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There is a memorial stone on Mexikoplatz in Vienna which looks like shown below.

Memorial stone on Mexikoplatz, Vienna

The text on the stone means the following (my emphasis):

In March 1938 Mexico was the only country that officially protested in the Leage of Nations against the violent annexation of Austria by the national-socialist German Empire. The city of Vienna gave the name Mexico Square to this place in commemoration of this act.

Original German text:

Mexiko war im März 1938 das einzige Land, das vor dem Völkerbund offiziellen Protest gegen den gewaltsamen Anschluss Österreichs an das nationalsozialistische Deutsche Reich einlegte. Zum Gedenken an diesen Akt hat die Stadt Wien diesem Platz den Namen Mexiko-Platz verliehen.

In his speech on July 8th, 1991, then-chancellor Franz Vranitzky also mentioned violence during the Anschluss (my emphasis):

It is undisputed that in March 1938 Austria became a victim of a military aggression with terrible consequences.

Original German quote:

Es ist unbestritten, dass Österreich im März 1938 Opfer einer militärischen Aggression mit furchtbaren Konsequenzen geworden war.

The quote can be found in the parliamentary protocols, p. 15 (see yellow highlight in the screenshot below).

Fragment of the speechy by Franz Vranitzky on July 8th, 1991

Both the lettering on the memorial stone and Vranitzky's speech can be considered official statements of the Austrian government. Both of them claim that the Anschluss involved physical (military) violence.

What are examples of acts of violence (by the Nazi Germans) that happened during the annexation of Austria in 1938? In other words: What facts can be used to support the narrative that the annexation of Austria was violent and/or involved military aggression?

Here is what I could find.

Moscow Declaration

The first document that comes to mind when we talk about the Anschluss is the Moscow Declaration of 1943 which contains following statements regarding Austria:

DECLARATION ON AUSTRIA

The governments of the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States of America are agreed that Austria, the first free country to fall a victim to Hitlerite aggression, shall be liberated from German domination.

They regard the annexation imposed on Austria by Germany on March 15, 1938, as null and void. They consider themselves as in no way bound by any charges effected in Austria since that date. They declare that they wish to see re-established a free and independent Austria and thereby to open the way for the Austrian people themselves, as well as those neighboring States which will be face with similar problems, to find that political and economic security which is the only basis for lasting peace. Austria is reminded, however that she has a responsibility, which she cannot evade, for participation in the war at the side of Hitlerite Germany, and that in the final settlement account will inevitably be taken of her own contribution to her liberation.

The first problem is that here the Allies present the final results of their decision regarding Austria, but shed no light to the thought process. I could not find any mention of why they think that Austria was Hitler's first victim. Correct me if I'm wrong, but nowhere in this document I could find any statements like "the Germans killed X and wounded Y Austrians in village Z."

Furthermore, the above passage seems to contradict itself: First, they claim that Austria is

first free country to fall a victim to Hitlerite aggression,

then that

Austria is reminded, however that she has a responsibility, which she cannot evade, for participation in the war at the side of Hitlerite Germany

Both statements are mutually exclusive. If Austria is a victim of "Hitlerite aggression", she does not have responsibility for participation in the war (like true victims of Hitler Poland or Czechoslovakia). If Austria is fully or partly responsible for fighting together with Germany, it is not its victim.

Presence of German troops

Most sources I am aware of (e. g. Britannica) claim that German troops invaded Austria during the Anschluss. However, nowhere could I find any mention of those troops exercising their military power. Rather, it looks like the Germans had weapons, but never used any of them during the annexation.

Web page of the City of Vienna claims following:

Fateful events in early March 1938

When we talk about the events in early March 1938 we remember and mourn all Austrians and all citizens of other countries who fell victim to the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Following the events on 11 and 12 March 1938 Austria lost its independence and sovereignty for seven years. March 1938 marks the onset of great suffering and the darkest chapter of Austrian history. The terror started immediately. In the first few hours after the "Anschluss" tens of thousands of people were arrested in Vienna alone. A large part of the resistance movement was eliminated right in the beginning. The first transports to the Dachau concentration camp left Vienna on 1 April 1938.

They arrived at the crack of dawn

On 12 March 1938 at 5 o'clock in the morning senior Nazi officials Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich arrived in Vienna. Half an hour later German troops crossed the German-Austrian border and German airplanes landed at the airport in Vienna. At 4 o'clock in the afternoon of the same day Adolf Hitler arrived in his hometown of Braunau in Upper Austria, where he was greeted by cheering Austrians. The 8th German army met with great enthusiasm on its way to Vienna. The full scale of the horrors that followed the cheering was only revealed in April 1945.

I don't see any mention of Austrian resistance against German troops in March 1938.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum makes a similar statement:

March 11, 1938

On March 11–13, 1938, German troops invade Austria and incorporate Austria into the German Reich in what is known as the Anschluss.

A wave of street violence against Jewish persons and property followed in Vienna and other cities throughout the so-called Greater German Reich during the spring, summer, and autumn of 1938, culminating in the Kristallnacht riots and violence of November 9-10.

Here, violence against Jews is mentioned. But no violent incidents involving Germans on one side and Austrians on the other are presented.

Availability of weapons

Unless I'm missing some crucial documents, it seems that the Austrians did not resist invading German troops.

An article by the Süddeutsche Zeitung supports this view:

On March 1938 the German Wehrmacht marched into Austria without resistance.

Original German text:

Am 12. März 1938 - marschierte die Wehrmacht ohne Gegenwehr in Österreich ein.

The question is: Did they not fight the Germans because

  1. they didn't want to, or
  2. because they couldn't?

Given the fact that 4 years before there was a "hot" Civil War I conclude that in 1934 there were several political parties and paramilitary organizations with enough people, weapons, and organization to engage in street fights in at least two major cities (Vienna and Linz). Assuming that these resources did not completely vanish until 1938, the Austrians should have had the ability to fight back. They probably could not win against the Germans, but they could make the annexation harder for them.

A page on the site called OÖ Geschichte (History of Upper Austria, operated by the Union of Austrian museums) seems to support the latter conclusion:

Invasion of German troops

[...] For some time Austria considered military resistance [against the Germans]. It could have had devastating consequences for the German troops. Especially in the upper Austrian region there were detailed defense plans of the Austrian army. But when German mobilization was reported [to the Austrians], the military units received the instruction by the Federal Chancellor Schuschnigg to not fire any shots.

Original German text:

Der Einmarsch deutscher Truppen

[...] Einige Zeit lang hatte Österreich militärischen Widerstand erwogen; dies hätte für die deutschen Truppen durchaus verhängnisvolle Folgen haben können. Besonders für den oberösterreichischen Raum existierten detaillierte Verteidigungspläne des Bundesheeres. Doch als am 11. März die von Hitler tags zuvor befohlene deutsche Mobilmachung gemeldet wurde, erhielten die militärischen Einheiten im Auftrag des Bundeskanzlers Schuschnigg die Weisung, keinen Schuss abzugeben.

Public sentiment

Aforementioned Britannica article also says (my emphasis)

On March 12 Germany invaded, and the enthusiasm that followed gave Hitler the cover to annex Austria outright on March 13.

This statement doesn't jibe with the statements on the stone (violent annexation) and Vranitzky's speech (military aggression). If the Germans were violent towards the Austrians to any significant degree, there could be no enthusiasm on Austrian side.

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    Armed robbery is still considered a violent crime, even if the victim wasn't dumb enough to resist, and no matter how polite the crook is. This looks suspiciously like a push question to me. – T.E.D. Aug 26 at 21:46
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Semaphore Aug 27 at 11:17
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Every story has three sides. One side's truth, the other side's truth, and what actually happened.

Since 1933, Austria was a one-party state ruled by the Vaterländische Front, an Austrofascist party, with first Engelbert Dollfuss and then Kurt Schuschnigg as Chancellor with the power to rule by decree.

While they shared much of the same ideology with both the Italian Fascists and the German Nazis, the VF opposed an Anschluss of Austria, which put them at odds with the Austrian arm of the Nazi party supporting a unification with Germany. The Nazis were a growing force despite being banned, with supporters placed in internment camps together with other political dissenters.

In the years leading up to the Anschluss, Germany continued to lean heavily on Austria, both economically ("Tausend-Mark-Sperre", Germans had to pay 1000 Marks when entering Austria, severely punishing Austria's tourism industry) and politically (see e.g. July Putsch).

Eventually, in 1936, the Austrofascists buckled under the pressure and signed a treaty with Germany that lifted the ban on the "National Opposition", leaders of which now entered the Austrian cabinet. The pro-German movement in Austria continued to gather strength.

This all came to a head in 1938. Facing continued pressure by Germany, Chancellor Schuschnigg announced a referendum on whether Austria should join Germany or not, intending to win a "no" majority, legitimating Austrias refusal of Anschluss. Hitler preempted this by sending an ultimatum: Schuschnigg was to hand over all power to the Austrian Nazis, or face invasion.

Hours before the scheduled invasion, Schuschnigg resigned, and Nazi politician Arthur Seyss-Inquart became Chancellor. A telegram reputedly sent by Seyss-Inquart asking for German troops to "restore order" was a forgery, and sent before Seyss-Inquart actually was declared Chancellor.

All this can hardly be called "peaceful", and there certainly was deceit and violence involved up to this point.

However, the Anschluss itself, the marching of German troops into Austria, was unopposed, the Bundesheer under orders not to resist. The German troops were met with cheers, Nazi flags, and flowers. The enthusiasm was so great that Hitler changed his initial plans of making Austria a puppet state with a government led by Seyss-Inquart, and actually incorporated Austria into the Reich.

tl;dr

There certainly was violence involved in the running-up to the Anschluss, the asking for German troops formally void, and as such German forces entered Austria effectively unbidden.

But the Anschluss was unopposed, met with no resistance, and Austria quite quickly aligned themselves with the NSDAP, because the main point of contention was the independence of Austria, not a disagreement on general political ideologies.

Calling the Anschluss "violent" like on that stone and painting the picture of an occupied territory forced at gunpoint to do what was done afterwards is part and parcel of the Austrian Opferthese, a washing of hands of responsibility for any Nazi crimes that were yet to happen on Austrian soil and by the hands of Austrian citizens. A kind of nation-wide claim of Befehlsnotstand.

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    While I appreciate you delineating more of the relevant detail, Schuschnigg's resignation was a "violent act" as you acknowledge. Hence, everything that came after was also a part of that violence. If a state interferes in another's domestic politics by ultimatums, then we are dealing with violence. However, this doesn't mean that the Austrians asking for German 'help' should be blameless. Austrian resistance also illustrates that there was plenty of resistance to the occupation, even if it was 'formally' unopposed. – gktscrk Aug 27 at 8:33
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    @gktscrk: The point I was trying to make was that, while it was certainly anything but "fair play", the actual part of German forces marching into Austria was utterly unopposed, cheered actually, so calling it a "violent invasion" like on that memorial stone is a bit of a stretch. I took care to focus on what all happened in the running-up, as to not white-wash anything of what Germany did, but that stone is definitely a part of the whole Opferthese. – DevSolar Aug 27 at 8:36
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    I think this is a good answer because it shows that the question is not as trivial as it seems at first glance. – mart Aug 27 at 10:56
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@nvoigt already did so, but I wanted to emphasise that an invasion is an act of violence.


Further, though we don't need any more evidence, the OP themselves quoted incidents where the German invaders acted against Austrians (their religious preference had nothing to do with whether they were Austrians) with ill intent:

March 11, 1938

On March 11–13, 1938, German troops invade Austria and incorporate Austria into the German Reich in what is known as the Anschluss.

A wave of street violence against Jewish persons and property followed in Vienna and other cities throughout the so-called Greater German Reich during the spring, summer, and autumn of 1938, culminating in the Kristallnacht riots and violence of November 9-10.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum


Also, it's wrong to say that Austrians wholeheartedly approved on Anschluss. As an unbiased referendum was never carried out, we won't ever know the actual wishes of the people. Meanwhile, both civilian (e.g., Maier) and paramilitary (e.g., Carinthians) resistance groups fought against the Germans, vehemently disagreeing with Anschluss.

It is also relevant that the former Chancellor, Kurt Schuschnigg, was imprisoned by the Germans after Anschluss, first in his house and later in concentration camps.

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I think you are putting too much focus and emphasis on the one word translation of "gewaltsam". Yes, it can mean "violent", but it can just as well mean "forced" as in coerced under threat (most likely if nothing else is mentioned, the threat of violence).

There is no doubt that this annexation was forced. You quoted it yourself, the German military invaded. There is nothing friendly about an invasion. You cannot get voluntarily invaded.

Nazi Germany took Austria by force. That is what the stone and all your own quotes say.

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  • I consider your argument logically invalid. The Austrians did have the ability to defend themselves from the Germans (see quote by OÖ Geschichte), but they didn't even try. If you are able to resist an attacker, but choose not to, then you consent with whatever the attacker does to you. When exactly did Austria say "no" to Hitler? – user2247 Aug 27 at 7:23
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    uh... I would say the plain fact that Hitler considered it a good idea to send tanks into Austria is a hint in that direction. – nvoigt Aug 27 at 7:29
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    @nvoigt: See also Schuschnigg's "Wir weichen der Gewalt. Wir sind nicht geneigt, deutsches Blut zu vergießen." (Wie yield to force. We are not inclined to spilling Gernan blood"). – Jan Aug 27 at 7:35
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    By the way, you should not be my "opponent". If you treat this site like the people trying to help you are your "opponents", it will be very unhelpful. – nvoigt Aug 27 at 7:51
  • @nvoigt You haven't provided any help in terms of hard evidence for your claims. Also, repeatedly calling me a right-wing troll is not helpful, either. – user2247 Aug 27 at 11:21