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Gherardo Bonini

New serial : Starken Männer

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Gherardo Bonini

Dear Friends,


here I am in proposing to you the read and comment of some sketches about a lot of Austrian lifters in Interwar Era. As you know, Austria enjoyed in that period an immense production of talents. Excluded from 1920 Antwerp’s Olympics, Austria got medals in weightlifting in each of successive Games editions until the World War II. Moreover, Austrian lifters were able to set World records and get international honours in European (at that time relatives of World championships) championships.

Furthermore, some Austrian lifters experienced the Socialist-oriented Workers organisations with related Olympics of Frankfurt (1925) and Vienna (1931) plus other Festivals with good standard for weightlifting competitions. Also there, Austrian lifters set records, some times better than “bourgeois” (FIH) records.


Our focus will be on some short sketches issued by Kleine Blatt, a Viennese journal with a particular background. Founded in 1927 as second journal for Socialdemocratic Party (at that time governing the Municipality and the Province of Vienna, but at the opposition in the Federal Government of Austria), his Director Julius Braunthal (an important member of Party’s Steering Committee) gave a peculiar mark to the journal, still following the Party’s guidelines but a bit more open to bourgeois World and lesser sectarianist, when in February 1934 the Christian Social Party provoked and fought a Civil War dismantling Socialdemocracy (Braunthal escaped in exilium) most of journalists (in particular who managed sport articles) remained in the staff after negotiation submission to new regime.


During the so called Austro-Fascism (until Anschluss of March 1938 in which Nazi Germany inglobated Austria), Kleine Blatt played a peculiar role enhancing at limit a critical opposition (remaining however in the limits of censorship). Journalists still sympathizing with former Socialdemocratic thoughts chose a kind of “sleeping” opposition. The journal remained much read by former electorate of Socialdemocratic Party and it had financial resources for organizing some theoretically oriented Socialist competions “sport for everybody”, open to whoever wanted to enroll. This mark was particularly implemented in cycling and football.


In the weightlifting, the journal published a set of articles which we will focus. It was matter of a serial Aus der Stadt der Starken Männer (From the town of Strongest Men). This myth born of course at the time of Stöhr, Türk, Steinbach, Swoboda, Grafl and Tandler, but new feedback aroused with Haas, Andrysek, Hipfinger, Fein and other champions. The journal wanted also recuperate Workers tradition, as important as bourgeois. Victories of Workers Olympics 1925 and 1931 were then important as those as in Paris, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and (supposed for) Berlin.


So the target : the memory of Vienna as town of Strongest Men has to include also Workers champions and not only those who had taken part to both traditions (most of Austrian lifters had links with Workers tradition). The journal started this serial on 27 May 1934 and, after a period of consecutive Sunday issues and pauses, re-starting and new pauses, ended its serial on 6 December 1936. On May 1934, the authoritarian regime had concluded the restructuration of Austrian sport, dismantling clubs, but also keeping most of them (also weightlifting clubs) but new organisational charts. Symbolically, the Austrian Federation for Heavier Athletics (bourgeois) changed its headquarters occupying just that of the former Workers organisations. On May 1934, a Vienna championships for weightlifting had taken place. Several former Workers stars had won or at least had taken the best placings of the standings, demonstrating the high standard of Workers movement. These two elements pushed Kleine Blatt to this memory recuperation.


Intentionally, I would install sketches with bi-weekly periodization, but, some times, if I will have time I could also go beyond this theoretical interval, and, at reverse, if I have no time, I will strive for at leat one weekly emission.


In sum, the sketches will concern :


Hans Haas

Karl Hipfinger

Josef Zemann

Franz Andrysek

Fritz Haller

Rudolf Schilberg

Josef Leppelt

Franz Janisch

Robert Fein

Eugen Herdlitzka

Alois Schöbinger 

Gustav Becker

Hans Valla

Anton Hangel

Karl Padourek

Theodor Heitzmann

Franz Ficnar

Hans von Szabados

Theodor Mödlagel

Leopold Fellenberg

Anton Richter

Leopold Stöckl

Franz Hirn

August Böhnel

Adolf Auer

Leopold Hausknotz

Leopold Harzhauser

Karl Schuster

Hans Hipfinger

Walter Lachmann

Franz Veigl

Karl Frolik

Rudolf Troppert

Hans Stropek

Franz Huhsar

Ludwig Heiselmayer

Adalbert Huber

Georg Goldsteiner

Franz Fischer

Franz Klaghofer

Hans Novey

Erhard Merl

Franz Schritter

Franz Nowak

Heinrich Wagner

Alois Escher

Konrad Huber

Karl Gnan

Eduard Oswald

Alois Lassnigg

Matthias Zahradka

Karl Kaiser

Hans Guwak

Leopold Wlcek

Johann Nourscher

Georg Wieger

Adolf Legat

Rudolf Tomanek

Anton Lavicka

Otto Rehak

Josef Haller


After Haller, I would add a special final installment analyzing who was absent from the list and why (that more interesting).


Good reading

I wait for your comments

Yours friendly




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Joe Roark

Gherardo, there are names on that list that are new to me, so this will become a must read serial as you present it. Thank you for planning and sharing this, and I notice you, appropriately are presenting the pieces in the Muscle Muscle section where the first installment is ready.

Thanks again!

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Vilmos Zoller

It's great, Gherardo! We are looking forward the results of your new investigations eagerly!

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peter yates

Hi Gherardo, outstanding. Thanks you for presenting this valuable information, looking forward to reading it with expectation.


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Thomas Klose

This is a great idea, Gherardo!

Very much appreciated

Thanks a lot 




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Mikko Korhonen

Dear Gherardo,

Thank you very much!

Yours friendly


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