Josef WEGSCHEIDER, born on September 28, 1897 in Pobersach near Villach, a shoemaker by trade, and his wife Anna, née Hochgründler, born on September 24, 1904 in Zell near Kufstein, had two daughters born in Salzburg, Gertrude and Elisabeth.
The family, entitled to reside in the city of Salzburg according to Austrian law, lived in the house of the married couple MITTENDORFER in Itzling-Ost, Landstraße 15.
Mr. and Mrs. WEGSCHEIDER and Mr. and Mrs. MITTENDORFER were members of the Christian denomination Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were persecuted under the Nazi regime for refusing the Hitler salute and the oath of allegiance to the flag, military service and any kind of armament work.
It is known that Josef WEGSCHEIDER was sentenced to eight months in prison for refusing military service as early as October 1938 and was imprisoned in the Wehrmacht prison at Germersheim am Rhein until May 1939.
When he was called up for the German Wehrmacht in Salzburg at the beginning of the Second World War and refused military service, he was sentenced to death together with Johann PICHLER, also a Jehovah’s Witness, by the court-martial of Wehrkreis XVIII in Salzburg in accordance with »§ 5 of the War Special Criminal Law Ordinance«, on 26.
He was shot on September 26, 1939, at the military firing range in Glanegg near Salzburg and buried on September 28, the day of his 42nd birthday, in Salzburg’s municipal cemetery with the active participation of his religious family.
From then on, the war justice system and the Gestapo knew how to prevent the honoring of terror victims by surviving relatives in the public sphere (no release of the bodies to surviving relatives, but anonymous burial ex officio or utilization of the bodies in anatomical institutes).
Anna WEGSCHEIDER was arrested by the Gestapo after the funeral of her executed husband and deported from the police prison to the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück on December 28, 1939, together with other Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Her two still minor daughters Trudi and Elsie, who lived with foster parents in Hallein, received mail from their mother a few times as concentration camp prisoner No. 2582 in the prescribed scarcity:
My dears! Letter and money received on 3 VIII with thanks.
Wishing Elsiemaus the best for her 3rd birthday.
Dear Trudi! Wishes for your 11th birthday.
Kisses to all of you Mamma.
Anna WEGSCHEIDER, who was supposed to perform armament work in the Ravensbrück concentration camp but apparently refused to do so, was one of the prisoners gassed in the course of »Special Treatment 14f13«1 at the Bernburg an der Saale killing facility.
June 8, 1942 is considered the official date of death of the 37-year-old Jehovah’s Witness.
After the liberation of Austria, the two orphans Gertrude and Elisabeth were entitled to victim welfare as surviving dependents, since their parents were recognized as political victims.
According to the decision of the Regional Court for Criminal Matters in Vienna of August 6, 2007, the sentence of the Salzburg War Tribunal of September 1939 against Johann PICHLER and Josef WEGSCHEIDER »is deemed not to have been carried out«.
In the meantime, all eight Jehovah’s Witnesses from the province of Salzburg who refused military service for religious motives and were sentenced to death and executed for it have been rehabilitated – not least thanks to the initiative of their religious community, which has been recognized by the state in Austria since 2009.
It is also noteworthy that the Military Command Salzburg, at the suggestion of the then Governor Gabi Burgstaller, who is the godmother of the »Stolperstein« (Stumbling block) for conscientious objector Johann PICHLER, had a memorial stone erected for the victims of Nazi terror, for conscientious objectors and deserters, in Glanegg near Salzburg on September 30, 2011.
1 »Special treatment 14f13«: »14« = inspector of concentration camps, »f« = deaths, »13« = gassing in killing facilities of the »T4« organization.
In the »T4« killing facility Bernburg an der Saale, the Jewess Josefine SCHNEIDER and the Jew Hermann RUBENKES, who had been persecuted in Salzburg because of their communist activities, were also gassed.
»T4«: named after the »euthanasia« headquarters in Berlin, Tiergartenstraße 4.
- Archives of the Diocese of Gurk and Archdiocese of Salzburg (baptism and marriage registers)
- City and Provincial Archives of Salzburg (civil registers, Heimatmatrik, victim welfare files)
- Court Martial of the Commander of the Replacement Troops Wehrkreis XVIII Salzburg (Report to Wehrmacht Information Center)
- Archive of Jehovah’s Witnesses (photos, letters)
Laid 22.08.2007 at Salzburg, Landstraße 15