A Gottschee-German, the SS and the Nazi Party

John Tschinkel
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A Gottschee-German, the SS and the Nazi Party

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Dr. Erich Petschauer (1907- 1977).

Dr. Erich Petschauer, a Gottschee-German, was born in Lichtenbach, Gottschee, then part of Imperial Austria. He is the author of “Das Jahrhundertbuch”: Gottschee and its People Through the Centuries”. The book was commissioned in 1971 by the “Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Gottscheer Landsmannschaften“, (further-on, AG), in Klagenfurt, Austria. It was expanded and completed by his brother Hermann after Erich died in 1977 and published in German in 1980. It was translated into English and its publication paid for by the Gottscheer Relief Association Inc. of New York in 1984.

The Preface to the book was written by Dr. Viktor Michitsch, Chairman of the AG, who states that the book is:

“A historical contribution which is intended to shed light on important problems of the Gottschee Enclave from the beginning of its existence to its end. I am also convinced that the Jahrhundertbuch is the most comprehensive historical document that has ever been written about our small group.”

The Chairman did not list the author's credentials and omitted to state that Petschauer was a former SS-Officer and a member of the Nazi party who was tried and judged by the Nuremberg Court.

During the years since its publication, the book became a history reference for the Diaspora Gottscheer and a source of data for amateur historians. However, apart from being a Gottschee-German, details about Petschauer's biography have remained an unknown, if not a secret, to most readers.

All this changed with the appearance of the Internet which now provides ample data about Petschauer’s Nazi past. In his PhD dissertation at the University of Vienna in 2009, Dr. Georg Marschnig indicates that the book contributes to the prevalent “Gottscheer Remembering Culture of Victimhood and Denial in which certain developments are clearly presented while others remain unclear and/or are completely erased”. Part of this is Petschauer’s personal history which reveals his early acceptance of Nazi ideology.

According to the Abstract of “Uncomfortable Realities” (see Google.de):

“Petschauer joined the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP, the Nazi party) after his university studies in 1933 and served as an SS-lieutenant in a relocation office in Northern Italy. While he [Petschauer] questioned his role before the end of the war, the follow-up Nuremberg trials [nevertheless] judged him a 'Mitläufer' and [that] he never fully moved away from what he had accepted as a young man".

After completing his studies, Petschauer became a writer for the 'Deutsche Zeitung' in Celje, Slovenia and its editor from August 1933 to February 1935. The newspaper was the mouthpiece of the SDKB [Kulturbund], an organization funded by Hitler’s Third Reich to promote Nazi propaganda in Yugoslavia including Slovenia. On July 28, 1935, the SDKB tried to install Dr. Erich Petschauer as the Youth Leader of the Kulturbund”. (see Google.de)

According to Valdis O. Lumans, “Himmler's auxiliaries: the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle and the German national minorities of Europe, 1933-1945”:

“The Kulturbund was supported by the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (VDM), a Nazi organization formed to be in charge of the affairs of all ethnic Germans outside the then borders of the Reich”.

To this the historian Mitja Ferenc in “Spurensuche in der Gottschee” writes: “The National-Socialist ideology was rapidly accepted by the [Gottschee] Germans in Yugoslavia, especially by the young intellectuals who came in touch with this ideology while studying in Germany”.

In the same book, the historian Joachim A. Hösler writes: “It is noteworthy how many men of the Gottschee region were in the service of the SS or other repressive organs”.

“At the start of the war, Petschauer was stationed in Brixen where, as an SS-Officer, he was the Representative of Himmler in South Tyrol. His assignment there was to persuade the South Tyrol German’s to leave their homes and settle in the yet to be conquered areas of Poland. (His equivalent in the Gottschee enclave was SS-Major Wilhelm Lampeter). Petschauer was also often sent to various fronts in order to lift the morale of German troops”. (see Google)

After his South Tyrol assignment, Petschauer was recalled to Himmler’s SS headquarters in Berlin. On May 8. 1945, Petschauer became a US POW and spent the next 3 years in various POW camps.

Dr. Peter W. Petschauer in “Der Vater und die SS” writes that Erich Petschauer: “.. was kept in the SS-Internment camp in Langwasser Germany awaiting his trial in Nuremberg”. At that trial he was judged as a “Mitläufer”.

From Wikipedia:

“The German term Mitläufer was used after World War II by the Nuremberg trials in West Germany to refer to people who were not charged with Nazi crimes but whose involvement with the Nazis was considered significant to an extent that they could not be exonerated.
In the American Sector of Allied-occupied Germany, a “ Mitläufer” was ranked fourth in the denazification proceedings. The denazification hearings classified German citizens according to five categories:
• I. Major Offenders (German: Hauptschuldige)
• II. Activists, Militants, and Profiteers, or Incriminated Persons (German: Belastete)
• III. Less incriminated (German: Minderbelastete)
• IV. Followers, or Fellow Travelers (German: Mitläufer)
• V. Exonerated or non-incriminated persons (German: Entlastete)

In Allied-occupied Austria, however, “Mitläufer” were classified as “Entlastete" and were free to go.

Of interest is the sworn deposition at the Nuremberg Trials by Rudolf Creutz, SS-Oberführer (Colonel) on February 27, 1948:

“In 1941 it was decided [by Himmler’s Berlin office], to put Dr. Erich Petschauer [then SS-Obersturmführer] in charge of the Gottscheer resettlement. This decision was overturned after an appeal by Lampeter’s group directly to Himmler to reverse it. The appeal stated that Petschauer was not capable and lacked sufficient commitment to National-Socialist [Nazi] ideology”[/i].

Shortly thereafter, the 25 year old Lampeter was promoted by Himmler to SS-Sturmbannführer (Major) and put in charge of the resettlement of the Gottscheer into the Reich annexed part of Slovenia from where the population was expelled. Toward the end of WWII Lampeter escaped into the DDR (East Germany where he became Professor at a Communist University. His dossier was declassified and released by the CIA in 2007. As such he was out of reach of the Nuremberg Court where he would have been charged far more severely than his SS colleague Petschauer.

And when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, Lampeter was joyously welcomed by all the heads of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft (see Gottscheer Zeitung, January 1990) and elevated, like Lackner, (once his second in command), to “Honored Member and Cultural Advisor” in the AG. Ludwig Kren, Erich Petschauer, Hermann Petschauer, Eberhard Kranzmayer, Maria Hornung and many other “Mitläufer” with similar background were then already such members.

Petschauer was released from prison in April 1948. Until July 1949 he was unemployed and after that he had a series of minor jobs. In the summer of 1959 he was diagnosed as a diabetic and he became progressively blind. Due to this he had to retire in 1971 and started to dictate his version of Gottschee history onto tapes. By 1977 he was completely blind and his brother Hermann transcribed, enhanced and completed the commission of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft. All this is from the book “Der Vater und die SS” written by his son Dr. Peter W Petschauer, now an emeritus professor of history at the Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.

Erich Petschauer frequently quotes the Gottscheer Richard Lackner as a reference source in his “Jahrhundertbuch”. (Lackner, a member of the SS-Totenkopf division was also kept in the SS-Internment camp, judged to be Group V and released one and a half years after the war). Petschauer also writes extensively about the role played by “Willi” Lampeter in the resettlement of the Gottschee-Germans.

And in his Preface to the Petschauer book, Viktor Michitsch praises Dr. Eberhard Kranzmayer (May 1897- Sept 1975) and Professor Maria Hornung (May 1920 - 2010) for their contribution to Petschauer’s book. He, however, hides the fact that: (see Google.de)

“From 1926 to 1933 Kranzmayer was a member of the banned NSDAP (“Illegal") in the period of Austro-fascism. He was also professor at the University of Vienna and a member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and due to his pro-Nazi sentiments, not in a positive sense. In 1941, he became head of the racial institute ‘Ahnenerbe’ in Klagenfurt. Alois Meier-Kaibitsch, SS-Standartenführer (Colonel) and local head of RKFDV and the Carinthian Nazi Gauleiter Friedrich Rainer were his sponsors. By that time, he was already a member of the Nazi party and an SS-officer. As a Nazi Ideologue, Kranzmayer fervently believed in 'an enormous superiority of the German Nation compared to the whole East" (see Google)

“In 1945, Kranzmayer was banned from the Austrian Academy of Sciences for four years because of his membership in the NSDAP and the SS. But in 1949 he was allowed to join the Dictionary Commission, which had become part of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. During his absence (1945-1949), the leadership of the Institute was in the hands of his former student Maria Hornung”. (see Google.de)

Both were active supporters and “Honored Members” in of the Gottscheer Arbeitsgemeinschaft, the AG.

The AG holds its annual meetings in Klagenfurt, Austria. They are attended also by American Organizations including the Directors of the Gottscheer Heritage and Genealogy Association (GHGA), one of them a Former Colonel in the US Army. He can be seen frequently in the Gottscheer Zeitung in processions with the “Mitläufer”. The GHGA is a member of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft since 2000.

For details on the SS organization see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schutzstaffel

John Tschinkel, 07/11/2016