Hitler receives an
ovation in the German Reichstag "nach dem Anschluss"
"Der Anschluss" is a German
noun that means "a connection." For World War II historians,
the term means the annexation of the First Republic of Austria
by Nazi Germany, which was proclaimed by Hitler from the balcony
of the city hall in Linz on March 13, 1938 after his troops had
invaded Austria on March 12th. This was Hitler's first act of
aggression against an independent sovereign nation and it was
the start of the events that ultimately led to World War II.
The Anschluss violated Article 80 of
the Treaty of Versailles, the terms of which had been drawn up
by the victorious Allies without the participation of the Germans.
At the insistence of France and Great Britain, the Treaty of
Versailles, which Germany was forced to sign, included the following
"Germany acknowledges and will
respect the independence of Austria within the frontier which
may be fixed in a treaty between that State and the principle
Allied and Associated Powers; she agrees that this independence
shall be inalienable..."
America did not sign the Treaty of Versailles
because the U.S. Congress, dominated by the Republican party,
refused to ratify it. This was not because of any disagreement
with the harsh terms of the Treaty, but because signing the Treaty
would have automatically included America in the new world government
called the League of Nations, which our Congress voted against,
although it had been proposed by President Woodrow Wilson, a
Democrat, and was included in Wilson's Fourteen Points which
formed the basis of the Armistice that had ended our war against
The union of Germany and Austria also
violated the Treaty of St. Germain, signed by the Austrians at
the end of World War I. At the insistence of the French and the
British, an amended version of this Treaty included Article 88,
which provided for the following:
"The independence of Austria
is inalienable otherwise than with the consent of the Council
of the League of Nations. Consequently Austria undertakes in
the absence of the consent of the said Council to abstain from
any act which might directly or indirectly or by any means whatever
compromise her independence, particularly, and until her admission
to membership of the League of Nations, by participation in the
affairs of another Power."
By March 1938, Germany had withdrawn
from the League of Nations, although Austria was still a member
Hitler had violated the Treaty of Versailles
for the first time when he refused to continue paying the reparations
specified in the Treaty. As signed by Germany on June 28, 1919,
the Treaty, dictated by the Allies, had provided for an indeterminate
amount of money to be paid by Germany in reparations to France,
Great Britain and Belgium. The Armistice which both sides signed
to end World War I specified reparations to be paid by Germany
to Belgium, but no reparation payments to France or Great Britain.
World War I had been fought on French
and Belgian territory, causing much destruction, whereas Germany,
except for East Prussia, was never invaded and remained almost
completely untouched. The amount necessary to pay for the war
damage suffered by the Allies, which was finally settled on by
the Allies only after the Treaty was signed, was 6,600 million
British pounds sterling in regular payments that Germany would
have been forced to make until 1984.
Hitler' next violation of the terms of
the Treaty of Versailles was in 1935 when he began building up
an army of 300,000 soldiers, although the Treaty was very specific
that Germany was never again to be allowed an army larger than
100,000 men and military conscription for the Germans was forbidden.
According to the Treaty, Germany was never to be allowed to built
tanks, aircraft or heavy artillery. Germany was never to be allowed
to have any submarines again and only 6 ineffective, outdated
battleships were permitted to be built. After the war, the Allies
began an arms race to build fleets of massive battleships and
Germany was forced, by the Treaty of Versailles, to build ships
for the Allies.
The Germans had lain down their arms
with the expectation that the Armistice signed on November 11,
1918 would be honored. Point number 4 of Wilson's Fourteen Points,
on which the Armistice was based, stated the following:
Adequate guarantees given and taken
that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent
with domestic safety.
The Germans interpreted this to mean
that all the nations involved in World War I would disarm after
the Armistice, but that didn't happen. Germany was the only country
that was forced to disarm according to the terms of the Treaty
In defiance of the Treaty, which specified
that Germany was only allowed to have 100 airplanes, including
passenger planes, Hitler began building a German Air Force, called
the Luftwaffe. During the 1936 - 1939 Civil War in Spain, Germany
supported the Fascist leader, General Francisco Franco, who was
leading a revolution to overthrow the Communist Republic of Spain.
During this war, Hitler took the opportunity to test his forbidden
planes. A Spanish town was bombed by the German air force, killing
1,600 civilians, but still the Allies were unwilling to start
a new war to stop Hitler. Neither did the Allies try to stop
the Fascist overthrow of the Spanish Republic, although Communist
volunteers from around the world went to Spain to fight against
According to the terms of the Treaty
of Versailles, the west bank of the Rhine river in Germany was
to be occupied by Allied troops for 15 years, and a zone 50 kilometers
wide on the east bank of the Rhine was to be demilitarized, so
that no German troops or military bases were ever to be allowed
in the German Rhineland. These stipulations in the Treaty were
designed to prevent the Germans from ever invading France again.
Another violation of the Treaty by Germany was when Hitler put
3 battalions of German soldiers into the Rhineland in 1936; the
French ignored it. The French Army was many times larger than
Hitler's Army of 300,000 men so they didn't perceive this as
an immediate threat.
The Allies did not take any actions against
these blatant violations of one of the most important Treaties
ever signed in the history of the world. It was as though World
War I had been fought for nothing. The militaristic Germans,
who had started the Great War, were now being allowed to begin
preparations to wage a new war of world conquest. Great Britain,
France and America ignored the warming signs while the Italians
switched sides and became allies with Germany.
Starting in 1921, when Hitler became
the first chairman of the National Socialist German Workers Party
(Nazi) political party, and continuing until he was appointed
Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, Hitler had campaigned
for years on the 25 points of the party platform; as party
Chairman, he had participated in writing the 25 points. Point
number one was the abrogation of the Treaty of Versailles and
the unification of his native Austria with Germany. So the Allies
had known for years that the Nazis might some day attempt an
Anschluss with Austria. That day finally came on March 12, 1938
when Hitler's Mercedes automobile drove across a bridge over
the Inn river into the little town of Braunau am Inn, his birthplace on the border
between Austria and Germany, to the cheers of the ecstatic Austrians
who gave him and his troops an overwhelming welcome.
Austrians salute Hitler
as he passes the Benedictine Abbey at Melk
The Anschluss was the beginning of Hitler's
empire which became known as the Großdeutsches Reich (Greater
German Empire). It was also sometimes called Großdeutschland
or Greater Germany. This was the first step in Hitler's boyhood
dream of uniting all the ethnic Germans in Europe into one country.
It was also the event, which historians now say, marked the point
at which the Allies should have stopped the megalomaniac Hitler
before he destroyed Europe and caused the deaths of 60 million
people, including the genocide of 6 million Jews.
The German aggression against Austria
on March 12, 1938 was soon followed by the appeasement of Hitler
by the Allies at the Munich Conference on September 29, 1938
when Germany was given the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, then
by Hitler's entry into Prague to take over what is now the Czech
Republic on March 15, 1939. This was followed by the German invasion
of Poland on September 1, 1939, then the invasion of Norway and
Denmark on April 9, 1940.
On May 10, 1940, the same day that Churchill
became Prime Minister of England, the real war started with the
German march through neutral Belgium and the Netherlands as Hitler's
troops went around the fortifications at the French border. By
June 14, 1940, France was defeated and the Nazis occupied Paris.
On April 6, 1941 Germany attacked Yugoslavia and Greece.
On May 10, 1941, Hitler's deputy, Rudolf
Hess, flew to Scotland in a Messerschmitt 110 airplane and parachuted
out before the plane crash-landed. Hess made this trip in an
attempt to negotiate peace with the British and end the war on
the western front, so that Germany could then attack Russia without
worrying about fighting on two fronts. Hess was promptly arrested
as soon as his parachute touched the ground, and he was held
in prison for the duration of the war. At the Nuremberg International
Military Tribunal, after the war, Hess was convicted of Crimes
against Peace and sentenced to life in prison.
Finally on June 22, 1941, Germany invaded
the Soviet Union in a pre-emptive strike against Communism, or
Judeo-Bolshevism, as the Nazis called it, and the killing of
innocent Jewish civilians by special soldiers called the Einsatzgruppen
began. All of this could have been prevented if the Allies had
taken immediate action on March 12, 1938 when Hitler and his
troops marched triumphantly into Austria in defiance of the Treaty
The failure of the Allies to act immediately
at the first sign of Nazi aggression, and the appeasement of
Hitler at Munich in 1938 has been frequently cited by historians
and politicians as an object lesson in history whenever new dictators
like Miloslovich or Saddam Hussein have emerged to threaten America's
freedom. According to William Shirer, a famous American correspondent
in Europe during that period, there was so little American interest
in the fate of Austria that he had a very difficult time persuading
CBS to allow him to report the story of the Anschluss on the
After the war, Dr. Kurt von Schuschnigg, the Chancellor of Austria from 1934 until the Anschluss, wrote a book about the Anschluss entitled The Brutal Takeover. In this book, Dr. Schuschnigg wrote that he was forced to resign as Chancellor after the Austrian president was given an ultimatum by Hitler on March 11, 1938; the ultimatum demanded that Dr. Schuschnigg step down as Chancellor and that President Wilhelm Miklas appoint Dr. Artur Seyss-Inquart as the new Chancellor of Austria. Dr. Schuschnigg wrote that he had agreed on March 10th to another ultimatum in which Hitler had demanded that he cancel the plebiscite which he (Schuschnigg) had ordered on March 9th. The plebiscite had been scheduled to be held on March 13th. According to Dr. Schuschnigg:
"German military intervention
and the resulting take-over of Austria by force had been occasioned
by the decision to hold a plebiscite."
A plebiscite is a democratic vote on a Yes or No question. A Yes vote in this election would have meant that the voter did not want Austria to lose its independence and become part of Germany. According to Robert E. Conot, author of "Justice at Nuremberg," Schuschnigg was planning to use the plebiscite to prevent the Anschluss which an estimated 80% of the people of Austria wanted. Conot wrote, regarding the plebiscite: "Various devices were to be employed to stack the vote against the Nazis." Klaus P. Fischer, author of the book entitled Nazi Germany, confirmed this when he wrote that "Schuschnigg bent every effort to rig the election in order to produce a favorable result." According to Fischer, no list of eligible voters had been compiled for 8 years in democratic Austria, so it would have been easy to fake the vote.
Fischer quoted the wording of the plebiscite,
which seems to be very confusing:
With Schuschnigg for Austria, we want
a free and a German Austria, an independent and a social Austria,
a Christian and a united Austria.
A Yes vote on the above wording would
have meant that the voter supported Schuschnigg who did not want
Austria to join Germany.
On the evening of March 9th, the Austrian
Nazi leaders appealed to Hitler and Göring, according to
Conot's book. Conot wrote that, to the Austrian Nazis, the proposed
plebiscite was "a call to arms." According to Conot,
"Göring took the initiative. A courier was put on a
plane to Vienna with instructions that Schuschnigg was to be
forced to resign."
After the overwhelming reception that
he received when he entered his native country on March 12th,
Hitler decided to reschedule the plebiscite for April 10, 1938.
In the interim, the Nazis would flood Austria with propaganda
to encourage them to vote for the Anschluss, which had already
been accomplished by threats and blackmail.
In the photograph below, the slogan on
a banner over Loos Haus in Vienna has the words of Hitler: "Those
of the same blood belong in the same Reich." This poster
was displayed, after the Anschluss, to encourage the Austrians
to vote for incorporation into the German Reich. When the plebiscite
was held, the Austrian people voted 99.7% in favor of unification
with Germany. Only 12,000 people dared to vote against it. Austria's
population was 4% Jewish in 1938, but neither Jews nor Gypsies
were allowed to vote in the plebiscite because their Austrian
citizenship had been taken away from them by the Nazis.
Nazi campaign slogan
on a banner on Loos Haus in Vienna
Dr. Kurt von Schuschnigg was a lawyer
who practiced in Innsbruck until he became a Deputy in the National
Council of the Tyrolese People's Party (know as the Christian
Social party). He was also the leader of an Austrian fascist
organization called the Fatherland Front. He was appointed Federal
Minister of Justice in 1932, then Minister of Education in 1933.
In 1932 Austria became a dictatorship under Dr. Englebert Dollfuss.
Dr. Schuschnigg succeeded Dr. Dollfuss as Federal Chancellor
in 1934 after Dollfuss was assassinated by the Austrian Nazis,
whom Dollfuss had tried to suppress, and the anti-Nazi dictatorship
of Austria continued under Schuschnigg.
After the Anschluss, Dr. Schuschnigg
was imprisoned by the Nazis from March 1938 until early May 1945.
He spent some time in the VIP section of Sachsenhausen concentration
camp before he was transferred to Dachau in the last days of
the war. After the war he was detained by the American military
until 1947 when he was finally allowed to emigrate to America.
Schuschnigg was not exactly a hero to the Americans since he
had capitulated to Hitler so quickly. In 1948, he became a Professor
of International Law and Contemporary Diplomatic History at Washington
University in St. Louis, MO. He retired to Innsbruck and died
Dr. Artur Seyss-Inquart was a lawyer
who practiced in Vienna. He was not a member of the Nazi party
before the Anschluss, but he was a supporter of Pan-Germanism,
which was the Austrian dream of unification with Germany, dating
back to 1882. Upon the demand of the Nazi regime in Germany,
he was appointed Minister of the Interior in February 1938, a
position which put him in control of the police at the time of
the Anschluss a few weeks later. Prior to that, he had been appointed
Counsellor of State in 1937. He served for two days as the acting
Federal Chancellor of Austria, from March 12th to March 14, 1938.
After the Anschluss, he became the Reichsstatthalter (governor)
in Austria until 1939. He was the Reichsstatthalter of the Netherlands
during the Nazi occupation of that country from 1940 to 1945,
which means that he was responsible for the discrimination against
the Dutch Jews and the German Jews who had fled there as refugees
when Hitler came to power in 1933. (Anne Frank's family was among
the German refugees in the Netherlands.)
After the war, Dr. Seyss-Inquart was
put into the dock at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal
on charges of participating in a "common plan" to wage
aggressive war; the indictment against him read in part:
"He was a traitor to the (Austrian)
government to which he owed allegiance and in which he held high
office. With full knowledge of the ultimate purpose of the conspirators,
he bent every effort to integrate Austria into the Reich and
to make its resources and manpower, as well as its strategic
position, available for the Nazi war machine."
Dr. Seyss-Inquart was convicted at Nuremberg
and hanged on October 1, 1946. His body was burned in the ovens
at Dachau and his ashes were thrown into a river.
In his book, Dr. Schuschnigg wrote the
About the same time (as the ultimatum)
the German radio announced that a bloody communist rising had
broken out in Austria; there were hundreds of dead; the Austrian
government was no longer in control of the situation. This was
pure invention. Nothing had happened which could conceivably
justify armed intervention in the eyes of international law.
The photograph below shows Jews being forced to scrub Schuschnigg's Fatherland Front slogans and Catholic crosses off the sidewalks of Vienna after the Anschluss.
Jews in Vienna forced to scrub Schuschnigg's slogans and crosses off the sidewalk
In his book entitled Year of Reckoning, (Third Edition, August 1939, page 158) G. Ward Price wrote:
I heard of cases of Jews being obliged to go down on their knees and scrub out the Schuschnigg Party crosses that had been painted on the pavements. This was a repetition of the methods employed by the Schuschnigg regime, which compelled Nazis to remove swastikas in the same way.
Hitler's excuse for swallowing up the
independent nation of Austria and incorporating it into a Greater
German Reich was that he was "protecting" the Austrian
people from a Communist uprising. Schuschnigg wanted to let the
world know that this was a lie so he broadcast the following
message over the radio, which I have quoted from his book:
The German government today handed
to President Miklas an ultimatum with a time limit attached,
ordering him to nominate as Chancellor a person to be designated
by the German government and to appoint members of a cabinet
on the orders of the German government; otherwise German troops
would invade Austria. I declare before the world that the reports
issued about Austria concerning disorders created by workers
and the shedding of streams of blood, and the allegation that
the situation has got out of control of the government were lies
from A to Z. President Miklas asks me to tell the people of Austria
that we have yielded to force...
According to Dr. Schuschnigg, the German
News Agency broadcast over the radio the next day that there
had been no ultimatum and no threat, but instead there had been
a spontaneous popular uprising of the Austrian people. When the
German troops arrived in Austria on March 12, 1938, they found
the streets lined with cheering crowds of jubilant Austrians
who greeted them with the Nazi salute, showered them with confetti
and threw flowers at their feet. The conquest of Austria was
accomplished without firing a shot.
As quoted by Robert E. Conot in his book
"Justice at Nuremberg," Göring declared after
There is overwhelming joy in Austria.
This story that we had given an ultimatum, that is just foolish
gossip. The Austrian National Socialist (Nazi) ministers asked
us to back them up, so they would not be completely beaten up
again and be subjected to terror and civil war. Then we told
them we would not allow Schuschnigg to provoke a civil war. One
could not know that they would capitulate like that and therefore
Seyss-Inquart who had already taken over the government asked
us to march in immediately. These are the actual facts. The absolute
complete enthusiasm for National Socialism is surprising even
Dr. Schuschnigg confirms that the people
of the democratic Republic of Austria wanted the Anschluss even
though it was "against the will of their government."
Dr. Schuschnigg wrote the following his book:
In Hitler's eyes it was a foregone
conclusion, as inevitable as a law of nature, that in some form
or another the Austrians would force through the Anschluss from
within, even against the will of their government; how it happened
was to him unimportant; only one thing mattered - Anschluss now,
in other words in spring 1938; everything else would work itself
out. He was not really interested in the "liberation"
of Austria; he viewed the Anschluss from the standpoint of a
wide-ranging geo-political concept, the hegemony of the German
race in the framework of his vision of a future European order.
Schuschnigg appealed to both France and
England for help, according to Klaus P. Fischer, "but the
answer in both cases was negative." Fischer also wrote that
on March 10, 1938, two days before the Nazi invasion of Austria,
the Camile Chautemps cabinet had fallen from power, so France
did not even have a government on March 11th. In Great Britain,
Prime Minister Anthony Eden resigned, "causing a cabinet
crisis over the Austrian question," according to Fischer.
Both France and Great Britian filed protests, but this was only
Regarding the consequences of the Anschluss,
Fischer wrote the following in his book "Nazi Germany":
Aside from reinforcing Hitler's belief
in the effectiveness of international blackmail and intimidation,
the Anschluss also had far-reaching consequences in the field
of diplomacy. It promoted the friendship of the two Fascist tyrants
- Hitler and Mussolini, and this further polarized European powers.
Another consequence of the Anschluss was that Germany's strategic
position was greatly enhanced. With Vienna at his disposal Hitler
had acquired direct access to the whole of southeastern Europe.
From Vienna it was only a footstep to Czechoslovakia, Hungary,
After both President Miklas and Dr. Schuschnigg
were forced to resign on March 11th and Dr. Seyss-Inquart was
installed as the acting Preisdent and Chancellor, Dr. Seyss-Inquart
supposedly sent a telegram to Berlin, requesting German troops
to invade Austria to restore order. However, Walter B. Maas,
the author of "Country Without a Name" wrote that "Afterwards,
a forged telegram was issued to justify the armed invasion."
After the war, it was established at
the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal that Hermann Göring
had told Wilhelm Keppler, the German ambassador in Vienna, in
a recorded telephone conversation at 8:48 p.m. on March 11, 1938
that Dr. Seyss-Inquart was to send the German government the
"Following the resignation of
the Schuschnigg government the acting Austrian government regards
as its task the reestablishment of calm and order in Austria.
It issues an urgent request to the German government to support
it in this duty and to assist it to stop bloodshed. To this end
it requests the German government to dispatch German troops as
soon as possible..."
According to William Shirer, the transcript
of the telephone conversation was among the documents found by
the Allies after the war. (Nuremberg IMT Vol. XXXI, Document
2949-PS/11) Dr. Seyss-Inquart was one of the defendants at the
main trial at Nuremberg. On the witness stand, he said that he
had never agreed to Göring's demand and that he regarded
the telegram as unnecessary. (IMT, Vol. XXXII, Document 2345-PS)
The prosecutor commented that, of course, it was not necessary
to send a telegram because Göring already had the telegram,
since he had written it himself.
In his book entitled Nuremberg Diary, author G.M. Gilbert mentions that Franz von Papen, another defendant at the Nuremberg IMT, blamed Göring for precipitating a forceful Anschluss with Austria instead of letting the Austrians vote for Anschluss. According to Gilbert, von Papen pointed a finger at Göring in the hallway during a lunch break and said, "That's the man who was guilty! - that fat one out there. He is the one who refused to let the election take place! He even persuaded Hitler to march."
Von Papen had been appointed by Hitler
as Minister to Austria in 1934. He was acquitted at Nuremberg
because it could not be established that he was a party to the
"common plan" of the Nazis to wage aggressive war,
although his job had been to undermine the regime of Schuschnigg
and strengthen the Austrian Nazis for the purpose of bringing
about the Anschluss, according to Gilbert.
After the success of the Anschluss, when
thousands of Austrians filled the streets to cheer their "liberation"
by the Germans, Hitler used similar tactics to justify his takeover
of what is now the Czech Republic. Hitler claimed that the 3.5
million Volkdeutsch (ethnic Germans) in the Sudetenland were
being discriminated against and mistreated by the Czechs and
that members of the Nazi political party were being denied their
rights in a democratic government. Hitler also complained about
the Czechs allowing the Communist Soviet Union to put an airbase
in Czechoslovakia, a country that bordered on Germany. To Hitler,
this was the equivalent of the Cuban missle crisis for American
President John F. Kennedy.
Schuschnigg also wrote that Hitler justified his takeover of Austria by claiming that the Austrians had violated a treaty signed with the Germans at Hitler's home near Bertchesgaden in July 1936. According to the book entitled Country Without a Name, by Walter B. Maas, Hitler had agreed that he would not interfere with Austria's internal affairs; the treaty confirmed that Austria would remain independent as a "German state." This treaty was signed shortly before the Summer Olympics held in Germany in 1936 because Hitler did not want any trouble at that time to mar the false image of Germany, that he was trying to create, as a nation that was peaceful and tolerant.
Maas wrote the following:
That sounded like a success for Schuschnigg,
but the heart of the matter was a secret agreement in which he
(Schuschnigg) promised political amnesty (for Nazi prisoners
in Austria) and cooperation with "representatives of the
national opposition." That euphemism covered a number of
respectable Pan-Germans who pretended not to be Nazis. In practice,
it meant that the unfortunate Austrians had to drag a Trojan
horse within their own walls. Actually Schuschnigg, as he later
wrote in his memoirs, hoped against hope to gain time by taking
a flexible attitude.
The independent Republic of Austria had
been established after World War I as a democratic country, but
it was far from a democracy. No democratic elections had been
held in Austria since 1930, according to Klaus P. Fischer, author
of the book "Nazi Germany." The Nazi political party
had been banned in Austria and members of the party had been
imprisoned. Under the terms of the treaty of July 1936, Schuschnigg
had agreed to release the Nazi political prisoners and to lift
the ban on the Nazi political party in what was supposed to be
the democratic Republic of Austria, but this didn't happen.
One of the Nazi political prisoners in
Austria, who was promised amnesty by this agreement, was Ernst
Kaltenbrunner who had been imprisoned twice under Schuschnigg's
regime, once for his alleged role in the assassination of Chancellor
Dollfuss and later on a charge of conspiracy. Kaltenbrunner served
hard time in the Kaisersteinbruch (Kaiser Stone Quarry). After
the Anschluss, Kaltenbrunner rose steadily in the Nazi organization
until he was appointed to replace Reinhard Heydrich as the head
of the SD. After the war, Kaltenbrunner was convicted at the
Nuremberg IMT and hanged. Ironically, one of the charges against
him was Crimes against Humanity because he was the person with
the ultimate authority over the concentration camps, including
Mauthausen, a camp in
Austria where political prisoners were forced to work in a stone
Schuschnigg did not abide by the terms
of the July 1936 treaty and von Papen, who had been the negotiator
of the treaty, finally persuaded him to meet with Hitler at his
mountain retreat near Berchtesgaden on February 12, 1938. Without
asking Schuschnigg to sit down, Hitler said the following to
him, as quoted by Robert E. Conot in his book, "Judgment
Herr Schuschnigg, I say to you, Austria
did in the whole of its history nothing other than to oppose
German aims. That was the task of the Hapsburgs, that was the
task of the Catholic Church, and it is the task of your government.
We have only difficulties with Austria. Austria is our enemy."
Hitler then left it to Ribbentrop and
a representative of the Austrian Nazi party to work out terms
to be presented to Schuschnigg: Seyss-Inquart was to be appointed
Minister of the Interior and another member of the Nazi party
was to be appointed Minister of Economics. The most outspoken
anti-Nazis in Schuschnigg's cabinet were to be dismissed and
all Nazis held in jail for political reasons, including those
involved in the assassination of Dollfuss, were to be released.
Thoroughly intimidated by Hitler, Schuschnigg accepted these
terms that same day.
The idea for the Anschluss, which resulted
in the Austrians losing their independence, had been conceived
as far back as 1882 when an Austrian politician named Georg Ritter
von Schönerer first came up with the idea of Pan-Germanism,
which was the concept of the unification of all ethnic Germans
into one country in Europe with one leader. By 1882, the original
German state of Austria had grown to be a multi-ethnic empire
called Austria-Hungary; it included the territory which, after
World War I, became the independant countries of Austria, Czechoslovakia,
Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania, and one third of the new independent
country of Poland. (The Poles had lost their independence in
1795 when Prussia, Austria and Russia divided the former country
There were many ethnic groups in the
old Austrian Empire which were agitating for their own independent
countries before the start of World War I, including the Czechs
who had never had their own country. Schönerer's dream of
the unification of all the Volkdeutsch would have required the
empire to be dissolved. This finally happened as a result of
the Treaty of St. Germain that was signed by the Allies and Austria
after Austria surrendered to the Allies in November 1918.
From the beginning, the Pan-Germans were
racists, before the word racist was even in use, and they were
rabid anti-Semites who wanted a German nation of only ethnic
Germans as citizens with the Jews and Gypsies excluded. Their
hatred of the Jews intensified when Eastern European Jewish refugees
began arriving in Vienna after the Russians started expelling
the Jews from their homeland following the assassination of Czar
Nicholas I in 1881, which was blamed on the Jews. The Pan-Germans
were also against the Catholic Church because it exerted a lot
of control over Austria, a Catholic country.
Nazis protest against
the Jewish press at Heldenplatz in Vienna
"Away with the
Jewish Press! Lies, corruption, rubbish"
It was another Austrian, Theodor Herzl,
a Jewish journalist in Vienna, who started the Zionist movement
in 1896 when he wrote a book called "The Jewish State,"
which advocated the unification of all the Jews in their own
country. Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn in
Austria in 1889 and by the time he entered elementary school,
the Pan-German movement was in full swing in his native country.
The Pan-Germans formed a political party in 1897, the same year
that the World Jewish Congress met for the first time in Switzerland
to make plans for a Jewish state.
The Pan-German political party had its
own flag and its followers sang the German national anthem; Hitler
and his elementary school friends were waving the flag of the
Pan-Germans at the same time that the Zionists in Austria were
waving their flag, which is now the blue and white flag of Israel.
Austrians were singing the German national anthem while the Jews
were singing their anthem called "Hope" which is now
the national anthem of Israel. In 1935 when Hitler proclaimed
the Nuremberg laws which denied German citizenship to the Jews,
he nevertheless added a clause which said that the right of the
Jews to fly their own flag would be protected.
At the time that Schönerer first
conceived the idea of Pan-Germanism, the German state of Prussia,
led by Chancellor Otto von Bismark, had recently united the independent
German states into the second German Reich (Empire) in 1871.
The King of Prussia, Wilhelm I of the Hohenzollern family, became
the German Emperor or Kaiser of the new German Reich. He was
crowned on January 18, 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace
of Versailles in Paris, after the German state of Prussia defeated
the French in the Franco-Prussian war, which was started by the
French in 1870.
As a result of winning the Franco-Prussian
war, the Germans took back Alsace and Lorraine, two German states
which had been held by the French since they were annexed in
the 17th century, several years after the devastation of the
Thirty Years war had rendered the Germans powerless. Alsace and
Lorraine are rich in iron ore, which the Germans needed, since
they had no other source. Losing Alsace and Lorraine was a great
humiliation for the French, especially because the Germans immediately
began to Germanize the former German province, ordering that
the German language should be used in the schools. This fostered
a desire for revenge, which the French finally got when the Allies
effectively destroyed Germany by imposing the harsh terms of
the Treaty of Versailles which were dictated to the Germans by
the "Big Three" (Great Britain, France and America)
following World War I.
It was no coincidence that the negotiations
for the treaty started on January 18, 1919 in the Hall of Mirrors
in the palace of Versailles on the anniversary of the day when
the German Emperor had been crowned 48 years before at Versailles.
The treaty, which the Germans were forced to sign in the same
hall where the German emperor had been crowned, was intended
to insure that Germany, which had been dominated by the militaristic
Prussians, would never again rise to become a world power that
could potentially invade and subjugate France, nor challenge
the hegemony of the British Empire.
One way of making sure that Germany could
never again attempt to become a world power was the inclusion
of a clause in the Treaty of Versailles which forbade the unification
of Germany and Austria. It was the French that first insisted
on this clause, remembering their humiliation when France was
invaded by the Prussians in 1870, effectively ending the French
superpower status. It had taken the Germans more than 200 years
to recover from the destruction of the Thirty Years War and to
finally get back their lost states of Alsace and Lorraine. Alsace-Lorraine
was a bone of contention that was so important to world peace
that Wilson included its return to France in his Fourteen Points,
which were the basis of the Armistice that ended World War I.
Point number 8 is quoted below:
All French territory should be freed
and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done to France
by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace and Lorraine, which
has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years,
should be righted, in order that peace may once more be made
secure in the interest of all.
The German empire, that was formed under
Kaiser Wilhelm I in 1871 after the end of the Franco-Prussian
war, was known as the Second Reich. The First Reich was the Holy
Roman Empire, initially ruled by Emperor Karl der Grosse, the
King of the German tribe called the Franks; he was crowned the
Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by the Pope on Christmas Day
in the year 800. Karl der Grosse is better known to American
history students as Charlemagne. The territory which later became
the state of Austria was included in this vast union of European
states, which later became known as the Holy Roman Empire of
the German Nation, a fact which the Nazis used to justify their
claim that Austria was a German state and should be reunited
with Germany in the Third Reich, which was the term for Hitler's
As the acting President and Chancellor
of Austria, on March 13, 1938, Dr. Seyss-Inquart signed the Federal
Constitutional Law for the Reunion of Austria with the German
Reich. This law declared Austria to be a province of the German
Reich; the new law was incorporated into the Reich Statute of
Reunion passed the same day in Germany. The term "reunion"
was a reference to the First Reich when Germany and Austria were
both part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
Alsace-Lorraine was originally a part
of the Holy Roman Empire and it was also incorporated into Hitler's
Greater Germany after the conquest of France in June 1940.
The First German Reich ended in 1806
when Napoleon conquered all the German states. This was a great
victory for human rights because Napoleon freed the German serfs,
who were living under conditions worse than those of the slaves
in America, and he also gave the Jews equal civil rights for
the first time ever in the German states. The reason for Napoleon's
attack on the German states was because the alliance of Austria
and Prussia, signed in 1792, was a threat to the newborn French
Republic which was set up after the French Revolution, although
the German state of Bavaria was an ally of Napoleon.
After Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo
in 1815, a "Holy Alliance" between Prussia, Russia,
Austria and England was created at the Congress of Vienna. This
alliance prevented the creation of a new German Empire. When
France attacked Prussia in 1870, this alliance ended and the
Prussian victory over the French meant that the German states
could unite again. This was a crushing blow to the French who
wanted to maintain their hegemony on the continent.
Between 1815 and 1871, Germany was a
Confederation of independent states, as opposed to a united country
with a Federal government. This caused Germany to fall behind
in the quest for world power during this period. There is a German
expression which says that the Germans came too late to history.
When the Germans tried to catch up, beginning in 1871, this led
to a show-down which resulted in World War I, after the British,
French and Russians became allies in secret treaties that excluded
the Germans. With only the Austrians as allies, the Germans claimed
that they were fighting for their right to exist as a world power
and their right to expand, while the British, French and Russians,
and eventually Americans, saw it as the militaristic Prussians
trying to take over the world. The British had conquered one
fourth of the earth's surface back in the days when aggression
against other countries was considered a legitimate way to expand;
the British Empire was then the world's greatest superpower and
the British intended to keep it that way. That's why Germany
had to be prevented from ever becoming a world power, by any
France was adamant about limiting the
power of Germany after World War I because the French and the
Germans had been deadly enemies since before the Thirty Years
War which ended in 1648. In the last years of that war, France
and Sweden formed an alliance and defeated Germany. Germany was
destroyed and became a poverty-stricken country for the next
100 years, while France became the superpower on the continent
of Europe. The defeated Germans were dominated by French ideas
and culture and upper class Germans even spoke the French language.
It was a long time before Germany could recover: so many German
soldiers had been killed in the war that plural marriages had
to be allowed because of the shortage of men. Very gradually,
one of the defeated German states, the Kingdom of Prussia, recovered
and became a great power by purchasing territory in what is now
Poland from the German "Teutonic Knights" who had settled
in that area after being invited by the Polish king in the 13th
Between January 1871 and the end of World
War I in November 1918, the German states were united, but the
separate states, such as Bavaria, still had full governmental
and administrative autonomy and an independent parliament. The
Bavarians even had their own King and Kaiser Wilhelm still retained
his position as the King of the state of Prussia, along with
his title of German emperor or Kaiser. The Nazis could have given
Austria the same status after the Anschluss, but instead, the
former independent country of Austria became a province of Germany
and disappeared from the map.
In 1888, Kaiser Wilhelm II of the Hohenzollern
dynasty became the new German emperor. This marked the beginning
of Germany's racist ideology after the Kaiser became interested
in the theories of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, a famous British
writer. Chamberlain believed that the "Aryan race"
was intellectually and physically superior to all other people.
Much later, Hitler also learned some of his racist ideas from
Chamberlain, although, unlike Chamberlain, he used the word Aryan
to refer only to the Volkdeutsch or ethnic Germans, which he
considered a separate race of people. In America and Great Britain,
the term Aryan usually refers to the combined Germanic, Slavic
and Celtic branches of the Caucasian race.
Following World War I, Germany became
a democratic Republic with a Constitution based on the American
Constitution. After Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany
on January 30, 1933, a new congressional election was requird
to confirm his appointment. In the election which took place
on March 5, 1933, the Nazis gained enough seats in the Reichstag
(German Congress) so that, with the help of other conservative
parties, they were able to pass legislation on March 7th which
ended state's rights in Germany. This legislation allowed Hitler
to unite Germany for the first time into "ein Volk, ein
Reich, ein Führer" (one people, one empire, one leader).
After this legislation was put into effect on March 9, 1933,
all the German states were now controlled by the federal government,
under the rule of the Nazis; the governors of each state and
all the government positions of any importance were now appointed
by the Nazis, and of course, the appointees were loyal members
of the Nazi party. The Nazi term for this new unity among the
German people was Gleichschaltung; it meant that everyone was
on the same page with all the people pulling together, united
in their beliefs and objectives.
After March 9, 1933, the former German
states, such as Prussia and Bavaria, no longer had state's rights
and the German people were now ruled by one government and one
leader for the first time ever in the history of the world; this
was reason enough for alarm, but the Allies ignored the importance
of this event and failed to stop Hitler while there was still
time. One reason that the Nazis wanted to bring all the German
states under their central control was to make sure that Bavaria
would never again be taken over by the Communists which was what
happened on November 7, 1918 when Jewish leader Kurt Eisner led
a revolution, forced the King of Bavaria to resign, and then
set up a Communist Republic in Bavaria.
After the German people were united and
controlled under Gleichschaltung, Hitler then proceeded to violate
the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which had been designed
to prevent Germany from ever becoming a superpower. In 1935,
Hitler took back the coal mines in the German Saar region which
had been put under the control of the League of Nations as part
of the Treaty. The Treaty had also given the coal mines in Upper
Silesia to Poland, further weaking Germany's ability to wage
The Allies chose to ignore the warning
signs that the Nazis were getting ready for another German attempt
to take over the world. Even more importantly, the Allies ignored
the Nazi threat to the Jews. Hitler had made it known from the
beginning that his intention was to exterminate world Jewry.
It was all there, in Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" (My
Struggle): the dream of annexing Austria and Hitler's plan to
systematically exterminate the Jews, but no one took Hitler seriously
until it was too late.
Poster in Vienna restaurant
window says "Jews not welcome."
The Anschluss was a gross violation of
the Treaty of Versailles which Germany had been forced by the
Allies to sign on June 28, 1919, more than seven months after
World War I had ended. However, Article 80 of the Treaty, which
forbade the unification of Germany and Austria, was in itself
a violation of the Armistice that was signed by Germany and the
Allies at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in
President Woodrow Wilson had contacted
the Germans on November 5, 1918 and agreed to an Armistice based
on his Fourteen Points; an armistice based on Wilson's Fourteen
Points had first been proposed by the German Kaiser in October
1918. These points had been included in a speech given by Wilson
on January 8, 1918. At that time, Russia was negotiating with
the Germans to opt out of the war since Russia had now become
the Soviet Union after the Communist Revolution of November 1917.
Wilson had called for both sides in World War I to state their
war aims, but neither side was willing to do this because of
secret agreements which they did not want to be revealed. One
of Wilson's Fourteen Points was that secret treaties would be
banned in the future, but this point was not included in the
Treaty of Versailles.
Wilson's Fourteen Points represented
what America wanted to get out of the war if and when we were
on the winning side. America wanted nothing out of the conflict
except peace and democracy in Europe. The German Kaiser was a
threat to America's freedom and President Wilson wanted only
to "make the world safe for democracy." In today's
terms, America was fighting for a "regime change" in
Point number 5 of the 14 points in Wilson's
speech is quoted below:
A free, open-minded, and absolutely
impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict
observance of the principle that in determining all such questions
of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must
have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government
whose title is to be determined.
However, as it turned out, only Germany
was forced to give up its overseas colonies, under Point number
5 which was included in the Treaty of Versailles, while Great
Britian added to its vast colonial empire at the expense of Germany,
which lost all of its colonies, totaling one million square miles
of land. The German colonies in Africa were given to Great Britain,
Belgium and South Africa. The German colonies in the Pacific
were divided among Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and
Point number 5, which promised self-determination
for the "populations concerned," was also interpreted
by the Germans to mean that all the different ethnic groups in
Europe, which presumably included the Volkdeutsch or the ethnic
Germans, would have the right to choose which country they would
be citizens of after the war when new democratic countries would
be formed out of the former Austrian Hapsberg Empire, the Ottoman
Empire of the Turks and the territory ceded to Germany by the
Russians in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on March 3, 1918.
Austria had already signed a separate
Armistice with the Allies on November 3, 1918 in the Villa Giusti
near Padua. In both Germany and Austria, the Social Democrats
had declared a Republic two days before their respective armistices
were signed. On November 11, 1918, the Emperor of Austria announced
his withdrawal from his position as the ruler of Austria and
the next day the democratic Republic of Austria was proclaimed.
The Provisional National Assembly of Austria passed unanimously
the law on the State and governmental structure of German-Austria:
Article 2 laid down that German-Austria was an integral part
of the German Republic which had been proclaimed by the Social
Democrats in Germany on November 9, 1918. The Allies had already
agreed to this in the Armistice which was signed on November
11, 1918 based on Wilson's 14 points.
Immediately after the war ended, the
Social Democrats in Germany began writing the Weimar Constitution
for the new Republic of Germany. Article 61 of the Weimar Constitution
stated the following:
After its union with the German Reich,
German-Austria will have the right to the number of votes in
the Reichsrat (Upper House) to which it population entitles it.
Until then the representatives of German-Austria will act in
an advisory capacity.
France was adamantly opposed to the unification
of Germany and Austria, although at first the other Allies were
not. France won out and both the Treaty of Versailles, that the
Germans were forced to sign, and the Treaty of St. Germain, which
the Austrians were forced to sign, banned the union of Germany
The ban on the Anschluss was not included
in the original draft of the Treaty of St. Germain, according
to Dr. Kurt von Schuschnigg who mentioned this in his book "The
Brutal Takeover." In the final draft, Article 88 of the
Treaty of St. Germain banned the unification of Germany and Austria
at the insistence of the French and also the British who had
subsequently been persuaded to side with the French. The articles
pertaining to the Anschluss had to be removed from both the German
and the Austrian constitutions which had already been written,
based on Point number 5 of the Armistice signed by the Allies
which guaranteed self-determination to all the ethnic groups
Besides preventing the ethnic Germans
in Austria from exercising their right of self-determination,
as agreed upon in the Armistice, the terms of the Treaty of Versailles
also resulted in 3.5 million ethnic Germans becoming citizens
of the new country of Czechoslovakia. The Treaty also gave German
lands in Posen and West Prussia, which had formerly belonged
to Germany, to the new country of Poland, resulting in millions
of ethnic Germans becoming citizens of Poland without moving
from the land where their ancestors had lived for a thousand
years. This was a direct violation of the Armistice based on
Wilson's Fourteen Points, but the French had insisted at Versailles
that there "were 20 million too many Germans." Part
of Hitler's justification for the invasion of Poland was his
accusation that ethic Germans in Poland were being mistreated
and discriminated against; there were even claims that over 58,000
ethnic Germans had been murdered by the Poles and that some of
the bodies had been mutilated.
Marshall Foch, who was a member of the
French delegation at Versailles, complained that the Treaty had
not gone far enough to destroy Germany; he predicted that the
Germans would rise again in 21 years to threaten world peace.
Unfortunately, he was correct; it only took 20 years for Germany
to start another world war.
The immediate excuse for Hitler's aggression
against Poland in 1939 was Poland's refusal to allow a right-of-way
for the Germans to build a railroad across the former German
lands to East Prussia and the Polish refusal to hand over the
former German port of Danzig which had been put under the control
of the League of Nations as part of the Treaty of Versailles.
The former German port of Memel had also been made an international
city under the Treaty of Versailles and had later been annexed
by Lithuania. Nothing had happened when Germany violated the
Treaty once again by taking back Memel, leading Hitler to believe
that the Allies had no intentiion of ever enforcing the terms
of the Treaty.
The Austrians became collaborators with
Hitler and the Nazis in the "common plan" to wage aggressive
war when they cheered Hitler's invasion and subsequently voted
overwhelmingly to approve the Anschluss, which violated the Treatry
of St. Germain that they had signed with the Allies. Americans
heard about the Anschluss on the radio but didn't grasp the implications
of the unification of Germany and Austria, an event that changed
The American Congress failed to act to
stop Hitler on March 12, 1938 and by September 1, 1939, it was
too late; Hitler had begun the greatest and most costly struggle
in the history of humanity, World War II. There can be no doubt
that Hitler and his henchmen were solely responsible for this
unprecedented world tragedy. They were the perpetrators of a
catastrophe which will continue to stagger the imagination for
many centuries to come.
This page was updated on November 12, 2012