Johann SCHWEITZER was an unmarried Catholic plumber who had been born in Budapest on January 14, 1913. He lived with his divorced mother Therese Binder at 6 Turnerstraße in Gnigl (which became part of the city of Salzburg in 1935). He was a member of the Children-Friends and Red Falcons, two youth organizations associated with the Social Democratic Party, as well as the Gnigl Workers’ Gymnastics and Sports Union. If he joined the Revolutionary Socialists (RSÖ) or the Communist Party (KPÖ) after the Social-Democratic Labor Party was banned in February 1934 there are no surviving records to indicate that. In any case his name wasn’t recorded in any police or judicial records.
But we do know that after the Nazis took over Austria SCHWEITZER was a member of the Communist Resistance Movement reactivated by Franz OFNER. Early in 1940 he was recruited by Heinrich GITTLER into the illegal Austrian Communist Party, where he was a member of the Gnigl local and became treasurer and then a cell leader. At the beginning of 1942 the Gestapo succeeded in getting a spy into the ranks of the illegal Communist and Revolutionary Socialist organizations and that enabled them to roll up and smash the two organizations. At least 79 activists from the Salzburg city and regional organizations were killed in the Nazis’ prisons and concentration camps, including 29 railroaders.
Johann SCHWEITZER was arrested by the Gestapo in his mother’s apartment on May 20, Mai 1942. After being held in the jails of the local police and the Salzburg State Court he was deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in June 1942. In February 1943 he was transferred to to the Berlin-Plötzensee prison which served as the headquarters of the Nazis’ notorious »Peoples’ Court«.
The February 19, 1943 »Peoples’ Court« trial of five functionaries of the Gnigl Communist local sentenced Alois Innerberger and Michael Kritzinger to death for »conspiracy to commit treason«. Richard Schubert, Johann Schweitzer and Josef Sollereder were sentenced to eight years imprisonment on the same charge. Richard Schubert, Josef Sollereder and Alois Innerberger (whose death sentence was commuted to imprisonment) survived the Nazi terror. On September 13, 1943 the fifty year old Michael KRITZINGER was decapitated in the Berlin-Plötzensee prison. The 31 year old Johann SCHWEITZER died in the prison at Lüttringhausen by Remscheid on March 11, 1944 and was buried in the Catholic section of the Forest Cemetery at Lennep by Remscheid.
His mother Therese Binder received victims’ compensation in liberated Austria and died in Salzburg at age 83. The fate of her daughter Leopoldine Binder, who fled from the Nazis to Hungary, remains unknown. The name Johann SCHWEITZER appears on the memorial tablet for Salzburg railroaders murdered by the Nazis along with those of his railroader comrades in the resistance.
- Salzburg City and State archives
- Documentation Archive of the Austrian Resistance (DÖW)
Translation: Stan Nadel
Laid 13.07.2015 at Salzburg, Turnerstraße 6