THE last chapter of the story that is Austria began in November when Viscount Halifax, then Lord Privy Seal, visited Berlin and Berchtesgaden and told Hitler that Great Britain was not interested in Central Europe. Unfortunately, democratic leaders are not good poker players and do not know how to counter the bluff of the dictators by bluffing back. I am not saying that I believe that Halifax promised Germany a free hand in Central Europe; but his hesitation to commit himself on the Austrian question certainly was taken by Hitler as a proof of Great Britain's disinterestedness in the fate of Central Europe.
There was more than one reason, however, which caused Hitler to revise his former policy toward Austria. Ever since the autumn of 1935 he had been anxious to make certain of Italy's friendship and to accomplish this it had been necessary to "neutralize" the Austrian question, i.e. to leave it aside. He did not consider that this course really jeopardized the Nazi cause in Austria. Between the autumn of 1935 and the autumn of 1937 he repeatedly declared to friends, and even to visitors, that he did not need to take any special measures in Austria, because he was convinced that some day it would fall into his lap "like a ripe apple." This belief of Hitler's was prompted by wrong information given him by courtiers and flatterers who asserted that Austria was ninety percent Nazi, and that he had only to press a button to obtain the "Anschluss" whenever he thought the time propitious.
Why did Hitler change his mind ? The causes were the following:
1. He began to fear that the automatic Nazification of Austria might not be proceeding as well as he at first had imagined.
2. He was worried lest Great Britain's growing strength and the increasingly close coöperation between London and Paris might herald the end of the period of "cheap" adventures.
3. He felt that Germany for internal reasons required an ideological success, and he knew
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