On May 9, 1933, the Viennese Reichspost published an editorial entitled "Undesirable Visit" (Unerwünschter Besuch).
The first paragraph refers to a notice by the "press office of the National Socialist Party for the gau of Vienna," which had announced the "visit of several ministers of the German Reich," including Bavarian Minister of Justice Hans Frank, in Vienna on May 13, 1933. This news is followed in the second paragraph by the argumentation that this was neither a declared ministerial visit nor an informal private visit. Rather, members of German federal state governments were coming to Austria without diplomatic agreement "to visit a party here and be celebrated by a party that opposes the constitutional government and state authority in an open battle not infrequently conducted with illegal means." The third paragraph concludes that the party-political visit is not only "undesirable and unwelcome," but must be considered a "hostile act" and treated accordingly.
In paragraphs four to eight the article then outlines its interpretation of the facts. The main speculation is that with this move an attempt was being made to circumvent the ban on public assemblies and marches and "to seriously disrupt the large Home Guard [Heimwehr] celebration this Sunday." The event mentioned was the "
In clear and strict terms, the leading article opposed a violation of Austrian state sovereignty. Since the signing of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1919, Austria was no longer a multiethnic monarchy with a population of over fifty million, but a democratic republic whose approximately six and a half million, predominantly German-speaking residents lived on an eighth of the former state territory.
But now the NSDAP's Viennese press office had declared that National Socialist politicians from Germany—where Hitler had been Reich chancellor since late January 1933—would visit that same weekend. The arrival of a number of members of German federal state governments had been announced, yet the visit had not been diplomatically arranged. As the leading article emphasizes, it was therefore not an official state visit. However, it was also not accurate to describe their stay in Austria as private, especially given the existence of this official party communiqué. Consequently, the visit had to be viewed as "a hostile act," meaning a deed that, though not against international law, did fly in the face of international diplomacy, of comity.
According to the Reichspost, the impression of a breach of international convention was reinforced by the announcement that Hans Frank would be among the guests. Frank, who had carved out his career in the NSDAP as Hitler's lawyer and would advance to governor-general of occupied Poland in World War II, was appointed Bavarian justice minister in March 1933 and in his new role gave a provocative speech on the radio against the Austrian government. Wolff Telegraphic Bureau, the official German news agency, quoted the respective part of the speech, which was broadcast on March 18, 1933, by the Munich radio station, as follows:
From the perspective of international law, the Bavarian justice minister had negated all the constitutive elements of the Austrian state in this speech.
The bourgeois Neue Freie Presse reported right away, in its edition that evening, on the editorial about the "undesirable visit" in the "Viennese main organ of the Christian Social Party, whose statements in this case certainly cannot be viewed as a private opinion."
The argumentation of the leading article, according to which the announced visit was "undesirable" for the reasons outlined above, led to consequences when the German politicians actually did arrive. At shortly after 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, 1933, Frank landed in a Lufthansa plane on
That same evening the visitors from Germany went on stage as speakers at a mass gathering in Vienna's
Frank also pleaded the case for Austria and its capital city belonging to the German Reich in a press conference held at noon the following day, May 14, 1933, at the
At first glance it is astounding that a newspaper called Reichspost advocated the sovereignty of the Austrian Republic in 1933. Even its subtitle, namely "Independent Daily Paper for the Christian People" (Unabhängiges Tagblatt für das christliche Volk) does not help explain this defensive role, instead raising the additional question of why the Neue Freie Presse and the Arbeiter-Zeitung referred in their commentaries on the leading article to the "main organ of the Christian Social Party" and the "government organ." However, both matters are explained by the history of the newspaper, whose founding dated back to a resolution by the Linz Catholic Convention of 1892 to publish a modern Christian newspaper for the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.
Hence, the Reichspost was aimed at the entire population of the monarchy but claimed the German Austrians' leadership over citizens with other mother tongues. The "Reich" of the newspaper's title was not a nation, not a homogeneous people, but rather an expansive territory in Central Europe whose heterogeneous components were kept together by the emperor, the sovereign. The reference in the subtitle that it was a "Daily Paper for the Christian People" meant that the Reichspost was in opposition to the liberal, in its opinion "Jewish," press on the one hand and to the Social Democratic newspapers on the other. In contrast to the Arbeiter-Zeitung, the main organ of Austrian Social Democracy since 1889, the Reichspost claimed to be independent. In point of fact, however, it had always functioned as a mouthpiece for the Christian Social movement, which had been constituted as a political party in 1893 under future Mayor of Vienna Karl Lueger.
Above all it was Funder's personal connections that linked the paper ever closer to the Christian Social Party. Born in Graz in 1872, he arrived at the Reichspost as a law student in 1896, soon carved out a career for himself in its small editorial team in Vienna, and was appointed editor in chief in 1902 and two years later its editor, too. Following Lueger, Funder openly advocated a "Christian antisemitism" in numerous leading articles denouncing cultural and economic influences from Judaism, but expressly dissociating the paper from the racial antisemitism of the "Pan-Germanists" (and later of the National Socialists).
The politics of Ignaz Seipel in particular met with Funder's unreserved support.
In his memoirs, in which he discusses the Reichspost a great deal, Funder compares a newspaper to a state: "under a unified leadership its administration is divided into specialized fields that have their respective experts and comprise all areas of human activity."
In Funder's opinion a print newspaper should be headed by a leading article in the same way that the state required a leader and the editorial team an editor in chief. For this reason, the editorial was always printed on the front page in the Reichspost, followed by the day's political, local, ecclesiastical, cultural, and financial news and opinion pieces, as well as by the classified section at the back. Although this genre of journalistic text, which critically comments on an aspect of current affairs in the name of the newspaper or periodical, can be traced back to the early eighteenth century, the term "leading article" or "editorial" only emerged in the early nineteenth century.
Typically, therefore, the leading article can be found on the front page and comments on the item in the newspaper that the editorial team considers most important. In its leading position it is intended to guide both the subsequent articles and the reading process. As is shown by "Undesirable Visit," the editorial does not perform this leadership task in terms of content alone. More than just telling the readers what they should think, the leading article demonstrates how to think. It starts with a particular occasion or event, a current news item, approaches it from different angles, and ultimately takes up a specific position. Every day this process—from facts to argumentation to interpretation—demonstrates how a judgment is formed. Whereas the essays of the London-based magazines in the early eighteenth century—such as in Daniel Defoe's Review or Jonathan Swift's Examiner—were mostly attempts to approach a matter subjectively,
There may have been technical reasons behind Funder's demand for sovereign leadership and representative order, whether of the state or of the newspaper, as the printing process showed him every day an imminent confusion of characters. His memoirs include this vivid passage about the work of the Reichspost in the old editorial building at Strozzigasse 41 in Vienna:
At the Vienna Reichspost around 1900, the movable sorts were taken from the type case, set back to front into the composing stick, and spaces added to create a multiline piece of justified text in much the same way as Johannes Gutenberg had developed his printing process in the mid-fifteenth century.
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