Johann(es) SAUTER (born on May 24th, 1891 in Kleeberg) was Pd. (ao. Prof.) for Gesellschaftslehre, Allgem. Staatslehre, Rechtsphilosophie at the Law School of the University of Vienna.
He was persecuted in times of Nazism because of his political orientation lost his position and was thrown out of the university in 1940.
Johann(es) SAUTER studied at the Passauer Lyzeum, first two semesters of philosophy and then eight semesters of theology. After his priestly ordination he worked 1916 to 1923 as a minister. (Later, in Vienna, he kept this secret and reported instead having undergone professional training at a bank from 1916 to 1922.) By the summer semester 1923 he asked the diocese Passau for a leave to pursue the study of philosophy in Munich, which he completed with a thesis on the philosophy of Franz von Baaders and his relationship with German romanticism. Simultaneously with his enrolment in Munich, Sauter also matriculated doctorate studies on political science in Vienna University and graduated there already on June 17, 1925, i.e. before he finished his studies at Munich. In Vienna he soon joined the circle of Othmar Spann, but he vehemently denied this fact later on during the Nazi rule.
After his graduation Sauter earned his living lecturing at the Wiener Handelsakademie (today Vienna Business School). Additionally he wrote numerous papers and in August 1927 he was able to submit his habilitation paper on Franz von Baader’s Schriften zur Gesellschaftsphilosophie (Papers on philosophy of society) to the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences for the professorship in sociology. Franz von Baader (1765–1841), Sauter’s core interest in research, is a central figure of romanticism in Munich. Sauter even heightened him to the position of "founder of the German national economy". Since the academic year 1927/28, Sauter worked as private lecturer in sociology; in June 1933 he was given the position of Associate Professor. Later on he submitted his treatise Entwicklung der abendländischen Staatsidee (Development of the Western state idea) for the expansion of his Venia to General Theory of State and Philosophy of Law, which he obtained in March 1934.
With the NS seizure of power in Austria in March 1938 Professor Alexander Hold-Ferneck and Professor Alfred Verdroß-Drossberg proposed Sauter’s nomination as a Full Professor in philosophy of law. But on April 28, 1938 Prof. Ernst Schönbauer, Dean of the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences gave an instruction that impeded these plans. In retrospection this fact also shows the appalling rapidity and efficiency of the process of the Nazi Gleichschaltung (coordination): it was suggested to Johann Sauter, as well as to Professor Ludwig Adamovich sen. and Professor Robert Bartsch to request an immediate leave of absence. But Sauter did not comply with this request of ‘volontary’ renunciation to lecturing, and he was simply stripped of his academic credentials. Hence, Sauter is an example of the fact that not only Jewish scholars but also ‘politically unreliable’ personnel were dismissed from universities under the Nazi regime. On March 22, 1939 a notification was issued under consideration of § 4 Paragraph 1 of the new regulation of civil service in Austria dated May 31st, 1938, by means of which he was retired and assigned half of his pension. However, this determination was based on the misconception that he was a civil servant. In fact, this measure did not have any effect on private lecturers, so that in the end he was unable to perform any paid teaching activity. Consequently, he was jobless and had no income. The ‘political unreliability’ he was accused of was due to the fact that he was acquainted with Othmar Spann and also because of his former spiritual connections to the clergy and to Christian Social movements.
Sauter objected to this treatment and spoke many times with the Dean and the Head of the University. He even went directly to Rust, the Ministry of Education: "Being one of the most meritorious defenders of the national movement I am now here almost destitute," he writes in a letter dated June 4, 1940. And in July 1940 he also addressed a thorough apology to the Ministry. From this report on his political tendencies and activities, one could draw the conclusion that Sauter was a Nazi of the first hour: in his own words he participated in the "Hitler-Putsch" in Munich in 1923; he consequently fled to Vienna because of continuing criminal investigations in this respect. There he worked in the Deutsche Kulturamt of the university in cooperation with Robert Körber. Besides, he reported being a founding member of the Deutsche Philosophische Gesellschaft, which, according to Sauter, consisted of camouflage associations that maintained relations with illegal national socialist offices. He also reported having undertaken the leadership of the Deutsche Kunstgemeinschaft (the German cultural society) in 1937 and having brought evidence of "the judaization (Verjudung) of our cultural life". Last but not least he had led the great process against Professor Schlick, the leader of both Jews and Freemasons. (Due to (scientific) political and anti-Semitic reasons, the philosopher Professor Moritz Schlick was 1936 assassinated on the stairs of the university). Sauter also reported having often visited "the national offender" during imprisonment. After all, he had been repeatedly attacked by the patriotic press because of his national offence. Yet after the seizure of power the Cultural Office of the NSDAP designated him for a special mission against the Masonic lodge and in March 1938 he was given a job by the weekly journal Der Stürmer.
Furthermore he had a confidential post against the enemies of the Nazis. Thus it can be stated that Sauter’s political views and activity intended to please the Nazis. Especially it can be proven that:
• Sauter organised the Deutsche Philosophische Gesellschaft in Vienna in the spring of 1935, together with the "National Catholic" Hans Eibl, with the aim of disseminating Othmar Spann’s ideas;
• Sauter took part in the Deutsche Kunstgemeinschaft (the German cultural society) for the stimulation of artistic and cultural efforts, a society that supported young Aryan artists. His job there consisted mainly in writing pamphlets and petitions for financial support. He wrote for example: "The alien influence on today’s art trends is so great... that our real native German art seems to be pushed into the background;"
• Sauter was appointed by Leopold Schneider as a scientific collaborator at the National Cultural Office of the NSDAP in March 1938;
• Stauter was very active, "especially in the preparations for the referendum". (See investigation records of the Vienna Gauleitung dated 3.31.1939).
Sauter’s involvement in the process against the murderer of Moritz Schlick becomes evident in his most well-known anti-Semitic pamphlet issued in the summer of 1936 under the pseudonym of "Prof. Dr. Austriacus" by the Catholic weekly journal Schönere Zukunft. There he wrote: "We would like to recall that we Christians live in a Christian-German state and that we are to determine which philosophy is adequate and good. Jews should have their own Jewish philosopher in their own cultural institution! But the philosophy chairs at Vienna University in Christian-German Austria should only be occupied by Christian philosophers! It has been repeatedly explained lately that the peaceful settlement of the Jewish Question in Austria is in the interest of the Jews themselves; otherwise a violent solution would be unavoidable. Hopefully this horrendous murder at Vienna University will speed up a peaceful settlement of the Jewish Question!"
Such anti-Semitic statements seen from the standpoint of National Socialism reveal Sauter’s right-wing views – except for the special emphasis on Christianity. Also, the letters of recommendation that accompanied Sauter’s apology intended to give the impression that he was "an enthusiast, courageous pioneer of the National Socialism" (letter from Franz Brandl) and that "he was always ready to unselfishly serve the national idea, regardless of any difficult economic situations he might experience." (Letter from Carl von Bardolff), that "as a pioneer of the true German jurisprudence he... had cooperated with great efforts... especially for German art, even during the illegal times" (letter from Erwin Heller).
Additionally, Sauter adduced in a questionnaire he was asked to complete in September 1938 that he was a member of the NSDAP. But actually, there is proof that Sauter’s application for this membership dated May 1st 1938 was rejected by the Gaugericht Vienna in September 1941. Still, it seems that even as a non-member he was in close contact with the NSDAP and had friends there that supported him in his efforts to regain his chair at the University. Since he was not allowed to teach any more, he lived on charity and received, for example, a monthly allowance of 180 Reichsmark from the Reich Ministry. In May 1942 it was finally decided that he would be banned from civil service but that he was allowed to make a living in the private sector. He was given a certificate of legal liability with a license for a real estate agency". Yet, it is unknown whether Sauter actually worked in the real estate business. Unknown is also his fate after March 1943. He was arrested by the Gestapo on March 18, 1943 because of being highly suspicious of "belonging to a reactionary group of the opposition and because of "his deliberate defeatist utterances that weakened the resistance of the inner front." The above mentioned group was the Catholic-conservative camp, including Franz and Margarete Meuren as well as Josef Wenzl, who were also arrested, together with Sauter. There is no trace of him after that.
Johann(es) Sauter died on December 12, 1945 in Winhöring (County of Altötting, Bavaria).
Johann(es) Sauter was both an (impeded) expelling and an expelled scholar of Vienna University. He was doubtlessly an anti-Semitist and had Catholic-national and pan-German ideological orientations, certainly with national socialistic tendencies. His inclination to the NS ideology would be in the sense that his political involvement was an endeavour to show the points of agreement between National Socialism and Catholicism. This explains, among other things, his relationship with Othma Spann, who, like the NS-ideologist Alfred Rosenberg, was inclined the pro-fascist Catholic priesthood. Sauter’s contact with Hans Eibl also goes in this direction. According to his own declarations, this philosopher worked on the relationships between Christianity and National Socialism with reference to ‘Positive Christianity’ as in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. It was precisely the Deutsche Philolophie Gesellschaft , Eibl’s and Sauter’s joint enterprise, what gave way for numerous common points on certain aspects of the NS-ideology. Sauter seems to belong to the group of Austrian law scholars whose ideas and beliefs had resonance in the National Socialism during Nazi times, even though they did not have a clear national socialistic ideology. Rather they advocated for a German-national concept of Reich in a Romantic sense (Bernd-Christian Funk).
Last but not least, Sauter’s alignments with early romantic and idealistic ideas come into evidence in his work with Franz von Baader, which in the eyes of National Socialism projects a perception of a bastion of German culture, even as a realization of the medieval concept of Reich.
Lit.: Tamara EHS, Die Vertreibung des/der ersten Staatswissenschafter/in: Helene Lieser und Johann Sauter, in: Franz Stefan Meissel, Thomas Olechowski Ilse Reiter-Zatloukal u. Stefan Schima, Hg., Vertriebenes Recht - vertreibendes Recht. Die Wiener Rechts- und Staatswissenschaftliche Fakultät 1938-1945, Wien 2010.
Tamara Ehs (translated by Ruth Pappenheim)