Read Hitler and the Forgotten Nazis Online

Authors: Bruce F. Pauley

Tags: #Europe, #Presidents & Heads of State, #Hitler; Adolf; 1889-1945, #General, #United States, #Austria, #Austria & Hungary, #Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter-Partei in Österreich, #Biography & Autobiography, #History

Hitler and the Forgotten Nazis

BOOK: Hitler and the Forgotten Nazis


For my mother, Mark, and Glenn

Austria at the Paris Peace Conference. Assets and Liabilities of the New Republic. The Anschluss Movement. The Austrian Constitution and Parliament. Mortal Enemies: The Political Parties of Austria.

Chapter II    Nazis and Proto-Nazis: From Empire to Republic    16

Austrian Anti-Semitism. Georg von Schonerer and Austrian Pan-Germanism. Failures of the German Messiah. The Birth of the German Workers

The German Workers’ Party: Social Composition and Growth. New Beginnings: Walter Riehl and the DNSAP, 1918-1923. Propaganda and Progress.

Chapter III    The Nazi Civil War, 1923-1930    36

The Resignation of Walter Riehl. From Disaster to Resurgence: Hitler’s Drive for Power, 1925-1926.

The Social Transformation of the Austrian Nazi Party.

Growing Opposition, 1925-1926. Hitler and the Party Schism. Civil War or Reunification? Last Years of the “Schulz Party.”

Fascists without a Fiihrer

Germany and the Leadership Principle. The Fijhrerlos Party. The Party Hierarchy. Leadership Quarrels. Obstacles to Progress. Changing Fortunes^ The Great Depression and the Parliamentary Elections of 1930. The Party at the End of 1930.

Chapter IV


The Nazi Renaissance, 1931-1933

Chapter V


Theo Habicht as “State Inspector ” Fascist Competitors: The Austrian Heimwehr. Capturing the Pan-German “Right”: Phase One. The Nazi Breakthrough. Capturing the Pan-German “Right”: Phase Two.

Portrait of a Party

Chapter VI

Chapter VII


Nazi Optimism in the Spring of 1933. Legal Propaganda. The Social Composition of the Austrian Nazi Party. How Strong the Faith? The Nonbelievers.

Terror, Counterterror, and Propaganda

Rule by Decree. Nazi Bombings. Outlawing the Nazi Party. Dismissals and Detention Camps. German Economic Pressure. Illegal Nazi Propaganda: Phase One. Illegal Nazi Propaganda: Phase Two. Goals and Themes of Nazi Propaganda. Illegal Nazi Propaganda: How Effective?

The Premature Putsch

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X


The Habicht-Dollfuss Negotiations. The July Putsch: Motives and Early Rumors. Habicht, Reschny, and the Final Preparations. Course and Failure of the Putsch. Hitler and the Putsch.

Reorganization and Recrimination

The Party in Ruins. Rebuilding the SA and SS. The Reinthaller Action. Hitler and Leadership Quarrels —Again.

“Positive Fascism” and Appeasement

The Nazis’ Neo-Renaissance. Taking the Wind out of Nazi Sails: The Dollfuss-Schuschnigg Dictatorship.

Contents • ix

The Fatherland Front. The July Agreement. The Austrian Nazis and the Agreement. The July Agreement: Its Impact on the Austrian Economy and the Fatherland Front.

Chapter XI Tightening the Noose, 1936-1937    172

The Three-Sided Struggle for Power. Josef Leopold:



A Capsule Biography. The Carinthian Nazis. A Conflict of Strategies. The Leopold-Schuschnigg Negotiations. Leopold and His Enemies: Papen and Seyss-Inquart. Leopold’s Growing Isolation. The Ties that Bind: Wilhelm Keppler and the Austrian Nazi Party. The Ascendance of the Austrian SS.

Hitler and Leopold.




Chapter XII The Execution: Berchtesgaden and the Anschluss    193

Hitler, Leopold, and the Hossbach Conference. The Meeting at Berchtesgaden. A Vacuum of Power:

Hubert Klausner as Landesleiter. The Dam Bursts:

Austrian Nazi Activities, 20 February-8 March.

Schuschnigg’s Desperate Gamble. The Nazis Unleashed: Austria’s Final Day. Austria and the German Invasion.

Chapter XIII The Great Disillusionment:







The intense interest in HitJer that has been sweeping Europe and America the last few years appears to have no end. The popularity of the biographies by John Toland, Joachim Fest, Werner Maser, and Alan Bullock attest to the fascination which Adolf Hitler still has for the public more than thirty years after his death. With so many books and articles already written on the Nazi dictator the reader may ask how still another work about Hitler and National Socialism can be justified. The answer is that until now the Austrian manifestations of National Socialism have been neglected. This focus hardly needs explanation as it was in Germany, after all, where Hitler and his Nazi party first attained power in 1933.

Yet the exclusive attention devoted to German National Socialism has led to enormous historical omissions. It should never be forgotten that Hitler was Austrian, as were many other prominent Nazis, such as Adolf Eichmann, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, and Arthur Seyss-Inquart. In fact, National Socialism began, not in Germany, but in the Austrian Empire—long before the party, which Hitler joined in September 1919, was founded. Moreover, Austrian Nazis manned some of the most notorious concentration camps, one of which —Mauthausen—was in Austria itself. In fact, outrages committed against Austrian Jews by Austrian Nazis during and after 1938 were on the whole worse than those perpetrated by German Nazis against the Jews of Germany.

The Austrian Nazi movement is also interesting because it was filled with incredible contradictions. Many of its members were inspired by a very real, if in our view perverted, idealism whose ends they were willing to realize through violence. They loudly proclaimed their support of the
(leadership principle), but could never agree on which of their own leaders to follow. They proudly asserted their allegiance to one large German
but jealously guarded the autonomy of the Austrian Nazi party and the Austrian

state, viewing Germans from the
as “outsiders.” They sought to bring the Austrian people together in a single mass movemept, but denounced compromise and left the country more divided than ever. '

In this day of international terrorism waged by militant minorities the Austrian Nazis stand as an early example of how a small, fanatical band, supplied in part by smuggled weapons and fueled by propaganda, can infiltrate legitimate institutions, undermine governments, and destabilize society itself. Likewise, the Austrian Nazi challenge illustrates how a threatened government will often acquire some of the characteristics of its hated opposition.

The Austrian Nazis also played an important, albeit not widely recognized, role in the German seizure of Austria—the famous Anschluss of March H$8. This event marked the Third Reich’s first takeover of a sovereign state and is therefore an important milestone on the road to the Second World War.

Yet the Nazis of Austria have virtually been forgotten. Not only were they neglected by their contemporaries in Germany, they have also suffered the same fate at the hands of historians. The Austrians have had little incentive to discuss their contributions to the history of National Socialism. When the Allies declared at the Moscow Conference in November 1943 that Austria was the “first victim of German aggression” the Austrians were only too willing to agree. For the Allies the declaration was a useful pretext to reduce German territory. For the Austrians it was a heaven-sent alibi, an admission by the Allies themselves that Austria played only a passive role in the Anschluss drama of 1938.

During the ten long years of postwar Allied occupation the Austrians were anxious to avoid raising any issues that might be used by the Allies to prolong their stay. Thus, when a former prominent Austrian Nazi, Alfred Persche, wrote an excellent account of the party’s activities between 1936 and 1938,
the Austrian chancellor and leader of the conservative (People’s) party, Alfons Gorbach, recommended that it not be published. Although Gorbach admitted that the book had “many new and highly interesting details,” the author’s claim that 80 percent of the Austrian people had been Nazis would “certainly be exploited by the Soviet Union, the Communists, and the Socialists.” Persche’s book “would only arouse a violent controversy over the years 1934— 38 ”
Consequently, it remains unpublished to this day.

For personal reasons too, a curtain of silence has been drawn across the history of Austrian National Socialism. Until 1949 the Allied Control Commission in Austria indiscriminately applied denazification laws to all former Nazis thus excluding them from the franchise and discriminating against them in all areas of public and private life. Under these circumstances former Nazis would obviously not discuss their past political activities voluntarily. Former party members are not eager to tell their children or grandchildren about their past activities or motivations for joining. The younger generation, they fear, growing up in completely different and happier times, would never understand the anxieties, frustrations, and hopes that governed their actions five decades earlier.





Adolf Hitler himself contributed substantially to the ignorance surrounding the Austrian Nazis. Although he was born in Austria and grew to manhood in Vienna at the very moment National Socialism was gathering strength, he would not admit to being influenced by any Austrian nationalist except Georg von Schonerer, who was safely dead and therefore not a potential rival. For Hitler, the Nazi movement began in 1920, when he announced the party’s Twenty-five Point program. To confess that the party had Austrian predecessors would only diminish his prestige and “genius.”

Once in control of the German Nazi party, Hitler showed surprisingly little interest in the Austrian Nazis for many years. His first ambition was to seize power in Germany. When that was accomplished he would rebuild the German armed forces. Only then would he turn his attention to the Germanspeaking people of Austria.

But the Austrian Nazis had aspirations of their own. They could not forget their origins or the separate existence of their country, whose autonomy, if not independence, they wished to preserve. Although the Austrian Nazis had a variety of leaders, some relatively moderate, others more radical, they all strove to play roles free from German dictation. And however much Hitler might wish to forget them, the pretentions of the Austrian
kept reminding him of their existence, often in most embarrassing ways.

After World War II, while the world’s attention was riveted on the Nuremberg trials and the denazification of German Nazis, the Nazis of Austria were once again largely forgotten. And so it has remained for the past forty years. During a period when the West Germans have taken a long and agonizing look at their Nazi heritage, the Austrians have tried hard to convince themselves that National Socialism was a strictly foreign phenomenon. So whereas hundreds of books have been written about German Nazism, no book in any language has appeared to date which concentrates exclusively on the Nazis of Austria.

The term
is used frequently throughout this book; consequently it would be helpful to define this word. I am painfully well aware of the longstanding debate among scholars concerning the word’s definition and even whether or not the term should still be employed.
Admittedly, the term is ambiguous at best and is defined in somewhat different ways by nearly everyone using it. Nevertheless, the similarities between certain movements and political parties in interwar Europe in general, and Austria ip particular, are so striking that it seems to me helpful to give them a commorrfabel. In so doing I do not mean to imply that fascist groups did not have4heir own unique historical developments and separate identities. Nor can any definition perfectly apply to all of them.

Some of the most frequently cited characteristics of fascist movements include the following: first, they were decidedly negative in their ideology. Thus they were opposed to “Marxism” (i.e., socialism and communism), liberalism, and usually (though not always) to Judaism. They generally favored such vague and nonspecific ideas as a “ ‘new world,’ love of ptf&er, and the dramatic appeal of youth, elite consciousness and mass influence, revolutionary order and veneration of tradition.”
They were ultranationalistic and hoped to reunite their socially divided people into “people’s communities.”
In common with many nonfascist regimes they limited civil liberties and tolerated the existence of only one, all-encompassing political party.
They stressed emotion and sentiment over reason, action instead of words, and violence in place of peace. Perhaps above all they believed in the necessity of dictatorial leadership, the famous Fuhrerprinzip, to help bring about a national regeneration.

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