Austria

Alliance Axis - Minor Member Nation or Possession
Possessing Power Germany
Entry into WW2 1 Sep 1939
Population in 1939 6,653,000
Civilian Deaths in WW2 123,700
 - Civ Deaths from Holocaust 65,000

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

The end of WW1 saw the Empire of Austria-Hungary in defeat. The empire was broken up, and the areas where ethnic Germans resided became the new Republic of German Austria on 12 Nov 1918. The provisional constitution of this new republic noted, in its Article 2, that "German Austria is part of the German Republic", and certain areas of the new nation was strongly in favor of an annexation with Germany, but the victorious powers of France and Italy forced Austria to sign the Treaty of Saint Germain which prevented such a merger and renamed the nation Republic of Austria. Politics in Austria in the 1920s was volatile, characterized by the struggle between the left-wing and Marxist-leaning Social Democratic Party of Austria and the ruling right-wing Christian Socialist Party which had ties to industrialists and the Roman Catholic Church. In Mar 1933, taking advantage of a formal error during a parliament vote and the confusing situation that ensued, Engelbert Dollfuß declared an emergency and took over legislative powers, thus entering the nation into the Austrofascist era. On 12 Feb 1934, the Austrian Civil War began after the fascist regime attempted to conduct a forced search of the headquarters of the Social Democratic Party. On 1 May 1934, the Dollfuß government introduced a new constitution which abolished the freedom of press and established a one party system of government. On 25 Jul 1934, Dollfuß was assassinated during a failed coup by Austrian Nazi Party members, but his successor Kurt Schuschnigg continued to uphold the new constitution.

Born an Austrian, Adolf Hitler had wished to annex Austria since he assumed power. However, the Austrian constitution, which outlawed political parties other than the one in power, made pro-German political activities in Germany difficult despite the Nazi Party already had well-established power bases in Austria by the mid-1930s. On 12 Feb 1938, at his residence of Berghof near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria in southern Germany, Hitler asserted pressure on Schuschnigg, and Schuschnigg gave in, allowing the Nazi Party to operate in Austria and appointing Nazi Party members Arthur Seyß-Inquart and Edmund Glaise-Horstenau ministerial positions. As pressure continued to arrive from Germany, Schuschnigg announced that he would allow a national referendum to decide the fate of Austria. While British intelligence report estimated that only about 35% of the population supported an annexation with Germany, Austrian Nazi Party fabricated that over 80% wished to join Germany, but those against it were conducting a violent campaign to silence them; the Austrian Nazi Party also requested German troops to intervene and stop the violence. On 11 Mar 1938, Germany gave Austria an ultimatum: surrender or face an invasion. Seeing no sign of support from the United Kingdom or France, Schuschnigg resigned. On the following day, 12 Mar, German troops marched into Austria unopposed, occupying the nation. On 10 Apr, a referendum was held, and an overwhelming 99.73% of the population voted for a merger with Germany; this referendum was commonly believed to have been rigged. As what Germany called Anschluß (also anglicized as Anschluss) was effected, Austria ceased to exist as a nation.

During the war, the Austrian population in general acted as loyal citizens of the Nazi German Empire, including the implementation of anti-Semitic policies of the German government. At the time of the Anschluß, about 200,000 Jews lived in the capital of Vienna, with fewer in the countryside. Many of them began to suffer as early as 11 Mar 1938, the date that Germany gave Austria an ultimatum, when pro-German Viennese began drag Jews out into the open and beat them with clubs and fists, while others desecrated synagogues and looted Jewish-owned stores. During Krystallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass), which took place between 9 and 10 Nov 1938, 94 Viennese synagogues were damaged or destroyed, as well as countless Jewish-owned businesses and residences; the Krystallnacht marked the turning point where Nazi anti-Semitism transformed from rampant prejudice into the beginning of the Holocaust in Europe. Within the first 6 months of German occupation, about 45,000 Jews attempted to emigrate from Austria, but not all of the neighboring nations welcomed them; after the neighboring nations had complained to Germany of the unwelcomed influx of refugees, Germany recalled all Jewish passports on 5 Oct 1938. Without legal means to leave the Greater Germany, many Jews fell victim to the forced deportations of ghettos and concentration camps that came shortly. By the end of the war, 65,000 Austrian Jews would perish, which accounted for about half of civilian deaths in Austria during WW2.

In additions to the Jews, Austrian Catholics also suffered. State funding to the Catholic Youth Groups were cut in Oct 1938, and Archbishop of Salzburg Sigismund Waitz was placed under house arrest at around the same time; acts such as these ensured the Nazi German hold on power in Austria.

Despite general cooperation with the German occupation, resistance groups existed. Most of them were members of left-wing political parties.

On 28 Mar 1945, American troops set foot on Austrian soil. On 30 Mar, Soviet troops entered the former Austrian border, capturing Vienna on 13 Apr.

After the war, Austria was restored as a sovereign nation, but it was initially occupied by the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union from 9 May 1945, similar to the treatment of Germany at the same time. In the previous month, a new government headed by Karl Renner was established with the support of the Allies, leading Austria into an era named the Second Republic. The Allied occupation of Austria officially ended on 27 Jul 1955, and a truly independent Austria was restored for the first time since 1938.

Sources:
William Manchester, The Last Lion
Wikipedia

People

Brunner, AloisKaltenbrunner, ErnstSeyß-Inquart, Arthur
EgmontKutschera, FranzSkorzeny, Otto
Göth, AmonLöhr, AlexanderWiligut, Karl
Hitler, AdolfRosenfeld, Jacob

Events Taken Place in Austria

Annexation of Austria12 Mar 1938 - 10 Apr 1938
Meeting at Brenner Pass18 Mar 1938
First Vienna Arbitration2 Nov 1938
Soviet Demands on Romania and the Second Vienna Arbitration27 Jun 1940 - 30 Aug 1940
Discovery of Concentration Camps and the Holocaust24 Jul 1944 - 29 Apr 1945
Battle of Vienna2 Apr 1945 - 13 Apr 1945

Weapons

Schwarzlose MG M.07/12 Machine GunSteyr M1912 HandgunSteyr-Mannlicher M1895 Rifle

Facilities

Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration CampPrison Camp

Photographs

Adolf Hitler parading in Vienna in occupied Austria, 14 Mar 1938Seyß-Inquart, Hitler, Himmler, and Heydrich in Vienna, Austria, 1938Czechoslovakian Foreign Minister Frantisek Chvalkovsky, Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano, German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, and Hungarian Foreign Minister Kálmán Kánya at the First Vienna Arbitration, 2 Nov 1938German Army General Werner Kienitz speaking to recruits at the Heldenplatz in Vienna, Austria, 9 Dec 1938; note 7.5 le.IG 18 infantry guns on display
See all 17 photographs of Austria in World War II


Austria in World War II Interactive Map




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Austria in World War II Photo Gallery
Adolf Hitler parading in Vienna in occupied Austria, 14 Mar 1938
See all 17 photographs of Austria in World War II



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