Vienna was part of the province of Lower Austria until 1922, when it became
a separate province within the Federal State of Austria. Under the Nazi regime,
Lower Austria was called the Reich Gau of Niederdonau (Reichsgau Niederdonau).
The provincial archive of Lower Austria preserves the records of provincial government departments, administrative offices and courts of Lower Austria. Its collections include title deeds, manuscripts and records from medieval times until today. The archive's collection used to be split between different premises, mostly located in Vienna. In the mid-1990s this material was moved from Vienna to a newly constructed building in the provincial capital St. Pölten. The archive re-opened in its new premises in 1997. It has a satellite depot in Bad Pirawarth, where the archives of the district commissioners and the district courts are stored, including the land registers. An overview of the archive's collections is provided online.
The archive holds material relating to the Nazi period, including Nazi era and post-war records relevant for research on looted property. According to the archive, the majority of documents relate to small businesses and agriculture owing to the population structure of the province, and there appear to be few records in the collection relating specifically to looted art.
Among the Nazi period and post-war records in the archive useful for research on looted property are:
Records of the Reich Governor (Reichsstatthalter) of the Reichsgau Niederdonau
The collection is quite complete and includes material on all aspects of the government of Lower Austria between 1938 and 1945, including administrative issues regarding land and forestry, health and social issues, education, construction, finance, cultural affairs etc; personnel issues (dismissals, forced retirements, political evaluations) and police matters, including c. 2,300 records on the dissolution of organisations and the confiscation of the property of persons considered to be 'enemies of the state and the people'.
Registration Records (Vermögensanmeldungen):
These records are also part of the Reich Governor material. On the basis of a decree of 26 April 1938 (enforced in June 1938), persons considered 'Jewish' under the racist Nuremberg Laws were required to register all property over RM 5,000 at branches of the Vermögensverkehrsstelle (Property Registration Office), an authority created on 18 May 1938. The registration of property was organised by province and the Provincial Archive of Lower Austria holds the records for Lower Austria (c. 3,500 records). Records for persons from communities incorporated into Vienna in 1938 cannot be found in this archive. The communities are listed in: Peter Csendes and Fedrinand Opll, Österreichisches Städtebuch: Die Stadt Wien, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien 1999. The archive holds some records on asset registrations from communities in the Northern Burgenland. Burgenland province was dissolved during the Nazi period, the southern part became part of Styria, the northern part became part of Lower Austria (then Niederdonau). "Aryanisation records" (Arisierungsakte) regarding northern Burgenland were handed to the Provincial Finance Office (Finanzlandesdirektion) of Vienna in 1946.
The property registrations include information on real property, shares, insurance, savings and, very rarely, jewellery and other valuables. They are organised alphabetically by name. Access to the records is restricted.
Records of post-1945 restitution cases. The archive has no court records whatsoever on restitution cases, but holds the corresponding records of the Landesamt XI/ 5 or Sonderliquidierungsstelle, the provincial administration department created in 1945 and responsible for cooperating with the post-war Restitution Commissions. Its tasks included recording claims and sending records to the courts. The records of this department include information on the decisions of the Restitution Commissions, rulings, settlements, etc. Relevant material from the 1938-1945 period has been attached to these records. The material is currently being computerised. The finding aids will be for internal use by the archive's staff only as access to the records is restricted.
District Court Records:
These include land registers and probate records, and are located in the archive's Bad Pirawarth branch (see below).
The Provincial Archive provides a guide to genealogical research in Lower Austria on their website including a useful table which lists the names of the regions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in English and German, indicating which modern states they are part of today.
Materials for genealogical research in the archive include:
Seigneurs (Feudalherren) were the judicial authorities of their respective district until 1848. The collection includes marriage papers, inventory protocols, testamentary provisions, property and land registers, sale or property contracts, and more. According to the archive, genealogical research is only possible in the provincial archives in cases where real property existed in feudal times and successive ownership can be traced through old land registers. Records such as marriage papers (Heiratsbriefe) and testaments can be consulted for this purpose. The archive only holds the feudal land registers (active up to 1880). After that date new land registers were created and managed by the newly established District Courts. Most of these land registers remain in the district courts to this day.
Genealogical research after 1848 is very difficult in the archive. If the address of the person researched is known, the records of the relevant district or regional court can be searched for death records, probate proceedings and other records. For this, it is helpful to know the person's approximate date of death.
Queries can be addressed to the archives in writing (mail, fax, e-mail). In order to enable a fruitful search of asset registrations and restitution records, the first and last name and the date of birth of the person to be researched should be provided and ideally the place of residence. To consult or obtain details about restricted material, a legitimate interest as a directly affected person, legal heir or legal representative has to be proven by providing notarial certificates or documents suitable to prove a family relationship. Academic researchers wishing to consult restricted material need to make a written application to the archive, including a project description, and abide by the data protection guidelines based on the Austrian Data Protection Law of 2000. There is no fee for obtaining information and consulting material at the archives.
Dr. Gertrude Langer-Ostrawsky
A-3109 St. Pölten
Tel.: +43 (0)2742 9005 16264
Fax: +43 (0)2742 9005 12052
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday: 8:30-15:30
Außendepot Bad Pirawarth
A-2222 Bad Pirawarth
Tel.: +43 (0)2574 3135
Fax: +43 (0)2574 3135 49610
Monday & Thursday: 8:30-15:30
<http://www.noel.gv.at/service/K/k2/landesarchiv.htm>, accessed 21 July 2003.
Central Registry Archives, Correspondence 28 April & 2 May 2003.
Das Niederösterreichische Landesarchiv in St.Pölten, Niederösterreichisches Landesesarchiv St.Pölten, 2000, pp. 57-8.
<http://www.nationalfonds.org/aef/english/rechRech.htm>, accessed 21 July 2003.