“Repressed Years – the Austrian Railways and National Socialism between 1938 and 1945“
In 2012 the Austrian Railways are going to celebrate their 175th anniversary and with it the enormous technical achievements and the importance of the railway system for the industrial revolution, for renewal and for economic growth in general. The ÖBB group is also going to commemorate the dark times of the railway company and are going to address the time in which the Österreichische Bundesbahnen (BBÖ, Federal Railway of Austria) was part of the Deutsche Reichsbahn (1938 to 1945) and thus one of the most important pillars of the National Socialist state.
The exhibition “Repressed Years – the Austrian Railways and National Socialism between 1938 and 1945” is dedicated to this area.
“This is the darkest part of our company's history. We are obliged to commemorate and with this documentation we would like to further contribute to coming to terms with the past. No matter how incredible these events may seem to us today, we need to clearly accept these times as part of our ÖBB history.“
Mag. Christian Kern, CEO ÖBB Holding AG
Background: Repressed Years – a whole part of history has not been investigated up to now
Although the Austrian Federal Railways was playing a central role in the times of National Socialism, it has not really been investigated, it has rather been ignored in the history books of the railway company. The Austrian Federal Railways were immediately integrated into the Deutsche Reichsbahn in 1938. Without the railway system as a means of transport the war logistics of the German Wehrmacht would not have been possible.
Without the logistical capacity of the railway system the systematic murder of European Jews, Sinti, Roma, the deportation of Slovenians, homosexuals, Jehova'sWitnesses and people of non-conventional political thinking would not have been possible. Three million people from almost all over Europe were transported into the extermination and death camps of the NS regime. Through the deportation of numerous people the Deutsche Reichsbahn was directly involved in the Holocaust, and thus the former Austrian railway employees who became employees of the Deutsche Reichsbahn after the Anschluss until the end of the Second World War in May 1945. More than 200 000 Austrians, almost the whole Jewish population were forced to leave their home country or were sent to concentration and extermination camps. They were transported in trains of the railway company.
Railway employees and the resistance movement
The National Socialist powers had tried to get the railway employees under their regime since March 1938. They had stricter rules to follow than civil servants, needed to “stand up for the National Socialist state at any time wholeheartedly” and they were comprehensively politically monitored and inspected. However, railway employees contributed significantly to resistance
against National Socialism. The Reichssicherheitshauptamt RSHA (Reich Security Head Office – the organisation was a result of the merger of the SS intelligence service “Sicherheitsdienst” (SD) or
Security Service, and the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo) or Security Police) reported in 1941 on the resistance of the railway employees “that compared to the old Reich …....the Ostmark (Eastern March, i.e. Austria's name when it was part of Nazi Germany) has been playing a bigger role concerning police sabotage since the outbreak of war in 1939, because the foreign news services and the national resistance groups have been very good in establishing sabotage organisations very early,.….“. 154 railway employees were sentenced to death for resistance to the regime and were executed, 135 died in concentration camps or prisons, 1438 were imprisoned in concentration camps or in jail.
Because of great visitors success, the exhibition will be prolonged till the 31th October 2012 in the foyer of the ÖBB Infrastruktur at Praterstern 3, opening hours are Monday till Friday between 8 am and 5 pm. Free entry.
It is structured in:
+ The »Anschluss« + The Railway Employees + Emigration and Children's Transports + Special Transports + The Resistance Movement + Forced Labour + The »Arianised« Fortune + The Restitution.
The ÖBB group plans to digitalise the exhibition in the up-coming weeks in co-operation with the Institut für Creative\Media/Technologies of the St. Pölten college in order to be able to show it permanently on the Internet. Furthermore the 116 pages of the exhibition brochure will also be digitalised in co-operation with Datum magazine and will be available as an app. This exhibition is also based on a co-operation with the Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture (BMUKK/www.erinnern.at), hence schools will be provided with adequate teaching material.
Project Management: Dr.in Traude Kogoj
Scientific Advice: Univ. Prof. DDr. Oliver Rathkolb
Exhibition Concept and Design: Milli Segal
For further information, appointments and photos please contact:
Agentur Milli Segal