The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Archive/File: imt/ tgmwc/judgment/j-invasion-austria
Last-Modified: 1997/09/11

                           of the
               International Military Tribunal
                           For The
             Trial of German Major War Criminals

               His Majesty's Stationery Office

                                                   [Page 17]
                   THE INVASION OF AUSTRIA


The invasion of Austria was a pre-meditated aggressive step
in furthering the plan to wage aggressive wars against other
countries. As a result Germany's flank was protected, that
of Czechoslovakia being greatly weakened. The first step had
been taken in the seizure of "Lebensraum"; many new
divisions of trained fighting men had been acquired; and
with the seizure of foreign exchange reserves, the re-
armament program had been greatly strengthened.

On the 21st March, 1935, Hitler announced in the Reichstag
that Germany did not intend either to attack Austria or to
interfere in her internal affairs. On the 1st May, 1936, he
publicly coupled Czechoslovakia with Austria in his avowal
of peaceful intentions; and so late as the 11th July, 1936,
he recognized by treaty the full sovereignty of Austria.

Austria was in fact seized by Germany in the month of March,
1938. For a number of years before that date, the National
Socialists in Germany had been cooperating with the National
Socialists of Austria with the ultimate object of
incorporating Austria into the German Reich. The Putsch of
25th July, 1934, which resulted in the assassination of
Chancellor Dollfuss, had the seizure of Austria as its
object; but the Putsch failed, with the consequence that the
National Socialist Party was outlawed in Austria. On the
11th July, 1936, an agreement was entered into between the
two countries, Article 1 of which stated:

                                                   [Page 18]
     "The German Government recognizes the full
     sovereignty of the Federated State of Austria in
     the spirit of the pronouncements of the German
     Fuehrer and Chancellor of 21st May, 1935."

Article 2 declared:

     "Each of the two Governments regards the inner
     political order (including the question of
     Austrian National Socialism) obtaining in the
     other country as an internal affair of the other
     country, upon which it will exercise neither
     direct nor indirect influence."

The National Socialist movement in Austria however continued
its illegal activities under cover of secrecy; and the
National Socialists of Germany gave the Party active
support. The resulting "incidents" were seized upon by the
German National Socialists as an excuse for interfering in
Austrian affairs. After the conference of the 5th November,
1937, these "incidents" rapidly multiplied. The relationship
between the two countries steadily worsened, and finally the
Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg was persuaded by the
Defendant von Papen and others to seek a conference with
Hitler, which took place at Berchtesgaden on the 12th
February, 1938. The Defendant Keitel was present at the
conference, and Dr. Schuschnigg was threatened by Hitler
with an immediate invasion of Austria. Schuschnigg finally
agreed to grant a political amnesty to various Nazis
convicted of crime, and to appoint the Nazi Seyss-Inquart as
Minister of the Interior and Security with control of the
Police. On the 9th March, 1938, in an attempt to preserve
the independence of his country, Dr. Schuschnigg decided to
hold a plebiscite on the question of Austrian independence,
which was fixed for the 13th March, 1938. Hitler, two days
later, sent an ultimatum to Schuschnigg that the plebiscite
must be withdrawn. In the afternoon and evening of 11th
March, 1938 the Defendant Goering made a series of demands
upon the Austrian Government, each backed up by the threat
of invasion. After Schuschnigg had agreed to the
cancellation of the plebiscite, another demand was put
forward that Schuschnigg must resign, and that the Defendant
Seyss-Inquart should be appointed Chancellor. In
consequence, Schuschnigg resigned, and President Miklas,
after at first refusing to appoint Seyss-Inquart as
Chancellor, gave way and appointed him.

Meanwhile Hitler had given the final order for the German
troops to cross the border at dawn on 12 March and
instructed Seyss-Inquart to use formations of Austrian
National Socialists to depose Miklas and to seize control of
the Austrian Government. After the order to march had been
given to the German troops, Goering telephoned the German
Embassy in Vienna and dictated a telegram which he wished
Seyss-Inquart to send to Hitler to justify the military
action which had already been ordered.

It was:

     "The provisional Austrian Government, which, after
     the dismissal of the Schuschnigg Government,
     considers its task to establish peace and order in
     Austria, sends to the German Government the urgent
     request to support it in its task and to help it
     to prevent bloodshed. For this purpose it asks the
     German Government to send German troops as soon as

Keppler, an official of the German Embassy, replied:

     "Well, SA and SS are marching through the streets,
     but everything is quiet."

After some further discussion, Goering stated:

     "Please show him (Seyss-Inquart) the text of the
     telegram and do tell him that we are asking him
     well, he doesn't even have to send the telegram.
     All he needs to do is to say 'Agreed'."

Seyss-Inquart never sent the telegram; he never even
telegraphed "Agreed".

                                                   [Page 19]
It appears that as soon as he was appointed Chancellor, some
time after 10 p.m., he called Keppler and told him to call
up Hitler and transmit his protests against the occupation.
This action outraged the Defendant Goering, because "it
would disturb the rest of the Fuehrer, who wanted to go to
Austria the next day". At 11:15 p.m. an official in the
Ministry of Propaganda in Berlin telephoned the German
Embassy in Vienna and was told by Keppler: "Tell the General
Field Marshal that Seyss-Inquart agrees".

At daybreak on the 12th March, 1938 German troops marched
into Austria, and met with no resistance. It was announced
in the German press that Seyss-Inquart had been appointed
the successor to Schuschnigg, and the telegram which Goering
had suggested, but which was never sent, was quoted to show
that Seyss-Inquart had requested the presence of German
troops to prevent disorder. On the 13th March, 1938, a law
was passed for the reunion of Austria in the German Reich.
Seyss-Inquart demanded that President Miklas should sign
this law, but he refused to do so, and resigned his office.
He was succeeded by Seyss-Inquart, who signed the law in the
name of Austria. This law was then adopted as a law of the
Reich by a Reich Cabinet decree issued the same day, and
signed by Hitler and the Defendants Goering, Frick, von
Ribbentrop and Hess.

It was contended before the Tribunal that the annexation of
Austria was justified by the strong desire expressed in many
quarters for the union of Austria and Germany; that there
were many matters in common between the two peoples that
made this union desirable; and that in the result the object
was achieved without bloodshed.

These matters, even if true, are really immaterial, for the
facts plainly prove that the methods employed to achieve the
object were those of an aggressor. The ultimate factor was
the armed might of Germany ready to be used if any
resistance was encountered. Moreover, none of these
considerations appear from the Hoszbach account of the
meetings of the 5th November, 1937 to have been the motives
which actuated Hitler; on the contrary, all the emphasis is
there laid on the advantage to be gained by Germany in her
military strength by the annexation of Austria.

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