From 1916 to 1918, Ernst Kirchweger participated in World War I as a sailor in the Austro-Hungarian Navy. Afterwards, he fought on the side of the Red Army. Until 1934, he was a member of the Social Democratic Party of Austria, but then he joined the Communists, which was outlawed at that time. During the reigns of Austrofascism and Nazism, he risked his life as an activist in illegal trade unions. After Austria's liberation in 1945, having survived concentration camp, he continued to speak out against Fascism.
On March 31, 1965, a demonstration of students, former resistance fighters and unions against Taras Borodajkewycz, a university professor accused of having made anti-Semitic statements, took place in Vienna, while the student organisation of the Freedom Party of Austria organized a riot. There were skirmishes between the participants of the two demonstrations; during one in which Kichweger was attacked by Günther Kümel and severely injured. He died three days later as a result of his injuries. Kümel was sentenced to ten months in prison.
25,000 people attended Kirchweger's funeral, which became an Anti-Fascist manifestation. However, the approach taken by the official Austria towards Nazism did not change for a long time. Only in the early 1990s, Chancellor Franz Vranitzky acknowledged Austria's share in the guilt for the Holocaust.
In 1990, the Wielandschule in Vienna-Favoriten, a building owned by the Communist Party, was seized by left-wing activist and named Ernst-Kirchweger-Haus. In the mean time, the building has been sold by the Communist Party.
- Kropiunigg, Rafael, 'The Rehabilitated Austrians and the Borodajkewycz Affair', Austrian History Yearbook 46 (2015), 360-385.
- Kropiunigg, Rafael, Eine österreichische Affäre: Der Fall Borodajkewycz (Vienna, 2015).