Emil Anton Karl Maria Zwierzina, Capt.
Emil Anton Karl Maria Zwierzina
24 April 1891 - 28 Feb 1956
My father Emo
Second child of the fourth marriage of Johann Nepomuk Alois Maria Zwierzina and Maria Laura Eva Kutschera
|Name||Emil Anton Karl Maria Zwierzina|
|Date of Birth||24 April 1891||Wien-Gersthof, AT|
|Baptized R.C.||1 May 1891||St. Leopold, Wien-Gersthof, AT|
(1)Captain, Austro-Hungarian Army, Artillery
|Wife #1||Felicitas Karla Ramberg-Mayer, Vienna||No children|
|Wife #2||Katalin Farsang, Budapest|
|Child||Felix Hans Georg Zwierzina
(changed to: Felix G. Game)
|Died||28 Feb 1956||Gmunden, AT|
My father, hereafter referred to as Emo, was already 39 years old when I was born in 1930. What had he been doing those 39 years? Through my research I was able to obtain a fair amount of documentation and piece together a lot of his life-before-Felix.
|Historical Events of the Period|
|Should anyone be of the opinion that nothing earthshaking happened when my father was born, let me point out that there was in fact an earthquake in Japan in 1891 which killed some 10,000 people.|
|There was also widespread famine in Russia.|
|But most importantly, the Zipper was invented in the United States.|
According to Emo's baptismal documentfggdoc19, he was delivered at 6 Kleingasse, Wien-Gersthof with some help from the neighborhood midwife Kunegunde Krieck, who conveniently lived only a few doors away at 12 Kleingasse. At his christening, Emo's 30 year-old half-sister Ida Zwierzina acted as his godmother. It should be noted that the godmother was Ida the half-sister whose married name was Wolf, and not Ida the niece whose married name was Birman.
Although I had heard my father use the name Emo when introducing himself, I had not realized that this was the name the whole family knew him by. I found out in December 1989 when cousin Ida Birman upbraided me for using his real name "Emil". Deferring to her intimate knowledge of the Zwierzina family, I shall refer to Emil as Emo from now on.
He seldom spoke of his childhood. His father was already 66 years old when Emo was born. Emo was one of 21 children, and one of only two boys who survived to adulthood. It would be tempting to imagine Emo as an "only boy among an army of half-sisters". In reality, because of the great difference in their ages, there were no more children at home at any one time than one would find in a family of more normal proportions. Nothing illustrates this more than the fact that Emo's godmother was his own 30-year-old half- sister. There were three other half-sisters who were even older. Further more, since both Emo and Hans were of the same mother, and only two years apart in age, the two boys must have grown up together until Hans went away to school. Although I do not know why, it could be significant that my father never spoke of interacting with his brother Hans as a child - or later. Emo's childhood remains mostly a mystery.
From the few anecdotes he did tell, his father comes across like the typical hard-nosed disciplinarian he was probably expected to be. One story describes how Emo, who must have been quite small at the time because he had to "reach up" to get something off the table, grabbed one of those rocking knives that were used before meat grinders were invented. They had two or three curved blades and a vertical handle on each end, and one simply rocked the blades back and forth across whatever needed to be cut up (meat, nuts, onions, etc.). At any rate, Emo reached up, and when pulling this rocking knife contraption down toward himself, he dropped it on his foot, which he cut. His father's approach to "teaching him a lesson" was first to bandage his foot, and then to sit him in the open window, with the legs hanging outside, "so everybody could see from the bandage how clumsy he had been". I would like to think that my grandfather was perhaps smarter than given credit, and had really intended a diversionary maneuver, which seems to have worked because Emo never mentioned any pain, or blood. He only remembered sitting there the best part of the day trying to hide his bandaged foot.
|Emo 10 years old in replica of Jšger uniform|
permanently branding grandfather Muki as an insensitive brute, let me
say that it was not at all unusual for children to get slapped in those days,
or even two generations later - in my days. It certainly did not stop them from
dreaming up mischief. Ida tells of one such idea that my father had, which unfortunately
loses something in translation. She says that he had a parrot, and that he patiently
taught it to greet all visitors with the crackled question of "hast
was brocht?" (did you bring
something?). If the visitor answered "no", the parrot would scold
leck mi am Arsch!" (then kiss
1905 At fourteen years of age Emo was admitted to the military secondary school (MilitärUnterrealschule) in St.Pölten, after which he attended the Infantry-cadet- school (Infanteriekadettenschule) in Vienna from which he graduated "with good results" in 1909. The Director of the Kriegsarchiv in Vienna, Dr. Tepperberg, informed me that there are many cartons of documents relative to the Militär-Unterrealschule St.Pölten, but that there were too many for staff to go through them. He suggested that I go there myself, and even provided the number of the streetcar I should take. It seems to have been lost on him that I was writing from Canada.
Historical Events of the Period
|1908||Austria annexes Bosnia and Herzegovina.|
1909 A photograph dated 1909 shows him in the jacket of a cadet uniform, with one ribbon on the collar. He looks very young for 18. He looks more like a boy of 14. He passed muster (assentiert) on 18 August out of the Infanterie Kadettenschule, and was assigned as Fähnrich (Ensign) to the Bosnian-Hercegovinian Infantry Regiment Nr.1 for 3 years of Line duty, 7 years of Reserve duty, and 2 years of Militia (Landwehr) duty (he had to make up the 7 years spent in military school) [P.V.Bl.29 1909].
Emo, 18 year old cadet
The 1910 edition of the Schematismus für das k. u. k. Heer und für die k.u.k. Kriegsmarine shows all four of them on pages 696 and 697. One possible explanation may be that the cadets were given an opportunity upon graduation to indicate any preference for their assignment. With their close relative being the Regiment's Commanding officer, it would be natural for all of them to name the Bosnian-Hercegovinian Infantry Regiment Nr.1 as the preferred posting. Since the Regiment's Commander probably had to approve the subalterns assigned to him, his approval could be taken for granted.
Apart from that, the BH regiments also had a first class reputation
as good fighting units with a terrific moral and discipline. They proved this
reputation during the First World War when they in fact became the most-decorated
fighting units of the Austro-Hungarian army. Using the number of "Gold
Medals for Valor" awarded in the entire Austro-Hungarian army, the average
is somewhere between 8 and 14 per regiment, with very few boasting more than
20. The 1st , 2nd , 3rd , and 4th Bosnian-Hercegovinian Infantry regiments between
them chalked up 87 Gold Medals, with 2nd BH-Infantry Regiment standing in first
place with 42 Gold Medals for Bravery.
And there was another thing that may have been a significant motivator for vain young men: The Bosnian-Hercegovinian Regiments had a more attractive uniform: light blue jackets and light blue pants with red piping and yellow buttons showing the regimental number. Officers of Islamic faith wore a red fez instead the normal chako. These units provided the palace guard in Vienna and put on a daily show when changing the guard and marching through the streets with their own regimental bands playing.
|Bescheidener, gut veranlagter Charakter, mit regem Pflichtgefühl und großer Ambition. Recht gut befähigt mit sehr guter Auffassung. Zu seinen Dienstesobliegenheiten gut bewandert, guter Instruktor; führt den Zug in allen Lagen recht geschickt. Guter Schütze. Guter Kamerad mit bescheidenem Auftreten.||Unpretentious, of good disposition with an acute sense of duty and pronounced ambition. Very capable, with very good comprehension. Well acquainted with his duties and obligations; good instructor; leads the unit with skill in all situations. Good marksman. A good comrade with an unassuming presence.my translation|
1912 He was promoted to Lieutenant effective 1 November 1912 (P.V.Bl.39), and was transferred to the 3rd Field Battalion in Sarajevo on Christmas Eve. (K.M.E.12011). He had been garrisoned in Vienna from August 18, 1909 till 24 December 1912. That his transfer would fall on Christmas Eve is probably a benevolent clerical trick to allow him to spend it with his widowed mother in Vienna, which also gave him the opportunity to show off the new star on his collar. He was only required to report to Sarajevo on December 26th.Doc621913 In this year's evaluation by his commanding officer, the word "unpretentious" is gone, instead he is now seen as "easily excitable":
|Gut veranlagter Charakter, leicht erregbar, handelt energisch, ohne Scheu vor Verantwortung. Guter Patrouilleur. Befand sich während der Kriegsbereitschaft in BH 1912-13 durch 8 Monate bei dem auf vollem Kriegsstand befindlichen Bataillon und hat sich durch besonderen Eifer bewährt. Doc62||Of good disposition, easily excitable, acts decisively, not afraid to assume responsibility. Good on patrol. For a period of eight months he found himself with the Battalion when it was in full war-readiness in Bosnia-Hercegovina during 1912-13, and proved to be exceptionally eager. my translation|
On the other hand, the mountain artillery was not in the best shape. Conrad remarked in 1913 that the Mountain artillery had only one modern howitzer, but their main piece, the canon, was completely archaic. He emphasized that it was imperative and urgent to order the mountain cannon (Gebirgskanone), especially since the Balkan countries had excellent mountain artillery at their disposal.
Historical Events of the Period
Outbreak of World War I. Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated in Sarajevo June 28. Franz Joseph signs declaration of war on Serbia July 28.
|Montenegro declares war on Austria 5 Aug 1914.|
|Germany declared war on Russia 1 Aug 1914.|
|Austria declared war on Russia 6 Aug 1914.|
|France declared war on Austria 11 Aug 1914.|
|Britain declared war on Austria 12 Aug 1914.|
|Austria declared war on Japan 23 Aug 1914.|
|Belgium declared war on Austria 28 Aug 1914.|
1914 During July, the month in which Austria declared war on Serbia, Emo carried out duties of a reconnaissance officer with the k.u.k. Gb.Kn.Btt 3/11 (Gebirgskanonenbatterie = mountain cannon battery 3/11), and was still with it during the thrust into the Sandschak.
Austrian Military Status
The Austrian commander of the Balkan front, General Oskar Potiorek takes the 2nd, 5th, and 6th Armies across the Drina and Danube in mid August, and takes a beating from Serbs. By 24 August no more Austrian troops on Serb soil. A humiliating defeat in less than 2 weeks.
A second offensive in mid September somewhat more lucky and Serbs in full retreat at one point. Austrians capture Belgrade 2 December. Serbs rally and throw Austrians out of Serbia again by mid December.
Austria lost in four months 1, 269,000 soldiers and 22,000 of its 50,000 officers.
|Oberleutnant Emo at Vlasenica May 1915|
After Montenegro declared war on Austria (5 Aug 1914) Emo became part of the forces which launched the incursion of Montenegro on the 14th and 15th of August from Foca via the battle near Celebic' and Fabuka Vitine. He then took part in the operations of the 8th Mountain Brigade over Plevlje, Prijepolje, and Nova Varo.
Austrian Military Status
|1915||Italy's attack by 900,000 expected any day on the Austrian border manned by a mere 25,000 rifles. Austrian high command (Conrad) hurriedly sends XV & XVI Corps from Serbia to the Isonzo and creates a new command, the 5th army, under Boroevic to hold the Isonzo line, a 35 mile stretch from Mt.Krn in the north to the Adriatic in the south.|
|Historical Events of the Period|
|1915||Italy declares war on Austria 23 May 1915.|
As subsequent documents dealing with appraisals and decorations indicate, Emo's unit came under the umbrella command of the 58th Infantry Division of the XVI Corps, one of the units which was hurriedly moved from Serbia to the Isonzo in anticipation of the Italian attack. This explains why his list of events and his photographs make it at times appear as if he had been in two places at the same time.
Starting on the 24th of May 1915, the day the Italians crossed the Isonzo and seized Karfreit (Caporetto), and for the next two months Emo was involved in the First and Second Battles of the Isonzo for the bridgehead of Görz. From 27 May to 14 July he served at Monte Sabotino under Captain Lemmé. On 14 July Emo was commander of the Field Cannon battery 6/4 under Major General Konopitzky for the 4th Mountain Brigade in the battles of Podgora, Pavina, and Oslavia. There are some photographs from this period. (See Gallery)
The Second Battle of the Isonzo focused on the capture of Hill ¤143 and Monte San Michele. Both changed hands in heavy fighting but at the end San Michele was again in Austrian hands. Emo would have been a bit further down the Isonzo where on the same day (19 July) Italian forces tried to dislodge Erwin Zeidler's 58 Infantry Division from its trenches around the Podgora and Monte Sabotino, but the mostly Dalmatian troops defended their line. The Italians tried for three more days but on 23 July the 58th launched a local counter attack and cleared the Podgora hill of all Italian Infantry.
Emo on Bubi 1915 during a battle pause at Görz
I have two such medals. One is engraved "k.u.k. Infanterie - Bataillon III/69. Monte Sabotino 23.VI. 1915". After checking all documents, and not finding anything about a second Bronze Medal of Military Merit, it remains an unsolved mystery.
August: The third Battle of the Isonzo at Oslavíja.
Emo was First Officer, and interim commander of the k.u.k. Filed Cannon battery 6./4. until Oct. 5th, when he joined the 3./G11 as First Officer. He then took part in the battle for Semendrija, and the operations of the 25th K.d. Res. Divn. to Kruevac. In July, the battles around Podgora, Pevina. On 31 July 1915 (P.V.Bl.110/15 St Bef15/15)
September, October, November the offensive in Serbia of the Imperial German 11th Army; especially during October in convoy with the 25th gh hess.Res.I.D. (großherzöglichen hessischen Reserveinfantriedivision) Danube crossing near Semendria. Battles near Krazujevac and Kruevac.
November 28th 1915: On orders from General Field Marshall Mackensen, Emo took over the G.Haub.Batt 2./4. (mountain howitzer battery) as commander on an interim basis for the sole purpose of putting it back in shape.
Emo again received the "very highest commendation in recognition of courageous conduct before the enemy" and was awarded the Silver Medal of Military Merit. [17 Jan 1916 (P.V.Bl.12/16)].
His superiors said of him during this period, that he "commanded his battery during the battle with competence and exemplary courage...He is an exceptional battery commander of solid character, and in every respect a really good officer".
At the end of 1915/16 some of his photographs show him in Montenegro on march from the Lovcen area towards Zecevo Selo and Virpazar. The unit is now called Geb Kan Btt 3/11 (Gebirgskanonen Batterie = Mountain cannon Battery 3/11). Emo became Battery Commander of 3./G.11. on January 21st 1916 and proceeded from Virpazar to Skutari, Alessio, Mamuras, and Durazzo.
1916 photos show Emo in Albania. His unit (3/G/11) can be seen marching along a road strewn with dead horses, aptly referred to in the picture as "Kadaverstrasse" somewhere between Miloti and Bushneshi. February 1916, they are on the north bank of the Mati river. Then in Kruja.
1916 February: Emo was Sector Commander, and was doing Coast Guard duty at Cap Rodoni. From April to August he was involved with the construction of fortifications on the Imi Peninsula. (Italian positions penetrated by Austrians 14 May 1916). In August he was again the First Officer of the Mountain Artillery Battery 2/24 on Mte. S. Gabriele.
Historical Events of the Period
|1916||Italians enter Goritzia on 9 Aug 1916, and defeat the Austrians on the Carso on 13 Sep 1916.|
Emo then spent the period from September to December in the Wippachtal, being Independent Train Commander on Point 88 (Biglia) as of October.
1916 October 29: Emo was allowed to go on leave. He registered himself into 19 Kochgasse in the 8th district of Vienna, which was his mother's address. For a "previous address" he gave Kriegschauplatz (theater of war). It must have been a two week pass plus travel time because he moved out again on 12 November with a destination of an die Front (to the front).
Historical Events of the Period
|1916||Franz Joseph's grandnephew Karl takes over on Nov 21. Austria fighting on three fronts: Galicia, Italy, and the Balkan.|
From December 16th to the 17th of the following March (1917) Emo was Chief of Tactical Training with the Ers.Batt.Gar.24. (Ersatzbatterie Garnison 24).
1917 At the beginning of 1917 his commanding officer said of him: "Fester, ernster Charakter. Sehr diensteifrig, sehr verwendbar, gediegene Kenntnisse, strammes und schneidiges Auftreten." (Solid, serious character. Very duty- minded, very useful, extensive know ledge, a smart, daring presence.)my translation In March he was busy as Commander setting up Battery 3/S F58 XVI.
Historical Events of the Period
|1917||The Italian offensive, and the bloody 10th and 11th battles of the Isonzo, (Italians cross the Isonzo and take Austrian positions 19 Aug 1917), followed by the 12th Battle of the Isonzo, which turned into an incomparable victory for Austria.|
|Emo (center) relaxing with his noncoms|
Image courtesy Glenn Jewison
1917 May 16 Emo was lightly wounded with what he called a Kopfsteckschuß (a Steckschuß is a shot where the projectile stays in - in this case a piece of shrapnel stayed in his skull). He remained at his post until dark and kept his battery shooting, but even then had to be told by his superior to check in at the aid station of Sanitätskolonne of I.D.58 before he actually went to have his wound attended to.
This resulted in his receiving the Silver Military Cross of Merit:
Für tapferes Verhalten vor dem Feinde.
Oblt. Zwierzina hat in den Kämpfen seit 12. Mai durch Umsicht und stets initiatives Handeln zum Erfolg der letzten Kampftage beigetragen. In schwerem feindlichen Artilleriefeuer stehend und leicht verwundet (16.5.17), ließ er sich von seinem Stellvertreter verbinden und begab sich erst, als in den Abendstunden Ruhe eintrat, auf Befehl des Gruppenkommandanten auf den Hilfsplatz, kehrte aber dann wieder auf seinen Beobachtungsstand zurück. Durch sein Verhalten gab er seinen Untergebenen ein Beispiel treuester Pflichterfüllung und Tapferkeit. (Standort Beobachtung stand 503 Trienek).
|For courageous Conduct before the Enemy.
First Lieutenant Zwierzina has contributed to the success of the battles of the last few days since May 12 with his good judgment and constant initiative. Standing in heavy enemy ar tillery fire while lightly wounded (16.5.17), he allowed his wound to be dressed by his 2iC, but would only go to the aid post after things quieted down during the evening, and only on orders from the Group Commander. He then immediately returned to his observation post. He set with his conduct an example for his subordinates of a most loyal sense of duty and courage. (Location: Observation post 503 Trienek). Dated at Feldpost 420 on 27.V.1917my translation
The different levels of command which were required to endorse
a Request for Award provide an insight both into how seriously decorations were
taken, and into the inability of the military to delegate authority. The document
shows the following endorsements:
(1) requested by the Group Commander (signed captain Rudolf Dirka(?), 24.5);
(2) endorsed by the Command of the Heavy Field Artillery Regiment No.XVI (signed Lieut Col(?) Scholler(?), 25.5.17);
(3) endorsed by the Command of the Heavy Artillery Group (signed Schuster? Obstltn?, Kommander of the Heavy Artillery Group and of the k.u.k. Filed Cannon Regiment 44, 25.5.17);
(4) endorsed by the Command of the k.u.k. 58th Resserve Field Artillery Brigade (signed Hussárek Col(?), 26.5.17);
(5) endorsed by the Command of the Reserve Batallion Nr 31 of the 58th Infantry Division. (signed Zeidler, 1.6.17);
(6) endorsed by the k.u.k. 16th Corps Command (signed General Králicek, 9.6.17);
(7) endorsed by the Command of the k.u.k. Isonzo Army (Gstbs-bt) (signed GO Boroevic, 11.6.17);
That makes it six rubber stamps, and seven signatures representing every layer of the military hierarchy from his immediate superior to the Commander of the Isonzo Army. A well-endorsed medal.fggdoc82
tapferes und erfolgreiches Verhalten vor dem Feinde.
Oberleutnant Zwierzina hat während der 11. Isonzoschlacht in mustergiltiger und initiativer Weise das Feuer seiner Batterie geleitet und durch seine genaue Aufklärung und sein präzises Schießen dem Feinde vielfach schweren Schaden zugefügt. Mit besonderem Erfolge wirkte er bei den schweren Angriffen des Feindes auf den Veliki Hrib (Mte. Gabriele) und gab seinen Untergebenen ein leuchtendes Beispiel steter Besonnenheit, Mut und Ausdauer, wodurch er seine Batterie jederzeit im höchsten Maße schlagfertig erhielt. Stets mit dem Willen das Beste zu leisten beseelt, erfüllte er alle an ihn gestellten Aufgaben, sodaß er einer neuerlichen Allerhöchsten Anerkennung für würdig erscheint.
| For valiant and effective
conduct before the enemy.
First lieutenant Zwierzina directed the fire of his battery during the
11th Battle of the Isonzo with initiative and in an exemplary manner,
and owing to his detailed observation and precise shooting, repeatedly
caused extensive damage to the enemy. He was particularly effective during
the heavy enemy attacks on the Veliki Hrib (Mte.Gabriele),
and set for his subordinates a glowing example of composure, courage and
endurance, thereby keeping his battery in the highest degree of readiness
at all times. Always dominated by a desire to do his best, he completed
all assignments, and is therefore once again worthy of the very highest
recogni tion.my translation
|Gefestigter Karakter, hat sehr gute artilleristische Kenntnisse, ist in Allem sehr versiert, energisch im Gefechte, ruhig, kaltblütig. Hat sehr gute Einwirkung auf Untergebene.||Solid character, has very good know ledge of artillery matters. Familiar with all aspects. Forceful, calm and cool headed in battle. Very good in fluence on subordinates.my translation|
|Historical Events of the Period|
|1917||Austro-Germans begin great offensive on Italian positions on 24 Oct 1917); Italians retreat across the Isonzo and evacuate the Bainsizza Plateau on 25 Oct 1917.|
|Goritzia recaptured by Austro-Germans on 27 Oct 1917. Italians retreat to the Tagliamento 31 Oct 1917. Over 300,000 Italian casualties were suffered.|
|Italians abandon the Tagliamento line and retire on a 93 mile front in the Carnic Alps 5 Nov 1917. Italians beaten at Caporetto (now Kobarid) and pushed back across the Piave River 9 Nov 1917.|
|Italians repulse Germans on the whole front from Asiago Plateau to the Brenta River 23 Nov 1917.|
|USA declares war on Austria 7 Dec 1917.|
|1918||January showed militarily the best picture yet. Austro-Hungarian forces were victorious everywhere, and stood on enemy soil on all fronts.|
Emo directing the fire of his battery
Promoted to Captain 1 May 1918. Emo was with the Heavy Field Artillery Regiment No58).fggdoc67 As of July 18, he was Commander of G.AA58 (Gebirgsartillerieabteilung) and fought the first Piave Battle, and remained Commander of Battery 3/s F.58 until September 30th, 1918. The last appraisal Emo received was for the period from October 1, 1917 to September 30, 1918. The commander of the Regiment, Major Karl Schubert had this to say:
Gefestigter Charakter, energisch, sehr rege, tüchtiger Batteriekommandant, hat seine Batterie fest in der Hand. Persönlich keine Furcht kennend, kaltblütig und ruhig im Feuer. Solid character, energetic, very industrious, a good battery commander, has his battery well in hand, knows no fear, is calm and cool-headed under fire.my translation
Historical Events of the Period
|1918||October - The Austrian Revolution.|
|The Allies launched a great offensive on the Italian front along the Piave on 24 Oct 1918.. For two days the Austro-Hungarian Army, sustained by tradition and training, fought back, although its soldiers were in rags, famished and plagued by malaria and Spanish influenza. Then the Hungarian troops left for their homeland.|
|Cease Fire arranged for 4 Nov 1918. Austria stops hostilities, Italians keep on taking another 356,000 Austrian prisoners!|
|1918 November 12 - Law proclaiming Austria a Republik.|
By far the most photographs, still available, are from the Italian theater of war. The main places covered are Görz (now Gorizia), Palmanova, Cordovado (with the Castle Ramuscello), Medea, Noventa, Rivignano, Cascarta, Gradiscutta, Ranziano, Oderzo. Then there were all the various neighboring mountains, where most of the artillery action has been. Some of these peaks became quite famous, and their names are easily recognized: Mte. Sabotino, Mte. SanGabriele, Mte. di Medea. There are other locales, such as Lake Skutari, shores of the Tagliamento, Borgo San Rocco, etc. One group of pictures deals specifically with the 11th Isonzo Battle. (The mountain names: Fajti Hrib, Golnek, Trienek, Stol). There were other pictures long ago, but they were lost during several major moves over the years. Most of the pictures still in my possession have been recreated from negatives by myself (to browse through all the pictures go to the gallery) and click on any that you want to see enlarged and/or explained.
As for stories, Emo did not volunteer many stories about the war, nor of anything else. Over the years, however, several bits and pieces came out.
There was snow, and there was cold, and there was fatigue. And they did not always have the opportunity to fabricate a decent shelter. Emo says he found himself quite a few times lining up a bunch of ammunition crates in the snow and sleeping on them, wrapped in his great coat, right beside the guns.
|Captain Emo Zwierzina 1918|
When it was all over, and the troops were returning home, Emo had a run-in with one of the Red Guards that were posted at railway stations to disarm returning military personnel. The soldiers did not have any love for these politi cal, paramilitary units. The returning soldiers were quite disappointed at the state of affairs in their homeland for which they had fought four miserable years.
Against this background it is not hard to believe, that when the Red Guard, posted at the railway station to disarm returning soldiers, asked for Emo's pistols (he carried two) he, without batting an eye proceeded to open his two holsters, then moving very rapidly, drew both pistols and stuck them into the Red Guard's face at the same time commanding him to step aside. Those of his men who were with him, passed through the gate without having given up their arms to "those vermin".
Back in Vienna, Emo was reported as living at 19 Kochgasse on 16 November 1918. It can be assumed that he went to his mother's home straight from the train, as he gives his previous address simply as "im Felde" (in the field). This had to be a joyous occasion. His mother had seen both her sons go to war in 1914, and only a few months earlier had buried Hans, the eldest, leaving her with only one son Emo, who now had returned at least physically undamaged. He stayed with her through Christmas but moved immediately afterwards, on 27 December to Stuckgasse 15 in the 7th district. It could not have been to his liking be cause he moved out again 2 months later on 20 March 1919, and went back to his mother. It caught my eye that this registration slip is signed by what looks like "Fritz Dr. Bois (or Rois)". This had to be grandmother's French boarder and paramour, Mr. DuBois, whom Ida had mentioned. The signature appears to be deliberately vague with an inordinately large space between Du and Bois, and a redundant period after the very badly formed 'u'. I suspect that the writer wanted his signature to be mistaken for Dr. Rois to make his name appear less French, for after all, he was during the war years an enemy alien in Vienna - and a journalist at that.
The Austro-Hungarian high command finally concluded an armistice of surrender with the Italians on November 3rd 1918. It took a long time after the cessation of hostilities to implement the peace treaty of Saint-Germain (September 1919). In the meantime there were about three different "armies" in existence. One each for the two major opposing political factions, and the one which was authorized to be the postwar Austrian Army of 30,000 men. This latter, did recruit about 1,500 officers of the old army and from the other two political armies. All 1,500 positions were completely filled by 1 September 1920. For officers of the old army who did not join the new federal army, some sort of governmental employment was to be provided. I don't know if Emo tried to join. However, the books also say that the State continued for some time after the war to pay about 9000 ex-officers of the old army. Perhaps Emo was one of the lucky ones who kept getting paid for a while?
Historical Events of the Period
The rate of inflation in Austria reached 1400%
1919 Emo had obviously met a young lady by the name of Felizitas Ramberg-Mayer, and was about to marry her. In preparation for this (although the reason is not clear) he went through the motions of officially changing his religion from Roman Catholic to Evangelisch-Reformiert (H.B.), where H.B.=Helvetisches Bekenntniss (Calvinist) as distinct from A.B.= Augsburger Bekenntniss (Lutheran). This first came to light from an entry in his birth record which states that he "quit the Roman Catholic church on 23 June 1919".fggdoc19 A further document was obtainedfggdoc38 from the offices of the 8th district of Vienna, showing Emo's signature on a declaration to the effect that he was leaving the RC church. This document is dated 23 June 1919 and shows Emil Anton Zwierzina as Beamter (generic title for anyone having pensionable employment in the public service, or simply working in an office). It also shows him as residing at 19 Kochgasse in the 8th district of Vienna. No reason was asked, nor is one given in the documents.
Since I know from his birth record that Emo had been born into the Catholic faith, it is likely that Felizitas had been a Protestant (she had been baptized at the parish of St. Johann), and that neither of them wanted to agree to the demands the Catholic Church likes to make in the case of an inter-faith marriage.
1919 July 4 - Emo married the 22 year-old Felizitas Karla Ramberg-Mayer, daughter of Friedrich Wilhelm Gerhard Ramberg-Mayer, author, and Consul of Costa Rica, and his wife Leopoldine Josephine Marie Miller. The marriage was recorded at the Evangelisch-Reformierte Pfarre of Vienna - Innere Stadt (Dorotheergasse 16; A-1010 Wien). The witnesses at the marriage were Fritz Weber, Rechnungs Revident, residing at Messerschmidtgasse 34 in the 18th district of Vienna, and Gerhard Ramberg-Mayer, director, residing at Hagelgasse 8 in the 1st district of Vienna. Fritz Weber was Emil's brother-in-law (married to his half- sister Hedwig Zwierzina), and Gerhard Ramberg-Mayer was obviously the bride's father. Both the groom and the bride are shown as being of the Evangelical- Reformed faith. fggdoc187
Emo moved out of his mother's home on 4 July 1919 when he married Felizitas Ramberg, and they moved into their own apartment on the third floor of Hiessgasse 15 (apt #18) in the third district. The groom's previous address was of course 19 Kochgasse, and Felizitas gave Hegelgasse 8, which according to their marriage document, was her father's address. This is only significant because on 8 October (90 days into their marriage) the couple moved out and gave their destination as Hegelgasse 8, Tür 9. Now was apartment #9 the Ramberg residence, or was this a different apartment in the same building which had become vacant? In the absence of any indication that Emo had any kind of income, I tend to think that they moved in with her parents.
It is comforting to see that my father had surplus energy for such problems as leaving the Catholic Church during a period in Vienna when a worldwide epidemic of influenza (which killed 20 Million) was raging for several months, and when there was actual famine between 1918 and 1920. The postwar economy was a shambles with such visible indicators as only 20 railroad cars of coal arriving in Vienna daily from Bohemia and Moravia instead of the 200 cars per day which used to arrive before 1918. In 1922 the Austrian Crown fell within three months from 10,000 Crowns to the US Dollar to 74,450 to the US Dollar, and the cost of living soared during the same period from 1364 times the nominal 1914 level to 14,153 times. The largest catastrophe for middle-class Viennese families was the condition attached to a $126 million League of Nations loan that Austria obtained. It was told to dismiss 80,000 government employees. The economy was stabilized in January 1925, and 10,000 old crowns were worth 1 new Schilling. Unemployment had sharply increased and was now at 18%.
It was smack in the middle of all this that, according to Albert Rueprecht ( Viennese actor and director), nephew of Felizitas, that Emo and Felicitas tried their hand at operating a Hemdennäherei (shirt factory). Later when Emo applied for reenlistment with the German Wehrmacht in 1939, he stated on his application that he had "attended, after WW-I, a degree program for officers at the Vienna Handelsakademie on Hammerling Platz", which shows that he tried to upgrade his qualifications for civilian employment (I have later confirmed that he had attended such a course). doc197a3
My father had received training for only one thing, to be an officer in the Imperial Austrian army. Now that there was no longer an Imperial Austria, and certainly no Imperial Austrian army, he must have wondered how he would make a living. Taking some classes at the Handelsakademie would have been one step in the right direction, and it is possible that the idea came from his cousin (or what ever one calls the daughter of a halfsister) Ida Birman who herself graduated from that institution.
1933 - Felizitas
Once, when I was about 15 or 16 years old, I must have asked a question of my father about his first marriage, and he remarked that he had been still in pretty bad shape from the war, had uncontrollable tremors, and was often not in the right frame of mind to provide what a young, newly married woman expected. Was he trying to tell me that he had been temporarily impotent, or was he just covering up and taking the blame for some other problem they had? (shortly before her death, my mother confided to me that Felicitas could not have any children, and that this intelligence had been witheld from my father before they married. I am not able to accept this story as given to me because my mother was quite confused at that point and kept insisting that I was not her son, because her son was dead. At the same time I must consider the possibility that my father may have told her this story to explain why he had divorced Felicitas in the first place).
There is something mysterious
about this marriage. Dorli Birman quoted her mother Ida as remembering that Felizitas
was pretty, had loved my father very much, and even continued to assist him for
a while after their divorce. The same Ida on the other hand inferred that the
Emo/Felizitas marriage ended "be cause he never had any money".
I argued with Ida about this, not because I doubted the absence of money, but
because I did not believe that a loving wife would want to divorce for only that
reason - especially a young wife who had married a recently discharged career
officer who was obviously not trained for anything else, and who would have difficulty
trying to establish himself in a civilian world. Ida seemed to be quite ready
to blame a lot of things on the absence of money. I would say she had a real hang-up
about money. She considered Emo a dreamer (ein
Fantast) and remembers how she used to challenge his predictions that he
would join a firm as a partner, by pointing out that becoming a partner required
money. What ever the reason for their divorce, Emo and Felizitas were corresponding
in 1945. She had remarried and emigrated with her husband Mr. Epstein to Buenos
Aires where she became known as Felicitas Ramberg de Epstein,
and where she was active as a nurse. She once wrote to me in Canada, saying that
Emo was a man of remarkable abilities. I was unfortunately not too interested
in family history at the time, nor did I know what to say, but I do remember thanking
her, and remarking that I was sorry I had never met her, and that I would have
liked to be her son. To the best of my knowledge there were no further letters
from her. The above picture is of Felicitas in 1940.
|Emo on a Rudge Multi, built in England by Rudge-Whitworth starting in 1911|
It is very vague in my memory, but I do remember seeing a snapshot of my father wearing a strange uniform, and the picture was annotated with the word Freikorps. I don't know precisely during which period in his life he would have been involved with the Freikorps, it could have been after his divorce, but before he went to Hungary, or perhaps after he returned to Austria prior to 1938. The Freikorps played a prominent role immediately after World War I. Their role then was to provide a counter revolutionary force, and also to protect the borders of their country against deliberate attempts at territorial gains by unfriendly neighbours. A particularly vivid illustration of this are the battles fought by these volunteer units against the Jugoslav Army which was determined to make unauthorized gains in Corinthia, the southernmost province of Austria. Some contemporary literature would imply a relationship to the rise of the Nazi Party and makes much of the fact that prominent members of the Freikorps movement later show up as prominent Nazis. To me this is a possible over-simplification which ignores the more sincere motives of the players. Besides, someone who is of a calibre to be prominent in one era, can be expected to be prominent in an other era also. If a person is a nationalist, cares about his country, and does not want to stand by idly when it is threatened, he will quickly find himself in the uniform of some organization that professes to protect the country against internal or external enemies. If this resulted in some of them becoming Nazis, I would rather think that the result was coincidental, because the Nazi uniform happened to be the only uniform at the time.
There was another period when the Freikorps became quasi-active: In the latter part of 1938 when Hitler was preparing to grab the Sudenland from Czechoslovakia. During the preparations, he had instructed some of his forces, the Freikorps among them, to stand by along the the Czech border to supposedly keep Czech forces from entering German territory, but actually to simply intimidate them. Although I am only speculating, it is more likely that Emo took an interest in this part of ing history because his family were ethnic Germans and had lived in Moravia which would give them a firm enough reason to identify with the Sudeten Germans, and at this particular time side with Germany. For all I know, they may have considered themselves to be Sudeten Germans also. Be it as it may, the only thing I know for sure is that there was a complete and very new-looking mustard-colored Freikorps uniform hanging in the closet. It was many years later changed by a tailer into a suit for my father.
Katů Farsang circa 1926
Although his timing seems to have been off, he did marry my mother: Kató Farsang on January 20, 1931 in Pesterzsébet, a suburb of Budapest. Her address is shown as Angyal út 49. He is described on the marriage certificate as a divorced, retired army captain. The two witnesses were Oszkár Fery, residing at Józsefkõrút 62, and Miklós Katz residing at Józsefkõrút 66, both Budapest.
|Emo in the 1920s - presumably in Hungary|
At one time he must have thought that things were going well, because suddenly there was beautiful new furniture which I still remember to be of very shiny walnut, and where there was upholstery, it was a very intense forest green. One cushion was shaped like a five foot long sausage and made of the same green material. Once my father put me on top of a giant wardrobe, and then walked away. I have to admit that this seems like a good way to get a kid out your hair - but it was rather irresponsible and not at all safety conscious. Perhaps he would not have minded had I fallen and broken my neck? He did not give the impression in those days that being married and having a child would be his first choice. One day not long after, all the new furniture was gone again. Perhaps things were not going quite so well after all. And yet, we must have been considered part of the "Haves" rather than the "Have-nots" because the caretaker couple who lived at the back of the house came to us for the used tea leaves out of our tea pot, which they then brewed once more for themselves.
|Emo circa 1935 in Budapest|
At one point he asked everyone to taste a lovely, sweet mixture of what I think were ground nuts and sugar and something else, which he thought could be patented and sold as a delicacy. He also wanted to be in partnership with his good friend Robert Thalmayer, who was in the tire vulcanizing business, and whose name appears on my baptism papers as my Godfather. Come to think of it, he was even interested at one time in breeding silkworms!
Ida Birman tells how he freelanced for a while, helping emigrating Jews to dispose of their household goods. It seems like he was going to sell Ida one of the oriental carpets at a good price, but Emo's wife Kató threatened to blow the whistle on him. Since Ida told this in 1989, it is difficult to put the story into a proper context: Kato, did not appear on the scene till the autumn 1938 when we moved to Austria and she could not speak a word of German. If this really occurred, it had to be years later, when Emo's and Kato's marriage was breaking up, and she aleady had possession of those lovely carpets. Perhaps Emo was in fact trying to negotiate a deal with Ida, and was prevented by hi s wife. I can see that Ida would never forgive Kató for interfering. It would not have been considered very patriotic by the Hitler regime to help a Jew in any way at all, and I imagine that Kató's threat to blow the whistle had something to do with the political climate, rather than the legality or ethics of Emo's actions. As the future unfolded for these two women, they need not have been hostile, since when they died, the possessions of both were simply stolen by complete strangers with the help of their respective attorneys.
Needless to say, Emo needed an income. As an ex-career-officer, he was not trained for civilian life, although his education, and certainly his intelligence, were at least average. After he brought his Hungarian wife and his son Felix to Austria in the fall of 1938, finding a job was more critical than ever. He either already had taken some sort of retraining program, or had the promise of a job before he sent for his wife and son. The upshot of it was that the former artillery captain now introduced himself as Geflügelzuchtberater (Poultry Breeding Consultant). It was a government job, and came under the new Landesbauernschaft Donauland, one of the new crop of German political entities bestowed on Austria after the 1938 take-over. It was not unlike today's productivity improvement drives. Except today they want to improve the output of people, whereas back then they were content to try improving the output of chickens.
With the new job came an automobile, since the incumbent was expected to cover the whole countryside, and visit all the farmers, and all the villages where he was to set up meetings and make speeches about how to motivate the chickens to lay more eggs. In those days having a company car was a much bigger perk than it is today. The car was a Ford "Eifel", by today's standards a very small car of circa 1938 or 1939 vintage. It was however, brand new, and it got us around, and must have been a real boost to Emo's ego. It also became the source of many anecdotes, most of them having to do with sitting in front of the gates at a railway crossing two hours after the train had passed. The system required the section hand to crank the gates shut before the train came, and to crank them open again after the train had gone by. One section hand would operate several kilometers of gates with one crank. But these section hands also had goats to milk, grass to cut, and suppers to eat. They did not always give the gates top priority.
|Emo, Katů and Felix with 1939 Ford Eifel sedan|
Even in a relaxed society this had occasionally tragic consequences. People got used to the delays. In one case a farmer walking two goats along the road came to a rail road crossing with the gate down. He tied the goats to the gate and went into the bushes to relieve himself. A minute later he heard the most awful noises coming from his goats who were being hoisted by their necks, by the rising gate which had come alive. Luckily the experienced section hand, who was some two kilometers away, could tell by the re sistance that some thing was out of the ordinary, and he lowered the gates again to check things out.
We eventually moved from Vienna to a small town called Schwanenstadt in Upper Austria. This time we stayed at an inn (Gasthof) where Emo took a liking to one of the waitresses named Martha. (Their paths crossed several years later in Wels when Emo was already minus one leg, but still in uniform, and the officer in charge of station security at the Wels railway station, an important crossing (Eisenbahnknotenpunkt) where several main lines intersected). In Schwanenstadt I was sent to school to finish the third grade which I had interrupted in Budapest. The fact that I could not speak German did not seem to bother anyone.
Two moves later we were living in Gmunden at Traunleiten 93, in a room rented from a high school teacher named Reisenpichler who had two deaf and dumb, but otherwise very talented sons. The house sat right beside the tracks of the only Gmunden street car that went by about three times a day to service the railway station. It was also very close to the only real black smith in Gmunden that I know of. Because of the horses and some understanding of what shoeing horses was all about, and because the smith had an unmarried daughter who was making eyes at him, Emo used to stop by at the smithy to talk horses and wars. These were temporary accommodations for us, and in a matter of weeks Emo had found and rented the upstairs suite at the Villa Weilenböck at Bahnhofstraße 4, where we would live for about 15 years, although not always as a family.
The whole idea of training an ex-career officer to go around the farming country and tell farmers how to raise chickens seems a bit ludicrous. Emo traveled the back roads, made speeches and patted the farm girls on their behinds. Perhaps he was a good salesman. He sure had himself sold on the idea of raising chickens. He rented some abandoned greenhouses, and installed some brooders (Glucke). Next came cartons and cartons of little chicks we were going to raise into hens. The problem was that either the brooders were not properly constructed, or we did not know what we were doing, because we kept finding several dozens of half-barbecued chicks every day. Emo must have counted on his wife to look after this ill conceived enterprise, but for one reason or other, she never went near the chicks, and it was the 9 year-old son who spent some time with these unfortunate little creatures. I think it is a safe guess that Emo lost money on that deal.
|Historical Events of the Period|
World War 2 starts
|Emo 1939 - Captain of the Artillery|
True to his background as a mounted artillery officer, he chose to carry a saber instead of a pistol. Since officers of the artillery were entitled to a mount, he got away with this preference, and with the spurs on his boots. He looked very nice, and he seemed quite satisfied with the turn of events. He was again in uniform, a pay check was coming regularly, he was saluted, could click his heels and bow again when meeting someone, and felt like he probably intended to feel ever since he was sent to military school. Gone was the car, and gone was Emo most of the time from now on. The sequence of events is somewhat confusing because I only saw my father periodically when he came home on leave, or when I visited him at his garrison in Wels, and because I never really kept track of time but lived the life of a little boy. I remember him saying that he was briefly in Yugoslavia because he brought back a "captured" commando dagger, which was obviously home made, very sharp, but of very poor quality steel. This seems to agree with the unit's location as stated in the documentation of his admittance into a Graz hospital on 24 April 1941. His unit's location was right on the Yugoslav border.
|Historical Events of the Period|
|1939||German troops invade Poland September 1.|
|1939 Wiener Neustadt Military Academy. Emo second from left|
Although there are discrepancies in his service record when comparing documents fggdoc197-A4 and fggdoc197-B, Emo's World War II service went something like this:1939 From 7 September to 30 November, while attached to Artillery Regiment 98, he had to take a three months refresher course (called selection exercises) at the Kriegsakademie (military academy) in Wiener Neustadt.fggdoc197-A4. One report dated 25 November 1939 shows him attached to "1st Artillery Regiment 99". During this time he was assigned his personal identification number (Erkennungsmarke) of "-199-1. /Art. Regt. 99" fggdoc197-B
1939 Treysa/ Hessen. Emo with Sascha
Other photos taken in Dec 1939 shows him in a hospital in Kassel (which is not too far from Treysa, and perhaps the closest major hospital). This makes me deduct that it was in Treysa where he fell off his horse, and where on the insistence of his loyal NCO, he was taken for a medical examination which resulted in his admission to hospital in Kassel, and it was probably there that he was diagnosed as having diabetes. He must have been released and given leave for Christmas because there is a family Christmas photo marked "1939" showing him in full uniform at home in the living room at Gmunden, Bahnhofstrasse 4. Most of the photographs taken during this period show that he had aged much in a short time.
One report shows that between 1 Dec. 1939 and 30 Oct. 1940 he was attached to "Artillery Ersatz Abteilung 97" fggdoc197-A4. He was thereafter garrisoned in Wels, Upper Austria, where there was a large military establishment with a strong artillery contingent. I have no idea what, if anything, he was doing there except taking his horse out for a ride every day.
|Historical Events of the Period|
|1940||May 10. Germany attacks France via Holland and Belgium.|
|1940 Wels. Emo on Oase|
|Historical Events of the Period||1941||Apr 17 German troops invade Yugoslavia.|
1941 On 23 April 1941, the day before Emo's 50th birthday, he was admitted to Reserve Lazarett Ib in Graz (Styria, Austria) with a diagnosis of Zuckerkrank (diabetic). The admission documentation shows that he came from the 5th company of Landesschützen Batallion 895, was identified as Captain Emil Zwierzina 199 (his ID number) born 24 April 1891, that his date of enlistment had been 7 September 1939, that he was married to Katharina Zwierzina of Gmunden Bahnhofspl. 4 [sic instead of Bahnhofstraße 4], that his civil occupation was Beamter.fggdoc205-1
The following day, 24 April 1941, his 50th birthday, he was transferred for further treatment to Reserve Lazarett 1a in Graz (Styria, Austria) this time with the more precise diagnosis of "Zuckerharnruhr" (diabetes mellitus), and the more impressive civilian occupation of "Zuchtinspektor", which literally means 'breeding inspector' in the context of chick-breeding. His official job title was Geflügelzuchtberater, and I got the impression from this little play on words that Emo, who dealt with big horses and big guns and who had the respectable rank of captain, did not want to be associated with mere domestic chickens. So he had left the breeding part ambiguous enough to be mistaken for the breeding of horses, a very aristocratic pastime, and he had changed Berater (consultant) to the more impressive Inspektor. There were some other significant differences on this admission record: One of the rare occasions when the actual location of the unit is provided. It was Pudlach b/Lavamünd (south-west of Graz, on the Yugoslav border - this must have been the place where he got that "captured" commando knife). His identification number is somewhat longer this time: a.R.99/199. He spent more than a month in this hospital, and was released for further treatment at the Reserve Lazarett Ia in Vienna on 29 May 1941.fggdoc205-2 Some administrative changes must have been made while he was in hospital, because some other records indicate that effective 15 May 1941 he now belonged to "Kdt. W. M. St. V.ält. Wels" a designation I cannot entirely interpret (the folks in Berlin who provided this information were not certain either but suggested that it could mean Kommandantur Wehrmacht Standort Wels).fggdoc197-A4 In effect this would mean that he was transferred back to the garrison where he had been before his assignment to active duty.
On 30 May 1941 Emo was admitted to the Reserve Lazarett Ia, Abt I in Vienna. Instead of showing a diagnosis the abbreviation "Zm op" had been entered, and with a shudder I interpret this to mean zum operieren (to be operated on). There was a reprieve of sorts because on 5 June 1941 he was released for further treatment to Abt II.fggdoc205-3
He was admitted to Reserve Lazarett Ia, Abt II in Vienna on 5 June 1941. His Erkennungsmarke (ID) is still longer: 1/S.A.Rb99 Nr.199. This is more intelligible and means 1/Schwere Artillerie Reservebataillon 99 (1/Heavy Artillery Reserve Batallion 99) followed by his personal ID of 199. The dice had been cast for instead of a diagnosis on admission, the comment had been entered "Ambutation [sic]li Beines in mitte des Oberschenkel 29." (amputation of left leg in the middle of the thigh 29). I don't know what the 29 could mean, whether it is the date for which the operation was scheduled (seems far in advance) or some other hospital code indicating perhaps the room number, and then again it could be the direction as to where to cut - perhaps 29 centimeters of a stump to be left? It would be an odd sort of number - it does however hardly matter in view of what was planned.
On 2 July 1941 Emo was transferred to Kur Lazarett Semmering. In the Remarks column had been entered "Kein E.K., Kein V.A." which I interpret to mean "no Iron Cross (Eisernes Kreuz), no Medal of Merit (Verdienst Abzeichen)", and I speculate that, in the case of amputation of limbs, military personnel might have been normally bestowed with one of the two decorations, but in this case, because the amputation was due to diabetes rather than enemy action, the patient was not decorated.fggdoc205-4 Here was poor Emo, near the end of his career as an officer, he lost a leg while in uniform, but did not even get the prestige or satisfaction that would have gone with losing it in action and getting a medal for it.
He needed to be reassigned again even while recuperating from his ordeal. A report dated 12 Jul 1941 shows him attached to "5. Landesschützen Batallion 895"; the next report dated 6 Oct 1941 shows him with the "2. Genesenkompanie Landesschützen Ersatz Batallion 17" where the word Genesen means recovery or rehabilitation.fggdoc197-B
One day my mother and I went on a train trip to visit my father who was in one of the luxury hotels on the Semmering that had been turned into a military hospital (Lazarett). When we got there he was lying in bed, looking miserable and somewhat apologetic because it was obvious that there was less under the blanket than should have been. There was a leg missing. I did not know what to say, so I said nothing, and stayed out of the way. (This is the first of several incidents in my memory where I clearly lacked the savoir faire to show any kind of support to a person close to me).
Despite their shaky domestic situation, my mother was much more skilled, and I had to give her credit for making a lot of the right noises. There were the hugs and the kisses, and the supportive gestures, but looking back now, they did not mean a thing. Emo's wife Kató had either already commenced divorce proceedings, or did so shortly after this visit. The first document referring to this court action is dated 28 January 1942, and it is a summons for the affected parties to attend the trial on Feb 18 1943 at the Provincial Court in Wels (Landgericht Wels, Upper Austria).fggdoc103 The fact that the participants were invited a year in advance gives an indication of the slow speed with which the National Socialist German judicial system operated. If I reflect on the formalities that would be required before the court reaches the point of setting a date (selecting an attorney, sitting down with him and laying out the situation, and discussing the avenues and alternatives, having him gather any documents required, and writing up the papers required by the court, etc.), then I would suspect that a mere five months earlier when we visited Emo in the Semmering hospital, Kató had already started the wheels in motion. There is no indication from subsequent documents that these wheels were interfered with any way until the divorce was finally granted on 24 Feb 1944.
1942 Incredibly - Emo stayed in the Army. They provided him with an artificial leg, which he hated to wear. He was given command of the fairly large railway station at the nexus of Wels along with a contingent of about forty men, whose main function was to stand beside the ticket checker at the gates to ensure all military personnel had proper papers for traveling, in other words, that they were not away from their units without leave, in other words that they were not deserters. The men wore steel helmets, and had a rifle slung over their shoulder. The rifles were of WWI vintage - as were some of the men, including their illustrious captain. This was not a bad time for Emo. He was not being shot at, had a command, and did not have to do without too many things that mattered. He was a very benevolent commander, and let as many of his people go on leave as they could get away with. Some of them were farmers, but almost all lived in the country and had better access to edibles than the average city dweller.
His generosity of allowing much leave, did not go unrewarded. On their return, there were always "gifts from the wife". Good cakes, white bread, cheeses, bacon, etc. It was at the railway station that I witnessed one of the examples of my father's strict sense of principles and propriety. A soldier became separated from his back pack and it was turned in at the Bahnhofswache, where my father opened it to see if anything inside would provide details of ownership. There was plenty in it, not only to identify the owner, but also his mother, who had baked a big cake for her son to take along to the front. Well the cake would dry out and spoil, so it had to be eaten. Emo, who was a pretty good chef and knew his recipes, wrote down the ingredients which would be required to bake such a cake, then estimated the cost of each, and finally arrived at the replacement cost of the cake. He then cut it up and sold slices to his crew so that the value of the cake was collected, which he then sent to the mother with an explanatory letter. I don't remember getting a piece of the cake, but I do remember the big Russian revolver, loaded with dum-dum ammunition (flat-nosed bullets) which was also in the back pack. Obviously something the owner had picked up at the Eastern Front as a souvenir.
Two reports dated 11 Nov 1942, and 21 Apr 1943 and entered on the roster of the "Heeres-Entlassungsstelle 3/XVII Linz", the army discharge office in Linz, Upper Austria, show that Emo was already on the way out of the army.fggdoc197-B
1943 On February 18 he had to attend the divorce hearing at the Landgericht in Welsfggdoc103 where the interim decision was made that his wife could continue living in their apartment, and that he would start paying to her 150 Reichsmark per month. The court however turned down the wife's application to forbid him entry to the apartment on grounds that this would conflict with some other statute. The most interesting information contained in this document is Emo's income at the time. His net service income (Nettodiensteinkommen) was 549.90 Reichsmark, the army pay (Sold) was 96.00RM, clothing allowance was 30.00RM and meal allowance was 63.00RM. The monthly total came to 738.90 Reichsmark. In the words of Kato's lawyer "a pretty nice income from which he can surely pay the 150RM per month".fggdoc104
Somehow this episode of a second military career ended, and Emo was discharged from the army. No one should have been surprised. Cripples they had enough, and most were younger, and perhaps more deserving, in that they had lost their limbs under fire, not under anaesthesia. He was declared permanently disabled (unable to serve), and discharged on 21 April 1943, three days short of his 52nd birthday.fggdoc197-B One of the first results of his army discharge was that he no longer had a place to live. He probably needed household things and went home to Gmunden to get them but there he found pure hostility.
|Emo (left) playing possibly with Georg Schenk|
A separate portion appended to this document indicates that two local Nazis were asked to corroborate the content of this deposition, and Zellenleiter Karl Bauman, owner of a printing shop, and Blockleiter Martin Sinhuber (who lived next door at Bahnhofstraße 6) said they could confirm the happenings since Sinhuber had been present during the entire altercation. He also volunteered that he knew of the husband's quick-tempered disposition from an earlier occasion when he, the Blockleiter, had come around for a collection and when turned away had made a comment, and immediately after, Emo ran to confront him in the apartment of the landlady, Miss Weilenböck, and yelled that he would split his head open with his saber. The two character witnesses agreed that the wife's safety was threatened, and that the husband was capable of carrying out his threats. In this last case, for example, when he went to the kitchen for the axe which he then threateningly swung, he looked as if he were going to attack his wife.fggdoc105 The result of this episode, as Kato's lawyer informed on June 26, was that on the repeated insistence of the lawyer, the court forbade Emo to enter the premises for the duration of the divorce proceedings.
I cannot refrain from commenting and taking sides about what has been so graphically described in that document. There is no question that my father had a temper. He liked to flex his saber and wave his pistol, and while he looked awesome, it was all showmanship. Through the years I have never seen him hit my mother, and he only hit me once when I was already 15 years old, and probably extremely arrogant and contemptuous; that time he took a swipe at me with one of his steel crutches and more by accident than design it connected with my elbow, which did hurt for a while. He was very sick and frustrated at that stage in his life, which was a good two years after the incident described above. Up until then however, he had never been violent, although there had been loud arguments between my parents as far back as I can remember. My mother must have been a real hellion for I saw her at least once going after my father with a kitchen knife. I suppose that also qualifies as a demonstration of pathologically violent temper. The pot calling the kettle black.
In the case at hand, Kato had no business refusing him any of the things he needed to start housekeeping elsewhere, a situation she had forced him into by suing for divorce. Besides, everything we owned had been acquired by Emo in the first place. It seems to me that she would have shown more character had she been helpful towards her crippled and sick husband with whom she no longer wanted to live, instead of adding insult to injury. As to Mr. Sinhuber, he was an absolute nincompoop, and I was present and well remember the case of the collection he was referring to in his testimony. "The Party" (meaning the National Socialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei, aka NSDAP, today referred to pejoratively as "The NAZIs") was forever collecting for something, and it was not all that voluntary either. It was my mother who had answered the door and indicated that she did not wish to give. The "remark" Sinhuber refers to that he made was something along the line of not doing one's duty to the Fatherland if one did not give. Emo came home minutes later, and she told him about it. He flew into a rage, and I think he went to the landlady's apartment because my mother told him that Sinhuber was still there.
I heard most of the yelling and it was all about not allowing Sinhuber to intimidate the wife of an officer who was wearing the uniform of the Fatherland and was evidently doing a darn site more than throwing something in the collection plate. And yes, Emo did threaten Sinhuber with his sabre, and probably told him that he would split his skull if he ever harassed his wife again. The point that most seem to have missed, was that he in fact stood up for Kato, and that she then used this against him. Not very nice either. Let it be also said that Emo disliked Nazis, and poor, dumb, old Sinhuber at that moment represented the whole Nazi establishment, and when Emo got so very angry it was because the situation was symbolic of a class difference where my father considered the officers and almost anything in the old Habsburg Monarchy to be "classy" compared to anything the Nazi Party dished up which he considered proletarian.
Emo's prospects for civilian employment were much better this time around than they had been in 1918 despite the fact that he was a sick cripple with one leg. The war was still in full swing and there was an acute shortage of employable people, so it seems he could have had his pick of a long list of jobs almost anywhere. The factors he would have had to sort out in his mind before arriving at his final choice, would have included the question of where to go. He had a wife and a 13 year-old son in Gmunden, but he was in the middle of a not very friendly divorce, and that was definitely not the place for him to go. There were still a few of his relatives living in Vienna, and although he had not been particularly close to any of them, there was a blood relationship. In Germany, I believe it was in Hannover, lived his flame Mariechen Harken, who no doubt featured in the divorce. I do not know what she was doing, or what her circumstances were, but I can well imagine that Emo would have been too proud to be a burden to anyone, or to attach the reality of a sick cripple to a romantic memory. Emo and Mariechen did keep up a correspondence for years, but never saw eachother again. There was absolutely no reason for considering any other locale but the Vienna area. Emo wound up in the Casino at Baden bei Wien as a croupier. His only asset for the job was his ability to speak passable French - the language of gambling casinos. His dexterity, however, lacked the required finesse. As he told it, the croupier must be able to toss a pile of jetons to the winner, ten feet down the table, and have them all land in a neat pile (note that in the movies they always use long-handled rakes to push or pull those piles of jetons.) Then there was the rule that an accidentally dropped jeton could not be picked up by the croupier. He would have to raise his hand, whereupon an assistant would appear, and pick up the token and return it to the table. This seems like a big production but is probably aimed at preventing any suspicion that a jeton could be pocketed. It must have been a cardinal sin to drop one in the first place. Emo seemed to have trouble with this because, as he explained, his prosthesis would not allow him to tuck into the table as tightly as one should, and the odd jeton would drop into his lap causing embarrassment to the house.
1944 His divorce from Katharina Zwierzina (born Farsang Katalin), Emo's second wife, was finalized by Judge LD. Dir. Dr. Alois Staudinger at the Landgericht Wels, Abteilung 2 and became effective on 24 February 1944. The judgement includes a gratuitous phrase stating that "both parties are at fault for causing the divorce, with the larger portion of the fault attributed to the defendant (i.e. Emo). The request of the plaintiff (i.e. Kato) for support has been denied".fggdoc107
On 24 March 1944 The former Captain Emil Zwierzina became a croupier at the Casino in Baden bei Wien. This would have been "suitable" employment in Emo's mind because it placed him into an elegant environment, where only people with above average means would be found. Emo was able to communicate in French more than I had known, and his pronunciation was very good in the samples I had the opportunity to hear. His written French was also very good of which I only became aware when he sent a letter addressed to his French-Canadian daughter-in-law. Knowledge of French was therefore the only relevant skill he brought to this job. From some description of his duties, I had the impression that the job was sedentary, so this should have been good post-operative employment for him with only one obvious fly in the ointment - he did not have the dexterity or mobility required for the rapid handling of cards and jetons, a fact that came out in some of his stories about not beeing able to tuck right into the table in front of him because of his clumsy artificial leg, and consequently some jetons would accidently fall through the crack between the table and his body. I listened intently to these explanations but had no idea what went on in a casino. Only recently did I get some appreciation of the interior of such a place when during a Caribbean cruise for the 2000 Milennium I walked onto the casino deck and watched for a while. What I saw made me wonder how my father ever survived in such a place more than the first day on the job. In this casino on the cruise ship the croupiers were all young women. They were standing, and they were very focused and quick-witted, and their hands worked at lightning speed. And they never spoke. Knowing my father, I could not see him getting through even one shift in such an environment. Perhaps I did not give him enough credit for ability to adapt, because he managed to stay there about a year until the advancing Russian troops became too much of a threat and the casino was closed. doc253
1945 During the early part of 1945, it was still winter, I visited my father in Baden bei Wien. He had a small apartment, and seemed to be friendly with some of the neighbours. People knew that the Russians were getting nearer every day, and he was particularly concerned with the safety of a neighbor's very attractive 18 year-old daughter. He gave her father his rifle which had been one of his prized possessions, and which was still in its original wooden shipping box, and which had never been fired. The idea was for the father to be able to defend her against the raping Asiatic beasts, as we have been taught to think of the Russian troops. The two of them decided that the ideal hiding place was under a manhole cover behind the building. They then took the rifle there, and lowered it into the dark void. If this seems too theatrical today, it should be understood that the Russians' reputation preceded them. How much of it was propaganda, only those who lived through being overrun by Russian troops can tell with any authority. The word was that they raped everything female whether 8 or 80 years old. If trying to protect one's daughter meant certain death, it may have been considered the preferred alternative to watching her being gang-raped by a whole platoon. The Russians were also known round up anyone who was found in uniform or coul dbe shown to have worn the German uniform at one time and ship them off to Russia for forced labor. How they would treat a former officer of the Wehrmacht, although, on crutches with one leg, and not at all in good health, coul donly be speculated upon. So Emo decided to leave. He filled a big Rucksack (back pack) with his most essential belongings and left Baden and the whole Vienna area on one of the last trains jammed full with refugees heading west where they hoped to be overrun by troops other than Russian. Destination was unimportant as long as the train kept going westward. This would have been late February, early March of 1945. Emo's train stopped in the small town of Vöcklabruck, where he found and rented a room. The train was soon afterwards shot up by hedge-hopping twin-hulled American Lightnings while still sitting in the Vöcklabruck train station although full of refugies, most of them women and children.
In the meantime Emo sent a postcard to Felix who was not more than 20 kilometers away in Gmunden. A private telephone was almost unheard of then, but only days before the end of that war, the mail still worked efficiently! When Felix learned that his father was so near, but "on the way to points West", he jumped on his bike and pedaled the distance. He had to take cover in the ditch a few times because those pilots in the American double-hulled Lightnings were trigger-happy bastards who shot at anything that looked alive. Upon arriving in Vöcklabruck Felix simply told his father that he was not to continue "fleeing" but to come home with him to Gmunden, where father and son could share Felix's room. To Emo's objection that he was divorced from his wife Kato with whom Felix lived, Felix merely replied that was of no concern to him, that the only thing which mattered was that Emo was his father, and he needed a place to stay. Emo was probably hoping all the time for something like this to happen, and "came home" to his son to the same apartment he had rented for his family in 1939.
It was not until 1990 that I learned through a Frau Erna Masek, who had befriended my 80 year old-mother, that she had felt black mailed at the time into "allowing" Emo to move in with me, because she thought, that I would have left too if she had interfered. This is very interesting, because there was never any discussion about it, and I had frankly not given it any thought because my actions seemed so natural and logical that it never occurred to me that anyone could have misgivings. Having said all of this, my mother may have been right about me leaving in the face of difficulties from her. I was quite stubborn, and very principled, and at the time felt rather protective towards my father who really did not seem to be able to fend for himself. Yes, I think I would have left. And I would have left angry. As it turned out, the end result would have been the same, since my mother and I did not get along at any rate.
|Historical Events of the period|
|1945||End of Second World War - Germany defeated by USA, England and Russia.|
Emo and his son Felix had little time together. It was in 1945 that they spoke a bit here and there about Emo's experiences. Felix was 15 years old then, and very busy trying to grow up, and even busier scrounging for food, which during the period immediately after World War II was a real challenge even for a fully grown man. Felix probably was not too interested in any anecdotes that Emo may have indulged in telling. They had a luke-warm relationship. Emo looked older than his chronological age because he was a sick man. He had diabetes, had already lost his left leg and the tip of one index finger to gangrene. His hair was white and getting rather thin. He was suffering from lack of good food, and most of the insulin he was able to obtain had past-due expiration dates on it and was of questionable effectiveness. His teeth were loose, although free of cavities, and he kept pulling them out one by one while playing solitaire. His only worldly possessions worth mentioning were a golden watch chain about 10 inches long, and a 9mm Brno pistol. He kept clipping links off the chain - one or two at a time - to buy some of the more hard-to-get food items on the black market. I still remember one of his business contacts, a pretty, extremely shapely Polish girl who hung out where the American soldiers did, but who was too smart to sell her charms for chewing gum or nylon stockings. She kept bringing big tins of bacon, lard and other such goodies in exchange for my father's links from his gold chain. I hope she got enough of them to buy herself the beginnings of a new life some where. As for Emo's pistol, it just lay there, always within his reach. I was very much my own boss in those days, and this may have frustrated Emo, who was used to being "in charge", because periodically he would yell at me and threaten to shoot me as he waved the pistol into my face. I just stared him down.
Once, about 1946, I noticed a poster announcing the dance troupe of Margarethe Wiesenthal, and recognized the name from one of Emo's stories about these delightful dancing sisters. When told about their imminent arrival in Gmunden, Emo got pretty excited, put away his solitaire cards and tried to make himself look presentable. He walked to the Traungasse on his crutches to take in the show, and to say hello to an old acquaintance. I was ill at ease, not the least bit interested in meeting this Wiesenthal lady, and not very proud of my poor father's appearance. I stayed by myself, and watched the magnificent performance of the lovely girls that made up the troupe. Among other things, they danced to Brahms' Waltz in G Minor, and that has been one of my favorite pieces of music ever since.
Because in the days of his uniformed splendor in pre-WW1 Vienna Emo had access to just about any social function, and because some of our relatives were in fact sporting a "von" in front of their names, he liked to think that he was part of the aristocracy, and was drawn to people with a title. Around 1945/46 he somehow ran into Gróf Almásy, a real count of Hungarian vintage, who with his wife and two little daughters was staying in Hallstatt (the name is variably spelled Almássy, Almásy, and Almási). It is no longer clear whose idea it was, but I wound up making, and then delivering a doll house, complete with furnishings. The Almásy couple gave me a cool reception, and seemed to be at a loss as to why the gift was given. They thanked me and dismissed me. Perhaps counts are used to peasants laying unsolicited gifts at their feet and then bowing their way out the door, but I did not quite see myself in that light, and was quite annoyed because Hallstatt is a hell of a long way from Gmunden, and I felt that they should have had the decency to ask me in for a bite or at least offer their bathroom. This way it meant sitting around for hours till the next train. To this day I still do not know why Emo wanted to do this in the first place. Was he trying to buy their friendship, or was he just making up to their social status - such as it was in those days, or was he hoping that the Count would become influential again and take Emo with him into a new life?
The five years between 1945 and 1950 must have been frustrating
for Emo. Once again he had run out of wars, was out of uniform, had no
means, and no way to make a living. This time he was also a sick man, had only
one leg, and had diabetes. While outwardly living in familiar surroundings,
he probably felt like a tolerated transient. The problem was, he could not be
just a transient. He had no place to go. Not being entirely of a pragmatic cloth,
he sat around playing solitaire and dreaming up schemes that would change his
life. He had heard of a group of Transylvanian Saxons who were getting ready
to emigrate as a group to Quito in Ecuador. Emo was bound and determined
to move with them. It was pure fantasy. He did not know one single member of
that group, nor did it ever occur to him that he had absolutely nothing to contribute
to such an organized emigration. It seemed like he thought they needed him.
In retrospect, this is very much like the stories cousin Ida Birman told about
him from the time after the First World War. He then apparently fantasized about
joining some successful business as a partner even though he had nothing to
contribute to anyone's business.
|Clock face carved by Emo 1954 out of pear tree wood, a wedding gift for son Felix|
|Last picture of Emo 1951|
From something Ida Birman said, it seems that in the early fifties, after I had emigrated to Canada, Emo traveled once more to Vienna to visit Idi Birman and somebody else. Ida says he was in bad health, played cards with Dorli and told stories about Felix supposedly being involved with replacing broken windows in abandoned buildings to create living quarters for the needy. (Where did he get those ideas?!) The truth was much more exciting and would have made a better story!). After a few days, it got too crowded for him and he left to stay with someone else that he knew. Ida thought it may have been one of the Schenks. It might have been during this same visit that Ida learned about the good servant he had when in Trysa (Hessen) who was credited for having been instrumental in diagnosing Emo's diabetes.
Emo was aware of his son's progress in Canada through regular correspondence. Both father and son liked to write long, informative letters. He knew of Felix's marriage, and wrote a letter entirely in good French to welcome his new daughter-in-law. He received photographs and knew of his grandson Mark, who was born eight months before Emo died. His letters were always positive, never complaining, never asking for anything. He obviously did not have a very good life, and most of the bad luck had nothing to do with his own doing. There was never any question that he would have to become an officer in the Emperor's army. The family simply had too much of a military tradition to think of anything else, and I am convinced that such a career was exactly what Emo would have wanted for himself had anyone asked him. He did everything right to reach that goal and became a darn good officer as attested by his superiors and evidenced by his war time decorations.
Then History and fate changed the entire environment and in effect destroyed the structure that would have been required for him to continue in the militiary career he was destined for. He tried to adapt to the new world but had no training for the things this new world wanted. So he kept looking around for opportunities, and as Ida had explained it, he kept phantacising that some wealthy firm would come to him and ask him to become a partner.The entire period between the two World Wars was lost time. He never achieved anything worthwhile or even semi permanent. It was predictable, and probably essential for his suvival that he should grab the first opportunity to get back into a uniform. The new army of the German Reich provided the uniform and even installed him at his old rank of captain. The glory did not last long because in the very same year that he was finally back being an officer, his health let him down. He was diagnosed with diabetes in 1939 and by 1941 had lost his left leg to the disease, and two years later he was discharged from the army. End of uniform, end of being an officer, start of the hopeless period again of trying to make a living some other way. Except he was now a sick man who had twice lost the career he dedicated his life to, who had twice been divorced and lost the chance to live a normal family life.
According to his Death Certificate received from the Protestant parish (Evangelisches Pfarramt A.B.) in Gmunden, Austria, Emo died at 18:00 hours on 28 February 1956. His place of death is given as 2 Spitalstraße, his residence, however, as Ohlsdorf, Schlag 5.fggdoc85 The cover letter received with his Death Certificate states that the cause of death was "Diabet. mellit. Coma", which translates into Coma induced by diabetes mellitus. This letter also volunteers the information, that the reverend in charge at the time was Hans Dopplinger (I remember the name from school, although I do not remember the boy), and that the corresponding entry in the civil registry (Standesamt) is dated March 1, 1956, and can be found as number 49/1956.fggdoc86 I tried to locate "Schlag 5" in Ohlsdorf during a visit to Gmunden in 1994, but despite the presence and very capable assistance of my local friend the late Walter Göttersdorfer, who had been there to visit my father, we could not find an address or a neighborhood by that name.
|Decorations of Captain Emil Anton Karl Maria (Emo) Zwierzina||
|Erinnerungskreuz||1912/13||62; medal & pics|
|Bronze Medal of Military Merit on the ribbon of the Military Cross of Merit(bravery ribbon) with KD and swords.||5690||P.V.Bl.110/1515/15||62,63,65,67; medal & pics|
|Silver Medal of Military Merit on the ribbon of the Military Cross of Merit (bravery ribbon) with KD and swords.||1916-01-17||P.V.Bl.12/16||62,63,65,67; medal & pics|
|Karl Truppenkreuz||1917-07-10||Bef 79/1917||65,67|
|Military Merit Cross 3rd class +KD +swords.||150/17||82,65,67|
|Military Merit Cross 3rd class +KD +swords for the second time.||P.V.Bl. 226/17||83,66,67|
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Date last changed 8 May 2007
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