Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung December 1848

Swiss Evidence of the Austrian Army’s Heroic Deeds in Vienna

Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 120;
Written: by Engels on December 5, 1848;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 161, December 6, 1848.

Cologne, December 5. While the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung and other bought newspapers exalt a Windischgrätz and a Jellachich to heaven for restoring law and order, crown the valiant Austrian troops with laurels and never tire of recounting the horrors of the democratic reign of terror, a new source of information has suddenly appeared in the Swiss press to serve the chronicling of the latest Viennese events. This source consists of the Swiss citizens who with difficulty and in mortal danger, and after maltreatment, escaped from the myrmidons of “order”, and having returned to their homeland, publish their experiences during the “days of terror” and the “war of order”. And indeed not raging “proletarians”, but big capitalists, people who owned enormous factories in Vienna, most trustworthy bourgeois of conservative convictions — and a Swiss conservative is well known to be the equivalent of a German “wailer” [127] raised to the second power — and their reports are not appearing in radical scandal sheets but in the most serious conservative newspapers. We have taken the following details from one such description in the Basle Intelligenzblatt:

Herr Specker of St. Gallen was director of a big machine factory which stood quite isolated on the ‘tabor, the extreme customs boundary of Vienna. He, like his workers and foremen, all of them Swiss, had neither taken part in the fighting, nor had weapons in the house. Only 15 workers had remained on duty with the factory’s fire-pump set up in the yard. At the approach of the military, General Wyss, patrician of Berne and chief of the Austrian General Staff, gave Herr Specker his word of honour that nothing would happen to his building if he had no weapons and if no shots were fired from the factory. The house was searched by the troops and nothing was found. In spite of this another detachment of riflemen asserted that shots had been fired from the house (very understandably, as they had permission to loot any house from which shots were fired). The “Swiss dogs”, who had trusted the word of their compatriot General Wyss so implicitly that they had even left their wives and children in the factory, were most brutally mishandled by these soldiers, and only saved by the intervention of another officer. The latter took them to the guardroom. A neighbour pointed at one of the workers passing by and said: “He, too, was at the dismantling of the Tabor bridge.” Immediately, without being allowed to say a word, the worker was put up against a wall and shot. In the guardroom guns were pointed at the “Swiss dogs” and only a loaded pistol brought out by the officer held the soldiers back. Director Specker was stood up against the wall, three soldiers set on him, one cocked his gun, put the barrel to Specker’s mouth and fiddled about with the trigger. One of the officers took out his watch and said: “You have a quarter of an hour, Swiss dog, then you'll he shot, so say your prayers!” Before the time was up, the officer who had previously saved them returned, and took him to General Wyss, who reproached him for “breaking his word"! The general obstinately maintained that shots had been fired from the factory, although Herr Specker proved that this was physically impossible. At last he obtained a pass for himself and his people to Florisdorf. On returning to the factory they found everything in wrack and ruin and looted bare. Herr Specker’s family had been chased around the house with rifle-shots; the book-keeper, a Swiss, riddled with bullets, rolled in his death throes in the garden and anyone who approached him was shot at, so that the unfortunate man was left till late at night to lie there and die. His name was Kunz. In the end the survivors succeeded in getting away safely to Florisdorf.

The machine manufacturer Bollinger, also a Swiss, who made himself famous by his work on the spire of St. Stephen’s, succeeded with the help of fire-pumps in protecting his factory from being burned down. But here too the Austrians broke in under the false pretence that shots had been fired from the factory, and they plundered and demolished the whole building, set fire to it, and stabbed Bollinger’s brother to death as he tried to escape from the flames. Another Swiss resident in Vienna, Madame Bodener, had her child shot in her arms by the Croats.

The report holds out prospects of still further information about the heroic deeds of the brave Austrian army as soon as other Swiss citizens return. At the same time, it depicts in most moving terms the assurance and calm of the armed proletarians, and the courteousness and decency with which the Swiss were treated during the so-called reign of terror of the Vienna proletariat and students.

We repeat: the originators of these reports are not radicals, not proletarians and malcontents, but big capitalists and true full-blooded Swiss aristocrats. Will the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung not let its various correspondents ir , MW, #, D , and others in Vienna collect information as to whether this is not word for word true? We have given names, locality, and all other details as exactly as the paper can wish. But it will of course be wary.