Lorenz KÜNSTEL was born in Vienna August 9, 1886. He was a married Catholic railroader employed by the Austrian National Railway (ÖBB). Since 1923 he and his wife had lived in Gnigl (which became part of the city of Salzburg in 1935).
Given the lack of documentation, nothing is certain about his party membership or political activities under the Austro-Fascist dictatorship, but it is likely that like most of his fellow railroaders Lorenz KÜNSTEL belonged to the Social Democratic Labor Party before it was banned in February 1934. He probably had some contact afterwards with the activists of the illegal parties that had been outlawed by the dictatorship.
It is certain, however, that under the Nazi regime he was a member of the resistance organization of the Austrian Communist Party that had been reactivated by Franz OFNER. KÜNSTEL was recruited for this group in the »Reichsbahnwerkstätte« [German National Railways workshop] by Josef HAIDINGER in the spring of 1941. From then until November 1941 he paid his monthly dues of one Mark and got two Communist leaflets or pamphlets to read and pass on to other comrades.
At the start of 1942 the Gestapo managed to insert an undercover into the resistance networks of the Communists and Socialists — and that enabled them to roll up and smash the networks. As a result, at least 79 activists were killed in concentration camps or prisons, including 29 railroaders from the city and state sections of the two resistance organizations.
Lorenz KÜNSTEL was arrested by the Gestapo on February 27, 1942 and held at first in the jail of the Salzburg State Court. He was transferred to the Bavarian prison in Landsberg am Lech before being returned to Salzburg for trial. In the five trials that the Vienna Superior Court held in Salzburg between November 23 and November 27, 1942 30 activists from the illegal KPÖ, all railroaders, were sentenced to 212 years imprisonment for »conspiracy to commit treason«.
In the verdict justification it said: […] the defendants were aware at the time of the treasonable nature of their activities and deliberately chose to pursue them. That the defendants also knew — which they deny — that it is the long term goal of the Communist Party to forcefully separate the Danube and Alpine districts from the Reich and reestablish a »free and independent Austria« can be assumed.
Two of the 30, Josef KUMHART and Karl STEINOCHER failed to survive their mistreatment while in Nazi custody. Four others, Franz BROŽ, Johann Bruckmoser, Ignaz GRABLER and Lorenz KÜNSTEL, died from their injuries after the liberation of Austria. Lorenz KÜNSTEL was sentenced to eight years imprisonment on November 27, 1942 and he was sent to a prison in Straubing Bavaria.
He was freed by US troops on April 25, 1945 while he was on a forced march from the Straubing prison to the Dachau concentration camp.
Lorenz KÜNSTEL suffered severely from his mistreatment when he returned home and on September 18, 1945 he died in the Salzburg State hospital from the injuries he had suffered in prison, he was 59 years old.
As his survivor in liberated Austria his widow Franziska was eligible for victims’ compensation and died in Salzburg at age 65.
- Salzburg city and state archives
- Documentation archive of the Austrian Resistance (DÖW)
Translation: Stan Nadel
Laid 13.07.2015 at Salzburg, Grazer Bundesstraße 32