The history of the 20th century is full of interesting and tragic events that shaped the image of the modern world that we can now observe. These include the Anschluss of Austria (1938), when this country lost its independence as a result of the seemingly free will of its people.
After the end of the First World War, Austria-Hungary formed a number of states, among which were also Germany and Austria. Their inhabitants at that time mostly belonged to the German ethnos and had a common culture and history. At the same time, Austria, because of its small size, was considered by the main players of the international political arena, as well as by a significant part of its population, as a nonviable and artificial formation. Among other things, this was facilitated by the fact that as a result of the collapse of Austria-Hungary, this country lost a significant part of farmland and basic industrial capacities.
Despite the desire of the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of Germany and Austria to unite, this was intensified by the countries that won the First World War. In particular, they made articles in the texts of the Saint-Germain and Versailles treaties and the Geneva Protocols, which were forbidden by the Anschluss. Moreover, they even opposed the conclusion of the customs union, which Austria and Germany intended to sign in 1931.
Change in the situation after Hitler came to power
As you know, the Nazis came to power in Germany, playing, among other things, on the sense of the infringed national pride of the Germans, who were humiliated by constant control and dictate from the outside. Hitler immediately made the Anschluss one of the most important components of the official course of his foreign policy. For this purpose, active work was carried out to introduce Nazi agents into all echelons of the Austrian authorities.
At the same time, as it turned out, not all residents of this country were ready to welcome the Anschluss of Austria with Nazi Germany. And it was not just about ordinary citizens. In particular, in June Engelbert Dollfus, who at that time was chancellor, banned the activities of the Nazi Party, and in the autumn of 1933 the point on reunification was excluded from the political program of the Social Democratic Party of Austria. At the same time began to form the so-called Austrofascism, which took on arms the ideology of Mussolini and relied on the support of the Catholic clergy. At the same time, the new nationalist regime headed by Dolphus denied even the possibility of German influence on the country's policy.
The mutiny of 1934
Long before, as was the Anschluss of Austria, part of the Nazi supporters of Germany, attempted government coup. To this end, in July 1934, 154 SS men from the 89th battalion of the SS in Austria dressed in the form of the civil guard and burst into the Office. There they took hostage Dollfuss and began to force him to resign. Despite the fact that the Chancellor was seriously injured, he refused to sign the papers for which the power was transferred to Anton Rintelen. Furious rebels did not provide him medical care, so after a few hours, Dolphus died. By this time the building was surrounded by government troops, and received a message that the support the Chancellor in a hurry 5 Italian divisions sent his friend Mussolini. Realizing the futility of struggle, at 19 o'clock the rebels were forced to surrender.
The political situation in Austria in 1935-1936
After the death of Dollfus, a new government was formed, headed by Kurt von Schuschnig, who, having before his eyes the bitter experience of his predecessor, tried to smooth out all the sharp corners. In particular, in July 1936 he concluded an agreement with Germany, according to which his country committed itself to follow the policies of the "big brother" on all foreign policy issues. At the same time, Germany recognized the independence and sovereignty of Austria, and also formally promised not to exert any pressure on the neighbor in matters of foreign policy. In addition, Shushnig announced an amnesty for some of the Nazis arrested during the mutiny, and agreed to admit them to the Patriotic Front.
Preparing for the Anschluss
In 1937, the Western powers began to flirt with Hitler in order to "appease" him. Thus, in November, during negotiations with the Fuhrer, the Minister of the English Government, Halifax, gave consent on behalf of his country that Austria should become part of Germany. Later, the British prime minister made a statement that Austria can not expect in the future that in the event of annexation, the League of Nations will rise up for its defense.
Anschluss of Austria (the year 1938) began to mature already in mid-February, when Chancellor Schuschnigg would be invited to the residence of Hitler in Berchtesgaden. There, under the threat of a military invasion, he signed an ultimatum of 3 points, according to which:
- minister of Internal Affairs, as well as the head of detective police, the Austrian Nazi leader A. Zeiss-Inquart was appointed;
- for all Nazis in prison, political amnesty was declared;
- the Nazi Party of Austria joined the Fatherland Front.
The Anschluss of Austria in 1938 could not have taken place or would take place much later if Shushnig had succeeded in realizing his plan. It consisted in holding a plebiscite on May 13, at which the Austrians had to answer the question of whether they wanted an independent, Christian and social Austria. Learning of Shushnig's decision, Hitler realized the danger threatening the plans of the Anschluss, and announced mobilization. In addition, Hermann Goering, on behalf of his leadership, demanded the resignation of the Chancellor, the appointment of Seyss-Inquart to this post and the cancellation of the plebiscite. Under the strongest pressure, Shushnig announced on the radio about his resignation and ordered the troops in case of an invasion by the Wehrmacht army to begin a retreat and not to resist. But what happened did not happen to Hitler. Anschluss Austria, as it turned out, was not included in the plans of the president of this state - Wilhelm Miklas. The latter opposed the desire of the German Fuhrer to see Chancellor of the country Seyss-Inquart and offered this post to three other politicians. However, all of them refused to take responsibility, and Miklas was forced to sign the order of appointment, which Hitler demanded.
Anschluss of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938
The Anschluss of Austria by Germany started with the introduction into the country of the German army, to which the Austrian troops immediately surrendered. At 4 a.m., Vienna was visited by Himmler, and by the evening of the Seyss-Inquart government was formed. The next day in Vienna, he arrived Hitler, and was published the law on the reunification of Germany and Austria.
Anschluss of Austria (1938) led to the fact that Hitler had a strategic springboard for an attack on Czechoslovakia and a further offensive on the Balkans and South-Eastern Europe. In addition, as a result of forcible annexation, the population of the German Empire increased by 10%, and the territory - by 17%. Also in the composition of the Wehrmacht troops were included 6 Austrian divisions.
Now you know how the Anschluss of Austria happened and what consequences it had for the Germans and Europe.