National Socialist German Workers Party of Austria - Hitler Movement

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The National Socialist German Workers 'Party of Austria - Hitler Movement ( NSDAP (Hitler Movement ) or NSDAP Hitler Movement for short ) was an Austrian National Socialist party in the First Republic , which emerged in 1926 from the German National Socialist Workers' Party (DNSAP) . It saw itself as a sister party of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) in the Weimar Republic and submitted to Adolf Hitler as its leader . Initially an insignificant political splinter group, it developed into a mass party in the early 1930s and was banned in 1933. It continued to exist underground and its members tried to come to power through a coup and sometimes through terrorist subversion . With the “Anschluss” of Austria to the German Reich in March 1938, the party was reorganized as part of the now “Greater German” NSDAP.

History of the NSDAP Hitler movement


The ideological forerunners of the Austrian National Socialists can be found in the German national fraternities of the 19th century , and especially in the pan-German movement of Georg von Schönerer , whose racial anti-Semitism and anti-clericalism were later adopted by the nationalist movement and the National Socialists.

Organizationally, the roots of the Austrian NSDAP go back to the founding of the German Workers 'Party (DAP) in 1903/04 from German-“völkisch” assistants and workers' associations in the north Bohemian industrial areas, where German-speaking workers felt economically threatened by the influx of Czech-speaking workers from Central Bohemia . The party wanted a “grouping of all creative people on the basis of their own nationality” and in 1918 it renamed itself to the German National Socialist Workers' Party (DNSAP).

With the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy , the DNSAP also split. While the Czechoslovak DNSAP emerged from the main areas of activity of the party , the Austrian DNSAP was only an insignificant splinter party, which was noticeable in the elections to the Constituent National Assembly in February 1919 and the National Council election in October 1920 with poor election results, the party won no seats. An even smaller splinter group existed in the now Polish Silesia . Contact with the National Socialist parties in the Sudeten regions , Silesia and Germany was maintained through “intergovernmental conferences” . The swastika was used as an emblem from 1920 . A military-organized stewards force was set up, which was renamed the Patriotic Protection League in 1923 and which was also known as the Sturmabteilung (SA).

In the German NSDAP, Adolf Hitler took power in 1921 and led the party with dictatorial powers. As the German NSDAP grew, so did its influence on intergovernmental conferences. In August 1923, Hitler successfully demanded that the Austrian National Socialists abstain from voting in the upcoming Nationalrat election . The increasing influence of Hitler led to a fundamental conflict over the question of whether the Austrian party should shape its policy independently or in unconditional submission to Hitler.

1926 it finally came to the cleavage: Under the direction of the middle school teacher Richard Suchenwirth and the leader of the Lower Austrian SA, Josef Leopold , founded about 150-250 especially younger and activist party members on May 4, the German National Socialist Workers' Association , supported by the additional designation Hitler movement was . On May 11th, he submitted to the Munich NSDAP headquarters, took over the 25-point program and recognized Hitler as leader. On July 15, in Munich, the leader of the Austrian SA, Hermann Reschny , also assured Hitler of his "unrestricted loyalty".

At a meeting in Passau on August 12, Hitler demanded a declaration from the two rival groups about their unconditional submission or refusal. While the previous party published a declaration that it would maintain its organizational independence, representatives of the Hitler movement accepted the demand on the same day. They declared their new association that the NSDAP Austria (Hitler movement) would be integrated into the overall movement as Gau Austria and that it would form an organizational and ideological unit with it.

The old, previous National Socialist party, which also called itself the NSDAP for a time , was now named after its leader Karl Schulz Schulz group to distinguish it and its representatives chose gray instead of brown shirts as party uniforms.

1926–1931: The Hitler movement as a small party

At a leadership conference in Munich on August 28, 1926, Austria was divided into eight districts, which, with the exception of the combined states of Tyrol and Vorarlberg, coincided with the state borders. Hitler appointed the retired Colonel Friedrich Jankovic, who had been largely unknown until then, as head of state with his seat in Vienna . Suchwirth became head of propaganda.

In the National Council election in Austria in 1927 , the NSDAP took part in the Völkisch Social Block , a short-term alliance with Hans Kipper's Free Association . 26,991 votes were obtained, not enough for a mandate. In the Lower Austrian constituency " Quarter under the Manhartsberg-Korneuburg " the NSDAP ran independently and received 779 votes there. In the Carinthian state elections held at the same time , the National Socialists were able to get a seat in the state parliament .

Jankovic resigned as head of the country before the election in April 1927 because he no longer agreed with the development of the party. There was also jealousy and intrigue in the new movement; various sides regularly turned to Munich for support. That is why Hitler wrote a circular on May 31, 1927, in which he emphasized that the Reich leadership refused to "deal with the disputes of Austrian party comrades in the first line". He comes "in such cases only as the last and finally decisive complaint authority into consideration". He demanded discipline and strict adherence to the Führer principle . The office of regional leader remained vacant for the time being, and the Styrian party leader Heinrich Schmidt was appointed as the “confidante” of the Nazi party leadership. The situation was to be clarified at a party congress on August 3, 1927 in Freilassing . Representatives of the Schulz group had also appeared, demanding that the two groups be united and that a joint party congress should elect a leader for Austria. In doing so, they encountered vehement resistance from Hitler, who accused them of undermining the Führer principle implemented in 1925. The national leadership of the NSDAP Hitler movement remained subordinate to Munich, where Gregor Strasser was appointed as the representative for the Austrian party. Since the membership remained very low in western Austria, the federal states of Salzburg , Tyrol and Vorarlberg were merged into a single western district from 1928 to 1932 .

Since the Austrian Gauführer were still quarreling and electoral successes increasingly required the attention of the functionaries of the German NSDAP, the Munich party headquarters asked the Sudeten German DNSAP politician Hans Krebs to take over the state leadership in Austria as an outsider. As a member of the Czechoslovak House of Representatives , however, he had little time to settle the confused situation under the Austrian National Socialists. For temporal and geographical reasons, he moved the headquarters of the regional management from Vienna to Linz . He endeavored - against the Führer principle advocated by Hitler and ultimately unsuccessfully - for an agreement between the Hitler movement and the Schulz group. In March 1930 he resigned and gave up the state management.

The meteoric rise of the NSDAP in Germany in the Reichstag election in September 1930 , in which it advanced from a political fringe to the second strongest force in the Reichstag , was not reflected in the Austrian NSDAP. In October 1930 there were negotiations between Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg , the leader of the Heimwehr , Gregor Strasser and Hitler about a possible alliance for the upcoming National Council election on November 9th . However, these failed because of the question of which movement should take over the leadership of the alliance. In the election, the Hitler movement received 111,627 votes, only about half as many votes as the newly created Heimwehr party Heimatblock . In contrast to this, the Hitler movement failed to make it into parliament again, but an upward trend was observed, the proportion of votes quadrupled compared to the last National Council election.

According to the organizational statute of the NSDAP, the six Gauleiter - seven again from 1932 - were subordinate to the Austrian provincial leadership, which was subordinate to the Reich leadership in Munich. Since no strong state management had been established so far, the Gauleiter were able to expand their position of power. Walther Oberhaidacher in Styria and Alfred Frauenfeld in Vienna were particularly successful in this .

Oberhaidacher, who had been Gauleiter of Styria since 1928 and Graz municipal councilor since 1929 , successfully intensified anti-Semitic, anti-Marxist and anti- liberal agitation against the background of the onset of the global economic crisis . The Styrian NSDAP was able to penetrate the German national association system and received significant influx, especially from the Styrian Homeland Security , which had slipped into a crisis in 1931 due to the failed coup attempt by its leader Walter Pfrimer . Many supporters also switched from the Greater German People's Party (GDVP) to the Hitler movement.

When Frauenfeld took over the management of the Wiener Gaus in 1930 - which Hitler had temporarily dissolved in 1927/28 for "lack of discipline" - the party there had a little over 1,000 members. Under Frauenfeld's leadership, the membership quadrupled by April 1931, which was partly due to the pull of the success of the NSDAP in the German Reichstag elections. In the Viennese university elections in February 1931, the National Socialist German Student Union (NSDStB) , which had previously only played a marginal role, became the strongest parliamentary group. At the Viennese universities the impression arose that three out of four students were National Socialists or sympathized with them.

In the spring of 1931 the upward trend continued in a series of municipal and state elections. In July 1931, Hitler appointed the Upper Austrian Gauleiter Alfred Proksch as the responsible regional political leader for Austria. Thus the seat of the party leadership remained in Linz. Theo Habicht was appointed as regional managing director (or from August 1932: regional inspector) , who represented a kind of "supervisory authority" over the Austrian NSDAP and thus actually held the leadership of the party. This tried to eliminate all internal party rivalries as far as possible. Wherever it seemed necessary to him, this was also associated with dismissals or party expulsions, such as Heinrich Suske, the head of the Westgau. Administratively, Habicht prevented individual districts from coming into direct contact with the Munich imperial government; this was only possible via the Linz regional government. This strengthened the state leadership and improved the party's external image. Habicht pursued the goal of winning over the sympathizers of the Heimwehr, Großdeutsche and Landbund for the NSDAP. This was intended to turn these organizations, which compete with the Hitler movement on the right-wing political spectrum, into party leaderships without a basis. In October 1931 it was possible to drive a first wedge into the Heimwehr movement through a "combat community" with the Styrian Homeland Security. While the Hitler movement is now praising the German national home guards in Styria, Carinthia , Salzburg and the Waldviertel as "representatives of true Germanness", it showered the other home guards supporting Starhemberg's pro-Austrian course with ridicule and scorn. However, this went too far for the Styrian Homeland Security and the alliance was dissolved again at the end of 1931.

1932–1933: Rise to the mass party

In the spring of 1932 the Austrian NSDAP achieved the breakthrough into a mass party. There were regional elections in Vienna , Lower Austria and Salzburg , with which two thirds of the Austrian electorate were called to the polls. With 336,334 votes, the NSDAP Hitler movement received 16.3 percent of the valid votes. Compared to the National Council election in 1930, in which the party achieved 66,416 votes in these federal states, this was a five-fold increase in the proportion of votes. 29 National Socialists have now moved into the three state parliaments. Large gains were also achieved in the municipal council elections in Carinthia and Styria, which took place at the same time. Most of the new votes came from the former party base of the GDVP, and in the big cities also from the Christian Social Party (CS) . In the following years their growth continued, mainly at the expense of the home guards.

Walter Pfrimer called for the Heimwehr to join the NSDAP. Since the Styrian Homeland Security refused, he resigned on May 4, 1932 and founded the German Homeland Security , with which he joined the SA under Ernst Röhm . In order not to lose even more radicalized Heimwehr members to the NSDAP, the new head of the Styrian Homeland Security, Konstantin Kammerhofer, broke with the government-loyal line of Federal Leader Starhemberg. Nevertheless, numerous members migrated to the Hitler movement, strengthened by the electoral successes of the NSDAP in Germany and in the Austrian federal states. The ongoing economic crisis and Hitler's seizure of power in Germany on January 30, 1933 fueled the National Socialist agitators. After there was a parliamentary crisis on March 4, 1933 and the NSDAP had massive election wins in Germany on March 5, 1933 , large parts of the Styrian Homeland Security, the Carinthian Homeland Security and the Tiroler Bund Oberland formed the alliance of Greater Germans with the NSDAP Front , which a few days later the Greater German People's Party also joined. On April 22, 1933, the Styrian Homeland Security joined forces with the NSDAP, recognized Hitler unreservedly as leader and from then on wore the swastika on his helmet.

In the first half of 1933 at the latest, the Austrian NSDAP advanced to become the dominant organization of the political right. In January 1933 it had 43,129 members, six months later it had 68,465. Results of municipal council elections such as that of Innsbruck on April 24, 1933, where the NSDAP Hitler movement won over 41 percent of the vote, signaled further growth of the movement in the cities. In view of this backing, the party put pressure on Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss to call new elections and to form a coalition government with the NSDAP. However, in view of the National Socialist seizure of power in Germany, he was forced to take a double front against Social Democracy and National Socialism. On May 4, 1933, the Dollfuss government issued a uniform ban, which was directed in particular against the SA and SS formations. The Bavarian Minister of Justice, Hans Frank , spoke on German radio on March 18, 1933 about the “oppressed party comrades” in Austria. When he came to Austria in May at the invitation of the Vienna and Styrian NSDAP and gave inflammatory speeches with undisguised threats against Dollfuss in Vienna and Graz, he was deported across the border to Bavaria on behalf of the federal government. Hitler took this as an excuse to increase the pressure on Austria. Against the background of the ban on uniforms and Frank's deportation, the thousand-mark ban was imposed on Austria.

At the same time, the Austrian National Socialists began a terror offensive, regardless of internal party resistance from more moderate members such as Arthur Seyß-Inquart and Carl Bardolff , who advocated an evolutionary path to power and condemned terror as youthful bullying. Since the Dollfuss government had moved closer to the fascist Italy of Benito Mussolini , they feared that the attacks could spark international tensions. The start of the wave of terror was an assassination attempt on the Tyrolean Heimwehr leader Richard Steidle on June 11, 1933. The government reacted to the wave of terrorism by banning Habicht from the country and closing all Brown Houses (= party headquarters). Hundreds of National Socialists were arrested. A hand grenade attack on June 19, 1933 in Krems an der Donau , which resulted in one fatality and 29 injured, was the reason for the Dollfuss government to ban the NSDAP, its sub-organizations and the Styrian Homeland Security, which was a pact with the party.

1933–1938: Activity in illegality

Coup attempt and crisis

Most of the Gauleiter followed Habicht into exile in Germany, as did SA leader Reschny. In Munich, with massive support from the German NSDAP, a new state line was set up near the Brown House . From there, on July 5, 1933, the fight against the illegal Dollfuss government, which was accused of continuing to break the constitution, was declared. The party supporters in Austria were called for word of mouth , to set up an illegal press and to paint swastikas. National Socialists who had fled to Germany before being persecuted by the police were collected in the Austrian Legion , housed in SA camps, trained and supplied with weapons. These militarily organized legionaries - in the summer of 1934 there should have been 10,000 - support acts of terrorism in Austria, smuggled propaganda material, explosives and weapons across the border and served the NSDAP to create political threats.

The persistence of the National Socialist terror even after the party ban prompted the government to introduce martial law in November 1933 . The courts established for this purpose sentenced around 50,000 National Socialists by April 1934 for illegal activities or acts of terrorism. Nazi sympathizers in the civil service were retired, and numerous national associations were dissolved. There were detention camp built to house convicted Nazis were arrested and their most famous, the detention camp Wöllersdorf was. All of these measures were unable to stop the influx that the movement experienced. in August 1934 it had about 21,000 more members than at the time of the ban.

After the February fights in 1934 , the illegal National Socialists tried to retain the social democratic workers, who had now apparently become homeless, but with very modest success. They found more supporters among the indebted peasantry and the middle class, who were envious of the economic boom in the German Reich. Anti-Semites were won over to National Socialism with statements about allegedly "Jews who were omnipotent in Austria".

Habicht, who was able to conduct Austrian politics relatively independently, forged plans for a coup with his close colleagues Otto Wächter and Rudolf Weydenhammer . He assumed that the police, which had already been infiltrated by the National Socialists, would show solidarity in the event of a coup. On July 25, 1934, SS men disguised as police officers and army soldiers attempted a putsch , during which they stormed the Federal Chancellery and the RAVAG building in downtown Vienna . There were two fatal shots at Chancellor Dollfuss. The coup failed and provoked massive reactions from the European powers. In order to smooth the foreign-political waves, Hitler was forced to change his policy towards Austria. Habicht was relieved of his post and the state management in Munich was dissolved shortly afterwards. Franz von Papen became the German envoy in Vienna. The practicing Catholic should calm the situation in the country. He had previously criticized Habicht's methods, but shared the same goal: a "connection" of Austria to the German Reich. The Austrian party was in a crisis. Many of its members were arrested, lists of members fell into the hands of the executive, and thousands had to flee abroad. During the reorganization that followed, the movement changed from a mass to an elite and cadre party. Its supporters were divided into a camp that sought an evolutionary development towards the unification of the two countries and saw itself confirmed by the failed coup, and the camp of activists who advocated the autonomous pursuit of the terrorist concept of Habicht. Left without strong generally recognized leadership after the withdrawal of the German mother party, both strategies continued. Anton Reinthaller tried to combine all (German) nationally-minded Austrians in a "National Front", which was then to join the Fatherland Front (VF) to jointly defend against Bolshevism . It is true that the new Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg rejected corresponding proposals because of the feared infiltration of the state apparatus and in October 1934 banned the activity of "Aktion Reinthaller" as a disguised party activity. The concept was pursued in a similar way by circles of the Austrian National Socialists until 1938.

Reinthaller, who had meanwhile taken over the management of the country, was replaced by his friend Hermann Neubacher at the end of 1934 . In a leadership meeting in Innsbruck , however, the actionists soon prevailed. In March 1935, Neubacher had to recognize Josef Leopold - who had meanwhile risen to Gauleiter of Lower Austria - as regional leader, he himself became deputy regional leader. The leadership question turned out to be very confused due to rivalries and occasional arrests of leaders and acting or deputy leaders. Only a change in the foreign policy framework was able to end the party's crisis phase.

Infiltration of the state

Since Italy left the Stresa Front in 1936 through Mussolini's War in Abyssinia and instead moved closer to Germany, Schuschnigg was forced to revise his policy. He strove for a binding international agreement with Germany on the independence of Austria. In the July Agreement on July 11, 1936, Germany recognized Austria's independence, declared the question of Austrian National Socialism to be an internal Austrian matter and lifted the thousand-mark block. In return, a gentlemen's agreement was signed in which the Austrian Chancellor undertook to issue a far-reaching political amnesty and to involve representatives of the "national opposition [...] to participate in political responsibility". Schuschnigg intended to win the more moderate NSDAP members through limited concessions for a pro-Austrian policy and thus to split the illegal movement. On July 11, 1936, Edmund Glaise-Horstenau and Guido Schmidt were accepted into the government as representatives of the national opposition . In the same month 17,450 Nazis were amnestied, including most of the party leaders. Hitler summoned the high Carinthian Nazi functionaries Odilo Globocnik and Friedrich Rainer . You should convey the order to the party in Austria not to interfere with German foreign policy through reckless actions. You have to maintain discipline and pursue politics within the framework of the VF. Wilhelm Keppler was appointed Hitler's liaison to the Austrian party and given far-reaching powers.

Leading functionaries of the party now sought to infiltrate the government, administration and executive in order to gradually bring Austria into line with Germany. In disputes over details, Leopold prevailed against the Carinthian group and at the beginning of February 1937 he was also appointed country manager by Hitler. He now founded - based on the plans of "Aktion Reinthaller" and supported by Security Minister Odo Neustädter-Stürmer - the "Deutsch-Sozialen Volksbund". This was supposed to officially represent the entire spectrum of the national camp, but was de facto designed as a front organization to enable NSDAP members to join the VF as a corporate entity. As a representative of this national collecting movement, Leopold formed the so-called “Committee of Seven”, which, alongside Leopold, was the Vienna Gauleiter Leopold Tavs , the Lower Austrian Gauleiter Hugo Jury , the journalist Gilbert In der Maur , the lawyer Egbert Mannlicher , the retired state official Ferdinand Wolsegger and the rector of the university Vienna Professor Oswald Menghin belonged to. After initially serious talks, Schuschnigg refused entry of the Volksbund, despite the eager advocacy of Neustädter-Stürmers, because there was suspicion of a cover organization of the illegal NSDAP. When this was confirmed a little later, Neustädter-Stürmer was suggested to resign, he resigned on March 21, 1937.

With the failure of Leopold's project, another "emphatically national" person was preferred for Schuschnigg for the dialogue with the German national opposition: Arthur Seyß-Inquart. Coming from a social milieu similar to that of Schuschnigg, a practicing Catholic, like him a lawyer and former reserve officer, cooperation with the Chancellor was much better than that of Leopold, who was a rascal. Seyß-Inquart represented moderate national ideas towards Schuschnigg and emphasized that Austria's independence was a matter of course for him, although he saw a federation with the larger German neighboring state as a desirable long-term goal. On June 17, 1937 it was officially announced that the moderate national opposition would be invited to participate in the state within the framework of newly established popular political units in the VF. The former Greater German Walter Pembaur was entrusted with the management of the presentations . Seyß-Inquart was appointed State Councilor, was given the task of "internal pacification" and was later to take over the management of the reports. Leopold felt ignored and issued a ban on working on the project. After Keppler tried unsuccessfully to settle the dispute between the two men in August 1937, Hermann Göring instructed Leopold to concentrate only on the organization of the illegal party and to leave the politics to Seyß-Inquart. The hoped-for split in the illegal NSDAP seemed to begin.

Schuschnigg, on the other hand, came under pressure in the VF, where the People's Political Unit was seen as a Trojan horse due to the onset of the influx of illegal National Socialists . In order to prevent National Socialist infiltration, on November 1, 1937, a ban on the admission of new members to the VF was ordered. While Seyss-Inquart was calling for closer rapprochement with Germany and for greater consideration of the national opposition in line with the July Agreement, Leopold was forging plans for a putsch. He planned to organize an uprising in such a way that military intervention by the German Reich was to be provoked. A police search of the house of the Committee of Seven revealed this strategy for a National Socialist takeover of power, later named after Leopold's deputy Tavs plan . Schuschnigg was now ready to make further concessions to the moderate group of the national opposition around Seyss-Inquart, but to eliminate the radical National Socialists around Leopold. In negotiations with Germany, he wanted to agree to a de facto harmonization of foreign, economic and military policy as a maximum concession and to include numerous moderate National Socialists in advisory bodies of the state and the VF. Seyss-Inquart, however, betrayed these positions to Hitler, who was able to make them the basis for further demands. At the meeting between the two men on February 12, 1938, under pressure from Hitler, the Berchtesgaden Agreement was signed, which went far beyond the originally contemplated concessions. In addition to personnel changes, such as the appointment of Seyß-Inquart as Minister of Security and the Interior, the National Socialists were promised free activity within state organizations and the Fatherland Front, a new amnesty was promised for arrested NSDAP members, free access to National Socialists for military service was granted, wearing the swastika and the Hitler salute are permitted.

Preparation of the "connection" from the inside

On February 16, 1938, Seyß-Inquart took over the federal management of the People's Political Department, supported by an advisory board headed by Hugo Jury, who also received a mandate in the State Council. On February 21, Hitler told Leopold, who had taken up the report, that he had to stay out of Austrian politics and should stay in Germany with Tavs, In der Maur and Franz Schattenfroh . Klausner was appointed the new regional leader of the Austrian NSDAP and instructed to work closely with Seyß-Inquart.

While many state organizations are now supporting the evolutionary path, the party base has radicalized in Styria, where the army and police had already been massively infiltrated via the National Socialist soldiers' ring. The leading functionary of the Gauleitung Armin Dadieu and the leader of the SA Brigade 5 (Central Styria) Sigfried Uiberreither pursued the tactic of accelerating the development in the desired direction through staged mass marches and unrest. On February 19, mass demonstrations began, and in the evening 8,000 National Socialists carried swastika flags through the streets during a torchlight procession (prohibited by the authorities) and chanted the Hitler salute. The next day, a speech by Hitler in the Reichstag was broadcast on the radio, which caused even more popular demonstrations. In the days that followed, Nazi marches also took place in Klagenfurt , Salzburg and Vienna. In some cases the SA and SS were already wearing the uniforms that were still forbidden. In contrast to the euphoric parades of the National Socialists, the parades organized by the VF in response - with the exception of those of the Austrian Young People - had an obsessive and ordered character. Interior and Security Minister Seyß-Inquart banned the wearing of swastika badges and the raising of swastika flags on February 21 and only allowed the Hitler salute as a “private greeting”, not for dealing with offices and authorities.

Schuschnigg now decided to go from the defensive to the offensive. On February 24, he gave a broadcast speech to the Federal Assembly that was supposed to support the spirit of resistance of the forces loyal to the government. In it he described the Berchtesgaden Agreement as "German peace" and emphasized that the cooperation of the national forces had to be in accordance with the basic laws of the VF and that Austria's independence was still decisive. The National Socialists in Graz reacted violently to the speech. By the thousands they marched onto the market square, where the speech was also broadcast, and tore down the loudspeakers and the Austrian flags and hoisted swastika flags in their place. In order to put a stop to this development, which was contrary to the policy of the National Socialist leadership, Seyß-Inquart traveled to Graz on March 1st and met with Dadieu and other Styrian officials. The meeting, which was agreed to be secret, was deliberately made public by Dadieu, so that the NSDAP's largest mass demonstration in Austria to date took place on the evening of March 1st with 20,000 participants. The English journalist GER Gedye , who was an eyewitness to this march, reported that “... the head of the procession was formed by 5,000 SA men who wore their forbidden brown shirts and uniforms. Graz no longer belonged to Austria - it had already become a colony of Nazi Germany ”.

Seyss-Inquart had to realize with resignation that he could no longer control this popular movement. In Vienna he admitted to VF General Secretary Guido Zernatto that he had doubts about being able to implement the plan of evolutionary development against the party, by which he did not mean the state leadership under Klausner, but the evidently growing number of districts who were turning to the radical Styrian line began. Schuschnigg did not want to use the executive against the National Socialists because he feared that this would give Germany a suitable pretext for military intervention. Instead, he responded to the spiraling development of the NSDAP on March 9th by announcing a referendum on March 13th about the political future of Austria. The short-term announcement was intended to give the NSDAP little time for counter-propaganda. The modalities should ensure a favorable outcome: The voting age was raised to 24 years in order to exclude the many young NSDAP supporters, and only "yes" ballots should be available in the bars, whoever wanted to vote with "no" had to do so a piece of paper you have brought with you. Through a secretary of Zernatto who was an illegal National Socialist, the NSDAP state leadership heard of the plan on March 8, and therefore Hitler shortly afterwards. After deliberations, the state management agreed to give a positive opinion on the referendum under certain conditions. However, when the modalities were leaked to her, she called for abstention on March 10th.

Germany's official reaction also arrived on March 10th: Counselor Otto von Stein pointed out that the planned referendum was not a purely internal Austrian affair and demanded that it be removed. Schuschnigg wanted to save the planned plebiscite by offering Seyß-Inquart the possible appointment of the National Socialists Hans Fischböck , Anton Reinthaller and Hugo Jury to a new coalition cabinet. Due to this announcement of the fulfillment of a long-standing demand of the NSDAP, Seyß-Inquart signaled approval and promised a radio declaration for the following day. But while the conversation was still going on, Globocnik had returned from Berlin with a declaration by Hitler, in which he granted the party complete freedom of action in view of the latest developments and declared that he would stand behind it. In addition, the referendum must be canceled. The Styrian SA leaders in particular saw the granting of freedom of action as a license to finally gain power in the state through a coup-like strike. They responded to an appeal by the state leadership at a meeting of Austrian SA leaders on the evening of March 10th with a quote from Götz . At the same time, Hitler gave the military in Germany instructions to prepare for the "Otto Fall", the invasion of Austria.

1938–1945: “Anschluss” and reorganization

Hitler commissioned Goering to carry out the diplomatic and military actions. When Schuschnigg agreed to postpone the referendum on March 11, 1938 at 2:30 p.m. under massive threats from Göring, Göring made the decision to “implement the whole and clear solution”. He now also insisted on Schuschnigg's resignation and the chancellorship of Seyss-Inquart and immediately submitted the desired list of ministers for the new cabinet, with his brother-in-law Franz Hueber as Minister of Justice . In fact, Schuschnigg resigned that evening, but Federal President Wilhelm Miklas initially refused to appoint Seyss-Inquart as Federal Chancellor. It was only around 10 p.m. that he agreed to a Seyss-Inquart federal government .

After a radio report announced the postponement of the referendum at 6:00 p.m. and shortly afterwards the announcement of the resignation of the Chancellor, the long pent-up thirst for action was released and the Austrian National Socialists took over power in the federal states around 7:00 p.m. At 8:30 p.m., Rainer's order was issued to all Gauleitungen "to take over all public offices immediately on behalf of Federal Chancellor Seyß". Even before the German Wehrmacht entered Austria, the country was ruled by the National Socialists. In Vienna this revolution took place from below at around 10:00 p.m. when SS Standard 89 occupied the Federal Chancellery.

The new Seyss-Inquart government made several unsuccessful attempts in the night from March 11th to March 12th to prevent a German invasion, which in their eyes had become unnecessary after the Nazis came to power. Goering ignored this because he was determined not to allow any autonomous development of a National Socialist Austria. In the early morning of March 12, 1938, Heinrich Himmler landed with his closest staff at Aspern Airport and shortly afterwards German troops crossed the border into Austria. Himmler was greeted by Vice Chancellor Glaise-Horstenau, the leader of the illegal SS, Ernst Kaltenbrunner and the adjutant of the Landesleiter Kepplers, Edmund Veesenmayer , and the German troops met a cheering population. Hitler, who had hitherto had in mind the mere assumption of the function of the Austrian head of state, turned to the line of Göring in view of the enthusiasm which met him on March 12 during his triumphant journey from Braunau to Linz. When Seyss-Inquart met Hitler that evening in Linz, he gave up his resistance to a total annexation of Austria. The next morning, Ministerial Director Wilhelm Stuckart was commissioned to draft a corresponding legal text. On the afternoon of the same day, the Seyss-Inquart government signed the “Federal Law on the Reunification of Austria with the German Reich”.

From the evening of March 13th, Hitler commissioned the Gauleiter of Saarpfalz Josef Bürckel to reorganize the NSDAP in Austria. Going back to a plan by Martin Bormann , it was decided to test the administrative reform planned for the entire Reich in Austria: After the administration was to be completely subordinate to the NSDAP, the Gauleiter also became Reich Governor . Bürckel, who is also organizing the same time as the general election on April 10, 1938 held a referendum on the reunification of Austria with the German Reich headed, stamped in a short time a new leading cadres from the ground. He appointed Gau election officers and provided them with advisors from Germany. The former Austrian party leaders stood on the sidelines, angry and powerless.

In view of the large numbers of German party members pouring into the country who took on various functions here, resentment grew, especially among the Eastern Austrian party members who saw themselves cheated of the fruits of their victory. A race began between the old fighters and the illegals for the booty: posts in the party and administration, " Aryanized " apartments, shops and furnishings. Within a few months the administration was permeated with party members.

After the election and voting, Bürckel remained subordinate to Hitler as Reich Commissioner for Reunification in Vienna and represented the highest administrative and political authority in the country. He forced the dissolution of the still existing Austrian central offices. The districts should now be administered directly to Berlin, independently of Vienna. The Viennese party comrades were also annoyed by the devaluation of the former capital to a provincial city. On May 23, 1938, the final district division and the list of their newly appointed Gauleiter was approved by Hitler. The Ostmark Act of April 14, 1939 officially finalized the organizational and political integration of Austria into the German Reich and National Socialist Austria became part of the “ Greater German Reich ” until it was re-established .

Party organizations and affiliated organizations

Sturmabteilung (SA)

Already the DNSAP maintained military organized security groups to protect its meetings, which were renamed the Patriotic Protection League in 1923 , but were also called SA in addition to this official name. There was a close connection to the officially non-partisan German Gymnastics Federation , through whose gymnastics clubs the sports training of the SA members took place. During the prohibition period, the gymnastics clubs served as cover organizations for the SA.

Significantly more members than the elitist SS, there was a constant rivalry with it from its foundation. The Gauleiter appointed after the “Anschluss” were all members of the SS except for Styria. The SA in Austria, like in the rest of the Reich, had been pushed into the second row. It tried to regain its lost meaning through excessive rage against political opponents such as the former elites of the authoritarian corporate state and especially against Jews . This was about the pogroms on 9/10. November 1938 , in which 27 Jews were murdered, 88 seriously injured and several hundred driven to suicide in Vienna alone .

Schutzstaffel (SS)

The first Schutzstaffel unit in Austria was founded in Vienna in March 1930 ( SS-Sturm 77 , later SS-Standarte 11 ), which started its first “mission” in the fall of 1930 in the successful “recapture” of an SA standard that was confiscated by the police would have. Soon further formations followed in Lower Austria, Carinthia, Tyrol and Styria. In June 1931 it was decided to found SS Section VIII, Austria under the leadership of the German SS standard leader Josias zu Waldeck and Pyrmont . The management was briefly in Vienna, then in Linz. By autumn 1932 the 37th SS standard for Upper Austria, Salzburg and Tyrol was created in Linz and the 38th SS standard for Styria and Carinthia in Graz . The relationship between the SS and the SA, from which many members were poached, was tense. From May 1932 onwards, several people replaced each other in the position of country manager ( Karl Taus , Walter Graeschke , Alfred Bigler , Alfred Rodenbücher ). By the time the party was banned, the SS in Austria had grown to four standards. In February 1934 was SS Section VIII of Heinrich Himmler to SS Oberabschnitt Danube upgraded. By the summer of 1934, the SS in Austria had around 9,000 members, of whom around 1,500 had fled to Germany after the July coup. The SS members who fled to Germany were housed and trained separately from the SA members in other camps.

National Socialist German Student Union (NSDStB)

The radically anti-Semitic National Socialist German Student Union was founded in Austria in the 1920s based on the German model. From 1933 to 1938 he was increasingly violent and took action against Jewish and politically dissenting students and teachers. It was led by Hubert Freisleben when the party was banned.

Hitler Youth (HJ)

In 1928 lectures were given on the goals of the party's youth organization , the Hitler Youth (HJ). By 1929 at the latest, local groups of the Hitler Youth were founded in Austria. In 1933 the HJ became the strongest youth organization in Styria, with one third of its members coming from social democratic families.

National Socialist Company Cell Organization (NSBO)

The National Socialist company cell organizations , which also ran for works council elections in Austria from 1932 on, were criticized by the GDVP for endangering the national unions that had been built up over many years.

Nazi soldiers' ring (NSR)

The National Socialist Soldiers' Ring was a secret network of National Socialists in the Austrian military and police founded in 1936. Whole SA companies are said to have joined it when the front militia was created . At its head was Colonel Maximilian de Angelis .

Members and voters

Membership numbers

Approximate development of the membership until 1932

In the 1920s, the membership was always below 5,000. Around 1927 some members switched to the Heimwehr, supported by the Christian Socials, big industry, Italy and Hungary . The membership in the western federal states was at times so low that Vorarlberg, Tyrol and Salzburg were combined into a single Gau. During the global economic crisis, the number of members doubled annually. At the time the party was banned, the membership was 68,465. Even the party's ban could hardly limit the influx; in July 1934 around 87,000 people were admitted. However, no membership applications could be submitted during the party ban.

Because of the persecution in the authoritarian corporate state, many National Socialists kept quiet, some had to flee or were arrested. Nevertheless, the movement grew by around 14,000 new members annually. At the same time, however, many left the party, so that the membership stagnated or even declined at times. After the July Agreement, the influx increased; in February 1938 there are said to have been around 150,000 illegal National Socialists. Shortly before the “Anschluss” there was a real rush on the party by opportunists, and in March 1938 there were supposedly about 197,900 members. In the later review of “Nazi-worthy behavior during illegality”, however, not all were found to be worthy.

In March 1943, with 693,007 members, around 10 percent of the Austrian population had a party book.

Age structure and gender of the supporters

The NSDAP Hitler movement was a very "youthful" party, comparable only to the Communist Party . From 1926 to 1933, 52 percent of its new members were 30 years or younger, and nearly 80 percent were 40 years or younger. Older generations were accordingly underrepresented. With the rise to the mass party in 1931/32, the average age rose by four years, in 1933 by another three years. Most strongly represented - also seen over the entire period of existence - were the birth cohorts 1894–1913.

Of the party members who were integrated into the “Greater German” NSDAP in 1938, 22 percent were women, which is the highest proportion of women in the National Socialist movements in comparison with Germany and the Sudetenland.

Socio-economic structure of the following

The DAP was still mainly union-supported workers' party, especially the railway workers. In contrast, the middle class (civil servants, employees, small traders, freelancers) moved into the DNSAP and the NSDAP Hitler movement and became a faction that was about as strong as that of the workers.

From the phase of increasing electoral success of the NSDAP, representatives of all social classes joined the party, with the middle class becoming the dominant social class in the party. “Unemployed” such as students, pensioners and housewives now made up a large proportion of the members. The peasantry was almost not represented until 1931, but then grew rapidly when the NSDAP began to attract members of the Heimwehr and Landbund. As a result, the previously mainly urban party was also present in smaller rural communities. While the proportion of workers also increased in illegality, the NSDAP - apart from heavy industry in Upper Styria - was never able to attract industrial workers on a large scale.

In 1941 the senior civil servants were practically 100 percent party members, about 60 percent of the freelancers and teachers, 50 percent of the students and 40 percent of the civil servants. Among the farmers and private employees, around 25–30 percent were party members, among the blue-collar workers and self-employed 15–20 percent.

Membership numbers

The membership files were kept in close coordination with Munich. During the period of illegality, the card index was lost (sometimes only temporarily), and many party books and documents were destroyed for fear of persecution. The members who fled to Germany were stripped of their Austrian citizenship. Those who then took on German citizenship could join the German NSDAP and were given a new membership number.

After the "Anschluss", as part of the reorganization of the party, all National Socialists had to register and apply for (re) registration. Bürckel relied on this “registration and acceptance of membership” on the membership staff set up for the follow-up vote. All those who stated that they had worked for National Socialism before March 11, 1938 were taken into account. They were given a temporary membership card and their activities for the National Socialists during the party ban were checked. These review procedures could be lengthy, often months, and in some cases years. Those who were party members before June 19, 1933 and for whom the review had shown continuous activity for the movement were again assigned their old, prestigiously low membership numbers and were able to carry the honorary title of “Old Fighter of the East Markets” associated with privileges. Those who had joined the National Socialists during the prohibition period and whose activities in the sense of the Hitler movement were confirmed by the review were called "illegals", received a regular membership card and a membership number in the reserved number block between 6,100,001 and 6,420,000 the symbolic but legally binding date of admission May 1, 1938 (“first national day of labor for Greater Germany”).

In November 1938 the category “party candidates” (which had existed in the “Altreich” since 1937) was introduced. It was given to those who submitted the application too late (after October 1938) or who were found not worthy enough to be included in the reserved number pad. The category was actually only supposed to last until June 1940, but the sometimes chaotic reorganization of the party in Austria kept it much longer.

Party media

The Hitler movement attached importance to the expansion of the National Socialist press. After the party was banned, the illegal press was promoted from Germany.

A selection of magazines that were published directly by the NSDAP or that strongly sympathized with it:

  • Deutschösterreichische Tages-Zeitung (DÖTZ): Published from 1921 as a GDVP-related magazine and was owned by a National Socialist publisher from 1927. Discontinued on July 22, 1933 by order of the authorities.
  • Kikeriki : The extremely anti-Semitic satirical newspaper turned to the NSDAP in the mid-1920s. Was discontinued in July 1933 due to official pressure.
  • Volksstimme : Founded in 1923 as a DNSAP magazine. Published weekly or biweekly until June 1933.
  • The Austrian National Socialist : Party newspaper 1926–1927, appeared weekly.
  • The battle cry : from 1930 to 1935 a weekly newspaper that appeared partly illegally.
  • The Austrian Observer : Appeared 1936–1944 as an organ of the NSDAP. It was supposed to serve as a replacement for various illegal newspapers.
  • The little striker : In the time of illegality appearing hectographed sheet that was based on the striker .


  • Robert Kriechbaumer : The great stories of politics. Political culture and parties in Austria from the turn of the century to 1945 (=  series of publications by the Research Institute for Political-Historical Studies of the Dr. Wilfried Haslauer Library, Salzburg . Volume 12 ). Böhlau, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2001, ISBN 3-205-99400-0 , p. 656-790 .
  • Dirk Hänisch: The Austrian NSDAP voters: An empirical analysis of their political origin and their social profile (=  Helmut Konrad [Hrsg.]: Böhlaus Zeitgeschichtliche Bibliothek . Volume 35 ). Böhlau, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 1998, ISBN 3-205-98714-4 .
  • Gerhard Botz : The Austrian NSDAP as an asymmetrical people's party: social dynamics or bureaucratic self-construction? In: Jürgen W. Falter (Ed.): Young fighters, old opportunists. The members of the NSDAP 1919–1945 . Campus, Frankfurt / New York 2016, ISBN 978-3-593-50614-2 , p. 417-462 .
  • Gerhard Botz: The Austrian NSDAP members: Problems of a quantitative analysis based on the NSDAP central file in the Berlin Document Center . In: Reinhard Mann (ed.): The National Socialists: Analyzes of Fascist Movements (=  historical-social-scientific research: quantitative social-scientific analysis of historical and process-produced data . Vol. 9). Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1980, ISBN 3-12-911090-9 , p. 98–136 , urn : nbn: de: 0168-ssoar-328420 .
  • Francis L. Carsten : Fascism in Austria. From Schönerer to Hitler . Wilhelm Fink, Munich 1978, ISBN 3-7705-1408-4 , urn : nbn: de: bvb: 12-bsb00042027-2 .
  • Michael E. Holzmann: The Austrian SA and its illusion of Greater Germany . Pro Business, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-86386-086-8 .


  1. ^ Ordinance of the Federal Chancellor of May 4, 1933, with which a uniform ban is enacted . In: BGBl . No. 164/1933 . Vienna May 5, 1933 ( online at ALEX ).
  2. ^ Ordinance of the Federal Government of June 19, 1933, with which the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Hitler movement) and the Styrian Homeland Security (leadership Kammerhofer) are prohibited from any activity in Austria . In: BGBl . No. 240/1933 . Vienna June 20, 1933 ( online at ALEX ).
  3. According to Botz, the number block extended to 6,600,000, but Hertlein was able to prove through empirical samples that the numbers 6,420,001 to 6,600,000 were mainly assigned to new Sudeten German members of the NSDAP.

Individual evidence

  1. The dispute between the National Socialists. In:  Salzburger Volksblatt , September 6, 1926, p. 1 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / svb
  2. ^ Winfried R. Garscha : The "völkisch" -deutschnationale camp and the "Anschluss" . In: Documentation archive of the Austrian resistance (ed.): "Anschluss" 1938 . Österreichischer Bundesverlag, Vienna 1988, ISBN 3-215-06898-2 , p. 58 f .
  3. Michael E. Holzmann: "... and is the Legion on the post assigned to it": The Austrian Legion as an instrument of early Nazi policy of aggression (=  history . Volume 152 ). Lit, Münster 2018, ISBN 978-3-643-14039-5 , pp. 117 ff . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  4. ^ National Socialist German Student Union (NSDStB). In: University of Vienna . Retrieved March 12, 2019 .
  5. Johannes Koll : "As mosaic not admitted to the rigors" . In: Johannes Koll (Ed.): “Purges” at Austrian universities 1934–1945: Requirements, processes, consequences . Böhlau, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2017, ISBN 978-3-205-20336-0 , pp. 201 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  6. Unheard of attack by the swastika people. In:  Tagblatt , July 31, 1928, p. 8 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / tab
  7. ^ The National Socialist Assembly. In:  Salzburger Volksblatt , December 19, 1928, p. 9 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / svb
  8. Correspondence. In:  Salzburger Volksblatt , March 8, 1929, p. 8 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / svb
  9. Robert Kriechbaumer : The great stories of politics. Political culture and parties in Austria from the turn of the century to 1945 (=  series of publications by the Research Institute for Political-Historical Studies of the Dr. Wilfried Haslauer Library, Salzburg . Volume 12 ). Böhlau, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2001, ISBN 3-205-99400-0 , p. 522 .
  10. Marlene Nowotny: The takeover of power in the civil service. In: . March 14, 2018, accessed March 3, 2019 .
  11. ^ National Socialist Soldiers' Ring . In: DÖW . Retrieved March 3, 2019 .
  12. ^ Benjamin Hertlein: The Sudeten German and Austrian NSDAP members. A comparison with the members from the old Reich . In: Jürgen W. Falter (Ed.): Young fighters, old opportunists. The members of the NSDAP 1919–1945 . Campus, Frankfurt / New York 2016, ISBN 978-3-593-50614-2 , p. 321 .
  13. ^ A b c Stephan Roth, Herbert Exenberger : The "Illegale Flyer Collection" of the DÖW . In: DÖW (Ed.): Preserving - Researching - Mediating . Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-901142-54-3 , p. 44 ( Article online on the DÖW website (PDF; 532 kB)).
  14. ^ German-Austrian daily newspaper in the Vienna History Wiki of the City of Vienna .
  15. The end of the camouflaged Nazi press. In:  Arbeiter-Zeitung , July 24, 1933, p. 2 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / aze
  16. a b c Bernd Beutl, Wolfgang Mondschein, Fritz Randl: The National Socialist Press in Austria from 1918 to 1933. A preliminary report . In: Working group for historical communication research (Ed.): Medien & Zeit . tape 4/95 , year 10.Vienna 1995, p. 22–27 ( preliminary report online at (PDF; 2.4 MB)).
  17. ^ The battle cry in the Vienna History Wiki of the City of Vienna .