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AUSTRIA: For Self-Preservation

2 minute read

Whenever a new crisis arises in Europe, Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg of Austria and Premier Julius Combos of Hungary know what to do. They goto see Benito Mussolini. Hardly had German troops tramped into the Rhineland when Messrs. Schuschnigg & Gombos popped over the Alps. In Rome they attended military reviews, later closeted themselves for hours with Il Duce. What was said privately between Mussolini and his small allies is yet to be told, but it was pretty well indicated last week when bespectacled Chancellor Schuschnigg stood up in the Austrian Diet to demand a new law breaking once more the Treaty of Saint Germain, restoring compulsory military service to Austria.

“We Austrians are not militarists,” he said in a flat voice. “Austria has been exemplary in her loyalty to treaty obligations. . . . But she must clear away barriers in the way of self-preservation.” The conscription bill passed unanimously, with excited deputies standing up on their chairs to cheer. All that the bill actually stipulated was: “Any Austrian may be called upon to serve the Fatherland, with or without arms, according to his physical and spiritual capacity.” What the bill evidently meant was that some 1,500,000 men aged 18 to 42 were made eligible to conscription either in labor battalions on the Nazi model or as combatant additions to the present army, which has already been increased from 30,000 to 38,000 men by short-term enlistments. Most of Europe had been expecting this, received the news calmly. Not so the Little Entente. In Bucharest, Prague, Belgrade, statesmen sputtered melodramatically that if Hungary followed Austria’s lead, Rumania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia would mobilize. For the record all three sent notes of pained protest to little Austria, reserving the right at a later date “to make public the measures” they might take to protect their interests.

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