11 March 1938
Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg has been frantically trying to find a solution to his precarious position since he was coerced into signing an agreement with Hitler last month. His political machinations have amounted to little, despite having legalised the communist party in return for their support. Hitler’s demands that National Socialists be included in the government were adhered to, but Schuschnigg’s has irked Hitler to the point of threatening invasion.
On 24th February, Schuschnigg gave a speech in the Diet (Austrian Parliament) in which he stated that he would go “this far and no further” to placate Nazi Germany. A plebiscite had been proclaimed for 13th March, in which he hoped to quell the political uncertainty in Austria and also show both Hitler and the world that Austria wanted to remain an independent country outside of the political influence of Nazi Germany.
Issues with the wording of the plebiscite and with many Austrian Nazis under the voting age of 24 (strangely this minimum voting age applies to all, except members of Schuschnigg’s own party, who can vote at any age). Austrian Nazis have been gathering support and Nazi Germany is determined to force the issue.
Hitler has insisted on 3 main points:
- Scrapping the plebiscite,
- Schuschnigg’s immediate resignation
- The new chancellor is to be leader of the Austrian Nazis, Arthur Seyss-Inquart
Threats of an armed intervention into Austria have forced Schuschnigg to resign and the President has reluctantly appointed Seyss-Inquart as the new Chancellor. Hitler wasn’t messing around on this, he has been amassing troops near Austria’s borders, leaving little doubt he plans to carry out his threats.
One of Schuschnigg’s last acts as chancellor was to cancel the Plebiscite scheduled for two days from now.