Josef RIEDHERR was born in the Maxglan municipality (which became part of the city of Salzburg in 1935) on March 5, 1894. He was a self-employed master carpenter who was married with two children named Johanna and Josef. The family had local citizenship rights in Maxglan until it was annexed and then in Salzburg. Maxglan was a mostly working class community that had a social democratic mayor until 1934. RIEDHERR continued to be an adherent of the Catholic Church while he was also a member of the Social Democratic Labor Party and its associated Workers’ Gymnastic and Sports Association – that is until the party and its associated organizations were destroyed by the Austrian dictatorship in February 1934.
An April 20, 1942 Gestapo report and the October 13, 1942 proceedings of the Vienna Superior Court against eight members of the Maxglan local of the Austrian Communist Party (KPÖ) shed some light on his political activities under the Nazi regime. The local that RIEDHERR belonged to was led by the shoemaker Josef Hofkirchner until the radio technician Rudolf SMOLIK took over in November 1940. Their activities were restricted to recruiting members, collecting dues and supporting comrades and their families who were in need of assistance: known as »Red Aid«. After Josef Hofkirchner recruited him for the KPÖ Josef RIEDHERR paid one Reichsmark a month as dues from August 1940 to January 1942, for a total of 17 Reichsmarks. Over that time period he got two propaganda leaflets or KPÖ educational pamphlets each month. At the beginning of 1942 the Gestapo was able to destroy the resistance organizations of the Communists and Revolutionary Socialists in Salzburg with the help of an undercover Gestapo agent from Bavaria named Josef Kirschner, who had moved to Maxglan in August 1941 and infiltrated their organizations. At least 79 activists from the two organizations were killed in the Nazis’ concentration camps and prisons.
Josef RIEDHERR was arrested on March 26, 1942 and held in the Salzburg police jail until April when he was transferred to the prison in Landshut Bavaria. At the beginning of October he was returned to Salzburg for trial by the 7th Senate of the Vienna Superior Court sitting in Salzburg. The trials of 24 Communist activists from the city and state of Salzburg were held in the Felony Courtroom of the Salzburg State Court from October 12-16, 1942. On October 13, 1942 eight members of the Maxglan KPÖ local (who with only one exception had all belonged to the Social Democratic Labor Party until it was crushed in February 1934) were sentenced to a total of 49 years imprisonment. The verdict of the court claimed that the defendants, including Josef RIEDHERR, had »continued your criminal conduct even while the German People was engaged is a severe defensive struggle against Bolshevism«.
Josef RIEDHERR was sentenced to eight years imprisonment on October 13, 1942 for »conspiracy to commit treason« and was transferred from the Salzburg State Court jail to the prison in Straubing Bavaria at the end of November 1942. In July 1943 he was drafted from there into the German Army’s Penal Division 999, commonly called »Punishment Battalion 999«. He was thus one of the prisoners sentenced to a loss of civil rights, which included political opponents of the regime declared »unworthy to bear arms«, who were now declared »worthy to bear arms« for the duration of the war and then »paroled to the front«. The German army used its Camp Heuberg in the Swabian Alps as a boot camp for »Probation or Penal Division 999«.
Research indicates that Josef RIEDHERR was assigned to the XIII Fortress Infantry-Bataillon 999 that was formed in Heuberg on July 28, 1943. On November 25, 1943 it was sent to the »South Front« and stationed on the Dodecanese Islands in the southeastern Aegean that had been ruled by the Nazis’ former ally Italy (from 1912 until Italy surrendered to the allies in September 1943). He was stationed on the island of Samos until September 28, 1944 when he was transferred to the island of Leros. After the German surrender and arrival of British troops on Leros the remaining German occupation troops were sent to British POW (prisoner of war) camps in Egypt.
Josef RIEDHERR was interned in Camp 380 on the Suez Canal along with other POWs, including a railroader from Maxglan named Johann BRUCKMOSER. In December 1946 RIEDHERR was transported to Austria and soon released because he was seriously ill. Josef RIEDHERR died in Salzburg on May 1, 1947 at age 53.
As his survivor, his wife Johanna was eligible for victim’s compensation in liberated Austria and died in Salzburg at age 73 in 1970.
- Salzburg city and state archives
- Documentation Archive of the Austrian Resistance (DÖW)
Translation: Stan Nadel
Laid 18.08.2016 at Salzburg, Stieglstraße 1