New Memorial Plaque on Stubenring Commemorates Victims of the Nazi Regime

Lifestyle & TravelMore+ ♦ Published: January 23, 2023; 23:52 ♦ (Vindobona)

A commemorative plaque for the victims of Nazi military tribunals was unveiled today by Minister of Social Affairs Johannes Rauch, Minister of Justice Alma Zadić, Minister of Agriculture Norbert Totschnig and Minister of Labor and Economic Affairs Martin Kocher at the government building on Stubenring in Vienna.

The Ministry of Social Affairs initiated a reappraisal of the history of the government building because, during the Third Reich, the building was the headquarters of the Wehrmacht judicial system. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons, Gryffindor, CC BY-SA 3.0

Austria is always trying to make amends and commemorate the many victims of the Nazi regime. Precisely because Austria participated in the atrocities of the Third Reich, Austria is not only a victim but also a perpetrator.

The government building at Stubenring 1 was erected in 1913 as the Imperial War Ministry of the monarchy. After the "Anschluss" in 1938, military justice was established here to prepare for the upcoming war. Until 1945, it was the central hub of Wehrmacht justice and thus part of the National Socialist system of terror and injustice in Austria.

Today, the building houses the Federal Ministry of Labor and Economy, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management, and the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection. Until now, nothing on site reminded people of the building's function during National Socialism.

"The commemorative plaque makes visible the injustice that was committed in this house - our common workplace," emphasized Social Minister Johannes Rauch at the unveiling ceremony. "The convicts were innocent victims of an inhumane regime that used jurisdiction to enforce injustice. Only if we actively come to terms with the past, if we face up to our responsibility, will tolerance, civil courage and solidarity unfold in our society."

Rauch commissioned the project shortly after taking office last March. He has supported the "Justice for Victims of Nazi Military Justice" committee since it was founded in 2002.

Nazi military judiciary as a pivotal point of military persecution

At the symposium following the unveiling of the commemorative plaque, international scholars discussed the Nazi persecution of deserters and conscientious objectors, as well as the scope for action by prosecutors and judges.

During the Second World War, thousands of soldiers and officers, but also civilians, came under the scrutiny of the military courts. They were suspected of desertion, "Wehrkraftzersetzung," war treason, and other offenses. The prosecutors and judges of the Wehrmacht ordered interrogations and torture and handed out prison sentences. They imposed the death penalty more than 30,000 times.

The process of legal rehabilitation of Wehrmacht deserters and other victims of Nazi military justice did not begin until the late 1990s. After long disputes, the Austrian National Council passed the Repeal and Rehabilitation Act in the fall of 2009. 64 years after the end of the war, all sentences of the Wehrmacht justice system were thus repealed across the board.