Read this article to learn about the ‘annexation of Austria’ between the two world wars!
The treaties with Germany and Austria had prohibited the political union of the two countries. With the rise of Hitler to power, however, the danger of Germany annexing Austria had emerged.
A Nazi movement had also begun to grow in Austria with the aim of bringing about an Anschluss (union with Germany). During the early 1930s, Engelburt Dollfuss had established his dictatorship in Austria.
He suppressed the socialist and communist parties in Austria but he was also opposed to the union with Germany. He was supported by Mussolini, who till then was not allied to Germany and was pursuing his own independent great power ambitions.
In 1934, Dollfuss was assassinated, and Austrian Nazis tried to capture power through a putsch. There were violent clashes between the Nazis, and the communists and other anti-Nazis. The attempt at putsch failed Mussolini also moved his troops to the border with Austria, and Hitler, who was still not confident of Germany’s strength, decided not to intervene in Austria. By 1938, however, the situation had changed.
After the Italian conquest of Ethiopia and during the civil war in Spain, Italy and Germany had been drawn together through the Berlin-Rome Axis and the Anti-Comintern Pact. Hitler, with Mussolini’s connivance, marched his troops into Austria on 11 March 1938, and the Austrian Nazis captured power.
Hitler announced that German troops had been sent to Austria “to the help of these brother Germans in distress” who had been suffering under the misrule and oppression of the Austrian government.The Anschluss was achieved without any opposition from the Western powers, even though it was in total violation of the peace treaties.
Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was of the view that Germany’s eastward expansion and the satisfaction of Germany’s “just territorial demands” would save Western Europe and help in safeguarding peace.