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NAZI Germany is determined to incorporate little Austria into the Reich. Were it a democratic Germany, one could hardly advance a weighty argument against its efforts: union would be the clear fulfilment of the wish of two sister nations. But Hitler's Reich belongs to a Party which persecutes Jews and Roman Catholics; and although in Austria today there undoubtedly is oppression of those who hold views different from those of the government, the advent of Nazi rule would expose as many as a million persons to ruthless persecution merely because they are devout Roman Catholics or happen to be Jews, or because they are democrats, socialists or communists.
The direct Nazi assault on Austria in July 1934 failed. It had been arranged with too much revolutionary élan. Both in Germany and among the Nazis in Austria there was over-confidence and a failure to take account of realities. The plan was to capture Austria by fomenting a revolution from within, all of it so arranged that it should appear to the world as an outburst of domestic unrest. Money and propaganda flowed across the frontier under the direction of Dr. Josef Goebbels. Bomb outrages planned from Munich kept the population in constant terror. German agents, equipped with plenty of money, organized the Nazi storm troops. Groups of dissatisfied Austrian youths were spirited across the frontier and enlisted in the so-called "Austrian Legion," there to be trained by German military drill sergeants in readiness to hurry to the "aid" of the brethren at home whenever revolution should break out in Vienna or in the western provinces.
The failure of the Nazi putsch of July 25, 1934, did not end German hopes for the conquest of Austria. Habicht, the "Landes-Inspecteur" for the Austrian "Gau," who was the soul of the putsch, was allegedly thrown over. Hitler hurriedly sent ex-Chancellor von Papen as his Special Ambassador to Vienna. Von Papen spoke indignantly of "that individual" Habicht and diligently waved the olive branch. In reality, he was commissioned to continue by persuasion and intrigue what Habicht had failed to attain by terror and crude Prussian force. His task has been facilitated by the simple-mindedness of Austrian governmental methods. Instead of seeking reconciliation with the defeated Austrian Socialists, the sworn enemies alike of German Naziism and of Italian Fascism, Schuschnigg (following the lead of Dollfuss) attempted to take the wind from the Nazi sails by an imperfect imitation of Nazi methods. To this the Nazis rightly reply, "But we could do it much better and more thoroughly. . . ."
The Pan-German ideal, and its present incarnation, National Socialism, both had their cradle in the old Austrian Empire.
For many centuries the Hapsburg Emperors in Vienna ruled over the bulk of the German race. In the days of the Holy Roman Empire, however, there was no need for a Pan-German movement. In that conglomeration of nationalities, compounded of Germans, Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, South Slavs, Italians, Dutchmen and Spaniards, the Teutonic element always played the leading rôle. The Holy Roman Empire came to an end in 1806, after a thousand years of life, nearly 600 of them under Hapsburg and Austrian rule. But following the fall of Napoleon, 39 German states came together in the Deutscher Bund under the leadership of Hapsburg Austria. It lasted until the defeat of Austria by the Prussians at Sadowa in 1866.
For over six hundred years, then, the Germans of Austria played the leading rôle in the German world. The collapse of the Deutscher Bund found them quite unwilling to abandon their traditional predominance. The result was the rise of a German Nationalist movement in Austria. It began in 1867 under the banner of such democratically-minded persons as Georg von Schoenerer, Engelbert Pernstorfer and Victor Adler. A strange team! A few years later Schoenerer was to become the founder of the pro-Hohenzollern, Pan-German and anti-Semitic movement which was the forerunner of Hitlerism. Victor Adler was to become the founder of the Austrian Social Democratic movement. Until 1932, that is until the rise of Hitler, it remained Pan-German in its orientation.
Georg von Schoenerer's program -- Pan-German, anti-Semitic, "Los-von-Rom" -- influenced Hitler's mentality at least indirectly. The Schoenerer family castle stood at Rosenau, in the Waldviertel part of Lower Austria, only seven miles distant from the village of Spittal where the family of Adolf Hitler had lived for centuries. Adolf's father, Alois, was the village cobbler. Schoenerer's demagogic campaign in the seventies and eighties of the last century, which had a sweeping success both in the German parts of Bohemia and Moravia and in this Waldviertel region, could not have failed to touch him. And when, with the help of his first wife's money, he succeeded in preparing for a civil service examination and became a customs' official, he undoubtedly took some of his Pan-German and anti-clerical creed with him. First he went to Braunau, and later to Leonding. The innkeeper's wife in Leonding, Frau Wiesinger, in whose arms Alois Hitler died, told me that only a few minutes before he suddenly died she offered him two newspapers, but that he refused them with the remark: "They are black!" (meaning Clerical).
Schoenerer had committed the mistake of trying to recruit his followers chiefly from the ranks of the upper bourgeoisie. Not till the end of the eighties did one Vogel, a printer in Bruex, Bohemia, make an attempt to organize the workers on a Pan-German platform; and even so the movement failed to receive any real impetus until at the beginning of the present century two interesting new men brought it fresh life. They were Dr. Walter Riehl, a lawyer and government attorney, and Rudolf Jung, a railway engineer.
Riehl, who had started life as a Social Democrat, made the acquaintance of Jung in 1903 in Reichenberg, Bohemia. Riehl was a candidate for the post of judge; Jung was in the service of the State Railways. Together the two launched an energetic movement for a new labor organization along Pan-German and anti-Semitic lines. On October 31, 1909, they convened in Prague the first All-Austrian conference of the "United German Workers' Federation." Riehl's political program was not smiled upon by the judges of the courts in which he practised and he had to leave the government service; nor were Jung's government employers pleased by his Pan-German activities, with the consequence that he was transferred to Iglau. There Jung made the acquaintance of Hans Knirsch, the man who was to become the third of the triumvirate which founded the National Socialist Party in Austria, and hence indirectly in Germany. In November 1910 they launched what they called the "Deutschsoziale Arbeiterpartei." It made such progress that at the general elections to the Austrian Reichsrat in 1911 it obtained three seats.
The next step was the elaboration of a party program. This was done at a meeting in Iglau in 1913. The essence of the program, marking an important milestone in the history of National Socialism, was as follows: "The party is the representative of the working class of the German people. We are separated from the dogmas of passionate class warfare, however, by our voelkische (racial) ideal, and by our realization of the fact that in a state like Austria where nationalities are mixed the German workers must demand national citizenship as a matter of self-preservation. Our motto must be: 'Work in German districts only for German workers!'" The idea of international workers' organizations was rejected. The party was against social and political reaction, and declared that it would combat all mediæval, clerical and capitalistic privileges as well as all fremdvoelkische (anti-racial) influences, "especially the ever-increasing Jewish spirit in public life." In 1916 the party took the name "Deutsch-Socialistische Arbeiter-Partei," and in May 1918 the name "Deutsche National Socialistische Arbeiter Partei" (D.N.S.A.P.). About that time Dr. Riehl chose the Hakenkreuz, or swastika, as the emblem of the movement, taking it from the Baltic freebooters of von der Goltz who wore it as a decorative badge on their helmets.
After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy the Sudeten-Germans were separated from the Germans of Austria proper. As a result the D.N.S.A.P. was split into two parts, one in Czechoslovakia, one in the new Austrian Republic. To counteract this event an "Inter-State National Socialist Office for the German-Language Territories" was established in Vienna under the chairmanship of Dr. Riehl. The Sudeten-Germans were represented in it by Jung, Knirsch and Hans Krebs. In Germany there were then only the beginnings of similar movements -- one in Duesseldorf under the leadership of an engineer named Brunner, another under Julius Streicher in Nueremberg, another in Munich under an iron-turner named Anton Drexler.
The first important Inter-State National Socialist Convention took place on December 13, 1919. By that time the Munich leaders, Anton Drexler, and his propaganda chief, a house painter named Adolf Hitler, were already in correspondence with Dr. Riehl's organization. Another link between the German and Austrian movements was furnished by the fact that an early collaborator with Drexler and Hitler, the first President of the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, Herr F. Harrer, was a journalist well acquainted with the ideology of the Austrian movement, especially in its Sudeten-German form. On February 6, 1920, Dr. Riehl sent an invitation to Drexler asking the Germans to cooperate with the Inter-State movement. This letter undoubtedly was responsible for the fact that the German National Socialist Party -- N.S.D.A.P. -- was founded two weeks later, that is, on February 24, 1920.
In a letter to Dr. Riehl shortly thereafter (March 1, 1920), Drexler and Hitler explained that their organization regarded as imperative the complete union of all German tribes, "without regard to present State connections." They wrote: "Our aim is to give the German nation the position in the world which is due it on the basis of its culture and size; and this cannot be achieved until the present separation between the German tribes is eliminated, until our people is united. As far as negotiations are concerned, Herr Adolf Hitler comes into consideration on our behalf. He is co-signatory of this letter, and he is a native of Austria. Herr Hitler is the Werbeobmann of our local grouping of the party." There follows a discussion of the advisability of establishing a center for the organization. The letter then explains that the fight against Berlin is tactical, and concludes: "We wish to reaffirm that our Fatherland is called neither Prussia nor Bavaria, neither Austria nor Saxony, but Germany." Though Drexler was then chief of the party, the style of the letter reveals Hitler's authorship. And at the next Inter-State party meeting (Salzburg, August 16, 1920) he appeared as Germany's representative.
The close connection between Austrian and German National Socialism continued until 1923. Hitler frequently visited Austrian National Socialist meetings, as well as Inter-State assemblies. His last appearance at an Inter-State party meeting was in Salzburg in August 1923. At this meeting came his breach with Riehl. The question under discussion was the attitude which the Austrian National Socialists should adopt in the coming Austrian elections. Riehl believed that the National Socialists should participate in the elections and win their way to power through legal means. Adolf Hitler was for abstention and an armed putsch. Hitler's ideology was accepted and Riehl resigned (September 15) both as Chairman of the Inter-State bureau of the National Socialists and as President of the Austrian D.N.S.A.P.
Seven weeks later Adolf Hitler made the famous Munich "beerhouse" putsch. It was a fiasco. The failure in Munich brought disaster across the frontier in Austria. The Austrian party broke up and remained insignificant until Hitler secured his first great victory in September 1930. That success was gained not with arms but by the Riehl method of seeking power through the ballot which Hitler had scorned and refused to approve for Austria in 1923.
In the intervening seven years, from 1923 to 1930, Austrian National Socialism remained without significance. The thinned ranks were divided into two camps, one looking to Hitler, the other following Riehl. But when Hitler obtained his six million votes in the German elections of September 1930, there was a galvanic reaction. Alfred Eduard Frauenfeld, a thirty-year-old clerk employed in the Vienna Bodenkreditanstalt, undertook to reorganize the Hitler wing of the Austrian movement. When the bank failed and he lost his job, Frauenfeld began devoting all his energies to the task and succeeded in enormously increasing the party following. Within three years the membership in Vienna rose from 300 to 40,000. Each fresh victory of Hitler in Germany provoked an increase in the number of National Socialists in Austria; and in the spring of 1933 Frauenfeld felt confident that within a few weeks the power in Austria would fall almost automatically into his lap. When I asked him at that time what he intended to do in case the Dollfuss Government offered resistance, he answered that he was prepared to seize power by force, i.e. by a putsch. I asked: "Have you sufficient rifles to carry through an armed change of government?" Frauenfeld answered: "No, we have no arms here; but we can have as many as we want sent across the frontier at Kufstein at an hour's notice."
This was a gross miscalculation. As soon as the Austrian régime realized the danger of a Nazi putsch, the regular army, police, and irregular forces (Starhemberg's Heimwehr, Schuschnigg's Sturmscharen, etc.) were increased to the point where they could prevent the smuggling of arms from Germany. If Frauenfeld had been a more experienced politician he probably would have foreseen this. Nor was much more understanding shown by Habicht, a Nazi deputy in the German Reichstag who since 1933 had resided at Linz, in Upper Austria, as Landes-Inspecteur of the Austrian Nazis. It was the lack of arms which defeated the Austrian Nazis when the crucial moment came in July 1934.
The putsch gave an excuse for the Austrian Government to start a wholesale persecution of the Nazis. The party organization, formerly very thorough, was broken up; Nazi officials were eliminated from the government offices; and the army and the police were purged as nearly as possible of Nazi cells. As a result, although idealistically the Nazis still remain strong, their attempts to organize a cohesive new party have so far failed. The leading Nazi functionaries, Frauenfeld and Proksch, are living as exiles in Munich and Berlin; Habicht, too, is back in Prussia. The bulk of the 17,000 other young Austrian Nazis who sought refuge in Germany are enlisted in the so-called Austrian Legion.
We know the rôle of Hitler since 1933. What has happened to those other Austrians who stood with him about the cradle of National Socialism? Dr. Walter Riehl, the real spiritual father of National Socialism, is a practising lawyer in Vienna. He lives in comparative poverty because he still defends Nazis before the courts more for idealistic than financial reasons. His political influence at the moment is almost nil. He is hated by Hitler, who never forgives those who contradict him. And his requests to be permitted to organize a "nationalist" group (German Nationals) within the Fatherland Front have always been firmly rejected by Dr. Schuschnigg.
Rudolf Jung and Hans Krebs, the two Sudeten-Germans who were co-founders with Dr. Riehl of the Austrian National Socialist movement, have fared somewhat better. Last year, when the German National Socialist Party in Czechoslovakia was dissolved, and the law for the more efficient defense of the realm made possible the suppression of the German Nazis in Czechoslovakia, Krebs boarded a small canoe on the Elbe and floated by night down the river until he reached German territory. Jung too escaped to Germany. At the recent elections in February 1936 both were elected members of the German Reichstag.
Of the Germans who collaborated most closely with Hitler in the early days, Herr Harrer died many years ago. Anton Drexler, the iron-turner, who was the head of the Munich branch of the party of which Hitler was the propaganda chief, is living in Munich, forgotten and in poverty, probably philosophizing about the gratitude of men whom one helps to greatness.
Let me add a short postscript to round out the story of Hitler's Austrian connections. With the exception of his stepsister, Frau Angela Raupal, who recently married a German professor and keeps house for Hitler at Obersalzburg, all his relatives live in Austria. His only sister, Paula Hitler, the image of her eight-years-older brother, lives in modest circumstances in Vienna. His aunt, Frau Theresa Schmidt, his mother's only sister, lives with her four sons and two daughters in the ancestral village of Spittal. The graves of Hitler's father and mother are in the church yard of Leonding in Upper Austria.