The ( ;
German for "link-up"), also known as the , was the 1938 de facto
annexation of Austria into
Greater Germany by the Nazi regime.
Austria was annexed to the German Third
on 12 March 1938. There had been several years of
pressure from Germany and there were many supporters within Austria
for the "Heim ins
-movement, both Nazis and non-Nazis. Earlier, Nazi
Germany had provided support for the Austrian National Socialist
(Austrian Nazi Party) in its bid to seize power from
Fully devoted to remaining independent but under considerable
pressure from both German and Austrian Nazis, the Chancellor of
Austria, Kurt Schuschnigg
, tried to
hold a referendum
to ask the Austrian
people whether they wished to remain independent or merge into
Germany. Although Schuschnigg expected Austria to vote
in favour of maintaining autonomy, a well-planned coup d'état by the Austrian Nazi Party of Austria's
state institutions in Vienna took place
on 11 March, prior to the referendum which was cancelled.
With power quickly transferred over to Germany, Wehrmacht
troops entered Austria to enforce the
Anschluss. The Nazis held a plebiscite
asking the people to ratify what had already been done – within the
following month, where they claim to have received 99.73% of the
Although the Allies
committed to upholding the terms of the treaties of Versailles
and St. Germain
specifically prohibited the union of Austria and Germany, their
reaction was only verbal and moderate. No fighting ever took
place and even the strongest voices against the annexation,
particularly Fascist Italy,
France and the United Kingdom (the "Stresa Front"),
The Anschluss was among the first major steps in Adolf Hitler
's long-desired creation of an
empire including German-speaking lands and territories Germany had
lost after World War I
, although Austria
had never been a part of the (in 20th-century terms) German state.
Already prior to the 1938 annexation, the Rhineland
was remilitarized and the Saar
region was returned to Germany after
fifteen years of occupation through a plebiscite. After the
Anschluss, the predominantly German Sudetenland
of Czechoslovakia was taken, with
the rest of the country becoming a protectorate
of Germany in 1939. That same
was returned from
Lithuania, the final peaceful territorial aggrandizement before the
start of World War II
Austria ceased to exist as a fully independent nation until late
1945. A Provisional Austrian Government was set up on 27 April 1945
and was legally recognized by the Allies
in the following months, but
it was not until 1955 that Austria regained full sovereignty.
Situation before the Anschluss
dissolution of Austria-Hungary
- Main articles: German Empire and Austrofascism
The idea of grouping all Germans into one state had been the
subject of inconclusive debate since the end of the Holy Roman Empire
in 1806. Before 1866, it
was generally thought that the unification of the Germans could
only succeed under Austrian leadership. The rise of Prussia
was largely unpredicted, and created a
rivalry between the two that made unification through a
("Greater Germany") solution impossible. Also, because of the
multi-ethnic composition of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
Vienna, many rejected this notion and it was unthinkable that
Austria would give up her "non-German" territories, let alone
submit to Prussia.
Nevertheless, a series of wars, including the
War, led to the expulsion of Austria from German
affairs, allowed for the creation of the North German
Confederation and consolidated the German states through Prussia,
enabling the creation of a German Empire in 1871. Otto
played a fundamental role in this process, with
the end result representing a Kleindeutsche
Germany") solution that did not include the German-speaking parts
. The Emperor in Vienna did not want
to become a member of Bismarck's Second Reich, because he would have been forced to be an Emperor
of "second class" compared with the Emperor in Berlin.
When Austria-Hungary broke up in 1918, many German-speaking
Austrians hoped to join with Germany in the realignment of
November 12 1918, German
Austria was officially declared a republic.
provisional national assembly drafted provisional constitution that
stated that "German Austria is a democratic republic" (Article 1)
and "German Austria is a component of the German Republic" (Article
2). Later plebiscites
in the provinces of
Tyrol and Salzburg yielded majorities of 98 and 99% in favor of a
unification with Germany.
However, the Treaty of
(1919) and the Treaty of Saint-Germain
explicitly vetoed the inclusion of Austria within a German state,
because France and the UK feared the power of a larger Germany, and
had already begun to disempower the current one. Also Austrian
particularism, especially among the nobility, played a huge role,
as Austria was Roman Catholic
Germany was dominated, especially in government, more by Protestants
. However, both constitutions, that of Weimar Republic and that of the First Austrian Republic, included
the political aim of unification and this aim was widely supported
also by democratic parties.
In the early 1930s, popular
support for union with Germany remained overwhelming, and the
Austrian government looked to a possible customs union
with Germany in 1931. However
Hitler's and the Nazis'
rise to power in
Germany left the Austrian government with little enthusiasm for
such formal ties. Hitler, born in Austria, had promoted an
"all-German Reich" from the early beginnings of his leadership in
and had publicly stated as early as
1924 in Mein Kampf
that he would
attempt a union, by force if necessary.
Austria shared the
economic turbulence of post-1929 Europe with a high unemployment
rate and unstable commerce and industry.
Similar to its
northern and southern neighbours these uncertain conditions made
the young democracy very vulnerable. The First Republic
, dominated from the late 1920s
by the Catholic nationalist Christian Social Party
(CS), gradually disintegrated from 1933 (dissolution of parliament
and ban of the Austrian National Socialists) to 1934 (Austrian Civil War
in February and ban of
all remaining parties except the CS) and evolved into a
model of one-party government which
combined the CS and the paramilitary Heimwehr
with absolute state domination of labour relations
and no freedom of the press
and Patriotic Front
). Power was
centralized in the office of the Chancellor
who was empowered to
rule by decree
. The predominance of
the Christian Social Party (whose economic policies were based on
the papal encyclical
) was an
Austrian phenomenon in that Austria's national identity had strong
Catholic elements which were incorporated into the movement by way
of clerical authoritarian tendencies which are certainly not to be
found in Nazism. Both Engelbert
Dollfuss and his successor Kurt
Schuschnigg turned to Austria's other fascist neighbour,
Italy, for inspiration and support.
statist corporatism often referred to as Austrofascism bore more
resemblance to Italian Fascism
National Socialism. Benito
Mussolini was able to support the independent aspirations of
the Austrian dictatorship until his need for German support in
Ethiopia forced him into a client relationship with Berlin
that began with the 1937 Berlin-Rome
When Chancellor Dollfuss was assassinated by Austrian Nazis
on 25 July 1934
in a failed coup,
the second civil war within only one year followed, lasting until
August 1934. Afterwards, many leading Austrian Nazis fled
to Germany and continued to coordinate their actions from
there while the remaining Austrian Nazis started to make use of
terrorist attacks against the Austrian governmental institutions
(causing a death toll of more than 800 between 1934 and
Dollfuss' successor Schuschnigg, who followed the
political course of Dollfuss, took drastic actions against the
Nazis, for instance the rounding up of Nazis (but also Social
Democrats) in internment
The Anschluss of 1938
Hitler's first moves
In early 1938, Hitler had consolidated his power in Germany and was
ready to reach out to fulfill his long-planned expansion.
lengthy period of pressure by Germany, Hitler met Kurt Schuschnigg, the Chancellor of Austria, on 12 February
1938 in Berchtesgaden (Bavaria) and demanded that he lift the ban on political
parties, reinstate full party freedoms, release all imprisoned
members of the Nazi party and let them
participate in the government.
Otherwise, he would take
military action. Schuschnigg complied with Hitler's demands and
appointed Arthur Seyss-Inquart
a pro-Nazi lawyer, as Interior
and another Nazi, Edmund Glaise-Horstenau
, as a
Before the February meeting, Schuschnigg was already under
considerable pressure from Germany. This may be seen in the demand
to remove the chief of staff of the Austrian Army
, from his position in January 1938. Jansa and his staff
had developed a scenario for Austria's defense against a German
attack, a situation Hitler wanted to avoid at all costs.
Schuschnigg subsequently complied with the demand.
During the following weeks, Schuschnigg realized that his newly
appointed ministers were working to take over his authority.
Schuschnigg tried to gather support throughout Austria and inflame
among the people. For the
first time since 12 February 1934 (the time of the Austrian Civil War
), socialists and
communists could legally appear in public again. The communists
announced their unconditional support
for the Austrian government, understandable in light of Nazi
pressure on Austria. The socialists
demanded further concessions from Schuschnigg before they were
willing to side with him.
Schuschnigg announces a referendum
On 9 March, as a last resort to preserve Austria's independence,
Schuschnigg scheduled a plebiscite
independence of Austria for 13 March. To secure a large majority in
the referendum, Schuschnigg set the minimum voting age at 24 in
order to exclude younger voters who largely sympathized with Nazi
ideology. Holding a referendum was a highly risky gamble for
Schuschnigg, and, on the next day, it became apparent that Hitler
would not simply stand by while Austria declared its independence
by public vote. Hitler declared that the referendum would be
subject to major fraud and that Germany would not accept it. In
addition, the German Ministry of Propaganda issued press reports
that riots had broken out in Austria and that large parts of the
Austrian population were calling for German troops to restore
order. Schuschnigg immediately responded publicly that reports of
riots were false.
Hitler sent an ultimatum
on 11 March, demanding that he hand
over all power to the Austrian National Socialists
face an invasion. The ultimatum was set to expire at noon, but was
extended by two hours. However, without waiting for an answer,
Hitler had already signed the order to send troops into Austria at
one o'clock, issuing it to Hermann
only hours later.
Schuschnigg desperately sought support for Austrian independence in
the hours following the ultimatum, but, realizing that neither
France nor the United Kingdom was willing to take steps, he
resigned as Chancellor that evening. In the radio broadcast in
which he announced his resignation, he argued that he accepted the
changes and allowed the Nazis to take over the government in order
to avoid bloodshed. Meanwhile, Austrian President Wilhelm Miklas
refused to appoint Seyss-Inquart
Chancellor and asked other
Austrian politicians such as Michael Skubl and Sigismund
Schilhawsky to assume the office. However, the Nazis were well
organised. Within hours they managed to take control of many parts
of Vienna, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs (controlling
the Police). As Miklas continued to refuse to appoint a Nazi
government and Seyss-Inquart still could not send a telegram in the
name of the Austrian government demanding German troops to restore
order, Hitler became furious. At about 10 PM, well after Hitler had
signed and issued the order for the invasion, Göring and Hitler
gave up on waiting and published a forged telegram containing a
request by the Austrian Government for German troops to enter
Austria. Around midnight, after nearly all critical offices and
buildings had fallen into Nazi hands in Vienna and the main
political party members of the old government had been arrested,
Miklas finally conceded to appoint Seyss-Inquart Chancellor.
German troops march into Austria
Cheering crowds greet the Germans in
On the morning of 12 March, the 8th Army of the German Wehrmacht
crossed the German-Austrian border. They
did not face resistance by the Austrian
—on the contrary, the German troops were greeted by
cheering Austrians with Hitler salutes, Nazi flags and flowers.
Because of this the Nazi invasion is also called the
(war of flowers). For the Wehrmacht this
invasion was the first big test of its machinery. Although the
invading forces were badly organized and coordination between the
units was poor, it mattered little because no fighting took place.
however, serve as a warning to German commanders in future military
operations, such as that against Czechoslovakia.
car crossed the border in the afternoon at Braunau, his birthplace. In the evening, he
arrived at Linz and was
given an enthusiastic welcome in the city hall.
atmosphere was so intense that Göring, in a telephone call that
evening, stated: "There is unbelievable jubilation in Austria. We
ourselves did not think that sympathies would be so intense."
further travel through Austria changed into a triumphal tour that
climaxed in Vienna, on 2 April
1938, when around 200,000 Austrians gathered on the Heldenplatz (Square of Heroes) to hear Hitler proclaim the
Hitler later commented: "Certain foreign
newspapers have said that we fell on Austria with brutal methods. I
can only say: even in death they cannot stop lying. I have in the
course of my political struggle won much love from my people, but
when I crossed the former frontier (into Austria) there met me such
a stream of love as I have never experienced. Not as tyrants have
we come, but as liberators."
The Anschluss was given immediate effect by legislative act on 13
March, subject to ratification by a plebiscite. Austria became the
and Seyss-Inquart was appointed Governor. The plebiscite was held
on 10 April and officially recorded a support of 99.73% of the
Voting ballot from 10 April
The ballot text reads "Do you agree with the reunification of
Austria with the German Reich that was enacted on 13 March 1938,
and do you vote for the party of our leader Adolf Hitler?," the
large circle is labelled "Yes," the smaller "No."
Hitler's brutal methods to emasculate any opposition were
immediately implemented in the weeks preceding the plebiscite.
before the first German soldier crossed the border, Heinrich Himmler and a few SS officers
landed in Vienna to arrest prominent representatives of the First
Republic such as Richard Schmitz,
Leopold Figl, Friedrich Hillegeist and Franz Olah.
During the few weeks between
the Anschluss and the plebiscite, Social Democrats, Communists, and
other potential political dissenters, as well as Jews, were rounded
up and either imprisoned or sent to concentration camps. Within
only a few days of 12 March, 70,000 people had been arrested. The
plebiscite itself was subject to large-scale propaganda and to the
abrogation of the voting rights of around 400,000 people (nearly
10% of the eligible voting population), mainly former members of
left-wing parties and Jews.
While historians concur that the result itself was not manipulated,
the voting process was neither free nor secret. Officials were
present directly beside the voting booths and received the voting
ballot by hand (in contrast to a secret vote where the voting
ballot is inserted into a closed box). In some remote areas of
Austria the referendum on the independence of Austria on 13 March
had been held despite the Wehrmacht
presence in Austria (it took up to 3 days to occupy every part of
Austria). For instance, in the village of Innervillgraten a majority of 95% voted for Austria's
unhindered voting process occurred in the Italian harbour city of
Gaeta, where an extraterritorial vote of German and
Austrian clerics, studying at the German college of Santa Maria
dell'Anima, took place.
The vote was concluded on board
of the German battleship Admiral
, which anchored in the harbour. In contrary to the
overall result, these clerical votes rejected the Anschluss with
over 90%, an incident which was coined as "Shame of Gaeta
" (Vergogna di Gaeta, Schande
von Gaeta) at the time.
Austria remained part of the Third Reich
until the end of World War II
preliminary Austrian Government declared the Anschluss
"null und nichtig"
(null and void
) on 27 April 1945.
war, then allied-occupied Austria was recognized and treated as a
separate country, but was not restored to sovereignty until the Austrian State Treaty and Austrian
Declaration of Neutrality,
both of 1955, largely due to the rapid development of the Cold War and disputes between the Soviet Union and its former allies over its foreign
Reactions and consequences of the Anschluss
Seyss-Inquart and Hitler in Vienna,
The picture of Austria in the first days of its existence in the
Third Reich is one of contradictions: at one and the same time,
Hitler's terror regime began to tighten its grip in every area of
society, beginning with mass arrests and thousands of Austrians
attempting to flee in every direction; yet Austrians could be seen
cheering and welcoming German troops entering Austrian territory.
Many Austrian political figures did not hesitate to announce their
support of the Anschluss and their relief that it happened without
Cardinal Theodor Innitzer
political figure of the CS) declared as early as 12 March: "The
Viennese Catholics should thank the Lord for the bloodless way this
great political change has occurred, and they should pray for a
great future for Austria. Needless to say, everyone should obey the
orders of the new institutions." The other Austrian bishops
followed suit some days later. Vatican Radio, however, immediately broadcast a vehement
denunciation of the German action, and Cardinal
Pacelli, the Vatican
Secretary of State, ordered Innitzer to report to Rome.
Before meeting with the pope, Innitzer met with Pacelli, who had
been outraged by Innitzer's statement. He made it clear that
Innitzer needed to retract; he was made to sign a new statement,
issued on behalf of all the Austrian bishops, which provided:
“The solemn declaration of the Austrian bishops ... was clearly
not intended to be an approval of something that was not and is not
compatible with God's law”
. The Vatican newspaper also
reported that the bishops' earlier statement had been issued
without the approval from Rome.
Robert Kauer, president of the minority Lutheran Church
in Austria, greeted Hitler
on 13 March as "saviour of the 350,000 German Protestants
in Austria and liberator from a
five-year hardship." Even Karl Renner
the most famous Social Democrat of the First Republic, announced
his support for the Anschluss and appealed to all Austrians to vote
in favour of it on 10 April.
The international response to the expansion of Germany may be
described as moderate. The Times
commented that 200 years ago Scotland had joined England as well
and that this event would not really differ much. On 14 March, the
British Prime Minister
Neville Chamberlain noted in the
His Majesty's Government have throughout been in the
closest touch with the situation. The Foreign Secretary saw the
German Foreign Minister on the 10th of March and addressed to
him a grave warning on the Austrian situation and upon what
appeared to be the policy of the German Government in regard to
it.... Late on the 11th of March our Ambassador in Berlin
registered a protest in strong terms with the German Government
against such use of coercion, backed by force, against an
independent State in order to create a situation incompatible with
its national independence.
However the speech concluded:
I imagine that according to the temperament of the
individual the events which are in our minds to-day will be the
cause of regret, of sorrow, perhaps of indignation.
They cannot be regarded by His Majesty's Government
with indifference or equanimity.
They are bound to have effects which cannot yet be
The immediate result must be to intensify the sense of
uncertainty and insecurity in Europe.
Unfortunately, while the policy of appeasement would
lead to a relaxation of the economic pressure under which many
countries are suffering to-day, what has just occurred must
inevitably retard economic recovery and, indeed, increased care
will be required to ensure that marked deterioration does not set
This is not a moment for hasty decisions or for
We must consider the new situation quickly, but with
As regards our defence programmes, we have always made
it clear that they were flexible and that they would have to be
reviewed from time to time in the light of any development in the
It would be idle to pretend that recent events do not
constitute a change of the kind that we had in mind.
Accordingly we have decided to make a fresh review, and
in due course we shall announce what further steps we may think it
necessary to take.
Within this speech, Chamberlain also stated in the House of
Commons: "The hard fact is that nothing could have arrested what
has actually happened [in Austria] unless this country and other
countries had been prepared to use force".
The moderate reaction to the Anschluss (the reaction from America
being strikingly similar to the British position) was the first
major consequence of the strictly followed appeasement
British foreign policy strategy. The
international reaction to the events of 12 March 1938 led Hitler to
conclude that he could use even more aggressive tactics in his
to expand the Third
, as he would later in annexing the Sudetenland
. The relatively bloodless Anschluss helped
pave the way for the Treaty of
Munich in September 1938 and the annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1939, because it reinforced appeasement as the
right way for the United Kingdom to deal with Hitler's
Legacy of the 1938 Anschluss
The Anschluss: annexation or union?
The word "Anschluss" outside the context of March 1938 is properly
translated as "joinder", "connection", "unification" or "political
union". In contrast the German word "Annektierung" that would mean
unambiguously was and
is not commonly used in this context. The usage of the term
"Anschluss" has been widespread before and in 1938 describing an
incorporation of Austria into Germany. Calling the incorporation of
Austria into Nazi Germany an "Anschluss", that is a unification or
joinder, was however also part of the propaganda used in 1938 by
and the Nazis
create the impression the events of March 1938 were not backed and
enforced by military pressure. Hitler himself stressed the meaning
of the events numerous times following the "Anschluss" and
described the incorporation of Austria as the return of it to its
original home (Heimkehr). The word Anschluss endured the years of
the Second World War
and the years
thereafter, letting the term, despite its non-correlating to the
actual events and propaganda usage in 1938 stand for the events
that took place.
Some historical sources, for instance, Encyclopædia Britannica
describe the Anschluss as an "annexation" rather than a union. From
a factual view of the events that were mainly driven by the German
military power and political pressure within Austria and from the
outside the term annexation is the closer description than the term
"Anschluss". It however omits to present the differences between
the "Anschluss" and other annexations of Nazi Germany backed by
force, i.e. large parts of the Austrian population either supported
or were indifferent to the incorporation of Austria into the
The Second Republic
The Moscow Declaration
Moscow Declaration of 1943,
signed by the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom included a "Declaration on
Austria," which stated the following:
The governments of the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union
and the United States of America are agreed that Austria, the first
free country to fall a victim to Hitlerite aggression, shall be
liberated from German domination.
from the last paragraph and subsequent determinations at the
Trial, the Declaration was intended to serve as propaganda aimed at stirring Austrian resistance
(although there are Austrians counted as Righteous Among the Nations,
there never was an effective Austrian armed resistance of the sort
found in other countries under German occupation) more than
anything else, although the exact text of the declaration is said
to have a somewhat complex drafting history.
They regard the annexation imposed on Austria by Germany on 15
March 1938, as null and void. They consider themselves as in no way
bound by any charges effected in Austria since that date. They
declare that they wish to see re-established a free and independent
Austria and thereby to open the way for the Austrian people
themselves, as well as those neighbouring States which will be
faced with similar problems, to find that political and economic
security which is the only basis for lasting peace.
Austria is reminded, however, that she has a responsibility, which
she cannot evade, for participation in the war at the side of
Hitlerite Germany, and that in the final settlement account will
inevitably be taken of her own contribution to her
Franz von Papen
, in particular, were
both indicted under count one (conspiracy to commit crimes against
peace) specifically for their activities in support of the Austrian
Nazi Party and the Anschluss, but neither was convicted of this
count. In acquitting von Papen, the court noted that his actions
were in its view political immoralities but not crimes under its
charter. Seyss-Inquart was convicted of other serious war crimes,
most of which took place in Poland and the Netherlands, was
sentenced to death and executed.
Austrian identity and the "victim theory"
After World War II
, many Austrians
sought comfort in the idea of Austria as "the Nazis' first victim".
Although the Nazi party was promptly banned, Austria did not have
the same thorough process of de-Nazification at the top of
government which was imposed on Germany for a time. Lacking outside
pressure for political reform, factions of Austrian society tried
for a long time to advance the view that the Anschluss was
an annexation at the point of a bayonet.
This view of the events of 1938 has deep roots in the ten years of
Allied occupation and the struggle to regain Austrian sovereignty:
The victim theory
played an essential role in the
negotiations on the Austrian State
with the Soviets, and by pointing to the Moscow Declaration
, Austrian politicians
heavily relied on it to achieve a solution for Austria different
from the division of Germany into separate Eastern and Western
states. The State Treaty, alongside with the subsequent Austrian
declaration of permanent neutrality
marked important milestones for the solidification of Austria's
independent national identity during the course of following
As Austrian politicians of the Left and Right attempted to
reconcile their differences in order to avoid the violent conflict
that had dominated the First Republic, discussions of both
and Austria's role during the
Nazi-era were largely avoided. Still, the Austrian People's Party
advanced, and still advances, the argument that the establishment
of the Dollfuss
dictatorship was necessary
in order to maintain Austrian independence; while the Austrian Social Democratic
(SPÖ) argues that the Dollfuss
dictatorship stripped the country of the democratic resources
necessary to repel Hitler; yet it ignores that Hitler
himself was indigenous to Austria.
For decades, the victim theory established in the Austrian mind
remained largely undisputed. The Austrian public was only rarely
forced to confront the legacy of the Third Reich (most notably
during the events of 1965 concerning Taras Borodajkewycz
, a professor of
economic history notorious for anti-Semitic remarks, when Ernst Kirchweger
, a concentration camp
survivor, was killed by a right-wing protester during riots). It
was not until the 1980s that Austrians were finally massively
confronted with their past. The main catalyst for the start of a
was the so-called Waldheim affair
Austrian reply to allegations during the 1986 Presidential election
campaign that successful candidate and former UN Secretary-General
Kurt Waldheim had been a member of the
Nazi party and of the infamous SA (he was
later absolved of direct involvement in war
crimes) was that scrutiny was an unwelcome intervention in the
country's internal affairs.
Despite the politicians'
reactions to international criticism of Waldheim, the Waldheim
affair started the first serious major discussion on Austria's past
and the Anschluss.
Another main factor for Austria and its coming to terms with the
past emerged in the 1980s: Jörg
and the rise of the Freedom Party of Austria
party had combined elements of the pan-German
right with free-market liberalism
since its foundation in 1955, but after Haider had ascended to the
party chairmanship in 1986, the liberal elements became
increasingly marginalized while Haider began to openly use
nationalist and anti-immigrant rhetoric. He was often criticised
for tactics such as the völkisch
(ethnic) definition of
national interest ("Austria for Austrians") and his apologism for
Austria's past, notably calling members of the Waffen-SS
"men of honour". Following an enormous
electoral rise in the 1990s peaking in the 1999 elections
, the FPÖ,
now purged of its liberal elements, entered a coalition with the
Austrian People's Party
(ÖVP) led by Wolfgang
that met international condemnation in 2000.
coalition triggered the regular Donnerstagsdemonstrationen
(Thursday demonstrations) in protest against the government, which
took place on the Heldenplatz, where Hitler had greeted the masses during the
Haider's tactics and rhetoric, which were often
criticised as sympathetic to Nazism, again forced Austrians to
reconsider their relationship to the past.
But Haider is not alone in making controversial remarks about
Austria's past: Haider's coalition partner, former Chancellor
, in a 2000
interview with the Jerusalem Post
stated that Austria was the first victim of Hitler-Germany.
Tearing into the simplism of the victim theory
time of the Austrofascism
, Thomas Bernhard's
, was highly controversial even before it
appeared on stage in 1988, fifty years after Hitler's visit.
Bernhard's achievement was to make the elimination of references to
Hitler's reception in Vienna emblematic of Austrian attempts to
claim their history and culture under questionable criteria.
politicians from all political factions called Bernhard a
Nestbeschmutzer (so. damaging the reputation of his
country) and openly demanded that the play should not be staged in
Vienna's Burgtheater. Kurt Waldheim
who was at that time still Austrian president called the play a
crude insult to the Austrian people
The Historical Commission and outstanding legal issues
context of the postwar Federal Republic of Germany, one encounters a Vergangenheitsbewältigung
("struggle to come to terms with the past") that has been partially
institutionalised, variably in literary, cultural, political, and
educational contexts (its development and difficulties have not
been trivial; see, for example, the Historikerstreit).
Austria formed a
("Historian's Commission" or
"Historical Commission") in 1998 with a mandate to review Austria's
role in the Nazi expropriation of Jewish property from a scholarly
rather than legal perspective, partly in response to continuing
criticism of its handling of property claims. Its membership was
based on recommendations from various quarters, including Simon Wiesenthal and Yad Vashem.
The Commission delivered its report in
2003. Noted Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg refused to participate in the
Commission and in an interview stated his strenuous objections in
terms both personal and in reference to larger questions about
Austrian culpability and liability, comparing what he thought to be
relative inattention to the settlement governing the Swiss bank holdings of those who died or were displaced
by the Holocaust:
I personally would like to know why the WJC World Jewish Congress has hardly put
any pressure on Austria, even as leading Nazis and SS leaders were
Austrians, Hitler included... Immediately after the war, the US
wanted to make the Russians withdraw from Austria, and the Russians
wanted to keep Austria neutral, therefore there was a common
interest to grant Austria victim status. And later Austria could
cry poor - though its per capita income is as high as Germany's.
And, most importantly, the Austrian PR machinery works better.
Austria has the opera ball, the imperial castle, Mozartkugeln [a
chocolate]. Americans like that. And Austrians invest and export
relatively little to the US, therefore they are less vulnerable to
blackmail. In the meantime, they set up a commission in Austria to
clarify what happened to Jewish property. Victor Klima, the former
chancellor, has asked me to join. My father fought for Austria in
the First World War and in 1939 he was kicked out of Austria. After
the war they offered him ten dollars per month as compensation. For
this reason I told Klima, no thank you, this makes me
Wiesenthal Center continues to criticise Austria (as recently as June
2005) for its alleged historical and ongoing unwillingness
aggressively to pursue investigations and trials against Nazis for
war crimes and crimes against humanity from the 1970s
Its 2001 report offered the following
Given the extensive participation of numerous
Austrians, including at the highest levels, in the implementation
of the Final Solution and other Nazi crimes, Austria should have
been a leader in the prosecution of Holocaust perpetrators over the
course of the past four decades, as has been the case in Germany.
Unfortunately relatively little has been achieved by the Austrian
authorities in this regard and in fact, with the exception of the
case of Dr. Heinrich Gross which was
suspended this year under highly suspicious circumstances (he
claimed to be medically unfit, but outside the court proved to be
healthy) not a single Nazi war crimes prosecution has been
conducted in Austria since the mid-1970s.
In 2003, the Center launched a worldwide effort named "Operation:
Last Chance" in order to collect further information about those
Nazis still alive that are potentially subject to prosecution.
reports issued shortly thereafter credited Austria for initiating
large-scale investigations, there has been one case where criticism
of Austrian authorities arose recently: The Center has put 92-year
old Croatian Milivoj Asner on its
2005 top ten list.
Asner fled to Austria in 2004 after
Croatia announced it would start investigations in the case of war
crimes he may have been involved in. In response to
objections about Asner's continued freedom, Austria's federal
government has deferred to either extradition requests from Croatia
or prosecutorial actions from Klagenfurt, neither of which appears forthcoming (as of June
Extradition is not an option since Asner also holds
, having lived in
the country from 1946 to 1991.
Austrian political and military leaders in Nazi Germany
- Until the German spelling reform of
1996, the word was spelled .
- Detailed article the on the events of the Anschluss, in
- Neville Chamberlain, " Statement of the Prime Minister in the House of Commons,
14 March 1938."
- some historical sources refer to the Anschluss as an
- Moscow Conference: Joint Four-Nation
Declaration, October 1943 (full text of the Moscow
- Gerald Stourzh, " Waldheim's
Austria," The New York Review of Books 34, no. 3
- " Judgment, The Defendants: Seyss-Inquart," The
- " The Defendants: Von Papen," The Nizkor
- Short note on Schüssel's interview in the Jerusalem
Post (in German), Salzburger Nachrichten, 11 November
- Thomas Bernhard, Books and Writers (article on
Bernhard with a short section on Heldenplatz).
- Austrian Historical Commission.
- Press statement on the report of the Austrian Historical
Commission Austrian Press and Information Service, 28 February
- Hilberg interview with the Berliner
Zeitung, as quoted by Norman Finkelstein's web site.
- Efraim Zuroff, " Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War
Criminals, 2001–2002," Simon Wiesenthal Center, Jerusalem
- " Take action against Nazi war criminal Milivoj
Asner," World Jewish Congress, 19 November 2004.
- Mutmaßlicher Kriegsverbrecher Asner wird nicht an Zagreb
ausgeliefert, Der Standard, 23 September 2005
- Bukey, Evan Burr (1986). Hitler's Hometown: Linz, Austria,
University Press. ISBN 0-253-32833-0.
- Parkinson, F. (ed.) (1989). Conquering the Past: Austrian
Nazism Yesterday and Today. Wayne State University Press.
- Pauley, Bruce F. (1981). Hitler and the Forgotten Nazis: A
History of Austrian National Socialism University of North Carolina
Press. ISBN 0-8078-1456-3 .
- Scheuch, Manfred (2005). Der Weg zum Heldenplatz: eine
Geschichte der österreichischen Diktatur. 1933–1938.
- Schuschnigg, Kurt (1971). The brutal takeover: The Austrian
ex-Chancellor's account of the Anschluss of Austria by Hitler.
Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
- Stuckel, Eva-Maria (2001). Österreich, Monarchie, Operette,
und Anschluss: Antisemtismus, Faschismus, und Nationalsozialismus
im Fadenkreuz von Ingeborg Bachman und Elias Canetti.
Kulturfoerderverein Ruhrg. ISBN 3-9313-0009-9.
Electronic articles and journals