The history of the 20th century is full of interesting and tragic events that shaped the image of the modern world that we can observe today. 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 World War I, many countries were formed on the site of Austria-Hungary, among which were also Germany and Austria. At that time, their inhabitants mostly belonged to the German ethnos and had a common culture and history. At the same time, Austria, because of its small size, was viewed by the main players of the international political arena, as well as by a significant part of its population, as a non-viable and artificial entity. Among other things, this was due to the fact that as a result of the collapse of Austria-Hungary, this country lost a significant part of farmland and basic industrial facilities.
Despite the desire of the overwhelming majority of people in Germany and Austria to unite, this was reinforced by the countries that won the First World War. In particular, they included in the texts of the Saint-Germain and Versailles treaties and the Geneva Protocols articles that prohibited the Anschluss. Moreover, they even opposed the conclusion of a customs union, which Austria and Germany intended to sign in 1931.
Changing the situation after Hitler came to power
As you know, the Nazis came to power in Germany, playing including on the feeling of slighted national pride of the Germans, who were humiliated by constant control and dictation from the outside. Hitler immediately made the Anschluss one of the most important components of the official course of his foreign policy. To this end, active work was carried out to introduce Nazi agents in all echelons of the Austrian government.
At the same time, as it turned out, not all the inhabitants of this country were ready to greet the Anschluss of Austria with Nazi Germany. And it was not only about ordinary citizens. In particular, in June Engelbert Dolfus, who at that time served as Chancellor, banned the activities of the NSDAP, and in the fall of 1933, the reunification clause was excluded from the political program of the Social Democratic Party of Austria. At the same time, so-called Austro-fascism began to take shape, which adopted the ideology of Mussolini and relied on the support of the Catholic clergy. At the same time, the new nationalist regime, headed by Dolphus, even denied the possibility of German influence on the country's policy.
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 Schuschnigg, who, having the bitter experience of his predecessor, tried to smooth all sharp corners. In particular, in July 1936, he concluded an agreement with Germany, according to which his country pledged to follow the policy of the “elder brother” on all foreign policy issues. At the same time, Germany recognized the independence and sovereignty of Austria, and also officially promised not to exert any pressure on its neighbor in matters of foreign policy. In addition, Schuschnigg announced an amnesty for the part of the Nazis arrested during the rebellion, and agreed to admit them to the Patriotic Front.
In 1937, the Western powers began to flirt with Hitler in order to "pacify" him. Thus, in November, during negotiations with the Fuhrer, the Minister of the English Government, Halifax, on behalf of his country agreed to Austria become part of Germany. Later, the British Prime Minister made a statement that Austria could not expect in the future that, in the event of annexation, the League of Nations would rise to its defense.
The Anschluss of Austria (1938) began to mature in mid-February, when Chancellor Schuschnigg would be invited to Hitler's residence in Berchtesgaden. There, under the threat of military invasion, he signed an ultimatum of 3 points, for which:
- a. Seyss-Inkvart, the leader of the Austrian Nazis, was appointed by the Minister of Internal Affairs, as well as by the head of the investigative police;
- for all Nazis in prison, a 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 Schuschnigg succeeded in implementing his plan. It consisted in holding a plebiscite on May 13, at which the Austrians had to answer the question of whether they wanted to have an independent, Christian and social Austria. Upon learning of Schuschnigg’s decision, Hitler realized the danger threatening the plans of the Anschluss and announced mobilization. In addition, on behalf of his leadership, Hermann Goering demanded the resignation of the Chancellor, the appointment of Seiss-Inquart to this post and the abolition of the plebiscite. Under heavy pressure, Schuschnigg announced on the radio about his resignation and ordered the troops to launch a retreat in the event of an invasion of the Wehrmacht army and not to resist. But something happened that did not expect Hitler. The Anschluss of 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 the country's Chancellor Seyss-Inquart and offered this post to three other politicians. However, they all refused to take responsibility, and Miklas was forced to sign an order of appointment, which was demanded by Hitler.
Anschluss of Austria 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.
The Anschluss of Austria (1938) led to the fact that Hitler had a strategic base for attacking Czechoslovakia and further attacks on the Balkans and South-Eastern Europe. In addition, as a result of the forced accession, 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.