Next Article in Journal
Searching for the Hidden: A Phenomenological Study Exploring the Spiritual Aspects of Day Case Surgery from Staff Perspectives
Next Article in Special Issue
“One Should Have Two Homelands”: Discord and Hope in Soma Morgenstern’s Sparks in the Abyss
Previous Article in Journal
Japanese Buddhism, Relativization, and Glocalization
Previous Article in Special Issue
Beggar-Thy-Neighbour vs. Danube Basin Strategy: Habsburg Economic Networks in Interwar Europe
Font Type:
Arial Georgia Verdana
Font Size:
Aa Aa Aa
Line Spacing:
Column Width:

The Lost Honor of Julius Deutsch: Jewish Difference, “Socialist Betrayal”, and Imperial Loyalty in the 1923 Deutsch-Reinl Trial

Austrian Labor History Society (VGA), Rechte Wienzeile 97, 1050 Vienna, Austria
Religions 2017, 8(1), 13;
Submission received: 13 October 2016 / Revised: 22 December 2016 / Accepted: 27 December 2016 / Published: 18 January 2017


In 1922, Julius Deutsch, one of the leading Viennese Social Democrats, spent a weekend in the Strudengau in Upper Austria. In a local inn, he was insulted by a right-wing alpinist, who accused him of being a traitor to the Emperor. The man claimed that Deutsch, along with other “Jewish Revolutionaries”, played a part in overturning the old order and helping to “stab” the Empire’s army “in the back”. Deutsch brought his opponent to trial, in an attempt to present his actions both in the World War and as a State Secretary for Military Affairs in the new Austrian Republic in a better light. However, the provincial courts acquitted the defendant on appeal, following the anti-Semitic arguments of his defending lawyer. Like other trials in the interwar years, the lawsuit unfolded into a “court of injustice”, with contested concepts of “Jewish difference” being performed. In the courtroom, Deutsch, who left the Jewish religious community as a young man, was forced to engage with his Jewish family background. The article focuses on Deutsch’s retrospective narration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in his courtroom speech and the insights that can be gained about Jewish difference and the antagonistic political arena of the new nation-state of (Deutsch-)Österreich.

Graphical Abstract

1. Introduction

On Pentecost Sunday, in June 1922, in the tourism resort St. Nikola in the Strudengau in Upper Austria, the German-Austrian Alpine Club activist and retired salt works manager Hans Reinl [1] sits with a group of likeminded right wing companions in a local garden inn. There he laments about the book Aus Österreichs Revolution [2], which was published the year before by one of the current Social Democratic leaders, Julius Deutsch. In the book, Deutsch had given an account of his political and military career in the last years of the Habsburg Empire, as a k.u.k. (imperial and royal, i.e., Austro-Hungarian) officer and a Social Democratic labor union delegate at the Ministry of War, and as a State Secretary for Military Affairs in the first years of the new Austrian Republic (for Deutsch’s biography, see [3,4,5,6,7]). Reinl accuses Deutsch of “villainish” deeds (“Schuftereien”), of being a traitor to the Emperor who, by forming a confidential organization of party men in the Habsburg army, broke his oath as an officer.
By coincidence, Julius Deutsch, who is on a weekend trip with three female friends [8], is sitting at one of the nearby tables. He confronts Reinl, and after a dispute, in which his opponent repeats his insults, Deutsch decides to bring him to trial, in a lawsuit of honor.
One year later, in May 1923, the trial is conducted at the nearby district court of Grein a.d. Donau, with the defense lawyer, the young Hans Gürtler, trying to prove the truth of Reinl’s public statements by using anti-Semitic arguments [9]. In the hearing, Reinl claims that he and his friends were only having an academic dispute about the “old Hebrew term Schufide”, that is, Jewish leaders or “people’s delegates, who had a military guard to protect them and who suppressed other peoples” [10]. In 1918, “Jewish Revolutionaries”, “elements who are alien to the Volk and the country”, had tried to seize power in many nations, and in this sense, Deutsch’s actions could well be called “Schufterei” [10]. The trial was adjourned for the statement of the absent plaintiff Deutsch and rescheduled for June 1923. In a year of national elections, with Deutsch nominated as a leader of the new paramilitary Social Democratic Republican Schutzbund, the lawsuit would receive significant media coverage, but in the end, the court’s verdict would not rehabilitate Deutsch’s honor.
Deutsch put a lot of effort into preparing his testimony and commissioned it to be published as a brochure [11], as a programmatic statement about both his personal role and the role of the Social Democratic Party in achieving the Republic in 1918. However, in the second hearing, the district court followed the anti-Semitic arguments of the defending lawyer. Though Reinl was convicted for using the word “Schuft” (villain) in the dispute with Deutsch, he was acquitted of using the term “Schuftereien”. Since Deutsch was “at least partly of Jewish descent”, the verdict said, describing his deeds in this way was just the claim that he would act for “his” nation to the disadvantage of other nations, a behavior that could not be considered dishonorable on the grounds of the penal law [12].
Both parties filed an appeal, but in November 1923, the regional court trial in the town of Linz would proceed even less favorably for Deutsch. His lawyers, amongst other things, tried to refute the bizarre “Schufiden” argument ([13,14]), but his opponent’s lawyer Gürtler now focused on Deutsch’s alleged undermining activities at the k.u.k. Ministry of War in 1917–18. He claimed that Deutsch had promoted the revolution “with dirty methods”, and the court should therefore acquit the defendant. If not, then the first paragraph of the Austrian constitution should read: “Spying, treason and defection are the heroic virtues of the Austrian citizen” [15]. In fact, Reinl was subsequently acquitted of all charges, and the court argued that Deutsch’s book Aus Österreichs Revolution proved the defendant’s statements to be true [13]. The verdict said that Deutsch had been called to the Ministry of War as an officer without being discharged from his military duties, “and that he gained secret information in order to act against the directives of those who had entrusted him” [14].
What makes this case study interesting is the fact that it can be linked to a whole series of similar Austrian political trials in the interwar years that were charged with anti-Semitism and resulted in scandalous verdicts. Like other “courts of injustice” ([9], pp. 28–65), Deutsch’s lawsuit unfolds into a stage “upon which performances of Jewish difference served both to reinforce and redefine its boundaries” ([9], p. 31; [16]). Deutsch never identified himself publicly with his Jewish family background; in fact, it became a blank space in his (auto-)biography. In the courtroom, however, he was forced to engage explicitly with it, and he had to accept that the juridical and discursive power of definition was in the hands of the anti-Semites. At the trial, the three key issues of Empire, Socialism, and Jewish difference met in a discursive assemblage. Deutsch was faced with the challenge that in the political struggles of the First Republic, the Social Democrats were often downplaying their actual state-preserving role in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. By distancing himself from the Empire and from Judaism, Deutsch became vulnerable to the polemics of his political adversaries, who capitalized on the inconsistencies of his arguments. In the following text, I will therefore focus on Deutsch’s retrospective narration of the old Empire in his courtroom speech, the insights that can be gained into performances of Jewish difference and the antagonistic political arena of the new nation-state of (Deutsch-)Österreich, (German)-Austria, in which the claim of Julius Deutsch, as a Social Democrat, to represent the “the (working) people” (“das arbeitende Volk”) was challenged by “racial” and ethnic concepts of the German Volk, that were articulated by his Catholic and right-wing political opponents.

2. Deutsch’s Courtroom Speech

In his testimony to the court in Grein, Deutsch tried to challenge the accusation of having broken his oath as an officer and stated that he had started his confidential work in the year 1918, when the war was in fact lost, and not, as Reinl had claimed in a letter to the press, as early as the summer of 1917 [17]. Clearly, the anti-Semitic allegation of a “stab in the back” to the Empire’s army hung in the air [18]. Already in 1921, after the publication of Aus Österreichs Revolution, the right-wing veterans’ association had pressed charges against him, Otto Bauer, and Julius Braunthal at the “Inquiry Commission of Wartime Duty Violations” ([19,20]), but the commission had declared that it lacked jurisdiction in the case and that any potential violations of military law were amnestied by the provisional Republican National Assembly in 1918 [21].
In court, Deutsch gave an account of his military career as a young artillery officer in the World War and about his appointment to the Ministry of War in December 1917, where, nominated by the Trade Union Commission, he served as a social policy consultant in the Bureau of Wartime Economy. From that time on, Deutsch claimed, his uniform was nothing but a forced formality, “as long as I was at the frontlines, I was an officer. In the Ministry of War, I was a delegate (“Vertrauensmann”) of the unionized workers” ([11], p. 6). From the summer of 1918 onward, as he had described in Aus Österreichs Revolution, he used his position to build a “secret military organization” in the Viennese garrisons, a network of Social Democratic soldiers that would form the core of the new People’s Army (Volkswehr) in November 1918. He justified these actions with the intentions of the army command to use troops in Vienna “against strike or other revolutionary uprisings”. In order not to become a “villainous traitor of the people” (“schurkischer Verräter am eigenen Volke”), he had to choose between “the officer’s oath, that I did not give by choice” and the “sense of community with the working people”, “a subject’s loyalty to the emperor, whom I never recognized voluntarily, or the male pride of a republican, who, in the hour of emergency, stands by his people and not with the bloodstained archducal House of Habsburg” ([11], p. 8). As a loyal citizen and out of “comradeship with the soldiers I lay in the trenches with”, he first did his “duty as a soldier”, but “would have rather died than fight my own people or quietly accept the rulers’ campaign against them. In no way can an oath involve the moral right to partake in such a crime” ([11], pp. 14–15).
In Deutsch’s testimony, the Empire primarily represented a military power structure that was responsible for the continuation of the war, with all its suffering, and the wartime suspension of democratic rights and social achievements ([22], p. 374; [23]). Using the historical examples of the Swiss national hero Wilhelm Tell and other popular leaders of the peasant wars, Deutsch tried to justify the “right to revolt” against “Habsburg’s hangmen”. He reminded the audience that Christian Social leaders as well broke their oaths to the Emperor in the autumn of 1918 and that the government was overturned by way of a revolution; that, in the words of Hans Kelsen, “popular sovereignty replaced the divine right” ([11], pp. 10–14). During the war, however, Deutsch had written in a slightly different way about the dynasty. In his wartime notes Kriegserlebnisse eines Friedliebenden (“Wartime Experiences of a Peace-Lover”), written in 1917, he called Franz Joseph I an “Emperor of peace”, who only failed to stop a war “that arose from the antagonism of capitalist forces” ([24], p. 182). His impressions of the heir apparent Karl, whom he met several times behind the frontlines, were also more or less favorable ([24], pp. 71–72).
In the regional court of appeal in Linz, Deutsch and his lawyers tried to point out that his supervisors in the Ministry of War were well aware of his political bias as an “opponent of the government” [25] whose loyalty was with his party, and that his formally illegal actions where in fact tolerated in the shaky political situation of 1918. For instance, his contributions to the Social Democratic theoretical journal Der Kampf were not allowed for an officer, but he was not prevented from publishing them [25].

3. Jewish Difference

It is indicative that, in his courtroom testimony, Deutsch did not refer to the anti-Semitic accusations of his opponents. Deutsch, who was born in 1884 into a poor Jewish family in the western Hungarian provinces, and who later migrated with them to Vienna, had left the Jewish religious community as a young man in 1905 [26], being without religious belief (“konfessionslos”) for most of his life ([27,28]). From his adolescence onwards, he found his political identification with the Social Democrats, bringing his organizing ability into the service of the party as one of their secretaries from 1909 on. As with most of his party colleagues, it was German culture that, for him, epitomized enlightenment and progress ([6], p. 35). For leading Social Democrats such as the party’s chief theorist Otto Bauer, the “Jewish question” was seen as an anachronistic phenomenon of the past, and assimilation was regarded as a “causal necessity” of social and economic transformation on the path to a future society of “new humans” ([29]; [30], p. 8). As Anton Pelinka states, Deutsch took advantage of “the freedom to abandon his Judaism. However, the fact that he never addressed this decision in his writings reveals how problematic his relation to Jewishness must have been” ([31], p. 120). In this sense, his involvement with the universalistic project of the Social Democrats and his rejection of being considered a Jew by others can be seen as an implicit engagement with Jewish difference ([32], p. 72). If one considers the assumption, also present at the time of the trial, that the Jewish population of the Empire, “cosmopolitan and Zionist, Orthodox and liberal” was amongst the citizens most loyal to the Habsburg dynasty, “who supported the Empire to the last days of the First World War, when most imperial constituents had long seen it as lost” ([33], pp. 39–40), then Deutsch’s harsh depiction of the “Habsburg hangmen” might be seen as a further step away from a Jewish past.
There are only a few “ego-documents” (diaries, autobiographies, memoirs, etc.) that involve Deutsch’s explicit engagement with Jewish difference, in his autobiography the issue of Judaism is left out ([31], p. 120). In his notes from the First World War, he criticizes anti-Semitic “prejudices” in the army, but takes the position of a seemingly uninvolved observer ([24], pp. 18, 130). However, by the days of regime change in the autumn of 1918, Deutsch, who was now a prominent Social Democratic leader, was confronted with anti-Semitic harassment. As early as in November 1918, there were leaflets warning returning soldiers about the alleged Jewish rule in the new Republic—“exterminate the Jew Deutsch” they said ([34,35]). Other pamphlets of the 1920s denounced the “Jewish” Social Democrats, listing Deutsch amongst other even more prominent targets such as Otto Bauer, Victor Adler, Robert Danneberg, Hugo Breitner, or Friedrich Austerlitz ([36], p. 33; [37]).
In their response to anti-Semitism, the Social Democrats often swayed between “a general rejection of race hatred”, a “downplaying of anti-Semitism”, and the “reluctance to openly expose themselves by supporting harassed Jews” [29]. Not least to counter the accusation of being the “party of Jewish protection” (“Judenschutzpartei”), the Social Democrats also employed “tactical anti-Semitism” in their rhetoric and imagery, to denounce, for example, the alleged link between the Christian Socials, the Heimwehr and “Jewish capitalists” [29,38]. All these complex elements can be found in Deutsch’s political life, including his own use of anti-Semitic imagery. In parliament, he joined his party’s polemical denunciation of the contradiction between the Christian Socials’ anti-Semitic rhetoric and their alleged dependency on the money of “Jewish” bankers [29]. His main target was the leader of the Heimwehr, Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg, and his ties to the armament industrialist Fritz Mandl, a Jewish “Schieber” [29], as Deutsch called him, and other “money Jews” [39].
Back in 1920, in contrast, he protested within the party against an anti-Semitic attack by the Social Democratic paper Linzer Tagblatt that was targeted at his Christian Social co-member in the federal government, Vice State Secretary for Military Affairs Erwin Waihs [40]. However, for Deutsch and the Social Democrats, the main political conflict line was not anti-Semitism, but the antagonism with their conservative and right-wing opponents—first and foremost the Christian Socials. It is telling, for instance, how Deutsch judged the Aryan paragraph that was introduced in most Austrian Alpine Clubs between 1919 and 1921 [41]. For Deutsch, the Alpenverein was a “reservoir of all reactionary elements who observed the rise of the working class with poisonous hatred”. “Under the pretense to keep out the Jews”, Deutsch argued, the association had in fact “evicted the workers from the Alpine Clubs’ mountain refuges” (emphasis added) ([42], p. 15). In a similar vein, he criticized their “narrow-minded and spiteful attitude” towards “the followers of a different ideology” [43]. In his view, it was not the Jews but the Social Democrats who were the primary target of the Alpine Clubs’ excluding practices. In fact, the Alpenverein had cancelled the equal access for members of the Social Democrats’ alpine organization Naturfreunde to their huts in 1923 and had advised their sections to exclude them from admission ([44], pp. 250–54). Still, Deutsch’s claim was disturbing, and it only makes sense if it is linked to his own leisure practice and his attitude to Jewish difference. He was known for being a hiker ([7], p. 93; [45]), who himself supposedly became a victim of these excluding principles. For him, they might have been easier to accept if he kept the power of definition, to be excluded as a “worker”, and not a “Jew”.
In the Grein courtroom, Deutsch was forced by the judge to answer the matter of his Jewish descent, and his response was again surprising: “This is hard to determine”, Deutsch was quoted in the press. He said that “[h]is family had lived in the Burgenland for many generations; one branch of the family is Jewish, but not the other. He might thus be a half-Jew. Incidentally, the family tradition tells that their ancestors adopted the Jewish faith during the time of the prosecution of Protestants and the whole family would therefore be of Aryan descent” [46]. The Christian Social press jumped at Deutsch’s testimonial with pleasure; for them, he remained “Jewish”. The defense lawyer Gürtler said that Deutsch had reacted similarly as a State Secretary back in 1919–20. “The assembled soldiers’ council asked their leading commander Deutsch at the Ministry if he was of Jewish descent. They had to repudiate this allegation in the provinces and could not believe it, since he has blond hair and blue eyes.” Back then, Gürtler claimed, Doctor Deutsch had answered “in a similarly hesitant way” [47].

4. “Blinded by Vanity?”

Deutsch’s decision to publish his courtroom speech as a brochure followed a prominent example. In late 1923, Friedrich Adler would republish the defense he gave at his special court trial in 1917, when he was sentenced for murdering the k.u.k. Prime Minister, Count Stürgkh [48]. During the World War, the two party secretaries Deutsch and Adler, who both opposed the war with differing levels of radicalism, had chosen different avenues for action. Whereas Deutsch was at the frontlines as an officer and loyal party man, Adler had risked his life with a political murder that was intended as an uncompromising call for immediate peace. Now, a connection between Deutsch’s lawsuit and Adler, who was a favored target of the right-wing press ([49], pp. 34–36), was also made by the Christian Socials, who denounced them both as “Jewish”. In 1923, Adler had just filed a libel suit to challenge the insulting description as an “assassin” (“Meuchelmörder”). The Reichspost stated ironically: “Adler’s party comrade and fellow tribesman (“Stammesgenosse”) Julius Deutsch also felt offended in his honor and went to court. […] There must be a special blend of qualities that the likes of Adler and Deutsch exhibit, since non-Marxists and non-Jews in the same position would not file a complaint but wish the ground would open up and swallow them. […] Well then, Dr. Adler is not an assassin and Deutsch is not guilty of treason and false oath, but both belong to the gallery of Marxism’s men of honor. This concession might enable an understanding between those who speak in traditional language and terminology and those who turn everything upside down in an expressionistic manner” [50].
For the court of appeal in Linz, Deutsch not only had the local Upper Austrian party lawyer at his disposal, but the party executive committee also provided the services of Gustav Harpner [51], the renowned Vienna party advocate who had defended Friedrich Adler at his special court murder trial. However, a trial of insulted honor was not a defense of life and death, and thus, Deutsch’s heroic stylization in court was mocked by his political opponents as an example of his well-known vanity [52]. They elaborated on the role of his female companion in St. Nikola and “key witness” [53] Marie Kramer, who had allegedly entrapped him to give a “blinded” male defense of honor [52]. The communist paper Rote Fahne, which had attacked former State Secretary Deutsch on a regular basis for marginalizing the Red Guards and for his policy against revolutionary communist activities in the first years of the Republic, now called him a “childish and vain man, who at least contributes to the amusement of his fellow audience” [54]. “A true revolutionary should be proud of the insults of a monarchist, and will not go to a bourgeois court” [55].

5. On Enemy Territory

In Becoming Austrians, Lisa Silverman argues that within the new (deutsch-)österreichische Republic, divided and contested “along new national and urban lines”, Jewish difference became a means “to interpret, clarify, and critique the terms of the country’s altered political, social, and economic circumstances” ([9], p. 5). “A new national ‘Austrian’ self-understanding centered on German culture developed within the bounds of an already shaky political framework that gained stability when defined in terms of Jewish difference” ([9], pp. 5, 9). This argument can be applied to the Deutsch-Reinl trial, which revolved around the nature and character of the people (“Staatsvolk”) and its legitimate representatives, the discursive struggle for a hegemonic definition of political antagonisms and the articulation of conjunctive ‘national’ representative claims [56]. Like other trials in the interwar years, the defense tried to establish a specific narrative of the events “by engaging familiar social codes of Jewish difference, assigning abstract qualities coded as ‘Jewish’ and ‘not-Jewish’ to victims and perpetrators in order to construct culturally plausible accounts of the crimes” ([9], pp. 29–30). In the Grein trial, Reinl’s lawyer Gürtler wanted to establish the truth of Deutsch’s “Schuftereien” by exposing him as a “Jewish Revolutionary” (“Revolutionsjude”). Deutsch’s reference to heroic leaders from history, such as Wilhelm Tell or the German peasant rebels, would be ridiculous and an act of hubris, since as a Jew, he did not have the right to compare himself to these popular folk figures. “A man of such inferior moral qualities, who, because of his descent, has nothing to do with the Austrian people, cannot claim to be celebrated as a national hero. Dr. Deutsch as an Austrian Wilhelm Tell resembles an operetta character, whose only claim is to ridiculousness” [57]. It is not a coincidence that a cartoon in the Reichspost drew on this image, comparing Deutsch to the true Wilhelm Tell, who did not break his oath (“Rütlischwur”) (Figure 1; [58]).
The mocking of Deutsch as a costumed Tell points to a further facet of the trial. The lawsuit was conducted in a territory rather hostile to Deutsch, both in terms of symbolic topography and actual political power. As a representative of Red Vienna, he had to condone a verdict that was delivered in the “black” provinces, at a time, when “summer-resort anti-Semitism” (“Sommerfrischenantisemitismus”) flourished in western Austria ([59], pp. 121–22). Unmasking Jews in alpine dress (“Tracht”) as “camouflage” and “presumptuousness” was a popular anti-Semitic theme that spread in right-wing media at this time ([59], p. 123). Depicting Deutsch as a masqueraded “operetta figure” thus was also intertextually linked to such imagery of Jews in disguise.
In characterizing the local area along the Danube, the Strudengau, as a German heartland, defense lawyer Gürtler “brought to mind that the Nibelungenlied glorifies German truth, thus the defendant should not be blamed for calling the betrayal of German loyalty Schufterei at the banks of the Nibelung River” [47]. Gürtler himself was the son of the local mayor, the butcher Johann Gürtler, who was also a Member of Parliament for the Christian Socials. This fact would not necessarily improve Deutsch’s position in the Grein courtroom [60].1
The discourse was heated on both sides; the Social Democratic media attacked Reinl as a “true Hakenkreuzler-type” [46], a “blustering monarchist” [61], and wrote about “black and yellow traitors of the people” and “Habsburg blood people” [62]. Moreover, they tried to define Deutsch’s relation to the demos in a different way from their anti-Semitic opponents: With his subversive actions in the Ministry of War, Deutsch did not betray a Wilhelm Tellian’ “Rütli-oath of the proletarians” ([11], p. 15). “Comrade Deutsch” only did “his duty as a human being and a German Austrian” (emphasis mine) [62]. “All his actions were fueled by the thought of bringing peace to the German people that he loves with all his heart. He wanted to serve the people and not the Habsburg generals”, said the liberal Neues Wiener Tagblatt about Deutsch’s testimonial in the Grein courtroom [63]. “Habsburg or the people” was the headline of the Social Democratic Linzer Tagblatt [46].
For the Christian Socials, these lines of argument were only evidence for the Social Democrats’ role as a “party of Jewish protection”. “As always, Jewish papers lose their temper if an insult against a Jew is not punished most severely. […] No wonder that, in a party where the leaders are Jews, the Jew reigns supreme. […] You cannot expect the volksfremde Bonzenblätter to be inspired by a national sense of justice” ([64,65]).2 The Linzer Volksblatt tried to provoke the local workers by invoking the “popular anti-Semitism” of the provincial Social Democrats and their reservations against the “Jews of the Wienzeile”, referring to the party headquarters in Vienna [29]. “We will not resent their joy, if the workers are that happy with their Jewish representatives” [65].

6. Reactions/Conclusions

After the final verdict in November 1923, the Christian Social media celebrated and defended the court decision (e.g. [66,67]). The Social Democratic press, however, agreed that the judges had broken the law “in full consciousness” in an act of class-biased judiciary. A “monarchist verdict” was decided in the “musty courtroom” in Linz (“muffigen Gerichtsstube”) in a “deliberate insult to the Republic”, said the Arbeiter-Zeitung [68]. The party executive committee and the party congress expressed their confidence in Deutsch, and Upper Austrian Vice Governor Gruber called the judges “nazilike” (“hakenkreuzlerisch”) [69,70].
The verdict also shocked the liberal press. The Oesterreichische Volkswirt called it a “clear misjudgment” [71] and the Wiener Sonn- und Montags-Zeitung stated: “A whole world separates our views from those of the former State Secretary Dr. Julius Deutsch. Despite this, no one who also respects the honor of a political opponent will agree with this insane verdict, which depicts Doctor Deutsch’s revolutionary achievement that preceded Austria’s transformation into a republic as a Schufterei” [72].
In parliament, it was Karl Renner who wanted to remind the “bourgeoisie” that they owed their current existence not least to Julius Deutsch, whose statesmanlike actions in the weeks of revolutionary turmoil in 1918 had supported the relatively peaceful transition from Empire to Republic ([73]; [74], p. 14). However, “the same social segments and methods that ruined the old Empire” were now “at work to ruin the new Republic” [73].
This conclusion by the old “black and yellow Regierungssozialist” Renner ([48], pp. 62–3, 111) leads us back to the core topic of this volume, Empire, Socialism and Jewish difference. It seems that in Deutsch’s courtroom testimony and in the political conflicts with the Christian Socials, the “old Empire” had actually vanished from Deutsch’s and the party’s political horizon and was only serving as a negative foil for the achievements of Red Vienna and the new Republic [75]. In the 1920s, the fervor for building a socialist “kingdom of grace” did not leave much room for the “deep nostalgia” that many Central European Jewish intellectuals would feel for a lost cosmopolitan Austrian Empire a decade later, when their democratic hopes began to dissolve ([33], p. 40).
What was maybe played down in Deutsch’s speech was his actual long-time loyalty to the Empire that led him to the trenches of the World War, and the fact that Deutsch, as a leader of the Social Democratic “secret military organization”, was not heading an “Austrian revolution” in 1918, but managing the peaceful state transition when the old order fell apart. It is quite telling that the communist Rote Fahne would polemically call his secret organization a “cozy coffee house chat” (“gemütliches Kaffeehausplauscherl”) ([19], p. 5). In the courtroom, Deutsch was haunted by the vanished Empire and left in a double bind: as a good “German Austrian” republican and Social Democrat, who might not want to be associated with an alleged “Jewish loyalty” to the dynasty, he was forced to highlight his opposition to the Habsburg state and its oppressive wartime institutions. This in turn made him a target for his anti-Semitic foes, who could hold the Jewish-Marxist “socialist betrayal” of the Emperor against him.
Deutsch, as we have seen, renounced his former loyalties to the Empire; as an internationalist Social Democrat in the 1920s, however, he engaged in the establishment of networks that could be seen as the continuation of old Central European ties. This especially holds true for his activities in the Socialist Workers’ Sport International (SASI), which he presided over from 1927 onwards and which had offices in Vienna, Leipzig, and Prague [76]. Having written key texts on sports and the labor movement, the “non-Jewish Jew” ([33], p. 38). Deutsch also became, perhaps without his full approval, a guiding figure for the Jewish labor movement in Poland and the former Galicia. For Morgnsthern, the anti-Zionist workers’ sport organization of the General Jewish Labor Bund, his brochure Sport und Politik [77] served as a main influence ([78], p. 7) that was translated twice into Yiddish ([78,79]). Similarly, the Labor sports club JASK from Czernowitz/Cernauti asked Deutsch for a contribution to their decennial yearbook in 1932, which he provided [80,81].
After 1945, with the experience of Fascism, (re-)migration, and the incipient cold war, Deutsch would depict his relationship to the Empire in a less antagonistic way than he had in 1923. In his autobiography Ein weiter Weg, published in 1960, he pointed to the “somehow state-preserving power” of the Social Democrats in the Empire; their “international character” had made them a uniting force ([7], p. 79). Echoed here was Otto Bauer’s famous phrase about the “privileged imperial-royal Social Democracy (k.k. priv. Sozialdemokratie)” and the “historic compromise” between the Habsburgs and Victor Adler’s Social Democrats, in their struggle for universal suffrage in 1905-07 ([30], p. 5). However, Deutsch still insisted on the darker shades of the Habsburg legacy that he experienced during the absolutism of the First World War, when social and democratic rights were suspended: “The leading circles of the Imperial court, the administration and the military, who dominated the state”, did not realize the Social Democrats’ positive role for the Empire, wrote Deutsch. They considered them “as enemies of the state, granted them reluctantly some concessions in the social sector, but did not have a scrap of political trust for them. In this regard, the traditional disagreements of world views were too deep” ([7], p. 79).


I am grateful to Bernhard Hachleitner, Malachi Hacohen, Michaela Maier, Matthias Marschik, Thomas R. Prendergast, the anonymous reviewers of Religions and the participants of the conference “Empire, Socialism and Jews IV: The Interwar Years” for their helpful comments on earlier version of this paper, and to Jason Heilman and Elfriede Pokorny for editing the English version.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


  1. On his biography see: Karl Wirobal. Hans Reinl. Spitzenbergsteiger, Schipionier und Bergliterat. Available online: (accessed on 27 July 2015).
  2. Julius Deutsch. Aus Österreichs Revolution. Militärpolitische Erinnerungen. Von Dr. Julius Deutsch Staatssekretär a.D. Vienna: Verlag der Wiener Volksbuchhandlung, 1921. [Google Scholar]
  3. Manfred Marschalek. “Der Fall Julius Deutsch. Ein sozialdemokratischer Generationenkonflikt im Schatten des Kalten Krieges.” In Auf dem Weg zur Macht. Integration in den Staat, Sozialpartnerschaft und Regierungspartei. Edited by Wolfgang Maderthaner. Vienna: Löcker, 1992, pp. 11–49. [Google Scholar]
  4. Richard Berczeller. “Julius Deutsch.” In Als Zaungäste der Politik. Österreichische Zeitgeschichte in Konfrontationen. Edited by Norbert Leser and Richard Berczeller. Vienna: Jugend & Volk, 1977, pp. 202–13. [Google Scholar]
  5. Norbert Leser. “Julius Deutsch.” In Idem: Grenzgänger. Österreichische Geistesgeschichte in Totenbeschwörungen. Vienna: Hermann Böhlaus Nachf, 1982, vol. II, pp. 25–49. [Google Scholar]
  6. Michaela Maier, and Georg Spitaler. “Julius Deutsch—‘Das innere Kriegserleben’ eines Sozialdemokraten.” In Julius Deutsch, Kriegserlebnisse eines Friedliebenden. Aufzeichnungen aus dem Ersten Weltkrieg. Edited by Michaela Maier and Georg Spitaler. Vienna: National Academies Press, 2016, pp. 9–36. [Google Scholar]
  7. Julius Deutsch. Ein weiter Weg. Lebenserinnerungen. Vienna: Amalthea, 1960. [Google Scholar]
  8. One of them was Marie Kramer, a Vienna city council member, and Deutsch’s future partner.
  9. As a lawyer Gürtler was involved in at least one similar anti-Semitic charged trial, the Bruno Wolf murder trial in 1929. See Lisa Silverman. Becoming Austrians. Jews and Culture between the World Wars. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 24. [Google Scholar]
  10. “Diese seien Volksbeauftragte gewesen, welche eine militärische Garde um sich hatten und die fremde Völker unterdrückten.” (Linzer) Tages-Post, 19 May 1923, 8. The legal reports of the trial seem to be lost, written information by the Archives of Upper Austria, 8 March 2016.
  11. Julius Deutsch. Treueid und Revolution. Eine Rede vor Gericht. Vienna: Verlag der Wiener Volksbuchhandlung, 1923. [Google Scholar]
  12. “Die ‘Schoffeterei’ von Grein.” Arbeiter-Zeitung, 28 June 1923, 2.
  13. “Die Ehrenbeleidigungsklage des Abgeordneten Dr. Julius Deutsch.” Neue Freie Presse, 7 November 1923, 7.
  14. “Aus dem Gerichtssaal.” (Linzer) Tagblatt, 7 November 1923, 6.
  15. “Die Schuftereien des Dr. Julius Deutsch.” Linzer Volksblatt, 7 November 1923, 2.
  16. The term “Jewish Difference” is used here as a discursive category that, against the background of identification and attribution by others, articulates a relationship between the socially constructed categories of “Jewish” and “Non-Jewish.” See ([9], pp. 6–7).
  17. Hans Reinl. “Die Wahrheitsliebe der ‘Volkszeitung’.” Tiroler Anzeiger, 1 June 1923, 2. [Google Scholar] According to Reinl, Deutsch worked “to promote the inner collapse of our victorious army.”
  18. For a discussion of the Austrian “stab-in-the-back myth” compared to the much more “unifying” German version, see: Patrick J. Houlihan. “Was There an Austrian Stab-in-the-Back Myth? Interwar Military Interpretations of Defeat.” In From Empire to Republic: Post-World War I Austria. Edited by Günter Bischof, Fritz Plasser and Peter Berger. New Orleans: University New Orleans Publishing, 2010, pp. 67–89. [Google Scholar]
  19. “Vom Tage.” Rote Fahne, 7 October 1923, 5.
  20. The commission’s task was an inquiry into the misconduct of leading military personnel, especially regarding “the fate of German-Austrian troops and the loss of military equipment during the breakdown of the armed forces” in the autumn of 1918. See: “132. Gesetz vom 19. Dezember 1918 über die Feststellung von Pflichtverletzungen militärischer Organe im Kriege.” Staatsgesetzblatt für den Staat Deutschösterreich 31 (1918): 214–15.
  21. Rechtsanwalt Schneeweiss to Deutsch, 23 August 1923, VGA, old party archive, file 88/2.
  22. Recent scholarship backs Deutsch’s account by describing a “radical disjuncture in the Habsburg monarchy” after 1914. John Deak. “The Great War and the Forgotten Realm: The Habsburg Monarchy and the First World War.” The Journal of Modern History 86 (2014): 336–80. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  23. On this shift from political and administrative “regulation and accommodation to [military] repression” see John Deak. “The Great War, [22] and Marc Cornwall.” In The Undermining of Austria-Hungary. The Battle for Hearts and Minds. Houndsmills: MacMillan Press, 2000, pp. 16–39. [Google Scholar]
  24. Julius Deutsch. Kriegserlebnisse eines Friedliebenden. Aufzeichnungen aus dem Ersten Weltkrieg. Edited by Michaela Maier and Georg Spitaler. Vienna: National Academies Press, 2016. [Google Scholar]
  25. Deutsch to Rechtsanwalt Schneeweiss, 24 October 1923, VGA, old party archive, file 88/2.
  26. Created by Anna L. Staudacher. “List of departures from the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde in Vienna (IKG) 1868–1914.” Available online: (accessed on 21 July 2015).
  27. Cf. Deutsch’s registration records in the Municipal and Provincial Archives of Vienna, Julius.2.2.1884.
  28. According to his death certificate in 1968 and a letter by his daughter Annemarie, he died in the Protestant faith; letter to Hartmut Mehringer, 13 November 1976, VGA, Personenarchiv, drawer 20, file 12: Deutsch, Julius, Biographisches.
  29. Margit Reiter. “Die österreichische Sozialdemokratie und Antisemitismus: Politische Kampfansage mit Ambivalenzen.” In Antisemitismus in Österreich 1933–1938. Edited by Gertrude Enderle-Burcel and Ilse Reiter-Zatloukal. Cologne, Weimar and Vienna: Böhlau, 2017, forthcoming. [Google Scholar]
  30. On Bauer see: Wolfgang Maderthaner. “Empire, Nationalism and the Jewish Question: Victor Adler and Otto Bauer.” Religions 7 article 2. (2016). [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  31. Anton Pelinka. “Mainstreaming der jüdischen Identität? ” Das Jüdische Echo 57 (2008): 119–23. [Google Scholar]
  32. Wolfgang Maderthaner, and Lisa Silverman. “‘Wiener Kreise’: Jewishness, Politics, and Culture in Interwar Vienna.” In Interwar Vienna. Culture between Tradition and Modernity. Edited by Deborah Holmes and Lisa Silverman. Rochester: Camden House, 2009, pp. 59–80. [Google Scholar]
  33. Malachi Haim Hacohen. “Envisioning Jewish Central Europe: Friedrich Torberg, the Austrian Émigrés, and Jewish European History.” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 13 (2014): 37–57. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  34. “Der Staatskanzler, die Unterstaatssekretäre für Heerwesen und so viele Andere hohe Würdenträger sind Juden; dieselben Juden, für welche unsere Kameraden das Leben gelassen haben, welche durch den Krieg zu unermesslichen Reichthümern gelangten.” anonymous leaflet, 25 November 1918, VGA, Parteistellenarchiv, box 117, file 704.
  35. On Deutsch’s alleged “stab in the back” against the troops, see the anti-Semitic dissertation by Aurelia Gerlach. Der Einfluß der Juden in der Österreichischen Sozialdemokratie. Vienna and Leipzig: Braumüller, 1939, pp. 157–58. [Google Scholar]
  36. Karl Paumgartten. Judentum und Sozialdemokratie. Sechste, neu bearbeitete und vermehrte Auflage; Graz: Stocker, 1926. [Google Scholar]
  37. After February 1934, Deutsch was amongst the “cowardly […] Jewish party leaders” who were accused of having seduced the German workers to engage in the civil war [29].
  38. In the election campaign of autumn 1923, the Social Democrats were justly criticized by the Jüdischen Wahlgemeinschaft for using anti-Semitic visual stereotypes in their “anti-capitalist” imagery. See “Die Sozialdemokratie und die Juden.” Wiener Morgenzeitung, 17 October 1923, 3.
  39. Typoscript “Firma Starhemberg und Kohn” [1931], VGA, Sacharchiv, drawer D: Additional material from drawer 10/file 12, Deutsch, Julius: Bibliographie, Publikationen etc.
  40. “Wenn unsere Blätter jetzt auch in das Hepp-Hepp-Geschrei einzustimmen beginnen, dann kann freilich dem Radau-Antisemitismus nicht mehr entgegen gewirkt werden. Dann sinken wir auf das Niveau der christlich-sozialen Presse herab.” According to Deutsch, the paper had also misinformed their readers, since “Waiss [sic] stammt aus einer alten bodenständigen Bauernfamilie des niederösterreichischen Waldviertels und es ist genauso kindisch, ihm eine jüdische Abstammung anzudichten, als irgendeinem der Genossen des Linzer ‘Tagblattes’, die vielleicht auch Namen tragen, die nicht urarisch klingen”. Letter to the Linzer Tagblatt, 22 April 1920, VGA, old party archive, file 116/4.
  41. Martin Achrainer. “‘So, jetzt sind wir ganz unter uns!’ Antisemitismus im Alpenverein.” In Hast du Meine Alpen Gesehen?: Eine jüdische Beziehungsgeschichte. Edited by Hanno Löwy and Gerhard Milchram. Exhibition Catalogue; Hohenems and Vienna: Bucher Verlag, 2009, pp. 288–317. [Google Scholar]
  42. Julius Deutsch. Unter roten Fahnen! Vom Rekord- zum Massensport. Vienna: Verlag der Organisation Wien der Sozialdemokratischen Partei, 1931. [Google Scholar]
  43. Julius Deutsch. “Eine Internationale des Arbeitersports.” Arbeiter-Zeitung, 23 August 1927, 2. [Google Scholar]
  44. Martin Achrainer, and Nicholas Mailänder. “Der Verein.” In Berg Heil! Alpenverein und Bergsteigen 1918–1945. Edited by the Deutscher Alpenverein, Oesterreichischer Alpenverein and Alpenverein Südtirol. Cologne, Weimar and Vienna: Böhlau, 2011, pp. 193–318. [Google Scholar]
  45. “Eine kommunistische Lausbüberei.” [typoscript], VGA, old party archive, file 46.
  46. “Habsburg oder Volk? ” (Linzer) Tagblatt, 12 June 1923, 7–8.
  47. “Das Gerichtssaalerlebnis des Dr. Deutsch.” Reichspost, 12 June 1923, 6.
  48. Friedrich Adler. Vor dem Ausnahmegericht. Jena: Thüringer Verlagsanstalt, 1923. [Google Scholar]
  49. Michaela Maier, and Georg Spitaler. “Ein Attentat gegen die österreichische Moral.” In Friedrich Adler vor dem Ausnahmegericht. Das Attentat gegen den Ersten Weltkrieg. Edited by Michaela Maier and Georg Spitaler. Vienna: Promedia, 2016, pp. 7–43. [Google Scholar]
  50. “Höher geht’s nimmer.” Reichspost, 20 May 1923, 4.
  51. Deutsch to Rechtsanwalt Schneeweiss, 2 August 1923, VGA, old party archive, file 88/2.
  52. E.g. in “Der Prozeß in Grein.” Linzer Volksblatt, 13 June 1923, 3.
  53. Deutsch to Rechtsanwalt Schneeweiss, 19 March 1923, VGA, old party archive, file 88/2.
  54. “Ein eitler Geck.” Rote Fahne, 15 June 1923, 7.
  55. “Vom Tage.” Rote Fahne, 7 November 1923, 5.
  56. For an understanding of the political and intellectual conflicts in interwar Vienna as a Gramscian’ struggle for hegemony see i.a. Janek Wasserman. Black Vienna. The Radical Right in the red City. 1918–1938. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2014, pp. 10–11. [Google Scholar]
  57. “Dr. Deutsch als verunglückter Wilhelm Tell.” Reichspost, 11 June 1923, 4.
  58. Fritz Schönpflug. cartoonist. “Helden der Woche.” Reichspost, 17 June 1923, 7. [Google Scholar]
  59. In the 1920s and 1930s, at least 60 Austrian tourist spots advertised their “rejection of Jewish summer visitors”, with Upper Austria as one of the centers. See: Albert Lichtblau. “Ambivalenzen der Faszination: Sommerfrische & Berge.” In Hast du meine Alpen gesehen?: Eine jüdische Beziehungsgeschichte. Edited by Hanno Löwy and Gerhard Milchram. Exhibition Catalogue; Hohenems and Vienna: Bucher Verlag, 2009, pp. 116–30. [Google Scholar]
  60. Wien Geschichte Wiki. “Hotel Sacher.” Available online: (accessed on 5 July 2016).
  61. “Der schimpfende Monarchist als Sprachforscher.” Arbeiter-Zeitung, 20 May 1923, 13.
  62. “Gedanken zum Prozeß Dr. Deutsch – Ing. Reindl.” (Tiroler) Volkszeitung, 26 May 1923, 6–7.
  63. “Gerichtssaal.” Neues Wiener Tagblatt, 12 June 1923, 8.
  64. “Angriffe gegen den Richterstand.” Linzer Volksblatt, 10 November 1923, 2.
  65. “Wir haben uns nicht getäuscht.” Linzer Volksblatt, 15 June 1923, 1.
  66. “Zur Unzeit geredet.” Linzer Volksblatt, 8 November 1923, 1.
  67. “Nicht Klassen-, sondern Volksjustiz.” Reichspost, 16 November 1923, 1.
  68. “Die ‘Schufterei’ von Linz.” Arbeiter-Zeitung, 7 November 1923, 4.
  69. “Das Linzer Urteil.” Arbeiter-Zeitung, 9 November 1923, 4.
  70. “Der Parteitag.” Arbeiter-Zeitung, 16 November 1923, 2–3.
  71. “Der Verlauf des Nationalfeiertages.” Der oesterreichische Volkswirt, 17 November 1923, 183–84.
  72. “Das Greiner Urteil gegen Dr. Julius Deutsch.” Wiener Sonn- und Montags-Zeitung, 13 November 1923, 5.
  73. “Die Klassenjustiz auf der Anklagebank.” Arbeiter-Zeitung, 1 December 1923, 3.
  74. On the weeks of transformation see i.a. John W. Boyer, who highlights the role of Deutsch’s Volkswehr in helping to “safeguard the centrist political revolution against the possibility of left-wing social upheaval”. John W. Boyer. “Silent War and Bitter Peace: The Revolution of 1918 in Austria.” Austrian History Yearbook 34 (2003): 1–56. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
  75. See also Deutsch’s brochure: Schwarzgelbe Verschwörer. Von Julius Deutsch. Vienna: Verlag der Wiener Volksbuchhandlung, 1925.
  76. Together with Cornelius Gellert (Leipzig), Deutsch was a chairman of the SASI. The head of the international bureau was the Czech Rudolf Silaba (Prague).
  77. Julius Deutsch. Sport und Politik. Im Auftrag der sozialistischen Arbeiter-Sport-Internationale. Berlin: J.H.W. Dietz Nachfolger, 1928. [Google Scholar]
  78. Diethelm Blecking. “Zwischen ‘doikeyt’ und Klassenkampf—Zur Rolle der Linksradikalen Sportorganisation ‘Jutrznia/Jutrzenka’ (Morgnshtern) im Sport der Polnischen Juden.” Available online: (accessed on 5 July 2016).
  79. Stow. Robotnicze Wychowania Fizycznego “Jutrznia” w Polsce to Julius Deutsch, 22 July 1930, VGA, old party archive, file 75/4.
  80. F.S.S.R. Clubul Sportiv “Muncitorul” to Julius Deutsch, 1 February 1932, VGA, Parteistellenarchiv, box 119, file 728.
  81. Zehnjähriges Bestandjubiläum des Arbeiter-Sportklubs "Muncitorul" (JASK) in Cernauti. JASK committee, ed. Cernauti: Arbeiter-Buchdruckerei, 1932.
  • 1Hans Gürtler, however, is now best known as a co-owner of Hotel Sacher in Vienna, which he acquired in 1934.
  • 2“Wir glauben keinem Widerspruch zu begegnen, wenn wir behaupten, daß nach bürgerlichen Ehrbegriffen und nach der christlichen Moral ein solches Verhalten eines Offiziers als unehrenhaft gilt. Die sozialistische Presse steht auf dem Standpunkt, daß nach marxistischen Ehrbegriffen dies durchaus nicht der Fall sei. Wir sprechen aber die volle Zuversicht aus, daß das deutsche Volk nie und niemals zu solchen Ehrbegriffen heruntersteigen wird.”
Figure 1. “Heroes of the Week”: Julius Deutsch and Wilhelm Tell. Reichspost, 17 June 1923, p. 7.
Figure 1. “Heroes of the Week”: Julius Deutsch and Wilhelm Tell. Reichspost, 17 June 1923, p. 7.
Religions 08 00013 g001

Share and Cite

MDPI and ACS Style

Spitaler, G. The Lost Honor of Julius Deutsch: Jewish Difference, “Socialist Betrayal”, and Imperial Loyalty in the 1923 Deutsch-Reinl Trial. Religions 2017, 8, 13.

AMA Style

Spitaler G. The Lost Honor of Julius Deutsch: Jewish Difference, “Socialist Betrayal”, and Imperial Loyalty in the 1923 Deutsch-Reinl Trial. Religions. 2017; 8(1):13.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Spitaler, Georg. 2017. "The Lost Honor of Julius Deutsch: Jewish Difference, “Socialist Betrayal”, and Imperial Loyalty in the 1923 Deutsch-Reinl Trial" Religions 8, no. 1: 13.

Note that from the first issue of 2016, this journal uses article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Metrics

Back to TopTop