Prison Elite: How Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg Survived Nazi Captivity

By Erika Rummel

© 2021

After the Anschluss (annexation) in 1938, the Nazis forced Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg to resign and kept him imprisoned for seven years, until his rescue by the Allies in 1945. Schuschnigg’s privileged position within the concentration camp system allowed him to keep a diary and to write letters which were smuggled out to family members.

Drawing on these records, Prison Elite paints a picture of a little-known aspect of concentration camp history: the life of a VIP prisoner. Schuschnigg, who was a devout Catholic, presents his memoirs as a "confession," expecting absolution for any political missteps and, more specifically, for his dictatorial regime in the 1930s. As Erika Rummel reveals in fascinating detail, his autobiographical writings are frequently unreliable.

Prison Elite describes the strategies Schuschnigg used to survive his captivity emotionally and intellectually. Religion, memory of better days, friendship, books and music, and maintaining a sense of humour allowed him to cope. A comparison with the memoirs of fellow captives reveals these tactics to be universal.

Studying Schuschnigg’s writing in the context of contemporary prison memoirs, Prison Elite provides unique insight into the life of a VIP prisoner.

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Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 192 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
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Quick Overview

Prison Elite depicts the life of a VIP prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp system, providing a first-hand account of his mental life and coping strategies.

Prison Elite: How Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg Survived Nazi Captivity

By Erika Rummel

© 2021

After the Anschluss (annexation) in 1938, the Nazis forced Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg to resign and kept him imprisoned for seven years, until his rescue by the Allies in 1945. Schuschnigg’s privileged position within the concentration camp system allowed him to keep a diary and to write letters which were smuggled out to family members.

Drawing on these records, Prison Elite paints a picture of a little-known aspect of concentration camp history: the life of a VIP prisoner. Schuschnigg, who was a devout Catholic, presents his memoirs as a "confession," expecting absolution for any political missteps and, more specifically, for his dictatorial regime in the 1930s. As Erika Rummel reveals in fascinating detail, his autobiographical writings are frequently unreliable.

Prison Elite describes the strategies Schuschnigg used to survive his captivity emotionally and intellectually. Religion, memory of better days, friendship, books and music, and maintaining a sense of humour allowed him to cope. A comparison with the memoirs of fellow captives reveals these tactics to be universal.

Studying Schuschnigg’s writing in the context of contemporary prison memoirs, Prison Elite provides unique insight into the life of a VIP prisoner.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 192 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    "A clear-sighted reading of the diaries and letters of pre-war Austria’s last Chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg, during his seven-year internment in Nazi prisons and camps – where, as a privileged prisoner, he was more witness than victim of Nazi atrocity. Part political memoir, part prison diary, part psychological coping mechanism, in Rummel’s astute hands these hybrid texts disclose a man in daily struggle not just with his own incarceration, but also with his political role in Austria’s downfall."


    Jane Caplan, Professor Emeritus of Modern European History, University of Oxford
  • Author Information

    Erika Rummel is a professor emerita in the Department of History at Wilfrid Laurier University.

  • Table of contents

    Acknowledgments

    Introduction

    1. In Isolation: Living under the Enemy’s Eye
    2. The Sachsenhausen Household: Living en famille
    3. The Comfort of Religion
    4. The Consolation of Books
    5. Music to His Ears
    6. The Use of Wit
    7. Cherishing Memories
    8. Schuschnigg’s Political Reminiscences

    Conclusion
    Appendix
    Bibliography

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