Johann PÖTTLER was born in Radstadt (about 75km south of the city of Salzburg) on January 30, 1910. He was a Catholic worker who was a permanent employee of the Austrian National Railroad. With some interruptions he had lived in Salzburg since 1929 and had lived at 7 Poschingerstraße in the Schallmoos neighborhood since 1938. In September 1939 he married a woman from Michaelbeuern (about 30km north of Salzburg) and on January 23, 1942 they had a child.
During the Austrian dictatorship of the 1930s Johann PÖTTLER was a member of an anti-democratic militia and the dictatorship’s mass organization, the »Fatherland Front«, but he joined the Nazi party after the Nazis took over Austria. In the spring of 1941 he came into contact with Communist resistance activists who also worked for the railroad, especially with the conductor Franz ASCHENBERGER who led the train personnel group of the illegal Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ). After some hesitation Johann PÖTTLER joined the illegal KPÖ, reputedly because of his dislike of the politics of the Nazi regime, and became a cell treasurer and recruiter.
His illegal activities didn’t last long because he was ordered in October 1941 to join the National Labor Service or the German army and he was arrested for failing to do so in the spring of 1942, shortly after his daughter was born. At the beginning of 1942 the Gestapo was able to infiltrate a »Spitzel« (an undercover agent) into the resistance networks of the Communists and the Revolutionary Socialists (RSÖ) which enabled them to roll up and smash their organizations. At least 79 activists from the two resistance networks in the city and state of Salzburg, including 29 railroaders, were killed in the Nazis concentration camps and prisons.
PÖTTLER was one of the eight KPÖ and RSÖ members transferred by the Gestapo from the Salzburg police jail to the Dachau concentration camp on May 31, 1942. PÖTTLER was registered there as »protective custody prisoner« number 30254, but on October 1, 1942 he was moved to the prison of the so-called »People’s Court« in Berlin-Plötzensee. On December 15, 1942 he was sentenced to death for »conspiracy to commit high treason«, the same day as the resistance heroine from Salzburg-Maxglan, Rosa HOFMANN. On June 1, 1943 he was decapitated in the Berlin-Plötzensee prison after receiving the last rites from a Catholic Priest. In the pronouncement of the sentence it says succinctly that there would be no mercy.
Johann PÖTTLER’s widow received victim’s compensation later in liberated Austria and died at age 94. Their married daughter was still living in Salzburg in 2014.
- Salzburg city and state archives
- Documentation Archive of the Austrian Resistance (DÖW)
Translation: Stan Nadel
Laid 13.07.2015 at Salzburg, Poschingerstraße 7