Who Was Irene Harand?

Der Standard (03/14/05)

Christian Klösch

In the eulogies honoring the "unflinching combatant of National Socialism and anti-Semitism," the political ambivalence of her biography which does not fit at all into the historical perception of the pre-fascist corporative state has been omitted. Not in the current article.

The "Harand Movement" during the 1930s was the only social element in Austria that existed for two reasons: To combat National Socialism and anti-Semitism. The movement had about one thousand members in Austria. There were, however, also sympathizers in many countries throughout Europe.

There are many reasons why this movement fell into oblivion in Austria: For one, it didn’t fit into the "left/right" scheme of political categories following 1945. For another, the Harand Movement proved that already at that time, Christianity and anti-Semitism and National Socialism were never compatible.

Irene Harand and Moritz Zalman stood politically close to the Christian Conservative camps. Many professed Monarchists were active members of the Harand Movement. Irene Harand supported politically the contents of the course taken by the Austrian government of the times under Engelbert Dollfuß and Kurt Schuschnigg. In the weekly magazine, Gerechtigkeit, and in the speeches offered the masses, the position taken by the Harand Movement was clearly expressed. Irene Harand rejected all criticism of the Dollfuß regime, pointing out that Dollfuß saved Austria from being taken over by the Nazis and that any discussion of the corporative state would have only been used by the Nazis.

Harand advocated establishing a "united front" to stand up against National Socialism and accepted that in times of utmost danger, democratic freedom had to be restricted because it would only be used as propaganda by Austria’s opponents.

Loyal Follower
Efforts to put together a "Christian-German Corporative State" was also supported by Irene Harand. Irene Harand interpreted "German" as belonging to the language and interpreted "Christian action" as the fight against anti-Semitism.

She recognized indeed that there were, nonetheless, also anti-Semitic currents within the Fatherland Front to which the Harand Movement belonged, but didn’t accuse the regime: "The sincere efforts of the government are being sabotaged by a group of politicians and bureaucrats who out of wanton or unconscious stupidity, support anti-Semitism in order to win over a particular section of the population for the present political system," she wrote on October 25, 1934 in Gerechtigkeit.

Harand protested sharply against suspending Jewish physicians from their jobs in Vienna, against forcing Jewish civil servants into retirement and against "pushing many Jews out of cultural and economic life." She came to the conclusion that these acts "not only were an affront against the spirit of justice and the Christian ethic," but also "agitation" against the government.

Irene Harand celebrated the treaty between Austrian and the Third Reich, signed in July of 1936, as a victory for the government in the struggle for the country’s independence. She could not or simply would not accept that with this treaty, the door was opened for National Socialist progaganda and that important functions within the government were overtaken by the Nazis. She reacted to the increased propaganda by the National Socialists in Austria after July 1936 with increased educational efforts.

Irene Harand remained a loyal supporter of the Schuschnigg Government up until the very end, despite the fact that some of the mass protests of the Harand Movement were prohibited by the German Ambassador, von Papen. Whether or not Irene Harand changed her mind later regarding the corporative state remains unknown to this day. Advocating the corporative state ignited criticism particularly on the part of the Social Democrats. The Social Democrats recognized her fight against the Nazis as well as anti-Semitism, but criticized her position taken on the corporative state and on the civil war of February 1934.

...of the Dollfuß Regime
Irene Harand blamed the civil war solely on the leading figures of Social Democracy. First of all, she held them responsible for having weakened the front against the National Socialists through their irresponsible behavior, and secondly, for betraying the workers: "The main reasons for failure of the Social Democratic Party leadership were that they regarded their own well being as one of the goals, in many cases even as the main goal, and the work of their voters as a means of achieving a higher position for themselves," criticized Irene Harand in the February 16, 1934 issue of Gerechtigkeit.

On the other hand, she defended the Social Democrats against attacks directed by the anti-Semites, such as Leopold Kunschak of the Christian-Social Worker’s Party: "The fact that there were relatively many Jewish politicians in the Social Democratic Party can be explained by the sad fact that the large people’s parties were anti-Semitic, and (...) because, on an economic level, the Social Democratic Party meant very little or nothing to the wide strata of the population." Despite their opposition to the Social Democrats, many of those confined to illegality used the Harand Movement as a platform for restructuring.

"Sein Kampf"
The National Socialists took the struggle of the Harand Movement very seriously. Irene Harand’s book, "Sein Kampf (His Struggle) - Answer to Hitler," which was published in 1935 by using their own financial resources, was publicly burned in Salzburg after the Anschluß. The National Socialists placed a bounty of 100,000 Reichsmark for the capture of Irene Harand. This was a considerable amount, but was about one tenth of the yearly salary of a university professor in those times.

Irene Harand was never caught, however, since she was in Paris and London in March of 1938 - in order to voice an appeal for Austria’s independence on behalf of and with the approval of the corporative state regime.

Irene Harand fled to the United States and founded the emigrant organization, "Austrian Forum," which she headed from 1960 until her death in 1975.