Republican Guard

   / Republikanischer Schutzbund
   The paramilitary arm of the Austrian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (SDAP), the Schutzbund was organized throughout the First Republic in 1923–1924 under the leadership of Julius Deutsch (1884–1968). The growing conservatism of regular army leadership, and the formation of rightist military bands throughout the provinces of the republic, prompted the move. Commanded centrally from headquarters in Vienna, the Schutzbund acquired a substantial arsenal. By 1928, its membership was believed to be around 80,000. Uniforms and conventional army labels for its divisions—companies, battalions, and regiments–made plausible its assertions that it was ready to defend the interests of the proletariat with force. As part of his effort to cripple the influence of the SDAP, Engelbert Dollfuss, the chancellor in 1933, banned the Schutzbund. Its leadership and materiel largely untouched, it went underground. Repeated police searches to uncover illegal caches of weaponry followed, particularly in the provinces. Some Schutzbund leaders in the countryside were also arrested. The final confrontation between the government and the Schutzbund took place in 1934. Rejecting advice he received from his leadership in Vienna, Richard Bernaschek (1888–1945), a socialist militia leader in Linz, the capital of Upper Austria, decided to strike back after a police raid for weapons. The authorities faced machine-gun fire when they arrived at the suspect locality. The action provoked other Schutzbund bands to begin skirmishing in Vienna, Graz, and elsewhere. Their action got them little; 196 of their number throughout the country were killed, and 10 of their leaders were executed. A ban on all socialist organizations followed.
   See also February Uprising.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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