Restoration of Austria after World War II consisted of returning to a democratic political system, and the prosecution of Nazi crimes within Austria. The main methods of dealing with Nazi crimes were either through bureaucratic sanctions or criminal proceedings. People’s Courts were created for the purpose of trying and sentencing those accused of Nazi crimes, and former Nazis were removed their jobs or official positions. While it seems that the Austrian government took its denazification very seriously, it is important to note that much of the urgency came from a desire to get rid of the allied troops as quickly as possible. Many “typical” (not high ranking) Nazi sympathizers were offered reintegration into the Austrian society, and in 1947 a relaxation of denazification efforts was called for. This consisted of dividing those subject to registration into two categories by evaluating their involvement with the Nazi Party: “incriminated” and “less-incriminated”. All were still required to pay the special taxes, but by 1947 the “less-incriminated” had their right to vote reinstated. In 1948, Austrian Parliament granted amnesty to over 500,000 people on the “less-incriminated” list. This kicked off the political race to win the vote of these former Nazis, and thus effectively ended denazification, despite the ongoing trials.
Denazification in Austria primarily consisted of a registration process, punitive taxes and prosecution. Former Austrian members of the Nazi Party were required to register as such, which temporarily removed them from certain jobs and positions, as well as a complete loss of their civil rights. About 540,000 of the 700,000 former members of the Nazi party complied with the registration process. Of the people removed from their jobs, 100,000 were state officials, 36,000 operated in the private sector, and 960 were leaders in the state bureaucracy. This was a huge chunk of the work force, and consequently negatively affected Austria’s economy.
The People’s Courts were responsible for trying and convicting Nazi crimes until 1955. They consisted of three non-professional and three professional judges, and used The Nazi Banning Act and the War Criminals Act as a basis for prosecution. They tried a number of crimes, including but not limited to: “those committed in Austria in the final phase of the war, violence against persons and degrading human treatment in connection with the pogrom of November 1938 (Kristallnacht), involvement with the deportation of Jews, violence and murder in concentration camps and euthanasia institutions, the denunciation of members of the resistance, abuse and torture on the part of Gestapo officials, and criminal enrichment (‘Aryanization’).” Despite the fact that the courts were considerably weakened in the first few years after the war, it is impressive that over 100,000 prosecution cases were heard by the People’s Courts. Of these, 23,477 verdicts were reached, including 13,607 indictments, 43 death sentences, 30 executions, and 29 life sentences. After the People’s Courts were dissolved in 1955, a special department at the Ministry of Interior Affairs was tasked with finding Nazi war criminals and holding jury trials. The 1960’s and 1970’s saw a string of obviously false verdicts, and in 1975 the prosecution of Nazi crimes was effectively over in Austria.
Documentationsarchiv des Österreichischen Widerstandes: http://ausstellung.en.doew.at/m28sm123.html