Franz Hofer (November 27, 1902 in Bad Hofgastein – February 18, 1975 in Mülheim an der Ruhr) was, in the time of the Third Reich, the Nazi Gauleiter of the Tyrol and Vorarlberg. As the Nazi party chief for the Tirol/Vorarlberg province he was the most powerful figure in the region. As the area's supreme Nazi, Hofer dealt directly with Hitler or with the Führer's deputy, Martin Bormann. Hofer was not only the party chief but the Reichskommissar in charge of the Tirol-Vorarlberg defences. His region embraced much of the suspected National Redoubt. Indeed, Hofer might well be considered the father of the Redoubt.
Born to a Bad Hofgastein hotelkeeper, Hofer went to the Volksschule-Realschule in Innsbruck and in 1922 began a career as a freelance salesman. In September 1931, he joined the NSDAP. He very quickly rose in the Party, becoming District Leader in April 1932, and in July of the same year acting Gauleiter of the Tyrol. Only four months later, on 27 November 1932 – Hofer's thirtieth birthday – he was promoted to Gauleiter of the Tyrol.
For his activities in the Nazi Party, which was banned in Austria, Hofer was arrested in June 1933 and sentenced by a Tyrolean court to two years in prison. On 30 August 1933, however, four armed SA men broke into Hofer's prison cell by force and freed him. He fled the prison amid gunfire, which wounded him. He made it to Italy, however, and only a few weeks later gave a speech at the Nuremberg Party Congress from his stretcher.
In early 1937, having recovered from his gunshot wounds, Hofer became leader of the "Leaders' and Members' Political Gathering Place for Austrians in Germany", with a job in Berlin.
After the Anschluss, he was once again appointed the Gauleiter of the Tyrol and Vorarlberg. In the same year, he was given the function of ministerial adviser and the rank of NSKK Obergruppenführer. On 1 September 1940 he was furthermore made the governor (Reichsstatthalter) of the Reichsgau of Tyrol-Vorarlberg.
After Italy forsook the Axis Powers, Hofer was chosen on 10 September 1943 to be the Supreme Commissar in the Operation Zone of the Alpine Foothills (consisting of the neighbouring Italian provinces of Belluno, South Tyrol and Trentino joined to his own Reichsgau of Tyrol-Vorarlberg).
Gauleiter Hofer was an accomplished marksman who often competed in regional and national shooting matches. In 1944 Hofer won a shooting competition in the city of Bolzano, qualifying him for the national competition which was held in Innsbruck that year. Using a specially crafted 22 cal Mauser rifle (serial #300354) Hofer finished 7th.
In November 1944, Hofer suggested in a memorandum to Adolf Hitler that an "Alpenfestung" ("Alpine Fortress") ought to be built up in the heart of the Alps as Nazi Germany's last bastion. Apparently Hitler's secretary Martin Bormann only brought this document to the Führer's attention early the next year, leading to Hofer's being called to Hitler's Berlin bunker only on 12 April 1945 to present his proposal. Hitler – 18 days before his own suicide and still convinced that his Endsieg was possible – approved Hofer's plan and appointed him Reich Defence Commissar of the Alpenfestung.
On May 3, 1945 Hofer surrendered to American troops. This surrender was achieved by OSS agent Frederick Mayer. It was not long, however, before Hofer's freedom was curtailed. On 6 May 1945, he was arrested by the United States Army in Hall in Tirol and held in an internment camp. In 1948, he managed to flee to Germany, where he continued his former trade as a salesman in Mülheim, in the end under his true name.
In Austria in June 1949, Hofer was sentenced to death in absentia. In July 1953, a Munich appeal court upheld a sentence of 3 years and 5 months in labour prison. When interviewed by the press during this time, Hofer made it known that his National Socialist convictions were unbroken.
In 1964, a lawsuit brought by Hofer's children for the return of ownership of the Lachhof bei Hall where their father had lived while he was the Gauleiter, was dismissed by an Austrian court.
Hofer spent his later years in Mülheim an der Ruhr with his wife and seven children, continued his former trade as a salesman and died a natural death on February 18, 1975, under his real name.