Some note on Austrian History

I am from Austria, and have to blog about some particularity in Austrian history, the “Anschluss”.

The reason to blog, and also to do it in English, is a fatal quote by some elderly politician. On the 12th March 1938, 50 years ago, German troops marched into Austria and connected both countries to form the nucleus of the Third Reich. This is widely known and documented as “der Anschluss” (German term for “the connect”). This marks a dark day in Austrian history, reminded in many public rituals in the last week.

As part of a longer speech at a ÖVP meeting (the Christian-Democrat “conservative/republican” party in Austria), Otto Habsburg said: “kein Staat war größeres Opfer als Österreich”. Which translates to “no country was a greater victim than Austria”. This caused outcry in liberal/left parties and media in Austria, and I would guess also international reactions (if anybody noticed).

In the conservative audience, many giggles followed on some parts of the speech – making me speech-less. Here an article with a picture of our smiling ex-chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and Otto Habsburg. You don’t fucking smile when you hear this bullshit, you leave the room. To his remedy, the article says that Mr Schüssel intervened and corrected the sayings of Habsburg (so much for inviting the right keynote speaker to your anti-nazi commemoration).

From what I know, shortly after the war Austria positioned itself as “first victim of Hitler”, to get rid of the scent of failure attached to losing the 2nd WW. Since then, this question is publicly discussed. The question is: did Hitler occupy Austria and the inhabitants were victims or was he warmly welcome and Austria was well-nazified already. Nobody can surely know, but some facts are historically known. Within a few weeks after the Anschluss, 70.000 people were imprisoned and a systematic, institutional, and coordinated suffering was imposed on Jews, Homosexuals, Left-Wing politicians, Communists, … . This was well prepared before, you need to have collected these names beforehand, it needs organisation and preparation. Within hours after the Anschluss, vandalism on Jewish property happened. It is hard to believe that Germans did this vandalism nor collected the names of “enemies of the state”, it can be assumed that Austrians did this, with the clear goal to steal some of this property their Jewish neighbours had worked hard for.

It marked the beginning of the holocaust and the role of the Austrian population was both victim, as the Jews and Left-Wings were Austrians, and agitators. Many had been forced to collaborate with the regime under the pressure of loss of life, property, and liberty, but surely not everyone had to be forced to collaborate. Austria was not “a little victim” or “the Jews were Austrian victims”, many people were attracted by Hitler or did not circumvent what happened. Objectively, it can never be known, but surely calling “Austria” a victim is far than politically uncorrect.

Personally, I hate it because many creative people, inventors, scientists, artists, queers, and freaks, were either killed or driven out of the country in the following years. And I hate the small-mindedness of some people who defend their ancestor’s sins as being right until today. (End of historical ramble, go on reading slashdot now folks)

One Reply to “Some note on Austrian History”

  1. … someone even thinks about victimizing the whole of Austria regarding the Third Reich. A great piece of historical ranting, Leo. The statement by Habsburg reminds me of the “official” view of the German Democratic Republic on the Nazis. In short (and of course totally over-generalizing): There was a small minority of people in Germany which did all the bad stuff like waging war, imprisoning and torturing Jews, homosexual people, communists etc. The majority of the German people were more or less described as a suppressed bunch who often had no other choice than to follow the cruel minority.

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