University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


Fall of Austria

Dr. Feng Shan Ho at his first diplomatic posting as First Secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.  1935-1937.

Austria had been a Republic for just 18 years before it was annexed into the German Third Reich. Continuing economic crises beginning in 1930, further fueled antiSemitic sentiment in Austria. The influence of Austria's Nazi party continued to grow and antiSemitism soon erupted into antiJewish riots.

In May 1932, the Christian Socialist Party formed a government with Englebert Dollfuss as Chancellor. Dollfuss took steps to curtail antiSemitism by outlawing discrimination against Jews in housing and jobs. In June 1933, Hitler gained complete control of Germany and pushed for the annexation of Austria. Dollfuss soon outlawed the Austrian Nazi Party, however, it continued to operate illegally. On July 25, 1934, Austrian Nazis occupied the Parliament building and murdered Dollfuss.

Dollfuss' successor, Kurt von Schuschnigg, was pressured by the Germans into making 12 concessions, which included lifting the ban on the Austrian Nazi Party and the placement of proNazi ministers in key positions. In one final desperate move on March 9, 1938, Schuschnigg called for a popular vote on Austrian independence. Hitler demanded that the vote be postponed and demanded Schuschnigg's resignation.

On March 12, German troops crossed into Austria. Two days later, delirious crowds greeted Hitler as he paraded triumphantly through Vienna. On April 10, Hitler held his own election, and 9973 percent of Austrians voted in favor of the annexation (Anschluss).

Dr. Feng Shan Ho's diplomatic passport stamped with visa of Austria after annexation by Nazi Germany.

At the time of the Anschluss, more than 185,000 Jews lived in Austria, of whom 170, 000 resided in Vienna. After the annexation, the persecution of Jews in Austria and especially in Vienna surpassed what had taken place in Germany. It was so fierce and brutal that it became a model for the future persecution of Jews in Germany and Naziconquered territories.

On March 18, 1938, the German Minister of the Interior gave SS Chief Heinrich Himmler power to operate in Austria beyond the limits set by German law Himmler set up headquarters at the Hotel Metropol in Vienna, which had been confiscated from its Jewish owners. The offices of Vienna's Jewish community and Zionist institutions were closed and their leaders put in jail. The activities of all Jewish organizations and congregations were forbidden. On the same day, 110 promim Jews, including bankers and businessmen were arrested and deported to Dachau. Jews were banned from any public activity, including participation in scientific and educational institutions and the arts.

In May 1938, the Nuremberg laws, which forcibly segregated Jews in German society and deprived them of their livelihoods, were officially enforced in Austria. According to Himmler's own figures, the number of Austrian Jews persecuted under these laws would reach 220,000. By midMay, a Property Transfer Office with nearly 500 employees was actively confiscating Jewish property, businesses and bank accounts.

In August 1938, SS Lieutenant Adolf Eichmann took charge of the new Center for Jewish Emigration in Vienna. It was to be responsible for "the solution of the Jewish problem" in Austria by coercing Jews to emigrate. Bureaucratic rules for emigration were instituted in which Jews were required to show proof of destination and turn over most of their assets. This was Eichmann's first major assignment, and it would eventually lead him to become one of the chief architects of the Nazi murder of Jews.

The methods instituted by the Nazis in Austria, combining economic expropriation with expulsion of Jews, were later copied in Germany and other Nazi occupied territories. The "model" set up in Austria was the beginning of a systematic persecution that eventually led to the murder of 6 million Jews and 5 million others.