Book Review:The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization

Ray Brandon, Wendy Lower, eds. The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008. ix + 378 pp. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-253-35084-8.

Reviewed by Jeff Rutherford (Department of History, Wheeling Jesuit University)
Published on H-German (April, 2009)
Commissioned by Susan R. Boettcher

Perpetrators, Victims, and Memory: The Holocaust in Ukraine, 1941-2008

By mid-1941, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic had the largest population of Jews in Europe. The addition of the eastern provinces of Poland in late 1939 as well as the seizure of sections of Romanian territory in June 1940 led to some 2.7 million Jews living within the borders of the newly enlarged republic. Some four years later, 1.6 million of these Jews had died at the hands of the Germans and their allies and auxiliaries. Unlike the majority of the Holocaust’s victims who died in the industrialized mass murder of the death camps, the overwhelming bulk of Ukraine’s Jews died in mass shootings during the initial stages of the war. This murder on a massive scale is examined from a multitude of perspectives in The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization, edited by Ray Brandon and Wendy Lower. The editors have assembled an impressive collection of international experts and, in conjunction with Indiana University Press and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, have advanced the existing state of the literature regarding occupation and genocide in Ukraine. Utilizing both broad overviews as well as case studies, the volume examines a wide range of issues. Some of the more important include German policy in the Soviet republic, the complicity of Romanians and Ukrainians in the murder of Ukrainian Jewry, and the ways in which the Holocaust has been erased from the collective memory of the Ukrainian nation-state that emerged from the rubble of the Soviet Union.

Dieter Pohl’s opening chapter provides an overview of German military and civilian policies towards Ukrainian Jews. In his examination of military occupation practices, Pohl discusses the intersection of two different policies: economic exploitation of the occupied territories for Germany and its war effort, and the implementation of an “antisemitic and anti-Communist security policy of terror that required the murder of every person seen by the Germans to pose a potential threat” (p. 27). In order to ensure the first policy was carried out, the Germans planned on separating urban areas from the agricultural hinterland, keeping the surplus for themselves. Since some 85 percent of Ukrainian Jews lived in cities, it is clear that they would have been severely decimated even without a calculated plan to exterminate them root and branch. This indirect method of murdering Jews was complemented by a much more violent method based upon alleged security needs. Here, the Wehrmacht and the SS and its associated police units worked together, though it was the latter that drove the increasing tempo of mass murder. As Pohl makes clear, the frequent mass shootings (such as the 23,600 killed at Kamianets-Podilsky in late August 1941) took place under Wehrmacht rule of the conquered areas. In line with recent research, Pohl emphasizes the responsibility of the Order Police for carrying out the mass shootings in Ukraine. He notes that “the six police battalions [in Ukraine] … killed considerably more Ukrainian Jews than Einsatzgruppe C and Einsatzgruppe D combined” (p. 40).

Pohl then examines the civilian administration’s responsibility for the implementation of the “Final Solution” in Ukraine. While the newly established Reichskommisariat Ukraine (RKU) certainly continued the destruction of the Jewish community, they also attempted to maintain some sort of independence from the SS police forces in the area. This institutional conflict led the RKU to protect some Jewish workers during the final months of 1941; here, a pragmatic issue was used as a shield against the ideological cudgel of the SS. By spring 1942, however, the civilian administration had decided to exterminate the surviving Jewish population and urged the SS to finish the job. Pohl concludes that by early 1942, “the SS and police appear not as a separate center of power, but much more as an executor of RKU policy” (p. 59).

While Pohl looks at the upper echelons of the Wehrmacht, RKU administration and SS police forces, Wendy Lower investigates the actions of the county commissars for the General Commissariat Zhytomyr. Lower argues persuasively that the dual policies discussed by Pohl–economic exploitation and the implementation of ruthless security policies–created an “extremely unstable ruling apparatus that was in many ways inherently self-destructive” (p. 226). This fundamental problem, which plagued German occupation throughout the war, was only exacerbated by the men charged to rule the area. Lower scathingly describes these men as a “motley ensemble of middle-ranking bureaucrats, party hacks and marginalized officers of the Storm Troops (SA)” (p. 226). Of the twenty-five county commissars in the Zhytomyr district, thirteen fit into the category of “leftovers in the Nazi system” (p. 231), while the remaining twelve were graduates of an Ordensburg. Attending such an institution allowed individuals, such as one master baker who later became a certified teacher of racial hygiene, to ascend the Nazi hierarchy and become a county commissar who wielded wide powers over life and death in the East. Lower details how these commissars became intimately involved in the Holocaust in rather isolated rural areas through their cooperation with SS police forces and other organizations (such as Organization Todt) in the region. Such coordination between, at times, rival and competing institutions, constituted the county commissars crowning “achievement” in carrying out the Holocaust in Ukraine.

Andrej Angrick approaches German anti-Jewish policy from a new and intriguing perspective that implicates a wide number of German institutions and bureaucracies in the murder of Ukrainian Jews and challenges the predominant view of the SS as a single-minded, monolithic organization. Angrick focuses on the development of Thoroughfare IV, the major supply route for German forces operating in Ukraine. While Organization Todt was given the initial responsibility for maintaining the road, the SS soon became involved in its upkeep and it used Jewish workers in a “calculated system of extermination” (p. 194) for this purpose during the opening months of Operation Barbarossa. Following the failure of the initial invasion, the German leadership, particularly Heinrich Himmler, placed more emphasis on Thoroughfare IV. Negotiations between the SS and Organization Todt led to a division-of-labor agreement between the two institutions in constructing the route: while the latter provided the technical know-how, the former supplied the labor and provided security. By 1942, a high percentage of such labor was comprised of Jews who had somehow survived the first sweeps of the Einsatzgruppen and Order Police. Forced labor on the road, however, was in itself a death sentence. Angrick details the fate of those forced to perform back-breaking work amidst disease and hunger. The majority of Jews who died working on the road were murdered by the Germans in a series of routine killings designed to weed out laborers no longer physically capable of labor. Angrick claims that these deaths, however, falling as they do outside of the mass shootings in the Soviet Union, point to an internal division within the SS. While Heydrich staked out his claim of overall responsibility for the “Final Solution” at the Wannsee Conference, his RSHA had little control over the construction of Thoroughfare IV. Here, intimates of Himmler, such as Hans-Adolf Prützman, held the reins of power. Such a division within the SS suggests, according to Angrick, that the SS was not nearly as monolithic as it appears in the historiography and that personal encounters and relationships between Himmler and high-ranking SS officers in the East played an important role in jumpstarting various murder programs.

German institutions and individuals were the motor behind the murder of Ukrainian Jews; however, they received significant assistance from various national groups in the region. The largest state-level support came from Romania. Dennis Deletant’s contribution examines Romanian state policy in Transnistria. Deletant convincingly details the evolution of Romanian policy as it developed in Bucharest. This course of action was not simply a case of Ian Victor Antonescu aping German policy in an effort to appease Berlin; rather, it was part of the Romanian leader’s own attempt to create an ethnically homogenous empire. On July 3, 1941, Antonescu lectured his staff at the Ministry of Internal Affairs: “We find ourselves at the broadest and most favorable moment for a complete ethnic unshackling, for a national revival and for the cleansing of our people of all those elements alien to its spirit” (cited on p. 161). Such thinking formed the basis for Romanian actions towards Jews in both the reacquired areas of Bukovina and Bessarabia as well as in Ukraine. Jews were deported from the former provinces into the latter and these deportations were carried out with the usual brutality that marked such forced population transfers during the Second World War; the shooting of stragglers and the sick and elderly were interwoven into the process. Deportations and executions were carried out by both the Romanian Army and the Gendarmerie as they drove the Jews towards camps of unimaginable suffering in Transnistria. In the summer of 1942, however, Antonescu reversed track. Not only did he oppose pressure from Berlin for the deportation of Jews from Romania proper to the death-camps, he also halted the deportation of Jews into Transnistria. Antonescu did not make such momentous decisions based on humanitarian considerations; as Deletant points out, pressure from the Allies and the war’s changing fortunes were the most likely reasons for the shift in policy. Deletant also highlights the major difference between German and Romanian policy: while the Germans were determined to exterminate European Jewry and established an elaborate system to do so, Romania focused on ethnically cleansing its newfound empire, and the Jews who died during this process were primarily victims of callous neglect, administrative incompetence, and starvation.

Not only outsiders to the region murdered Jews; ethnic Ukrainians and Poles also participated in the Holocaust. Timothy Snyder provides a broad overview of the evolving relationship between Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians in western Volhnyia from 1921 through the end of the war. In the years before the German invasion, Jews managed to survive relatively unmolested by first the Polish and later the Soviet authorities, as they seemed to be a lesser threat than Ukrainians were to the former and Poles to the latter. In fact, Snyder quotes a former governor of Volhynia who claimed that the Jews were “cut off from the people and the world” (p. 77) and lived in relative peace with their Catholic and Orthodox neighbors. Certainly the situation changed with the imposition of Soviet rule in late 1939, but this was not necessarily viewed as a negative by Volhnyian Jews, as the alternative of Nazi rule appeared much worse. Snyder makes clear, however, that Jews were in no way over-represented within the new political hierarchy–only one local Jew actually served on the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet–and while they had achieved equality with other national and religious groups, this status made them “legal equals in a system in which all were subject to deportation and terror” (p. 88).

The German invasion of 1941 considerably aggravated the situation for western Volhynian Jews. The speed of the German assault, however, paradoxically gave these Jews some breathing space as the switch to a policy of mass-murder only occurred after the Germans had advanced into central Ukraine. German rule quickly restructured the social hierarchy; Ukrainian nationalists, who had been harassed by both Polish and Soviet authorities, utilized their newfound status and power to persecute Jews, whom they incorrectly viewed as stooges of the previous regimes. While such attitudes constituted the predominant Ukrainian perspective towards Jews, Snyder does discuss Ukrainians who saved Jews from certain death– either by allowing them to join partisan units or by hiding them in their homes. The near total breakdown of authority in western Volhnyia in 1943, as Soviet Ukrainian partisans, nationalist Ukrainian forces, Polish guerilla units, and German police units engaged in a multi-faceted dirty war that included ethnic cleansing, presented further challenges for Volhynian Jews. As Snyder makes clear, for those Jews who survived the German occupation and the subsequent Sovietization of Volhynia, their isolated and traditional communities were no more. The diverse, multi-cultural, multi-confessional society that had existed for hundreds of years became yet another victim of the war.

Frank Golczewski examines the question of Ukrainian complicity in more detail in his contribution. He provides a nuanced discussion of the relations between Ukrainians and Jews as well as Ukrainians and Germans in Galicia. In an attempt to explain why and to what degree Ukrainians participated in the murder of the Jews, Golczewski examines both “historical experiences over the centuries” and “contemporary events within the recent memory of the actors” (p. 115). He argues that despite temporary disturbances, relations between Ukrainians and Jews in Galicia were relatively amicable from the late sixteenth century up through the First World War. The crumbling of dynastic Europe and the birth of national states, as well the emergence of Bolshevism and the hardships caused by the Great Depression, however, led to a stridently nationalist Ukrainian movement determined to create its own ethnically homogenous state. Ukrainian perceptions of Jews in Galicia were especially aggravated following the Soviet annexation in 1939. Golczewski argues that Jews suffered as much as ethnic Ukrainians during this period, but perceptions overwhelmed this reality and this turned nationalist movements solidly against Jews. The Germans exploited this nationalist feeling, especially in regards to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). While the OUN has shouldered the brunt of the blame for Ukrainian participation in the Holocaust, Golczewski argues that Ukrainians who joined German-sponsored units rarely did so out of nationalist feeling; rather, they were attempting to escape prisoner of war camps or deportation to Germany for forced labor. They were, in effect, trying to survive and make a living, and not waging an ideological war in the German sense. Nationalist partisan units, however, were largely led by the OUN and they did try to ethnically cleanse Galicia of both Jews and Poles. Golczewski concludes that “historical predispositions worked against a more human stand against the Holocaust” (p. 147). A bit more specificity on this point would help, as it would seem that short-term developments–from 1917 on–played a much larger role than those in the pre-World War I era.

Ethnic Germans, on the other hand, “made a particularly conspicuous and potent contribution to the effectiveness of the regional and county-level SS and police forces … which were charged with the murder of Ukraine’s Jews” (p. 250). Martin Dean examines a rather neglected aspect of the Holocaust in the occupied East by examining the actions of this group. Neither the Wehrmacht nor the RKU had enough manpower to effectively rule the area and both were forced to utilize native manpower to fill out their administrations. Ethnic Ukrainians were used to a large extent, but ethnic Germans were given the overwhelming majority of leadership positions at local levels of power. Within the Ukrainian militias established by the Germans, ethnic Germans occupied the bulk of the NCO ranks. They also served as the link between the occupiers and the civilian population through their service as translators. Dean then examines the motivations for ethnic Germans who became ensnared in the gears of destruction. He argues that negative experiences at the hands of the Bolsheviks during the 1930s were the most important factor in driving them into the arms of the Germans. As the war progressed, however, the “communal experience of complicity in the occupation” led to a much closer relationship between the two groups, one which eventually fused with Hitler granting German citizenship to ethnic Germans who served in either the Waffen-SS or the Wehrmacht (p. 263). Dean concludes that “double victim” identity (first Stalin, then Hitler) propagated by ethnic Germans in the postwar period has only served to overshadow their role as perpetrators in the Holocaust.

The issue of identity and memory is effectively examined by Omer Bartov’s extremely interesting contribution on the region of Galicia and Karel Berkhoff’s more focused examination of Dina Pronicheva, a survivor of the Babi Yar massacre. Drawing on his most recent book-length study, Bartov describes his travels through western Ukraine, which formed the historic province of Galicia. Once a thriving area of cultural diversity, a borderland where Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, and Jews lived together in relative peace, western Ukraine is now an ethnically homogenous area in which the memory of its former inhabitants is obscured and, at times, denied. While Bartov examines the development of memory in several cities, his examination of Lviv (Lwów/Lemberg) is symptomatic of his findings. Bartov notes that while certain aspects of the city’s diversity are celebrated (such as the Armenian Cathedral, which had important national meaning to Poles), others are not. Here, he discusses the Golden Synagogue, built in the late sixteenth century. Destroyed by Germans in 1942, the synagogue’s memory is kept alive only by a small plaque. The site of the building is now a garbage-strewn lot. No mention is made of the seven to ten thousand Jews murdered during the German occupation. In fact, Bartov only locates scattered remnants of Jewish life in the city–stars of David on the old Jewish Hospital–and no attempts to explain their historical significance. The most blatant attempt to create a more palatable Ukrainian history of the war years is found at the site of the former Janowska forced labor camp, where some two hundred thousand people–primarily Jews–were murdered during the war. Due to the efforts of a camp survivor, a memorial was placed outside of the gates; however, no mention is made of “Jews” on the inscription. Instead, “Nazi-genocide victims” are remembered (p. 324). A plaque later added to the memorial only further obfuscates the issue by mentioning only “victims.” As Bartov notes, “this text allows the local population to view the victims of the camp as ‘belonging’ to them rather than a category of people whose history has been largely erased from public and collective memory and whose presence in the region has been almost entirely eliminated” (p. 324). This, according to Bartov, is a conscious attempt by Ukraine to cultivate a Ukrainian identity built upon their suffering during both the Second World War and under communist rule. Such a narrative of suffering allows for no other victims. The parallels to the development of a German identity based on suffering and victimization during the 1950s and early 1960s are quite striking. Any parallel ends, however, as the men who committed the majority of the crimes against Jews in Ukraine–members of the OUN–are now celebrated as the founding fathers of the Ukrainian state. While German identity in the late twentieth century incorporated guilt for the actions of the Third Reich, Ukrainian identity is based upon a narrative of Ukrainian victimization that leaves no room for Ukrainians as perpetrators.

Berkhoff examines the many lives of Dina Pronicheva’s story of the Babi Yar massacre. Pronicheva described her experiences twelve times to a variety of people and institutions. Berkhoff compares the twelve narratives in an attempt to discern just how reliable each account is and which is the most useful for a historian in attempting to recreate the events of the massacre. He concludes that two of these testimonies–one given to Soviet investigators in 1946 and a later one, given to a German court at the trial of members of Sonderkommando 4a in 1968–provide the most accurate recounting of events. Of course, the most well-known of Pronicheva’s narratives is found in Anatolii Kuznetsov’s historical novel Babi Yar, first published in installments in the Soviet Union in 1966, but not receiving its definitive treatment until the 1970s, following Kuznetsov’s emigration to the United Kingdom in 1969. Berkhoff, however, effectively challenges the historical usefulness of Kuznetsov’s version, which appears to combine of two different testimonies. Such a mixing of source material renders this version problematic for historians. Based on his painstaking, side-by-side comparison of these twelve narratives, Berkhoff concludes that despite a few minor inaccuracies, Pronicheva’s testimonies are remarkably consistent and her detailed description of Babi Yar provides historians with a gateway to understanding such horrific events.

Recent research into the Holocaust in Ukraine has allowed for a much more definitive examination of the total numbers of Jews murdered by the Germans and their helpers. Alexander Kruglov, who has published extensively in Ukrainian on this topic, summarizes recent research in his contribution to the volume. Kruglov provides both a chronological as well as a regional approach to this issue. Extremely useful charts detail Jewish deaths at the Soviet oblast level as well as by the month (for 1941) and the year (for 1942-43). Such a detailed breakdown yields very interesting information. For example, while the Germans murdered some 1.6 million Jews in Ukraine, this terror fell unevenly across the region. In Ternopil oblast, 97 percent of the 136, 000 Jews living there in 1939 were killed during the war; in contrast, only 9.1 percent of the nearly 137,000 Jews living in Kharkiv oblast died during the Holocaust (p. 284). Such an approach highlights regional disparity of German policies on Ukraine: western areas suffered far higher death rates due to both the Germans’ rapid seizure of these areas, which forestalled any attempts at evacuation, and a radical Ukrainian nationalist movement that only fell under Soviet power following the annexation of eastern Poland in 1939 and therefore had deep enough roots in society to survive Sovietization. Kruglov also presents some truly staggering numbers: during the last six months of 1941, Germany and its allies murdered 85,000 Jews per month or, even more startling, 2,600 per day. This number decreased to just over 2,000 a day in 1942 to 400 a day during 1943. Kruglov’s and Berkhoff’s chapters neatly complement one another, as Pronicheva’s story puts a human face on the somewhat sterile statistics.

In sum, this is an excellent volume that approaches the Holocaust in Ukraine from a variety of angles. One quibble with the volume is that while the all of the areas discussed in the book are within present Ukrainian borders, during the war years, they were ruled by various states and governments with differing historical traditions. This is certainly not a major problem and the editors effectively address it in their introduction, but it does add another layer to the Holocaust in Ukraine, one not present in similar examinations of the Holocaust in France or Denmark, for example. On the other hand, the volume’s attempt to grapple with the various ethnic and national groups as well as sovereign states involved in both carrying out the murder of Ukraine’s Jews and the creation and erasure of memory for such horrific events highlights the complexity of the “Final Solution” in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Secret Service Holds Hearings On WWII Insurgent Army

UPA rebels pictured in 1947

KYIV — The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has organized public hearings about the international contacts of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) during World War II, RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service reports.

The history of the UPA is highly controversial in Ukraine, as Soviet propaganda depicted the UPA — which fought against both the Nazis and the Soviets — as traitors and Nazi collaborators.

Oleksandr Pahiria, an SBU archive staff researcher, told RFE/RL that the UPA had a wide range of international contacts, including with foreign governments.

“The fact that the UPA conducted peace talks with the governments of Hungary and Romania is testimony to the existence of a new phenomenon in the international relationships of the time — insurgent diplomacy,” Pahiria said.

The UPA operated in Ukraine until 1953, when it was defeated by the Soviets.

The SBU is the only security service in the post-Soviet space to completely open its archives to the public.


 Austrian Army at Wagram

Why was the Habsburg army slower and less brilliant than its European rivals between 1649 and 1918?

I am certainly no expert on this topic, having read only very generally on Austrian history, but in the interest of providing a basis of discussion, I’ll posit the following general ideas:

1) The Habsburgs were almost always broke due to shambolic administration and regional economic underdevelopment. As a result, they were more dependent upon using their soldiers to gather the harvest or to forage, most memorably in the Potato War. They were also dependent upon foreign subsidies to finance distant campaigns and were less able to modernize their equipment or to maintain large standing forces. Their chronic financial problems were accentuated by the Ausgleich of 1867, which required the military budget to pass not one but two legislatures.

2) The Habsburgs were restrained by the balance of power, internally and externally. Internally, the need to watch their subject populations absorbed large garrisons or armies (i.e. the Hungarian revolt during the War of Spanish Succession). Externally, the Austrians were often tied down by war on two fronts (typically the French and the Turks) or by the threat of war on two fronts (the French, Turks, Prussians, Russians and Piedmont-Sardinia/Italy). Further, as perennial Emperors, the frequent need to consult with independent-minded Imperial electors restrained the Habsburgs and reduced the possibility of conducting a reckless Prussian-style foreign policy along the lines of a Frederick the Great or Bismarck.

3) Poor interior lines of communication. Other countries, of course, were faced with the problem of two-front wars, but they were either more compact (Prussia) or had better roads (France). Being in control of an underdeveloped region in Europe, the Austrians were less able to conduct rapid troop movements, particularly in the impoverished areas in the south-east reclaimed from the Turks. On this note, it is worth pointing that even the lavishly equipped NATO has had difficulty moving troops into Bosnia and Kosovo.

4) Cultural passivism. A broad and problematic category, but nevertheless one worth considering. It encompasses Catholic fatalism, leadership, and a court which did not place an unduly high value on martial prowess. Whereas the Prussian military was based upon an aggressive, militaristic, barracks-hall culture, perhaps best embodied by Frederck William II’s kitchen cabinet, and by Wilhelm II’s personal involvement in field maneuvers, in contrast Vienna was a centre of culture and art, where a significant proportion of the aristocracy and court would rather attend opera, hunts, or masked balls. Here leadership played a role. Whereas France’s borders where shaped by adventurous and ambitious spirits such as Louis XIV and the two Napoleons, the final 150 years of Austrian history were dominated by leaders who were not themselves soldiers—Maria Theresa, von Kaunitz, Metternich, and Franz Josef II. Of the lot, Maria Theresa was the most warlike, but even she was more concerned about maintaining her inheritance from the depredations of that robber-baron Frederick to the north than in extensive territorial aggrandizement. Summing up, the Habsburgs preferred peace to war, diplomacy over fighting, and the status quo in lieu of imperial aggrandizement.

5) Lastly, and least importantly, one of their strengths was also a weakness. Austrian light irregular forces are generally conceded to be amongst the best in Europe in their day, but being specialists in the “small war,” these are not the types of soldiers likely to win dramatic decisive victories of the Napoleonic type.

I hope that these comments provide some food for thought.

All the best,

Rob Hanks.

Ph. Candidate

University of Toronto

Coming to that period, Monteccucoli indeed advised defensive tactics against the Turks. That changed after Vienna, and a commander like Prince Eugene of Savoy was by no means a defensive tactician, neither against the Ottomans nor on western battlefields in the war of succession. And at the end of the 18th century, Count Kinsky, a professor of military science rated the Ottomans rather low; due to the decline of Ottoman troop quality. Cf. my account Schwendi, Monteccucoli, Kinsky: Analysen der Osmanischen Kriegsmacht vom 16. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert, in: CIEPO VII: Sempozyumu Bildirileri, Ankara 1994, pp. 201 – 214.

As for later times, the Austrians’ seemingly mediocre performance was partially due to their bad luck—their armies were put against a bunch of military geniuses like Frederick the Great or Napoleon, who made almost every opponent look rather mediocre! But one should not forget that a commander like Archduke Charles was virtually the first one who succesfully made a stand against the so far invincible Frenchman at Aspern-Essling and fought him into a draw.

Thomas Scheben

I continue to be (cheerfully) amazed at the diversity of websites/discussion groups/etc. that the Internet has enabled to be created, that can so readily bring together people who share common interests . . . so now there’s a Habsburg discussion group!!! I love it!!!

As far as this question is concerned, I believe the ultimate answer to be “culture,” although I don’t really know how to go about proving this objectively. If you look at the entire history of the Hapsburg dynasty/empire, its development was never primarily “martial,” though they certainly made use of war as an instrument of policy when convenient. They seemed always to prefer other means of acquiring territory or power, particularly dynastic marriages. This character was encapsulated in the famous proverb that went something like “Other nations make war, you, happy Austria, marry.” They never tried to build an unitary state but continued the old medieval tradition of “localism in empire.”

One of the big what-ifs of modern history is what might have happened in the early 20th century if in the 19th century the Hapsburgs had worked with the rising nationalist spirit and capitalized on their empire’s diversity to build a kind of United States of Central Europe . . .

Notwithstanding Austria-Hungary’s poor showing in the Balkan Wars, significant elements of the empire’s foreign ministry as well as military continued to lobby for war—a localized, successful one, of course—to shore up the dynasty in the critical years right before World War I. The decay and centrifugal forces pulling the old empire apart were quite apparent to people on the scene at the time, not just in retrospect.

Strikingly like the Russian autocracy, whose solution for recovering the prestige and authority sacrificed by its incompetent, losing war with Japan was another war.


This is a question that has been bothering me since grade school:

how did a state with such an unimpressive military get to be such a great power? I looked through the few H-Habsburg responses to this and found that they tended to minimize Habsburg ineptness, which I would challenge.

My specialty is the Thirty Years’ War, and, in my opinion, if the (Austrian) Habsburgs had been only average, they would have come out of the war much better. Almost all of their victories were won in the first half of the war, and they tended to be against outsized rebel forces. Tilly was very successful, but he wasn’t Habsburg. Nordlingen was very successful, but that had a large Spanish contingent. That leaves Wallenstein, and his greatest accomplishment was Lutzen, a draw.

That’s the good half of the war. In the second half, it was nothing but one defeat after another: Wittstock (1636), Second Breitenfeld (1642), Jankov (1645), and Zusmarshausen (1648), not to mention several other disastrous campaigns that did not include a major battle (1644 and 1646 come to mind). I’m amazed that Austria managed to escape from this war in as good shape as it did.

I’m tempted to blame the political selection of leaders, especially Leopold Wilhelm (why the Spanish ever took him on as governor-general of the Low Countries after his previous career is a mystery). However, in 1647 they gave command to Peter Melander, who was not only not a Catholic, but was actually a Calvinist. He turned things around for a while, but then lost at Zusmarshausen; and that clearly can’t be blamed on politics.

After the death of Franz von Mercy in 1645, the Bavarians also had some highly inadequate commanders. Perhaps they and the Habsurgs look so bad at this time because they were facing some of the best generals of the century, including Turenne, Conde, Torstensson, and Wrangel. But that’s only a short-term explanation—if you blame commanders for more than a few years, you have to start asking why the Habsburgs couldn’t get better ones.

In conclusion, I have no idea what the answer to the question is. I do, however, think that it is a serious question that someone should deal with. Austria’s military not only seems bad, it was bad; yet somehow, they survived and even prospered for centuries. Perhaps this is a tribute to amazingly successful statecraft.



My former colleague Charles Ingrao asked the question what factor, or indeed factors, were the causes for the Habsburg army earning the respect of its opponents, but ‘rarely the kind of admiration that we associate with the military instruments of notable adversaries like Louis VIV, Frederick the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte or even the tiny Serbian kingdom of World War I’. He goes on to declare that the Habsburg military usually were less aggressive and less likely to achieve a decisive victory and that these shortcomings were contributing factors to the Monarchy’s ‘decline’ and eventual dissolution in 1918.

This statement, of course, is correct and the question is very well put. As a French historian, A. Sorel, once pointed out, ‘the Hapsburg always were one idea and one army behind, but they always had an idea and an army.’ The idea was the preservation of the dynasty and its empire and as Jaszi pointed out, the army was one of the main—I would assert—the main, pillar of the dynasty.

At the same time, however, the Habsburg rulers had few martial talents, while since the days of Wallenstein they were suspicious of military commanders and always hesitated placing too much power into the hands of any one general. Hence the famous conflict between the Emperor Francis and his brother the Archduke Charles discussed by Rauchensteiner and Craig, suspicions and misgivings which survived into the long years of the Emperor Francis Joseph. For that matter, even the most talented of the Habsburg generals, the Archduke Charles, was a cautious conservative who clearly never was prepared to risk the army to achieve the complete destruction of an opponent, with his curious inactivity in the weeks following Aspern-Essling but one example.

No other army commander, save Eugene as Professor Ingrao points out, ever achieved decisive victory, though here I would add Radetzky who in a six week campaign in 1848 destroyed his Italian opponents to the short list of Habsburg generals achieving a decisive victory. Naturally, victory placed the Monarchy in a better geopolitical position, but one needs to ask what constituted a decisive victory? Montecuccoli defeated the Turks in 1664, but they returned in 1683, and only the campaigns in Hungary after 1683 achieved a ‘decisive result’. The Turks were driven out of Hungary, though the Ottoman presence in the western Balkans remained a worry to the Habsburg authorities. Eugene’s victories in Italy, Spain, Flanders all had no decisive impact. In 1714, the Monarchy clearly had become a great power but also was beset by continuing and intensifying internal problems which sapped its strength.

To be sure, the problem of a luxurious court and an often starving army were common in the eighteenth century, except perhaps in Prussia, and in fact the question how to pay for a large, well-equipped, and well officered army was never really solved either in Austria or in Austria-Hungary. By the last decade of the 18th century, the ‘Austrian Monarchy,’ a convenient misnomer for territories collected by an ambitious dynasty, stretched from the Lower Rhine to Galicia and from Bohemia to northern Italy, but such a collection of lands not only lacked unity and purpose but also created a geostrategic position where the Monarchy always faced the problem of war on several fronts.

This problem, recognized clearly as Ingrao has pointed out by Joseph I, became even more complicated from the second half of the century on, when proto-nationalism, with perhaps a full fledged nationalism in Hungary, began to take hold in the various lands. Given this, the only possible orientation for the army was to retain its traditional dynastic character. This had proved adequate in the wars against the Prussians and the French, but according to Wawro, by 1866 led to an army that while brave, was extremely poorly led and trained, and handled with remarkable incompetence during the decisive campaign in Bohemia.

Many historians have considered Hungarian resistance to make a proportionate contribution for military purposes of the Monarchy, and in fact to assert the right to maintain its own separate national army, as one of the major problems of the monarchy from 1790 on, becoming critical after 1867. The threat of another 1704 or 1848 was always present in the thinking of the Habsburg authorities, and by the third decade of the 19th century the feelings of the Slavic majority in the empire had to be taken into consideration. These matters were real and were hardly resolved by the Military Compromise of 1868, which Miskolcy described as the ‘greatest liability of the Ausgleich.’ Perhaps this goes too far, but Stone asserted that in 1914 the weaknesses of the k.u.k Armee were largely due to the obstinate politicians in Budapest.

There is the possibility that defeat in 1866, according to Friedjung primarily due to sociopolitical backwardness, could have opened the way towards genuine army reform, turning the army into a people’s army, a multinational rather than a dynastic force. This point was raised some years ago by Peball, but whether this ever was a realistic option may be doubted. As it was, the army went to war in 1914 lacking national cohesion and motivation, in part lacking training and modern weapons, but still managed, to the astonishment of many, to maintain itself against a superior enemy for over four years.

Given the constraints imposed by the character of the Austrian monarchy and the cautious conservatism of its rulers, with an administrative structure that still reflected much of an old particularism, its industrial resources perhaps not equal to the demands of the Material Schlacht, the army reflected the shortcomings of the body politic that created it, and to the extent that these problems could not be resolved outside the army, they also could not be resolved within.

Gunther E Rothenberg

Professor Emeritus Purdue University

Research Associate Monash University

Actually, I’m not reading the events of the mid-19th century back into the mid-18th. I’m reasoning almost entirely on the basis of contemporary evidence and modern scholarship. I’ve been reading scholarship on Theresian policy for over ten years now, and I’ve never even seen it suggested that Austrian policymakers seriously considered forcing Frederick to abdicate in favor of one of his brothers, let alone an entirely different dynasty. (If you do have a citation, please let me know.) As a rule, in eighteenth-century Europe one did not depose legitimate dynasties from the outside (Poland, being an elective monarchy, didn’t quite count). One might take pieces of territory, and one might wait for a male line to die out and fight over the spoils (which is essentially what happened to Maria Theresia, whose claim was contested, albeit on rather weak grounds, by the Saxon and Bavarian electors as well as by Frederick), but one didn’t simply depose reigning dynasties because they were considered dangerous (that would be reading the Napoleonic experience back into the eighteenth century, and we should remember that the rest of Europe didn’t really consider the Bonapartes legitimate in the first place). The only possible counterexample I can think of is that of Lorraine, to which the French had laid claim as early as the seventeenth century (if not earlier), and whose ruler was compensated with Tuscany once the Medicis died out a few years later.

Furthermore, Theresian policymakers (and here I’ll include Bartenstein here as well as Kaunitz and the Empress) knew perfectly well that Austria had connived in Prussia’s rise by relying too heavily on Prussian military prowess and political reliability in Imperial conflicts with the Bourbons, and in rewarding the Hohenzollerns a little too lavishly for their assistance. Charles VI was already aware of the House of Hohenzollern’s growing ambitions, but his own attempts to keep the problem under control were too little and too late.

And thus I return to my original point—the Austrian war aim was not to depose the Hohenzollerns, or even Frederick himself, but rather to reduce Prussia’s size and resources to the point where it could no longer be a threat to its neighbors. And, having done that, MT would leave a lesson for the instruction of future Habsburgs about letting little allies become big powers in their own right.

Ken MacLennan

BOOK REVIEW: Europe’s American Revolution


Published by [email protected] (February, 2008)

Simon P. Newman, ed. _Europe’s American Revolution_. Houndmills: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006. xvii + 201 pp. Notes, bibliography, index. $69.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-4039-8997-0.

Reviewed for H-Diplo by Gerard Hugues, Department of English, University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis, France

Revolutionary Reverberations

The volume entitled _Europe’s American Revolution_ puts together the proceedings of a workshop at the conference of the European Association for American Studies held in Prague in April 2004. Scholars from European countries confronted their views and discussed the impact of the American Revolution on Europe’s political thought and experience.

The object was both ambitious and promising, since the participants refused to stick to old received values and questioned and measured the influence of the events of 1776 and 1787 on European soil. As recalled by Simon P. Newman in his introduction, Alexis de Tocqueville was among the first to celebrate the American experiment and extol the model of exceptionalism set by the newborn nation. At the outset is the apparent paradox of a groundbreaking event fought by people of European descent who chose to break with European traditions. Hence, a widely endorsed view of the Revolution is that it was a supranational event paving the way to other similar uprisings that took place on the European continent. It is precisely this construction of the Revolutionary War and its subsequent developments that this book challenges.

The Glaswegians, for instance, unexpectedly turned their backs on the social and economic turmoil in the New World, because it jeopardized their interests within a then powerful and affluent empire. Brad Jones provides a detailed and well-documented account of their reaction, against the backdrop of a thriving Atlantic trade badly hurt by the insurgents’ misdemeanor. To combat this trend, the Scots developed a “patriotic imperial nationalism,” fully and aptly analyzed by Jones, as a way to secure vested interests in the status quo (p. 2). This economic motive is further related to a religious concern following the French decision to enter the war alongside the Continentals. At that point, the Scots chose the side of British Protestantism against French Catholicism, thereby taking a distance with the values of the American Revolution that definitely failed to attract the sympathy of Glaswegians.

Similarly, Spaniards did not turn out to be first-hour admirers of the Revolutionary War. Spain had its own interests to defend in America that were specific to the old Catholic empire, and Anthony McFarlane’s essay opens with a comparative study of New Spain and the British colonies, giving the latter a clear advantage in terms of economic and social development. Spain, under the circumstances, had several options, and it might have saved its own empire overseas had it secured an alliance with the French to capitalize on the difficulties of the British crown.

Despite solid reasons to side with the American rebels, first to protect its own possessions and then to emulate the superior model set by the British colonists, Spain missed the opportunity offered to her. This failure to seal an alliance with the French was, according to McFarlane, fatal to the Spanish presence and influence in the New World, while the values of the Enlightenment carried by the Revolution never seeped into Spanish society, so that the impact of the Revolution was virtually nonexistent.

The case of France is examined by Marie-Jeanne Rossignol, who deliberately chooses to analyze the issue from a historiographical angle. A longstanding tradition among French historians has been to analyze the French and American revolutions as two intimately connected events (e.g., Jacques Godechot, Andre Kaspi, and Claude Fohlen).

Rossignol, particularly, emphasizes the originality of Elise Marienstras’s approach, which integrated the contribution of radical historians, while “the French academic world remained impervious to these new interpretations of the American Revolution” (p. 53). Rossignol, then, examines with great accuracy the historiographical trend leading from the instrumentalization of the American Revolution to its virtual exclusion. She embarks on a bold, but risky, survey of “the complex history of the French Revolution in French historiography” from 1800 until 1989, to conclude that a new perspective might be offered to researchers, within the concept of the Atlantic world lately defined by American and British historians, to renew the analysis (p. 60).

The way the British saw the American Revolution was deeply influenced by Sir Denis Brogan (1900-74), whose views are fully analyzed by Newman, who stresses the contribution of Brogan to the development of American studies in post-World War II years. The universal value of the American Revolution was then celebrated as the study of American history became “an act of faith among British academics” (p. 82). Newman depicts the disenchantment of British historians before the Bush administration’s assault on American liberties, embodied by the Patriot Act and the systematic betrayal of the founding documents. His conclusion may sound overly pessimistic, but it certainly opens a fruitful debate about whether the “American Century” is over.

Csaba Levai gives a refreshing and original comparative study of Hungary within the Habsburg Empire and the colonies within the British Empire, with striking similarities between the two experiences, like the necessity of self-government or the issue of taxation. Levai convincingly demonstrates how much Hungarian patriots were influenced by American revolutionaries and how their common goals culminated with the drafting of the Hungarian declaration of independence of 1848 in a process that emulated the events of 1776. The rest of the essay is devoted to the changing perceptions of the American Revolution both in Hungary and Poland, from the nineteenth century to the fall of the Communist regimes, and it concludes that its star is now waning among the younger generations accustomed to democracy and pluralism.

In Germany, the impact of the American Revolution was also very limited, according to Thomas Clark, who develops his argument on solid evidence provided by a thorough knowledge of German constitutional thought. He argues that the events of 1776 and 1787 had little influence on German constitutionalism as the monarchical principle remained central to German liberalism. The most relevant concept, and one that deserves further analysis, is probably the distrust of the people shared by American federalists and German constitutionalists. The volume closes with Joseph Mullin’s careful study of John Taylor of Caroline’s “radical” options placed in the perspective of the modern debate on the European construction, followed by an essay by Andrew Pepper about the lack of interest of Hollywood for the American Revolution.

In conclusion, this is a rich volume teeming with rejuvenated views of the American Revolution and new insights into the concept of “American exceptionalism” that, by and large, seems to have lost most of its past luster.

Book Review: The Limits of Loyalty: Imperial Symbolism, Popular Allegiances, and State Patriotism in the Late Habsburg Monarchy.

Laurence Cole, Daniel L. Unowsky, eds. The Limits of Loyalty: Imperial Symbolism, Popular Allegiances, and State Patriotism in the Late Habsburg Monarchy. Austrian and Habsburg Studies. New York: Berghahn Books, 2007. viii + 246 pp. ISBN 978-1-84545-202-5; $90.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-84545-202-5.

Reviewed by Ian Armour (Department of Humanities, Grant MacEwan College, Edmonton)
Published on H-German (March, 2009)
Commissioned by Susan R. Boettcher

The Case for Inertia?

One of the more welcome aspects of reviewing online is the freedom to devote appropriate space to an edited collection such as this. All too often the variety of the research on offer, and the genuine sense of a colloquium going on in what is frequently the record of an academic conference, get lost sight of in the need to summarize it all in a mere five hundred words or so. This seems particularly true of the present volume. Its nine contributions, together with the characteristically insightful afterword by R. J. W. Evans, are all excellent, thought-provoking reflections on the extent to which the Habsburg monarchy in its last half-century of existence, in particular during the reign of its last monarch but one, Francis Joseph, was capable of eliciting loyalty from its subjects. As the editors and several contributors point out, discussions of this question, and of the monarchy’s general viability as a state, have been dominated ever since its 1918 collapse by the famous distinction drawn by Hungarian émigré political scientist Oscar Jászi, in The Dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy (1929), between “centrifugal” and “centripetal” forces. In an age of rising and increasingly irreconcilable nationalisms, Jászi argued, the traditionally centripetal elements of dynasty, church, bureaucracy, and army proved too weak to counter these centrifugal tendencies. Although Jászi was too acute a student of the monarchy to ignore the crucial importance of the First World War in facilitating the triumph of the centrifugal forces, the tendency ever since has been to see the monarchy as an institution living on borrowed time, beset by near-terminal challenges both within and without.

Of late, however, a countervailing tendency in historical scholarship has focused on the centripetal forces and highlighted how much staying power and real cohesion the monarchy had. This tendency is not so much a misplaced nostalgia for the monarchy as a more rational, humane alternative to the squabbling, internally riven successor states, let alone a sentimentalization centered on the “venerable” Francis Joseph of the sort still visible in the tackier tourist boutiques of present-day Vienna, but rather a commendable reaction to the implicit, if usually unstated, determinism in the original Jászi premise. In the hands of popularizers and, it has to be said, one’s own undergraduates, Jászi’s distinction between forces of dissolution and forces of cohesion tends to degenerate into an inevitabilist scenario: because the monarchy was a dynastic state, and absolutist in aspiration if not always in practice, it was bound to founder on the rocks of popular sovereignty and mass politics; because it was a multinational state, it was bound to fall apart. This travesty of historical reality, it should be stressed, was never the interpretation of the monarchy’s earliest analysts and critics, such as Jászi or, before him, R. W. Seton-Watson and Henry Wickham Steed. Such pioneers of critical Habsburg studies, many of whom began their work while the monarchy was still alive and kicking, started from a position of wishing the monarchy well, and hoped that it would set its house in order for the sake of international stability as well as natural justice. The fall of the monarchy was always, to its more discerning critics and subsequent historians, contingent upon the mistakes of its leaders, the determination of its enemies, the catastrophe of the First World War, and the unprecedented strains placed upon the state by the duration and nature of that war. Yet Habsburg studies ever since, as Cole and Unowsky complain, have nevertheless been focused mainly on why the monarchy collapsed, rather than “what held it together for so long” (p. 2).

The particular focus of the present volume is the dynasty itself. How did Francis Joseph’s kaleidoscopically different subjects see him and the institution he represented? How, if at all, did the monarchy project itself into the hearts and minds of individuals, from the Bukovina to Trentino, and with what results? In particular, is it possible to talk of what the late Péter Hanák called “parallel realities,” of a monarchy where individuals acknowledged some sort of loyalty to the dynasty and the idea of the Gesamtmonarchie, while at the same time demonstrating their allegiance to the “imagined community” of their own nationality?

After a useful introduction by the editors, which highlights the relative paucity of scholarly work on centripetal factors, the nine main contributions do not manage to cover all geographical or national areas of the late monarchy in addressing this question, but then that was clearly never the intention. Instead, each focuses on a particular aspect of how, or whether, dynastic loyalty was generated, among a particular stratum of the population. The results represent a fascinating cross-section of opinion on the monarchy across the state.

Ernst Bruckmüller goes straight to the heart of how loyalty might literally be inculcated, by looking at the teaching of history and geography in the monarchy’s school system. Following the example of Charles Jelavich, whose South Slav Nationalisms (1992) charted the same subjects for both the monarchy and Serbia in the couple of generations before 1914, Bruckmüller concentrates on primary school textbooks, while comparing them with the teaching of history at secondary level. This comparison exposes the fundamental paradox of education present in this multinational state ever since Maria Theresa’s ordinances of the 1770s: in order to achieve a minimum standard of literacy, primary schooling, at least, had to start in the native language of the subject–whatever that language was. The surprising thing about Bruckmüller’s findings is that, especially after the advent of constitutional rule in 1867, primary school textbooks managed to accommodate material that not only stressed the history of the dynastic state and the subject’s obligation of loyalty to it, but also the national myths and history of particular peoples as well. In some cases, certain periods and topics were glossed over or entirely omitted. For instance, most of the seventeenth century was absent from Czech-language primers, and much of the nineteenth century from Italian ones. On the whole, however, “national culture and state patriotism could be simultaneously inculcated in schoolchildren” at this level (p. 21). The teaching of history in secondary textbooks, by contrast, was a thornier matter, clearly seen as more liable to politicization. The content of textbooks was more rigorously censored, and the material on offer was more consciously aimed at stressing loyalty to the state, while downplaying national and cultural consciousness.

Laurence Cole investigates the growth and role of veterans’ organizations in Cisleithania after 1870. As one of the pillars of the dynastic state, the army was an ideal vehicle for teaching loyalty, even more so after the introduction of universal conscription in 1868. The army’s role as an integrative institution, as Cole is at pains to stress, can still be argued, especially given the potential for controversy over the language of command; nevertheless, the military service to which the majority of the monarchy’s male subjects were exposed probably did more to create a sense of commonality as subjects than any other factor. The interesting thing about veterans’ organizations, however, is that they were entirely voluntary, even if the state undoubtedly encouraged their formation and monitored their activities. And as more and more men passed out of their three-year service and entered the reserves, the increasing number of such associations (some 2,250 by 1912) testified to the genuine popularity of this form of social activity. The original and abiding purpose of the associations was one of mutual insurance, to provide help for indigent or ill veterans, and to cover the cost of funerals. The associations rapidly took on a social function, however, following which veterans could don uniforms, march in parades and religious processions, and provide visible symbols of loyalty to the state on official occasions. Cole provides a striking case study of how this process worked in the largely Italian-populated Trentino, among subjects whose shared nationality with Italy, it might be thought, would make participation in veterans’ associations less likely. Not a bit of it. Italian-speaking veterans, perhaps encouraged by the loyalism of the Catholic Church, proved just as capable as other Habsburg subjects of exhibiting an Austrian patriotism. Cole suggests that this might have been a class issue: the majority of veterans, after all, came from a relatively humble social stratum, whereas it was the urban middle classes of the Trentino that were most responsive to Italian nationalism and irredentism.

Nancy M. Wingfield’s contribution focuses on the “after-life” of Emperor Joseph II, and the differing adaptations of his memory by various groups of the monarchy’s subjects. As the symbol of would-be enlightened absolutism, and in particular the modernized, centralized, and bureaucratic state, Joseph was revered in his own time and ever after by the peasantry, who identified him as their “liberator” and well-wisher, and by Jews, who remembered his toleration edicts. In the nineteenth century this image of the “imperial humanitarian” (p. 66) was gradually (mis)appropriated, for instance in March 1848, when revolutionaries rallied around the equestrian statue of Joseph in the Hofburg in their demand for the lifting of censorship. Later that year, Joseph’s will was cited as justification for completing peasant emancipation, and the young Archduke Francis adopted the title of Francis Joseph on becoming emperor in December, in a conscious attempt to portray himself as a “reforming” monarch. As Wingfield astutely comments, the neo-absolutist regime’s most “Josephist” trait was its centralizing authoritarianism. Later still, in the constitutional period, Austrian German liberals appealed to the enlightened Josephist tradition in their defense of education, but they also increasingly stressed the Germanizing tendencies of Joseph’s reign in their own struggles with the Czechs and other non-German nationalities. After the Liberals’ fall from power in 1879, they increasingly exalted Joseph as the mascot of German culture and dominance, while clerical conservatives of all nationalities saw him as the epitome of godless secularism. By the turn of the century Joseph had become the poster child of German nationalists, who bizarrely “were able to turn an imperial figure against the dynasty” (p. 81).

Hugh LeCaine Agnew, in one of the best articles in the book, traces the problematic relationship between Francis Joseph and his Czech subjects who, throughout the emperor’s reign, made repeated protestations of loyalty, but always without the desired result of some form of autonomy for the Bohemian crownlands comparable to that of Hungary’s after the Ausgleich. Despite several tantalizing affirmations of his readiness to recognize Bohemian state rights by being formally crowned king of Bohemia, and despite his willingness to govern with Czech support in the Reichsrath after 1879, Francis Joseph never in the end abandoned the basic deal made with the Hungarians. The result was that Czech loyalism, as opposed to passive acceptance of the status quo, became increasingly perfunctory in the last decades of the reign, even if this fell a long way short of active disloyalty. Instead of the monarch himself, Agnew observes, the Crown of St. Wenceslas became the public symbol of Czech loyalty, and was thereby transformed into a national symbol.

Daniel L. Unowsky conducts the bold experiment of comparing Polish with Ruthenian reactions to imperial visits to Galicia between 1851 and 1880. Polish attitudes towards the monarchy were split into two, if not three, factions. The conservative noble elite appreciated that Poles in Austria’s share of the partitions had a considerably better lot than their compatriots under Russian and Prussian rule, especially after the ad hoc arrangement after 1867, according to which Poles enjoyed something like autonomy, and hence dominance, within Galicia, in return for their acceptance of Habsburg rule. Polish nobles who had sympathized with and even participated in previous revolts against Russian rule and the emergent middle-class democrats of Galicia tended to evince more overtly nationalist sympathies. These factions clashed in 1880 over how enthusiastically to greet Francis Joseph on his visit, as well as whether, if at all, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the uprising of 1830. In the same year (1880), Galicia’s Ruthenian community, by contrast, was firmly shut out of the centenary commemoration of Joseph II’s emancipation edicts by the Polish conservatives in charge of organizing the official ceremonies. Not daunted in the least, Ruthenes held their own celebrations, and indeed made common cause with their allies in the Austrian Reichsrath, the German Liberals, in ostentatiously honoring the emperor’s memory. Public events and anniversaries, in short, could demonstrate division and friction as well as loyalty.

Alice Freifeld provides a study of the empress Elisabeth’s image in Hungary, in what she terms an early example of “celebrity monarchism” (p. 138). This article is in some respects the least impressive of the collection, not because of any lack of scholarship or erudition, but because of the rather strained interpretation placed upon the sources. Certainly Freifeld makes a convincing case for Elisabeth’s genuine popularity among Hungarians, as a result of her perceived humanizing influence on Francis Joseph and her explicit identification with the Hungarian noble elite and Hungarian language and culture. She is on much shakier ground, however, in claiming Elisabeth’s supposedly crucial intervention in the forging of the Ausgleich of 1867, an interpretation for which Freifeld adduces no further evidence than a generalized quote from Oscar Jászi. The article is not helped by its hyperbolic language, of which the description of Elisabeth as “the mater dolorosa of liberal monarchism” (p. 153) is among the more restrained examples; and given Elisabeth’s palpable indifference to public life in her later years, including the Hungarian side of it, identifying her as an icon of Hungary’s own “martyrdom” in the twentieth century seems fanciful in the extreme.

Sarah A. Kent utilizes a single royal visit to Zagreb, in 1895, to draw out some of the ambiguities and cross-currents attendant upon loyalism in Croatia. Francis Joseph’s presence in Zagreb became the occasion for a demonstration by Croatian nationalist students, among them the later Peasant Party leader, Stjepan Radić, against Hungarian domination, in the course of which the Hungarian flag was set alight. Although the perpetrators of this minor outrage were duly sentenced to short prison terms, their demonstration was explicitly loyalist in tone. The students marched in their uniforms as a “corporative” body to the main square, cried out “Long live the Croatian King”–that is, Francis Joseph–and evoked the name of Ban Josip Jelačić, famous for his loyalty to the Habsburgs, instead of Hungary, in 1848-49. Their protest, in their eyes, was a legalistic one against the use of the Hungarian flag on Croatian soil during the royal visit, but more generally against the inadequate autonomy granted Croatia by Hungary in the Nagodba of 1868. According to Kent, much of the Croatian public made clear that it shared these views, and the unstated implication, for the dynasty, was that Croatians’ loyalty to the dynasty, in these circumstances, “had its limits” (p. 173).

In one of the most interesting pieces included, Alon Rachamimov examines the writings of the hitherto unknown (to me, at least) Hebrew writer Avigdor Hameiri (1890-1970), born Avigdor Feuerstein in the Carpatho-Rus area of Royal Hungary. Hameiri was not only one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew as a literary language, and a well-regarded journalist and poet (in Hebrew and Hungarian) of the avant-garde in pre-1914 Budapest, but the author of two autobiographical novels and a whole raft of short stories and poetry chronicling his experiences as a soldier in the First World War. The novels in particular, Ha-Shigaon ha-gadol (The Great Madness; 1929) and Be-Gehenom shel mata (Hell on Earth; 1932), sound as if they deserve a wider audience, not least because they illustrate the conflicting loyalties and dilemmas of identity so acutely. Clearly, Rachamimov concludes, Jews in the Habsburg monarchy deserved their reputation for being among its most loyal subjects, since they owed their emancipation and favorable position to the relative liberalism of the late Habsburg state. Yet Jews like Hameiri were also, despite demonstrable bravery and sacrifices at the front, deemed incapable of true patriotism, or identification with any particular nation, by their fellow subjects. The whole piece demonstrates neatly the difficulty not only of assigning a clear “identity” to someone whose experience was so varied, but also of the distinction Rachamimov seeks to make between “loyalty to the state” and the much more contingent “identification with the state” (p. 180).

In the penultimate essay, Christiane Wolf undertakes a useful comparison of the Habsburg monarchy with Britain and Germany in this period, in particular of the way in which the institution of monarchy, once subject to constitutional restraints, acted as an integrative factor. In the cases of Britain and Germany, if for very different reasons, the person of the monarch became something like a national symbol. Queen Victoria and her successors, while evolving into politically neutral figures, acquired iconic status as emblems of both the “nation” (however that was conceived in the United Kingdom of the time) and the larger empire. William II, by contrast, though retaining far greater powers constitutionally, and despite his divisive attitude towards large numbers of his subjects, such as Poles, Social Democrats, Catholics, and Jews, also became intimately associated with the national idea, through his vocal advocacy of a German navy and German Weltpolitik. For Francis Joseph, of course, this identification with any one national idea was an impossibility. Paradoxically, in Wolf’s view, the concession of constitutional rule in 1867 made it easier for the emperor-king to pose as above the fray, and although this “depoliticization of the emperor” (p. 200) did not ultimately alleviate the monarchy’s chronic nationality conflicts, it did, in Wolf’s opinion, make the monarch “a focal point for an emotional connection to the state” (p. 201).

Finally, the afterword by Evans is not only a deft round-up of the arguments summarized above, but also an engaging piece of devil’s advocacy, in that it reminds us literally of the limits of loyalty in this peculiar institution. As Evans puts it, there can be no doubt that, in much of the literature until recently, “royalism … has been underestimated” (p. 225). The majority of virtually all the monarchy’s peoples, no matter their social stratum, were not only capable of loyalty to the monarch and the idea of the monarchy, but positively displayed it, not least by dying in hundreds of thousands during the final cataclysm. Only the hammer blows of war made the previously inconceivable conceivable. So, it is certainly time that the balance between the study of centrifugal forces and that of centripetal ones was redressed in favor of the latter. On the other hand, each of the contributions to this volume shows how subjects’ loyalty was often conditional as well as limited. Czechs, Poles, South Slavs, Magyars, even Germans, repeatedly made clear that they expected the dynasty to come down on their particular side of this or that dispute; without that backing, alienation and even disaffection were all the more likely. In this context, as Evans gently points out, the pretence that the monarch was somehow above the fray, belonging to no one cause, was just that–a fiction. In reality Francis Joseph was, by definition, intimately involved in the management of his empire, not just in the traditional realms of foreign policy and the armed forces, but in the affairs of every province. It could not be otherwise, since for the Habsburgs “their continued involvement in government was essential for the running of the Monarchy” (p. 228). Involvement meant taking sides, or at the very least disappointing one side or the other, so that the further the politicization and nationalization of the monarchy’s peoples went, the more the monarchy was bound to disappoint everybody. To be perfectly sure of alienating no one, and committing no foreign policy disasters, the monarchy would have been better advised to have divested itself of all effective power, as in Britain, and to have opted for a policy of quieta non movere. That way, possibly, the residual inertia governing the lives of its people might have kept them “loyal,” at least after a fashion.

This volume is a splendid addition to the invaluable Austrian and Habsburg Studies series. Each of its contributors has approached his or her subject in a novel way, and the result is a collection that obliges the reader to look at things with a fresh eye.


A revolution against the Austrian Netherlands produced the seceding country of Belgium in 1830, a year that also saw another revolution in France. Unrest was in the air. The 1830 Belgian Revolution led to the establishment of an independent, Catholic, and neutral Belgium under a provisional government and a national congress.

The November Uprising (1830–1831)—also known as the Cadet Revolution—was an armed rebellion against the rule of the Russian Empire in Poland and Lithuania. The uprising began on November 29, 1830 in Warsaw when a group of young non-commissioned officer conspirators from the Imperial Russian Army’s military academy in Warsaw directed by Piotr Wysocki revolted. They were soon joined by large parts of Polish society. Despite several local successes, the uprising was eventually crushed by a numerically superior Russian army under Ivan Paskevich.

The European Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout the European continent. Described by some historians as a revolutionary wave, the period of unrest began on 12 January 1848 in Sicily and then, further propelled by the French Revolution of 1848, soon spread to the rest of Europe.

Although most of the revolutions were quickly put down, there was a significant amount of violence in many areas, with tens of thousands of people tortured and killed. While the immediate political effects of the revolutions were reversed, the long-term reverberations of the events were far-reaching.

Direct cause of the outbreak of violence

In 1846 there had been an uprising of Polish nobility in Austrian Galicia, which was only countered when peasants, in turn, rose up against the nobles. The economic crisis of 1845-47 was marked by recession and food shortages throughout the continent. At the end of February 1848, demonstrations broke out in Paris. French King Louis-Philippe abdicated the throne prompting similar revolts throughout the continent.


In July 1830 when, on Sunday, July 25 Charles X signed the July Ordinances, also known as “The Ordinances of Saint-Cloud”. On Monday, July 26 they were published in the leading conservative newspaper in Paris, Le Moniteur. On Tuesday, July 27 the revolution began in earnest Les trois journées de juillet, and the end of the Bourbon monarchy.


In 1847, a civil war broke out between the Catholic and the Protestant cantons (Sonderbundskrieg). Its immediate cause was a ‘special treaty’ (Sonderbund) of the Catholic cantons. It lasted for less than a month, causing fewer than 100 casualties. Apart from small riots, this was the last armed conflict on Swiss territory.
As a consequence of the civil war, Switzerland adopted a federal constitution in 1848, amending it extensively in 1874 and establishing federal responsibility for defence, trade, and legal matters, leaving all other matters to the cantonal governments. From then, and over much of the 20th century, continuous political, economic, and social improvement has characterized Swiss history.


By late 1848, the Prussian aristocrats including Otto von Bismarck and generals had regained power in Berlin. They had not been defeated permanently during the incidents of March, they had only retreated temporarily. General von Wrangel led the troops who recaptured Berlin for the old powers, and King Frederick William IV of Prussia immediately rejoined the old forces.


Count István Széchenyi,the most prominent statesmen of the country recognized the urgent need of modernization and their message got through. The Hungarian Parliament was reconvened in 1825 to handle financial needs. A liberal party emerged in the Diet. The party focused on providing for the peasantry in mostly symbolic ways because of their inability to understand the needs of the laborers. Louis Kossuth emerged as leader of the lower gentry in the Parliament. A remarkable upswing started as the nation concentrated its forces on the inevitable modernization, even though the reactionary Habsburgs were obstructing all important liberal reforms.

On March 15, 1848 mass demonstrations in Pest and Buda enabled Hungarian reformists to push through a list of 12 demands. Faced with revolution both at home and in Vienna, Austria first had to accept Hungarian demands. Later, under governor and president Lajos Kossuth and the first Prime minister, Lajos Batthyány, the House of Habsburg was dethroned and the form of government was changed to create the first Republic of Hungary. After the Austrian revolution was suppressed,emperor Franz Joseph replaced his epileptic uncle Ferdinand I as Emperor. The Habsburg Ruler and his advisors skillfully manipulated the Croatian, Serbian and Romanian peasantry, led by priests and officers firmly loyal to the Habsburgs, and induced them to rebel against the Hungarian government. The Hungarians were supported by the vast majority of the Slovak, German and Rusyn nationalities and by all the Jews of the kingdom, as well as by a large number of Polish, Austrian and Italian volunteers. Some members of the nationalities gained coveted positions within the Hungarian Army, like General János Damjanich, an ethnic Serb who became a Hungarian national hero through his command of the 3rd Hungarian Army Corps. Initially, the Hungarian forces (Honvédség) defeated Austrian armies. To counter the successes of the Hungarian revolutionary army, Franz Joseph asked for help from the “Gendarme of Europe,” Czar Nicholas I, whose Russian armies invaded Hungary. The huge army of the Russian Empire and the Austrian forces proved too powerful for the Hungarian army, and General Artúr Görgey surrendered in August 1849. Julius Freiherr von Haynau, the leader of the Austrian army, then became governor of Hungary for a few months and on October 6, ordered the execution of 13 leaders of the Hungarian army as well as Prime Minister Batthyány. Lajos Kossuth escaped into exile.

Following the war of 1848–1849, the whole country was in “passive resistance”. Archduke Albrecht von Habsburg was appointed military governor of Hungary, and this time was remembered for Germanization and oppression pursued with the help of Czech officers.


The German national awakening following the Napoleonic Wars led to a strong popular movement in Holstein and Southern Schleswig for unification with a new Prussian-dominated Germany. However, this development was paralleled by an equally strong Danish national awakening in Denmark and northern Schleswig. It called for the complete reintegration of Schleswig into the Kingdom of Denmark and demanded an end to discrimination against Danes in Schleswig. The ensuing conflict is sometimes called the Schleswig-Holstein Question. In 1848 King Frederick VII of Denmark declared that he would grant Denmark a liberal constitution and the immediate goal for the Danish national movement was to ensure that this constitution would not only give rights to all Danes, i.e., not only in the Kingdom of Denmark, but also to Danes (and Germans) living in Schleswig. Furthermore, they demanded protection for the Danish language in Schleswig since the dominant language in almost a quarter of Schleswig had changed from Danish to German since the beginning of the 19th century.

A liberal constitution for Holstein was not seriously considered in Copenhagen, since it was a well-known fact that the political élite of Holstein had been far more conservative than Copenhagen’s. This proved to be true, as the politicians of Holstein demanded that the Constitution of Denmark be scrapped — not only in Schleswig but also in Denmark. They also demanded that Schleswig immediately follow Holstein and become a member of the German Confederation, and eventually a part of the new united Germany. These demands were rejected and in 1848 the Germans of Holstein and Southern Schleswig rebelled. This was the beginning of the First War of Schleswig (1848–51) which ended in a Danish victory at Idstedt.


The Russian émigrés would certainly not be welcomed back. Not only had they done nothing for their homeland, but the simple fact was that ‘Russia had been conquered with German blood for the protection of Europe against Russia’. When shortly after the German invasion of the USSR the Russian Grand Duke Vladimir, then living in exile at St Briac in France, forwarded to Hitler a proposed proclamation calling on all Russians to cooperate with the Wehrmacht in their liberation from Bolshevism, he was immediately and sharply rebuffed. The proclamation, Ribbentrop wrote to Abetz, would hinder rather than assist the German war effort in that it would provide the Bolsheviks with an opportunity to claim that ‘Russia was now threatened by the return of the old Tsarist feudalism’.

There was of course never any question that the war Hitler unleashed in June 1941 was being fought for German ends and that the benefits accruing to other nations, though significant, not least the final exorcism of the red peril, were essentially incidental. During the 1930s Hitler had never portrayed Germany’s mission in Europe as anything other than a defensive bulwark against Bolshevism. Now, with his armies swarming towards Leningrad and Moscow, he was hardly likely to share his prize, particularly with states that had at best reacted with lukewarm support for the original Anti-Comintern Pact. When in mid-July 1941 a Vichy French newspaper suggested that the assault on the USSR was ‘Europe’s war’, and thus ought ‘to be conducted for Europe as a whole’, Hitler was appalled by this latest manifestation of Gallic impudence. In the course of the conference at which this issue was discussed, the Führer clearly outlined his intentions and the tactics he would employ to implement them. ‘In principle we have now to face the task of cutting the giant cake according to our needs,’ he explained, the order of priorities being ‘first, to dominate it; second, to administer it; and third, to exploit it’. In pursuit of these goals Germany would disguise its real aims in the Soviet Union through the simple expedients of avoiding superfluous declarations, emphasizing that the Reich had been forced to a military decision, and posing as a liberating force; it made no sense to ‘make people into enemies prematurely and unnecessarily’. The Germans would thus ‘act as though we wanted to exercise a mandate only’, but it must be clear ‘to us … that we shall never withdraw from these areas’.

These predatory designs soon brought the Germans into conflict with those who genuinely hoped for liberation from Bolshevism. In the Ukraine, for example, the establishment in September 1941 of the civilian administration under Erich Koch, who, according to a postwar account based on the experiences of both Germans and Ukrainians, demonstrated no intention of enlisting the help of the Ukrainians in the fight against Bolshevism, effectively destroyed the friendly relationship that had been established between the Wehrmacht and the indigenous population. As an early victory was expected, it was felt that Ukrainian participation in the struggle would serve only to complicate German aims in the Ukraine, especially in so far as these concerned its economic exploitation, for which the ‘most stringent measures’ were envisaged. Already by October 1941 the information that was reaching London about the nature of the German occupation led the Foreign Office to comment on the ‘grave psychological mistakes’ the Germans had made in handling the conquered population, for ‘their methods can only serve to rally the Russian people round the [Soviet] regime’. The thoroughly inappropriate nature of German policy and propaganda in the occupied territories was similarly highlighted by two collaborating Soviet officers who complained that it was simply not enough to stress the deprivations Bolshevism had inflicted on the Russian people. By late 1942 this repetitive and uninspiring message was becoming increasingly ineffective, not least as Soviet prisoners of war and the inhabitants of the occupied territories generally held that rule by Germany, far from being a liberation, was altogether a ‘bad bargain’. In contrast to the sterile monotony of German propaganda, Stalin, who had reintroduced religious freedom and curtailed the activities of the political commissars, had ‘taken the trumps out of Germany’s hands’.

Those in control of the Reich’s propaganda campaign in the east would not necessarily have disagreed with this diagnosis. Goebbels realized that the organizational chaos of German policy in the occupied territories was having a most detrimental effect on the battle for people’s minds. In April 1943 he commented on the failure to exploit Vlassov’s separatist army more effectively, which he held to be symptomatic of a fundamental flaw in the whole approach to the Russian war. ‘One is shocked at the absolute lack of political instinct in our Central Berlin Administration,’ he noted in this connection. ‘If we were pursuing or had pursued a rather more skilful policy in the East, we would certainly be further on there than we are.’ The Reich propaganda minister was certainly no friend of the Russian people, but he was not above admitting that mistakes had been made in the German conduct of the war; nor was he blind to the fact that a wiser occupation policy might have yielded significant results. Commenting on Vidkun Quisling’s observations on the German campaign in the east, Goebbels clearly agreed that it would be both possible and desirable to mobilize large sections of the Russian population against Stalin if only ‘we knew how to wage war solely against Bolshevism, not against the Russian people. Therein lies the only chance of bringing the war in the East to a satisfactory end.’

Goebbels’s’ colleague, Eberhardt Taubert, placed the responsibility for the hopeless conditions in the east squarely on the shoulders of Alfred Rosenberg, who had been appointed minister for the occupied territories shortly after the launching of Barbarossa. Taubert pointed out that Rosenberg had not only blamed the Jews for Bolshevism, but also the Russian people for tolerating it. Due to impurities of blood, the Russian had, in Rosenberg’s view, a ‘natural affinity to the destructive ideologies of Bolshevism’. It might be, Taubert continued, that Rosenberg had not fully thought out the consequences of his actions, but that did not excuse his whole notion of the Russians as Untermenschen being the product of a false conception. Moreover, Rosenberg had possessed insufficient strength of character to rectify his mistake once the detrimental effects had become apparent. Although Taubert’s diatribe against Rosenberg is understandable, if only for the obstacles the incompetent Reichsleiter placed before the German propagandists in the east, it might yet be a little harsh on a man who in March 1942 was warning against any reference to the occupied territories as German ‘colonial territory’, as this greatly annoyed the local populations and played directly into the hands of the Soviet propagandists.