Austrian History

Der Anschluss

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 words:

"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 Germany.

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By March 1938, Germany had withdrawn from the League of Nations, although Austria was still a member nation.

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 of Versailles.

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 Franco's troops.

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 of Versailles.

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 radio.

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 in 1977.

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 following:

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 the Anschluss:

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 to us.

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 a formality.

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, and Yugoslavia.

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 telegram:

"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 quarry.

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 at Nuremberg":

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 of Poland.)

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 empire.

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 means necessary.

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 century.

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 war.

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 1918.

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 Germany.

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 Japan.

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 and Austria.

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 in Europe.

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 world history.

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