THE AUSTRIAN ANSCHLUSS ANNEXATION - March 12, 1938
(i) Versailles forbade any unification
of Austria and Germany.
(ii) In 1934 the Nazis had attempted a putsch by assassinating
Chancellor Dollfuss of Austria, but it had failed to deliver the way they hoped it would. Dollfuss was
replaced by Schuschnigg, also an anti-Nazi.
(iii) Because Italy had special interest in Austria,
Mussolini threatened Hitler with military aid to Austria if Hitler invaded.
(iv) In 1936 Hitler signed the Austro-German Treaty. It declared
Austria a German state (culturally) and Hitler promised her
(v) The Nazis already had a large party inside Austria, and they were agitating for unification.
(i) In February, 1936 Hitler and PM Schuschnigg met at Berchtesgaden. Hitler gave him an ultimatum which said:
He must leave the Austrian Nazi Party alone.
He must make make Seyss- Inquart, leader of the Austrian
Nazis, the Minister of the Interior (controlled the police force).
(ii) Schuschnigg was forced to agree.
(iii) Because Schuschnigg felt he needed support to resist Hitler he
called a plebiscite to determine the question of Austrian independence or not. He
set the date for 13 March, 1938. Hitler feared this would not turn out in his favour. Hitler told that he
should resign and turn the government over to Seyss-Inquart,
or face invasion within the hour.
(iv) Schuschnigg resigned on 11 March, and was replaced by
(v) Inquart was instructed to send a telegram to Germany "requesting the German
government to dispatch German troops as soon as possible to
restore law and order."
(vi) On 12 March, 1938 German troops marched into Austria without
(vii) On 13 March, 1938 Seyss-Inquart passed a law which abolished
Austrian sovereignty and made Austria part of
(viii) On 10 April, 1938 a "plebiscite" was held in which "99.75 %"
of Austrians "approved" of the unification. In truth, fear made most vote in favour.
(i) Britain had no interest in helping Austria and in fact had warned
Schuschnigg not to do anything that would get him into trouble.
(ii) In France, the government had no intention of acting without
the British support (and they didn't have it).
(iii) In fact, Hitler's concern in invading Austria had not been
Britain and France, but Italy. Mussolini, no longer an equal to
Hitler, gave his approval. Hitler
said to Mussolini that he would "never, never, forget this, no
matter what happened." He and Mussolini became "friends," and Hitler repaid that kindness by freeing Mussolini when the Allies captured him later in the war.
Significance and Summary of Austrian Crisis.
(i) Austria no longer existed and an independent country.
(ii) Seven million people and valuable resources were added to
Germany and its war effort.
(iii) It proved the effectiveness of Nazi methods and manipulation.
(iv) It gave Hitler a common border with Italy and influence in
the Balkans as well... both which he would shortly use.
(v) Hitler's deception with the rest of Europe was largely over. He had
to use force or the threat of force in Austria. He had intended
to absorb Austria slowly, but Schuschnigg's action had forced
his hand, and now Hitler seemed like a conqueror. The road to WW2 began with the Anschluss.