Anschluss: A good time was not had by all


Seventy-five years ago today, Germany marched into, occupied and annexed Austria in what became known as the Anschluss.

As the above photo shows, many turned out to joyously greet Wehrmacht troops as they rolled through the Austrian countryside and cities, including Vienna.

Not all were advocates of the union, however.

Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg was committed to his country’s independence despite several years of bullying from Austrian and German Nazis.

Prior to the actual German annexation, Schuschnigg had scheduled a plebiscite on the issue of unification for March 13, 1938, expecting his fellow countrymen to reject the idea.

Adolf Hitler, ever the proponent of fair and honest elections, declared the vote would be tainted by fraud and stated that Germany would not abide by the results.

In addition, the German ministry of propaganda issued statements that alleged widespread rioting throughout Austria and reported that large segments of the Austrian population were calling for German troops to restore order.

On March 11, Hitler sent an ultimatum to Schuschnigg demanding that power be handed to the Austrian National Socialists or Germany would invade.

Schuschnigg had reason for concern; his predecessor, Engelbert Dollfuss, had been assassinated as part of a failed coup by Nazi agents in 1934.

Schuschnigg desperately looked for support in the hours following Hitler’s ultimatum. But, realizing that neither France nor Britain was willing to step in, Schuschnigg resigned as chancellor later that evening.

German soldiers entered Austria the following day, March 12, 1938, to enforce the Anschluss.

The Nazis held a plebiscite within the following month, and claimed 99.7 percent of Austrians favored the union. Given that 99.7 percent of Austrians likely couldn’t have agreed on whether schnitzel was a popular dish among their fellow citizens, the results seem sketchy to say the least.

The Anschluss was a key event in Germany’s run-up to World War II, along with the return of the Saar region through a 1935 plebiscite, the remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936, the occupation of the Sudetenland in 1938 and the 1939 invasion of the remainder of Czechoslovakia.

So how did Anschluss work out for Austria? Not real well.

Besides being on the losing end of the greatest war in history and being aligned with one of the most despotic regimes mankind has ever known, Austria suffered approximately 260,000 military deaths and another 120,000 civilian deaths, including 65,000 Jews, during World War II.

Approximately 5.7 percent of its 1939 population died during the 1939-45 conflict.

One suspects that those who were cheering the Wehrmacht on in 1938 were much less joyous seven years later, if they were alive at all.

10 thoughts on “Anschluss: A good time was not had by all

  1. By chance the following appeared this week. What a strange history Austria, and specifically the Vienna Philharmonic has.

    One can only guess that forty years ago somehow it was still possible for the Philharmonic to honor Baldur von Schirach, a Nazi governor of Vienna. How was it that the Philharmonic of that day (1966-67) could even consider an honor for Schirach? The crucible of that action bears some further research?

    “Vienna Philharmonic acknowledges honouring Nazi war criminal” – Reuters

    “On Sunday, the orchestra published a list of recipients of its rings of honour and medals, which were traditionally given to artists but during the Nazi period were given to high-ranking officials and military leaders.

    Baldur von Schirach, a Nazi governor of Vienna who oversaw the deportation of tens of thousands of Jews to concentration camps and was sentenced to 20 years in jail by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal after the war, was awarded the ring in 1942.

    In one of the new articles posted on the orchestra’s website (, Vienna University historian Oliver Rathkolb wrote that a replacement ring was delivered to Schirach in 1966 or 1967 after he was freed from prison.”

    • Amazing, isn’t it? Honoring the head of the Hitler Youth more than 20 years after the war’s end.

      And it really puts a hole in the oft-repeated claim by some in Austria that they had little choice but to go along with the Germans. While 99.7 percent may not have been in favor of union with Germany in 1938, it’s safe to say a majority were. And likely a sizeable percentage of those were unrepentant after the defeat of the Nazis.

  2. Could the same thing happen in the United States?
    Given the fact that most print and electronic media are in the control of a few — yes, it certainly could. History seems to prove that such an evil is insidious. In the beginning, the people do not realize what is happening, how they are bring ‘sucked into’ the quagmire of totalitarianism.

    “Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda.” –
    – Hannah Arendt

    • “sucked into’ the quagmire of totalitarianism”?

      It isn’t clear that our media has failed completely but there are two examples that should be cited.

      Bush II’s first administration was given a free pass by a media cowed in a patriotic frenzy and the McCarthyism of the 1950’s the media and entertainment alike were arrested by a ‘Red Scare’.

      Both examples could be used to support a ‘masses won by propaganda’ claim. (In fact, the last twenty years of FoxNews and Rush Limbaugh might also fit into discussion of this hypothesis.)

      Moving beyond the old world of media, newspaper and broadcast, the new totalitarian must control the internet. Maybe this limits the propaganda potential or maybe dilutes it into a different beast entirely.

      What remains astonishing is the social and moral forces present in the Vienna Philharmonic story cited above. It would be fascinating to hear the discussion and witness the conversation that brought a ‘rings of honour’ award to Schirach.

  3. Excellent points, all, Catspaw. Especially, about the Internet. In an effort not to be too cynical or paranoid, I suspect that, in the not too distant future, free speech there will become more diffficult via some type of government regulation and/or lobbyists’ influence. In addition, it is possible that we will have to pay to get access. I have already read about such proposals. That would exclude many citizens who are unable to afford it. Once again, that segment of our society would be shut out and their voices unheard.

    • “I have already read about such proposals. That would exclude many citizens who are unable to afford it.”

      Mindful of your concern on paranoia, the counter weight to pay for access has also been discussed and introduced.

      Internet via neighborhood access points for free. Although spotty and still in development, the local access point has been introduced as a civic necessity. Basically a Wi-Fi internet is available on the Telco pole and the citizen simply accesses the internet from home the same way you might use your home router and DSL/Cable modem.

      Nuff said on the technical mumbo jumbo, the internet is either free and available to all or it’s “pay wall” design is easily pole vaulted. Plenty of ‘Wiki’ thinkers want all the web all the time for free and that isn’t impossible.

      We’ll see, since media is fracturing and melting into more and more forms and transmission methods there is less and less to indicate a total control of all communication by a totalitarian power in the US will be possible. China, not so much.

  4. Pingback: Nazi Conquests and Expansion – wikiadolf

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s