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March 12, 1938: German troops march into Austria

The general German term Anschluss Template:Ref (literally meaning "connection," but in this context translated as "annexation" in the sense of "political union") often refers to Anschluss Österreichs — the inclusion of Austria in a "Greater Germany" in 1938.

The events of March 12, 1938 were the first major step in Hitler's long-desired expansion of the Third Reich, preceding the inclusion of the Sudentenland later in 1938 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939, and finally leading to the Second World War with Nazi Germany's assault on Poland.

Although the Anschluss constituted a military invasion by the Wehrmacht, no fighting took place, in part because of prior political pressure exerted by Germany, but primarily because of the well-planned internal overthrow by the Austrian Nazi Party of Austria's state institutions in Vienna on March 11, the day before German troops marched across the border. The international response to the Anschluss was moderate: the United Kingdom held to its policy of appeasement and did not enforce the World War I-ending Treaty of Versailles, which specifically prohibited any attachment of Austria and Germany. Austria ceased to exist as an independent nation until a preliminary Austrian government was finally reinstated on April 27, 1945, and was legally recognized by the allied nations in the following months.


Situation before the Anschluss

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The dissolution of Austria-Hungary

Main Article: German Empire; Austrofascism

The idea of Germany and Austria becoming one state had been the subject of inconclusive debate in both countries since the end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. Prior to 1866, it was generally thought that such an endeavour could only succeed under Austrian leadership, but the loss of the Austro-Prussian War by Austria allowed Otto von Bismarck to establish the Prussian-dominated German Empire in 1871 without the German-speaking parts of Austria-Hungary. When the latter broke up in 1918, many German-speaking Austrians hoped to join with Germany in the realignment of Europe, but the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of Saint-Germain of 1919 explicitly vetoed the inclusion of Austria within a German state, because France and Britain feared the power of a larger Germany.

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 and the Nazi's 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 the NSDAP 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 turbulences 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 latter 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 (First civil war in February and ban of all remaining parties except the CS) and evolved into a pseudo-fascist, corporatist 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 (see Austrofascism 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 rerum novarum) 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. Indeed, the statist corporatism often referred to as Austrofascism bore more resemblance to Italian Fascism than German 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 Axis.

When Chancellor Dollfuss was assassinated by the illegal Austrian Nazi party on 25 July 1934 in a failed coup, the second civil war within only one year followed, lasting until August 1934. After the failed Nazi coup, many leading Austrian Nazis fled to Germany and continued to coordinate their steps 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 1938). 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 camps.

The Anschluss of 1938

Hitler makes his first moves

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Alfred Jansa was forced to retire as Chief of Staff in January 1938

In early 1938 Hitler had consolidated his power in Germany and was ready to reach out to fulfil his long-planned expansion. After a lengthy period of pressure by Germany, Hitler met Schuschnigg on 12 February 1938 in Berchtesgaden (Bavaria) and instructed him to lift the ban of the Austrian Nazi party, 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 Nazi lawyer, as Interior Minister and another Nazi, Edmund Glaise-Horstenau, as Minister without Portfolio.Template:Ref

Even before the February meeting, Schuschnigg was under considerable pressure from Germany. This may be seen in the demand to remove the chief of staff of the Austrian Army Alfred Jansa from his office in January 1938. Jansa and his staff had developed a scenario for Austria's defence against a German attack, a situation Hitler wanted to avoid at all costs. Schuschnigg subsequently complied with the demand.Template:Ref

During the following weeks Schuschnigg realized that his newly appointed ministers were gradually working on taking over his authority. Schuschnigg tried to gather support throughout Austria and inflame patriotism 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 the Nazi's pressure on Austria. The socialists demanded further concessions from Schuschnigg before they were willing to side with him.

Schuschnigg announces a referendum

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Kurt Schuschnigg on the Time Magazine's Cover on March 21st 1938

On 9 March, as a last resort to preserve Austria's independence, Schuschnigg scheduled a plebiscite on the 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 plebiscite 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 publicly replied that the reports of riots were nothing but lies—as they actually were.

Hitler sent an ultimatum to Schuschnigg on 11 March, demanding that he hand over all power to the Austrian National Socialists or 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 Göring 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 were 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 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.Template:Ref

German troops march into Austria

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Propaganda even in the voting booth on 10 April 1938, with a poster instructing voters how to vote "Yes"
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Voting ballot from 10 April 1938. The ballot text reads "Do you agree with the reunification of Austria with the German Empire that was enacted on March 13 1938, and do you vote for the party of our leader Adolf Hitler?", the large circle is labelled "Yes", the smaller "No".

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 Army — on the contrary, the German troops were greeted by cheering Austrians. Although the invading forces were badly organized and coordination between the units was poor, it mattered little because no fighting took place. It did, however, serve as a warning for commanders in future German miliary operations such as that against Czechoslovakia. Curiously, the invasion claimed its first fatality within only a few hours: the Nazi Heinrich Kurz von Goldstein died of a heart attack during the celebrations in Salzburg.

Hitler's 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. The 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.

Hitler's further travel through Austria changed into a triumphal tour that climaxed in Vienna, when around 200,000 Austrians gathered on the Heldenplatz (Hero's Square) to hear Hitler proclaim the Austrian Anschluss (Video: Hitler proclaims Austria's inclusion in the Reich (2MB) ( 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.Template:Ref

The Anschluss was given immediate effect by legislative act on 13 March, subject to ratification by a plebiscite. Austria became the province of Ostmark, and Seyss-Inquart was appointed Governor. The plebiscite was held on 10 April and officially recorded a support of 99.73 % of the voters.Template:Ref While historians concur that the result itself was not manipulated, the voting process was not free or 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 addition, Hitler's brutal methods to emasculate any opposition had been immediately implemented in the weeks preceding the referendum. Even 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 und Franz Olah. During the weeks following the Anschluss (and before 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 referendum 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.Template:Ref Interestingly, in some remote areas of Austria the referendum on the independence of Austria on 13 March was held despite the Wehrmacht's 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 independence.Template:Ref

Austria remained part of the Third Reich until the end of World War II when a preliminary Austrian Government declared the Anschluss void and null on 27 April 1945. After the 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 policy.

Reactions and consequences of the Anschluss

Social Democrat Karl Renner publicly announced his support for the Anschluss
Social Democrat Karl Renner publicly announced his support for the Anschluss

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 violence. Cardinal Theodor Innitzer (a 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. Robert Kauer, President of the protestants 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.Template:Ref

The international response to the expansion of Germany may be described as moderate. The London Times commented by pointing to the fact 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 House of Commons:

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British appeasement policy led to the Treaty of Munich, the next major step for Hitler to create an all-German Reich
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 measured. 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 in. This is not a moment for hasty decisions or for careless words. We must consider the new situation quickly, but with cool judgment. . . . As regards our defense programs, 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 international situation. 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.Template:Ref

The lenient reaction to the Anschluss was the first major consequence of the strictly followed appeasement British foreign policy strategy. The international reaction on the events of March 12th 1938 led Hitler to conclude that he could use even more agressive tactics in his roadmap to expand the Third Reich, 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 appeasment as the right way for Britain to deal with Hitler's Germany.

Legacy of the 1938 Anschluss

The word

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Hitler accepts the ovation of the Reichstag after announcing the annexation of Austria

The precise character of the Anschluss remains a difficult essential to Austria's understanding of its history and the obligations it entails. The word is often simply given in English as "annexation", but this can be misleading without considering the other sense carried by this word. "Annektierung" means military annexation unambiguously. Although it also has the sense of "unification", it is distinct from Vereinigung, which is the basis of the word Wiedervereinigung (reunification) used to refer to the subsuming of the German Democratic Republic into the Federal Republic of Germany in 1990, and its additional meanings complicate this. It also means "connection" or "attachment" in both the sense of affiliation and of bringing together two physical bodies.

The appeal of Nazism to Austrians

The Anschluss can be misunderstood as simply a military annexation of an unwilling Austria, but this lends itself to confusion with other German military occupations of European countries. It also tends to conceal the culpability of many Austrians in Nazi crimes, most of all the Shoah, by perpetuating the myth of Austria as the first victim of Hitler's expansionism. Despite the subversion of Austrian political process by Hitler's sympathizers and associates in Austria, Austrian acceptance of direct government by Hitler's Berlin is a very different phenomenon from the administration of other collaborationist countries.

With the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1918, the small Republic of Austria was seen by many of its citizens as economically not viable, a feeling that was exacerbated by the Depression of the 1930s. In contrast the Nazi dictatorship apparently seemed to have found a solution to the economic crisis of the 1930s. Furthermore, the break-up had put Austria in an identity crisis, and many Austrians, both of the left and right, felt that Austria should be part of a larger German nation.

Politically Austria had not had the time to develop a firm democratic society to resist, in fact the final version of the constitution solely lasted from 1929 to 1933. The First Republic was ridden by violent strife between the different political camps; the Christian Social Party were complicit in the murder of large numbers of adherents of the decidedly left-wing Social Democratic Party by the police during the July Revolt of 1927. In fact with the end of democracy in 1933 and the establishment of Austrofascism Austria had already purged its democratic institutions and instituted a dictatorship long before the Anschluss. There is thus little to distinguish radically the institutions of at least the post-1934 Austrian government before or after March 12, 1938.

The members of the leading Christian Social Party were fervent Catholics, but not particularly anti-semitic. For instance Jews were not prohibited from exercising any profession, in sharp contrast to the Third Reich (many prominent Austrian scientists, professors and lawyers were Jewish at that time); in fact Vienna, with its Jewish population of about 200,000, was considered a safe haven from 1933 to 1938 by many Jews who fled Nazi Germany. However, the Nazis' anti-Semitism fell on fertile soil in Austria. Anti-Semitic elements had emerged as a force in Austrian politics in the late nineteenth century, with figures such as Georg Ritter von Schönerer and Karl Lueger who had influenced the young Hitler and in the 1930s, anti-Semitism was rampant, as Jews were an easy scapegoat for economic problems.

In addition to the economic appeal of the Anschluss, the popular underpinning of Nazi politics as a total art form (the refinement of film propaganda exemplified by Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will and mythological aestheticism of broadly conceived national destiny of the German people within a "Thousand-Year Reich") gave the Nazis a massive advantage in advancing claims to power. Moreover Austrofascism was less grand in its appeal than the choice between Stalin and Hitler to which many European intellectuals of the time believed themselves reduced by the end of the decade. Austria had effectively no alternative view of its historical mission when the choice was upon it. In spite of Dollfuss' and Schuschnigg's hostility to Nazi political ambitions, the Nazis succeeded in convincing many Austrians to accept in what they viewed as the historical destiny of the German people rather than continue as part of a distinct sovereign nation.

The Second Republic

The Moscow Declaration

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The Moscow Declaration of 1943, signed by the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China, 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.
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 affected 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 neighboring States which will be face 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 liberation.Template:Ref

To judge from the last paragraph and subsequent determinations at the Nuremberg 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.Template:Ref At Nuremberg Seyss-Inquart Template:Ref and Franz von Papen Template:Ref, 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. In acquitting von Papen, the court noted that his actions were in its view political immoralities but not crimes under its charter.

Austrian identity and the "victim theory"

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Heldenplatz, "Day of the Austrian legion," 2 April 1938

After World War II, many Austrians sought comfort in the myth 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 at political reform, factions of Austrian society tried for a long time to advance the view that the Anschluss was only an annexation at bayonet point.

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 Treaty 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 into East and West in Germany. 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 following decades.

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 Austrofascism and Austria's role in Nazism were largely avoided. Still, the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) has advanced and still sometimes advances the argument that the establishment of the Dollfuss dictatorship was necessary in order to maintain Austrian independence, while the Austrian Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) argues that the dictatorship stripped the country of the democratic resources necessary to repel Hitler.

Political events

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 protestor 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 Vergangenheitsbewältigung was the so-called Waldheim affair. The Austrian reply to revelations 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 Haider. Prior to his ascent to the party chairmanship of the FPÖ in 1986, that party had combined elements of the pan-German right with free-market liberalism. Several years of unhappy junior membership in a coalition with the SPÖ had brought discredit to the party's liberal elements. Among the most objectionable of Haider's political tactics is 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". Under his leadership the party progressively became a nationalist party at the expense of the exit of its liberal members (who subsequently formed the Liberal Forum). Its electoral rise in the 1990s at the expense of the ÖVP and SPÖ, and the international condemnation (see Wolfgang Schüssel) that met Austria when the party joined the governing coalition with the ÖVP in 2000 following its strong showing in the 1999 legislative election, once again inflamed a discussion of how Austrians see themselves and their historical heritage. This coalition triggered the regular Donnerstagsdemonstrationen (Thursday demonstrations) in protest against the government. It is almost certainly not a minor or accidental irony that the mass public protests took place on the Heldenplatz, where Hitler had greeting the masses during the Anschluss. But it is not Jörg Haider alone who has made questionable remarks on Austria's past: Jörg Haider's coalition partner the current Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel in an interview with the Jerusalem Post as late as 2000 stated that Austria was the first victim of Hitler-Germany.Template:Ref


Tearing into the simplism of the victim theory and the time of the Austrofascism, Thomas Bernhard's last play, Heldenplatz, 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. Many 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.Template:Ref

The Historical Commission and outstanding legal issues

In the context of the postwar Federal Republic of Germany, one encounters a Vergangenheitsbewältigung ("struggle to come to terms with the past") that has been partially institutionalized, variably in literary, cultural, political, and educational contexts (its development and difficulties have not been trivial; see, for example, the Historikerstreit). Austria formed a HistorikerkommissionTemplate:Ref ("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. Template:Ref 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 to be relative inattention to the settlement governing theSwiss 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 sick. Template:Ref

The Simon 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 seventies onwards. Its 2001 report offered the following characterization:

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-seventies.Template:Ref

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. Although 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. Anser 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 2005). Template:Ref

See Also


  1. Template:Note Until the German spelling reform of 1996, Anschluss was written Anschluß in German. (See also the article on ß.) In English-language typography and style conventions, "ß" was often transliterated as '"ss," making the spelling currently accepted in German a valid, if not predominant, option before 1996.
  2. Template:Note 1938: Austria (, MSN Encarta. (accessed June 10, 2005).
  3. Template:Note "Österreichs Weg zum Anschluss im März 1938 (," Wiener Zeitung, May 25, 1998 (detailed article the on the events of the Anschluss, in German).
  4. Template:Note Ibid.
  5. Template:Note Anschluss (, Spartacus Schoolnet (reactions on the Anschluss).
  6. Template:Note "Die propagandistische Vorbereitung der Volksabstimmung (," Austrian Resistance Archive, Vienna, 1988 (accessed June 10, 2005).
  7. Template:Note Ibid.
  8. Template:Note See note 2 above.
  9. Template:Note See note 2 above.
  10. Template:Note Neville Chamberlain, "Statement of the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, March 14, 1938 ("
  11. Template:Note Moscow Conference: Joint Four-Nation Declaration (, October 1943 (full text of the Moscow Memorandum).
  12. Template:Note Gerald Stourzh, "Waldheim's Austria (," The New York Review of Books 34, no. 3 (February 1987).
  13. Template:Note "Judgment, The Defendants: Seyss-Inquart (," The Nizkor Project.
  14. Template:Note "The Defendants: Von Papen (," The Nizkor Project.
  15. Template:Note Short note on Schüssel's interview in the Jerusalem Post (in german) (, Salzburger Nachrichten, November 11, 2000.
  16. Template:Note Thomas Bernhard (, Books and Writers (article on Bernhard with a short section on Heldenplatz).
  17. Template:Note Austrian Historical Commission (
  18. Template:Note Press statement on the report of the Austrian Historical Commission ( Austrian Press and Information Service, February 28, 2003
  19. Template:Note Hilberg interview with the Berliner Zeitung, ( as quoted by Norman Finkelstein's web site.
  20. Template:Note Efraim Zuroff, "Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals, 2001–2002 (," Simon Wiesenthal Center, Jerusalem (April 2002).
  21. Template:Note "Take action against Nazi war criminal Milivoj Asner (," World Jewish Congress, November 19, 2004.



  • Bukey, Evan Burr (1986). Hitler's Hometown: Linz, Austria, 1908-1945. Indiana University Press ISBN 0-253-32833-0.
  • Parkinson, F. (ed.) (1989). Conquering the Past: Austrian Nazism Yesterday and Today. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0814320546.
  • Pauley, Bruce F. (1981). Hitler and the Forgotten Nazis: A History of Austrian National Socialism University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807814563 .
  • Scheuch, Manfred (2005). Der Weg zum Heldenplatz: eine Geschichte der österreichischen Diktatur. 1933-1938. ISBN 3825877124.
  • Schuschnigg, Kurt (1971). The brutal takeover: The Austrian ex-Chancellor's account of the Anschluss of Austria by Hitler. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0297003216.
  • Stuckel, Eva-Maria (2001). Österreich, Monarchie, Operette, und Anschluss: Antisemtismus, Faschismus, und Nationalsozialismus im Fadenkreuz von Ingeborg Bachman und Elias Canetti.

Electronic articles and journals

  • Österreichs Weg zum Anschluss im März 1938 (," Wiener Zeitung, May 25, 1998 (detailed article the on the events of the Anschluss, in German).
  • Die propagandistische Vorbereitung der Volksabstimmung (," Austrian Resistance Archive, Vienna, 1988 (accessed June 10, 2005).
  • 1938: Austria (, MSN Encarta. (accessed June 10, 2005).
  • The Crisis Year of 1934 ( Buchner, A. From the Destruction of the Socialist Lager to National Socialist Coup Attempt (accessed June 10, 2005).

External links

da:Anschluss de:Anschluss (Österreich) fr:Anschluss it:Anschluss he:אנשלוס nl:Anschluss pl:Anschluss Austrii ru:Аншлюс sl:Anschluss sv:Anschluss


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