Denazification in Austria
People’s Courts (1945-1955)
# Jury trials

Jury trials have been responsible for trying Nazi crimes of violence following the abolition of the People’s Courts in December 1955. From 1956 to 1975 a total of 43 persons were tried, of whom 20 were found guilty and 23 acquitted.

Finding Nazi war criminals was the task of a special department at the Ministry of Interior Affairs. Certain individuals, for example the former resistance fighter and ex-inmate of a concentration camp Hermann Langbein or Simon Wiesenthal, played a leading role in solving such crimes. Wiesenthal, a survivor of several concen-tration camps, founded and directed the Jewish Documentation Center after the war and collected information on Nazi perpetrators. Without their commitment or the assistance afforded by German investigative agencies (especially the Central Office of the Judicial Administrations of the Länder for Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Ludwigsburg), the Austrian judicial authorities would have done even less to investigate Nazi war crimes.

The 1960s and 1970s saw a series of obviously false verdicts. The prosecution of Nazi perpetrators in Austria was in fact over by the mid-1970s; in 1975 then Interior Minister Otto Rösch dissolved his small department dealing with such investigations. Only in 1999 a further prosecution case was instigated, this time against the court psychiatrist Heinrich Gross on the suspicion that he had murdered nine children in the children’s department of the psychiatric institution »Am Spiegelgrund« in Vienna. The court case was suspended because of the accused’s alleged dementia. Gross died in December 2005.


Hermann Langbein
» click see larger image

Hermann Langbein during testimony against Erich Rajakowitsch (colleague of Adolf Eichmann) on
17 February 1965.

»Arbeiter-Zeitung«  (1972) Simon Wiesenthal

The Punishment of Nazi Crimes in Austria after 1955