Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg

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This article is about the 20th century conservative politician. For the 17th century Austrian Fieldmarshal, see Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg.
Ernst Rüdiger Camillo Starhemberg
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-13026, Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg.jpg
Ernst Rüdiger Camillo Starhemberg, 1932
Acting Federal Chancellor of Austria
In office
July 26 – July 29, 1934
President Wilhelm Miklas
Preceded by Kurt Schuschnigg (acting)
Succeeded by Kurt Schuschnigg
15th Federal Vice-Chancellor of Austria
In office
May 1, 1934 – May 14, 1936
Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss
Himself
Kurt Schuschnigg
Preceded by Emil Fey
Succeeded by Eduard Baar-Baarenfels
Federal leader of the Fatherland Front
In office
August 29, 1934 – March 14, 1936
Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg
Preceded by Engelbert Dollfuß
Succeeded by None
Personal details
Born May 10, 1899
Eferding, Austro-Hungary
Died March 15, 1956 (aged 56)
Schruns, Austria
Political party Heimatblock
Christian Social Party
Fatherland's Front
Spouse(s) Countess Marie-Elisabeth von Salm-Reifferscheidt-Raitz (1928-1937)
Nora Gregor (1937-1949)
Children Heinrich (1934-1997)
Profession Nobleman, Military
Religion Roman Catholic

Ernst Rüdiger Camillo Starhemberg (Eferding, 10 May 1899 – Schruns, 15 March 1956; His Serene Highness Ernst Rüdiger Camillo 6. Fürst von Starhemberg until the 1919 abolition of nobility) was an Austrian nationalist and conservative politician prior to World War II, a leader of the Heimwehr and later of the Christian Social Party/Fatherland's Front. He was the 1,163rd Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece, Austrian Order.
Starhemberg served in the Bundesrat between 1920 and 1930, as Minister of Interior in 1930, Deputy Leader of the Christian Social Party from 1931 to 1934, Vice-Chancellor in 1934 and subsequently Acting Chancellor and Leader of the Front after the murder of Engelbert Dollfuss, relinquishing the former position after a few days. Disenchanted by the moderate ways of Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg, he was ousted from power in 1936, when the Heimwehr was dissolved, and fled the country after the Anschluss to avoid retaliation from vengeful Nazis.

Biography[edit]

Born in Eferding, Upper Austria, in 1899, von Starhemberg hailed from a long line of Austrian nobles and inherited the title of prince. He was the oldest son of Princess Franziska von Starhemberg and Prince Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg. He was a colleteral relative to Field Marshal Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg. In World War I he served on the Italian Front and then in 1921 was a member of Freikorps Oberland.

Seeking election to the Bundesrat, the representation of Austrian states (Länder) at age 21, Starhemberg became a proponent of Catholic and conservative politics and joined the Heimatschutz, quickly becoming a leader of one of its local branches. He also became an admirer of Benito Mussolini and his Fascist government. In the early 1920s, Starhemberg traveled to Germany and had contacts with the nascent Nazi movement. Adolf Hitler actively used Starhemberg’s status as an Austrian noble to try to improve the party’s image and to attract wealthy and influential backers to its ranks. After seeing the failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, Starhemberg became disenchanted with Nazism and returned to Austria. Rejoining the Heimatschutz, Starhemberg became its national leader in 1930 and actively campaigned to turn Austria into a more organized state. Eventually, Starhemberg’s movement became powerful enough to influence the government, and as such the chancellor appointed him Minister of the Interior in September 1930. Starhemberg resigned his position shortly thereafter, however, when the Heimatblock (the Heimwehr’s political wing) only won eight seats in elections for the Nationalrat. He later joined the traditionalist conservative Christian Social Party, becoming its Deputy Leader only 32 years old.

When conservative Engelbert Dollfuss became Chancellor of Austria in 1932, Starhemberg once again gained governmental power. At Dollfuss’s request, Starhemberg worked to combine a number of right-wing groups into a single political entity. He was successful, and the result was the powerful Fatherland Front, which saw its creation in late 1933, followed by the authoritarian May Constitution of 1934. For his efforts, Starhemberg became Dollfuss's Vice Chancellor under the new rule. Upon Dollfuss' assassination two months later during a failed coup by the Nazis, Starhemberg briefly came to head the government and the Front. As President Wilhelm Miklas proclaimed Austria was not yet ready for a "Heimwehr Cabinet", called a cabinet meeting in Vienna's Ballhouse surrounded by barbed wire and government troops to restrain suspicious members of the Heimwehr, who claimed the Nazi coup had been foiled only through their courage, and appointed Kurt von Schuschnigg Chancellor instead on July 29. Starhemberg officially supported the compromise and his office as Vice Chancellor, being appointed Minister of Public Security as well.[1]
With these positions, Starhemberg was in effect the second most powerful man in Austria. During this time period, the regime fought to keep Austria an independent state by support from France, the United Kingdom and Fascist Italy and through crackdowns on Austrian Nazis and others favoring a union with Germany (this claim had been popular among Socialists as well as Conservatives, although the peace treaty signed by Austria explicitly forbade such a unification).

In 1936, Starhemberg's disagreements with Schuschnigg, who, inspired by the appeasement policies of the western democracies, wanted to improve relations with Nazi Germany rather than risk invasion by a far stronger Wehrmacht and face possible desertion by Hitler's new-found ally, Mussolini. In March 1936, Starhemberg was forced to relinquish his position as Federal leader of the Fatherland's Front, which was dissolved (as was the Heimwehr) and on May 14 that year he was ousted from the government. After the Anchluss in March 1938, which saw much of the Front's leadership purged (Schuschnigg himself was detained and shipped to concentration camp), Starhemberg escaped to Switzerland. He later served in the British and Free French air forces for a short period of time at the beginning of World War II, until Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union brought the western powers in alliance with Communism. In 1942 Starhemberg decided to leave the war and traveled to Argentina where he spent the next thirteen years. In 1955, the year of Juan Peron's (also a fervent admirer of Fascism and Mussolini) ousting by a military coup, Starhemberg returned to Austria to die.

Starhemberg died in Schruns, Vorarlberg, in 1956.

Marriages[edit]

Starhemberg married:

  • Marie-Elisabeth Altgräfin zu Salm-Reifferscheidt-Raitz (Donaueschingen, 1 March 1908 – Gmunden, 10 April 1984), married in Vienna on 9 September 1928, annulled on 27 November 1937. She had no children but adopted, in 1973 as her heir, a cousin, Maria Elisabeth (Marielies) Leopoldine Hippolyta, Altgräfin zu Salm-Reiferscheidt-Raitz (born 1931).
  • Nora Gregor (Görz, 3 February 1901 – Santiago, 20 January 1949), Austrian Jewish stage and film actress, married in Vienna on 2 December 1937. They had one child, who was born prior to their marriage, Heinrich Ruediger Gregor (1934-1997, known from 1937 as Heinrich Rüdiger Karl Georg Franciscus Prinz von Starhemberg).

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Monday, Aug. 06, 1934 (1934-08-06). "AUSTRIA: Death for Freedom". TIME. Retrieved 2011-01-27. 

References[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Emil Fey
Vice Chancellor of Austria
1934–1936
Succeeded by
Eduard Baar-Baarenfels