This volume is part of the series of publications of the Austrian State Archive, inspired by a new generation of research on archives that started with the 2005 75. Deutsche Archivtag in Stuttgart (documented in Robert Kretzschmar et al., eds., Das deutsche Archivwesen und der Nationalsozialismus: 75. Deutscher Archivtag in Stuttgart, Essen 2006). On the surface, what it offers is a history of the nation’s archives between 1938 and 1945; in practice, this superb collection of essays by the current administrators of Austria’s national and province-level archives opens nuanced pictures of the pressures and problems confronted by archives and archivists—both well-meaning and dutiful as well as mendacious and tendentious ones—in confronting the challenges and catastrophes of their nation’s history in the context of the Third Reich. The art of this book is the great precision with which each story is told—each archive is different in nature, and its holdings were gathered, used, repurposed, and reused differently as World War II changed and to varying degrees destroyed their histories, missions, and holdings. Overall, as an account of the fate of cultural patrimony, it is as impressive as Lynn H. Nicholas’s The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War (Knopf, 1994) is about Europe’s art treasures.
The procrustean bed for all these stories was the Nazi regime’s 1940 creation of the Vienna Central Archive (Reichsarchiv Wien)—in no small part for the purpose of managing Austria’s history as it was integrated into the Third Reich. The volume’s first section addresses the Zentralarchive in eight individual contributions. After the briefest of introductions by Lorenz Mikoletzky, the first two of these outline the general situation in which Austria’s archives and archivists on the national level found themselves: Rudolf Jeřábek, “Das Wiener Reichsarchiv. Institutions- und kompetenzgeschichtliche Entwicklung 1938–1945” (11–71), and Hartmut Weber, “‘Heimkehr ins Reich’ unter Erhaltung der Selbständigkeit?: Ludwig Bittners verlorener Kampfum eine Generaldirektion der österreichischen Archive” (73–102).
The creation of that archive, which never really functioned but disrupted so many other entities, is told here from two perspectives. The first is the story of the planning and execution of the consolidation of several individual archives into one entity, nominally under the Ministry of the Interior (Haus-, [End Page 150] Hof- und Staatsarchiv [HHStA], Staatsarchiv des Innern und der Justiz, Hofk ammer-, Finanz- und Unterrichtsarchiv; the Kriegsarchiv had been consolidated in part with the German equivalent into a Heeresarchiv). The second story concerns the director of the HHStA, Ludwig Bittner, a National Socialist sympathizer who did not hesitate to use the Nazi takeover as an excuse to centralize Austria’s archives—but who ultimately failed; Bittner could not maintain his institutional integrity, as the Gau administrative system mitigated against complete centralization.
These stories are amplified in five additional pieces (one each on the HHStA, the Staatsarchiv des Innern und der Justiz, the Hofk ammerarchiv, the Heeresarchiv Wien, and the Verkehrsarchiv). Each explains the dimensions of the holdings, their original purposes, and what particular pressures the Nazi regime and their own keepers put on them, especially in the area of nazification of personnel. The most interesting case for general cultural study is that of the Hofk ammerarchiv, whose archivist Franz Stanglica joined the ss in 1940 to help with the battle for “the people” and who did research in government documents and legal precedent in the area of resettlement for the Nazi government.
The final piece in this section, by Rudolf Jeřábek, speaks “Zu den Anfängen des Österreichischen Staatsarchivs 1945–1948” (319–386), discussing the situations of the component archives, their messy and partial reorganization that complicated postwar efforts, and what needed to be done given the extensive damage to the archives’ integrity and holdings: to salvage them from damaged buildings and storerooms and to reclaim what had been scattered to other archives as part of the Nazi plans to rewrite history. Bittner committed suicide in April 1945...