Hitler's Austria: Popular Sentiment in the Nazi Era, 1938-1945

Article excerpt

HITLER'S AUSTRIA: Popular Sentiment in the Nazi Era, 1938-1945, Evan Burr Bukey, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2000, 320 pages, $39.95.

During the past few decades, historians have conducted many groundbreaking and significant studies designed to demonstrate historical trends and events from the perspective of ordinary citizens. The era of National Socialism in Germany is a historical period of which such studies are prolific.

Evan Burr Bukey conducts a similar evaluation for a small portion of the German Reich-Austria-in his book Hitler's Austria: Popular Sentiment in the Nazi Era, 1938-1945. Bukey shapes his analysis in the same manner as Ian Kershaw, a historian who has contributed tremendously to the field of social history. Although Bukey admits that he has never met Kershaw, the latter's influence over this book is quite marked. As such, this is Bukey's attempt to determine the "collective dispositions of society" in Austria throughout the period of the entire Third Reich.

The study begins with a look at Germany's incorporation of Austria-renamed the Ostmark-into German dictator Adolf Hitler's Empire in 1938 and carries forward through World War II. Bukey demonstrates the nuances of Austrian Nazism and popular sentiment as well as the inconsistencies between the Alpine State and the core German Reich. Three inconsistencies run as continuous threads throughout the book and stand out as particularly worthwhile to the reader.

First, Bukey demonstrates the factional nature of Nazism in Austria, aggravated by Berlin's tendency to send homegrown Nazis to assume positions of leadership and authority within the party apparatus in Austria after the Anschluss. In many cases, these carpetbagging interlopers pushed Austrian Nazi leaders, always a "fractious and discordant group," into the political background. The result was substantial friction throughout the war years between the two groups.

Second, Bukey addresses the tension between civilians within the Reich and the Ostmark. The tension was created and exacerbated by divergent aims among numerous groups, such as urban and rural residents or native and tourist populations.

Finally, Bukey highlights the unique elements of popular sentiment that resulted from the fact that, for much of the war, Austria was not a prime target of Allied bombing missions or ground combat. …