Born(1872-05-24)24 May 1872
Salzburg, Duchy of Salzburg, Austria-Hungary
Died28 August 1942(1942-08-28) (aged 70)
Vienna, Nazi Germany
Allegiance Austria-Hungary
Service/branch Austro-Hungarian Army
Rank Colonel general
Commands held
Battles/warsFirst World War
Alma materTheresian Military Academy, Wiener Neustadt
  • Rosa Kaltenbrunner
  • Gertrude Tomanek von Beyerfels-Mondsee
  • Claudia von Habsburg-Lothringen
  • Maximilian von Habsburg-Lothringen

Archduke Joseph Ferdinand of Austria, full name Joseph Ferdinand Salvator Maria Franz Leopold Anton Albert Johann Baptist Karl Ludwig Rupert Maria Auxilatrix; 24 May 1872 – 28 August 1942, was an Austro-Hungarian Archduke, military commander, from 1916 Generaloberst, and early advocate of air power. He later retired to live as a common citizen of Austria, and was briefly imprisoned in Dachau during the Nazi era.

Early life

Joseph Ferdinand was born in Salzburg to Ferdinand IV, Grand Duke of Tuscany, the last Grand Duke of Tuscany, and his wife, Alice of Bourbon-Parma. As the fourth child and second son, he assumed the mantle of heir after his elder brother gave up the claim following numerous scandals. While his father had kept the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany after the abolition of the grand duchy in 1860, he had abdicated it in favor of the Austrian Emperor in 1870.[1] Joseph Ferdinand did not pretend to the title of grand duke himself.

Education and career

Joseph Ferdinand attended the military Oberrealschule at Hranice (in that time also known as Mährisch Weissenkirchen) and later the Theresian Military Academy at Wiener Neustadt. Upon graduating from the academy, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Tirol Jäger regiment on 18 August 1892. Following various assignments with Infantrie Regiment (IR) No's. 93, 17, 59 and the Tirol Jäger Regiment No. 4, he was attached to IR No. 27 as an Oberstleutnant in 1903. From 1895 until 1897, he attended the Kriegsschule in Vienna. From 1905 until 1908, the Archduke commanded IR No. 93 as an Oberst, then the Infantry Brigade No. 5.

The Archduke Joseph Ferdinand concerned himself with aviation, which was not taken seriously in military circles at the time. He was fascinated by balloons from an early age; in 1909, he arranged a balloon flight from his manor in Linz to Dieppe in France, which lasted 16 hours. In January 1911, the Archduke received command of the 3rd infantry division in Linz, followed afterwards by his promotion to Feldmarschalleutnant on 1 May 1911.

World War I

In August 1914, he took the command of the XIV Corps, succeeding General der Kavallerie Viktor Dankl von Krasnik, who had taken command of the 1st Army. His Corps was part of the 3rd Army of General Rudolf von Brudermann. In early September 1914, the devastating battles at the Zlota and Gnila Lipa practically destroyed the 3rd Army, and the 4th Army under General Moritz von Auffenberg was also decimated following the Battle of Rawa. The Archduke was chosen to replace Auffenberg on October 1. Meanwhile, the XIV Corps was taken over by Feldmarschalleutnant Josef Roth on 30 September.

Joseph Ferdinand was to remain in command of the 4th Army until early June 1916. At this time, General Aleksei Brusilov launched the Brusilov offensive at the juncture of the 4th and 1st Armies. The result was that Joseph Ferdinand's trenches were obliterated by the Russian bombardment and his troops surrendered en masse to the advancing Russians. In light of this massive set-back, the German High Command insisted on his removal from command. The archduke went into retirement and was replaced by General Karl Tersztyánszky von Nádas.

Following the accession of Emperor Charles I in November 1916, Archduke Joseph Ferdinand was offered the post of Inspector General of the Imperial Air Force. The archduke brought his interest in ballooning to the post, although the Army HQ immediately objected to the appointment. In spite of their reservations, the archduke was appointed on 8 July 1917 and he remained there until 3 September 1918.

Theodore von Kármán, then an Oberleutnant in the Austro-Hungarian Luftarsenal, found Joseph Ferdinand to be an "ignorant and pompous fellow." As Inspector General Joseph Ferdinand visited the Austro-Daimler Company where he was shown the company's first six-cylinder airplane engine by Ferdinand Porsche. In his autobiography von Kármán relates an exchange between Joseph Ferdinand and Porsche:

"Is this a four cylinder engine?" the Archduke asked.
"Yes, Imperial Highness."
"Well, then why are there six cylinders?" he demanded.
Porsche with a side wink at me replied: "The last two cylinders are reserves."[2]

Marriages and issue

He was married at Maria Plain on 2 May 1921 to Rosa Kaltenbrunner (Linz, 27 February 1878 – Salzburg, 9 December 1929), who was not a noble; the marriage lasted until their divorce in 1928, without issue.

In Vienna on 27 January 1929, Joseph Ferdinand married again, this time to Gertrude Tomanek, Edle von Beyerfels-Mondsee (Brünn, 13 April 1902 – Salzburg, 15 February 1997). He had two children from this marriage;

Imprisonment and release

When the Germans occupied Austria in 1938, Joseph Ferdinand was arrested along with more than 70,000 other Viennese. He was interrogated by the Gestapo and sent to Dachau concentration camp, where he was imprisoned for three months. The conditions in the camp ruined his health permanently. Joseph Ferdinand was released by the petition of Albert and Olga Göring[4] and lived an isolated existence thereafter, under continual observation by the Gestapo. After his release, he settled in Vienna as a commoner. He died on 28 August 1942 in Vienna.



  1. ^ Bernd Braun: Das Ende der Regionalmonarchien in Italien. Abdankungen im Zuge des Risorgimento. In: Susan Richter, Dirk Dirbach (Hrsg.): Thronverzicht. Die Abdankung in Monarchien vom Mittelalter bis in die Neuzeit. Böhlau Verlag, Köln, Weimar, Wien 2010, pp. 251-266
  2. ^ von Kármán, T.; Edson, L. (1967). The Wind and Beyond — T. von Kármán Pioneer in Aviation and Pathfinder in Space. Little Brown. p. 87. ISBN 0316907537.
  3. ^
  4. ^ William Hastings Burke, 'Albert Göring, Hermann's anti-Nazi brother' in The Guardian dated 20 February 2010 online at, accessed 17 September 2021
Archduke Joseph Ferdinand of Austria House of Habsburg-LorraineCadet branch of the House of LorraineBorn: 24 May 1872 Died: 28 February 1942 Titles in pretence Preceded byFerdinand IV — TITULAR — Grand Duke of Tuscany 17 January 1908 – 2 May 1921Reason for succession failure:Italian Unification under the House of Savoy Succeeded byArchduke Peter Ferdinand Military offices Preceded byViktor Dankl von Krasnik Commander of the XIV Corps August–September 1914 Succeeded byJosef Roth Preceded byMoritz von Auffenberg Commander of the Fourth Army October 1914 – June 1916 Succeeded byKarl Tersztyánszky von Nádás New titlePost created Inspector General of the Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops July 1917 – September 1918 Post disestablished