Walter Pfrimer

Walter Pfrimer (22 December 1881, in Maribor – 31 May 1968, in Judenburg) was an Austrian politician and leader of the Heimwehr in Styria. He was the leader of a failed putsch in 1931.

Walter Pfrimer
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-12756, Walter Pfriemer.jpg
Pfrimer (right) with Heimwehr leader Richard Steidle, about 1930
Walter Pfrimer

(1881-12-22)22 December 1881
Died31 May 1968(1968-05-31) (aged 86)
CitizenshipAustrian, German (1938-1945)
Known forHeimwehr leader
Political partyNazi Party

Early yearsEdit

The son of a wine merchant, Pfrimer studied law at the University of Graz, gaining his doctorate in 1906.[1] As a student he had been a member of the Burschenschaft and an ardent follower of the German nationalist and antisemitic hard-liner Georg Ritter von Schönerer before settling into a position as a lawyer in Judenburg.[2]

He became a Heimwehr leader early in the movement's life and initially won the financial backing of the Alpine Montangesellschaft, the largest heavy industry concern in Austria.[3] His Heimwehr unit was amongst the best armed, having received weapons from both Bavarian Georg Escherich rightist paramilitary leader and the local Landeshauptmann Anton Rintelen.[2]

Political viewsEdit

Pfrimer advocated Pan-Germanist and Völkische ideals and used the swastika for his Heimwehr units.[2] Like his sometime ally Richard Steidle in Tyrol he unashamedly endorsed fascism for the Heimwehr, unlike other units that were close to the more ideologically pragmatic Christian Social Party,[4] and in 1930 publicly advocated the overthrow of the government and the establishment of a fascist regime in Austria.[5] The two fell out however after Pfrimer, who argued that Jews must be treated as a foreign race, suggested that Steidle was too weak on the issue.[6] Pfrimer took up with Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg and helped to ensure that the nobleman replaced Steidle as Heimwehr leader in 1930.[7] He was also a staunch opponent of socialism, often leading his men in violent attacks on the Social Democratic Party of Austria, whilst rejecting parliamentary democracy as un-German.[1]


As head of the Heimwehr in Styria he attempted a putsch in 1931, initially in his own region. After rising up in Styria his units launched a marcia su Wien in a direct copy of Benito Mussolini's March on Rome but it proved to be a disaster and Pfrimer became mockingly known as the "half-day dictator" in reference to how long it took to put his attempted rebellion down.[8] He failed to gain support from the other regional leaders and indeed the coup was so poorly organised that it was easily put down by the otherwise weak government of Karl Buresch.[9]


Pfrimer was damaged irreparably by the fiasco of putsch.[8] The failure also represented a further blow to the credibility of the Heimwehr, which lost more members to the Nazi Party as a consequence.[10] He fled to Yugoslavia before returning to face a treason trial but in a surprise move he was acquitted of all charges.[1]

Finally in 1933 Pfrimer allied himself and his units to the Nazis and before long his group had been absorbed entirely and he became a strong advocate of Anschluss.[11] His membership of the Nazi Party was made official on 24 February 1933.[1] When the Anschluss for which he had longed was completed in 1938 he returned to some prominence and sat as a member of the Reichstag.[1]

After the Allies liberated Austria Pfrimer was taken prisoner by the British forces and held in internment for a year.[12] Following his release he returned to his legal practice in Judenburg and lived out his days as a private citizen.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e Philip Rees, Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890, Simon & Schuster, 1990 p. 294
  2. ^ a b c F. L. Carsten, The Rise of Fascism, 1982, p. 223
  3. ^ John T. Lauridsen, Nazism and the Radical Right in Austria, 1918-1934, 2007, p. 119
  4. ^ Philip Morgan, Fascism in Europe'p. 63', 2003, p. 34
  5. ^ Paul Hayes, Fascism, London: Allen & Unwin, 1973, p. 62
  6. ^ Bruce F. Pauley, From Prejudice to Persecution: A History of Austrian Anti-Semitism, p. 177
  7. ^ F.L. Carsten, The Rise of Fascism, London: Methuen & Co, 1974, p. 226
  8. ^ a b Iván T. Berend, Decades of Crisis: Central and Eastern Europe before World War II, 2001, p. 302
  9. ^ Barbara Jelavich, Modern Austria: Empire and Republic, 1815-1986, 1987, p. 189
  10. ^ R.J.B. Bosworth, The Oxford Handbook of Fascism, Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 443
  11. ^ Pauley, From Prejudice to Persecution, p. 179
  12. ^ a b Rees, Biographical Dictionary, p. 295