Friday, February 19, 2010

Koloman, Remembered and Honoured

Today is Friday, 19 February 2010.

In 1888, my great grandfather emigrated from Austria. Koloman, the son of a brother who stayed in Austria, served in World War One, and then returned to our ancestral town, Bruck on der Mur. Koloman became a union activist, mayor, and leader in the Social Democratic Party.

On 12 February 1934, the Austrian fascist movement, the Heimwehr, and the Austrian military launched an operation to destroy the unions, and the Socialist and Communist parties. Koloman and comrades mounted a fierce resistance in Bruck, but were forced to withdraw. He was captured trying to escape to Prague, given a brief show trial, and then murdered on 19 February 1934. The main town square in Bruck is now named in his honour.

In the few photographs I’ve seen of Koloman, he bears a startling resemblance to my father’s older brother.

A few days after Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, the Heimwehr leader, Emil Fey, put a bullet in his head, knowing how Hitler had dealt with competing German fascists.

Fey had ordered the murder of Koloman.

Irony rules.

Ca. 1977, my sister wrote to me of an Isherwood novel she'd just read, Prater Violet, which mentioned the murder of Koloman. "Is this guy real?" Researched, and discovered our long lost relative.

My father grew up on farms in Kansas, north of Topeka. Every Saturday, the family went into town – Holton, Kansas - for shopping and camaraderie. (My grandfather was an ace snooker player.) My grandfather always bought a Sunday newspaper, published the previous Sunday in New York City, and shipped half across the continent by train.

My father recalls seeing a picture of Koloman and several others, hanged.

All honour to Koloman, and all victims of fascism.


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