** Austrian children boys girls institutions

Austrian Institutions

We note quite a few institutional group photographs of German and Austrian children. We think the trends are very similar in both countries. Most of the group photographs of course are photographs at school, often class groups. We also note what look like boarding school photographs. There are other group photographs and they are not easy to destinguish among them when they are not identified. There were not very many boarding schools, but they were some. Some are oprphanages. This would have been particularly common after World War I in the 1920s. The Church plaued a major role in charitable ativities until the Anschluss and NAZI takeove (1938). Than the NAZI Party tokk over charitable facilities and instituttions. After the War the Church never regained in s former role. We are less sure about the situation after World War II. As in Germany, I think that the school arranged summer and vacation group trips in which the children stayed together in facilities in various vacation spots. Youth groups may have also had camp and other facilities for children. While we do not understand some of the photographs, we think that they are useful to assess them to better understand Austrian childhood experiences.


Many countries of Western and Central Europe have a long tradition of church boys' choirs dating back to the medevil era. The Austro-Hungarian Empire (before 1918) and Austria (after 1918) was one of those countries. The Austrian choirs were associated with the Catholic Church. The most famous Austriann choir was the Vienna Choir Boys which it one of the oldest, if not the oldest boys' choir in operation today. It ios the prototype of the modern choir. It was formerly created at the turn-of-the-16th century from the singers at the royal palace. Until 1918 served as the oficial choir for the Emperor's chappel. It is today one of the icons of modern Austria. The Vienna Choir Boys, however, are not Austria's only choir.

Figure 1.--This facility is identified as the Children's Observation Home in Vienna. The photograph was taken in 1925. many of the children would have been there as a result of World War I and the difficult ecomomic conditiinms following the War. Austria had to adjust from many a large multi-ethnic empire to a small Alpine republic. A reader writes, "In this image we see several boys wearing similar outfits, but several seem to be wearing cloth H-bar halters (Lederhosen were commonly worn with leather halters) to keep their pants up. Some are wearing Lederhosen, but if we can't tell if that is all of the boys. I am wondering if the shirts are covering the fact that the pants were held up by suspenders, complicating dressing and undressing. Or if some boys wore suspenders and others did not for some reason." Here we have to consider that in an institutional setting it is imprtant that the children learn to dress themselves as soon a possible.


Orphanages plated an important role in the history of caring for children. Some information is available on a few individual Austrian norphanages, but so far we have been unable to find any overall history. During the 19th century, orphanages housed children in need. This included children who were orphaned or abandoned or whose parents were temporarily unable to care for them because of illness or poverty. As men were for the most part the family breadwinners, if the father dies or was incapacitated this meant that mothers had great difficulty caring for the chikdre, especially largevfamilies. There were few options dependent children. We have been unable to find information on thev history of orphanages in Austria. We know they existed and we believe that they were mostly operated by the Church band church-based charities. In Austria this mnean the Catholic Church. There was a special need after World War I because of the number of men killed or severely injured and the difficult economic situation. American relief efforts gave specialmattention to feeding children aftervtheWar. They were probably taken over by the NAZI Party after the Anschluss (1938). This was part of the NAZI campaign against Christianity, especially the Catholic Church. We have no information at this time as to what happened after World War II. We do know that in the post-War era as with other countries, Austria has moved toward community-based and family-based child care systems. There are now quitev a number of small group homes in Austria. There are also children growing up in foster care.


Germany was a leader in public education. Austria introduced the first compulsory school attendance law and many other German states followed the Austrian example. Germany and Austria by the 19th century had the premier education ststem in the world. Not all children in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, however, had access to these schools. Austrian boys like German boys did not wear school uniforms, except fpr a small number of boys who went to military schools. The boys simply wore their ordinary clothes. Younger boys at the turn of the century often wore the popular sailor suit. Older boys wore various styles of suits, usually without the Eton collars that were so popular in England. Sailor suits became less popular in the 1930s, especially after the Anschlus in 1937. Interestingly after the Anschlus, school children were one of the few groups that did not wear uniforms. Although boys and girls often wore their Hitler Youth uniforms to school. Boys also common wore lederhosen, although these durable leather shorts declined in popularity in the 1960s as jeans became increasingly popular.

Mental Hospitals

We do not yet have information on reformatoties in Austria. One notorious instutution was Am Spiegelgrund Clinic in Vienna. We are nit sure about its origins. It seems to have been a child care facility of some kind already in existenve when the Anschluss occurred and the NAZIS seized control of Austria (1938). The clinic operated as part of the psychiatric hospital Am Steinhof later known as the Otto Wagner Clinic. It operated as part of the the Baumgartner Medical Center located in Penzing. Am Spiegelgrund included both aReform School and a Children's Ward, where sick and disabled adolescents were subjected to medical experiments and were victims of nutritional and psychological abuse. Some were murdered by lethal injection and gas poisoning. Others died by disease, starvation, exposure to the elements, and 'accidents' relating to their conditions. This was part of the NAZI T-4 Program. Under this system, family bdioctors and hiospitals reported children mentaly and ohisocally handicapped children to sate authorities. The children judged to have serious aflictions were committed to favcilities like Am Spiegelgrund where they were mnurdered. Parents were no allowed to keep these children and care vfor them at home. The brains of some 800 of the victims victims were preserved in jars and housed in the Clinic for decades. [Lutz]


Figure 2.--This photograph is unidentified. It looks to have been taken in the early-1930s. It could be a boarding school or an orphanage dormitory. We think, however, it may be youth group facility where the boys could stay on a trip. Notice the banner on the wall.

Youth Groups

Quite a few youth organizations have been active in Austria over time. We have little information on Austria at this time. The story here is rather complicated because of all the political changes that Austria has undergone. The principal groups seem to have been Wanger Vogel, the Boy Scouts, anf the Hitler Youth. The Hitler Youth was organized as a unofficial group until the Anschluss, but then became the German Hitler Youth as Austria was absorbed into the wider German Reich. There have also been a range of other smaller groups. The garments worn by Austrian youth groups seem similar to those worn in other countries, especially Germany. One noticeable trend in austria is that Lederhosen were particularly popular and ogten worn with youth hroup uniforms.


Lutz, Kaelber. "Am Spiegelgrund" (Städtische Jugendfürsorgeanstalt “Am Spiegelgrund” Wien).


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Created: 12:05 AM 5/6/2008
Last updated: 11:15 PM 1/31/2021