Outbreak of the war
End of the war

‘A New Race of Men’? – Ideologies of Masculinity in Post-War Austria

In post-war Austria military masculinity became a resource that was in dispute. After the end of Austria-Hungary most of the army’s professional officers flocked to Vienna, where they made clear their overwhelmingly anti-republican stance and wanted to ensure the continued existence of a military formation. In the wake of defeat they felt that their honour had been insulted, especially as society reacted with a public ‘castration’ of masculinity.

The officers tried to compensate for their loss of power and prestige by fleeing into an idealized Habsburg past or by participating actively in the German nationalist movement. In numerous backward-looking narratives of the war, which are an ideological product of the strongly politicized and militarized culture of the early 1930s, the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian soldier, especially when he is an officer, becomes an important figure of memory. The masculinity of the warriors, above all of the perfect German-Austrian fighters, is praised as it is remembered and given a new lease of life. However, in the First Republic this image is shaped not only by the ‘heroes’; the victims of the war also want their rights to be recognised. Hence they too have their marches, parades for cripples and pacifist events alongside the large-scale rallies organised by nationalist and conservative elements.

The books of wartime memories and fictitious narratives by authors from the conservative camp provide important arguments in the dispute over memory and are intended as a contribution towards a policy of creating a new masculinity. The attempts to revitalize a heroically emotional concept of masculinity can be interpreted as a reaction to a crisis of both military masculinity and Austrian identity. Fritz Weber, Luis Trenker, Alexandet Lernet-Holenia, Bodo Kaltenboeck, Karl Paumgartten and others restore the image of the Habsburg military man in various forms – as the tough fighter in the Dolomites, the Tyrolean imperial militiaman, the bold and chivalrous cavalryman, the disciplined German-Austrian officer, the aggressive daredevil. And they play this off against forms of civilian masculinity or the neurasthenic biographies of city dwellers. They glorify the comradeship of war and convey concepts of a ‘new race of men’ (Fritz Weber), praise a form of male friendship which is based on love for the mountains and show the need for a male social network of war veterans and for German nationalist associations and movements. This is how they react to the way in which a form of soldierly masculine identity is being endangered by being misjudged and forgotten and by the urbane disposition engendered by a disorderly mass society. There are apparently different attempts, rooted in national, regional and political contexts, to modify military masculinity and to establish new political concepts of masculinity.

Translation: Leigh Bailey


Amman, Klaus: Der Anschluss österreichischer Schriftsteller an das Dritte Reich. Institutionelle und bewusstseinsgeschichtliche Aspekte, Frankfurt am Main 1998

Hanisch, Ernst: Die Rückkehr des Kriegers. Männlichkeitsbilder und Remilitarisierung im Österreich der Zwischenkriegszeit, in: Transit. Europäische Revue 16 (1989/99), 108-124

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    After the war

    The First World War marked the end of the “long nineteenth century”. The monarchic empires were replaced by new political players. The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy disintegrated into separate nation states. The Republic of German Austria was proclaimed in November 1918, and Austria was established as a federal state in October 1920. The years after the war were highly agitated ­– in a conflicting atmosphere of revolution and defeat, and political, economic, social and cultural achievements and setbacks.


  • Aspect

    War and art

    Many artists, intellectuals and writers welcomed the outbreak of the First World War. They saw it not as an apocalypse but as the opportunity for a change for the better. As such they joined in the patriotic fervour of the first weeks and months of the war. What motivated them not only to devote their artistic energies to the fatherland but also to take an active part in the fighting? How were anti-war sentiments articulated by artists? What other forms of relationship were there between art and warfare during and after the First World War?

Persons, Objects & Events

  • Object


    All Quiet on the Western Front was released in 1930. It was the film of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel of the same name about the experiences of a soldier during the First World War. Remarque’s book and the film adaptation are classic anti-war statements. Alongside the patriotic, glorified heroic epics and “authentic” documentation of service for the fatherland, this was just one way in which the First World War was portrayed in literature and films – a medium that had come into being only twenty years before the outbreak of war.

  • Object

    War invalids

    No other war left such an army of invalids and men with diseases and life-long psychological scars. Mechanical aids such as this writing aid were designed to restore functions to those wounded in the war and in this way to help them to reintegrate into the labour market. Even several years after the end of the war, it was impossible to determine the number of people who had returned injured or diseased from the front. In 1922 there were around 143,000 war invalids living in Austria.


  • Development

    Gender roles: change/no change?

    It is a widely held view that the First World War revolutionised the traditional roles of men and women in society. Photos of tram conductresses, female coach drivers and postwomen would appear to confirm this, as does the assumption by women of the traditional male role as providers for the family. But did things change that much, and what was left of the supposed changes after 1918?