"Undesirable Visit"

How to Use Reason: Sovereign Signs

"Undesirable Visit"

On May 9, 1933, the Viennese Reichspost published an editorial entitled "Undesirable Visit" (Unerwünschter Besuch).  It extends over the entire right column of the front page and continues in the upper third of the left and central column on page two of the daily newspaper. The article's eight paragraphs are preceded by a location and date, namely "Vienna, on May 8," but neither the author's name nor their initials accompany the text.

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 "" (Türkenbefreiungsfeier) by the Austrian Homeland Protection League (Heimatschutzverband), which took place on May 14, 1933, in the . As Hans Frank had "deeply insulted the Austrian government and given notice of a violent intervention by Bavaria against Austria in a speech on the radio," the authorities would need to clarify "whether he can even be permitted to stay on Austrian soil as a private citizen." According to the article, it was beyond question that the announced party politicians had to strictly abide by Austrian laws in the event of their arrival. The text closes by asking whether German Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler, who had demonstrated "a high degree of discretion and moderation" in international politics, agreed with this "journey of party-political agitation by high-ranking state officials." In any event, the necessary measures would in no way be targeted at the government of the German Reich, "but exclusively at the attempt by foreign guests to give new stimulus to subversive and antigovernmental agitation within our own borders." 

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. 

The independence of this comparatively small country was called into question across the political spectrum, on both the left and the right. , the NSDAP pushed for an authoritarian Greater German Reich. As such, it was primarily the Christian Social Party and the that wanted to preserve Austria as an independent state. The "Turks Deliverance Celebration" planned for May 14, 1933, in the Schönbrunn Palace gardens was intended to make a stand for a sovereign Austria under the leadership of the Christian Social Federal Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, who had been governing by emergency decree since March of that year.

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. 

Not only did he refer to the majority of the population as "fellow Germans" and the territory as "part of Germany," but he also threatened to seize power. That Frank, who despite diplomatic protests had not apologized for this assault, now intended to come to Vienna, was an "insupportable test of the Austrian's patience and good nature" according to the leading article in the Reichspost

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 following day the Social Democratic Arbeiter-Zeitung addressed the "unusually vehement leading article" that had been published in the "government organ." 
In subsequent editions the Reichspost quoted some of the aggressive reactions that their article had triggered in the Nazi press, such as the Völkischer Beobachter and the Berlin-based Angriff, again clarifying that the expressed protest was not aimed at the government of the German Reich but against the party politics of the NSDAP in Austria. 

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 in Vienna along with Prussian Justice Minister Hanns Kerrl and the head of his ministry Roland Freisler, the future president of the German People's Court of Justice.  They were greeted not only by Nazi functionaries and roughly 1,500 onlookers, but also by Michael Skubl, the vice president of the Vienna police department, who according to the Reichspost officially informed Frank "that, in view of the still pending matters, the arrival of the minister of the federal government was 'not especially welcome.'" 

The visitors then drove in a convoy of dozens of cars and motorbikes, some adorned with swastika flags, to the , the Vienna headquarters of the NSDAP.  On their way they stopped at the to lay wreaths in front of the war memorial.  Closer to the inner city, insults were hurled at the convoy, most loudly in the Leopoldstadt district near the but it was also greeted with cheers, especially around the Adolf Hitler House in the Mariahilf district,  where the vehicles arrived at around 4 p.m. 

That same evening the visitors from Germany went on stage as speakers at a mass gathering in Vienna's From 8:30 to 10 p.m., just a few hours before the "Turks Deliverance Celebration" by the Austrian Homeland Protection in the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace, the National Socialists held their own rally to commemorate Vienna's liberation from the Ottoman siege in 1683. 

At both events facts were irrelevant: although the city had indeed been successfully defended from the Ottoman troops 250 years previously, that did not happen in May but from mid-July to mid-September 1683. Besides, the historical events served merely as a backdrop for contemporary political conflicts, as Hans Frank expressly stressed:

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 in Vienna. That afternoon he drove to Graz where he gave a speech on the Schlossberg opposing the Austrian federal government. However, instead of making a public appearance in Salzburg on Monday, May 15, 1933, as planned, a police injunction obliged Frank to leave the country and return to Germany. 

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. 

After some trial issues and flyers in the course of 1893, the Reichspost was published daily from January 1, 1894.  Friedrich Funder, the editor in chief and editor of the newspaper for many years, explained in his memoirs how its programmatic title should be interpreted:

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). 

As Funder was one of Franz Ferdinand's advisers and supported his Greater Austrian reform plans,  the Reichspost reacted vehemently to the murder of the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne in 1914 and its journalism fueled the outbreak of World War I. 
In the 1920s, the newspaper evolved into a kind of organ of the government because all the federal chancellors of the newly created Republic of Austria, with the exception of Karl Renner and Johann Schober, came from the Christian Social Party.

The politics of Ignaz Seipel in particular met with Funder's unreserved support.  Seipel was not only a moral theologian and chairman of the Christian Social Party, as well as federal chancellor and federal minister twice, but since 1917 he had also been on the board of the Catholic publishing house Herold, which issued the Reichspost

The newspaper welcomed Seipel's anti-Marxist policy and his advocacy of the Austrian Home Guards, which he encouraged as a "bulwark against Bolshevism." Hence it is unsurprising that the Reichspost supported Federal Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss from the outset, another friend of Funder's. 
As the semiofficial mouthpiece of the Dollfuss cabinet, from March 1933 the newspaper championed the establishment of an "authoritarian democracy," which should be organized as a "corporative state" (Ständestaat). 
With this pro-government editorial policy, the Reichspost attempted to dissociate itself from the emerging Nazi dictatorship in Germany on the one hand and from the political opponents in Austria on the other, who would allegedly abuse parliamentarianism and freedom of opinion for strategical party-political purposes. 

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." 

The comparison is apparently not based on a democratic form of government but on a "corporative state" as envisaged by Dollfuss. While authoritarian leadership is the responsibility of the federal chancellor or editor in chief, human activities are uniformly represented by professions or departments. This representative administration was also expressed in the infrastructure of the Reichspost, which in 1913 moved within Josefstadt, Vienna's eighth district, from Strozzigasse 41, a small suburban building,  to Strozzigasse 8, where the new Herold publishing house was constructed on lot of around one thousand square meters.  The building's communication center, designed as a "representative space," comprised the office of the editor in chief, who had at his command the "master station" of the American telephone system and was able to send manuscripts straight to the composing room by pneumatic dispatch. 

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. 

The reason is the formally leading role of the article, which only became possible when newspapers no longer printed a series of news items, but different departments and then front pages with the day's headlines emerged.

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, 

the strict format of the editorial prescribes a general thought pattern. As a rule it is not an individual, not an author, but the collective imagination of a newspaper that represents a part of reality in the leading article.

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.  The finished manually typeset form made of lead had to be tied together tightly by the typesetter in order to be winched down to the stereotyping department,  where the masters and the flongs for the rotary press were cast.  If the typesetter was clumsy or nervous, the sorts either fell apart entirely or at least became disarranged, resulting in nonsense on the printed page. In accordance with Funder's typographic experience, it was therefore necessary to keep these arbitrary signs together, literally to form them. Otherwise the rational representation—as exemplarily embodied in the editorial—dissolved into utter chaos.

Reichspost publishing building
Publication of "Undesirable Visit"
N 48.207051° | E 16.349469°
1932 a 128 d 6 h 0 min p. Chr.

How to Use Reason:
Sovereign Signs
How to Capture Life:
Examining Gazes
How to Speak Up:
Governed Transmissions

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