German Austria and Nazi Germany

Courtesy Reuters

EVERYBODY who knows the history of modern Europe is well aware that for centuries the dynamic forces centering in the Hapsburg dominions have affected the peace and political progress of the whole continent. Curiously -- but undeniably -- the little federal state of Austria created by the Paris peace treaties continues, despite its political, economic and military weakness, to occupy this pivotal position.

In 1919 the peacemakers laid down a veto against the union of the German Reich with small but purely German Austria. This veto went against the desire of seemingly strong currents of popular opinion in both countries. Consequently, during the first decade after the World War the problem of the "Anschluss" of the old Austrian "hereditary lands" with the German national empire preoccupied the cabinets both of the Great Powers and of the new Succession States. It became, in fact, a crucial problem in Central European politics. The transformation of Germany into the National Socialist "Third Empire" and Hitler's tremendous propaganda for the outright annexation of Austria changed the situation, but it did not diminish the importance of the Austrian question in European politics.

The successful defense of Austria against the attempts of Hitler's Austrian adherents to get into power and effect annexation was to a large extent the work of two men: Chancellor Ignaz Seipel and Engelbert Dollfuss, his successor and faithful disciple. Their clear vision and energy changed the course of postwar Austrian and German history. And in the decisive hour a third man, the President of the Republic, Wilhelm Miklas, acted judiciously for the safeguarding of Austrian independence.

The defense of that independence during the first years of the peace had been the coöperative work of the two great parties inherited from the old imperial Parliament, the Social Democratic Party and the Christian Social (or Catholic) Party. There is no doubt that the political craft of Dr. Seipel as the leader of the Christian Social Party was the chief factor in maintaining order and peace

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