The Anschluss - Elgin Academy

January 6, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: History, US History, World Wars And The Great Depression (1910-1945), Adolf Hitler
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The Anschluss March 12th 1938

What you need to know: The timeline of events leading up to the Anschluss. The events of the Anschluss The international response to the Anschluss The consequences of the Anschluss The reasons for and against Britain’s appeasement of Germany in March 1938

Background  Austria was banned from ever uniting with Germany as a result of the Treaty of Versailles as they had been allies in WW1. The allies did this to ensure such a powerful alliance could never form again.  The Austro-Hungarian Empire was also broken up.  Hitler’s foreign policy favoured union with Austria as it would mean all German speaking people united in one country. Hitler himself was also Austrian and had referred to the Anschluss several times in ‘Mein Kampf’

The Hossbach Memorandum. In November 1937 a series of meetings were held between Hitler, his war ministers and heads of the armed forces. General Hossbach took notes and these were found by American forces at the end of WW2. In the notes Hitler made several references to his expansion plans. These included Austria and Czechoslovakia. He said 1943-45 at the latest but the army should be prepared to move as early as 1938. He talked about how expansion would provide food, expand the army and improve the security of Germany’s borders.

The memo is considered important as it shows Hitler’s intent and shows he was willing to start expansion even as early as 1938.

1934  There was unrest in Austria at this time because the Austrian Nazi party was growing in popularity in the 1930’s (Austrian Party, but financed by German Nazi’s) The Austrian Nazi’s were running a campaign of violence and intimidation. The were deliberately trying to undermine the Austrian Government.  The Austrian Chancellor Dolfuss reacted to the trouble by banning both the Austrian Nazi Party and the Communist Party.  In July 1934 the Austrian Nazi’s attempted a coup d’etat and had Dolfuss assassinated.  Mussolini intervened he didn’t want Germany bordering Italy. He was also worried that Hitler would then demand some German speaking parts of Italy. He moved 100,000 troops to the Austrian border; forcing Hitler to back down.  Mussolini's intervention made it impossible for Hitler to do anything as the German army was not yet strong enough. He disowned the attempted coup and denied any involvement.

1938  In January 1938 the Austrian police raided Nazi headquarters and discovered plans to cause trouble and encourage a German invasion. As a result Schuschnigg banned Nazi party again.  Hitler was furious; a previous meeting had led to an agreement not to ban the Nazi party in Austria.  Hitler was also aware at this time that Mussolini was unlikely to intervene again as Italy and Germany's friendship had been strengthened by the Rome-Berlin Axis and the Spanish Civil War. Mussolini had also openly stated that he had no interest in preserving Austrian independence.

Schuschnigg – Hitler meeting Feb12th 1938  Hitler accused Schuchnigg of breaking the 1936 agreement and of persecuting Austrians.  He demanded the ban be lifted, imprisoned Nazi’s were to be released and leading Nazi’s were to be given key posts in the Austrian government.  As a result Artur Seyss-Inquart, the leader of the Austrian Nazi’s was given the job of Minister of the Interior – this role had control of the police forces within Austria.  He was now free to allow the Nazi’s to cause as much trouble as possible.

Anschluss – March 12th 1938  To try and regain control Schischnigg organised a plebiscite to ask if the population wanted to remain independent.  Hitler, through Seyss-Inquart, demanded the plebiscite be cancelled and threatened war.  Scuschnigg asked for British help but Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary refused.  Schuschnigg gave in and cancelled plebscite. He resigned on March 11th. Seyss-Inquart was appointed as Chancellor and Nazi’s invaded on 12th March. The pretext for the invasion was a request for help from SeyssInquart.  This, in the eyes of the outside world, made Germany’s actions seem legitimate.

The International response. Britain – Neville Chamberlain condemned the Anschluss and called on Hitler to withdraw. Some people in parliament and public called for action but most agreed appeasement was best. France – was technically without a govt the popular govt had resigned a week earlier. Ministers threatened to strengthen the army if Britain also responded, which it didn’t. France at this time were also reliant on the Maginot Line. L.O.N – Wasn’t even consulted after the failure of sanctions in Abyssinia.

Support for British Appeasement  Public opinion – “not one British soldier, not one penny of British money must be involved in a quarrel which is no concern of ours”.  Most people viewed Austrians as ‘ethnic Germans’  Plebiscite held in April showed majority of Austrian’s favoured the Anschluss – despite plebiscite being carried out through fear and intimidation.  “At Versailles we helped to create the situation which made it inevitable” (George Bernard Shaw)

 “This was not the moment to accept a challenge” (Chamberlain)  Britain didn’t have an army to take on Germany.  The coup was expected, just didn’t realise it would be by force.  British government at this point still hoped to remain friendly with Germany.  Military Chiefs warned of a world war as both Japan and Italy would intervene.  “Anschluss ends a disastrous period when league tried to deny Germans their national unity” (Lord Lothian)

 Don’t see what all the fuss is about” (Lord Tweedsmuir)  Geographically Britain couldn’t defend Austria.  China v Japan war was main British concern – resources were used up making sure empire was safe. Britain wouldn’t face up to Japan without US support and U.S isolationist policy made sure this was out of the question.  The foreign secretary Anthony Eden had resigned in protest at appeasement policy and had been replaced by Lord Halifax, known for his pro-appeasement attitude.

Economically Britain was not ready to pay for a major war. Rearmament was already threatening to destabilise the economy. Peace movements were still influential in Britain. British government never made clear the implications of the Anschluss so the British public were unaware. British public were not interested “an event in history about which nobody here seemed to care” (Duff Cooper)

The churches in Britain were still universally in favour of appeasement. Many labour politicians (including Attlee) were desperate to spend money on welfare not rearmament. Some still believed Hitler’s promises, “Hitler really is a great man” (Lloyd George) Many argued that the Anschluss should have happened long ago, and the T.o.V was wrong to have prevented it.

Arguments against appeasement in 1938.  Duff Cooper, Leo Amery, Anthony Eden and Churchill all called for action – Amery called for introduction of conscription, “the gravity of the event of March 12th cannot be exaggerated”  Trade Unions in Britain were bitter about Hitler’s victory.  The British communist party protested against appeasement.  Jewish groups voiced their concerns.  Some labour MP’s were against appeasement, “it’s the latest but it will not be the last, of the series of humiliating diplomatic defeats”  Hitler was breaking promises and had to be stopped.

The Consequences of the Anschluss  Germany’s population increased by 6.5 million people and had 100,000 extra soldiers.  Germany gained new resources of iron and steel.  Czechoslovakia was now outflanked on 3 sides.  Hitler’s gambling had once again paid off.  Success meant he was increasingly likely to do it again.  Great Britain, France and Italy had done nothing to stop him.  Small nations now had even less hope of gaining support or help from these countries.

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