Gauliga Ostmark 1938-39

Admira Vienna won their seventh league title in the year when Austrian football became part of Germany. Paul Joyce looks back

The long-term significance
After Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in March 1938, the Austrian Nationalliga was renamed Gauliga Ostmark and became part of the German football pyramid. Jewish clubs such as Hakoah Vienna were disbanded mid-season and all references to Austria in club names were removed. Austria Vienna briefly became SC Ostmark but, uniquely, regained their name in July 1938.The Austrian national team played a final “reconciliation match” against Germany in Vienna in April 1938, which Austria won 2-0, and was then dissolved. After this, Austrian players were reluctantly integrated into the German national side. The glory days of the Austrian Wunderteam were over.

Story of the season
In the first full season under German rule, professionalism was outlawed as “unworthy of a German man”. Instead, Austria Vienna legend Matthias Sindelar was pictured in August 1938 in the “Aryanised” cafe that he had bought from a Jewish businessman, as the National Socialists sought to exploit football’s propaganda value.

Due to their Jewish roots, half of Austria Vienna’s players and almost all their management were forced into exile. Other clubs tried different means to protect their players from military call-ups: SK Rapid appointed Otto Steinhäusl, Vienna’s police chief, as honorary president.

Defending Austrian champions Rapid reached the German Cup final in January 1939. Trailing 1-0 to FSV Frankfurt in a snowy Berlin, Rapid scored three goals in the last ten minutes to become the first Austrian side to win a German trophy. Their third goal was netted by Franz “Bimbo” Binder, who was the Austrian league’s top scorer for five successive seasons from 1937-41. This was the first season in which teams from outside Vienna were invited to participate in the Austrian top flight. But they finished in the bottom three places and suffered heavy defeats – Wiener Neustadt lost 12-0 to Wiener Sport-Club and 13-1 to Rapid.

At the other end of the Gauliga, the title race went down to the last match. Admira won 4-2 at Wacker Vienna in March 1939 to clinch their seventh Austrian league title in 12 years. This now entitled them to take part in the German championship play-offs, and Admira reached the final against Schalke 04 in front of 100,000 fans in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium on June 18. But without injured goalkeeper Peter Platzer, Admira were trounced 9-0, with Ernst Kalwitzki scoring five. Admira ended the match with only eight players, after Fritz Klacl was sent off and banned for life for flattening Schalke’s Fritz Szepan with a punch.

A “reconciliation match” between the two sides was arranged in Vienna in November 1940. Yet after the match ended 1-1, with the same referee disallowing two Admira goals, Viennese fans smashed the windows of the Schalke bus and slashed the tyres of Nazi district leader Baldur von Schirach’s limousine. Football was becoming an expression of Austrian identity – and anti-Prussian resentment.

For the record books

In June 1941, Rapid Vienna became the only non-German side to win the German championship, when they beat Schalke 4‑3 in the final. After the war, the Austrian national side played its first international for eight years in August 1945, losing 2-0 to Hungary in Budapest. The Austrian Erste Liga was re-established the same year.

Same place today
Rapid and Austria Vienna have never been relegated from the top flight. Admira and Wacker Vienna merged in 1971 and now play second division football outside the capital, in Maria Enzensdorf.

Moved furthest away

The three non-Viennese sides have sunk the furthest: Wacker Wiener Neustadt play in the eighth division of the Austrian pyramid, one level above Grazer SC Straßenbahn and Amateure Steyr. First Vienna and Wiener Sport-Club are pushing for promotion from the third-tier Regionalliga Ost.

Went on to greater things
Teams from outside Vienna Linzer ASK were promoted to the Gauliga Ostmark in 1939 and became the first non-Viennese side to win the Austrian league title in 1965.
Ernst Happel Joined Rapid Vienna’s youth team in 1938. As a coach, Happel won two European Cups and guided Holland to the World Cup final.
Ernst Ocwirk After joining FC Stadlau in 1938 at the age of 12, the classy midfielder played for Austria Vienna and Sampdoria and helped Austria to third place at the 1954 World Cup.

Dissapearing from view
Matthias Sindelar
In January 1939, Austria’s
greatest-ever player was found dead in his flat. Despite theories of suicide and murder, the most likely cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning.
Hakoah Vienna Austrian champions in 1925, the Jewish club were disbanded days after annexation,
with many of their players being murdered by the Nazis.
Mitropa Cup Austrian teams were stopped from taking part in the central European club competition in 1938. Abandoned in 1940, it was revived 15 years later but struggled to compete with the European Cup.

From WSC 266 April 2009