Political Career of Kurt Schuschnigg, Chancellor of Austria
Joined Austria’s right-wing Christian Social Party and elected to Austria’s Parliament in 1927, becomes Minister of Justice in the Dollfuss government in 1932.
In July 1934, Austria’s National Socialist (Nazi) Party attempts to overthrow the Dollfuss government in a coup. While the coup is crushed by Schuschnigg, Engelbert Dollfuss is murdered by Austrian Nazis.
The Austrian Nazis captured by Schuschnigg are executed. German pressure against Austria subsides after Mussolini threatens to go to war to defend Austrian independence.
Under Schuschnigg, Austria continues to follow the Corporatist model of Fascism followed by Italy, where the state is organized via professional corporations or guilds.
Nazi Pressures on Austria
Schuschnigg is determined to maintain Austrian independence. While Italy and Hungary act as counterweights to Germany, Schuschnigg finds himself in a weak position and tries to appease Hitler.
In 1936, under pressure from Hitler, Schuschnigg releases imprisoned Nazis and agrees to allow Nazis into his cabinet.
In February 1938, Hitler forces Schuschnigg to accept Arthur Seyss-Inquart, a well known Austrian Nazi, as his Minister of Public Security.
Schuschnigg announces a plebiscite on Austrian independence. Under pressure from Hitler, the plebiscite is cancelled and Seyss-Inquart becomes Chancellor.
Life after Politics
After World War II, Schuschnigg resettled in the United States where he taught political science at St. Louis University (1948 – 1967). He died in his native Austria in 1977.
Schuschnigg’s Place in History
Unlike so many other statesmen in 1930s Europe, Schuschnigg was very much in the anti-Hitler faction and recognized the serious threat that National Socialism posed to his country and all of Europe.
Schuschnigg’s government showed considerable tolerance towards Jews, an attitude that was uncommon in a large part of Europe.