Who was Irene Harand
In the streets of Vienna we often recognize the names of famous people. There is the Falco-Staircase in the 5th district or the Helmut-Qualtinger Hof in Döbling. To the Viennese people, we do not have to explain who these gentlemen were. But in the first district there is hidden in the Judengasse a municipality building that bears the name Irene-Harand Hof.
When I introduce this building to my guests and ask, if anybody has heard the name Irene Harand before, I often see clueless faces. In fact, she was a very special woman.
Irene Harand wrote an incredibly interesting and very important book in 1935 that is more relevant than ever in the days of “fake news”. And After 1945 she was not one of those people that said, it was impossible to foresee what Hitler was up to. Irene Harand wrote a reply to Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” with her book “Sein Kampf” and condemned it with anti-semitic stereotypes and forgeries, pointing out the imminent dangers of National Socialism. In 1933 she had founded together with Moriz Zalman the “World Movement against racial hatred and human misery” which became famous under the name “Harand-Movement” and had several thousand followers in many european countries until 1938. Her book was published at her own expense and it was soon also published in English and French. Of course, the leaders of National Socialism were not pleased about that.
In 1938, after the annexation of Austria to the Third Reich, a bounty of 100.000 Reichsmark was imposed on Irene Harand. Since 1937 she was on lecture tours abroad in which she presented her book. In those days she stayed in the UK. She did not return to Austria and fled to United Stated instead.
History is not only a matter of black and white
Irene Harand was awarded the Golden Medal of Merit for the Republic of Austria in 1971 and she was honoured by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial as one of the “Righteous among the Nations”. The municipality building in the first district was named after her in 1990 and in 2008 a square in front of the Paulanerkirche at the Wiedner Hauptstraße was named after her as well. However, her name is not mentioned in the same breath as resistance fighters like Franz Jägerstätter or Sophie Scholl. Although Irene Harand was also a staunch Catholic, she was also a monarchist and a supporter of the Austria-fascist Ständestaat , defending the totalitarian stance of these governments. But also in the austria-fascist Regime she protested vehemently against anti-semitic tendencies. Maybe that is one of the reasons why Irene Harand is not mentioned that often as a resistance fighter and hardly anyone knows about her.
You can learn more about Irene Harand and many other women during my tour about “Strong Women”.