Politico-economic causes of the anschluss
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When World War I ended in 1918, Austria-Hungary, a dual-monarchy embracing a heterogeneous assortment of peoples, found itself in the process of breaking up. Hungarian Magyars and Austrian Germans had dominated, under the empire, a conglomerate miscellany of people ranging from Poles and Czechs to Ruthenians and Croats. These peoples seized the dual-monarchy's reverses in World War I as an opportunity to establish their independence. Three entirely new states were carved out of the old domain, and large portions went to four other nations. One of the new states was Austria itself, core of the former empire and seat of its onetime capital, Vienna. The new Austria constituted herself a republic and set off on what was to be a turbulent twenty years of independence. The Treaty of Saint Germain gave Austria only one-seventh of the land of the old dual monarchy, and, for some time, it seemed that Austria could not exist, economically, under these circumstances. It was as if Austria's head had been cut off from her body, leaving the body with regenerative powers and the ability to grow new heads, but with no way for the old, giant head to develop new members. Gradually this condition was alleviated, and, through two League loans and strenuous efforts on the part of the Austrians themselves, the economic condition of the country became, in some ways, more healthy than it had ever been before. Meanwhile, amidst the anarchy following the war and the economic disruptions appearing in the war's wake, the Austrians turned to Anschluss-union with Germany as a cure for all their ills. This step, however, was forbidden by the Treaty of Saint Germain, but Anschluss agitation continued throughout the interwar period. Thus, while Austria regained her economic health, she never achieved a robust political life. Austria was torn between the right and the left, the forces of the right being those of the Christian Socialist party and the left, those of the Social Democrats. Both parties espoused policies which predisposed Austria for Anschluss as it finally came--in the form of Hitlerian invasion in 1938. The Socialists fought for Anschluss itself, fomenting Austrian pan-Germanism and keeping alive an issue which was to attract many Austrians to the Nazi party. The Christian Socialists resorted to faqcist methods of government , less severe but similar to those of Germany. Although the two parties cooperated in the postwar crisis of 1919 and 1920 and although the suppressed Socialist leadership affirmed its willingness to defend Austria against Germany shortly before the 1938 Anschluss, the parties did not, seemingly could not, cooperate between 1920 and 1938. Conflict between them became so bitter that in 1934 it finally erupted in civil war, and the Socialists were effaced from Austrian political life. Thus, Austria faced Germany irrevocably divided and fatally unprepared, spiritually, to combat the Nazi menace. In addition to the intransigence of the parties, Austria's interwar life was also rent with unhealthy political and social manifestations--anti-Semitism, militarism, fascism. Anti-Semitism in Austria was in many ways as virulent as in Germany itself, and, while Austria had no territorial ambitions she was nevertheless militaristic--witness her eight interwar paramilitary organizations which engaged in bloody weekend romps. When Germany marched in on March 11, 1938, Austria already had a fascist government, a milder one, it is true, than the tight dictatorship in Germany, but nevertheless one not responsible in any way to the Austrian electorate. Austrians as a whole were pan-German, as the continuing interwar popularity of Anschluss exhibited and as did the Teutonic consciousness of many who did not espouse Anschluss and who hated Nazism. It is true of course that even had Austria been politically and socially sound, she would have been unable, ultimately, to defend herself against Hitler. Her final doom came with the rise of an aggressive Nazi Germany and with the failure of the West--which had demanded her abstinence from Anschluss at Saint Germain and made it a condition of League loans--to defend Austrian independence in 1938. Hitler's Anschluss, then, was inevitable. It came to a people who had unwittingly prepared for it and who, when it came, no longer wanted it.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University, 1950