The People’s Courts were responsible for trying Nazi crimes between 1945 and 1955. The Nazi Banning Act and the War Criminals Act formed its basis. The People’s Courts were composed of three lay and three professional judges, and one of the latter presided. These courts tried those charged of a variety of crimes: those committed in Austria in the final phase of the war, violence against persons and degrading human treatment in connection with the pogrom of November 1938, involvement with the deportation of Jews, violence and murder in concentration camps and euthanasia institutions, the denunciation of members of the resistance, abuse and torture on the part of Gestapo officials, and criminal enrichment (»Aryanization«).
In the first decade after the war, proceedings were instituted in 136,829 cases on the suspicion of involvement in Nazi crimes and »illegal« party membership. Eighty percent of the investigations were initiated before 1948. The People’s Courts were located in Vienna, Graz (including panels in Leoben and Klagenfurt), Linz (including panels in Salzburg and Ried/Innkreis), and Innsbruck. During the court cases a total of 23,477 verdicts were reached, including 13,607 indictments. 43 people were sentenced to death and 30 executed, another 29 individuals were sentenced to life imprisonment.
When one considers that the material and financial situation of the courts system was very precarious in the first three years of peace, it is a considerable achievement that over 100,000 prosecution cases were initiated by the People’s Courts, an achievement that is still a rather unknown chapter of Austria’s post-war history.