5. The first Nazi area
by Dr. Hellwig Valentin. From the book: "Der Sonderfall. Kärntner Zeitgeschichte 1918-2004/08", 2009, 2nd edition, Klagenfurt/Laibach-Ljubljana/Wien (Hermagoras-Verlag).
Translation by Liz Finney
The National Socialists of Carinthia announced in the turbulent days of March 1938 their consummated seizure of power from Vienna. With this Carinthia was considered the „first Nazi area“ of occupied Austria territory. The Nazi regime swiftly took hold at all levels of society. The persecution machine detected everyone who opposed Nazi beliefs on political, religious or „racial“ grounds. About 2,700 victims of the Nazi persecution have been studied by name to date. The Nazi repression did not stop at art either. The frescoes of Anton Kolig in the modern style which are featured in the Carinthian state parliament building were chipped, and were only repaired in 1999 by the grandchild of the artist Cornelius – whereby these later „atonements“ set off a fierce cultural-political discussion, whipped up in particular by the Carinthian FPÖ. There were similar confrontations in the 1950’s concerning the refashioned frescoes of Giselbert Hoke at Klagenfurt railway station. The artist felt forced to temporarily leave the country. Although Carinthia’s modern art in the twentieth century has offered a remarkable European contribution, narrow-minded views have nevertheless still been in evidence.
Carinthia was a „special case“ in the Nazi policy of repression owing to the presence of the Slovenian minority community. „Make this state German!“ was the order of the Nazi leadership in Berlin to the national socialist authorities in Carinthia. To begin with it was thought that all Carinthian Slovenes - altogether about 50,000 people – would be resettled by the „Wehrmacht“ (German Armed Forces) in the conquered eastern areas. In April 1942 around a thousand Slovenian families were brought to holding camps in Germany. Then the Nazi authorities deferred the continuation of the campaign until after the war, certainly not on humanitarian grounds, but on account of economic considerations relating to the war. The evacuation of the Carinthian Slovenians had the consequence of strengthening partisan activity in Carinthia, as many members of the minority ethnic community preferred the „Weg in den Wald“ (path to the forest), as it was called, to a looming deportation.
Carinthian partisan fighting combined with the entire Yugoslavian resistance to the Nazi regime began in the middle of May 1942 and claimed hundreds of lives on both sides. Despite severe repressive measures – at the end of April 1943 thirteen Carinthian Slovenians were sentenced to death in Klagenfurt and executed in Vienna – the partisans could not be annihilated. The Third Reich had to deploy troops in divisions to stem the revolutionary movement. The partisans’ warfare had military, political and territorial objectives. First of all the Nazi regime should be eliminated by military means. Then it was about the formation of a socialist society in a new Yugoslavia. Finally they should strive for the state unification of all Slovenes, which meant the annexation of a part of southern Carinthia. These goals appear to be one total entitiy, whereas people will endeavour to pick out one particular aspect as appropriate. The fact is that the partisan fighting in Carinthia was the only continuous, organised and armed resistance against the Nazi regime on the territory of present-day Austria. After the war, from the Austrian side came the assertion for the purposes of the Moskow Declaration of 1943, that the country made its own contribution to liberating itself from the Nazi regime. The Nazi heartland of Carinthia was unanimously the setting for the most bitter opposition to the national socialist dictatorship.