Harand, Irene (1900–1975)
Harand, Irene (1900–1975)
Austrian leader in Vienna who attacked the evils of Nazism, anti-Semitism, and religious intolerance and was honored by Israel for her efforts. Born Irene Wedl on September 6, 1900, in Vienna, Austria; died on February 3, 1975, in New York City; daughter of a modestly well-to-do Roman Catholic father and a Lutheran mother; attended the School of the Desmoiselles Diwisch for two years; married Frank Harand, in 1919; children: none.
Helped found Sterreichische Volkspartei (Austrian Peoples Party) with Moritz Zalman (1930); published first pamphlet, So? oder So?; began newspaper Gerechtigkeit (Justice) and founded the Movement Against Anti-Semitism, Racial Hatred and Glorification of War, known as the Harand Movement (1933); published Sein Kampf to refute Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf (1935); gave speeches warning against the Nazi menace in Austria, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, France, Switzerland, and U.S. (1936); Sein Kampf published in American and French editions (1937); French-language edition of Gerechtigkeit began publication in Brussels (1937); immigrated to U.S. (1938); gave countless anti-Nazi speeches in the U.S. and Canada and founded Austrian-American League to assist Austrian refugees fleeing Nazi rule (1938–45); became director of the women's division of the Anti-Nazi League of New York and began work at the Austrian Institute of New York (1943); honored by Israel as one of the "Righteous Among the Nations" for defense of Jews against Nazism (1969); praised by the Viennese press on the occasion of her 70th birthday (1970); honored by the lord mayor of Vienna in city hall ceremony (1971); ashes given place of honor in Vienna's Central Cemetery (1975); municipal housing project in Vienna named in honor of Irene Harand (1990).
In the late 1920s, Irene Harand was a prosperous and happily married young woman when her innate sense of justice first drew her in the direction that was to change her life. The alteration began with a series of minor incidents seeming at first to have little to do with the often brutal world of Austrian politics. She had simply become concerned about the plight of an aged noble she was acquainted with, who had lost his fortune and then been refused assistance by his son who held the family castle and lands. Seeking justice on behalf of the old gentleman, Harand consulted a number of lawyers and paid a substantial amount in fees without seeing anything accomplished. Then she consulted Dr. Moritz Zalman, a well-known Jewish attorney who showed enthusiasm for the case. When the question of fees was raised, Zalman told Harand that if she could give of her energies to help the old man, he could volunteer his legal skills.
Years later, Harand explained this gesture as a turning point in her thinking. Although she had never acted as an anti-Semite, she realized that she had unconsciously held the notion, almost universal within Viennese Gentile society, that Jewish lawyers were avaricious and unscrupulous, and she had consulted only non-Jewish attorneys until she approached Zalman. "I blushed when I thought that a Jew … was ready to serve a non-Jew as no Christian I had met had been willing to serve," she said. "I determined then and there to give my life to wipe out this shame antisemitism was bringing upon Christians and Christianity."
In a country where religion was always politically significant, she had an early acquaintance with religiously mixed backgrounds. She was born Irene Wedl in 1900, into a moderately prosperous Viennese home to a Catholic father from the region of Moravia and a Lutheran mother from Siebenbergen. Irene grew up in comfortable circumstances during what is now considered Europe's golden age of security.
Although human relationships, not ideology, were paramount in Irene's personal world, anti-Semitism was rampant in the Austro-Hungarian empire into which she was born. During her childhood, she spent summer vacations with the family of her mother's older brother, who was unusually venerated in the family circle, and his wife, who was Jewish. A half-century later, Irene recalled this aunt and uncle and her two half-Jewish cousins, as "closer to me than any other of my relatives." During one such holiday, Irene was with her older sister Grete and several other children when they found themselves surrounded by local peasant children, taunting them with cries of "Jud! Jud! Jud!" With Grete in the lead, the youngsters ran back to the security of their summer cottage, but the memory of having been on the receiving end of anti-Semitic fury was to return again and again. Almost 60 years later, Irene Harand noted that "one never forgets the first time one feels oneself frightened to death, and sees the world as being full of nothing but enemies."
Harand's formal education ended after two years at the French School of the Mesdemoiselles Diwisch. She never attended university. In 1919, World War I had been over for less than a year when she married Frank Harand, a former captain in the Austrian army, five years her senior. Like Irene, Frank was a devout Christian. He was not interested in direct political involvement, but he was deeply conservative, believing in the "old Austrian" virtues of honor, integrity and the rule of justice. At a time when the Austro-Hungarian empire was in dissolution, his sympathies were close to monarchism. Irene and Frank Harand concentrated on rebuilding the comfortable life their families had known before the war. Frank became a successful business executive, and the couple remained childless, allowing them time and money to enjoy middle-class life in Vienna, a city whose pleasures remained undeniably seductive in the troubled 1920s. During these relatively calm years, however, anti-Semitism did not disappear. Frank's business interests required frequent travel throughout the provinces, where most tourists from Vienna were assumed to be Jews. On an inspection tour to a small town, Frank was once greeted by the storekeeper who commented, "It must be summer if the Jews from Vienna are here."
I fight anti-Semitism because it defames … Christianity.
Meanwhile in postwar Vienna, the Roman Catholic Church was perceived as leading a "spiritual" struggle against Jewry, while the Christian Social Party had officially espoused anti-Semitic policies on the political front since the days of Vienna's colorful mayor, Karl Lueger. Depending on support from artisans, small shopkeepers, and entrepreneurs, Christian Social leaders never tired of condemning the destructive impact of Jewry, and even men of refinement, like Austria's Chancellor Ignaz Seipel, regarded the Jews "as natural materialists, deeply involved in the Communist movement." The political environment was made more confusing by the fact that rich Jewish industrialists occasionally supported Christian Socialist political activities as an alternative to the threat of communism.
Christians like the Harands were profoundly disturbed by examples of sanctioned intolerance, and even incitements to violence, that contravened the most basic teachings of the Catholic Church. The anti-Semitic diatribes of one Viennese priest were not banned by his superiors until the 1930s. In this atmosphere, Harand had already begun to question a fundamental assumption, that those holding the highest positions of church and state were always morally correct, when she first encountered Moritz Zalman and entered into the collaboration and friendship that was the genesis of her political involvement.
By 1930, Nazism was on the march in Austria. The rapidly expanding racist sect, on its way to becoming a mass movement, already dominated universities, technical colleges and gymnasiums throughout the country. In September of that year, Harand and her circle of Christians and Jews were alarmed by the electoral victory of the Nazi party in neighboring Germany. Two months later, when she witnessed a parade of Nazi youths, she was struck by the appearance of one 12-year-old boy, who seemed transformed before her eyes "from a human child into a bloodthirsty beast." Nazism, she was convinced, was "stealing our children from us and making criminals of them," and although the movement was still weaker in her country than its German counterpart, she saw it as a threat to the stability of the state.
In 1933, a few weeks after Hitler's accession to power in Germany, while parliamentary government was being extinguished in Austria, Irene Harand wrote her first major political statement. Her 24-page pamphlet entitled So? oder So? was a deeply personal document, declaring her refusal to accept the ascendancy of the growing totalitarian movement. Written for a mass audience, it attempted to identify and defuse the prejudices about Jews that the average Austrian absorbed almost from birth. The pamphlet first attacked the widely held notions of Jewish financial control of the world economy and Jewish domination of nefarious Freemasonry. As for the notion that Bolshevism was largely Jewish dominated, the author pointed out that neither Lenin nor Stalin were Jews and that the Jewish proletariat was largely Menshevik rather than Bolshevik in its loyalties. She characterized Jewish socialists in the West as "parlor revolutionaries" despite their radical rhetoric, and she refuted the generally held belief among unsophisticated Austrians that there was a vast Jewish conspiracy directed against the simple Christian people of town and village. Disputing claims of cowardice, she pointed out that Jews had not shirked their military duty in the World War I years of 1914–18, and had an ancient history of heroic acts on the battlefield, back to the Old Testament Maccabees, who had "fought like lions." In conclusion, So? oder So? listed the names of numerous physicians and medical researchers of Jewish descent, many of whom had worked in Vienna, whose gifts to humanity were discoveries that helped liberate mankind from pain, suffering, and disease.
If Harand's pamphlet voiced any quarrel with Jews, it was that they were too modest about their achievements. Her own experience working with Jewish intellectuals and professionals led her to observe that some did not hold strong feelings of Jewish racial pride, and she believed a sense of national pride, at least, might be a defense against anti-Semitism, while a pattern of behavior superior to that of Austria's non-Jews would help to discredit anti-Semitic arguments. Admitting that this approach represented a form of discrimination, Harand tried to confront the realities of a society in crisis, in which each individual would most likely be judged as representative of the entire group. In the national atmosphere of deep-seated prejudices, only "extraordinary achievements" (Extraleistungen) would prove the Jews' worthiness as law-abiding Austrian citizens, and therefore every one must be "crystal pure" in business and personal life; by the same token, as she put it, "one individual's dirt will soil the entire Volksgemeinschaft." If these arguments, putting Austria's Jews in a special category, and on probation until found acceptable, create a position that no longer seems morally defensible, it was politically realistic. So? oder So? was not novel in how it dealt with the "Jewish Question," but it differed from past works in being an intense statement by a non-Jew.
Thirty thousand copies of So? oder So? were printed and distributed, and a second edition of 30,000 was released a few months later. Interest increased when the venerable organ of Viennese Liberalism, Neue Freie Presse, publicized both the pamphlet and the philo-Semitic activities of Irene Harand and her followers in a short article entitled "A Woman's Courageous Words Against Anti-Semitism."
But it soon became clear that Hitler's dictatorship in Germany was to be of long duration, and that anti-Semitism was on the increase in both Germany and Austria. In fact, Austria's survival as an independent political entity was becoming increasingly questionable. Harand threw her full energies into the anti-Nazi struggle. In the summer of 1933, she secured financial support for a weekly newspaper entitled Gerechtigkeit (Justice) which she launched that September. Written in a popular style for the mass audience, the paper destroyed anti-Semitic myths, attacked Nazi barbarities in both Germany and Austria, and defended the policies of the conservative regimes that began to govern Austria in March 1933. It was to be the central focus of Harand's life for the next five years.
The simple ideas of Gerechtigkeit were repeated in each issue: anti-Semitism was a moral outrage, not only against the Jews, but against Christian ideals; Nazism was a pagan movement, and if not halted it would destroy European civilization; and the Christian spirit of love and charity could be made part of the social fabric of the West if enough men and women of good will joined together in a common undertaking. Soon after the inaugural issue, the organization for its publication began to call itself the World League Against Racial Hatred and Human Need (Weltverband gegen Rassenhass und Menschennot), more popularly known as
the Harand Movement. Restricted at first to Vienna, its activities were confined to meetings and occasional rallies, then expanded to include a social welfare service in charge of several shelters for destitute citizens of Vienna in the bitter cold winter months.
Jewish support for the Harand Movement was not unanimous. Backing came almost immediately from Dr. David Feuchtwang, the chief rabbi of Vienna, who attended the inaugural rally of the Harand Movement and had kind words to say about Harand's courageous defense of Austrian Jewry. Gerechtigkeit and other activities of the organization were also made possible by Jewish funding. One particularly generous supporter was Dr. Wilhelm Berliner, general director of the Phoenix Life Insurance Company, whose subsidies to many individuals and political groups during the early 1930s led to a major political scandal in 1936. While the Harand Movement was generally ignored by Austrian Zionists, who favored the formation of a Jewish state, it received public praise, and probably funding, from the assimilationist group, Union sterreichischer Juden, which commended Harand as late as 1937 as a noble woman who carried out her mission without fear of the consequences. There is also strong evidence that the Austrian monarchists supported her work, both politically and financially.
The years 1935–36 were the apogee of the Harand Movement. From 1934 to 1935, Irene Harand was at work on a major statement of her beliefs, and in late June 1935 a Polish-Jewish newspaper announced that publication of a book by Irene Harand was imminent. It appeared in Vienna in early August, under the title Sein Kampf (His Struggle), paralleling the title of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf (My Struggle). The fact that it was self-published (Selbstverlag), strongly suggests that leading publishing houses were afraid to offend either Nazi Germany or pro-Nazi elements within their own country.
The main arguments of Sein Kampf, directly challenging Nazi racial and political theories, had already been expressed in So? oder So? and Gerechtigkeit. Extreme nationalism was condemned as a "poison" which turned the youth of the world into irrational and hateful beings; there was a chapter on Jewish service to humanity in the arts and sciences; and Harand argued that the Jews, as authors of the Bible, deserved the highest possible respect from all Christians. The book was a passionate plea for racial tolerance.
Sein Kampf was reviewed in numerous European newspapers and journals, and editions in French and English eventually appeared. Despite a positive critical reception, sales were disappointing, and, after three months of intensive publicity, some copies of the initial printing of just 5,000 books remained unsold. The provocative title attracted the attention of Nazi Germany's supreme censorship board, the Reichsschrifttumskammer, which promptly placed the volume on its list of banned books, and Irene Harand was now regarded as an active and dangerous enemy of Nazi Germany. Her name was to remain on Heinrich Himmler's lists of those opposing the regime until the fall of the Third Reich, but the book did not seriously threaten the fascist German government, or even appreciably weaken Nazism in Austria.
Irene Harand and Moritz Zalman undertook a number of trips abroad to bring their work to the attention of Christian and Jewish communities in countries not yet directly threatened by Nazi Germany, but increasingly aware of the threat posed by Hitlerism. In the last months of 1935, Harand spoke in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and visited the cities of Warsaw, Riga, Talinn, Helsinki, Paris, Geneva, and Zurich. Zalman was equally active, bringing the message of the Harand Movement to Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, and was particularly optimistic about prospects in the Netherlands, whose Jewish community was increasingly alarmed by both domestic and German Nazism.
In late 1936, Irene Harand spent two months conveying her message in the United States, where she was received by many women and men of good will but could not stir them into action. As one dejected reviewer wrote about Sein Kampf, "If appeals to reason are still valid in a world like ours, Frau Harand's book will be helpful."
In 1937–38, Europe was imbued with a growing spirit of defeatism as the political situation continued to deteriorate. A world congress of the Harand Movement scheduled for May 1937 had to be canceled for lack of funds, but in the fall of that same year the group sponsored a meeting of national representatives from Poland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Switzerland, and the Austrian provinces to discuss the future. That year, the Polish-language edition of Gerechftgkeift was abandoned for financial reasons, but the French-language edition, Justice, began publication in September. Czech and Hungarian editions appeared in print around the same time, and plans were made to revive the English and Polish version.
The Harand Movement found other innovative ways of supporting pro-Semitic activities, including a well-trained chorus, taken over from Austria's suppressed Social Democratic Party, composed of militant anti-Nazi young women and men, many of them Jewish. These folksong concerts became the talk of Vienna. A phonograph record, with a brief message by Irene Harand on one side and a song, "Gute Menschen," on the other, was issued. Yet another propaganda medium much favored by Harand and her collaborators were gummed stamps which spread the movements message. These were not postage stamps. Intended for use on envelopes, letters, or documents and printed in several languages, the stamps depicted great Jewish thinkers, artists, and scientists. Members of the Harand Movement used these stamps to challenge Goebbels' anti-Semitic extravaganza, "Der ewige Jude," by plastering them on the walls and display frames of the Nazi exhibit. In 1938, just a few days before the Anschluss that would see Austria become part of Germany's Third Reich, the Harand Movement announced production of a new set of stamps honoring a group that included Benjamin Disraeli, the Marquis of Reading, Heinrich Hertz, and Walter Rathenau.
By good fortune, the Harands were in England when the Anschluss took place. By September 1938, they were in the United States. While the Nazis killed millions of Jews, including her good friend Moritz Zalman, she continued to speak in the U.S. and Canada, warning the world against the dangers of Nazism. The Nazis in turn referred to her activities as "treasonable." In America, Harand founded the Austrian-American League to assist Austrian refugees fleeing Nazi rule (1938–45), became director of the women's division of the Anti-Nazi League of New York, and began work at the Austrian Institute of New York (1943).
In December 1969, Harand was awarded Israel's Yad Vashem medallion for her activities on behalf of persecuted Jews, in a ceremony that included her as one of the "Righteous Among Nations." One of the members of the commission that recommended her for the award noted the courage necessary for her activities in 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.
The following year, on the occasion of Harand's 70th birthday, Viennese newspapers carried accounts of her anti-Nazi efforts, and in July 1971 she was honored by the lord mayor in a ceremony at Vienna's city hall.
On February 3, 1975, Irene Harand died in New York City, and The New York Times carried a short obituary about the woman who had been decorated by the governments of Austria and Israel for her opposition to National Socialism. Her ashes have been given a place of honor in the Central Cemetery of the city of Vienna, and on April 20, 1990, her name was given to a municipal housing project in the city's First District, in recognition of the fact that her call for an end to racial intolerance continues to be essential. April 20th had been celebrated in the Third Reich with elaborate ceremonies, for it was the birthday of Adolf Hitler. After many decades, at least symbolic justice had triumphed in a small corner of Hitler's homeland.
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John Haag , Associate Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia