The Downside of Imperial Collapse
When Empires or Great Powers Fall, Chaos and War Rise
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 that a hungry people living on substitutes could be electrified into a new period of life by the fulfillment of Article One of the Nazi program: the inclusion of the Austrian Germans within Germany.
4. His nostalgia for his Austrian home was increasing day by day, as also was Goering's (few people realize that Goering's entire youth was connected with Austria).
5. He knew that Italian defenses on the Brenner were depleted as a result of Mussolini's Mediterranean commitments and the large Italian forces kept in Spain, Lybia and Abyssinia.
6. Goering, through his intimate connection with Guido Schmidt, Austrian Foreign Minister, realized that Chancellor Schuschnigg's zeal to defend Austrian independence and the interests of the Roman Catholic Church was no longer quite so ardent as in the days before the death of his wife, the change being due to a division between his allegiance to those patriotic and spiritual causes and the love of a lady.
7. Germany had watched with satisfaction the conflict between the partisans of Halifax and Eden, and was ready to utilize the animosity shown by Eden's followers and by the British Left against Italy to favor her own expansionist aims.
8. France was passing through a major crisis, and Germany hoped this crisis would become even worse.
9. The visit of Lord Halifax to Berchtesgaden on November 17, 1937, left Hitler with the impression that England would not interfere if Germany occupied Austria, and that she would dissuade France from going to the help of Austria.
The first ominous signs that plans to speed up the incorporation of Austria in Germany were really in the heads of German leaders were noticed during an interview which the French Ambassador in Berlin, M. François-Poncet, had with Baron von Neurath, Reich Minister of Foreign Affairs, just before Christmas 1937. In those days the French feared that Italy entertained certain ambitions in Tunisia, and the French Ambassador expressed his fears that some untoward Italian action in North Africa might cause complications which would involve all the major European countries in a dangerous conflagration. Baron von Neurath assured Ambassador François-Poncet that Germany would see to it that Italy did not start any such dangerous enterprise. But at the end of the long conversation, which touched on various European subjects, Baron von Neurath said: "I must add that Germany cannot any longer watch idly the sufferings of our co-nationalists in Austria." This was Germany's first official intimation to France that she intended to undertake some action -- the nature of which remained undefined -- about Austria.
And indeed the beginning of January 1938 brought signs of renewed Nazi activities in Austria. The center of these activities was the so-called "Committee of Seven" which had its headquarters in Vienna, at number 4 Theinfaltstrasse. This committee had been constituted a year earlier, as a result of the July 11, 1936, agreement between Hitler and Schuschnigg, for the purpose of incorporating the "emphatically national" groups (i.e. camouflaged Nazis) in the Fatherland Front, Schuschnigg's monopolistic political group. To serve the same purpose, two government commissars were appointed by Schuschnigg to facilitate the entry of the Nazis into the government camp, namely Dr. Arthur Seyss-Inquart and Dr. A. Pembauer, a Tyrolese Pan-German, who set up his office in the headquarters of the Fatherland Front. The chief members of the Committee of Seven were Captain Josef Leopold, the real leader of the illegal Nazis, Dr. Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Dr. Hugo Jury, a well-known Nazi, Dr. Josef Mannlicher, and Dr. Oswald Menghin, a Professor of Vienna University. The secretary was a Sudeten German, Dr. Leopold Tavs. But instead of preparing the way for the Nazis to enter the government organization, the Committee concentrated on promoting the illegal Nazi movement, and its headquarters in the Theinfaltstrasse became the real seat of Nazi agitation in Austria. Many of its members had great influence in government offices, and whenever a Nazi of some importance was arrested by the police the committee made use of its political connections to liberate him from prison.
In the middle of January 1938 the Austrian police were on the track of a plot which originated in the headquarters of this Committee and which had as its object the overthrow of the existing Austrian régime. The Austrian police, in the true Metternich tradition, always maintained their spies in all illegal movements. These spies apparently had access to the Theinfaltstrasse office. But though the police were cognizant of the existence of such a plot since early in the present year, they intervened only when very full incriminating material had been collected. Dr. Leopold Tavs was arrested in the third week of January, and Captain Leopold, the real leader of the illegal Nazis and a personal friend of Hitler, was interrogated at great length. After an all-night interrogation, however, Leopold was released. "Why make a martyr of one of Hitler's friends when we can hold the real author of the plan for a putsch?" explained a high official when I expressed surprise at Leopold's release.
The plan for a putsch as elaborated by Dr. Leopold Tavs calculated on making another "Reichstag Fire" in Vienna. A crowd of Nazi agents provocateurs were to attack the German Embassy, in the Metternichgasse, and a shot was to be fired on the German Military Attaché, General Muff. Blame for the shooting affray was to be put by the Nazi propaganda machinery on the shoulders of the Legitimists, and in particular on a certain Walter Leibuscher, a strange man who at that time was playing an important rôle in the Legitimist movement. This Leibuscher, after having taken part in the illegal Nazi movement in Austria in the year 1934, escaped to Germany where he served in the Austrian Legion. Two years later he returned. Some suspected that from the beginning he had been an agent of the Austrian authorities sent to Germany to find out all about the Legion. It is impossible yet to make a final judgment about his rôle. But in any case he returned to Austria and there published a well-documented pamphlet about life in the Austrian Legion which was used by the Fatherland Front as anti-Nazi propaganda. Later he joined the Legitimists, and, according to a statement which he made to me, he was the bodyguard of Archduke Felix, a brother of "Emperor" Otto, at that time a pupil in the Military Academy at Wiener-Neustadt. In any case, the Germans believed Leibuscher more important than he actually was, and wanted to push onto him the blame for the projected shooting of General Muff.
This shooting by an alleged Legitimist was to create such indignation in Germany, and would be such an affront to the German Army, that, in the opinion of Tavs, the Army would agree that armed intervention was justified.
Apparently the Tavs plan was submitted to Heinrich Himmler, minister in control of the police in Germany. According to my information, Himmler exclaimed when he heard it: "But why shoot such a decent man as Muff? He is almost a Nazi! Instead, let's kill two birds with one stone. We shall make an attempt on Papen, which will have the double result of getting rid of that intriguer and at the same time of creating a major incident." He further is supposed to have suggested that the blame might be laid both on the Legitimists and on the Communists, proving the complicity of the Austrian Monarchists in a Bolshevik plot!
The plan was that when the putsch occurred the commander of the Munich army corps, General von Reichenau, who was known to be in complete sympathy with Nazi schemes, should promptly march his troops into Austria. To avoid any delay, Reichenau's army had been holding manœuvres in the Bavarian Alps, not far from the Austrian frontier, ever since the middle of January. All was planned and timed so that the military occupation of Austria could take place by January 30, the anniversary of the day when Hitler became German Chancellor. The discovery of the plot by the Austrian police created anger and disappointment in Germany. The birthday present to Hitler had miscarried. Moreover, German army quarters were considerably perturbed when they heard of the plan, considering that the willingness of General von Reichenau to act as a tool of the Nazi Party showed that he might at any time involve Germany in what the Army considered to be risky adventures. A politician may gamble; army leaders do not like to undertake a course of action which may end in military operations beyond a country's actual strength.
In particular, the Commander of the Army, General Werner von Fritsch, opposed the plan for a putsch because in the first place he believed that an armed invasion of Austria could, under certain circumstances, lead to a major war in Europe, for which Germany was not yet sufficiently prepared. Secondly, he disliked the idea of using force against a defenseless country which was absolutely friendly to Germany in military matters. For several months before the occupation of Austria there had existed an arrangement between the German and Austrian general staffs by which Austria promised not to participate in any armed action against Germany; and in return for this Austrian pledge General von Fritsch had given his word of honor to General Jansa, chief of the Austrian general staff, that the German Army would respect the independence of Austria in any operations which might be in view. Thirdly, the German general staff considered Austrian independence useful to Germany for various reasons, the most important, perhaps, being that in case of war a benevolently neutral Austria could be the intermediary for supplying Germany with many war materials otherwise unobtainable, and that the acquisition of Austria would lengthen the German frontier by 500 miles, thereby enlarging Germany's defense problem.
These seemed weighty reasons to a general staff whose calculations were based only on cold facts. But Hitler and the Nazi Party are ruled by ideological considerations and by emotion.
The world was flabbergasted when suddenly it heard that the Reichstag meeting which had been set for January 30, 1938, and at which Herr Hitler was to deliver an important speech commemorating the fifth anniversary of his access to power, had suddenly been called off. Only a few of us knew at the time that the reason for this sudden cancellation was closely connected with Austria and with the German Army's attitude toward the Austrian question. It was generally known that there was serious tension in Germany between the Army and the Party, but this appeared to have originated in misunderstandings regarding General von Blomberg's marriage to a lady not considered fit, from the traditional army point of view, to become the wife of a German Field Marshal. Actually, the marriage of Blomberg, while undoubtedly it played a rôle in the conflict, was subsidiary to the disagreement about Austria.
The result was the purge of February when General von Fritsch and a number of his friends were forcibly retired. Nevertheless, Fritsch's opponents, especially Goering and Himmler, both of whom apparently aspired to obtain the command of the Army, did not get satisfaction. True, Goering was appointed Field Marshal. But the command of the Army went to another member of the Reichswehr, General von Keitel. Hitler himself became supreme head of the Army.
After this victory over the Army, Hitler resumed consideration of how to conquer Austria. And, as has happened before in such delicate situations, suddenly Herr Franz von Papen appeared on the scene as deus ex machina! He had good reasons to intervene. He had lost his job as Ambassador in connection with the army purge. Moreover, he had heard the rumor of Himmler's recommendation to make him the victim of the putsch which was to force German intervention in Austria. Two days after the purge, then, on February 6, Herr von Papen suddenly arrived in Berchtesgaden and was received by the Fuehrer. He recommended to Hitler a better plan for the conquest of Austria than to start a putsch, namely to invite Schuschnigg into the lion's den, to Berchtesgaden, and there to subject him to a kind of "third degree" in order to force him to yield to the German demands.
Hitler apparently found Papen's scheme suitable for his purposes. On February 8 Papen returned to Vienna; and on the ninth he saw Schuschnigg and handed him Hitler's invitation, naturally telling him only half the truth about the aim of the meeting and even making a pledge that some particularly disagreeable questions would not be touched on in Berchtesgaden.
Schuschnigg had nobody to consult about the invitation, because his personal relations with Mussolini had been strained since their Venice meeting in April 1937. His Foreign Secretary, Dr. Guido Schmidt, counselled him to accept, arguing that if he declined Hitler would be able to tell the world that he had wanted to offer Austria a generous peace but that Schuschnigg had turned it down. . . . So on February 10 Schuschnigg accepted.
Though great secrecy was observed about this invitation, a high Austrian official, who immediately realized that the Berchtesgaden visit might well lead to the destruction of Austria, found ways of informing the Italian Legation in Vienna; so that by noon on February 10 Mussolini had cognizance of Schuschnigg's coming visit. Mussolini immediately saw that he had been duped. In accordance with the Rome-Berlin axis arrangement he should have been consulted by Hitler regarding the invitation to Schuschnigg. Realizing that a dangerous situation was developing, on the same afternoon he sent the famous telegram to Ambassador Grandi in London in which he instructed him to let Chamberlain know by some means or other that "now or never" was the time for negotiations between Britain and Italy. It was two days before Chamberlain actually learned about the telegram. By that time Schuschnigg was already in Berchtesgaden. It was too late.
Schuschnigg left Vienna on February 11 and proceeded from Salzburg by automobile to the country residence of Herr Hitler near Berchtesgaden. He was accompanied by his Foreign Minister, Dr. Guido Schmidt, by his private secretary, Dr. Froehlichsthal, his aide-de-camp, Major R. Bartl, and by the head of the official Austrian news agency, Hofrat Weber. The last-named remained in Salzburg, awaiting Schuschnigg's instructions.
An incident at the frontier should have aroused Schuschnigg's suspicions and even caused him to turn back. His bodyguard of six trained detectives was not permitted to cross with him into Germany. When Mussolini visited Berlin last autumn he took 2,000 policemen and plainclothes men with him, and an even higher number of police accompanied Hitler on his recent journey to Italy. But another discomforting discovery awaited Schuschnigg. After crossing the frontier he found that his guard of honor was a certain Captain Spitzy, of the S. S., a former Heimwehr officer who after going over to the Nazis had fled to Germany. In Schuschnigg's eyes he certainly was a traitor.
The real surprise, however, awaited him in Berchtesgaden, where Hitler treated him roughly and accused him of being a traitor to the German cause. Hitler's first demand was for the inclusion of Seyss-Inquart in the Cabinet as Minister of Interior and of Public Security, and when Schuschnigg refused he retorted by threatening an armed invasion of Austria. At lunch the army generals treated him just as roughly as Hitler did. Hitler would say: "General von Keitel, how many hours does it take from Munich to Vienna? Tell Dr. von Schuschnigg about the troops assembled on the frontier." And the General would comply.
Even under these circumstances, during eleven hours of torture, Schuschnigg refused to make a final commitment, arguing that only the President of the Austrian Federal State, Herr Miklas, had the power to dismiss or appoint Ministers. Nevertheless, he promised that personally he would favor the inclusion of Seyss-Inquart in the Cabinet. In return, Hitler promised in his next Reichstag speech to make a new declaration that Germany would respect Austrian independence and that he would not allow interference by German Nazis in the internal affairs of Austria.
Returning to Vienna, Schuschnigg immediately reported on his conversations to President Miklas. The latter refused to accept Seyss-Inquart as Minister of Interior and Public Security. He was willing to give him the portfolio of Justice, but nothing else. Thereupon on Tuesday, February 15, an ultimatum came from Germany. It demanded that Hitler's wishes be complied with at once, and that Seyss-Inquart be put into the Cabinet in charge of home affairs and of the police. If these demands were not complied with, the German Army would cross the frontier at midnight. Schuschnigg attempted to get in touch with Mussolini by telephone, but his endeavors during the whole day were futile. Mussolini had good reason not to answer. To stop the German menace to Austria he needed a display of troops, and he knew (and Hitler knew) that they were everywhere except on the Brenner. . . .
Under these circumstances Miklas and Schuschnigg had no resource but to accept the German ultimatum. During the night of February 15 the Schuschnigg Cabinet was reconstructed, and Dr. Arthur Seyss-Inquart became Minister of Interior and Public Security. At the last minute the Chancellor tried to counteract the effects of this appointment by nominating his trusted police chief, Michael Skubl, as Under-Secretary in the Ministry of Public Security, at the same time making him commander of all police and gendarmerie forces in Austria.
These changes effected under the threat of German arms greatly discouraged Schuschnigg's followers; while the Austrian Nazis naturally were proportionately encouraged by seeing their man, Seyss-Inquart, made Minister of the Interior. Schuschnigg was also under the disadvantage that he could not explain what really had happened, for he had been pledged to maintain silence about the Berchtesgaden conversations until February 24. It is true that a similar pledge had been made on the German side; but this was broken almost at once, and the Nazi press in Germany heralded the results of Berchtesgaden as a great victory for Nazism.
On February 20 Herr Hitler at last made his great speech before the Reichstag, the speech which he had expected to deliver on January 30 and which he had been forced to postpone because of trouble with the Army and the consequent failure of his Austrian plans. In this speech he failed to carry out his promise to Schuschnigg to give a pledge to respect Austrian independence and to withhold support from the Austrian Nazis; and he made only a vague reference to the agreement of July 11, 1936, in which he had first made terms with the Austrian Chancellor.
On February 24 Schuschnigg gave Hitler his answer in a meeting of the Austrian Corporative Parliament. His speech was courageous and helped to inject new strength and hope into his followers. But many neutral observers found it too provocative, and feared that Hitler would not take it as the last word. And, indeed, the Austrian Nazis promptly received their instructions to increase their agitation and their activities. When I visited Graz on February 27 the city bore the appearance of a Nazi stronghold, and motorized army units had to be sent there from Vienna to prevent a possible rally of the Styrian provincial Nazis and perhaps even a march on the capital. When two days later Seyss-Inquart visited Graz, 10,000 storm troopers turned out in uniform. And a similar enthusiastic reception was prepared for him in Linz on March 5. By this time the dynamics of the Nazi movement had shown their effects, and since the average man-in-the-street is a coward, the masses started to think that it might be better to orient themselves toward the side which appeared the stronger and whose revenge would be the more fearful. People started increasingly to wear the swastika badge.
Ever since the reconstruction of his cabinet on February 15 Schuschnigg had had it in his mind to hold a plebiscite to reveal the strength of his popular support. It will be remembered that immediately after taking office Seyss-Inquart went to Berlin, where he saw Hitler, Goering and Himmler. Confidential information now reached Schuschnigg that Seyss-Inquart had been given instructions there to make preparations for holding a plebiscite in the late summer, which would reveal Nazi strength in Austria. Schuschnigg knew that once the money resources of Germany and the propaganda apparatus of Dr. Goebbels were let loose in Austria he would have a slim chance of winning. Therefore he decided to catch Hitler napping and carry out his own plan for a plebiscite before the German propaganda machine could get into action. First, however, he had to gain the support of the workers, and so long as these negotiations did not promise success he kept his intentions secret.
The negotiations with the workers shortly took a favorable turn, and on March 9 Schuschnigg announced his plebiscite for March 13. Students of the Austrian situation on the spot calculated that without any interference from the government Schuschnigg probably could receive 65 percent of the total votes in Austria, and that aided by a certain amount of pressure the proportion probably could be stretched to 75 percent. But Schuschnigg's lieutenant, the secretary-general of the Fatherland Front, Guido Zernatto, committed a cardinal mistake and gave food to Hitlerite propaganda by announcing that only "Ja" votes were to be printed on the ballots, whereas those who wished to vote "Nein" would have to write it in by hand. This provision was changed a few hours after it was announced, i.e. on the evening of March 10. Further, all voting blanks were to be of the same size and secrecy was to be assured for all. This final decision did not become generally known abroad, though the Austrian radio announced it on the same night, and the Austrian newspapers printed it next morning. The Nazi press of course suppressed the news in Germany. I telegraphed the facts about the change to the Manchester Guardian and they also were carried in the London Times and other English papers on March 11.
At first, the Austrian Nazis were at a loss, for they had no clear instructions from Germany. The local leaders on their own responsibility advised their followers to abstain from voting at the plebiscite. Meanwhile, however, they arranged disorders in Salzburg, Innsbruck, Linz and Graz. Schuschnigg, in turn, could not make up his mind to suppress these disorders energetically. Without instructions from above, the police in the provinces were doubtful what to do. Hitler had retired to Berchtesgaden to contemplate. Some weighty decision was expected.
Meanwhile, Schuschnigg's chances in the plebiscite appeared excellent, though the final negotiations with the Social Democrats were proceeding somewhat slowly, owing to the regrettable tactics of Herr C. Staud, the leader of the Catholic workers and president of the government-controlled trade unions. Staud apparently feared that a thoroughgoing agreement with the Socialists would deprive a number of his followers of their official trade union jobs, and he made certain difficulties. The workers wanted free elections in the trade unions, wanted members in plants and factories to be entitled to elect their own shop "stewards," and demanded the right to establish a newspaper representing the workers' views. Amongst those who negotiated on the Social Democratic side were Dr. Robert Dannaberg, for many years considered the financial expert of the Social Democratic Party, and Dr. Seiler, who in the Socialist era had been an editor of the Arbeiter Zeitung. On the evening of March 10 it looked as though the negotiations had broken down because of Staud's unyielding attitude, but they were again resumed during the night. The workers of course realized that the independence of Austria was at stake in the plebiscite. Schuschnigg's chances therefore were good, for they were going to vote for him in any case. But it is a pity that a specific understanding was not reached more promptly.
As I said above, impartial foreign observers estimated that from 65 to 75 or 80 percent of the voters would favor Austrian independence. The Fuehrer, be it remembered, had complained for many years that Schuschnigg had refused to have a plebiscite. Now it was to be held. But Hitler knew, as all of us in Vienna knew, that Schuschnigg was going to win. He therefore had to make an immediate and decisive move.
It was early in the afternoon of March 11 that the report of a new German ultimatum to Schuschnigg reached our ears in Vienna. The ultimatum demanded that the plebiscite be abandoned. The Chancellor, whose nerves had been under a great strain since Berchtesgaden, apparently lost heart. The threat of German armed intervention and of possible bloodshed terrified him. Once again he tried to reach Mussolini -- once again in vain. He no longer saw any reason to discredit the rumor that Mussolini had definitely sold him out to Hitler against concessions in the Mediterranean. He yielded.
Just after 7 o'clock on the afternoon of the eleventh the Austrian broadcasting system announced that the Chancellor was about to speak. At 7:50 he announced his resignation. He said that Germany had demanded that he hand over the reins of power to another man (inferentially Seyss-Inquart), that German troops would cross the frontier and occupy Austria, that he had appointed General Schilhavsky commander of the Austrian troops, and that he had instructed him to fall back before the advancing German troops without resistance in order to avoid the spilling of German blood. "God help Austria," were his last words.
Thus with at least 70 percent of the population behind him the leader deserted the flag. Nobody had offered him help or even encouragement from outside. But there were two other important reasons for his action. He no longer seemed to possess the deep religious faith and the unconditional belief in Austria which he had held in previous years. Some attributed this to the fact that recently he had been torn between duty and love. Moreover, his faith had been badly shaken by the desertion of two of his most trusted friends, namely Dr. Guido Schmidt, his Foreign Minister, and Dr. Arthur Seyss-Inquart. They had been his friends from school days.
Once the Chancellor had resigned the Nazis acted swiftly. By nightfall "Elite Standard 99" of the illegal Nazi storm troops (S.S.) had occupied the Chancellor's office and had surrounded other public buildings.[i]
The foreign correspondents in Vienna believed that the German troops had already crossed the frontiers. But our inquiries on the telephone at various frontier points brought no substantiation. Everywhere Austrian gendarmerie officials informed us that German troops had not as yet crossed into Austria. 6 P.M. . . . 8 P.M. . . . Midnight. Everywhere the inquiries brought a negative answer. Actually it was at 5:40 A.M. on the twelfth that a small contingent of German troops finally crossed the frontier at a point in Tyrol, and then at 6:20 A.M. troops started to pour across at a series of places -- at Scharnitz, Kufstein, Salzburg, Passau, etc. Why did Hitler wait so long, from 7:50 P.M. on the eleventh until 5:40 A.M. on the twelfth?
Hitler's hesitation was due to the need of making sure whether or not Czechoslovakia contemplated any military move in the event of the occupation of Austria by German troops. At nine o'clock on the evening of the eleventh the German Minister in Prague, Herr Eisenlohr, called on the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister, Mr. Krofta, and asked whether Czechoslovakia had ordered a mobilization, because rumors to this effect were circulating in Berlin. He was given a categorical answer in the negative. Twice more during the night the German Minister telephoned asking that the assurance be repeated, the last time at 3 A.M. on the morning of the twelfth. Only after it was certain that Czechoslovakia had taken no measures to defend Austrian independence did the German troops receive their orders to march. The proceeding shows how cleverly Hitler had calculated his moves. He knew that Great Britain was handicapped by the quarrel between the followers of Halifax and Eden, and that France had just passed through a major crisis and on that very night had no Premier. But only when he was certain that Czechoslovakia had not mobilized did he give the orders to march into Austria. Hitler knew that Czechoslovak intervention might soon have led to the intervention of France, and even of Russia, and that the German Army was not prepared for a general war.
But although the diplomatic skill with which Hitler effected the occupation of Austria calls for recognition, I believe it possible that his ideological views and his sentiment led him to overreach himself. The Army was always against a move into Austria, and now we know why. Those who saw the broken-down heavy tanks and the scores and scores of motor-lorries stalled along the Austrian roadsides on March 12 and 13 realize that the matériel equipment of the German army is far from perfect. Further, as I said above, the Army fears that the lengthening of the German frontier imposes too heavy commitments on it, even though for the time being those parts of the new frontier which adjoin Italy, Jugoslavia and Hungary appear to be manned by friendly armies. But how trustworthy an ally is Italy? And is Jugoslavia 100-percent sure even as a neutral? As for Czechoslovakia, the anxiety shown during the night of March 11 about a possible Czechoslovak mobilization shows that Germany is not in a position to carry out an open attack on that country, which possesses an excellent army with first-class equipment and which is allied to France and Russia. The "conquest" of Czechoslovakia will doubtless be attempted, but by other methods, by creating unrest amongst the Sudeten Germans, by encircling Czechoslovakia politically and by strangling her economically. The first step in this direction doubtless will be an attempt to draw Hungary into the German orbit.
If Hitler is prevented from carrying out his schemes for the domination of Czechoslovakia, the Nazification of Hungary, the establishment of satellite governments in Jugoslavia and Rumania, and even the extension of German influence into Turkey, the cause probably will be Russia. When he occupied Austria, Hitler took over the old Hapsburg heritage of Drang nach Osten. And during over a century Austria always was opposed in this policy by Tsarist Russia. Stalin's Russia, which is becoming increasingly nationalistic, will hardly allow Hitler to secure control of the raw material resources of the Danubian and Balkan countries, for that would enable him some day to conduct a successful war against the Soviets. Of course, Britain rather than Russia may in fact be the foe singled out by Germany. That will depend on whether, when the time comes to decide, Hitler or Goering has the prevailing influence. Hitler's idée fixe is to make war on Russia and to conquer the Ukraine as a colony; Goering believes that Britain, the strongest European Power, must be defeated in order to assure Germany world domination. But it is my opinion that, regardless of the German attitude toward Britain, Russia is unlikely to stand aside indefinitely while Germany obtains the raw materials which she then could use to attack her successfully.
[i] In 1934 it had been "Standard 89" of the S.S. which made the putsch against the government of Chancellor Dollfuss. That division of the illegal Nazi storm troops occupied the broadcasting office, announced that Dollfuss had resigned, and simultaneously attacked the Chancellor's office and murdered him.