Franz BAUMGARTNER was born in the Styrian district of Birkfeld on September 16, 1917 and was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. He was the child of an unmarried laborer named Juliana Baumgartner.
Due to the lack of court-martial and victim compensation records, we know little about his young life which ended violently under the Nazi dictatorship: He was a turner or miller by trade and was married to Erika Ratfelder.
At the start of 1944 war he was either a soldier of the German Wehrmacht stationed about 65 kilometers south of Salzburg in Saalfelden, or he was on home leave from the army in the Salzburg mountains. Why he hid there remains unknown.
What is known is that Franz BAUMGARTNER deserted, and that a war invalid from Saalfelden named Matthias Deutinger helped him – but unfortunately without success. Deutinger was tortured by the Gestapo but according to a police report he survived.
Persistent research in Munich has discovered that the 26 year old Franz BAUMGARTNER had been sentenced to death for desertion by a court martial of the 48th Division in Salzburg, and was beheaded in the Munich-Stadelheim prison on May 19, 1944. His body was buried anonymously in the nearby Perlacher Forest cemetery.
In Austria, silence reigned for many decades about desertion and conscientious objection to military service during the war of annihilation.
On the other hand, in order to protect the judges who had passed the death sentences, the Salzburg court martial was able to destroy some of its files towards the end of the war without hindrance.
The destruction of files meant that victims of wartime injustice like Franz BAUMGARTNER were not included in the book on resistance and persecution in Salzburg [Dokumentation Widerstand und Verfolgung in Salzburg 1934-1945] that was published in 1991.
It should also be noted that Franz BAUMGARTNER was not recognized in liberated Austria as a »victim of the struggle for a free, democratic Austria« and that his surviving dependents were therefore not entitled to any victim compensation.
After the liberation of Austria, it took decades before the deserters from the German Wehrmacht were rehabilitated, something that only occurred with the »repeal and rehabilitation« law of the Austrian Parliament that came into force on December 1, 2009.
- Archives of the Graz-Seckau Diocese (register books)
- Salzburg State Archives (Sicherheitsdirektion 14719/47: Bundepolizeidirektion vom 22. 7. 1947)
- Munich NS-Dokumentation Center (message September 7, 2015)
- Bavarian Main State Archives in Munich (JVA München 37)
Translation: Stan Nadel
Laid 27.09.2022 at Salzburg, Kajetanerplatz 2