Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Germany’s Annexation of Austria – 1938

Germany’s Annexation of Austria – the Response of the “Great Powers”

Germany’s Anschluss with Austria

In March, 1938 Hitler completed the annexation of formerly independent Austria into the German Reich, contrary to the peace terms of the Treaty of Versailles.   

The “Great Powers”

While the annexation of Austria was a flagrant Treaty violation, there was only the most muted reaction from the major European powers.  

Despite being signatories to the Treaty of Versailles, both Great Britain and France showed little enthusiasm for the preservation of Austrian independence.  

In Britain, Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain appeared to be particularly anxious to get past the nasty business of Austria and move forward with the settlement of outstanding territorial disputes elsewhere in Europe.

The British Case for Appeasement

During the 1930s, Britain’s leaders came to adopt an increasing accommodative approach to relations with Germany.  

While Neville Chamberlain has been most closely linked to British appeasement of Hitler, his predecessor Stanley Baldwin was also quite sympathetic to German aspirations in Europe. 

Both men felt that Germany had been unjustly dealt with at Versailles and believed that she had a right to bring other German speaking regions into the fold of a Greater Germany.  

In a very real sense, both men seemed to favour the national self-determination principles enunciated by US President Woodrow Wilson in the aftermath of World War I. 
Given the strong desire of Britain’s leaders to accommodate German demands in the 1930s and their belief in national self-determination, it was possible to see the incorporation of Austria into the German Reich as a positive event.  

What was not appreciated at the time was the fact that Hitler’s goals extended far beyond national self-determination.

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