A MEMORIAL DEDICATED TO THE MEN WHO TRIED TO SAVE A CITY
Am Spitz, 21st District
Table of Contents
On 19 March 1945, Hitler issued what became known as the “Nero Decree” — the planned destruction of all infrastructure within the German Reich. Operation Radetzky was the code name given to a defensive plan organized by a group of Austrian opponents of the Nazi regime to surrender the city of Vienna to the advancing Soviet army. The plan involved four major players: Major Carl Szokoll, Major Karl Biederman, Lieutenant Rudolph Raschke, and Second Lieutenant Alfred Huth. Today, the Operation Radetzky Memorial stands in their honor.
THE NERO DECREE
In Vienna, German troops were ordered to destroy the city’s vital infrastructure for transportation, information, industry and public utilities. This would include bridges, railway stations, water plants, electrical plants, gas plants, important road corridors, public transportation networks – in short anything and everything the enemy could use to help them advance their goals.
Viennese Major Carl Szokoll was instructed to draft the plans for Vienna’s self-destruction. However, this was not Szokoll’s first rodeo. In July 1944, Szokoll participated in Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg’s plot to assassinate Hitler at the Wolf’s Lair and to assume power. During Operation Valkyrie, Stauffenberg detonated a bomb in the presence of Hitler; however, Hitler miraculously survived the blast. Believing incorrectly that Hitler had been killed, Szokoll and other plotters rounded up the leading SS and Nazi officials in Vienna.
During the ensuing investigation, Szokoll was able to convince the Gestapo that he had simply been following orders and was released. Szokoll was promoted to Major and was tasked with defending Vienna from the advancing Soviets. In Spring 1945, Szokoll joined Operation Radetzky and became one of the key players.
For Operation Radetzky to succeed, Szokoll and other military commanders in Vienna needed to pretend they were making preparations to destroy the city, while actually making plans to save it from annihilation. Szokoll worked closely with the Austrian Resistance group, the O5, to successfully contact Soviet leadership. Separately, the Allies agreed to not bomb Vienna during the turnover.
On the evening of 4 April, Major Karl Biedermann was betrayed and arrested by the Gestapo. Biedermann’s role in Operation Radetzky, which had now been partially uncovered, was to secure the city’s bridges. The Gestapo frantically investigated to determine the goals of Operation Radetzky. The Operation continued as planned.
On 5 April, Soviet planes dropped red flares to signal their arrival overhead. The resistance fighters responded with green flares to mark the beginning of Operation Radetzky. Lieutenant Rudolf Raschke, and Second Lieutenant Alfred Huth were arrested while trying to commandeer the Bisamberg radio tower on the northern edge of Vienna.
Szokoll was warned, evaded arrest and fled to the Soviet 9th Guards Army command post at Purkersdorf where he briefed the Soviets on the failure of the operation.
On 8 April, the Nazis hung Biedermann, Raschke, and Huth from the lampposts at the Am Spitz square in Floridsdorf. Signs attached to their bodies read “I have made a pact with the Bolsheviks.”
In addition to the planned surrender, Szokoll and his team provided the Soviets with the the German battle plans for the defense of Vienna as well as the locations of munitions and other key military details. Suing this intelligence, the Soviets surprised the Nazis by advancing from the West and North rather than the South.
The Battle for Vienna lasted from 6-13 April 1945. The rapid Soviet advance prevented the Nazis from creating a siege situation and saved numerous lives and the left Vienna largely intact.
OPERATION RADETZKY MEMORIAL
Today, the Operation Radetzky Memorial stands in the Am Spitz square to recognize the bravery of Major Karl Biederman, Lieutenant Rudolph Raschke, and Second Lieutenant Alfred Huth. There is also plaque on the main entrance of the Town Hall in Am Spitz.
After the war, Szokoll went on to start a film production company. He is buried in the Central Cemetery of Vienna.
Biedermann, Raschke, and Huth were cremated and had their remains buried on 2 August 1945 in Vienna in Hietzingen cemetery (group 66, row 19, number 5).
NEAR THIS PLACE
VOICEMAP | VIENNA SELF GUIDED WALKING TOUR. Want to learn how the Mossad operation to bring Nazis like Adolf Eichmann to justice originated in Vienna? Check out our VoiceMap self guided walking tour: VIENNA + THE HOLOCAUST: FROM TRAGEDY TO JUSTICE. You can preview it for FREE. Start point is Nestroyplatz on the U1 red line in the 2nd District.
SEEGROTTE HINTERBRUHL MINE. The Seegrotte Hinterbruhl Mine is a family friendly attraction that was once used by the Nazis to build the world’s first fighter jet.
WW2 SITES NEAR VIENNA | MESSERSCHMITT ENGINE FACTORY. Explore World War 2 sites near Vienna along a scenic hiking trail. See the Messerschmitt Bf 110 aircraft repair factory and the front lines of the Battle of Vienna.
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