2...the political effects of the bloodshed in Vienna on 15 July 1927, and of thenationwide strikes that followed, were so enormous that the crisis must beseen as a turning point in the history of the First Republic. That event openedthe way to a sustained counterrevolutionary thrust and the rapid growth of the Heimwehr, which played its most crucial role in Austrian politics between1927 and 1934. (p. 9)An astute observer of Austria's first republic, journalist M.W. Fodor, agreed with thisassessment. In his book,
South of Hitler
, published in 1939, he wrote:It was only after the revolt of the proletariat in Vienna on July 15, 1927 thatthe Fascists could induce the peasants to take a more active interest in theHeimwehr. The revolt, which was a spontaneous outbreak of the massesangered because of the acquittal of two Fascists who murdered twoSocialists, was unorganized and came very much against the will of theSocialist leaders. The low court jury which acquitted the Fascists wasconstituted mostly of Viennese sympathizers of the Socialists who did notrealize that their verdict would cause such an upheaval. But the skillfulpropaganda of the Heimwehr was able to spread the tale in the provincesthat it was an organized revolt, defeated only by the intervention of theHeimwehr. They declared that if the peasants did not realize that theirproperty was in danger, it would be too late next time when a betterorganized revolt would be maneuvered by the Vienna "Bolsheviks." Thisappeal, indeed, had a success, and the ranks of the Heimwehr swelledrapidly. (p. 156)Other historians and journalists whose work I have read agree with theseassessments of the importance of the July 15th clashes, though all do not agree onwhat happened that day and those that followed. While the major events of theSchreckentage are well documented, several key events (e.g., who shot first) andthe interpretation of the events are disputed, with competing narratives.
The Basic Facts of July 15, 1927
Early morning, July 15, 1927, a large group protestors marched to areas on theRing near the University, the Vienna City Hall, the Austrian parliament building, andthe nearby Palace of Justice to protest a court decision that freed three men whohad shot and killed Matthias Csmarits, a World War I veteran who had lost an eyein war, and Pepi Groessing, his-eight-year old nephew. These two had beenparticipating in a peaceful political march staged on January 30, 1927 by the SocialDemocratic party in Schattendorf, a small city in the Burgenland. They had beenshot by three members of the Freischutz, an anti-democracy group: Josef Tschermann, Hieronymus Tschermann, and George Pinter.