Heinrich Maier

Heinrich Maier, DDr. (German: [ˈhaɪ̯n.ʁɪç ˈmaɪ̯.ɐ] (About this soundlisten); born 16 February 1908 in Großweikersdorf), was executed on 22 March 1945[1] as the last victim of Hitler's régime in Vienna.


Heinrich Maier

Born16 February 1908
Died22 March 1945 (1945-03-23) (aged 37)
Known forBeing the last victim of Hitler's régime in Vienna.
OrdainedRoman Catholic Church

He was a Roman Catholic priest, pedagogue, philosopher and a member of the Austrian resistance.[1][2]

Heinrich Maier 1932, blessing hundreds of people standing out of church

Early lifeEdit

Heinrich Maier was born on 16 February 1908 at Großweikersdorf. His father - also named Heinrich Maier - was an official on the Austrian Railways. His mother Katharina was the daughter of a policeman. His sister was born in 1910 near Gmünd. His sister was educated by his grandmother and his aunt in Moravia. He received strong financial support from his relative Gabriele Maier.

His early education was at a Volksschule. He then was sent to a Gymnasium in Sankt Pölten between 1918-1923. Maier then went to a Gymnasium in Leoben from 1923-1926. He did his theological degree at the University of Vienna (1926-1928). Before continuing his studies at Collegium Germanicum et Hungaricum (1928-1930) and the University of Vienna.

During his time as an active student he became a member of the K.Ö.St.V. Nibelungia im ÖCV. It was the only ÖCV student association loyal to the emperor in the interwar period, whose “patron” was Otto von Habsburg.[1]

Youth group chaplainEdit

Heinrich Maier was chaplain of a Scout group of the Österreichisches Pfadfinderkorps St.Georg, the Catholic Austrian Scout association between 1926 and 1938 in Austria, in Vienna.[1]

He was also a chaplain of the altar boys and the Präses of the Marianischen Kinderkongregation, a youth group of the Christian life community.[1]

Opposition to NazismEdit

Maier "impressed" with charisma and enthusiasm, he had a high level of intelligence and scientifically sound training, was interested in art and politics and felt deeply connected to his home country. Enthusiastic contact, coupled with a warm and open personality, made many friendships open to him all social classes; however, he paid special attention to the care and upbringing of children and adolescents to independent and mature personalities; dealing with them was uncomplicated and comradely ... ". According to contemporary witnesses, Maier was "a real buddy" , "a happy person” and an “accurate soccer player.”[3]

With the abolition of religious instruction by the Nazi regime, Maier also lost his job as a teacher in 1938, but remained chaplain in the parish of Vienna-Gerstof-St. Leopold, deepened his theological studies and received his doctorate in July 1942 (second doctorate - theology). He then violated the orders of his ecclesiastical authorities in that he not only acted "purely as a pastoral" but also politically.[4]

Maier was very involved in the resistance against the National Socialists. As early as May and June 1940, he contacted resistance groups around Jakob Kaiser, Felix Hurdes, Lois Weinberger, Adolf Schärf and Karl Seitz. Out of his conviction, the Catholic faith and Austrian patriotism, he was a resistance fighter, who ultimately did not rule out militant means to suppress the Nazi regime. He founded the resistance group Maier-Messner-Caldonazzi together with the Tyrolean Catholic-monarchist resistance fighter Walter Caldonazzi, who already led a resistance group in Tyrol with the policeman Andreas Hofer and Franz Josef Messner, the general director of the Semperit works. It was Maier who brought the very different members of the resistance group together and was able to build on a large network of his contacts.[5] This Catholic Conservative group is called "perhaps the most spectacular single group of the Austrian resistance." The aim of the group was to bring about an end to the horrific regime by military defeat as soon as possible and to re-establish a free and democratic Austria.[6][7]

The group took care, among other things, of collecting and passing on information about locations, employees and productions about Nazi armaments factories to the Allies. This information for targeted bombing by the Allies was partly passed on to middlemen in Switzerland to the British and Americans. Heinrich Maier stated, in the interrogation of the group's strategy on 27 April 1944, that he had hoped to prevent further air strikes on Austrian cities by providing information about the "armaments factories in the Ostmark" and "that this would prevent the other industries that we had after the war absolutely needed, and the civilian population was spared. (...) Shortly thereafter I familiarized Dr. Messner with my plan and talked to him about which armament centers we wanted to reveal to the enemy powers Wiener Neudorf and Wiener Neustadt catch the eye."

The exact drawings of the V-2 rocket, the production of the Tiger tank and others could be passed on via Maier's relationship with the Vienna city commander Heinrich Stümpfl. As a result, precise location sketches and production figures for steel mills, weapon, ball bearing and aircraft factories soon reached Allied general staffs. Via Walter Caldonazzi there were contacts to the Heinkel factories in Jenbach, where drive components for the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet and V-2 rockets were manufactured. In some cases, Maier had received information from front-line soldiers on leave about the industrial facilities. American and British bombers were able to strike armaments factories such as the secret V-rocket factory in Peenemünde and the Messerschmitt plants near Vienna. These contributions by the resistance group via the defense industry and production sites (Operation Crossbow, Operation Hydra) were later to prove to be 92 percent correct and were thus an effective contribution to Allied warfare. On the one hand, the Allies were able to target the arms industry and on the other hand, this information and the subsequent air strikes decisively weakened the supply of the German Air Force.[8]

Messner provided the first information about the mass murder of Jews from his Semperit plant near Auschwitz - a message the enormity of which amazed the Americans in Zurich. However, the Maier-Messner-Caldonazzi resistance group's plan to bring an American transmitter of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) from Liechtenstein to Austria failed. The British Special Operations Executive (SOE) was in contact with the Austrian resistance group through its colleague G. E. R. Gedye in 1943, but was not convinced of the reliability of the contact person (Franz Josef Riediger, a Messner employee) and did not cooperate due to security concerns.

In addition to establishing contact with Allied secret services, the resistance group also tried to educate its own countrymen in order to prepare them politically for a future peace order. To this end, a central committee or preparatory groups in the event of a collapse of the German Reich and a future independent state of Germany with a monarchical form of government were planned, which, in addition to Austria, should also include Bavaria and South Tyrol. Helene Sokal and her later husband, the chemist Theodor Legradi, who had international connections to the communist resistance, among others, included the doctor Josef Wyhnal and the student Hermann Klepell. Klepell had relationships with socialist circles, while another member, the communist Pawlin, made connections with the KPÖ. Leaflets were written in which Hitler was described as the "traitor of the German people" or "greatest curse-laden criminal of all time" and militarism as "the shame of our century". The leaflets also say, "Only a maniac or criminal like Hitler still speaks of victory. The inevitable end is coming. Why sacrifice thousands of people?" or "Hitler, the prisoner of his dreams of fame! The criminal who, because of his ambition, plunges an entire people into the abyss." The transfer of money from the Americans via Istanbul and Budapest to Vienna was also one of the reasons why the group's Gestapo found out.[9]

Arrest, trial and executionEdit

Some members of the group were gradually arrested in February 1944 after being betrayed. Heinrich Maier was arrested on 28 March 1944 by the Gestapo in his parish in Vienna-Gersthof in the sacristy after the holy mass and taken to the prison in the former Hotel Métropole on Morzinplatz. During the hours of interrogation by the Gestapo, confessions were obtained through torture (according to interrogation protocols: "stated after detailed questioning"). During the Gestapo interrogations, Maier managed on the one hand to conceal the actions of the group and on the other to exonerate the other members. Overall, the Gestapo was unable to uncover the great importance of the resistance group.[10] Maier was later transferred to the police prison house on the Elisabethpromenade (now Rossauer Lände) or on 16 September 1944 to the prison of the Landesgericht I in cell number E 307.

In the secret people's trial on 27 and 28 October 1944, a total of eight death sentences were imposed on Heinrich Maier, Walter Caldonazzi, Franz Josef Messner, Andreas Hofer, Josef Wyhnal, Hermann Klepell, Wilhelm Ritsch and Clemens von Pausinger. The indictment was "preparation for treason" by "participating in a separatist union". The head of the People's Court of Albrecht is said to have asked Maier, because he tried to relieve the other co-defendants, "What do you get if you take the blame of others?", To which he replied "Mr. Council, I will probably not need anything anymore!". The judgment of the Volksgerichtshof states that, on the one hand, according to credible statements by the Gestapo officials, no illegal means of force of any kind were used to obtain statements against any inmate, and on the other hand, all attempts by Maier to take the full blame were completely unbelievable. Regarding Maier's motives and thoughts regarding the transmission of information about arms, steel and aircraft factories to the Allies, the Volksgerichtshof stated: "The destruction of weapons manufacturers was intended to hit German armaments production and thereby shorten the war; in addition," independent Austria should "as a result, the industries necessary for peacebuilding are preserved intact and the settlements are spared."

After the conviction, Maier was transferred to the Mauthausen concentration camp on 22 November 1944. He was tortured for months before his execution to get more information about the group. The concentration camp guards tied Maier to the window cross of a barracks without clothes, they beat him until he passed out and his body looked more like a lump of meat, but he said nothing.[11]

Caldonazzi was beheaded at the Vienna Regional Court in January 1945 and Messner was gassed at the Mauthausen concentration camp in April 1945. On 18 March 1945 Maier was brought back to Vienna together with Leopold Figl, Felix Hurdes and Lois Weinberger. Until his execution, he was used to defuse unexploded bombs and explosive devices in various districts of Vienna. Alfred Missong reports that Maier approached death with a deeply impressive composure. Chaplain Heinrich Maier was beheaded in the Vienna Regional Court on 22 March 1945 at 6.40 p.m.[12]

Last wordsEdit

His last words were "Long live Christ, the king! Long live Austria!" (Es lebe Christus, der König! Es lebe Österreich!)


Knowledge of Maier's resistance to the Nazi terror regime was largely suppressed in Austria after the Second World War, partly because he acted against the express instructions of his church superiors, partly because his political plans for a Habsburg constitutional monarchy in Central Europe (according to the plans of Winston Churchill) were sharply rejected by Joseph Stalin and the USSR. This anti-Habsburg course also became part of the constitution of the Austrian State Treaty of 1955 over the imperative efforts of the USSR.


  • 1945 Memorial Grave (Ehrengrab) in Vienna (Friedhof in Neustift am Walde)[1]
  • 1949 A street in Vienna is named DDr. Heinrich Maier Straße (DDr.Heinrich Maier Street)[1]
  • 1970 Installation of a glass window in the Viennese Votive Church with a scene from the Mauthausen concentration camp, whereby the prisoner with the blessing hand is chaplain Heinrich Maier while hearing a confession next to the death stairs
  • 1988 Commemorative plaque in front of the church Saint Leopold in Vienna[1]
  • 1995 Heinrich Maier Oratorium composed by Gerald Spitzner [Video: http://venite-austria.jimdo.com/heinrich-maier-gedenken/ ]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Philipp Lehar (2008). "Persönlichkeiten der Zeitgeschichte und Pfadfinderbrüder". PPÖ-Brief (in German). Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen Österreichs. 3/2008: 5.
  2. ^ Wolfgang Neugebauer (2008). Der österreichische Widerstand (in German). Vienna: Edition Steinbauer. pp. 154–155.
  3. ^ Hecht, Rauch, Rodt: Geköpft für Christus & Österreich. (1995), p 93.
  4. ^ Hansjakob Stehle: Die Spione aus dem Pfarrhaus. In: Die Zeit. 5 January 1996.
  5. ^ Christoph Thurner "The CASSIA Spy Ring in World War II Austria: A History of the OSS's Maier-Messner Group" (2017), pp 14.
  6. ^ Fritz Molden: Die Feuer in der Nacht. Opfer und Sinn des österreichischen Widerstandes 1938-1945. Amalthea, Vienna 1988, p 122.
  7. ^ Franz Loidl: Kaplan Heinrich Maier - ein Opfer des nationalsozialistischen Gewaltsystems in: Herbert Schambeck: Kirche und Staat. Fritz Eckert zum 65. Geburtstag. Duncker & Humblot, Vienna 1976, p 271–292.
  8. ^ Pirker, Peter (2012). Suberversion deutscher Herrschaft. Der britische Geheimdienst SOE und Österreich. Zeitgeschichte im Kontext. 6. Göttingen: V & R Unipress. p. 252. ISBN 9783862349906.
  9. ^ Volksgerichtshof GZ 5H 96/44, p 7.
  10. ^ Christoph Thurner "The CASSIA Spy Ring in World War II Austria: A History of the OSS's Maier-Messner Group" (2017), pp 187.
  11. ^ Helga Thoma "Mahner-Helfer-Patrioten: Porträts aus dem österreichischen Widerstand" (2004), p 159.
  12. ^ Hecht, Rauch, Rodt: Geköpft für Christus & Österreich. (1995), p 121.

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