1938: Anschluss with Austria


  • On March 11, Hitler believed that Germany had nothing to fear if they united with Austria.

  • Hitler wished to practice his policy of a united Germany with Austria, who were German speaking.

  • Many people in Austria supported this idea as their country's economy was weak. They believed that unification with Germany would make them stronger.

  • In early 1938, Hitler had encouraged Austrian Nazis to stir up trouble and stage demonstrations and riots across the country. They called for unification with Germany. In a meeting with the Austrian Leader, Kurt Schuschnigg, Hitler told him that the crisis would only be resolved if he accepted the anschluss with Germany.

  • He reluctantly agreed, however in a last-minute attempt, he called a referendum for the people to decide whether to unite with Germany. Hitler, worried that the Austrians would vote against the Anschluss, forced Schuschnigg to resign, appointing the leader of the Austrian Nazis in his place.

Why was it a success overall?

  • In the elections, voters were watched over by German soldiers and 99.75% of Austrians voted for the unification with Germany.

  • This meant that Austria's army, weapons, rich deposits of valuable ores and resources were added to Germany's growing Army and industry.

  • Hitler had been sure that Mussolini would not oppose him, as they had formed the Rome-Berlin Axis, making them allies.

  • Hitler knew that only Britain and France would be able to oppose him, but was confident that both nations would not take any actions against Germany due to their policy of appeasement.

  • After they failed to take action as Germany had broken yet another term of the Treaty, it had become clear that Britain and France were unlikely to react as Hitler followed his policy and reversed the Treaty of Versailles.

How did Britain react?

  • Britain strongly condemned Germany, however was in no position to take major action and start a war.

  • Many in the British public supported the policy of appeasement, therefore they were in no position to fight against German-Austrian unification, especially as many people in Austria also supported Anschluss, so the British believed the anschluss was reasonable.

      • However, there were few in Britain that opposed appeasement, most notably Winston Churchill who was Lord of the Admiralty in command of the navy at the time.

  • As a result of the Anti-Comintern Pact, Britain was unwilling to risk war with Germany as it could lead to Japan and Italy taking action against Britain.

How did France react?

  • Although condemning Germany's actions, France was in a state of political turmoil, its entire government had resigned after failing to secure support for its plans for dealing with the country’s economic problems.

  • Although Anschluss was a clear breach of the Paris peace settlement- France was in no position to react to Germany’s takeover of Austria, especially without the support of Britain.