Remembering and Forgetting Nazism: Education, National Identity, and the Victim Myth in Postwar Austria

By Peter Utgaard | Go to book overview

Chapter Two
REMEMBERING AND FORGETTING
THE ANSCHLUSS

Und dann is eh der Hitler kommen…Naja – des war eine Begeis-
terung…ein Jubel, wie man sie sich überhaupt nicht vorstellen kann –
nach diesen furchtbaren Jahren…die traurigen Jahre…Endlich amal hat
der Wiener A Freid g’habt…a Hetz…ma hat was g’segn, net? Des ken-
nen S’Ihna gar net vurstelln…Naja, also, mir san alle…i waaß no…am
Ring und am Heldenplatz g’standen…es war wia bein Heirigern…es
war wia a riesiger Heiriger…! Aber feierlich.

— Der Herr Karl on the Anschluss1

Few events have contributed more directly to the Austria-as-victim myth than the Anschluss, the keystone and first major theme of the victim myth. The two main reasons for this are the aggressive nature of the Anschluss and the statement in the Allies’ Moscow Declaration of November 1943 that Austria was “the first free country to fall victim to Hitlerite aggression.”2 However, like any historical event, interpretation of the Anschluss can be distorted by focusing on select details at the expense of the larger picture. Such was the case in Austrian schoolbooks from 1955 through the mid 1980s. During this period, texts generally presented the Anschluss to students in terms only of victimization: the Austrian state was victimized by German aggression, and Austrian citizens either did not support the Anschluss or supported it only under extenuating circumstances.

The events of February and March 1938 are well known, but have been interpreted in a variety of ways.3 The Austrian chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg, was summoned to meet Hitler at his Bavarian hideaway in Berchtesgaden, where he was threatened and forced to accept the Nazi Arthur Seyss-Inquart into his cabinet. After returning to Austria, Schuschnigg attempted to forestall Hitler’s design for domination of Austria by planning a plebiscite on the future of the Austrian state. Before such a plebiscite could be carried out, Hitler ordered German troops into Austria on the evening of 11 March 1938. Under orders from Schuschnigg, the

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