1920-1933 Austria

Austria ruled by Decree, 1933-1938

In 1932 a new coalition cabinet headed by CSP politician Engelbert Dollfuss was appointed. At the height of the economic crisis (Great Depression), the political parties radicalised and the task of finding parliamentary majority for compromise solutions proved more and more impossible.
Dollfuss thus used a constitutional element planned for the case of an emergency - Rule by Decree. He outlawed the Austrian branch of the Nazi Party and the KPö;. In effect, Austria turned into a dictatorship. The Social Democrats were unwilling to accept this, and the subsequent phase on Austrian History - February 1934 - is referred to as Civil War. After that, the SDAP was banned from political participation.
In foreign politics, Austria turned on Mussolini's Italy for protection.

Hitler was outraged over the treatment his party was given in his homeland, Austria. In 1934 Austrian Nazis assassinated chancellor Dollfuss. Immediately, Mussolini deployed troops to the Brenner Pass (on the Italian-Austrian border). Hitler understood the warning.
Dollfuss was succeeded by Kurt Schuschnigg, another CSP politician who continued to rule by decree.
Austria's fate was decided on the diplomatic level, with little Austrian input. After Italy invaded Ethiopia, the League of Nations declared economic sanctions against Italy. Germany approached economically isolated Italy, ignoring the sanctions; Italy joined the Axis Pact in 1937 and withdrew it's protection of Austria. In 1938 Hitler staged the "ANSCHLUSS" of Austria.

Since 1932 Austria had practically been a dictatorship. Yet the dictators, Dollfuss and Schuschnigg, had been democratic politicians (with a christian-conservative background) who, unwilling to cooperate with radical, undemocratic forces, so no alternative than to rule by decree.
The Dollfuss/Schuschnigg dictatorship had in common with the Fascist dictatorship in Italy and the Nazi dictatorship in Germany that they mistrusted the social democrats as unreliable, their loyalty to state and constitution as doubtful. Dollfuss had outlawed the Republikanischer Schutzbund, the social democratic militia.
However they strongly differed from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in that Austria formally continued to be a multiparty democracy, that opposition politicians were not imprisoned (the outlawed parties continued underground), that they lacked an ideology.

The Nazi demand for Anschluss found a considerable resonance in Austria, the national liberal element having demanded unification with Germany in 1918 and 1932. Opposed to it was the ruling CSP; scared and frightened of a Nazi takeover were the Social Democrats (SDAP, outlawed since 1934), the Communists (equally outlawed), and Austria's Jewish community, as well as German refugees who had settled in Austria, among them writer Bertold Brecht.
The Anschluss was staged on March 13th 1938; the Nazis have organized jubilant crowds all along the roads from the German border to Vienna. A plebiscite legitimizing the fait accompli was staged.

Library of Congress, Country Studies : Austria
Biographies from AEIOU : Engelbert Dollfuss, Kurt Schuschnigg
The "Anschluss", The "Plebiscite", both from Archiv der Stadt Linz (Linz city archive); Nazi Union with Austria, from History Place, encyclopedic, illustrated
Timeline of the "Anschluss", according to Taylor 1961 , detailed
Turning Points in the Development of Parliamentarism in Austria 2.9 The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy, from the Austrian Parliament
Von der Regierungsverantwortung in die Illegalitat, from SPÖ Geschichte, in German, chronology 1919-1939
Austrofascism, from aeiou
Ständestaat (Corporate State), from aeiou
DOCUMENTS Historical Population Statistics : Austria, from Population Statistics, at Univ. Utrecht
Primary Sources on 20th Century Austrian History, from Zeitgeschichte Information System : February 12th 1934 : Social Democracy and Civil War; July 25th 1934 : Failed National Socialist Coup; Christian Corporative State 1934-1938, Documents on the Anschluss 1938, only last 4 documents from 1938, docs in German
Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Engelbert Dollfuss; Killed Soldiers of the Heimwehr, 1934; Engelbert Dollfuss lying in state; Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg; 100,000 give Adolf Hitler jubilant ovation on Vienna's Opernplatz, March 1938; German troops march into Austria, March 12th 1938; Jubilant Austrians; Adolf Hitler in Vienna, March 1938; German troops enter Innsbruck, March 12th 1938; Kurt von Schuschnigg; Austrian Patriotic Front calls for yes-vote in plebiscite on March 13th 1938; Austrians welcome German troops, March 12th 1938; Hitler addresses Austrian crowd in speech, March 12th 1938, Vienna Hofburg; Hitler addresses Austrian crowd in speech, March 12th 1938, Vienna Hofburg
REFERENCE Chapters XXIV : Danube Blues pp.377-386, XXV : The February Tragedy pp.387-396, XXVI : Death of Dollfuss pp.397-412, XXVII : Austria Infelix pp.413-417, in : John Gunther, Inside Europe, 1940 war edition, NY : Harper & Bros. 1940 [G]
Article : Austria, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1937 pp.701-709 (data of 1935-1937) [G]
Article : Austria, in : Americana Annual 1934 pp.75-76, 1935 pp.77-80, 1936 pp.71-73, 1937 pp.59-61, 1938 pp.63-65 [G]
Article : Austria, in : New International Year Book 1934 pp.64-68, 1935 pp.60-64, 1938 pp.69-74 [G]
Article : Austria, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1934 pp.67-73, 1935 pp.65-69, 1936 pp.56-61, 1937 pp.49-52, 1938 pp.49-54 [G]

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First posted in 2000, last revised on March 4th 2007

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