewish banking family the Rothschilds and who had become wealthy in his own right. Untroubled by money worries, the younger Schönerer entered political life in the 1870s as a left-wing liberal, championing some major social reforms. In June 1882 Schönerer turned decisively from liberalism, which was not a racist ideology, by founding the League of German Nationalists (Deutschnationaler Verein). This organization of several hundred journalists, teachers, and businessmen called for an all-out campaign against Jewish influences in the economy and political life, as well as in intellectual life and the arts. Using demagogic arguments, Schönerer and his followers agitated among students, middle-class Viennese shopkeepers, and artisans, trying to persuade them that all of their woes were due not to the economic slump of the period, or the capitalist system itself, but to the nefarious power of Jewish speculators and bankers. Although Schönerer's movement was able to score some successes, by the late 1890s it had been largely outdistanced by a new, much more effective vehicle for anti-Semitic demagoguery, the Christian Social party.

By the early 1890s anti-Semitic appeals had become commonplace in Austrian public life, and it was scarcely surprising that politicians more pragmatic and adaptive to changing moods should appear on the scene. The most successful of these figures was the Viennese-born popular leader Karl Lueger (1844-1910), whose personal charm and political astuteness was combined with a cynical use of anti-Semitic slogans that were immensely appealing to his lower middle-class constituency. In the 1890s, Lueger became undisputed leader of the Roman Catholic political party, the Christian Socials, by creating a mass political movement based largely on the fear artisans and shopkeepers had of "Jewish capitalism." In the closing decades of the 19th century tradesmen and artisans found their livelihoods increasingly threatened by competition from more efficient factories and retail distribution networks. Many of these were Jewish-owned enterprises, and anti-Semitic appeals fell on sympathetic ears—particularly if they were attractively presented in the folksy style perfected by such suave demagogues as Lueger.

Lueger's message was a peculiarly Viennese form of populist anti-capitalism that, while vague in its precise program of how to combat Jewish "threats to the Christian social order, " nonetheless proved immensely appealing to the imperial city's populace. Even though Lueger refrained from proposing specific legislation to curb Jewish influences, his Christian Social party was able to win an absolute majority in the Vienna municipal elections of April 1895. Although Emperor Franz Joseph II refused on four occasions to appoint him to the office of Vienna's lord mayor, Lueger's continuing popularity finally forced the sovereign to relent in April 1897. Thus, Lueger became the first mayor of a major European city to rule on an anti-Semitic platform, and his Christian Social party was clearly the most successful political movement of the late 19th century to base its appeal on hostility toward the Jews.

In practice, Lueger's bark was much worse than his bite. Indeed, within a few years it became clear to the Jews of Vienna that Christian Social racism was almost entirely rhetorical in nature. No legislation was ever passed against Jews and, while they were greatly underrepresented in the bureaucracy, education and the professions were open to them. Ironically, the years 1897-1914 were a veritable Golden Age in Viennese Jewish history. In a society whose aristocracy continued to look contemptuously on money-making activities, Jews and other newly-arrived immigrants in Vienna found that with hard work they could often succeed in such areas as journalism, medicine, law, and the stock exchange. Although many Christian Austrians retained some anti-Semitic prejudices, in the prosperous years before 1914 even they reluctantly concluded that the many nationalities of the Habsburg empire would have to find ways to tolerate one another for the common good. Among the signs of growing toleration were the decline of Schönerer's influence among the fraternities and the rapid rise of the Social Democratic party, which included many Jewish intellectuals and was based on an ideology of universal social transformation based on working-class fraternity.

This promise was shattered in August 1914 by the coming of World War I. At first, the war acted as a unifying force for the multinational state, and until 1916 there was a remarkable sense of common purpose among the different ethnic groups comprising the Habsburg realm. But by late 1916, war-weariness and extreme privations, particularly food shortages, had sapped the will of most Austrians to continue the war. The death of the aged Emperor Franz Joseph II in November 1916 symbolized the end of an era. By this time, anti-Semitism, particularly among a now impoverished middle class, was rampant. With Vienna overcrowded with tens of thousands of Jewish refugees from war-ravaged Galicia, rumors of black-market profiteering by Jews became a commonplace explanation for the sufferings of average Viennese. Politicians, particularly in the Christian Social party, seized upon the situation as one offering immense opportunities for increasing their own popularity at the expense of an increasingly unpopular minority.

The sudden collapse of the Habsburg military in October 1918, and the subsequent abolition of the monarchical regime in November, only accelerated a growing mass psychosis directed against a vaguely-defined "Jewish menace." Pacifist and Marxist Jews were now blamed for spreading defeatist propaganda among the frontline troops, thus hastening the military catastrophe. On the home front, too, Jews were seen as the major culprits of a spiraling inflation and black-market economy that made even the basic essentials of existence unaffordable to the middle class. For a resurgent anti-Semitic movement, Jews threatened the very existence of civilization in Austria, acting as either greedy capitalists or fomenting social unrest leading inevitably to a bloody civil war and Bolshevik dictatorship. At Austrian universities, and particularly at the world-famous University of Vienna, bloody student riots (Krawalle) regularly erupted in which Jewish students were beaten up and thrown down flights of stairs. In countless newspapers, magazines, and posters Jews were depicted as inhuman and depraved enemies of civilization whose cunning nature constituted an immediate threat to a supposedly pure Germanic spirit.

The end of inflation and the stabilization of the Austrian economy in the mid-1920s dampened but did not eliminate the deep-seated anti-Semitism. The fact that the leading religious and moral institution of Austria, the Roman Catholic Church, did little to combat such prejudices (and on many occasions actually endorsed and encouraged them), only emphasized the difficulties faced by those Christian groups and individuals who aspired to rid Austria of racial and ethnic hatreds.

In the troubled 1930s, before and during World War II, the individual who most effectively challenged Christians in Austria to live up to the teachings of their own religion in regard to the Jewish question was a woman, Irene Harand. Later, because the great majority of Austrians felt a need to suppress painful details of their recent history, and because her Nazi enemies almost succeeded in obliterating her memory from the consciousness of her fellow countrymen, the story of Irene Harand has only recently emerged from the shadows.

Irene Wedl was born into a prosperous Viennese family on September 6, 1900. Her father, a manufacturer, was Roman Catholic; her mother was Lutheran. To avoid any religious conflicts in the family, Irene and her three siblings were all raised as Catholics, but one of Irene's aunts was Jewish, making two of her cousins half-Jewish. Such religious and ethnic mixtures were quite common in pre-1914 Vienna, and among the educated elite toleration, rather than disapproval, was the general spirit in which such personal matches were viewed. But anti-Semitism was common among the poorer, less educated groups in society who had been propagandized by the demagogues.

During a summer holiday as a young girl, Irene had a firsthand experience with anti-Semitism when she, an older sister, and her two half-Jewish cousins were surrounded by a group of local peasant children who taunted them with pejorative anti-Semitic slogans. Decades later she recalled running, with her older sister in the lead, to the security of the family cabin. Vividly, she remembered what it had been like to be "on the receiving end" of racist hatred, noting that "one never forgets the first time one feels oneself frightened to death, and sees the world as being full of nothing but enemies."

In 1919 she married Frank Harand, who had served as a captain in the Austrian army during World War I. Like his bride, he was a devout Catholic who believed that if the world was to be spared another bloodletting such as the recently ended war, it would have to rebuild its moral values and social institutions on Christian principles of justice, love, and toleration. While both Harands were politically conservative and sympathetic to the principles of monarchism, during the first decade of their marriage they avoided political controversies, concentrating instead on creating a pleasant life for themselves. Although she had not attended a university during the 1920s, Harand read widely and familiarized herself with the major economic and political controversies of the time. During these years she increasingly came to read about, and sometimes discuss with friends, two closely intertwined problems that concerned politically active Austrians: the continuing hostility toward the nation's Jewish minority, and a small but growing ultraradical movement that pledged to solve once and for all Europe's "Jewish problem."

The Austrian Republic that came into existence in November 1918 with the demise of the Habsburg monarchy of Austria-Hungary was given little hope of survival. It was unable to feed itself and was burdened with the metropolis of Vienna that contained more than one-third of the new nation's impoverished population; indeed, most Austrians desired Anschluss (union) with the German Republic to the north. Furthermore, Austrian political life was a cauldron of deep-seated hatreds, with the ultraconservative Catholic party, the Christian Socials, facing an often implacably doctrinaire Marxist Social Democratic Workers' party. With small but militant Pan-German and Nazi parties appealing to returning veterans whose idea of politics was based on physical conflict and annihilation, Austrian political life in the first half-decade of the Republic's existence was often violent and bloody. Ideologically, too, post-1918 Austrian politics exhibited extremely intolerant traits. Except for the Social Democrats, which most Austrian Jews supported, Austrian political parties during these years all campaigned on anti-Semitic platforms.

Although the Catholic Church did not condone the violent anti-Semitism of the Nazis, many Catholic clergymen including the nation's brilliant but often politically uncompromising federal chancellor, Ignaz Seipel, regarded the Jews as undesirable agents of social decomposition. The Church saw itself as a "nonpolitical" body that was leading the Austrian "spiritual" struggle against Jewry while the Christian Socials were to be found engaged in the often messy political arena. Yet, in practice, such lines were easily crossed.

This moral environment deeply distressed the Harands as well as others whose vision of a Christian society was built on justice and compassion, and who were convinced that for society to flourish Christians and Jews must be taught to tolerate and respect one another. But neither of the Harands had a pragmatic plan for infusing Christian ideals into a troubled land's public life. Indeed, Harand would continue to remain aloof from political controversies until a series of events inexorably led her into the arena of public debate. She had become interested in the plight of an aged nobleman whose poverty had recently been compounded by a deep personal disappointment. In the years of inflation, 1920-23, he had seen his fortune evaporate and now, in his extreme old age, he endured the pain of his son's refusal to assist him, though some years earlier he had given the son all of his lands and his castle. Believing she might be able to assist the old man, she set out to obtain justice through the law. She consulted a number of lawyers, and even though none accomplished anything of substance, all charged her substantially. After a number of such discouraging encounters, she met with well-known attorney Dr. Moritz Zalman.

Zalman differed from the other lawyers in that he showed great enthusiasm for the case, insisting that the old man could—indeed must—obtain justice. When the question of fees came up, Zalman told Harand that if she had managed to volunteer her time, energy, and funds on behalf of the poor nobleman, then he could certainly provide his legal skills gratis. This moment was the start of Harand's political career. Harand realized that even she—who had never knowingly harbored anti-Semitic feelings—had sought out only non-Jewish lawyers prior to consulting with Zalman, who was Jewish. The instant he volunteered assistance, the thought had crossed her mind that by refusing a fee for his work Zalman was not "behaving in a Jewish fashion." At this point, with a probing honesty characteristic of her personality, Harand concluded that she had initially interpreted the situation with an anti-Semitic mindset. Like most Viennese of her day, she had assumed that Zalman by definition would be an avaricious, unscrupulous individual. Immediately realizing that this was not the case, she decided to work closely with Zalman not only to help one old man, but to create the foundations of a movement that would bring new and better ideas into Austrian public life.

Besides being a respected attorney who often volunteered his time to help poor but deserving clients, Zalman had for years been deeply involved in political struggles on behalf of the poor and downtrodden. He was particularly involved in cases where impoverished old-age pensioners were denied their benefits. In one such instance, his efforts had resulted in the passing of a new law that guaranteed pensions to 40, 000 men and women who had previously been denied any payments. Both Zalman's tough determination to find practical ways to accomplish a goal and his unquenchable moral concern for justice deeply impressed Harand. Together they created the Austrian People's party and, in what would turn out to be the last free parliamentary elections in Austria, campaigned in November 1930 on a platform calling for greater support for impoverished pensioners while condemning the increasingly virulent outbreaks of anti-Semitic propaganda and violence.

The election results were a disappointment, indeed a veritable disaster, for the fledgling party. Only 14, 980 Austrians cast a ballot for the Austrian People's party (8, 459 of these were in Vienna). As a consequence, no seats were won in the national legislature, and what few contributions had flowed into the party treasury before the election could now, in the middle of a worsening economic depression, no longer be counted on.

At this juncture, many might have withdrawn from political life, but a disturbing incident at the time of the election strengthened Harand's resolve to remain active. While walking on Vienna's busy Wiedner Hauptstrasse, she witnessed a parade of Nazi youths, characterizing them later as "a troop of half-grown youngsters." While marching by, they shouted a standard Nazi slogan: "Juda verrecke" (death to the Jews). Pedestrians at the scene seemed indifferent. Deeply shocked by this event, Harand noted that one boy of about 12 seemed transformed before her very eyes "from a human child to a little bloodthirsty beast." Alarmed by what she had seen, Harand decided that Nazism in Austria, while still not a mass movement in 1930, had clearly become a dangerous phenomenon because of its powerful appeals to young people seeking a cause. Nazism, she believed, was "guilty of robbing our children of their childhood, stealing our children from us and making criminals of them."

Soon after the incident, Harand appeared at a Catholic political meeting to warn of the growing menace of Nazism. Instead of a sympathetic reception, the audience dismissed her warnings, mocked her for a lack of political experience or judgment, and booed her off the stage as a "foolish, hysterical woman." But it would take more than public humiliation to discourage Harand, who was determined to awaken the people of her native Vienna to the evils growing in their midst. For over a year, she and Zalman continued to warn about the dangers of Nazism and racial hatred, spreading their message in small groups that met in apartments, cafes, and rented halls. But few seemed interested in their warnings. In both Germany and Austria, the Nazi movement grew alarmingly in size and aggressiveness. Most people were more concerned with the basics of economic survival during the depression and regarded Adolf Hitler as another Lueger, an unscrupulous demagogue whose anti-Semitism would quickly moderate once he was forced to deal with the responsibilities of actually wielding political power.

Harand's energies were galvanized when Hitler assumed control over Germany in early 1933. In a small pamphlet entitled "So? oder So?" which included on its cover sketches of a swastika and balanced scales of justice, she communicated with a mass audience on the burning issue of the day—whether Nazism, using anti-Semitism as one of its major arguments, would be able to seize power in Austria. Financed by herself and her husband, So? oder So? was printed in an edition of 30, 000 copies, and sold for the low price of 20 Groschen. The main thesis of the work was that virtually all of the arguments used by anti-Semites were untruths, or gross distortions, and that Jews as individuals rarely behaved in the ways that racist stereotypes had depicted them. She gave as her motive for writing a basic belief that as an Austrian, a Christian, and an "Aryan" she had a responsibility to speak up for a historically maligned people, pointedly reminding her readers that Jesus Christ had also been a Jew.

Encouraged by a favorable response to her pamphlet, which soon went into a second printing of another 30, 000 copies, Harand went about her work with a heightened sense of urgency in the summer of 1933. The Austrian Nazi party had been declared illegal in June of that year and was now engaged in numerous bomb attacks and other underground activities designed to destabilize and psychologically disarm the Austrian government. Attacks on Jewish shops and homes in Vienna became common, and it was clear that if Nazism triumphed in Austria the fate of its Jewish citizens would be grim at best. Seeking moral and financial support from both Catholics and Jews, Harand was able in early September 1933 to release the first issue of a newspaper dedicated to enlightening the public about the menace of Nazism. Called Gerechtigkeit (Justice), it declared as its guiding principles a strong desire to fight against racial hatred and to ameliorate human suffering. In a box featured on the first page of each issue, Harand proclaimed the reason for her defense of the honor of Austria's Jews: "I fight anti-Semitism because it defames our Christianity."

Gerechtigkeit quickly became a popular—and often controversial—publication. Many of Vienna's Jews felt their morale improve when they began reading this clearly written, courageous weekly newspaper. Some Catholics who had never given much thought to their anti-Semitic attitudes began to question some of their own assumptions (and prejudices) when confronted with powerful and passionately argued ideas. Within a short time of its founding, Gerechtigkeit reached a circulation of almost 30, 000 copies. But Vienna's illegal Nazis regarded the paper as a dangerous weapon in the hands of their enemies and demonstrated their anger by disrupting Harand's rallies and meetings with stink bombs and firecrackers. Threatening letters were often addressed to Harand, warning that her defense of Jews made her a traitor to the "cause of pure Germandom."

Harand was not deterred. Encouraged by the initial successes of her publications, in 1933 she founded a "Movement against Anti-Semitism, Racial Hatred and Glorification of War." Anyone could join this organization, which was usually simply referred to as the Harand Movement. It appealed to Jews and Christians, young as well as old, and by May 1934 could claim 40, 000 members. Although membership dropped slightly in 1936 to 36, 000, in that year the Harand Movement could boast of 6, 000 non-Austrian members. The religious affiliations of the Movement's Austrian members broke down into 25, 000 Roman Catholics, 4, 000 Jews, and 1, 000 Protestants. Remembering that words alone would not suffice to combat ethnic and religious hatreds, the Harand Movement organized several shelters in Vienna that were able to provide hot drinks, food and warmth for 200 to 300 unemployed and homeless people daily in the city's bitterly cold winter months.

Aware that her message of religious toleration and resistance to Nazi racism could only be effective if disseminated to as many people as possible, Harand showed remarkable creativity in "packaging" the ideas of her movement in many different forms. The successful pamphlet So? oder So?, as well as the newspaper Gerechtigkeit, served to sound the alarm about Nazism, but other methods of recruitment and persuasion were constantly being tried. To win over alienated youth, an organization called the Austrian Youth League (Österreichischer Jugendbund; ÖJB) was created; many of its members came from the Social Democratic youth organizations banned in February 1934. Also popular was a youth chorus that served as an auxiliary of the ÖJB, which gave a number of successful concerts of Austrian folk songs. Another novel idea was the issuance of a phonograph record, one side of which contained a brief statement by Harand, with the other side reserved for a song, "Gute Menschen" (Good People), which summed up the humane optimism of the Harand Movement.

A final method of spreading the message was a series of perforated gummed labels which resembled postage stamps but had no postal validity. Printed in several languages, these labels depicted great Jewish thinkers, artists, and scientists and were meant to counter the Nazi slander that Jews had never been cultural benefactors. On at least one occasion, these labels were used in Nazi Germany by underground members of the Harand Movement who were in touch with their Vienna headquarters. In 1937 courageous members of the Movement entered the exhibition hall in Munich housing the Nazi regime's anti-Semitic propaganda exhibition "Der ewige Jude" ("The Eternal Jew"). Here they plastered the walls and exhibition frames with many of these labels, which depicted among other individuals the noted Jewish scientists Paul Ehrlich and Heinrich Hertz and politicians Benjamin Disraeli and Walter Rathenau.

In August 1935 Harand published a book that became her most compelling indictment of Nazism and anti-Semitism. Entitled Sein Kampf, this work was obviously meant to refute the arguments first raised a decade earlier by Hitler in Mein Kampf. By 1935 some conservative Austrians were clearly thinking of the day when an increasingly powerful Nazi Germany would be able to absorb the weak Alpine republic, and were thus less enthusiastic about supporting an outspoken anti-Nazi like Harand. It was probably for this reason that she was unable to find a publisher among the established publishing houses; undaunted, she had her manuscript privately printed and published. In the first chapter of in Sein Kampf, she defined as one essential feature of Nazism its reliance on lies, defining a lie as "a filthy weapon … a crime against God, against Nature and against Humanity."

While most of Sein Kampf was a vigorous defense of the Jews, Harand's book also analyzed and condemned other destructive forces in the modern world, particularly the long-existing spirit of rabid nationalism that made it possible for Hitler's movement to seduce and control otherwise decent human beings. Arguing that national feelings based on attitudes of superiority toward another people could only act as a poison and lead to war, she made it clear that, while she considered herself to be a good Austrian, such love of country was patriotism—not a narrow-minded and intolerant nationalism. Perhaps realizing that at least in the short run hers was to be a losing battle, Harand wrote in the Preface:

I hope that [this book] will bring consolation to the victims of National Socialism. It ought to assure them that there are still some people in this world who will not submit to the terror of the Third Reich but who will fight until the danger of Nazi expansion is banished from the earth and the victims of National Socialism are rescued from their torturers.

Sein Kampf ends with both a grim warning and words of shining hope: "National Socialism is the greatest menace of the century. In fighting it, we must use weapons which the Nazis scorn: Idealism and Courage, Common Sense and Love, Truth and Justice!"

The 1935 publication of Sein Kampf turned Harand into a declared enemy of the Third Reich. With its provocatively anti-Nazi title it quickly came to the attention of Nazi Germany's supreme censorship board, the Reichsschrifttumskammer, which kept tabs on any publication deemed dangerous to the regime. In the board's list of banned books issued in October 1935, Sein Kampf was described as being both "dangerous and undesired." With this listing, it became clear that Harand was now regarded as an active and dangerous foe of the Hitler regime. Not only Nazi literary agencies but Heinrich Himmler's feared SS and Gestapo placed her name on lists of those individuals in Austria who would be "dealt with accordingly" at such time that Nazi control extended to her country. Fortunately both Harands were in Great Britain at the time of the Anschluss which marked the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany in March 1938. Had they been in Vienna, there is little doubt that they would have been sent to Dachau concentration camp, where the first anti-Nazis were transported when the Nazi rulers destroyed the vestiges of independent Austria.

After a brief period in Great Britain, the Harands emigrated to the United States, where Irene continued her defense of Jewish honor against Nazi propaganda. By the 1950s, her work was forgotten in both her native Austria and her new homeland America. Only in her final years did her life's work begin to receive the recognition it deserved. In 1969 she was honored by Israel's Yad Vashem Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority as one of the non-Jewish individuals who helped Jews during the Holocaust period and thus deserved recognition as one of the "Righteous among the Nations." One of the members of the commission that recommended her for the award noted the courage necessary in her activities of the 1930s:

[T]o deliver public speeches at a time when Austria was swept by a wave of political assassinations meant exposing oneself to great risk. This woman waged a desperate and unceasing war which placed her in great peril. She sent her boys to hand out the newspaper at street corners. The children were beaten and she was beaten too. She stood her ground against vilification and threats. If this is not a struggle in which one risks one's life, then I don't know what risk means. She fought to save Austrian Jewry.

After decades of indifference, Harand's Austrian home-land began to take an interest in her achievements in the 1970s. She visited Vienna and was honored there in 1971. It was not, however, until 1990, some ten years after her death, when a public housing project in the heart of Vienna was named after her, that she became known again to the average Viennese. No doubt she would have appreciated the April 20th date chosen for the dedication ceremonies. Every April 20th had been celebrated in the Third Reich with elaborate ceremonies, for it was the birthday of Hitler. After many decades, at least symbolic justice had triumphed in a small corner of Hitler's homeland.

Further Reading

Bassett, Richard. Waldheim and Austria. Penguin Books, 1990.

"Champion of Justice: Irene Harand, " in Wiener Library Bulletin, Vol. 9, nos. 3/4, May-August 1955, pg. 24.

Haag, John. "A Woman's Struggle Against Nazism: Irene Harand and Gerechtigkeit, " Wiener Library Bulletin. Vol. 34, new series 53/54, 1981, pp. 64-72.

Harand, Irene. His Struggle (An Answer to Hitler). Artcraft Press, 1937.

Paldiel, Mordecai. "'To the Righteous among the Nations Who Risked Their Lives to Rescue Jews, "' in Yad Vashem Studies. Vol. 19, 1988, pp. 403-425.

Pauley, Bruce F. From Prejudice to Persecution: A History of Austrian Anti-Semitism. University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

Weinzierl, Erika. "Christliche Solidarität mit Juden am Beispiel Irene Harands (1900-1975), " in Marcel Marcus et al., eds., Israel und Kirche Heute: Beiträge zum christlich-jüdischen Dialog/Für Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich. Herder, 1991, pp. 356-367.

Geehr, Richard S. Karl Lueger: Mayor of Fin Vienna, de Siecle Wayne State University Press, 1990.

Hallie, Philip. Lest Innocent Blood be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There. Harper & Row, 1979.

Parkinson, F., ed. Conquering the Past: Austrian Nazism Yesterday & Today. Wayne State University Press, 1989.

Pauley, Bruce F. Hitler and the Forgotten Nazis: A History of Austrian National Socialism, University of North Carolina Press, 1981.

Whiteside, Andrew G. The Socialism of Fools: Georg Ritter von Schönerer and Austrian Pan-Germanism. University of California Press, 1975. □

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