The Peace Treaty of St. Germaine and the formation of the Andreas Hofer Bund of Tyrol in 1919

Winfried Matuella

In 1917, the text of the London Treaty of April 26, 1915 was published. This treaty promised recognition of the Brenner border for Italy in the event that it would enter the war. In other words: The Entente Powers promised to give South Tyrol to Italy as a “spoil of war.” After the collapse of 1918, numerous initiatives – sponsored by various German heritage associations and South Tyrolean organizations – arose to prevent the impending annexation. But all of these efforts were in vain: U.S. President Wilson – whose 14-Point Program had elicited such great hope for the right to self-determination of all peoples – decided for strategic reasons to recognize the Brenner border (because of the expected annexation of Austria by Germany).

At that time, Vienna’s foreign policy was indeed oriented towards an annexation by Germany – in contrast to Tyrol, where there was a realistic plan to preserve Tyrol’s unity (it was hoped that with this plan both the annexation policies France opposed and also Italy’s strategic argument for a recognition of the Brenner border could be circumvented). Especially the Catholic Tyrolean People’s Party lauded this plan. On May 3, 1919, a corresponding resolution was then passed – but with conditions, because the Social-Democrats and some members of the Free German Party in Tyrol voiced their opposition. But if this weren’t to guarantee Tyrol’s unity, they threatened to have Germany annex the region. But this proposal had no effect upon the Allied Powers, their associated powers, or on the Austrian government. In fact, Germany viewed the Tyrolean activities as a threat to its annexation of all of Austria, and therefore intervened in Tyrol. For a time, Italy considered the option of allowing an independent state of Tyrol – but the Italians would have accepted the existence of such a state only in the form of an Italian protectorate.

In late May of 1919, it became apparent that Tyrol would be dismembered and a new area named South Tyrol created at the St. Germaine Peace Conference, and that nothing would be able to stop this. On September 2, the final peace terms were transmitted to Austria. On September 3, the Tyrolean Provincial Parliament sent a note to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs stating that it would never accept the “coerced peace.” On September 6, the Austrian National Assembly ratified the peace treaty (though with a resolution opposing the separation of South Tyrol) – with the Tyrolean delegates abstaining. On September 10, 1919, the peace treaty was finally signed. On September 23, 1919, the Tyrolean Provincial Parliament once again formulated a protest against the amputation of South Tyrol and restating its support for an annexation.

At first, the German and Austrian protective associations had attempted to prevent the dissection of Tyrol. (In the course of 1919, they had, together with numerous other organizations like song clubs, teachers’ associations, etc. conducted many public assemblies.) Later, they focused on drawing attention to the situation in South Tyrol and Italy’s oppressive measures – The goal was to revise the peace treaties and thus reestablish a united Tyrol.

In Austria, the dominance of the South Tyrolean clubs over the other heritage groups become quite noticeable – a sure sign for the special place South Tyrol held in the Austrian mind. The three most-important organizations were the “German School Association of the Southern March,” the “Andreas-Hofer-Bund for Tyrol,” and the “Working Group for South Tyrol.”

In Germany, besides the Andreas-Hofer-Bund present in the country’s south and the “Association of Friends of South Tyrol” founded in 1931, there was no organization dedicated specifically to the cause of South Tyrol – but the South Tyrol Problem was one of the issues to which the big German heritage associations (especially the “Association for German Heritage Abroad”) were committed.

The “Association for German Heritage Abroad” – which had been founded in 1880 under the name “General German School Association” but then renamed in 1909 – had worked for the annexation of Austria since 1918. One of its regional organizations, the Bavarian section, was responsible for issues pertaining to South Tyrol. This section was concerned chiefly with the school system in South Tyrol, and it provided school supplies to the underground schools operating there.

With the exception of the Munich chapter of the Andreas-Hofer-Bund and the Bavarian section of the “Association for German Heritage Abroad,” the German protective associations maintained the moderate stance in regards to South Tyrol promoted by the Foreign Office in Berlin; the elimination of the Brenner border was viewed as a vague, future goal, and the main objective was the attainment of cultural and economic relief for the South Tyrolese.

The most-militant of these associations was the “Andreas-Hofer-Bund for Tyrol” – which had developed out of the “Heritage Bund” and the “Tyrolean Heritage Association.”

The Tyrolean Heritage Association (TVB) was the first indigenous organization in Tyrol of this kind. Especially because of its propaganda work, it is seen as a forerunner of the Andreas-Hofer-Bund. It was founded in 1905 by a citizen of the German Empire, Dr. Wilhelm Rohmeder, who was a member of the “General German School Association” in Munich. As a consequence, this association also received financial support from the German Empire. The Heritage Association was dominated by radical nationalistic elements who sought not only the preservation of German heritage in border regions, but also worked towards the Germanization of Italian territories and opposed endeavors of Italians in such areas to achieve autonomy. But these efforts (to promote Germanization) ultimately failed, although the TVB’s cultural work was focused almost exclusively on the teaching of German language skills in Italian and/or formerly German and Ladin villages to the south of the linguistic border (setting up kindergartens and schools, etc.). The German School Association refused to support such endeavors because it had a greater respect for foreign cultures than the Heritage Association.

The TVB’s economic activities continued to be overshadowed by its efforts to promote German in the classroom. During World War I, some attempts were made to expand German land possession.

During the war, activities were sporadic. The last high points were so-called “Heritage Days” on May 8, 1918 in Sterzing and on October 13 of the same year in Brixen. There, extreme demands were again made – inter alia, for the unlimited hegemony of Germans in Tyrol, a favorable drawing of the international border, and for a complete reorganization of the school system in the “Italianized” part of Tyrol, with mandatory German language instruction. Very unreasonable demands, in view of the impending collapse of the war effort. Thought the TVB continued on after the war, it faded into insignificance, and by 1922, it had completely ceased to exist.

The association’s agitation for South Tyrol – in the form of handbills, memoranda, and appeals to fight – showed that it had already assumed the character of a protective organization, and these propaganda activities were later to become a mainstay of its successor organization.

In view of the imminent fragmentation of Tyrol, on May 2, 1919, the Tyrolean Heritage Association brought forth the “Bund Heimat” (“Heritage Bund”) in which Dr. Reut-Nicolussi had a leading role. In accordance with its statutes, which called for “rescuing the threatened homeland,” he educated the public by leading public assemblies and intervening with the Tyrol’s provincial government, the national government in Vienna, and with Friends of Tyrol in the German Empire. His chief concern was the idea of a Free State of Tyrol. When it became obvious that it would be impossible to prevent the amputation of South Tyrol, the decision was made to create a broad forum for the fight for Tyrol. At the board meeting held on August 9, 1919, not only was a resolution passed to adopt new statutes and a new organizational form, it also gave itself a new name with greater drawing power.

On August 29, 1919, the Andreas-Hofer-Bund for Tyrol (AHBT) was founded at the Innsbruck Landhaus by an expanded board meeting of the Heritage Bund. The following persons were in attendance: Dr. Reut-Nicolussi (who called the meeting to order), Prof. Brandl, Prof. Wopfner, G.R. Zingerle, Prof. Heidegger, Dr. Frank, Dr. Galler, Hauptmann Hilber, Dr. Dörr, Dr. Pembaur, Municipal Architect Illmer, Plawenn and Privy Councilor Prof. Hörmann.

At the first plenary assembly held on September 27, 1919 in Innsbruck, Dr. Heinrich von Schullern was appointed Chairman and Dr. Michael Hechenblaikner as his Deputy. On October 26, the new organization conducted its first meeting to recruit new members. Approx. 2,000 persons were in attendance, and Dr. Pembaur, Bruder Willram, MP Dillersberger, and University Professor Walter Hörmann spoke.

The organization’s name proclaimed its platform. It had been named in honor of the famed Tyrolean freedom fighter of 1809, who had opposed the Franco-Bavarian occupation, Andreas Hofer, who “today again serves as the embodiment of the Tyrolean struggle for freedom and is the hope of the oppressed South Tyrolean people.”

In selecting this name, the organization publicly announced its platform: Tyrol was again in danger; Tyrol was again occupied by a foreign power; and again it was necessary to engage in a struggle like in 1809 – but a struggle with different goals and with different methods. The Bund intended to reestablish the unity of Tyrol.
This dream was expressed in the motto of the Andreas-Hofer-Bund for Tyrol: “Tyrol: German and Undivided, from Kufstein to Salurn.”

In accordance with this platform, the organization had a distinctly irredentist character. It was perhaps this that may have negatively influenced Italy’s attitudes in the early 1920s. Italy may have had good reason to fear that granting the ethnic Germans a privileged status might, in an atmosphere of constant propaganda, result in it losing control of this territory. In particular the propaganda trip made by the Chairman of the Andreas-Hofer-Bund, Dr. Kogler, to the United States in 1922 and an appeal addressed to Lloyd George in the summer of 1922 fueled these fears.

The Andreas-Hofer-Bund began taking the initiative right after being founded. Only a few days after the signing of the peace treaty, it petitioned the Tyrolean provincial government for the proclamation of a Day of Commemoration, “It is not enough to commemorate the unfortunately realized peace agreement by merely conducting a rally in the Provincial Parliament. Rather, the whole province must give loud and visible expression to its outrage over this act of brutal force which makes a mockery of all the assurances that had been given. All of its elected representatives and the entire people, too, must recognize that Tyrol will never ever come to terms with this humiliating peace.”

In November of 1919, the provincial government of Tyrol also spoke out in favor of giving the Bund state support. It proposed to the responsible government agency in Austria that the Andreas-Hofer-Bund be granted a state subsidy, though also with the ulterior motive that this would make it possible to better monitor its activities – namely, to ensure that its propaganda remained within the allowed boundaries and did not take a too anti-Italian tenor.

While the Andreas-Hofer-Bund involved itself mostly with public rallies, celebrations, and similar events, the Working Group for South Tyrol in Innsbruck was in charge of publishing activities pertaining to the South Tyrol Question, i.e., press and media activities, the distribution of periodicals, etc.

The leading politicians of the “German Association” in South Tyrol hat adopted the plan in the early 1920s to create a central office abroad for South Tyrol propaganda. Finally, in January of 1925 at a congress of numerous different protective organizations (the southern section of the Andreas-Hofer-Bund, the Viennese School Association, and the German Protective Association in Innsbruck), they agreed to share equally the office’s expenses. The office was founded with the help of the Foreign Office in Berlin. In a conversation between Dr. Reut-Nicolussi, Carl von Loesch, and officials of the German Foreign Ministry, it was agreed that the office should commence operation only after the signing of the Locarno Pact (so as to avoid giving Italy a pretext for voicing doubts during the Pact’s negotiations). During the winter of 1925/26, this propaganda office then commenced activities under the leadership of the former district chief of Bozen and secretary of the German Association, Ernst Mumelter, i.e., it was responsible for the coordination of all propaganda activities for South Tyrol. Its task was to collect news arriving from South Tyrol and to transmit it to news agencies and/or the Austrian and German press. Starting in December of 1923, the newspaper “Südtirol” was printed. It appeared every fourteen days, and in 1928 was renamed “Der Südtiroler.”

The Bavarian section of the “Association for German Heritage Abroad” bore a large portion of the expense of running the office and was thus able to practically dictate the propaganda line. As a result, differences soon developed between it and the Foreign Office in Berlin, which had misgivings about the office’s radical demands. However, it was eventually possible to curtail this influence of the “Association for German Heritage Abroad.”

Nevertheless, there was still friction with the Foreign Office. All of the protective organizations backing the propaganda office demanded a revision of the Brenner border. In contrast, both the Foreign Office and the political leaders of South Tyrol demanded that a more-moderate position be taken.

But it wasn’t the chief of the propaganda office, Ernst Mumelter, who was the hardliner. Rather, especially Dr. Reut-Nicolussi who later became Chairman of the Bund and who had been Mumelter’s boss in the “Association for German Heritage Abroad,” was the real hardliner, as well as the members from Munich, Rohmeder and Hörl, the Chairman of the AHB group in Munich. The conflict then spread to the various protective organizations connected with the propaganda office. The Bavarian section of the “Association for German Heritage Abroad” insisted that the propaganda be expanded to include the demand for the return of Trentino. But because other associations – with support from the South Tyrolese, themselves – were against this, the propaganda office soon resumed a more-moderate tone.

After Dr. Reut-Nicolussi, the organization’s Chairman, had to emigrate from South Tyrol in 1927, under his influence, the propaganda office regained its strident tone. In 1928/29, an open conflict broke open between him and Sternbach, who advocated more-cautious South Tyrol policies. Reut-Nicolussi eventually lost
this fight because he failed to secure the legitimation for his work that he had hoped from prominent South Tyrolese.

Because he didn’t gain control of the propaganda office, Reut-Nicolussi founded the “South Tyrolean Committee on Free Soil” (Stauf). However, this organization was dissolved only shortly after it was formed because it was unable to secure financing – the Foreign Office viewed Reut-Nicolussi as too radical.

The “German School Association of the Southern March” was formed from the merger of the “German School Association” and the “Southern Territory” on March 25, 1925. The German School Association had been founded in 1880. As its name indicates, its task was to support schools. The “Southern March,” founded in 1889, focused on the economic support of the border regions in Carinthia, Carniola, Styria, and the Adriatic coastal region. After the war, they had still operated in Austria independently until they joined forces with the goal of supporting all Germans located outside of the sovereign German states. The two organizations simultaneously represented the Austrian section of the “Association for German Heritage Abroad.” After the “German School Association of the Southern Territory” in South Tyrol had lost its facilities (libraries, kindergartens, and schools), it devoted itself chiefly to propaganda, but also delved into the realm of politics.

All Austrian associations belonged to the “German Protective Bund” (originally founded in 1919 for the purpose of supporting Germans in the so-called “voting territories,” under Carl von Loesch, this association developed into an umbrella organization of heritage societies). Beginning in 1922, the German School Association also belonged to the Austrian section of the “Association for German Heritage Abroad” (also after the merger with the “Southern March”). The activities of the “German Protective Bund” focused on education and raising consciousness for the problem, while the “Association for German Heritage Abroad” took care of charitable and cultural affairs for ethnic Germans living in areas under foreign control.

After the Nazis seized power in Germany, the close cooperation of the Austrian and German associations remained more or less intact. Most of the Austrian associations were gradually infiltrated by Nazis, and – insofar as they resisted subjugation – forced to disband after Austria was annexed in 1938. This was true also for the Andreas-Hofer-Bund for Tyrol.

The South Tyrolean Andreas Hofer Bund

Hartmuth Staffler

The activities of the south Tyrolean Andreas-Hofer-Bund during World War II have been largely forgotten. Between 1939 and 1945, it represented a resistance movement of the German and Rhaeto-Romance speaking South Tyrolese against Italian Fascism and Nazism, and worked also towards the reunification of all of Tyrol within Austria.

The resistance in South Tyrol against the Italian nationalism growing more perceptible starting in 1918 and against full-scale Fascist oppression starting in 1922 came essential from two ideologically different camps. One was the patriotic Catholic camp, though the Roman Catholic Church itself (which had a certain degree of freedom) was left more or less in peace by the Fascists. Priests like Canon Michael Gamper organized underground schools in which South Tyrolean children could receive forbidden instruction in German. The Catholic youth groups, too, endeavored to defend their South Tyrolean identity by speaking German, singing, making music, learning about their heritage, etc.

On the other hand, members of forbidden, more or less liberal German associations, student fraternities, etc. at first formed individual youth groups with a strong accent of German nationalism. In 1933, they merged to form the Nazi-oriented “South Tyrolean Folk Ring.”

In June of 1939, top representatives from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy agreed to the Option Treaty. This treaty required South Tyrolese to opt by the end of the year either in favor of Italy – with the risk of then being transported to the south or even to the Italian colonies – or in favor of Germany, in which case they would have to emigrate there.

When the Option Treaty was announced in South Tyrol in late June of 1939, it elicited a general outrage. Even the “South Tyrolean Folk Ring” rejected the treaty. But after a meeting with Heinrich Himmler, the leadership of the Ring quickly abandoned their resistance and announced on July 15, 1939, that they should all accept the “Fuehrer’s” invitation.

There followed a clash of propaganda in South Tyrol between those opting for Germany and those who wanted to stay (the latter to be found especially in the patriotic Catholic camp). On November 20, 1989, about a dozen of them in Bozen joined to form the South Tyrolean Andreas-Hofer-Bund. The name they had chosen reflected their platform: Just as Andreas Hofer had once fought against a “godless” foreign rule, they would now fight against Fascism and Nazism and attempt to reestablish a free, reunified Tyrol. Most of the members came from the Catholic camp: Canon Michael Gamper, Friedl Volgger, the first Chairman of the South Tyrolean Andreas-Hofer-Bund, or Hans Egarter, a former Diocesan secretary of the Catholic Youth in the diocese of Brixen. He thus also had contact with Josef Mayr Nusser, the President of the Catholic Youth in the German portion of the Diocese of Trient, and with the Diocesan assistant Josef Ferrari. Hans Gasser (St. Lorenzen), Josef Nock (Lana), and Johann Gamper (Algund), too, also came from the Catholic camp, while, e.g., Erich Amonn and Josef Raffeiner represented the liberal, middle-class camp. The MP Paul von Sternbach from Bruneck and Alois Puff (Bozen) were additional founding members.

The efforts of the South Tyrolean Andreas-Hofer-Bund focused on combating propaganda in favor of opting for Germany and to keep the South Tyrolese from falling victim to it. In the office of Canon Gamper at the St. Mary boarding school in Bozen, handbills were printed which attempted to reveal the true nature of Nazism and to debunk the propaganda fairytales. In comparison with the propaganda machine run by the “South Tyrolean Folk Ring” – which received massive support from Germany – the resources of the Andreas-Hofer-Bund very modest; the group relied primarily upon personal contacts. At first, the Andreas-Hofer-Bund had about 30 to 40 active members. They were constantly on the move, trying to spread the word even to the smallest villages. One of their most successful actions was undoubtedly the rewrite of the Option Poem of Karl Felderer by Hans Egarter.

Felderer’s original read as follows:

So, tear from the sunny bay window
The last of the bright burning love;
Our faith in the Fatherland’s stronger,
The holiest thing we still have.

We take it along in our hearts,
A symbol one day to the others;
To quiet the homesickness in us:
Farewell, South Tyrol, dear Mother!


Egarter’s rewrite was as follows:

So stay at the sunny bay window
The bright burning love that we know
Our faith in our homeland was stronger,
We rejoice that she has not gone.

O, blossom and grow ever brighter–
You symbol of what loyalty is!
And herald that faith and our homeland
Are still the greatest we have.

In spite of all its efforts, the Andreas-Hofer-Bund could not prevent approx. 86% of the South Tyrolese from opting for Germany. After a large portion of the formerly Austrian and now Italian civil servants were transferred to southern Italy or let go, the rumor that those who opted for Italy would also have to be relocated had found its believers.

The situation took a dramatic turn when, on September 8, 1943, the German Army marched into Italy and seized power in the “Alpine Foreland Operational Zone” – which included South Tyrol. Canon Michael Gamper was able to flee to Italy under risky circumstances, where he worked on a memorandum with the intention of convincing the Allies that they should return South Tyrol to Austria after their expected victory. Friedl Volgger, Chairman of the Andreas-Hofer-Bund, as well as several other members were arrested and sent to the concentration camp in Dachau, forcing Hans Egarter to take over as Chairman.

For the time being, the activities of the Andreas-Hofer-Bund continued to be chiefly propaganda. After the seizure of power, the Nazis called up four so-called police regiments in South Tyrol into which especially those who had opted to stay – generally older persons and many who were unfit for military service – were conscripted. The officers had been taken from the German “Schutzpolizei” (“Security Police”) or from disbanded army units. These police regiments were called up not only because of the German military’s acute need for personnel, but also with the intention of removing those who had opted to stay – who were regarded as unreliable – from South Tyrol and to keep them under control.

But those who had opted to stay and were conscripted into the police regiments – including many members and sympathizers of the South Tyrolean-Andreas-Hofer Bund – thus received military training, a knowledge of and access to firearms and ammunition dumps, as well as access to military secrets. Via the “Patria” Austrian resistance group working out of Switzerland, the Andreas-Hofer-Bund was able to contact the British and French intelligence agencies. The Andreas-Hofer-Bund obtained money and radio equipment with which they could pass on valuable information.

The “Alpenvorland,” “Schlanders,” and “Bozen” police regiments were deployed in particular to fight partisans in northern Italy. According to Andreas-Hofer-Bund Chairman Egarter, 100% of the “Alpenvorland” regiment and 80% of the “Schlanders” and “Bozen” regiments had been infiltrated. Orders were sabotaged and contact made with Italian partisans who could be warned in time before individual actions to “fight bandits” were launched. In a letter, the bishop of Belluno thanked Andreas-Hofer-Bund Chairman Egarter for having thus saved many lives. However, the South Tyrolese did not expect any gratitude from the partisans. Thus, on March 23, 1944, Italian partisans conducted an attack against the “Bozen” police regiment in the Via Rasella in Rome during which 33 South Tyrolese died. Contrary to the custom at that time, the survivors of the regiment were not entrusted with carrying out the reprisal – the “Ardeatine Massacre” – which the German military in Italy had ordered in response. Apparently, the Germans understood that they wouldn’t be able to demand that of the members of the regiment.

The “infiltration” of the police regiments culminated during the swearing-in on February 22, 1945 of the “Brixen” regiment –after the “Alpenvorland,” “Bozen,” and “Schlanders” regiments, the last one to be called up. Despite being repeatedly ordered by Gauleiter (“regional leader”) Franz Hofer, the Supreme Commissar for the “Alpine Foreland Operational Zone,” to swear the oath, the men remained silent, at most moving their lips as if to swear. As punishment, the “Brixen” police regiment was sent to the Eastern Front, where they had to fight against the Soviets using weapons with which they were not familiar, suffering enormous losses as a result. In this context, the South Tyrolese encountered the descendants of the Protestant inhabitants of the Ziller Valley who had been forced to leave in 1837. However, the joy over the reunion was very short.

In South Tyrol, the Andreas-Hofer-Bund continued its activities, relying primarily on word-of-mouth propaganda. Deserters from the Germany Army and the S.S. (an estimated 300 – 400 between 1943 and 1945) were kept in hiding places and supplied. At least in the Passeier Valley, such groups of deserters and conscientious objectors even became in armed struggles to avoid being recaptured. As a result, the district was designated an area of partisan fighting.

After the war, Hans Egarter reported about numerous acts of sabotage which the Andreas-Hofer-Bund had carried out – though it is difficult to determine whether members of the Bund or possibly Italian partisans were actually responsible. Just before the end of the war, Andreas-HoferBund Chairman Egarter met with British secret agents in Bern to discuss plans to liberate the transient camp in Bozen, provide help for the landing of allied military glides, freeing prominent concentration camp inmates at Lake Prags (including Léon Blum, Édouard Daladier, Kurt Schuschnigg, and Martin Niemöller), and occupying the radio broadcasting station in Bozen to broadcast a general call for insurrection. But it came to naught since actual events overtook them.

The contacts between the Andreas-Hofer-Bund and the Italian “Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale” (CLN) never progressed very far. The Andreas-Hofer-Bund fought against Fascism and Nazism and for a democratic, reunified Tyrol as part of Austria, while the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale for an Italian South Tyrol, liberated from Fascism and Nazism. Nevertheless, there were talks about joint actions with the head of the Bozen group, the factory manager Manlio Longon and his coworker Ferdinando Visco Gilardi. But these contacts came to an end when, on December 19, 1944, Longon and Gilardi were arrested. Longon is presumed to have been murdered while incarcerated. From then on, nationalistic resistance members of the last hour were in charge in the Italian resistance movement of South Tyrol, and they saw the German resistance fighters as undesirable competitors to be combated. Bruno de Angelis (from Milan) took over as head of the CLN cell in Bozen.

On May 2, 1945, the German forces negotiated a surrender with the Allies (“Operation Sunrise”). The next day, S.S. General Karl Wolff and Army General Heinrich Vietinghoff, the Supreme Commander for Italy, handed over administration in Bozen to Bruno de Angelis and Ferdinando Visco Gilardi (the latter having just been liberated from imprisonment), who were then confirmed as Provincial Prefect and Vice-Prefect by the Allies. Their first concern was the hoisting of the “tricolors” in all South Tyrolean communities and at the “holy border” at the Brenner Pass and the restoration of the Fascist victory monument in Bozen. Almost all earlier Fascist office-holders were returned to power.

The South Tyrolean Andreas-HoferBund – representing the resistance movement of the population majority – had deserved to be given a portion of the administrative power, but received nothing. Chairman Egarter made a vain attempt to become involved in the “Sunrise” negotiations (about which he had been informed). Egarter and other leaders of the Andreas-Hofer-Bund were now needed only to obtain the consent of the Allied military government for the foundation, on May 8, 1945, of the South Tyrolean People’s Party – which had been “born from the resistance movement.” After that, forces began working to marginalize and, in part, criminalize the Bund.

On October 15, 1945, the Allied occupational agencies disbanded the South Tyrolean Andreas-Hofer-Bund with the justification that its purpose had been fulfilled. On this occasion, the U.S. agencies wanted to award the approx. 300 members of the Andreas-Hofer-Bund the so-called “Alexander Patent” (named in honor of General Harold Alexander) – an award which would have also served to protect the resistance fighters against criminal prosecution for violent acts they had committed in the course of their operations. Hans Egarter and his followers rejected the patent, since it was formulated in Italian and had classified the Andreas-Hofer-Bund as an Italian partisan group in spite of the fact that he viewed himself as a Tyrolean and Austrian. This rejection had consequences. In mid-December of 1945, Egarter was arrested and interrogated for two days about his contacts with foreigners (especially Austrians). After this attempted intimidation, falsified interviews were published in the Italian daily paper “Alto Adige” with the goal of discrediting Egarter in the eyes of these compatriots. Grand Jury trials were also held against 18 “partisans” from Passeier who had been supported by the Andreas-Hofer-Bund on account of fatalities during an exchange of fire between deserters and conscientious objectors on one side and military units on the other. In doing this, the Italian justice system – which was saturated with former Fascists – increasingly attempted to portray the German resistance movement – the existence of which they tried to deny – as a purely criminal organization.

The South Tyrolean Andreas-Hofer-
Bund vanished from collective memory.

The reestablishment of the Andreas Hofer Bund of Tyrol

Winfried Matuella

After World War II, the “Bergisel Bund” assumed the role of protector of South Tyrol in Austria and especially in Austrian Tyrol. However, in the 1990s, the Tyrolean organization disbanded. At the wish of some Tyrolese and especially former South Tyrolean freedom fighters who were active in the Andreas Hofer Bund (registered association) of Germany (which had been reestablished in 1979), the Andreas Hofer Bund of Tyrol was formed in May of 1993 in Telfs by a founding committee with administrative support from the “AHB (registered association) of Germany.” Its goals were similar to those of the pre-war Bund.

On December 8, 1993 and on January 19, 1994, the founding committee framed the statutes required to found an association. Thus, on February 6, 1994 in the Schupfen Restaurant, the Andreas Hofer Bund for Tyrol was officially founded. After a revision, the statutes were approved on August 31, 1994 by the Ministry of the Interior.

During the founding meeting at the Schupfen Restaurant, it was remarked that the Italian intelligence agency may have noted all of the license plate numbers of the participants’ vehicles. This motivated the South Tyrolean participants to return home quickly.

A member of the “AHB (registered association) of Germany” was even suspected of having informed the Italian intelligence agency. The membership of persons located on the far right of the political spectrum was another problem; they had to renounce membership. The embarrassing arrest of a South Tyrol activist at the Timmelsjoch – a woman who was not at that time a member of the Bund, but had close ties – was a further difficulty. At that time, the media referred to the AHBT as a “terrorist organization,” which likewise motivated some members to take their leave. Only after Josef Felder (M.Sc. of Engineering) assumed the Chairmanship did the Bund begin to enjoy the peace necessary for productive work. Chairman Felder led the Andreas Hofer-Bund of Tyrol, which has some 100 active members and approx. 1,000 supporting friends – who are constantly informed about the activities of the Bund and the political situation in South Tyrol – up to the year 2013. Winfried Matuella (M.Sc. of Engineering), who had joined the Bund only in 2003, was elected his successor. Matuella has served in this role ever since.