Franz PÖTTINGER, born on January 8, 1907 in the village of Neukirchen an der Enknach near Braunau am Inn, was the second of four children of the Catholic couple Maria, née Schießl, and Franz Pöttinger, who was a journeyman baker.
The family moved to Salzburg in 1923 and lived in the old town, in the house of a bakery, where the father worked until his death in June 1930.
His son Franz Jr., who learned the miller’s trade but was only able to practice it for a short time, was a construction worker in the city and in rural communities, but was unemployed for a long time during the economic crisis in the 1930s.
Since February 1936, he lived as a subtenant in the annex of the Weiserhof inn – a popular meeting place for workers and railroad workers near the main train station.
It is noteworthy that PÖTTINGER, apart from a brief membership in the trade union of construction workers, did not belong to any Marxist or other legal party, nor was he one of the illegal activists of the Revolutionary Socialists (RSÖ) or the Communist Party (KPÖ), who were prosecuted under the Austrian dictatorship. He was therefore considered to have no political record under Nazi rule.
PÖTTINGER had been employed as a construction worker in the telegraph office of the German Reichspost in Salzburg since the Anschluss in 1938. He and his colleague Johann ILLNER apparently had contact there with the fitter Anton REINDL, who was an activist of the illegal KPÖ, which had already set itself the goal of liberating Austria in 1938, thus giving its resistance to the Nazi regime an emphatically patriotic orientation.
However, the use of weapons and sabotage were out of the question for the illegal Salzburg KPÖ, as was refusal of military service. At the beginning of the war year 1942, the Gestapo Salzburg, with the help of its undercover investigator Josef Kirschner, succeeded in smashing the supraregional resistance movement of the competing RSÖ and KPÖ groups.
The Gestapo, which had extracted confessions through brutal interrogation methods in its quarters on Franziskanergasse and in the police prison on Rudolfsplatz, was able to arrest further opponents in the course of the war year 1942: on April 7, 1942, Franz PÖTTINGER, who, however, remained steadfast in the interrogations.
He denied ever having been a member of the illegal KPÖ and affirmed that he had made payments to a support association for surviving dependents.
The Gestapo, however, did not believe him and recorded: PÖTTINGER had been recruited for the illegal KPÖ by the mechanic Anton REINDL at the beginning of the war year 1941, had paid membership dues until December 1941, had recruited members himself and collected dues, had also been given Communist pamphlets to read and had kept a typewriter intended for illegal activities.
The 15-page »Final Report« of the Salzburg Gestapo is attached to the trial file of ILLNER and PÖTTINGER.
According to the arrest warrant issued by the investigating judge, Franz PÖTTINGER had been in the Salzburg detention center since May 22, 1942. In the indictment of the »Chief Reich Prosecutor at the People’s Court« of August 25, 1942 against ILLNER and PÖTTINGER, it is stated that the two »continued in Salzburg, and in part jointly with others, to prepare the highly treasonable enterprise of forcibly tearing a territory [Austria] belonging to the Reich away from the Reich and forcibly changing the constitution of the Reich« – a formula that can be found specifically in the indictments and sentences against KPÖ activists.
The continuation of »highly treasonous activity« during the war against the Soviet Union was also considered aggravating.
It is hardly known that the first show trials of a »flying senate« of the »People’s Court« from Berlin took place in the jury courtroom of the Salzburg Regional Court from October 27 to November 4, 1942.
The 2nd Senate, chaired by the »People’s Court Councilor« Walter Hartmann, handed down 14 death sentences in the seven days of the Salzburg trial.
The fellow workers Johann ILLNER and Franz PÖTTINGER, who were sentenced to death by the 2nd Senate on November 3, 1942 for »preparation for high treason«, were beheaded – one at the age of 34, the other at the age of 36 – by executioner Johann Reichhart with the guillotine in Munich-Stadelheim on April 19, 1943.
It is documented in the extensive trial file that the Salzburg Gauleiter Dr. Gustav Adolf Scheel, the public prosecutor’s office and the Gestapo did not favor the »mercy order« to commute the death sentence to a penal servitude, and therefore the petitions for clemency submitted by Franz PÖTTINGER’s sister Anna Kainberger and his »landlady« (landlady) Käthe Sporrer from Salzburg were rejected.
It is also noteworthy that Käthe Sporrer had enclosed a photo of a child with her request for PÖTTINGER’s pardon: presumably the daughter, born in 1937, of Franz PÖTTINGER’s sister Anna Kainberger, who had also lived in the annex of the Weiserhof Inn.
It is also noteworthy that Käthe Sporrer had enclosed the photo of a child with her request for PÖTTINGER’s pardon: presumably the daughter, born in 1937, of Franz PÖTTINGER’s partner, who also lived in the annex of the Weiserhof Inn.
The trial file of ILLNER and PÖTTINGER also contains a letter from the Reich Ministry of Justice dated April 8, 1943 (eleven days before the execution) with instructions that the Anatomical Institute of the University of Würzburg was to be taken into account in the disposal of the two corpses.
After the liberation, the Munich prison chaplain Karl Alt reported that the surviving relatives had been refused burial of the executed, that their bodies had either been handed over to the anatomies or buried in mass graves without nameplates – those executed in Munich-Stadelheim in the adjacent cemetery at Perlacher Forst.
On the initiative of the Salzburg Regional Association of Austrian Concentration Campers, Prisoners and Politically Persecuted Persons, the exhumed bodies of Franz ASCHENBERGER, Josef HAIDINGER, Rudolf HARTL, Leopold HOCK, Franz PÖTTINGER, Josef THALHAMMER and Josef WARTINGER were found in Munich-Perlach on November 1, 1950. November 1950 and of Heinrich AUER, Karl SCHALLMOSER, Anton SCHUBERT and Rudolf SMOLIK on December 14, 1952 in the presence of the Gnigler priest Franz Dürnberger at the communal cemetery in Salzburg.
The collective grave of the concentration camp association for the six resistant men, who had not been buried in family graves, was declared a grave of honor by the city of Salzburg in 2015, seventy years after the liberation of Austria: »They died for Austria in 1943«.
Finally, it should be noted that at the suggestion of a granddaughter of Anna Kainberger, Franz PÖTTINGER’s sister, a stumbling stone was laid in front of the Weiserhof inn as early as 2009, and that thanks to the initiative of Karl Schmitzberger, a member of the municipal council in Neukirchen an der Enknach, the extensive trial file from Berlin is now available for research, and in 2015 a dignified commemoration of the terror victim can also take place in Franz PÖTTINGER’s birthplace.
- City and Provincial Archives Salzburg
- German Federal Archives Berlin (case file 7 J 376/42, 2 H 273/42)
Laid 22.06.2009 at Salzburg, Weiserhofstraße 4