Swing to the right
One of Ross’s younger fans, Heinz Scheibenpflug (1910-1988),1 was the first Austrian who, after several German-produced feature broadcasts, delivered a lecture on Ross’s career in Vienna.
This presentation, of which unfortunately no written or audio recordings have been preserved, was delivered in one of the main branches of the popular Viennese education institute Urania, by then forced into line under the new name Volksbildungshaus.2 Despite the lack of evidence about the lecture itself the case is nevertheless interesting, because Scheibenpflug’s activities and profile before and after March 1938 shed a light on Ross’s personal networks and, by extension, the milieus he was received and promoted in.3
As a teacher Scheibenpflug began writing articles for the Arbeiter-Zeitung, the official daily of the social democrats, and delivering lectures and radio talks that almost exclusively dealt with the fauna and flora of his immediate environment, Vienna and the Austrian Alps. All of these presentations popularized and mediated practical biological, zoological, and geographical knowledge, primarily for a workers’ audience. In 1933, Scheibenpflug critically discussed national socialist eugenic theories and practices and recommended Paul Kammerer’s teachings as a model for a social democratic handling of genetic questions. He also took active part in organizing guided tours to Vienna’s environs. These tours were an initiative of the association Naturfreunde, which closely cooperated with the working-class movement; it was prohibited in 1934. Nevertheless, Scheibenpflug remained a constant presence at Radio Wien and acquired a certain eminence at Urania (he was, for example, invited to speak on the occasion of its 50th anniversary).
Since 1934, this institute itself increasingly acted in an opportunist manner with regard to the new Ständestaat (corporative form of government). While Scheibenpflug apparently avoided explicit ideological statements between 1934 and 1938, this restraint disappeared with the Anschluss. This before-and-after attitude is reflected in two of his aricles. In October 1937 he published an informative, tourist-oriented article on the Romanian Carpathians, but on March 22, 1938 his report on the everyday life and rituals in Saxon villages in Transylvania was designed to propagate the consanguinity of Deutschtum and the prospective colonists’ opportunities outside the Reich’s borders. From then onwards, Scheibenpflug widely published and lectured on the common economic and geopolitical interests of Germany and Austria.4 His introduction to Ross’s life must have been in the same vein.
[n.a.]. [Announcement of the lecture “Wanderer in allen Welten. Colin Roß, sein Werk und sein Wirken” by Heinz Scheibenpflug at Wiener Urania]. Reichspost. 1938 May 19; 45 (138); 11.
Case: Speaking engagements
1 Art. Scheibenpflug at Austria-Forum, http://austria-forum.org/af/AEIOU/Scheibenpflug%2C_Heinz_Pseudonym_M._Waldegg [accessed Feb 10, 2017].
2 Walter Göhring. Die Wiener Volksbildung. Siegwald Ganglmair, editor. Wien 1938: Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien; 110. Sonderausstellung. Wien: Österreichischer Bundesverlag; 1988; 386-397.
3 This sketch of the now generally forgotten author’s early activities is based on the findings in ANNO, the digitized newspaper repository of the Austrian National Library.
4 About his book on the Danube and the Donauraum see Christian Promitzer. The South Slavs in the Austrian Imagination: Serbs and Slovenes in the Changing View from German Nationalism to National Socialism. In: Nancy M. Wingfield, editor. Creating the Other: Ethnic Conflict and Nationalism in Habsburg Central Europe. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books; 2003; 205-6.