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Study notes

Anschluss with Austria, March 1938

  • Levels: GCSE
  • Exam boards: AQA

Anschluss is the uniting of Germany and Austria into a Greater Germany. This idea was one which was popular with Germans, Austrians and Hitler. It was also an idea which was prohibited by the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler had attempted Anschluss once before in 1934, but with a weak military force and the opposition of Mussolini, Hitler found that he could not achieve his aims.

However, in 1938, the situation had changed significantly. Hitler’s military forces were much stronger and battle hardened. Italy was also not a problem as Hitler and Mussolini had signed the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1937. The stage was now set for Anschluss. Hitler used the Austrian Nazi party to cause trouble in Austria with marches, rallies and riots all demanding unity with Germany. Whilst the local Nazis did this, Hitler applied pressure to the Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg that Anschluss was the only option for Austria.

Schuschnigg was unsure so appealed to Britain and France who ignored his requests and made clear that they did not oppose German unity with Austria. In the face of this Schuschnigg held a plebiscite to ask the Austrian people to solve the matter. Hitler used the plebiscite to his advantage and sent German soldiers to Austria to oversee the vote. This was supposed to ensure a free and fair vote, but in practice was a method of intimidation. The vote passed with 99.75% of people voting for unity with Austria. Success in Austria meant Hitler’s confidence increased more and more. It also showed that Britain and France would not intervene to stop the Treaty of Versailles being overturned.

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