From his earliest years, Adolf Hitler had dreamed of creating a German Greater Reich, where all ethnic Germans would live in one unified nation. This became a particularly pressing matter for Hitler after the Treaty of Versailles had stripped Germany of much land and territory after World War One. For several years before the Anschluss, pressure had been heaped upon the Austrian government by both Austrians and Germans, not all of whom were supporters of the Nazi Party. The Nazi Party in Germany had also supported the Austrian Nazi Party in a bid to take power from the Austrofascist leadership. Eventually the Austrian Chancellor, Kurt Schuschnigg, decided to hold a referendum for the Austrian population to vote for autonomy or to become part of the German Reich. On 11th March 1938, however, the Austrian Nazi Party pulled a successful coup d’état; the referendum was cancelled and the Austrian Nazi Party handed all powers over to Germany.
On 12th March, Wehrmacht soldiers entered Austria to enforce the Anschluss; they were greeted with cheering, smiling Austrians, throwing flowers at them. In April, the Nazis held their own referendum for the Austrian people to ratify the decision; they claimed that 99. 756% of the vote was in favour of the Anschluss. Although Germany had breached the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, no Allied country took direct action to stop the Anschluss. Even those who opposed the annexation – primarily Fascist Italy, France and Great Britain – were moderate in their criticism of Germany’s actions, and there was certainly no military confrontation. From March 1938, the Republic of Austria ceased to exist as an independent state. Full sovereignty was not granted to the country again until 1955.
Nazis Take Austria
The History Place
ANSCHLUSS AND WORLD WAR II
New World Encyclopedia
Photos: Adolf Hitler Visits Vienna, March 1938
The Third Reich in Ruins