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Foreign News: Austria Is Finished

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One morning last week Queen Elizabeth chatted in Buckingham Palace with Frau Joachim von Ribbentrop, daughter of Germany’s great Henkell imitation champagne family. Meanwhile, King George VI received Herr Ribbentrop, the new German Foreign Minister and onetime Henkell salesman, who in public makes a point of greeting His Majesty with the Nazi salute (TIME, Feb. 15, 1937). Below stairs, Buckingham Palace secretaries were receiving news reports from Munich, denied from Berlin, that that great south German city had awakened to find German mobilization against Austria far advanced.

Herr and Frau Ribbentrop, who had been greeted everywhere they went in London with angry cries of “Release Pastor Niemöller!”, “Release Thälmann!” and “Get out, Ribbentrop!”, then went along from Buckingham Palace to the second most exclusive address in the British Empire, No. 10 Downing Street. There a State luncheon, with plenty of wine, was offered them by Prime Minister & Mrs. Neville Chamberlain, who had invited pro-French Mr. & Mrs. Winston Churchill, pro-German Lord & Lady Londonderry and all the Cabinet’s biggest wigs & wives. The news tickers at No. 10 were chattering about how all Munich’s motor vehicles, including beer trucks, had been commandeered and were roaring out along Adolf Hitler’s concrete military Autobahnen toward Austria.

All Europe was simultaneously drawing deductions from the hospitality of Buckingham Palace and No. 10. The Quai d’Orsay was hearing from Rome that Mussolini, now just entering upon negotiations through diplomatic channels with Chamberlain and already on an Axis with Hitler (TIME, Nov. 2, 1936), was “in these circumstances” not again going to mobilize Italian troops along the frontier of Austria as he did in 1934 after the Nazi assassination of Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss.

“In the Circumstances.”‘ The French Army, Navy and Air Force were recently coordinated for quick action in emergencies under a new Super General Staff (TIME, Jan. 31), and a reason given for this was that lack of such coordination had “paralyzed” what might otherwise have been quick French action after Hitler invaded the Rhineland. But there was last week no Cabinet in France at the moment, and to the Austrian Government, calling frantically from Vienna, the Quai d’Orsay had to reply that “in the circumstances” no action likely to check the German advance could be taken by France.

Only Czechoslovakia, the most powerful satellite of France, remained as a possible source of armed assistance to the Austrian Government. But, perhaps because Czechoslovaks fear they may be next on Vegetarian Adolf Hitler’s menu, the attitude of Prague “in the circumstances” last week was to lie low. “Europe’s Smartest Little Statesman,” famed Czechoslovak President Eduard Benes, could think of nothing better than to observe: “In spite of the great importance of material strength . . . the most important forces are spiritual.” After all. one bold remark by Benes might cause Hitler to speed German troops toward Prague, as well as Vienna.

“Shall We Join the Ladies?” In London at No. 10 after luncheon, the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, before they joined the ladies, took Herr Ribbentrop off into a separate room. Afterward, in high British quarters, they were said to have asked him to give “guarantees” that Germany would not violate the territory or independence of Austria— guaranteed already by no less than seven treaties, to all of which Britain & France are parties. Herr Ribbentrop was said on the same authority to have replied that this was “impossible,”* and to have added that it might be best for Britain and Germany not to attempt negotiations until Germany had secured advantages she expected shortly to obtain elsewhere.

The German Foreign Minister agreed to transmit most anxious British warnings to Adolf Hitler, and then Ribbentrop with Chamberlain and Halifax joined the ladies. Later in the day Der Führer. who was holding his secret Privy Council on Foreign Affairs in continuous session at Berlin as German military radio flashed moment-by-moment technical details of the troop movements, was waited upon by the British & French Ambassadors with identical, very sharply-worded protests. But they were not accompanied by anyone representing Russia, or the U. S., or Italy, or Japan. An agonizing interval of many hours elapsed before incredulous official London fully believed the German occupation of Austria was taking place, and at the British Foreign Office it was said that when Lord Halifax became convinced he clutched his forehead like a man distracted, exclaimed: “Horrible! Horrible! I never thought they would do it!”†

Meanwhile Schuschnigg. Jesuit fathers correctly judged Kurt Schuschnigg in his boyhood to have the character of a great fighting Catholic, such as, for example, Ferdinand Foch. Schuschnigg, Jesuit-trained, brilliant and devout, fought in the World War right up to the Armistice, at which time he laid down his arms on Austria’s Italian front. It was then, as Dr. Schuschnigg has bitterly complained in his memoirs, that some Scottish soldiers who had been aiding the Italians took not only his rifle and ammunition but also his watch, his ring and his pocketbook. After this he never again felt the same about Protestants.

A rising young lawyer and Catholic politician, Dr. Schuschnigg had become Minister of Education and Justice by May 1, 1934, the date on which diminutive Austrian Chancellor Engelbert (“Millimetternich”) Dollfuss formed his Christian Authoritarian State. It was said of Dr. Schuschnigg that he had come with “clean hands” through the welter of financial scandals involving many Austrian politicians since the War. So had Dollfuss, for that matter. Nobody thought of the Minister of Education and Justice as a future Austrian Chancellor—until he happened not to be with Dollfuss and most of the Cabinet on the day Nazi assassins captured the Chancellery (TIME, Aug. 6, 1934). While they were murdering Dollfuss and figuring that German troops would do the rest, Benito Mussolini was bluffing down Adolf Hitler with his mobilization of Italian troops, and Minister of Education and Justice Kurt von Schuschnigg was coldly, efficiently acting as emergency Chancellor, rallying the troops and police “for God and Austria!”

“Good Germans.” As Chancellor in succession to his murdered friend Dollfuss, Kurt von Schuschnigg saw 13 Nazis hanged. Soon he was recognized by those shrewd judges of character, Pope Pius and Premier Mussolini, as a statesman of commanding powers. He proved his ability by maneuvering out of the Austrian Vice-Chancellorship famed fun-loving Prince Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, who once had an Austrian private political army of 125,000, aspired to the Austrian Throne. Pious Kurt von Schuschnigg long wished to restore “His Most Apostolic Majesty Kaiser Otto von Habsburg.” This week, however, Otto’s goose appeared definitely cooked.

On Oct. 31, 1933, Dr. Schuschnigg was secretly dispatched by prominent Austrians to confer at Munich with Hitler’s Nazi henchmen, Heinrich Himmler and Rudolf Hess. He went back to Vienna convinced that the Nazis would never offer Austria honorable terms of voluntary association with Germany.

Association or federal union of Austria with Germany on “equal” terms had been the dream of most Austrians since the War, and for this Kurt von Schuschnigg had worked until as a Christian he became convinced that the Nazis at root are brutal pagans whose object is subjugation of Christian Austria. In speaking of Germans apart from Nazis, Christian Kurt von Schuschnigg up to a few weeks ago was still repeating, “We are good Germans, but always true Austrians!”—for the average Austrian thinks of himself as “German” in blood and soul.

Cabbage & Compote. In Vienna last week, first intimate details of Chancellor Schuschnigg’s recent parley with Chancellor Hitler at Berchtesgaden (TIME, Feb. 28) became known. During lunch Vegetarian Hitler ate cooked red cabbage as his pièce de résistance, consumed a fruit compote for dessert. Dr. Schuschnigg and the others consumed cold lobster and “fresh asparagus grown under sun lamps,” the Germans said. The talk at luncheon, following the two Chancellors’ private conference and agreement, was of horse breeding mainly. The Austrian Chancellor’s entourage considered it in bad taste that a high German officer of Hitler’s staff was wearing a decoration not enameled but blazing with precious stones, such as would be worn only on the greatest occasions of State. After luncheon, dignified, firm Dr. Schuschnigg stood up as best he could for Austria’s rights, was obliged to accept, and later carried out to the letter, a hard bargain which nonetheless left Austria fully sovereign. Notably he was forced to take into the Austrian Cabinet as Minister of Interior an Austrian Nazi, Dr. Arthur Seyss-Inquart.

Letter or Spirit? Adolf Hitler could not last week accuse Kurt von Schuschnigg of failure to carry out the two Chancellors’ agreement to the letter, accused him instead of violating the agreement’s “spirit” (see p. 18).

What the Austrian Chancellor did last week to merit this accusation was to order what every leader of the German people has wanted ever since the World War: a nationwide Austrian plebiscite on the issue of whether Austria should unite with Germany.

Time & again Britain & France in the years after the War blocked such a plebiscite, unquestionably because London and Paris believed the result would be favorable to Berlin. By a supreme irony last week, Chancellor Schuschnigg had so succeeded in stirring up Austrian Christian backing for himself and resentment against the Nazi pagans that in Berlin, probably for the first time in Adolf Hitler’s life, it entered the Führer’s head that the plebiscite just possibly might not go pro-German.

The shock, the terrific impact of this realization upon mystic, intuitive Dictator Hitler produced one of those instantaneous and, as Nazis say, “inspired” decisions which the Führer now & then makes: MOBILIZATION! Once aroused, potent Herr Hitler, with Teutonic ruthlessness, simply smashed brave, resourceful but basically impotent Dr. Schuschnigg. Crunch!—the heavy-handed German Chancellor dispatched from Berlin Schuschnigg’s Minister Without Portfolio Edmund Glaise-Horstenau to demand within five hours a decree by the Austrian Government “indefinitely postponing” the plebiscite. This Chancellor Schuschnigg and Austrian President Wilhelm Miklas, who had just come from the pleasanter business of entertaining junketing Herbert Hoover, felt obliged to grant. Then again CRUNCH!—the Dictator sent by airplane his ultimatum that the last Chancellor of Austria (that is, of independent and sovereign Austria) must resign. This message was carried by Herr Josef Bürckel, Nazi leader in the Saar.

At 7:45 p.m. Friday, Dr. Schuschnigg went on the air so hurriedly that he was not even introduced. Who knew when Nazi gangs might seize the Austrian Federal Radio? Listeners could only tell by his voice and the context that it was their Chancellor speaking.

The Chancellor declared that German-broadcast allegations of disorder in Austria see p. 18) “are lies from A to Z!” He said Germany “today handed President Miklas [of Austria] an ultimatum with a time limit ordering him to nominate as Chancellor a person designated by the German Government.”

“The President has asked me to tell the people of Austria that he has yielded only to force!” continued Dr. Schuschnigg. “Because we are unwilling, even in this terrible situation, to permit at any price the shedding of streams of German blood,* we have ordered Austria’s armed forces to withdraw without resistance, in the event that an invasion is carried out. . . . And so I take leave of the Austrian people with a German word of farewell which I utter from the depths of my heart: Gott schuetze Oesterreich [GOD PROTECT AUSTRIA]!”

Had he resigned? It later appeared that the President spent most of the evening attempting to convince Dr. Schuschnigg that he ought to remain Chancellor—and, inferentially, fight. Possibly there are times when not to fight—especially when all concerned are of “German blood”—is the wise, courageous course. Certainly Kurt von Schuschnigg had personally nothing to gain by a submission to the Nazis. On the contrary, he could justly fear to be butchered as was Dollfuss, fight or no fight.

In the end Schuschnigg’s “goodby” meant that he resigned as Chancellor. Just before midnight the Austrian Federal Radio capitulated by broadcasting the German Nazi Horst Wessel song. Horst Wessel, author of the song, was a Nazi who, before his death (in a 1930 brawl with Communists), incontestably earned his living soliciting customers for Berlin strumpets. The degradation of the Austria of Mozart, of Schubert and of Schuschnigg was thus total. Nazi Storm Troops shortly took Schuschnigg to an Austrian home where he was held in “protective custody.”

Snip, Snip. The terrible crises which have been frequent in the lesser European countries since the War have bred statesmen with tough nerves. On the day Austria was being invaded, out to an orchard went Austrian Nazi Minister of Interior Dr. Seyss-Inquart, incipient Chancellor.

Snip, snip, he pruned away at fruit trees for something like an hour and a half, then returned to Vienna refreshed about the time Chamberlain and Ribbentrop were “joining the ladies” in London. The German blood of this Nazi is a good deal colder than the blood of Hitler. In stolid fashion he waited around. After Schuschnigg’s broadcast “good-by,” Seyss-Inquart kept going on the air by electrical transcription every half-hour or so, asking Austrians not to resist the invading German Army, saying the troops of the Führer would bring “happiness.” All he had to do was avoid assassination by anti-Nazis before the arrival of the German Army and Adolf Hitler.

Behind patrols of tanks, armored cars and motorcycles mounting machine guns and antitank guns, 40,000 German soldiers riding in trucks, clinking their metal and squeaking in their leather, had been sweeping over the border since dawn. At Salzburg, Innsbruck, Kufstein, the German commanders rolled in, sent their staff officers to summon the Austrian commanders to the Rathaus, where the Austrians with unanimous cheerfulness accepted the decree that they were now part of the German Army.

A thousand German troops piled out of a fleet of bombers which had just roared into Vienna’s Aspern airport, the vanguard of motorized forces which did not arrive until later that morning. These troops were the escort of Nazi Police Chief Heinrich Himmler, who had arrived to take charge of the capital’s constabulary. Herr Himmler found the regular Viennese police, already wearing swastika brassards, augmented by roving bands of Hitler Youth and Storm Troops. A great roundup and lockup of Socialists, Communists, labor unionists and Fatherland Fronters. the only legal party under Chancellor Schuschnigg, was instantly begun, and Seyss-Inquart sped to Linz to greet his master, Hitler. Ultimatum-bringer Josef Bürckel stayed in Vienna to reorganize the Austrian Nazi Party and prepare a plebiscite for April 10 (see p. 18).

When Germany’s 98th Alpine Infantry reached Brenner Pass (Italian frontier), its officers exchanged friendly and formal greetings with the Italian command on the other side of the line.

The Italians had evidently been expecting just this to happen. The Rome-Berlin Axis was no longer an imaginary line. It had become an uninterrupted strip of Nazi-Fascist territory bisecting Europe, stretching from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. In Paris the most eminent anti-Nazi and anti-Fascist French journalist, Mme Genèvieve Tabouis, urged Leftists not to console themselves with the theory that Hitler had surprised, discomfited Mussolini, declared that by prearrangement II Duce had given Germany a free hand in Austria, in return for which Der Führer shipped recently so much extra war material to General Franco as to account, charged Mme Tabouis, for the smashing success last week of the Rightist offensive in Spain (see p. 23).

All over Germany grinning Nazi mouths were opening to say: “Austria is finished! Franco is victorious!”

* By this time German troops were already en route to Vienna. †Weeks ago Halifax might have read in London papers strong rumors that Hitler told him at their meeting (TIME, Nov. 29) that he was resolved to do it. *l.e., of Austrians and Germans.

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