SOS Children's Villages in Innsbruck

SOS Children’s Villages has turned 60. The close connection between SOS Children’s Villages and the Austrian State of Tyrol has been broadly documented in connection with the first Children’s Village in Imst, but the fact that the foundation took place in Innsbruck and that SOS Children’s Villages is still represented today in Innsbruck seems to be less on the spot.
The idea of SOS Children’s Villages was developed in Innsbruck by Hermann Gmeiner, born in the State of Vorarlberg, together with his friends and supporters. Hermann Gmeiner came to Innsbruck University in 1945 as a medical student. However, he soon devoted himself to youth work instead of his university studies. Based on this activity, he made the necessary experiences and attained decisive knowledge for the development of the idea of SOS Children’s Villages.

Against this background, on 25th April 1949 the foundation meeting of the ”Societas Socialis“  association took place in the Tyrolean Regional Government Youth Department at Hofburg Innsbruck.

The first office of the newly founded association was located in Anichstraße 44, where the recruitment of new members was started. The original idea was to attract members by inviting them to donate one shilling. The next accommodation for the association was provided as of May/June 1949 on the first floor of Hofburg Innsbruck. The change of residence came along with the agreement of the foundation members to concentrate on none but one social area, namely children, in derogation from the foundation statutes, instead of getting bogged down in many different partial areas. Based on this underlying idea, the plan was developed to accommodate orphans and socially neglected children in a “surrogate family“. This idea was implemented as early as in the very same year 1949. The first family house called “Haus Frieden“ could be completed in the intended SOS Children’s Village Imst. The ”Societas Socialis“ association initiated a Christmas Campaign in order to collect donations for further houses. In this context, more than 40,000 Christmas cards were posted. For this demanding logistic task, another office had to be found in Innsbruck. In 1950, SOS obtained a reading parlour at Rennweg. In this shed, a typing room and a dispatch room were installed. On 28th April 1950, “Societas Socialis (SOS) “ was converted into the “SOS-Kinderdorf“ (SOS Children’s Villages) association.

Due to the rapid growth of SOS Children’s Villages, the administrative branch of the association needed more and more space. Therefore, the main office of SOS Children’s Village moved to the Goldene Dachl at the turn of 1950/51, where the board meetings subsequently took place. From 1954 onwards, the meetings of the association were also held in the rented rooms of Kiebachgasse 10. Over time, more and more offices had to be rented. As recently as in 1958, the bombed-out house in Stafflerstraße 10 was acquired, even today the seat of the SOS main federation.

Soon, SOS care facilities were founded in Innsbruck.

The first SOS Children’s Villages youth facility was built in the Amras district of Innsbruck. On the so-called “Arme-Leute-Bühel“ (Beggars’ Hill), an old building of the Tyrolean regional medical insurance company had been acquired in 1955. At the beginning of 1956, it was inaugurated as the SOS youth house Egerdach under the direction of Rudolf Maurhard. At this place, male adolescents from all Austrian SOS Children’s Villages were accommodated. The enormous influx necessitated the decision for a new building in 1958, which was constructed next to the youth house.

As recently as in 1966, the first SOS girls’ facility was constructed in Blasius-Hueberstraße 16 in Innsbruck. Henriette Rieder had been the committed directress for many years.

Later on, smaller youth facilities were designed close to all Austrian SOS Children’s Villages, and so the youth facilities in Innsbruck were scaled down or closed. The youth house in Egerdach was confined to the new building, and the old building could be knocked down. On this ground, Hermann Gmeiner initiated the construction of the Hermann Gmeiner Academy in 1979. With its range as seminar and conference centre for SOS co-workers from all over the world, the Hermann Gmeiner Academy provides a frame for promoting and supporting the national and international work of SOS Children’s Villages. Today, SOS-Kinderdorf International is seated in the former youth house Egerdach.

For the municipal archives/city museum Innsbruck by Eveline Erlsbacher and Gertraud Zeindl.