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Placard of the plebiscite in 1938

The Anschluss, also known as the Anschluss Österreichs, was the 1938 de facto annexation[1] of Austria into Greater Germany by the National Socialist German government.

Austria was annexed to the German Third Reich on March 12, 1938. There had been several years of pressure from Germany and there were many supporters within Austria for the "Heim ins Reich"-movement.[2] Earlier, NS Germany had provided support for the Austrian National Socialist Party in its bid to seize power from Austria's Austrofascist leadership.

Fully devoted to remaining independent but under considerable pressure from both German and Austrian National Socialists, Austria's Chancellor 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 National Socialist Party of Austria's state institutions in Vienna took place on March 11, prior to the referendum which was cancelled.

With power quickly transferred over to Germany, Wehrmacht troops entered Austria to enforce the Anschluss. The troups were greeted enthusiastically by the majority of the Austrian Germans, and the Germans, tired from the long route where touched by the expressions of love and thanks for freeing. The Germans 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 vote in favor. The Anschluss was seen by the people of both Austria and Germany as the unification of the German people, a right denied by the Treaty of Versailles and St. Germain.

National Socialist police units being greeted with salutesAustrians welcoming the Anschluss

Although the Allies were committed to upholding the terms of the treaties of Versailles and St. Germain, which specifically prohibited the union of Austria and Germany, their reaction was only verbal and moderate. It is also strange, that foreigns want to decide and even dictate about matters, that they have nothing to do with. No fighting ever took place and even the strongest voices against the annexation, particularly Italy, France and the United Kingdom (the "Stresa Front") remained at peace.

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, it was Hitlers land of birth and his homeland. Already prior to the 1938 uniting, the Rhineland was remilitarized and the Saar region was returned to Germany after 15 years of occupation through a plebiscite. After the Anschluss, the predominantly German Sudetenland the artifical state Czechoslovakia was taken, with the rest of the country becoming a protectorate of Germany in 1939. That same year, Memelland was returned from Lithuania, the final peaceful territorial aggrandizement before the unfortunate start of World War II.

Austria was part of Germany 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.


  2. Willian L. Shirer (1984). Twentieth Century Journey, Volume 2, The Nightmare Years: 1930-1940. Boston, U.S.A.: Little, Brown & Company. ISBN 0-316-78703-5 (v. 2). 
Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.
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