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Josef Bürckel

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Joseph Bürckel
Joseph Bürckel c. 1938
Reich Commissioner of Austria
In office
23 April 1938 – 31 March 1940
LeaderAdolf Hitler
ReichsstatthalterArthur Seyss-Inquart
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Reichsstatthalter of Reichsgau Vienna
In office
1 April 1940 – 2 August 1940
LeaderAdolf Hitler
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byBaldur von Schirach
Gauleiter of Reichsgau Vienna
In office
30 January 1939 – 2 August 1940
Preceded byOdilo Globocnik
Succeeded byBaldur von Schirach
Gauleiter of Gau Westmark
In office
13 March 1926 – 28 September 1944
Preceded byFriedrich Wambsganss
Succeeded byWilli Stöhr
Reichsstatthalter of Westmark
In office
11 March 1941 – 28 September 1944
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byWilli Stöhr
Member of the German Reichstag
In office
14 September 1930 – 28 September 1944
Personal details
Born(1895-03-30)30 March 1895
Lingenfeld, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire (now Germany)
Died28 September 1944(1944-09-28) (aged 49)
Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Nazi Germany
Political partyNazi Party
Military service
Allegiance German Empire
Branch/service Imperial German Army
Years of service1914–1916
UnitBavarian Field Artillery Regiment 12
Battles/warsWorld War I

Joseph Bürckel (30 March 1895 – 28 September 1944) was a German Nazi politician and a member of the German parliament (the Reichstag). He was an early member of the Nazi Party and was influential in the rise of the National Socialist movement. He played a central role in the German acquisition of the Saarland and Austria. He held the posts of Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter in both Gau Westmark and Reichsgau Vienna.



Joseph Bürckel was born in Lingenfeld, in the Bavarian Palatinate (German: Rheinpfalz) as the son of a baker.[1] From 1909 to 1914 he studied to become a teacher in Speyer.[2]

Bürckel volunteered for service with Bavarian Field Artillery Regiment 12 in the First World War. He served with several different field artillery regiments and was honorably discharged in May 1916. After the war, he continued his training as a teacher and graduated in 1920. He was employed as a teacher, and eventually as a headmaster, until September 1930 when he was elected to the Reichstag from electoral constituency 27 (Pfalz).[3]

From 1921 onwards, Bürckel was engaged in nationalist groups, fighting separatism in the Palatinate. An energetic organizer in the National Socialist movement of the Bavarian Palatinate from 1925, he rose through the ranks to become Gauleiter (Nazi Party leader) of Gau Rheinpfalz in March 1926, succeeding Friedrich Wambsganss. After the Saar plebiscite in January 1935 approved the return of the Saarland to Germany, Bürckel was named "Reichskommissar for the Return of the Saarland" to coordinate the acquisition. Gau Rheinpfalz was merged with the Saarland on 1 March 1935 to form Gau Pfalz-Saar (renamed Gau Saarpfalz in January 1936) and Bürckel continued as Gauleiter of the enlarged territory.[4]

In February 1938, Bürckel (while remaining Gauleiter in Saarpfalz) was appointed the acting head of the Nazi Party for Austria, and on 13 March 1938 he was assigned to carry out the referendum on the Anschluss (Austria's absorption into Germany). From 23 April 1938 to 31 March 1940, he worked as "Reichskommissar for the Reunification of Austria with the German Reich", in charge of fully integrating it as the Ostmark politically, economically and culturally into Germany.[5] He declared: "This is a revolution. The Jews may be glad that it is not of the French or Russian pattern."[6] Saying Vienna was "overfilled with Jews", he stated his aim to leave them with no more than five percent of their property.[6] On 20 August 1938, he established the Central Agency for Jewish Emigration in Vienna, at first responsible for the forced emigration of Jews, and later for the subsequent deportation and murder of at least 48,767 Austrian Jews out of Vienna.

While remaining Reichskommissar, Bürckel succeeded Odilo Globočnik as Nazi Party Gauleiter of Reichsgau Vienna from 30 January 1939 until 2 August 1940. With the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe on 1 September 1939, Bürckel was named as Reich Defense Commissioner for Wehrkreis (Military District) XVII which included his Reichsgau Vienna as well as Reichsgau Lower Danube, Reichsgau Upper Danube and part of Reichsgau Sudetenland.

On 1 April 1940, he ended his work as Reichskommissar, and was named the Reichsstatthalter (Reich Governor) of Reichsgau Vienna, thus uniting under his control the highest party and governmental offices in his jurisdiction.[7] Throughout this period, Bürckel continued working to further unification with Nazi Germany and drive out the Jewish population, through propaganda, anti-Jewish decrees and seizing Jewish property. He also crushed Social Democrat and Communist resistance networks. His brutal methods are known as the "Vienna model" or "Bürckel model". Hitler wanted someone who would "work with radical resoluteness and without Viennese botchery", "even at risk of making himself unpopular". He was indeed unpopular, with Josef Goebbels writing "Bürckel is making bad mistakes here in Vienna. A little Palatinate schoolmaster as the successor to the Habsburgs. That's not enough. The people here are a little unhappy. And rightly so." Goebbels also wrote Bürckel "left without a single friend in Vienna." Lois Weinberger, a vice-mayor of Vienna, later wrote "This man was completely foreign to us in blood and mind. His ways and even his voice were also completely repugnant to us".[1]

While Bürckel pursued corrupt officials,[1] he also frequently embezzled confiscated money and property instead of turning it over to the state,[citation needed] earning him the displeasure of the Nazi hierarchy and he was removed from his posts in Vienna in August 1940, being succeeded by Baldur von Schirach. Upon his return to Gau Saarpfalz, he continued his previous lifestyle and spent large sums on purchasing artworks.[8]

After the fall of France, in addition to his post as Gauleiter in Saarpfalz, Bürckel was appointed Chief of Civil Administration in occupied Lothringen on 7 August 1940. The Gau was reorganized and renamed Gau Westmark on 7 December 1940. It now consisted of the Bavarian Palatinate, the Saarland and the annexed département of Moselle. On 11 March 1941, Bürckel was named Reichsstatthalter of the new entity, again attaining full control over Party and governmental functions. On 16 November 1942, Bürckel was named Reich Defense Commissioner for Gau Westmark.[9]

From 9 November 1937, he also held the rank of general (Gruppenführer) in the Schutzstaffel (SS) and was on the staff of the Reichsführer-SS, Heinrich Himmler. On 30 January 1942, he was promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer.[10]

Bürckel died at about 11:04 a.m. in Neustadt-an-der-Weinstrasse on 28 September 1944. A report from Bürckel's personal physician (since 1936), Dr. Ewig, dated 28 September 1944, stated that Bürckel was physically and mentally worn out, spending all of his time at work because of the deteriorating situation in his Gau. He suffered an inflammation of the intestine with diarrhoea, eventually becoming too ill to continue. Ewig was called in on 26 September 1944. Bürckel soon contracted pneumonia and blood failure. Josef Rowies, another physician, stated on 23 October 1944 that the report of Bürckel's death sent to the SS-Personalhauptamt (the personnel records office) by Himmler's personal staff office on 9 October 1944 had been "doctored" to conceal his mental breakdown. On 8 September 1944, in a letter to Martin Bormann (with whom Bürckel did not get along), Bürckel opined that the lack of combat-ready troops to occupy the defensive line of the Moselle from the boundary of Gau Westmark via the arsenal of Metz-Diedenhofen, south of Saint-Avold (part of the Maginot Line), to Sarralbe made construction of defensive positions useless. Bormann responded by dispatching Willi Stöhr (who was to succeed Bürckel after his death) to oversee the construction work.

On 3 October 1944, Hitler posthumously awarded him the German Order, the highest decoration that the Party could bestow on an individual, for his services to the Reich.[11]

Decorations and awards



  1. ^ a b c Oliver Rathkolb and John Heath (trans.) "Baldur von Schirach: Nazi Leader and Head of the Hitler Youth", 2022. Chapter 7.ISBN 9781399020961
  2. ^ Josef Bürckel – Gauleiter der Westmark Archived 15 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine (in German) Josef Bürckel biography, accessed: 10 February 2009
  3. ^ Miller & Schulz 2012, pp. 95–97.
  4. ^ Miller & Schulz 2012, pp. 97–100.
  5. ^ Miller & Schulz 2012, pp. 100–101.
  6. ^ a b MacDonogh 2009, p. 137.
  7. ^ Miller & Schulz 2012, pp. 105–106.
  8. ^ Google book review: Art As Politics in the Third Reich author: Jonathan Petropoulos, publisher: UNC Press, pp: 239–240, accessed: 10 February 2009
  9. ^ Miller & Schulz 2012, pp. 107–100.
  10. ^ Karl Höffkes: Hitlers Politische Generale. Die Gauleiter des Dritten Reiches: ein biographisches Nachschlagewerk, Grabert-Verlag, Tübingen, 1986, p. 42. ISBN 3-87847-163-7.
  11. ^ a b Angolia 1989, p. 224.
  12. ^ a b c d e Miller 2015, p. 344.


  • Angolia, John (1989). For Führer and Fatherland: Political & Civil Awards of the Third Reich. R. James Bender Publishing. ISBN 978-0912138169.
  • MacDonogh, Giles (2009). 1938: Hitler's Gamble. Little, Brown Book Group. ISBN 978-1-84901-212-6.
  • Miller, Michael (2015). Leaders Of The Storm Troops Volume 1. England: Helion & Company. ISBN 978-1-909982-87-1.
  • Miller, Michael D.; Schulz, Andreas (2012). Gauleiter: The Regional Leaders of the Nazi Party and Their Deputies, 1925-1945. Vol. I (Herbert Albrecht - H. Wilhelm Hüttmann). R. James Bender Publishing. ISBN 978-1-932970-21-0.