Posts Tagged ‘Schloss Puchhof’

Simone Derix Tarnt Thyssen Schuld – Rechnitz Revisited II

Die Thyssens haben es stets vermieden, Einzelheiten ihrer Nazi Vergangenheit zu offenbaren, und zwar über eine Mischung von Leugnung, Verschleierung und Bestechung. Doch mit der Veröffentlichung unseres Buches „Die Thyssen-Dynastie“ 2007 und den Enthüllungen zum schrecklichen „Rechnitz Massaker“ wurde es immer schwieriger, diese Philosophie aufrecht zu erhalten. Familienmitglieder beschlossen endlich, über die Fritz Thyssen Stiftung zehn Akademiker zu beauftragen, um ihre persönliche, gesellschaftliche, politische und industrielle Vergangenheit umzuschreiben (in der Serie „Familie – Unternehmen – Öffentlichkeit. Thyssen im 20. Jahrhundert“) und damit ihren Ruf aufzupolieren.

Dieser Plan ist zum Teil aufgegangen und zum Teil nicht, denn trotz ihrer geschmiedeten Pläne offenbaren diese Bände oft mehr als es den Thyssens wahrscheinlich recht ist, sei es direkt oder durch die Bloßstellung von Widersprüchen.

Wir rezensieren hier die von der Thyssen Organisation gesponsorten Abhandlungen in der Abfolge ihres Erscheinens und werden dies auch mit dem neuesten Band, „Die Thyssens. Familie und Vermögen“ von Simone Derix tun. Zunächst jedoch wollen wir einen einzigartigen Bestandteil des Buches untersuchen, denn der neueste Band ist gleichzeitig, ein ganzes Jahrzehnt nach unserer Veröffentlichung, die erste offizielle Thyssen Publikation, die eine Beschreibung dessen enthält, wie die Dynastie im Leben der Gemeinde Rechnitz, und insbesondere bei den Vorfällen des „Rechnitz Massakers“ vom 24./25. März 1945 in Erscheinung getreten ist. Es ist ein Thema, das uns ganz besonders am Herzen liegt.

Leider hat die Fritz Thyssen Stiftung Simone Derix erlaubt, die gerade einmal sieben Seiten (einer 500 Seiten starken Abhandlung, die sich von ihrer Habilitationsschrift ableitet) einem Manifesto einzuverleiben, das sowohl eine Public Relations Arbeit für die Thyssens wie auch ein Ausdruck ihrer eigenen, ambitionierten Selbstdarstellung im „neuen“ Feld der „Reichen-Forschung“ ist. Dabei ist die Grundaussage von Derix die, dass die Thyssens ob ihres herausragenden Reichtums gefeiert werden sollten, während sie für ihre Viktimisierung durch Journalisten, Berater, Staatsgewalten, Verwandte, Bolschewisten, Nationalsozialisten, etc., etc. zu bemittleiden sind.

Das macht Derix zu der Art Verteidiger, von denen Ralph Giordano gesagt hat, dass sie nicht müde werden, „aus Opfern Täter und aus Tätern Opfer zu machen“. Die Tatsache, dass der Deutsche Historikerverband es für angebracht gehalten hat, Simone Derix für ihre Arbeit den Carl-Erdmann-Preis zu verleihen, der nach einem wahren Opfer nationalsozialistischer Verfolgung benannt ist, verstört zusätzlich.

  * * *

Deutschland war ein Spätentwickler in Sachen Industrialisierung und Nationalstaat und stieg mit einer explosionsartigen Energie auf die internationale Bühne empor, die zur Katastrophe führen sollte. Während die unfassbar hart arbeitenden Brüder August und Josef Thyssen im Mittelstand verankert waren und von dort Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts das enorme, industrielle Thyssen-Vermögen erschufen, kehrten August’s Söhne Fritz Thyssen und Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, unter dem Einfluss ihrer gesellschaftlich ehrgeizigen Mutter, dem Bürgertum den Rücken zu und benutzten ihren ererbten Wohlstand dazu, in einen neuartigen, hoch reaktionären Landadel aufzusteigen.

Derix beschreibt, wie Fritz Anfang des 20. Jahrhunderts, weitab der ursprünglichen Thyssen-Basis in der Ruhr, das Rittergut Gleina bei Naumburg/Saale pachtete, das Rittergut Götschendorf in der Uckermark kaufte und verkaufte und das Rittergut Neu Schlagsdorf bei Schwerin, sowie Schloss Puchhof in Bayern kaufte. Wir wussten bereits, dass Heinrich unter anderem den Rennstall Landswerth bei Wien, das Gestüt Erlenhof bei Bad Homburg, mit Rennstall in Hoppegarten bei Berlin und die Gut Rechnitz im österreichischen (vordem ungarischen) Burgenland erstand.

Durch unsere Forschungen wissen wir, dass die Thyssen Brüder auf den Ländereien des jeweils anderen jagten. Dies widerlegt einmal mehr die fadenscheinige Behauptung, die in der Serie „Familie – Unternehmen – Öffentlichkeit. Thyssen im 20. Jahrhundert“ immer und immer wieder, auch von Simone Derix, vorgebracht wird, dass Fritz und Heinrich Thyssen sich nicht verstanden hätten. Es ist eine Behauptung, die darauf abzielt, die Synergien in den wirtschaftlichen Unternehmungen der Thyssen Brüder zu verschleiern, insbesondere jene, die dem Nazi Regime zuträglich waren.

Beide Männer verhielten sich wie Feudalherren, die die Zufuhr von billigen Arbeitern und Zwangsarbeitern zu schätzen wussten, die Ihren Unternehmen durch die Unterdrückung von Arbeiterbewegungen und durch internationale, bewaffnete Konflikte geboten wurden, für die Ihre Fabriken Waffen und Munitionen lieferten. Die Thyssen Brüder mischten sich in eigennütziger Weise in die Politik ein, und zwar offen (Fritz) bzw. hinter den Kulissen, über diskrete, diplomatische und gesellschaftliche Kanäle (Heinrich) – obwohl Letzteres von Derix und ihren akademischen Kollegen vehement bestritten wird.

Beide Thyssen Brüder halfen dabei, den Nazis zum Aufstieg zu verhelfen. Aber Simone Derix versucht wiederum, sie als die schuldfreien, in die „Falle“ gelockten, illustren Industriellen darzustellen, die sie zu keinem Zeitpunkt gewesen sind.

1933 schaffte es Heinrich’s Tochter Margit – durch ihren unerbittlichen Vater, ihre anti-semitische Mutter und ihre pseudo-fromme, elitäre Sacré Coeur Erziehung verdorben -, die im Rechnitzer Schloss geboren und aufgewachsen war, den Status der Familie durch ihre Einheiratung in den ungarischen Adel (Ivan Batthyany) zu erheben – Das Gleiche erreichte auch Fritz Thyssen’s Tochter Anita (Gabor Zichy).

Am 8. April 1938, eine Woche nach dem Anschluss Österreichs an Nazi Deutschland, übertrug Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza sein Gut Rechnitz, welches einst jahrhundertelang (von 1527 bis 1871) im Besitz der Batthyanys gewesen war, an Margit. Unsere Forschungen deuten darauf hin, dass dies geschah, sodass der im Tessin verschanzte Baron keine offensichtlichen Besitzungen im Deutschen Reich mehr aufwies.

Simone Derix gibt an, dies sei statt dessen aus steuerlichen Gründen geschehen.

Da alle seine deutschen Firmen durch holländische Finanzinstrumente gehalten wurden, waren die schweizer Behörden, die, obwohl offiziell neutral, bis zur Kriegswende 1943 pro-Deutsch eingestellt waren, versichert, dass Heinrich Thyssen für sie nicht zum politischen Problem werden würde.

Über sein Unternehmen Thyssensche Gas- und Wasserwerke (später Thyssengas) finanzierte Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza sowohl Schloss Rechnitz als auch das Ehepar Batthyany-Thyssen diskret weiter. Während des Zweiten Weltkriegs verwendete seine Ruhr-Zeche Walsum, die zu Thyssengas gehörte, Zwangsarbeiter in der Größenordnung von zwei Dritteln der Gesamtbelegschaft; ein Rekord in der damaligen deutschen Industrie. In der Umgebung von Rechnitz wurden bergbauliche Interessen durch Thyssengas ausgeschöpft.

                                                                  * * *

Während Jahrhunderten war das riesige Rechnitzer Schloss, in dessen Hof, so wurde gesagt, ein ganzes Husarenregiment exerzieren konnte, das Machtzentrum von Rechnitz gewesen. Wie genau veränderte sich diese Situation nachdem die Nazis in Österreich die Staatsgewalt übernommen hatten? Wo genau in Rechnitz installierte sich die Partei mit ihren verschiedenen Organisationen?

Simone Derix liefert keine Antworten auf diese Fragen, obwohl sie mittels viel wortreichem Wirbel vorgibt, genau das zu tun. Stattdessen schreibt sie in vager, ausweichender Manier: “…..die Batthyanys (fanden) auf Schloss Rechnitz im Zweiten Weltkrieg mit Repräsentanten der NSDAP und des NS-Regimes ein einvernehmliches Auskommen“.

1934 lebten 170 Juden in Rechnitz. Am 1. November 1938, eine Woche vor der Reichskristallnacht, wurde Rechnitz als „Judenfrei“ erklärt, eine Situation die gewisse Mitglieder der Thyssen Familie begrüßt hätten (siehe hier). Doch Simone Derix weigert sich, den Antisemitismus von Schlüsselfiguren der Familie anzuerkennen. Sie beschränkt diese Eigenschaft statt dessen auf Randfiguren.

Im Frühjahr 1939, so Derix, wurde Hans-Joachim Oldenburg, dessen Vater Oberingenieur bei Thyssen war und der selbst auf landwirtschaftlichen Gütern der Thyssen-Familie gearbeitet hatte, nach Schloss Rechnitz gesandt, um dessen Bewirtschaftung zu übernehmen, welche sich schon bald auf Zwangsarbeiter aus dem ganzen Nazi-besetzten Europa stützte.

In jenem Sommer kam Franz Podezin als Beamter des Gestapo Grenzpostens nach Rechnitz. Er war seit 1931 ein Mitglied der SA gewesen und wurde später SS-Hauptscharführer. Er wurde ebenfalls Leiter der NSDAP in Rechnitz.

Simone Derix kommentiert: „Beide (Dienst)stellen (von Podezin) waren räumlich getrennt“, aber sie sagt nicht, wo genau diese Stellen lokalisiert waren. Stefan Klemp vom Simon Wiesenthal Zentrum hat geschrieben, dass das Hauptquartier der Rechnitzer Gestapo im Rechnitzer Schloss war. Entweder ist seine Aussage korrekt oder aber Simone Derix hat Recht, wenn sie sagt, dass Podezin erst im Herbst 1944 ein Büro im Schloss bezog, als er NSDAP Leiter des Unterabschnitts I des Abschnitts VI (Rechnitz) des Südostwall-Baus wurde.

Indem sie Klarheit vermissen lässt, umgeht Derix den wunden Punkt und trägt zur Rechtfertigung von Schuldigen bei – insbesondere der Thyssens als Besitzer, Geldgeber und „Herrschaften“ des Schlosses.

Die Aktivitäten an diesem verstärkten Verteidigungssystem, welches die Rote Armee aufhalten sollte, wurden von der Organisation Todt koordiniert (geleitet vom Rüstungsminister Albert Speer), vom Wehrmacht Generalmajor Wilhelm Weiss, und, im betreffenden Abschnitt, vom Gauleiter der Steiermark, zu der das Burgenland damals gehörte, Siegfried Uiberreither.

Ortsansässige und Zwangsarbeiter verschiedener Nationen wurden eingesetzt. Ihre Behandlung hing von ihrer Position innerhalb der Rassenhierarchie ab, welche die Nazi-Ideologen verfasst hatten. Am untersten Ende, und damit den schlechtesten Bedingungen und größten Schikanen ausgesetzt waren Slawen, Russen und Völker der Staaten der Sowjetunion. Niemand jedoch wurde so schlecht behandelt wie die Juden.

                                                                  * * *

Wie genau verbrachte Margit Batthyany-Thyssen die 12 Jahre der Nazi Tyrannei?

Die Gräfin übernahm die Rolle ihrer Mutter und Großmutter vor ihr als „Königin von Rechnitz“, während sie weiterhin weitläufig innerhalb des Reiches reiste. Nachdem sie die Pferdebegeisterung ihres Vaters geerbt hatte, beaufsichtigte sie die Thyssenschen Pferdezucht- und Rennsportaktivitäten in Bad Homburg bei Frankfurt, Hoppegarten/Berlin und Wien, besuchte Rennen in verschiedenen europäischen Städten und nahm Trophäen im Namen ihres Vaters entgegen, dem nicht mehr länger daran gelegen war, ausserhalb seines sicheren Tessiner Hafens gesehen zu werden.

1942 gewann ihr Erlenhof Hengst Ticino das Österreichische Derby in Wien-Friedenau und das Deutsche Derby in Hamburg. 1944 gelang dasselbe ihrem Erlenhof Hengst Nordlicht, doch das Deutsche Derby wurde wegen der Schäden in Hamburg durch alliierte Bombardierungen in Berlin abgehalten.

Bei diesen öffentlichen Veranstaltungen war Margit Batthyany im Kreise von Nazi Offiziellen zu sehen und wurde von diesen als ein Mitglied der höchsten Elite im Nazi Staat gefeiert. Es ist eindeutig, dass der Krieg für sie keine Veränderung in ihrem privilegierten Lebensstil mit sich brachte.

Jedes dieser Ereignisse war auch ein sehr öffentlicher Ausdruck der Unterstützung und Legitimierung des Nazi Regimes im Namen der Thyssens und der Batthyanys, doch jeglicher Bezug zu dieser Funktion fehlt in Derix’s Abhandlung.

Margit reiste auch regelmäßig während des Kriegs in die Schweiz, wo sie ihren Bruder Heini und ihren Vater Heinrich in Lugano, Zürich, Davos oder Flims traf. Es ist klar, dass auch sie Margit’s Lebensstil unterstützten. Dies bleibt bei Derix wiederum unerwähnt.

Während des Krieges in Rechnitz hatte Margit Batthyany anscheinend Liebesbeziehungen mit Hans Joachim Oldenburg (von der Familie Batthyany bestätigt) und Franz Podezin (durch einen Schlossangestellten angegeben und von Simone Derix erwähnt). Dies spiegelt die Informationen wider, die uns vor vielen Jahren durch Heini Thyssen’s ungarischen Rechtsanwalt, Josi Groh, gegeben wurden. Angestellte der Thyssens waren in einer idealen Position, solche Dinge zu beobachten, da sie Aufenthaltsräume säubern, Frühstück im Bett servieren und Gegenstände des täglichen Lebens der privaten Natur beschaffen mussten.

Seltsamerweise hat Simone Derix trotzdem das Bedürfnis, solche Details als „Spekulationen“ zu brandmarken, wodurch sie nahe legt, dass sie künstlich erhoben werden, um ein ungerechtfertigt schlechtes Licht auf ein Mitglied der Thyssen Familie zu lenken.

Der einzige Grund, warum wir Margit Batthyany’s spezifische Sexualneigung beleuchtet haben war, weil sie die intime Beziehung der Thyssens mit dem Nazi Regime so kraftvoll symbolisiert. Diese wird im Rahmen der Aufarbeitung der Rechnitzer Kriegsverbrechen nach dem Krieg an besonderer Bedeutung gewinnen.

Akademiker wie Simone Derix und Walter Manoschek, sowie Mitglieder der Refugius Gedenkinitiative sind nicht müde geworden zu beschwören, wir hätten die Geschichtsschreibung dieses Kapitels aus dem Kontext gerissen und in eine billige ‘Sex & Crime’ Saga verwandelt. Das Einzige, was durch diese fehlgeleiteten Beschuldigungen erreicht wird, ist das die Thyssens und Batthyanys einmal mehr davor abgeschirmt werden, ihre Verantwortung zu übernehmen, der sie sich, mit Ausnahme von Sacha Batthyany, bisher so energisch entzogen haben.

                                                                  * * *

Mit dem Jahr 1944 wurde der Nazi-Traum zum Alptraum. Im März besetzte Deutschland Ungarn und installierte ein Sondereinsatzkommando unter Adolf Eichmann, der die Deportation von 825.000 Juden organisierte. Bis Juli wurden 320.000 davon in den Gaskammern von Auschwitz ermordet und ca. 60.000 machte man zu Zwangsarbeiter in Österreich. Im Oktober, als die ungarischen Faschisten die Regierungsgeschäfte von dem authoritären Miklos Horthy übernahmen, wurden 200.000 Budapester Juden zur Zielscheibe.

Laut Eva Schwarzmayer wurden ca. 35.000 ungarische Juden für Holz- und Schanzarbeiten am Südostwall-Bau eingesetzt. Von diesen arbeiteten insgesamt bis zu 6.000 im Abschnitt Rechnitz und waren in vier verschiedenen Lagern untergebracht: In den Kellern und Lagerräumen des Schlosses, im sogenannten Schweizermeierhof in der Nähe des Kreuzstadls, in einem Barackenlager namens „Wald“ oder „Süd“ und in der früheren Synagoge. Währenddessen wurde der Volkssturm konstituiert, dem Hans Joachim Oldenburg beitrat.

Nichts von alledem wird von Simone Derix erwähnt.

Mit Beginn des Jahres 1945, als die westlichen und sowjetischen Armeen auf Hitler’s Deutschland eindrangen, geschahen zunehmend die sogenannten „Endphase-Verbrechen“ als Teil der Nazi Politik der ‘verbrannten Erde’. Dies bedeutet, dass Belastungsmaterial, inklusive Lagerinsassen, vernichtet und gleichermaßen diejenigen heimischen Bürger ausgeschaltet werden sollten, die ihre Ansicht zum Ausdruck brachten, der Krieg sei für die Deutschen verloren.

Diese Einstellung währte bis in die Nachkriegszeit hinein, sodass Zeugen, die bereit waren, gegen nationalsozialistische Kriegsverbrecher auszusagen, durch politische Fememorde zum Schweigen gebracht wurde. Dies geschah in Rechnitz mehrmals.

Nun begannen die sogenannten „Todesmärsche“, in denen Nazi Opfer aus ihren Gefängnissen evakuiert und vor den alliierten Fronten hergetrieben wurden, wobei viele unterwegs starben oder von Mitgliedern der SA, SS, des Volkssturms, der Hitlerjugend, der örtlichen Polizei etc., die sie bewachten, in aller Öffentlichkeit, oft in Sichtweite der örtlichen Bevölkerung, ermordet wurden.

Insgesamt scheinen mindestens 800 Juden in dieser Endphase des Kriegs in Rechnitz getötet worden zu sein. Das sogenannte „Massaker von Rechnitz“ an ca. 180 Juden in der Nacht vom 24./25. März 1945 ist in Wirklichkeit nur eines von mehreren mörderischen Aktionen. Simone Derix erwähnt kurz „bereits vor dem 24. März 1945 sind Erschießungen (in Rechnitz) bekannt“. Aber sie macht keinerlei Angaben zu diesen anderen Rechnitzer Massakern.

Annemarie Vitzthum aus Rechnitz gab während der Verfahren 1946/8 vor dem Volksgericht zu Protokoll, dass im Februar 1945 acht hundert Juden zu Fuß in Rechnitz angekommen seien und dass Franz Podezin sie „willkommen geheissen“ habe, in dem er hoch zu Pferde auf den erschöpften Menschen herumgetrampelt sei.

Laut österreichischen Ermittlern wurden Anfang März 220 ungarische Juden in Rechnitz erschossen.

Franz Cserer aus Rechnitz gab an, dass ca. Mitte März acht kranke Juden von Schachendorf nach Rechnitz gebracht worden seien und dass Franz Podezin sie beim jüdischen Friedhof erschossen habe.

Josef Mandel aus Rechnitz machte eine Aussage, dass am 17. oder 19. März ein Transport von 800 Juden aus Bozsok (Poschendorf) in Rechnitz angekommen sei. Der Überlebende Paul Szomogyi gab an, dass am 26. März 400 Juden aus seiner Zwangsarbeitergruppe in Rechnitz ermordet worden seien.

Simone Derix erwähnt mit keinem Wort die erhebliche Größenordnung dieser zusätzlichen Verbrechen.

Eleonore Lappin-Eppel schreibt: „Paul Szomogyi war am 22. oder 23. März zusammen mit 3-5.000 Leidensgenossen von Köszeg in den Abschnitt Rechnitz verlegt worden“. Otto Ickowitz berichtete, dass kranke Gefangene aus einer Gruppe, die vom Lager in Bucsu kamen in einem Wald bei Rechnitz ermordet wurden.

Unglaublicherweise behandelt Simone Derix diesen beschleunigenden Horror indem sie die folgende, technokratische Sprache verwendet: „In den letzten Kriegsmonaten trafen in Rechnitz ganz unterschiedliche Typen von Lagergesellschaften und die jeweils damit verbundenen Erfahrungen aufeinander und verquickten sich mit lokalen Herrschaftsstrukturen“.

Dies klingt fast wie eine Zeile aus der Hand von Adolf Eichmann persönlich.

                                                                  * * *

Die Personen, die in der Nacht vom 24./25. März in das Massaker und/oder das Fest involviert waren umfassten unter anderem: den Kreisleiter von Oberwart, Eduard Nicka und weitere Funktionäre des gleichen Hauptquartiers der NSDAP, verschiedene Steyrische SA-Männer, Franz Podezin, seine Sekretärin Hildegard Stadler, Hans-Joachim Oldenburg, das SS-Mitglied Ludwig Groll, den Leiter des Unterabschnitts II des Abschnitts VI des Südostwall-Baus Josef Muralter, Stefan Beigelböck, Johann Paal (Transport), Franz Ostermann (Transport) und Hermann Schwarz (Transport).

Derix kommentiert: „Die mutmaßlichen Täter/innen rekrutierten sich aus dem Kreis dieser Festgesellschaft, zu der auch die Schlossherren Margit und Ivan Batthyany zählten“.

Später half Margit Batthyany den zwei Hauptverdächtigen, Podezin und Oldenburg, zu fliehen und sich einer Strafverfolgung zu entziehen. Wenn sie nichts mit dem Rechnitz Massaker zu tun gehabt und die Vorkommnisse verwerflich gefunden hätte, erscheint es logisch, davon auszugehen, dass sie geholfen hätte, die Verantwortlichen ihrer gerechten Strafe zuzuführen, statt Ihnen dabei zu helfen, dieser auszuweichen.

Simone Derix erscheint fixiert darauf, die Thyssens frei zu sprechen und geht dabei sogar soweit, in Erwägung zu ziehen, dass Margit eventuell Opfern geholfen haben könnte – gibt dabei aber keinerlei Hinweise, wie sie zu dieser Einschätzung kommt.

Während der Nachkriegsverfahren wurde Josef Muralter als Organisator des Gefolgschaftsfests dargestellt. Verschiedene Akademiker haben auf diese angebliche Tatsache viel Wert gelegt, um zu zeigen, dass Margit Batthyany nicht die Gastgeberin des Abends gewesen sei, wie wir angegeben haben.

Aber solange keine Dokumente vorliegen, die beweisen, dass eine nationalsozialistische Organisation für das Fest bezahlt hat (und Derix legt solche Dokumente nicht vor) bleibt es Tatsache, dass Margit Batthyany die übergeordnete Gastgeberin war, denn es war ihre Familie, die für das Schloss und alles, was darin geschah bezahlte. Hierfür gibt es dokumentarische Beweise (siehe hier).

Simone Derix gesteht die zentrale Rolle der Personengruppe, die im Schloss Batthyany-Thyssen ansässig waren, bei den schrecklichen Missandlungen ein, die während des Zweiten Weltkriegs in Rechnitz stattfanden. Sie räumt sogar ein, dass manche Menschen der Ansicht sein könnten, es gebe hier Raum, Fragen der moralischen und juristischen Verantwortung an die Besitzer zu richten. Aber sie klagt die Thyssens und die Batthyanys nie ob dieser Verantwortung oder Schuld an, und impliziert statt dessen, dass sie wahrscheinlich „nichts gesehen“ haben.

Es ist die gleiche Art der Verteidigung, die auch Albert Speer anwendete, als er Hugh Trevor-Roper anlog, dass er über das Programm der Endlösung nicht unterrichtet gewesen sei, weil es „so schwierig war, dieses Geheimnis zu kennen, selbst wenn man Mitglied der Regierung war“. Diese Taktik zielt darauf ab, mächtige Individuen abzuschirmen und die Gesamtschuld der Allgemeinheit zu zu schieben.

Wie in bisherigen Bänden der Serie so sind es auch hier wieder die Thyssen Manager, die beschuldigt werden, und in diesem Falle insbesondere Hans-Joachim Oldenburg. Derix behauptet, er habe „seine Machtbefugnisse – auch gegenüber den Arbeitgebern – erweitern (können)“, er sei „aktiv an der Herstellung einer nationalsozialistischen ‘Volksgemeinschaft’ beteiligt (gewesen) und habe „rassistisch und antisemitisch“ agiert. Derix erwähnt jedoch nicht einen einzigen Beweis für ihre Beschuldigungen.

Falls Margit Batthyany ein Problem mit diesen Verhaltensweisen gehabt hätte, wäre es für sie einfach gewesen, sich für die Dauer des Krieges in irgend ein europäisches Hotel einzumieten. Sie tat dies aber nicht. Man muss also annehmen, dass sie mit den rassistischen und politischen Drangsalierungen der damaligen Zeit einverstanden war. Derix aber zieht diese logische Schlussfolgerung nicht.

Margit wählte die Teilnahme am Rechnitzer Terrorregime. Derix bevorzugt es, den weniger negativ klingenden Begriff der „Volksgemeinschaft“ anzuwenden.

Erst als die russische Armee sich näherte ergriff Margit Batthyany, zusammen mit Hans-Joachim Oldenburg und einigen ihrer Angestellten, die Flucht in privaten Automobilen und ließ alle anderen im Stich. Ebenso tat es Podezin.

Emmerich Cserer aus Rechnitz sagte aus, dass am 28. und 29. März große Transporte von jeweils hunderten von Zwangsarbeitern Rechnitz verließen. Josef Muralter gab zu Protokoll, dass er am 29. März das Schloss mit 400 Gefangenen aus dem Schlosskeller verließ.

                                                                  * * *

Die Einwohner von Rechnitz mussten danach die Konfrontation mit der Roten Armee ertragen, das Niederbrennen ihres zentralen, 600-Jahre alten Schlosses als Teil der Nazi Politik der verbrannten Erde, die Nachkriegsermittlungen und die Stigmatisierung ihres Städtchens, die bis heute anhält. Diese Stigmatisierung ist jedoch nicht darauf zurück zu führen, wie Derix behauptet, dass der Fall durch Medienreportagen wie unserer „skandalisiert“ worden sei. Sie ist vielmehr Folge der Tatsache, dass die Verbrechen ob der Verschlagenheit der Flüchtenden nie richtig aufgeklärt und bestraft werden konnten.

Die Einwohner von Rechnitz haben ihre Pflicht getan, indem sie viele Zeugenaussagen tätigten, die es ermöglicht hätten, die Schuldigen zu verurteilen. Nichtsdestotrotz wurden sie später von Akademikern und manchen Medien beschuldigt, über die Vorfälle geschwiegen zu haben. Als wir als englisch-sprachige Außenseiter nach Rechnitz kamen sprachen Menschen zu uns unaufgefordert und frei über die Ereignisse. Allen voran der Historiker des Städtchens, Josef Hotwagner, der uns empfohlen worden war. Sie verbargen in keinster Weise, was dort geschehen war.

                                                                  * * *

Nach ihrer Flucht, so Simone Derix, installierte sich Margit Batthyany im April 1945 in einem Haus in Düns in Vorarlberg. Während des Sommers sei sie „reisen“ gegangen. Was Derix nicht erwähnt, ist dass Margit Batthyany, anscheinend ohne jegliche Probleme, im Juli 1945 zum ersten Mal nach dem Krieg in die Schweiz einreiste. Es ist nicht vorstellbar, dass die Schweizer Behörden zu diesem Zeitpunkt nicht darüber informiert waren, was wenige Monate davor im Burgenland geschehen war.

Laut Derix war Batthyany ab November für die Französische Militärregierung im österreichischen Feldkirch tätig, mit anderen Worten, sie schaffte es, sich in die alliierten Verwaltungsstrukturen einzubinden. Dies dürfte mit den top-level Verbindungen ihrer Familie zusammen gehangen haben und mit der Tatsache, dass sie Informationen über eine Region bieten konnte, die nunmehr unter sowjetischer Besatzung war. Derix aber gibt ihrerseits keinerlei Anhaltspunkte für den Grund dieser plötzlichen „Anstellung“.

Ein Jahr später, im Juli 1946, so schreibt Derix, habe Margit ihren Bruder Stephan Thyssen-Bornemisza in Hannover besucht. Dies war ein Mann, der ein förderndes Mitglied der SS gewesen war, und während des Krieges in verschiedene industrielle Aktivitäten involviert war, die den deutschen Kriegsanstrengungen unter Verwendung von Zwangsarbeitern zugute kamen, was er nach dem Krieg strikt leugnete. Derix erwähnt Stephan Thyssen’s pro-Nazi Aktivitäten an dieser Stelle jedoch nicht.

Laut Derix zog Margit Batthyany, finanziell von ihrem Vater abhängig wie sie war, im August 1946 in seine Villa Favorita in Lugano.

Unsere Forschungen ergaben, dass Margit im November 1946 an ihre Schwester Gaby Bentinck schrieb: „Damit es nicht auffällt, habe ich mit O.(ldenburg) besprochen, dass er vorerst zwei Jahre alleine nach Südamerika geht. Habe Visa für ihn in Aussicht, was sagst Du dazu?“ Diese Hinweise übergaben wir Sacha Batthyany und er verwendete sie in seinem Artikel (aber nicht in seinem Buch!). Simone Derix ignoriert sie und erwähnt lediglich, dass Margit im November 1946 „Pläne“ gehabt habe, „Europa zu verlassen“.

Die Tatsache dass Margit Batthyany zu diesem Zeitpunkt in Erwägung ziehen konnte, Vermögenswerte zwischen Ländern und sogar Kontinenten zu verschieben zeigt wiederum, wie privilegiert Ihre Lebensumstände im Vergleich zu denen der großen Mehrheit waren. Sicherlich hat sie auch auf Investitionen zurück greifen können, die die Familie bereits vor dem Krieg in Südamerika getätigt hatte.

Während dessen wurden im Burgenland 1946 achtzehn Menschen beschuldigt, in Rechnitz Kriegsverbrechen begangen zu haben, von denen sieben in einem Volksgerichtshof angeklagt wurden, inklusive, in Abwesenheit, Franz Podezin und Hans-Joachim Oldenburg. Aber nur zwei wurden verurteilt, und diese Urteile in den frühen 1950er Jahren durch österreichische Amnestiegesetze aufgehoben. Die Verfahren erstreckten sich über zwei Jahre und wurden sogar erst 20 Jahre später im Jahr 1965 in Deutschland endgültig abgeschlossen.

Am 7. Januar 1947 wurde Margit Batthyany das erste und einzige Mal in der Sache befragt, und zwar durch die Schweizerische Kantonalpolizei in Buchs (Schweizer Staatsschutz-Fiche, Akteneintrag C.2.16505). Sie musste nie als Zeugin vor dem österreichischen Gericht erscheinen, eine Tatsache, die auf einer Informationstafel des 2012 eröffneten Rechnitzer Kreuzstadl Museums angeprangert wird (in den kleineren englischen und ungarischen Versionen, nicht aber in der deutschen Hauptversion).

Wurde Margit Batthyany-Thyssen je aufgefordert, vor Gericht zu erscheinen? Falls nicht, weshalb nicht? Spielte die Neutralität ihres Gastlandes eine Rolle hierbei? Oder leitete sich der Schutz, den sie offensichtlich genoss direkt von ihrer überaus bevorteilten gesellschaftlichen Stellung ab?

Simone Derix behauptet, die Gräfin habe während ihrer Befragung „versucht“, Oldenburg ein Alibi zu verschaffen. In Wahrheit hat sie ihm ein Alibi verschafft, indem sie sagte, er habe sich die ganze Nacht auf dem Schloss aufgehalten. Sacha Batthyany’s Schlussfolgerung ist eindeutiger: „Sie schützt ihn, ihren Geliebten, denn Oldenburg ist von Zeugen beim Massaker gesehen worden“.

Im Sommer 1948, so unsere Forschungen, schrieb Margit ihrer Schwester Gaby Bentinck: „O.(ldenburg) hat ein fabelhaftes Angebot nach Argentinien zur größten Molkereiwirtschaft. Im August ist er dort“. Auch dieser Beweis wurde von uns an Sacha Batthyany weiter gegeben, der ihn veröffentlichte, aber von Simone Derix wird er nicht erwähnt. Sie versäumte es auch, gewisse Familienarchive in London zu konsultieren.

Am 13. August 1948 hielt das Gericht fest, dass laut einer mündlichen Information der Polizeidienststelle Oberwart, sowohl Franz Podezin als auch Hans-Joachim Oldenburg in der Schweiz anwesend waren und planten, mit Margit Batthyany nach Südamerika auszuwandern, und damit ihrem Mann zu folgen, der bereits dort war. Am 30. August 1948 informierte Interpol Wien die Behörden in Lugano per Telegramm:

„Es besteht die Gefahr, dass sich die beiden nach Südamerika begeben. Bitte um Festnahme“. Die Verhaftungsbefehle gegen die Flüchtigen wurden im Schweizer Polizeianzeiger vom 30.08.48, Seite 1643, Art. 16965 ausgeschrieben. All dies ist von Sacha Batthyany recherchiert und veröffentlicht worden. Simone Derix erwähnt es nicht.

Eleonore Lappin-Eppel fasst die Gerichtsverfahren 1946/8 folgendermaßen zusammen: „Wegen der Flucht der beiden verdächtigten Rädelsführer Podezin und Oldenburg hatte das Gericht erhebliche Probleme bei der Wahrheitsfindung.“

Sacha Batthyany kommentiert: „Sie (Margit) hat ihm zur Flucht verholfen, dem mutmaßlichen Massenmörder (Oldenburg)“.

Aber die Linie, die Simone Derix verfolgt ist wiederum die, Margit Batthyany-Thyssen zu beschützen, indem sie schreibt: „Unklar blieb auch, welche Rolle Margit Batthyany dabei zukam, als es zwei Hauptverdächtigen (Oldenburg und Podezin), gelang, sich der Befragung durch die österreichischen Behörden zu entziehen und so letzlich einer möglichen Bestrafung zu entgehen“.

Simone Derix behauptet auch, Franz Podezin sei in der Sache befragt worden. Dies ist unwahr. Podezin ist nie über seine angebliche Verstrickung in das Rechnitz Massaker befragt worden.

Derix praktiziert also nicht nur eine gravierende Entlastung zugunsten der Thyssen Familie, ihre Publikation bleibt auch hinter der gegenwärtigen Forschungslage zurück und ist in einem fundamentalen Punkt unwahr.

                                                                  * * *

Margit Batthyany-Thyssen und ihr Mann Ivan Batthyany lebten von 1948 bis 1954 auf einem Gut, das sie in Uruguay gekauft hatten. Was aus Podezin’s und Oldenburg’s Reiseplänen wurde ist weniger klar.

Simone Derix erklärt, dass Hans Joachim Oldenburg ab 1950 auf dem Gut Obringhoven arbeitete, welches Thyssengas gehörte, ein Fakt, der noch nie zuvor erwähnt worden ist. Dies ist ein seltener, kostbarer Beitrag von Derix zum Fall Rechnitz.

Dies zeigt auch, dass die Thyssens kein Problem damit hatten, diesen Gutsverwalter, der vor einem österreichischen Gericht angeklagt worden war, an Kriegsverbrechen teilgenommen zu haben, wieder zu beschäftigen. Die Thyssens gaben damit Hans-Joachim Oldenburg nicht nur eine Arbeitsstelle, sondern, so scheint es, auch Schutz vor weiteren Ermittlungen gegen ihn.

Doch Derix versäumt es, diesen Hintergrund kritisch zu beleuchten

Soweit es Podezin angeht, so schreibt Stefan Klemp vom Simon Wiesenthal Zentrum, er sei als Agent für die Westmächte in Ost-Deutschland untergetaucht. Podezin wurde anscheinend in der sowjetischen Besatzungszone wegen seiner Aktivitäten für die alliierten Geheimdienste verhaftet und zu 25 Jahren Gefängnis verurteilt, allerdings nach 11 Jahren frei gelassen. Er siedelte dann nach West-Deutschland über, wo er sich als Versicherungskaufmann in Kiel niederließ.

1958 wurde die Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen zur Aufklärung nationalsozialistischer Verbrechen in Ludwigsburg gegründet. Diese eröffnete 1963 ein Mordermittlungsverfahren gegen Franz Podezin und Hans-Joachim Oldenburg. Ein Brief vom 18.02.1963 macht klar, dass der Staatsanwalt wusste, dass Podezin so stark belastet war, dass seine Verhaftung von Nöten war. Und dennoch verzögerte er das Verfahren. Oldenburg wurde seinerseits am 26.03.1963 von der Zentralstelle in Dortmund befragt.

Als die Polizei schließlich versuchte, am 10. Mai Podezin zu verhaften, war dieser nach Dänemark geflohen. Kurt Griese, ein früherer SS-Hauptscharführer und nunmehr Regierungskriminalermittler, blockierte nun das Verfahren weiter, so Klemp, sodass es Podezin möglich war, in die Schweiz auszureisen. Von dort erpresste er Margit Batthyany, ihm bei der Flucht nach Südafrika behilflich zu sein. Dort arbeitete er für Hytec, eine Firma mit Geschäftsverbindungen zur Thyssen AG, wie Stefan Klemp ermittelte.

Sacha Batthyany schreibt: „Ob Tante Margit (Podezin) in den Sechzigerjahren zur Flucht verhalf und ihm auch noch einen Job vermittelte in Südafrika?“. Aber das Thema wird von Simone Derix außen vor gelassen.

Wie die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung zusätzlich zu unserem Artikel 2007 berichtete, wurde gegen Margit Batthyany nie Anklage erhoben, obwohl einer der deutschen Ermittler 1963 dem österreichischen Justizministerium anzeigte, dass sie verdächtigt wurde, den beiden Rechnitz Mördern zur Flucht verholfen zu haben. Warum wurde gegen sie nie Anklage erhoben? Derix erwähnt diesen Punkt nicht und liefert daher keine Erklärungen.

Laut Eva Holpfer wurde das Verfahren gegen Hans Joachim Oldenburg auf Anweisung des Staatsanwalts am 21.09.1965 wegen Mangels an Beweisen eingestellt.

Mit den 1960er Jahren war Margit Batthyany zurück an der Rennbahn und nahm z.B. beim österrechischen Derby in Wien die Trophäe für Settebello entgegen, den sie gezüchtet hatte. Sie kehrte auch regelmäßig nach Rechnitz zurück (wo sie 1989 starb), v.a. zur Jagdsaison, und machte sich durch die Übergabe von Land und anderen Geschenken an Ortsansässige beliebt, wie uns von Rechnitzer Bürgern berichtet und von Sacha Batthyany bestätigt wurde.

1970 wurde Margit Batthyany-Thyssen die Schweizer Staatsbürgerschaft zuerkannt, um die sie sich seit Ende des Krieges bemüht hatte. Im selben Jahr begann Horst Littmann vom Volksbund Deutscher Kriegsgräberfürsorge in Rechnitz zu graben, musste allerdings aufhören, da die Genehmigung seitens des österreichischen Innenministeriums ausblieb.

                                                                  * * *

In den 1980er Jahren initiierte der Antifaschist Hans Anthofer den ersten Rechnitzer Gedenkort für die jüdischen Opfer. Doch in den frühen 1990er Jahren wurde der jüdische Friedhof in Rechnitz immer noch vandalisiert und laut Eva Schwarzmayer gab es selbst bei der Gedenkveranstaltung 2005 noch Personen des öffentlichen Lebens, die sagten, es sei nicht sicher ob das Massaker am Kreuzstadl wirklich stattgefunden habe.

2012 dann wurde der Gedenkort zu einem Museum ausgebaut und vom österreichischen Präsident Heinz Fischer eröffnet. Dieser teilte den Anwesenden mit, dass „weiterhin alles unternommen werden wird, um die Leichen der Opfer zu finden“.

Die Refugius Gedenkinitiative hat davon gesprochen, dass sich die Einstellung in Rechnitz verändert habe. Gleichzeitig prangert sie auf einer der Informationstafeln des Museums an, dass „die aktive Erinnerungs- und Gedenkarbeit noch immer keinen gesellschaftlichen Konsens (findet)“.

Was auffällt ist, dass, im Widerspruch zu ihren zum Ausdruck gebrachten Absichten zur Aufarbeitung der Geschichte und Ehrung der Opfer (siehe Fußnote), offensichtlich keiner der Thyssens bisher jemals an einer der Gedenkveranstaltungen in Rechnitz teilgenommen hat.

Das Amt der Burgenländischen Landesregierung hat uns mitgeteilt, dass „Die Familien Thyssen bzw. Batthyany….im Burgenland (und Österreich-weit) im Bereich Erinnerungskultur und Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit überhaupt keine Rolle (spielen)“.

Warum tun sie dies nicht?

Sacha Batthyany hat berichtet, dass er von Familienmitgliedern Drohungen erhalten hat, als er versuchte, die Geschichte der Familie während der Nazi Ära zu durchleuchten.

Was die Einwohner von Rechnitz angeht, so sind sie verständlicherweise gespalten zum Thema. Es wäre seltsam wenn es anders wäre.

Aber bei den Thyssens existiert eine solche Fragmentierung nicht. Sie scheinen einheitlich ungerührt und unengagiert zu sein. Dies dürfte jetzt noch dadurch verstärkt werden, dass sie wohl annehmen, die Akademiker, die sie beauftragt haben, hätten Schlüsse gezogen, die sie schuldfrei erscheinen lassen.

Aber in Wahrheit sind sie nicht schuldfrei und es ist jetzt an der Zeit für die Thyssens, klare Aussagen zu machen, auf welcher Seite der Grenze zwischen Faschismus und Anti-Faschismus sie stehen.

Nur wenn die Thyssens (und die Batthyanys als ihre örtlichen Repräsentanten) ihre Leitbildfunktion wahrnehmen, kann die Erinnerungskultur um das Rechnitz Massaker darauf hoffen, in der breiten Öffentlichkeit einvernehmlicher zu werden.

Indem sie die nächste Gedenkveranstaltung Ende März 2018 in Rechnitz besuchen – und dies auch in den Medien berichtet wird – können Mitglieder der Thyssen Dynastie in dieser Hinsicht eine wirklich öffentliche Aussage tätigen und ihrer geschichtlichen Verantwortung transparent und effektiv nachkommen.

Nach all den Ausflüchten der Vergangenheit hält es die informierte Öffentlichkeit jetzt für dringend angebracht, dass diese Familien endlich ihren Beitrag zur Heilung des Falles Rechnitz leisten und WIRKLICHE Solidarität zeigen bei der Ehrung der Toten und Versehrten dieser katastrophalen Ereignisse.

* * *

Fußnote: Die folgenden Statements wurden bisher abgegeben:

1) Francesca Habsburg, nee Thyssen-Bornemisza, in der Sendung „Titel, Thesen, Temperamente“ (Oktober 2007): „Ich unterstütze es, wenn die Familie selbst die damaligen Geschehnisse aufarbeitet. Die Ergebnisse dieser Recherchen sollen transparent und öffentlich zugänglich sein“.

2) Offizielle Webseite der Familie Batthyany: „Seit unserem Erfahren der Geschehnisse in den letzten Jahren sind wir zutiefst bestürzt und ergriffen……Viele Fragen stellen sich uns. Auf sie wissen wir keine Antworten…….Wir hoffen, dass das Gedenken an diese Opfer immer mehr gepflegt wird und das Grab der Ermordeten von Rechnitz, das bis heute unentdeckt geblieben ist, eines Tages gefunden wird“.

Margit Batthyany-Thyssen, Tochter von Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, nimmt Preise für Gewinner aus den Rennställen der Thyssens aus der Hand von nationalsozialistischen Funktionsträgern beim Großen Preis von Wien 1942 in Empfang und legitimiert so das Nazi Regime im Namen sowohl der Thyssens als auch der Batthyanys (photo Menzendorf, Berlin; copyright Archiv von David R L Litchfield).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Auszug aus den Mitschriften der Vorstandssitzungen der Thyssen-Bornemisza Gruppe (1939-1944) in Lugano, Flims, Davos bzw. Zürich unter Mitwirkung von Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, Wilhelm Roelen (Generalbevollmächtigter) und Heinrich Lübke (Direktor der August Thyssen Bank Berlin).  Diese Seite zeigt, dass während des Zweiten Weltkriegs die Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, dem Vater von Margit Batthyany-Thyssen, gehörende Firma Thyssensche Gas- und Wasserwerke (Thyssengas) im Umland des Sitzes des Thyssen-Bornemisza Schlosses Rechnitz / Burgenland (Österreich) Bergbauinteressen ausschöpfte (photo copyright Archiv David R L Litchfield)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

 

 

Insgesamt scheinen mindestens 800 Juden in der Endphase des Zweiten Weltkriegs in Rechnitz (Österreich), dem Sitz des Thyssen-Bornemisza Schlosses und Wohnsitz von Margit Batthyany-Thyssen, umgebracht worden zu sein. Das sogenannte “Rechnitz Massaker” in der Nacht vom 24./25. März 1945 ist in Wirklichkeit nur eines von mehreren solcher mörderischen Geschehnisse an diesem Ort zu jener Zeit.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

 

 

 

“Die Thyssens. Familie und Vermögen” ist Band 4 der Serie “Familie – Unternehmen – Öffentlichkeit. Thyssen im 20. Jahrhundert”, gefördert von der  Fritz Thyssen Stiftung Köln und veröffentlicht im Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag, Paderborn. Sieben Seiten des 500-Seiten starken Buches befassen sich mit dem Leben der Batthyany-Thyssens in Rechnitz während des Zweiten Weltkriegs und im Besonderen mit ihrer Verstrickung in das sogenannte “Rechnitz Massaker” (photo copyright Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag, Paderborn).                          Dieses Buch ist eine Kurzfassung der Habilitationsschrift von Simone Derix und wird als solche von deutschen Akademikern als Fakt aufgenommen werden, eine Qualifizierung, gegen die wir eindringlich Einwand erheben.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

 

 

Simone Derix, Autorin des Buches “Die Thyssens. Familie und Vermögen”, eine von zehn Akademikern, die von der Fritz Thyssen Stiftung gefördert wurden, um die Geschichte der Thyssens umzuschreiben. Sie fährt fort mit einer Behandlung der Thematik, die kontroverse Punkte weiss zu waschen bzw. abzumildern scheint (photo copyright Historisches Kolleg, Munich). Das “Historische Kolleg”, wo Simone Derix ihr Buch präsentiert hat, wird übrigens selbst teilweise gefördert von ….. der Fritz Thyssen Stiftung (!)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Das Kreuzstadl Mahnmal in Rechnitz für die jüdischen Opfer des Zweiten Weltkriegs wurde 2012 erweitert und vom österreichischen Präsidenten eröffnet. Große Informationstafeln enthalten unter anderem die Information, dass Margit Batthyany nie vor Gericht Aussagen zum Rechnitz Massaker vom 24./25. März 1945 machen musste. Und dies obwohl deutsche Ermittler 1963 dem österreichischen Justizministerium mitteilten, dass sie unter Verdacht stand, den zwei Hauptbeschuldigten, Franz Podezin und Joachim Oldenburg, zur Flucht verholfen zu haben (photo copyright: übersmeer blog)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 

Das österreichische Staatsoberhaupt Heinz Fischer, der das Rechnitzer Kreuzstadl Museum 2012 eröffnet hat, versicherte den Anwesenden, dass die Republik Österreich weiterhin alles daran gibt, die Gräber der 1945 in Rechnitz ermordeten Juden zu finden. Doch verschiedene österreichische Stellen haben auch angemerkt, dass der Erinnerungsprozess immer noch keinen breiten Konsens findet und dass insbesondere die Familien Thyssen und Batthyany von einer positiven, pro-aktiven Beteiligung am Prozess der Aufarbeitung und Heilung Abstand zu nehmen scheinen (photo copyright Infotronik Austria)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Jedes Jahr Ende März findet am Rechnitzer Kreuzstadl Museum eine Gedenkveranstaltung statt, die vom Gedenkverein Refugius organisiert wird. Während diese Gedenkveranstaltung vom früheren Bürgermeister, Engelbert Kenyeri, besonders positiv gefördert wurde und immer mehr Rechnitzer Bürger daran teilnehmen, hat bisher kein einziges Mitglied, weder der Familie Thyssen noch der Familie Batthyany öffentlich daran teilgenommen. Dies obwohl sie nach Erscheinen unserer Publikationen und der Aufführung des sich daraus ableitenden Theaterstücks “Rechnitz. Der Würgeengel” von Elfriede Jelinek glühende Absichtserklärungen abgegeben hatten (photo copyright Infotronik Austria)

 

 

 

 

                

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Corporate, Thyssen Family No Comments »

Simone Derix Shrouds Thyssen Guilt – Rechnitz Revisited II

The Thyssens have always avoided revealing the details of their Nazi past, relying on a mixture of denial, obfuscation and bribery. But with the publication of our book ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’ in 2007 and revelations concerning the appalling Rechnitz massacre, this philosophy was becoming increasingly difficult to uphold. Finally they decided to recruit ten academics, via the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, to rewrite their personal, social, political and industrial past (a series called ‘Family – Enterprises – Public. Thyssen in the 20th Century’) in an attempt to burnish their reputation.

Sometimes this has been successful and sometimes not, as, despite their best laid plans, the books have often revealed more than the Thyssens might have liked, either directly or through the exposure of contradictions.

As the Thyssen-sponsored treatises have been published, we have reviewed each one in turn, in some considerable detail, and intend to do the same with their latest offering, ‘The Thyssens. Family and Fortune’ by Simone Derix. First, though, we want to examine the book’s one unique feature as, a whole decade after our revelations, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation has finally helped issue the first official Thyssen publication that contains a description of the dynasty’s involvement in Rechnitz life and in the ‘Rechnitz massacre’ of 24/25 March 1945 in particular – because this is a subject which we feel particularly passionate about.

Unfortunately, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation has chosen to allow Simone Derix to include the mere seven pages (of a 500-page book, derived from her habilitation thesis) in a manifesto that is as much a work of public relations on behalf of the Thyssens, as of Derix’s ambitious self-promotion within the ‘new’ field of ‘research into the wealthy’; the bottom line being that the Thyssens should be celebrated for their outstanding wealth, while they must be pitied for their victimisation at the hands of journalists, advisors, authorities, relatives, Bolshevists, National Socialists, etc., etc.

This makes Derix the kind of apologist of whom Ralph Giordano said that they will not tire of ‘turning victims into perpetrators and perpetrators into victims’. The fact that the Association of German Historians has seen fit to award Derix’s work the Carl-Erdmann-Prize (named after a genuine victim of Nazi persecution) is furthermore troubling.

                                                                                    * * *

Germany was a late developer in both its industrialisation and nationhood and emerged onto the international stage with an explosive energy that was to become catastrophic. While the extraordinarily hard-working, middle-class brothers August and Josef Thyssen created their family’s vast, late 19th century industrial fortune, August’s sons Fritz Thyssen and Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, influenced by their socially ambitious mother, turned their backs on bourgeois life and used their inherited wealth to ascend into a new-style, deeply reactionary landed gentry.

Derix describes how, in the early 20th century, far away from the original Thyssen base in the Ruhr, Fritz leased Rittergut Gleina near Naumburg/Saale, bought and sold Rittergut Götschendorf in Uckermark and bought Rittergut Neu Schlagsdorf near Schwerin, as well as Schloss Puchhof in Bavaria. Of course we already knew that Heinrich acquired, amongst others, the Landswerth horse racing stables near Vienna, the Erlenhof stud farm near Bad Homburg, with racing stables in Hoppegarten near Berlin, and the Rechnitz estate in Burgenland/Austria (formerly in Hungary).

Our research has shown that the brothers hunted at each other’s estates which discredits the spurious allegation repeated again and again by this academic series, including Derix, that Fritz and Heinrich Thyssen did not get on. A claim which is designed to obfuscate the synergies in the two men’s business dealings and particularly those benefitting the Nazi regime.

Both men adopted the behaviour of feudal overlords, enjoying the supplies of cheap and forced labour afforded their enterprises by the suppression of labour movements as well as armed international conflicts, which they fuelled with their factories’ weapons and munitions. The Thyssen brothers self-servingly meddled in politics, overtly (Fritz) or behind the scenes, through discrete diplomatic and society channels (Heinrich) – though the latter is denied vehemently by Derix and her academic associates.

Both Thyssen brothers helped bring about the eventual enthronement of the Nazis in 1933. Yet Simone Derix tries to reinvent them as the guiltlessly entrapped, illustrious captains of industry they never were in the first place.

By 1933 Heinrich’s daughter Margit (who had been born and had grown up at Rechnitz castle), corrupted by her ambitious father and anti-semitic mother, as well as her pseudo-pious Sacré Coeur education, had managed to elevate the family by marrying into Hungarian aristocracy (Ivan Batthyany) – as had Fritz Thyssen’s daughter Anita (Gabor Zichy).

On 8th April 1938, one week after the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza gave his Rechnitz estate, which had once been in the Batthyany family for centuries from 1527 to 1871, to Margit, according to our research apparently so that he, ensconced in his Swiss hide-away on the shores of Lake Lugano, would not be seen to own any property in the German Reich.

Simone Derix alleges this was instead done for tax reasons.

All his Ruhr factories being owned by Dutch financial instruments, the Swiss authorities, who until the turning point of the war in 1943 were pro-German but whose ultimate stance was one of political neutrality, were satisfied that Heinrich would not become a political problem to them.

Through his company Thyssensche Gas- und Wasserwerke (later Thyssengas), Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza discreetly continued to fund both Rechnitz castle and the Batthyany matrimony. During WWII, the Walsum coal mine belonging to Thyssengas in the Ruhr used forced labour to the tune of two thirds of its labour force; a record in German industry. In the Rechnitz area, some mining interests were being exploited by the Thyssengas company.

                                                                  * * *

For centuries the huge Rechnitz castle, in whose courtyard, it was said, an entire husars regiment could perform its drill, had been the power centre of Rechnitz. How exactly did this situation develop after the Nazis took charge of the country? Where in Rechnitz did the party and its organisations install themselves?

Simone Derix does not furnish any answers to these important questions, despite pretending to do so, by help of much verbose flourish. Instead, she writes in a vague, evasive manner: ‘The Batthyanys got along by mutual agreement (they found a consensual livelihood) at Rechnitz Castle during World War Two with representatives of the Nazi party and the Nazi regime’.

In 1934, 170 Jews lived in Rechnitz. On 1st November 1938, a week before Reichs Crystal Night, Rechnitz was declared ‘free of Jews’, a situation that members of the Thyssen family would have welcomed (see here). But Simone Derix pointedly refuses to acknowledge the anti-semitism of key Thyssens and instead reserves this characteristic for marginal characters.

In the spring of 1939, according to Derix, Hans-Joachim Oldenburg, whose father was a senior engineer at Thyssen and who himself had worked on agricultural estates owned by the Thyssen family, was sent to Rechnitz Castle to take charge of its estate management, which was soon relying on forced labourers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe.

That summer, Franz Podezin arrived in Rechnitz as a civil servant of the Gestapo border post. He had been an SA-member since 1931 and later became SS-Hauptscharführer. He also became the leader of the Nazi party in Rechnitz.

Simone Derix comments that „both posts of Podezin were in different locations“, but fails to pinpoint them. Stefan Klemp of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre has written that the Rechnitz Gestapo was headquartered in Rechnitz castle all along. Either his statement is correct or Derix is right when she alleges that Podezin only came to take up offices in the castle in the autum of 1944 when he became Nazi party head of subsection I of section VI (Rechnitz) of the South-East Earth Wall building works.

By avoiding clarity on these points, Derix fudges the issue and contributes to the vindication of culprits – particularly of the Thyssens as owners, funders and residents of the castle.

The activities on this reinforced defense system designed to hold up the Red Army were coordinated by the organisation Todt (run by Armaments Minister Albert Speer), by the Wehrmacht major-general Wilhelm Weiss and, in the section in question, by the Gauleiter of Styria, to which Burgenland then belonged, Sigfried Uiberreither.

Locals as well as forced labourers from different nations were employed, whose treatment depended on their position within the racial hierarchies proclaimed by Nazi ideology. Bottom of the heap and therefore having to endure the worst conditions and abuses, were Slavs, Russians and nationals of the states of the Soviet Union. But none of them were as badly treated as the Jews.

                                                                  * * *

How exactly did Margit Batthyany-Thyssen spend these 12 years of Nazi tyranny?

The Countess took on the mantle of her grand-mother and mother as ‘Queen of Rechnitz’, while continuing to travel widely within the Reich. Having inherited her father’s interest in horses, she monitored Thyssen horse breeding and racing in Bad Homburg near Frankfurt, Hoppegarten/Berlin and Vienna, frequented races in various European cities and collected trophies on behalf of her father, who no longer wished to be seen to be leaving his Ticino safehaven.

In 1942, their Erlenhof stud Ticino won the Austrian Derby in Vienna-Friedenau and the German Derby in Hamburg. In 1944, their Erlenhof stud Nordlicht achieved the same feats, though the German Derby was held in Berlin that year due to the allied bombing damage on Hamburg.

At these public gatherings, Margit Batthyany mixed with and was feted by Nazi officials, who looked up to her as a member of the highest-level Nazi-state elite. It is clear that for her the war presented no change in her privileged lifestyle.

Each such event would have been a very public expression of support and legitimisation of the Nazi regime on behalf of the Thyssen and Batthyany families, but any reference to this function is absent from Derix’s treatise.

Margit also travelled regularly to Switzerland during the war, where she met her brother Heini and her father Heinrich in either Lugano, Zurich, Davos or Flims. They clearly sanctioned her life-style. Again, this is not mentioned by Derix.

During her war-time life in Rechnitz, Margit Batthyany apparently had affairs with both Hans Joachim Oldenburg (confirmed by the Batthyany family) and Franz Podezin (as stated by a castle staff member and mentioned by Simone Derix) – thereby confirming details relayed to us by Heini Thyssen’s Hungarian lawyer, Josi Groh, many years ago. Members of the Thyssens’ staff would have been in an ideal position to witness such things, as they cleaned rooms, served breakfast in bed or procured items of daily life of a private nature.

Strangely, Simone Derix still feels the need to proclaim such details as being mere „speculations“, thereby intimating that they are applied artificially to shed an undeservedly bad light on a Thyssen.

The only reason why we highlighted Margit Batthyany’s particular sexual penchant, was because it symbolises so powerfully the Thyssens’ intimate relationship with the Nazi regime, which will take on a particularly poignant dimension in terms of the post-war Aufarbeitung of the Rechnitz war crimes.

Academics such as Simone Derix and Walter Manoschek in particular, as well as members of the Refugius commemoration association have been at great pains to exclaim that we have somehow damaged the historiography of this chapter by „decontextualising“ it into a tabloid „sex & crime“ saga. The only thing that is achieved by these misguided accusations is that once again the Thyssens and Batthyanys are shielded from having to accept their responsibilities which they have so far, apart from Sacha Batthyany, shirked.

                                                                  * * *

By 1944, the Nazi dream was turning sour. In March, the German army occupied Hungary and installed a Sondereinsatzkommando under Adolf Eichmann who organised the deportation of its 825,000 Jews. By July, some 320,000 had been exterminated in the gas chambers at Auschwitz concentration camp and ca. 60,000 became forced labourers in Austria. In October, when the Hungarian fascists took over from the authoritarian Miklos Horthy, the 200,000 Budapest Jews were targeted.

According to Eva Schwarzmayer, ca. 35,000 Hungarian Jews were used for wood and trench works on building the South-East Earth Wall. Of these up to 6,000 would come to work on the Rechnitz section and be housed in four different camps: the castle cellars and store rooms, the so-called Schweizermeierhof near Kreuzstadl, a baracks camp named ‘Woodland’ or ‘South’, and the former synagogue. Meanwhile, the Nazi Volkssturm (last ditch territorial army) had been constituted of which Hans Joachim Oldenburg became a member.

None of this is mentioned by Simone Derix.

In early 1945, with the Western and Soviet armies closing in on Hitler’s Germany, so-called ‘end-phase crimes’ were committed as part of the Nazi policy of ‘scorched earth’. This involved both getting rid of any incriminating evidence, including camp inmates, and to strike equally at any members of the home-grown population expressing doubts that Germany could still win the war.

This attitude lasted beyond Germany’s capitulation when witnesses willing to destify against Nazi war criminals were silenced through political, conspiratorial murders, as would happen repeatedly in Rechnitz.

Now began the so-called ‘death marches’ evacuating Nazi victims from their prisons ahead of the advancing Allies, only to see many of them die or be killed en route by members of the SA, SS, Volkssturm, Hitler Youth, local police forces etc. guarding them, in the open, under the eyes of the general public.

All in all, at least 800 Jews seem to have been killed in Rechnitz in this last phase of the war. The so-called ‘Rechnitz Massacre’ of some 180 Jews during the night of 24/25 March is in fact only one of several murderous events. Simone Derix mentions briefly that ‘shootings on the castle estate were already evidenced before 24 March 1945’, but she does not give any details of those other Rechnitz massacres.

Annemarie Vitzthum of Rechnitz gave evidence, during the 1946/8 People’s Court proceeding, that in February 1945 eight hundred Jews had arrived in Rechnitz on foot and that Franz Podezin ‘welcomed’ the exhausted people by trampling around on them on his horse.

According to Austrian investigators, 220 Hungarian Jews were shot in Rechnitz at the beginning of March.

Franz Cserer of Rechnitz stated that around mid-March eight sick Jews had been brought from Schachendorf to Rechnitz and that Franz Podezin shot them dead near the Jewish cemetery.

Josef Mandel of Rechnitz gave evidence that on 17 or 19 March a transport of 800 Jews arrived in Rechnitz from Bozsok (Poschendorf). The survivor Paul Szomogyi gave evidence that on 26 March, 400 Jews from his group of forced labourers had been killed in Rechnitz.

But not a single mention is made by Derix of the sheer scale of these additional crimes.

Eleonore Lappin-Eppel writes: ‘Paul Karl Szomogyi was transferred from Köszeg to the Rechnitz section on 22 or 23 March together with 3-5,000 co-prisoners’. Otto Ickowitz reported that sick prisoners from a group coming from the Bucsu camp were murdered in a wood near Rechnitz.

Unbelievably, Simone Derix deals with this accelerating horror by using the following technocratic language: ‘During the last months of the war very different types of camp communities with their own specific experiences collided and amalgamated with the local structure of domination’.

It almost sounds like a line from the pen of Adolf Eichmann himself.

                                                                  * * *

On the night of 24/25 March 1945, the people involved in the massacre and/or the party seem to have included: the Nazi party leader of the Oberwart district Eduard Nicka and other functionaries from the same party HQ, various Styrian SA-men, Franz Podezin, his secretary Hildegard Stadler, Hans-Joachim Oldenburg, the SS-member Ludwig Groll, the leader of subsection II of section VI of the South-East Earth Wall building works Josef Muralter, Stefan Beigelböck, Johann Paal (Transport), Franz Ostermann (Transport) and Hermann Schwarz (Transport).

Derix adds: ‘The alleged perpetrators were recruited from the circle of this party society, which Margit and Ivan Batthyany also formed part of’.

Margit Batthyany would later help the two main alleged perpetrators, Podezin and Oldenburg, flee and avoid prosecution. If she had had nothing to do with the Rechnitz massacre and had found the actions reprehensible, it seems logical that she would have helped bring about the just punishment of the people involved rather than help them evade justice.

Simone Derix seems intent on absolving the Thyssens, even going as far as conjuring up the possibility that Margit might have helped victims – withouth, however, furnishing any evidence.

During the post-war proceedings Josef Muralter was said to have organised the ‘comradeship evening’ of 24 March 1945 at Rechnitz castle. Various academics have placed great emphasis on this fact in order to show that Margit Batthyany was not in fact the hostess of the event, as we had stated.

But as long as there are no documents forthcoming proving that any Nazi Party organisation paid for the festivities (and Derix does not furnish any), the fact remains that it was Margit Batthyany who was the overall hostess, as it was her family who paid for the castle and anything happening within its walls and grounds, for which documentary evidence is available (see here).

Simone Derix acknowledges the central role played by the conglomerate of people based at the Batthyany-Thyssen castle in the terrible abuses taking place in Rechnitz during WWII. She even acknowledges that some people might feel that there is room for directing questions of moral and legal responsibility at its owners. But she never implicates the Thyssens and Batthyanys in any responsibility or guilt and instead intimates that they probably did not ‘see anything’.

It is the same kind of defence as used by Albert Speer, when he lied to Hugh Trevor-Roper saying that he did not know about the programme of the final solution, because it was ‘so difficult to know this secret, even if you were in the government’. It is a tactic designed to shield powerful individuals and blame the general public.

As in previous volumes of this series, it is the Thyssen managers that get apportioned the full responsibility and in this case this falls on Hans-Joachim Oldenburg. He is said to have ‘extended his authority to exert power vis-a-vis his employers’, to have ‘taken an active part in producing a national socialist Volksgemeinschaft’ and to have ‘acted in a racist and anti-Semitic manner’, though Derix once again produces not a single piece of evidence to prove any of her allegations.

If Margit Batthyany had had a problem with this kind of behaviour, it would have been easy for her to leave the location and settle in any European hotel for the duration of the war. But she did not. So one must assume that she agreed with the racial and political victimisations that took place. Derix, however, fails to draw this obvious conclusion.

Margit chose to be part of the Rechnitz regime of terror. Derix chooses to use the less negative sounding description of “Volksgemeinschaft” instead.

Only when the Russians finally drew close to Rechnitz did Margit Batthyany, together with Hans Joachim Oldenburg and some of her staff, flee the scene in private cars, thereby leaving everyone else in the lurch; as did Franz Podezin.

Emmerich Cserer of Rechnitz said that on 28 and 29 March big transports of several hundreds of forced labourers left Rechnitz. Josef Muralter stated that he left the castle on 29 March with 400 castle cellar inmates.

                                                                  * * *

The people of Rechnitz had to endure the final confrontation with the Red Army, the burning down as part of the Nazi scorched-earth policy of their central, 600-year-old castle, the post-war criminal justice investigations and the stigmatisation of the town that continues to this day. A stigmatisation which is not, however, due to the case having been ‘scandalised’ by media reports including ours, but which developed because, based on the deviousness of the escapees, the crime(s) could never be properly investigated and punished.

The people of Rechnitz did their duty by giving much evidence to judge the perpetrators. Nonetheless they were later accused by academics and some media outlets of maintaining a silence on the issue. When we went to Rechnitz as english-speaking outsiders, people talked to us unprompted and freely about the matter. Especially the town historian, Josef Hotwagner, who was recommended to us by townspeople as their spokesman. They did not hide what had happened in any way.

                                                                  * * *

Having fled Rechnitz, Simone Derix explains, Margit Batthyany installed herself in April 1945 in a house in Düns in Vorarlberg/Austria. During the summer she went ‘travelling’. What Derix does not say is that Margit Batthyany entered Switzerland for the first time after the war, without any apparent difficulties in July 1945. It is inconceivable that Swiss authorities would not have been aware of what had happened in Burgenland only a few months earlier.

According to Derix, from November onwards Batthyany was working for the French military government in Feldkirch/Austria, in other words, she managed to access the western allies’ administrative set-up, likely because of her family’s overall high-level contacts and because she could offer intelligence on a region which was now under Soviet occupation. Derix, however, does not give any explanations for this sudden ‘assignment’.

A year later, in July 1946, Margit is said to have visited her brother Stephan Thyssen-Bornemisza in Hanover. This was a man who had been a financially contributing member of the SS and involved in various industrial activities using forced labour for the German war effort throughout WWII, though he subsequently flatly denied this. Derix does not mention Stephan Thyssen’s pro-Nazi activities at this stage.

According to Derix, Margit Batthyany, financially dependent on her father as she was, moved into his Villa Favorita in Lugano in August 1946.

Our research revealed that in November 1946, Margit wrote to her sister Gaby Bentinck: ‘So as not to be obvious, I have agreed with O.(ldenburg), that he will first of all go to South America on his own for two years. I am expecting to receive visa for him, what do you say?’. This evidence was provided by us to Sacha Batthyany and used in his newspaper article (but not his book!). But Simone Derix ignores it and writes simply that Margit had ‘plans, in November 1946, to leave Europe’.

The fact that Margit Batthyany could at this point in time envisage a transfer of assets between countries and even continents shows again how privileged her situation was in comparison to that of the vast majority. She could certainly also rely on investments that the family had already made in South America before the war.

Meanwhile, in Burgenland in 1946 eighteen people were accused of having committed war crimes in Rechnitz, seven of whom were indicted in a Peoples’ Court, including, in absentia, Franz Podezin and Hans Joachim Oldenburg. But only two would receive sentences, which were eventually quashed in early 1950s Austrian amnesties. The proceedings took two whole years and in fact were only finally closed 20 years later in 1965 in Germany.

On 7 January 1947 Margit Batthyany was questioned for the first and last time in the matter by the Swiss cantonal police in Buchs (Swiss State Security File, entry C.2.16505). She never had to appear as a witness at the Austrian court, a fact that has been denounced on the information plaques of the Rechnitz memorial unveiled in 2012 (in the smaller English and Hungarian version only, not, for some reason, in the main German version).

Was Margit Batthyany-Thyssen ever summoned to appear in court? If not, why not? Did the neutrality of her host country Switzerland play a role in this failure? Or was the protection afforded her simply down to her highly advantageous social position?

Simone Derix alleges that the Countess ‘tried’ to give Oldenburg an alibi during her questioning. In reality she did give him an alibi by saying that he had not left the party at any time of the night. Sacha Batthyany’s conclusion in both his article and his subsequent book is more forceful: ‘She protects him, her lover, because Oldenburg has been seen by witnesses at the massacre’.

In the summer of 1948, as per our research, Margit wrote another letter to her sister Gaby Bentinck: ‘O.(ldenburg) has a fantastic offer to go to Argentina and join the biggest dairy farm. He will be there by August’. This evidence was once again provided by us and published by Sacha Batthyany, but is not mentioned by Simone Derix, who also failed to consult certain family archives in London.

On 13 August 1948, the court noted that according to a verbal message from the constabulary in Oberwart, both Franz Podezin and Hans-Joachim Oldenburg were living in Switzerland and intended to emigrate with Margit Batthyany to South America, thereby following her husband, who had already gone there. On 30 August 1948, Interpol Vienna informed the Lugano authorities by telegram:

‘There is the danger that (Podezin and Oldenburg) will flee to South America. Please arrest them’. The arrest warrants against the two evaders were published in the Swiss Police Gazette of 30.08.48, page 1643, art. 16965. But no arrests took place. All this has been investigated and published by Sacha Batthyany. Simone Derix fails to mention it.

Eleonore Lappin-Eppel summarises the 1946/8 proceedings thus: ‘Because of the flight of the two alleged ringleaders Podezin and Oldenburg the court had considerable difficulties in establishing the truth’.

Sacha Batthyany comments: ‘(Margit) helped the alleged mass murderer (Oldenburg), flee’.

But the line taken by Simone Derix is once again one of protecting Margit Batthyany-Thyssen when she says: ‘It remained unclear what role Margit had played when two main perpetrators were able to avoid an interrogation by the Austrian authorities and thus a possible punishment.’

Simone Derix also alleges that Franz Podezin was questioned in the matter. But this is untrue. Podezin was never once questioned about his alleged involvement in the Rechnitz massacre.

Thus Derix is not only clearly engaged in practices of exoneration on behalf of the Thyssen family, her publication is also lagging ‘behind’ in terms of the stage of advancement of research on this subject, as well as grossly inaccurate on a crucial point.

                                                                  * * *

Margit Batthyany-Thyssen and her husband Ivan Batthyany did come to live between 1948 and 1954 on a farm they had bought in Uruguay. What became of Podezin’s and Oldenburg’s travel plans is less clear.

Simone Derix explains that by 1950 Hans Joachim Oldenburg was working on the Obringhoven agricultural estate, which was owned by Thyssengas, a fact that has never before been revealed. It is a rare, valuable new contribution to the Rechnitz case made by Derix.

This shows that the Thyssen family was happy to continue employing this farm manager, who had been indicted for war crimes in an Austrian court. The Thyssens thus provided Hans Joachim Oldenburg not only with a livelihood but as well, it seems, with protection from further investigation.

Yet Derix fails to comment critically on this important issue.

As far as Franz Podezin is concerned, according to Stefan Klemp of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, he had gone underground as an agent for the Western allies in East Germany. Apparently, he was arrested in the Soviet zone of occupation because of his activities for allied intelligence services and condemned to 25 years in prison, but released after 11 years and sent to Western Germany, where he came to live as an insurance salesman in Kiel.

In 1958, the Central Office of the County Judicial Administrations for the Clearing up of Nazi Crimes was instituted in Ludwigsburg. In 1963, it filed murder investigation proceedings against Franz Podezin and Hans Joachim Oldenburg. A letter dated 18.02.1963 makes clear that the prosecutor was aware that Podezin was so heavily incriminated that he needed to be arrested, yet he delayed proceedings. Oldenburg was questioned by the Central Office in Dortmund on 26.03.1963.

When police eventually moved in to arrest Podezin on 10 May, he had fled to Denmark. Kurt Griese, an ex SS-Hauptscharführer and now governmental criminal investigator, further blocked proceedings according to Klemp, making it possible for Podezin to travel to Switzerland, where he blackmailed Margit Batthyany-Thyssen into facilitating his flight to South Africa. There he worked for Hytec, a company associated with Thyssen AG, as Stefan Klemp established.

Sacha Batthyany writes: ‘Did Aunt Margit, nee Thyssen, help (Podezin) flee in the sixties and then also procured him the job in South Africa?’. But the topic is ignored by Simone Derix.

As the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported in addition to our 2007 article, although one of the German investigators reported to the Austrian Justice Ministry in 1963 that Margit Batthyany was suspected of having aided the two Rechnitz murderers flee, charges were never pressed against her. Why not? Derix does not mention this and thus furnishes no explanations.

According to Eva Holpfer, the proceedings against Hans Joachim Oldenburg were closed on the orders of the prosecutor on 21.09.1965 due to a lack of evidence.

By the 1960s Margit Batthyany was back at the Austrian Derby in Vienna collecting trophies on behalf of the winner Settebello whom she had bred. She also regularly returned to Rechnitz (where she died in 1989), especially for the hunting season, spreading largesse in the form of plots of land and other gifts to locals, as relayed to us by Rechnitz people and confirmed by Sacha Batthyany.

In 1970 Margit Batthyany-Thyssen was accorded the Swiss citizenship papers she had tried to obtain ever since the end of the war. The same year Horst Littmann of the German War Graves Commission began digs in Rechnitz but had to stop because permission from the Austrian Ministry of the Interior was not forthcoming.

                                                                  * * *

In the 1980s, the anti-fascist Hans Anthofer initiated the first Rechnitz memorial for the Jewish victims. But in the early 1990s the Jewish cemetery in Rechnitz was still being defaced and according to Eva Schwarzmayer even during the memorial year of 2005 people in public positions still said that it was unsure whether the Kreuzstadl massacre had really happened.

Then, in 2012, the Rechnitz memorial became extended into a museum, which was opened by the Austrian President Heinz Fischer who assured the listeners that ‘everything will still be undertaken to find the bodies of the victims’.

The Refugius commemorative association has spoken of a ‘change of attitude’ that has taken place in Rechnitz. At the same time, they disparage on one of the museum’s information panels that ‘the active remembrance and commemoration work still does not meet with a general popular consensus’.

What is noticeable is that, contrary to their avowed intentions of wanting to establish the truth and honour the victims (see footnote), none of the Thyssens have actually ever manifestly taken part in the annual commemorations of the Rechnitz massacre.

The Office of the Burgenland County Government has told us that ‘The Thyssen respectively Batthyany Family do not play any role whatsoever in the remembrance culture and Aufarbeitung of the past of that area or of Austria as a whole’.

Why do they not?

Sacha Batthyany has reported that he got threatened by members of his family because of his attempts to clarify their history during the Nazi era.

As far as the people of Rechnitz are concerned, they are understandably fragmented on the issue and it would be very odd were it otherwise.

But with the Thyssens there is no such fragmentation. They seem unitedly unapologetic and non-participating. This is now presumably reinforced by their belief that the academics they commissioned have come to the conclusion that they are blameless.

The truth, however, is that they are not blameless and it is now high time for the Thyssens to express clearly which side of the fascist / anti-fascist dividing line they stand on.

Only if the Thyssens (and the Batthyanys as their local ‘representatives’) assume their position as role models can the commemoration culture of the Rechnitz massacre become consensual for the rest of the population.

By attending the next commemorative event in Rechnitz in late March 2018 – and being reported in the media to have done so – members of the Thyssen dynasty can make a truly public statement in this regard and meet their historical responsibility transparently and effectively.

After all the prevarications of the past, the informed public now expects these families finally to do their fair share in the matter of the Rechnitz Massacre and show REAL solidarity in the honouring of the dead and maimed of those catastrophic events.

* * *

Footnote: The following statements were made in the past:

1) Francesca Habsburg, nee Thyssen-Bornemisza on the German Television programme ‘Titel, Thesen, Temperamente’ in October 2007: ‘I support the idea that the family itself should work through those past events. The results of this research shall be accessible in a transparent and public manner’.

2) Batthyany Family official website: ‘Since learning about said events in the past few years we are deeply upset and moved…….Many questions have arisen for us. We do not know the answers……

….We hope that the memory of the victims will be cultivated more and more and their graves, which have remained undiscovered to this day, will one day be found.’

Margit Batthyany-Thyssen, daughter of Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, collecting prizes from National Socialist officials for the Thyssens’ winning horse at the Austrian Derby held in Vienna in 1942, thus legitimising the Nazi regime on behalf of both families (photo Menzendorf, Berlin; copyright Archive of David R L Litchfield)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Excerpt from the minutes of the board meetings of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Group held (1939-1944) in Lugano, Flims, Davos and Zurich in the presence of Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, Wilhelm Roelen, General Manager, and Heinrich Lübke, Manager of the August Thyssen Bank in Berlin. This page shows that the company belonging to Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the father of Margit Batthyany-Thyssen, Thyssensche Gas- und Wasserwerke (Thyssengas) exploited mining interests near the seat of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Family Castle in Rechnitz / Burgenland (Austria) during the Second World War. (photo copyright Archiv David R L Litchfield)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

 

 

All in all, at least 800 Jews seem to have been killed in Rechnitz (Austria), seat of the Thyssen-Bornemiszas’ castle and home to Margit Batthyany-Thyssen, in the last phase of the Second World War. The so-called “Rechnitz Massacre” during the night of 24/25 March 1945 is in fact only one of several such murderous events at this location at that time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

 

 

 

‘The Thyssens. Family and Fortune’ is volume 4 of the series ‘Family – Enterprises – Public. Thyssen in the 20th Century’ sponsored by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation of Cologne and published by Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag, Paderborn, Germany. Seven pages of the 500-page book are devoted to the Batthyany-Thyssens’ life in Rechnitz during World War Two and in particular their implication in the so-called “Rechnitz Massacre” (photo copyright Ferdinand Schöningh Verlag, Paderborn).                                  This book is a short version of Derix’s habilitation thesis and will thus be accepted as fact by German academics, a qualification that we strongly object to.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

 

 

Simone Derix, author of ‘The Thyssens. Family and Fortune’, one of ten German academics commissioned by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation with the rewriting of the Thyssens’ history, continues what appears to be a white-wash and extenuation (photo copyright Historisches Kolleg, Munich). The Historisches Kolleg, where Simone Derix presented her book, is also, by the way, an institution that is itself partly funded by…..the Fritz Thyssen Foundation (!)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

 

The Kreuzstadl Memorial in Rechnitz to the Jewish victims of the second world war was extended and opened by the Austrian president in 2012. Large information panels include the information that Margit Batthyany never had to give evidence in court on the Rechnitz massacre of 24/25 March 1945. This was despite the fact that German investigators in 1963 reported to the Austrian Ministry of Justice that Margit Batthyany was suspected of having aided and abetted the flight of the two main alleged perpetrators of the crime, Franz Podezin and Joachim Oldenburg (photo copyright übersmeer blog)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

 

The Austrian head of state who opened the Rechnitz memorial in 2012, Heinz Fischer, assured the public that the Republic of Austria continues in its attempts to locate the graves of the Jews murdered in Rechnitz in 1945. But various Austrian authorities and commemoration associations have also remarked that the commemoration process still does not enjoy a general consensus amongst the population and that the Thyssen and Batthyany families in particular seem to refrain from any kind of positive, pro-active participation in this process of Aufarbeitung and healing (photo copyright Infotronik Austria)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Each year at the end of March, a remembrance event takes place at the Rechnitz Kreuzstadl Memorial Museum, organised by the Refugius commemoration association. While the commemoration event was particularly welcomed and supported by the former Rechnitz mayor, Engelbert Kenyeri, and more and more inhabitants of Rechnitz attend the event, so far, not a single member of either the Thyssen or Batthyany families have participated publicly, despite their fervent statements of intentions made following our publication and the ensuing staging in various European cities of Elfriede Jelinek’s play ‘Rechnitz. The Exterminating Angel’ (photo copyright Infotronik Austria)

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Corporate, Thyssen Family No Comments »

Book Review: Thyssen in the 20th Century – Volume 3: “The Thyssens as Art Collectors. Investment and Symbolic Capital (1900-1970)”, by Johannes Gramlich, published by Schöningh Verlag, Germany, 2015

After the ducking and diving and profiteering from other peoples’ death and misery, we will now be looking at the „shinier“ side of the medal, which is the so-called „artistic effort“ alleged to have been made by the Thyssen family. This had more to do with capital flight, the circumvention of foreign exchange controls and the avoidance of paying tax (art collections being described by Gramlich as „a valid means of decreasing tax duties as they are difficult to control“), short-term speculation, capital protection and profit maximisation than it did with any serious appreciation, let alone creation, of art.

Significantly, not a single review of this third book in the series „Thyssen in the 20th Century: The Thyssens as Art Collectors“, which once again constitutes nothing more than the shortened version (at 400 pages!) of a doctoral thesis – this time at the University of Munich – has been posted. Not a single suggestion that this student of history, german and music might not know what he is talking about, since he does not seem to have any previous knowledge of art history or obvious personal talents in the visual arts. Or about the fact that way too much of the art bought by the Thyssens was rubbish. Or that the Thyssens pretended to be Hungarian when they wanted something from Hungary, Swiss when they wanted something from Switzerland, or Dutch when they wanted something from the Netherlands.

In fact if there is one overall message this book appears to propagate it is this: that it is the ultimate achievement to cheat persistently, and as long as you are rich and powerful and immoral enough to continue cheating and myth-making all through your life, you will be just fine. Not least because you can then leave enough money in an endowment to continue to facilitate the burnishing of your reputation, so that the myth-making can continue on your behalf, posthumously. And if by any chance you can take advantage of another person’s distress along the way, so much the better – as Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza is said to have done from the Jewish collections of Herbert Gutmann and Max Alsberg and Fritz Thyssen from those of Julius Kien and Maximilian von Goldschmidt-Rothschild.

But: does anybody find this message acceptable?!

Mysteriously, this book also contains some very derogatory descriptions of the Thyssens’ true characters. Fritz Thyssen is described (in a quote by Christian Nebenhay) as „not very impressive“ and „meaningless“. His brother Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza is said to have been „difficult“, „unpleasant“, „avaricious“, „not always straight in his payment behaviour“ and somebody who „could not find the understanding for needs and aspirations of people who were in a relationship of dependency from him“. Amelie Thyssen is said to have tried to get the historical record bent very seriously as far her husband’s alleged distancing from Nazism was concerned and to have lied about the date of art purchases to avoid the payment of tax.

Fortunately, we did not know any of these second-generation Thyssens personally. But we did know Heini Thyssen, the last directly descended male Thyssen heir, and very well at that. Over the period of some 25 years (Litchfield more than Schmitz) we were lucky enough to be able to spend altogether many months in his company. We both liked and miss him greatly. He was a delightful man with a great sense of humour and sparkling intelligence. What was most astonishing about him, considering his family’s general sense of superiority, was his total lack of arrogance.

Heini Thyssen described the art business to us as „the dirtiest business in the world“. He knew of the secret-mongering of dealers, the hyperboles of auction houses and the dishonesties of experts. It was a choppy sea that he navigated with just the right combination of caution and bravado to be successful. But of course, he also used the art business outrageously in order to invent a new image for himself. The reason why, contrary to his father and uncle, he was extremely successful in this endeavour, was precisely because he was such a likeable man.

But this did not make Heini Thyssen a moral man. He continued to cheat about his nationality, the source and extent of his fortune, his responsibilities and his loyalties just as his father, uncle and aunt (and to some extent his grand-father) had done before him. And now, this series of books continues to perpetuate the very same old myths which have always been necessary to cover the tracks of these robber barons for as long as the modern-day German nation state has existed. The size and claimed value of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection also persuaded many members of the international art community and of the general public to accept this duplicity.

The all important Thyssen-owned dutch Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart, for instance, is repeatedly said to have been founded in 1918, when the real date is most likely to have been 1910. This is important because the bank was the primary offshore tool used by the Thyssens to camouflage their German assets and protect their concern and fortune from allied retribution after the first lost war. But the information is precarious because it also implies a massive disloyalty of the Thyssens towards Germany, the country that was, is and always will be the sole original source of their fortune.

And again Heinrich and Heini Thyssen are said to have been Hungarian nationals, presumably because it is meant to excuse why, despite supporting the Nazi war machine that made possible some of the worst atrocities in human history, the Thyssen-Bornemiszas entirely avoided allied retribution after the second lost war also. In reality, Heinrich Thyssen’s Hungarian nationality was highly questionable, for several reasons: because it was originally „bought“, was not maintained through regular visits to the abandoned country, extension papers were issued by Thyssen-sponsored friends and relatives in diplomatic positions and because Heinrich actually maintained his German nationality. In Heini’s case, his status depended entirely on the fact that his mother’s second husband worked at the Hungarian embassy in Berne and procured him the necessary identity papers (a fact that will be plagiarised from our work by „Junior Research Group Leader“ Simone Derix in her forthcoming book on the Thyssens’ fortune and identity, which is based on her habilitation thesis (!) and as such already available – Strangely, despite being volume 4 in the series, her book is now said to be published only following volume 5). To call those Hungarian nationalities legitimate is plainly wrong. And it matters greatly.

When Philip Hendy at the London National Gallery put on an exhibition of paintings from Heini Thyssen’s collection in 1961, Heini apparently told Hendy he could not possibly be showing during the same year as Emil Bührle, because “As you know Bührle was a real German armament king who became Swiss, so it would be very bad for me to get linked up with German armament“. But this was not, as this book makes it sound, because Heini Thyssen did not have anything to do with German armament himself, but precisely because he did! Since this partial source of the Thyssen wealth has now been admitted by both Alexander Donges and Thomas Urban, it is highly questionable that Johannes Gramlich fails to acknowledge this adequately in his work.

Then there are new acknowledgments such as the fact that August Thyssen and Auguste Rodin did not have a close friendship as described in all relevant books so far, but that their relationship was terrible, because of monetary squabbles, artistic incomprehension and public relations opportunism. The only problem with this admission is that, once again, we were the first to establish this reality. Now this book is committing shameless plagiarism on our investigative effort and, under the veil of disallowing us as not pertaining to the „academic“ circle, is claiming the „academic merit“ of being the first to reveal this information for itself.

Another one of our revelations, which is being confirmed in this book, is that the 1930 Munich exhibition of Heinrich’s collection was a disaster, because so many of the works shown were discovered to be fraudulent. Luitpold Dussler in the Bayerischer Kurier and Kunstwart art magazine; Wilhelm Pinder at the Munich Art Historical Society; Rudolf Berliner; Leo Planiscig; Armand Lowengard at Duveen Brothers and Hans Tietze all made very derogatory assessments of the Baron’s collection as „expensive hobby“, „with obviously wrong attributions“, containing „over 100 forgeries, falsified paintings and impossible artist names“, where „the Baron could throw away half the objects“, „400 paintings none of which you should buy today“, „backward looking collection“, „off-putting designations“, „misleading“, „rubbish“, etc. etc. etc. The Baron retaliated by getting the „right-wing press“ (!) in particular to write positive articles about his so-called artistic endeavours, patriotic deed and philanthropic largesse, an altruistic attitude which was not based on fact but solely on Thyssen-financed public relations inputs.

The book almost completely leaves out Heini Thyssen’s art activities which is puzzling since he was by far the most important collector within the dynasty. Instead, a lot of information is relayed which has nothing whatsoever to do with art, such as the fact that Fritz Thyssen bought Schloss Puchhof estate and that it was run by Willi Grünberg. In the words of Gramlich: „Fritz Thyssen advised (Grünberg) to get the maximum out of the farm without consideration for sustainability. As a consequence the land was totally depleted afterwards. The denazification court however came to the conclusion that these methods of exhaustive cultivation were due mainly to the manager who was doing it to get more profit for himself“. Apparently Grünberg also abused at least 100 POWs there during the war but, after a short period of post-war examination, was reinstated as estate manager by Fritz Thyssen. This gives an indication not only of the failings of the denazification proceedings, but also of Thyssen’s concepts of human rights and the non-applicability of general laws to people of his standing.

One is also left wondering why Fritz Thyssen would be said to have bought the biggest estate in Bavaria in 1938, for an over-priced 2 million RM, specifically for his daughter Anita Zichy-Thyssen and son-in-law Gabor Zichy to live in, when Heini Thyssen and his cousin Barbara Stengel told us very specifically that the Zichy-Thyssens, with the help of Hermann Göring, for whom Anita had worked as his personal secretary, left Germany to live in Argentina in 1938, being transported there aboard a German naval vessel. After repeating the old myth that Anita’s family was with her parents when they fled Germany on the eve of World War Two, this book now makes the additional „revelation“ that Anita and her family arrived in Argentina in February 1940, without, however, explaining where they might have been in the meantime, while Fritz and Amelie Thyssen were taken back to Germany by the Gestapo. Of course February 1940 is also the date when Fritz and Amelie, of whom Anita would inherit, were stripped of their German citizenship, a fact that was to become crucial in them being able to regain their German assets after the war.

The defensive attitude of this book is also revealed when Eduard von der Heydt, another Nazi banker, war profiteer and close art investment advisor to the Thyssens, is said to be „still deeply rooted and present in (the Ruhr) in positive connotations, despite all protest and difficulties“. This has to refer not least to the fact – but for some reason does not spell it out – that some Germans, mindful of his role as a Nazi banker, have managed to get the name of the cultural prize of the town of Wuppertal-Elberfeld, where the von der Heydt Museum stands, changed from Eduard von der Heydt Prize to Von der Heydt Prize. Clearly because Willi Grünberg was but a foot soldier and Eduard von der Heydt a wealthy cosmopolitan, Grünberg gets the bad press while von der Heydt receives the diplomatic treatment, in the same way as book 2 of the series (on forced labour) blames managers and foremen and practically exonerates the Thyssens. It is a distorting way of working through Nazi history which should no longer be happening. Meanwhile, Johannes Gramlich is allowed to reveal that in view of revolutionary turmoils in Germany in 1931, Fritz Thyssen sent his collection to Switzerland only for it to be brought back to Germany in the summer of 1933 – as if a stronger indication could possibly be had for his deep satisfaction with Hitler’s ascent to power.

In the same period, Heinrich, after his disastrous 1930 Munich exhibition, teased the Düsseldorf Museum with a „non-committal prospect“ to loan them his collection for a number of years. It is also said that he planned to build an „August Thyssen House“ in Düsseldorf to house his collection permanently. Considering the time and huge effort Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza spent during his entire life and beyond on not being considered a German, it is strange that Johannes Gramlich does not qualify this venture as being either a fake plan or proof of Heinrich’s hidden teutonic loyalties. In view of the dismal quality of Heinrich’s art there was of course no real collection worth being shown at the Düsseldorf Museum at all, which did not, however, stop its Director Dr Karl Koetschau from lobbying for it for years. He was disappointed at Heinrich’s behaviour of stringing them along, which is an episode that leaves even Gramlich to concede: „(the Baron) accepted all benefits and gave nothing in return“. While the „Schloss Rohoncz Collection“ is said to have arrived at his private residence in Lugano from 1934, this book still fails to inform us of the precise timing and logistics of the transfer (some 500 paintings), a grave omission for which there is no excuse. It is also worth remembering that 1934 was the year Switzerland implemented its bank secrecy law, which would have been the ultimate reason why Heinrich chose Lugano as final seat of his „art collection“.

The many painfully obvious omissions in this book are revealing, particularly in the case of Heini Thyssen having a bust made of himself by the artist Nison Tregor when the fact that he also had one made by Arno Breker, Hitler’s favourite sculptor, is left out. But they become utterly inacceptable in the case of the silence about the „aryanisation“ of the Erlenhof stud farm in 1933 (from Oppenheimer to Thyssen-Bornemisza) or the involvement of Margit Batthyany-Thyssen, together with her SS-lovers, in the atrocity on 180 Jewish slave labourers at the SS-requisitioned but Thyssen-funded Rechnitz castle estate in March 1945. Both matters continue to remain persistently unmentioned and thus form cases of Holocaust denial which are akin to the efforts of one David Irving.

It is also astonishing how the author seems to have a desperate need for mystifying the question of the financing of Heinrich Thyssen’s collection, when Heini Thyssen told us very clearly that his father did this through a loan from his own bank, Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart. This fact is very straightforward, yet Johannes Gramlich makes it sound so complicated that one can only think this must be because he wants to make it appear like Thyssen had money available in some kind of holy grail-like golden pot somewhere that had nothing to do with Thyssen companies and confirmed that he really was descended from some ancient, aristocratic line as he would have liked (and in his own head believed!) to have done.

The equally unlikely fact is purported that all the details of every single one of the several thousand pieces of art purchased by the Thyssens has been entered by „the team“ into a huge database containing a sophisticated network of cross-referenced information. Yet, in the whole of this book, the author mentions only a handful of the actual contents of Thyssen pictures. Time and time again the reader is left with the burning question: why, as the subject was so important to the Thyssens, did they leave it to such an unenlightened man rather than an experienced art historian to write about it? Is it because it is easier to get such a person to write statements such as “personal documents (of Fritz Thyssen) were destroyed during the confiscation of his fortune by the National Socialists and his business documents were mainly destroyed by WWII bombing“, because the organisation does not want to publish the true details of Fritz and Amelie’s wartime life? (one small tip: the bad bad Nazis threw them in a concentration camp and left them to rot is definitely not what happened). Or because he is prepared to write: „The correspondence of Hans Heinrich (Heini Thyssen) referring to art has been transmitted systematically from 1960 onwards“ and „for lack of sources, it is not possible to establish who was responsible for the movements in the collection inventory during the 1950s“ , because for a man whose assets are alleged to have been expropriated until 1955, it would be difficult to explain why he was able to buy and deal with expensive art before then?

Was Dr Gramlich commissioned because a man with his lack of experience can write about „APC“ being an American company that Heini Thyssen’s company was “negotiating with”, because he does not know that the letters stand for „Alien Property Custodian“? Or because time and time and time again he will praise the „outstanding quality“ of the Thyssens’ collections, despite the fact that far too many pictures, including Heinrich’s „Vermeer“ and „Dürer“ or Fritz’s „Rembrandt“ and „Fragonard“ turned out to be fakes? The Lost Art Coordination Point in Magdeburg, by the way, describes this Fragonard as having been missing since 1945 from Marburg. But Gramlich says it has been missing since 1965 from the Fritz Thyssen Collection in Munich, when it was “only valued at 3.000 Deutschmarks any longer, because its originality was now questioned”.

At one point, Gramlich writes about the „two paintings by Albrecht Dürer“ in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection without naming either of them. He describes that one of them was sold by Heini Thyssen in 1948. It went to the American art collector Samuel H Kress and finally to the Washington National Gallery. What Gramlich does not say is that this was in fact “Madonna with Child“. The other one remained in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection and can still be viewed at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid to this day under the title „Jesus among the Scribes“. Only, it has received a highly damning appraisal by one of the world’s foremost Dürer experts, Dr Thomas Schauerte; Johannes Gramlich does not tell his readers about this.

The truth in all this is that no matter how many books and articles (and there have been many!) are financed by Thyssen money to tell us that Heini Thyssen bought German expressionist art in order to show how „anti-Nazi“ he was, such a thing is not actually possible and is not even believable after the Nazi period. It is ludicrous to say that August Thyssen saw Kaiser Wilhelm II as „Germany’s downfall“, since he had the Kaiser’s picture on his wall and started buying into the Bremer Vulkan submarine- producing shipyard in 1916, specifically in order to profit from the Kaiser’s war. And it is not believable, in view of Fritz Thyssen’s deeply-held antisemitism, to say he helped Jakob Goldschmidt to take some of his art out of Germany in 1934, because he was such a loyal friend of this Jewish man. Fritz Thyssen helped Jakob Goldschmidt despite him being Jewish and only because Goldschmidt was an incredibly well-connected and thus indispensable international banker – who in turn helped the Thyssens save their assets from allied retribution after WWII.

All the Thyssens have ever done with art – and this book, despite aiming to do the contrary, does in fact confirm it – is to have used art in order to camouflage not just their taxable assets, but themselves as well. They have used art to hide the problematic source of parts of their fortune, as well as the fact they were simple parvenus. In the same way as Professor Manfred Rasch is not an independent historian but only a Thyssen filing clerk (the way he repeatedly gets his „academic“ underlings to include disrespectful remarks about us in their work is highly unprofessional), so the Thyssens are not, never have been and never will be „autodidactic“ „connoisseurs“. And that is because art does not happen on a cheque book signature line but is, in its very essence, the exact opposite of just about anything the Thyssens, with a few exceptions, have ever stood for.

As Max Friedländer summarised it, their kind of attitude was that of: „the vain desire, social ambition, speculation for rise in value….of ostentatiously presenting one’s assets…..so that this admiration of the assets reflects back on the owner himself“. Despite the best efforts of the Thyssen machine to present a favourable academic evaluation of the Thyssens’ art collecting jaunts, in view of their infinitely immoral standards, the assurances of both the aesthetic qualities and investment value of their „art collections“, as mentioned so nauseatingly frequently in this book, are of no consequence whatsoever. The only thing that is relevant is that the extent of the family’s industrial wealth was so vast, that the pool of pretence for both them and their art was limitless. Thus their intended camouflage through culture failed and the second-generation Thyssens in particular ended up being exposed as Philistines.

Johannes Gramlich

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Art, Thyssen Corporate, Thyssen Family No Comments »