Josef MICHELER was born in Innsbruck on May 16, 1892. He was a bricklayer and had worked in Salzburg since 1935. In July 1941 he married an unskilled laborer named Maria Achleitner. The couple lived at 58 Linzer Bundesstraße in Gnigl. Another resident of the house was Josef WALLIS, who had been born in Bruck an der Mur in Styria on January 27, 1889. WALLIS was a housepainter and had moved to Salzburg from Graz in 1939.
Although Josef WALLIS and the MICHELERs didn’t belong to any illegal political party or resistance group they did listen regularly to foreign radio stations during the war years, especially the BBC’s German language broadcasts. This was prohibited by a September 1, 1939 »regulation on extraordinary broadcast activities«, and spreading reports from enemy broadcasters risked a death penalty. Georg König, the local Gestapo officer responsible for investigating such crimes, could only learn about them through spying and denunciations.
On November 2, 1943 Josef WALLIS and the MICHELERs were arrested as a result of a neighbor’s denunciation. According to the police records they reportedly told the Gestapo officers »You can kiss my ass!« and made other similar remarks when they were arrested. Their bold insults angered the police who then uncovered [or created] a number of incriminating materials: like a copy of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf with a home made cover saying My Mistake (allegedly written by Josef WALLIS), and a sheet of paper with »hate verses« (allegedly written by Mrs. MICHELER) addressed to »Dear Adolf« that said »End the war and renounce victory, pick up your brush and cross over to the island, crazy as it seems, it worked for me. Hess« [Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess had flown to England in 1941 in an attempt to negotiate an end to the war and was imprisoned there].
The MICHELER couple had allegedly also stolen grocery, clothing, and tobacco ration cards and used them – crimes punishable under the »crimes against the people« laws of September 5, 1939. WALLIS was also supposed to have made public statements undermining the war effort according to the charges by his denouncer.
On April 18, 1944 the 55 year old Josef WALLIS was condemned to death by the People’s Court in Berlin for »undermining the war effort and supporting the enemy«. He was guillotined in Nazi Germany’s Brandenburg-Görden prison on June 5, 1944.
On May 10, 1944 the 52 year old Josef MICHELER was condemned to death by a Special Court in Salzburg for »violations of the broadcasting laws«, »violations of the laws regarding crimes against the people«, and for »subversive utterances«. He was guillotined in Munich’s Stadelheim prison on Juli 7, 1944.
During her trial Maria MICHELER testified that in her interrogation she had been threatened by Gestapo officer König with bringing her the cabbage [i.e. head] of her husband pickled in alcohol – among other things. She was sentenced to ten years in prison, but survived her jailing and emigrated to England after her liberation. She remarried there and died in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire in 1977.
The house at 58 Linzer Bundesstraße where the MICHELERs and Josef WALLIS lived until their arrest belonged to the retired railroader Alois PIXNER who died in November 1942. His son Alois PIXNER had been born in Gnigl on March 9, 1919 and was a retail clerk who was politically persecuted by the Nazis and had been held in »protective custody« in the Dachau concentration camp since July 15, 1939. From September 27, 1939 to August 15, 1940 he was held in the Mauthausen concentration cam and then he was returned to the Dachau camp where he was finally freed by US troops on April 29, 1945.
- Salzburg State Archive (files of the Salzburg Special Court)
- Widerstand und Verfolgung in Salzburg 1934 – 1945, vol. 2, p. 396f.
- State Archive Munich
Translation: Stan Nadel
Laid 23.03.2012 at Salzburg, Linzer Bundesstraße 58