The Anschluss: Germany occupies Austria

March 15, 1938 Vienna

On the morning of 12 March 1938, the German army invaded Austria. No one stopped it. Hitler arrived later that day. He visited his place of birth and his parents’ grave. Three days later, on 15 March, he gave a speech in Vienna and officially declared that Austria was now part of the German Empire: the Anschluss. Austria had become a German province: the Ostmark. Hitler appointed Arthur Seyss-Inquart governor.

Many Germans and Austrians were as enthusiastic as Hitler. They had wanted the countries to be joined for a long time.

On 10 April, the Nazis organised a referendum, meant to legitimise their military action. More than 99% of the Austrian population voted in favour of the Anschluss. Without a doubt, the percentage was so high because the vote was not anonymous. Opponents did not dare to vote against.

The takeover allowed the Austrian Nazis to flaunt their antisemitism. They visited Jews at home, robbed them and smashed their furniture. In Vienna, Nazis forced Jews to scrub pro-Austrian slogans off the streets. Many Jews tried to flee, others committed suicide. In two weeks’ time, more than 200 Viennese Jews took their own lives.