The Union of the German People of Austria
and the Sudeten Germans
With the German People of the Reich
Further, it has become self-evident to me that those frontier districts between Czechoslovakia and Germany where the Sudeten population is in an important majority should be given full right of self-determination at once. If some cession is inevitable, as I believe it to be, it is as well that it should be done promptly and without procrastination. There is real danger, even a danger of civil war, in the continuance of a state of uncertainty. Consequently there are very real reasons for a policy of immediate and drastic action. Any kind of plebiscite or referendum would, I believe, be a sheer formality in respect of these predominantly German areas. A very large majority of their inhabitants desire amalgamation with Germany. The inevitable delay involved in taking a plebiscite vote would only serve to excite popular feelings, with perhaps most dangerous results. I consider, therefore, that these frontier districts should at once be transferred from Czechoslovakia to Germany, and, further, that measures for their peaceful transfer, including the provision of safeguards for the population during the transfer period, should be arranged forthwith by agreement between the two Governments.
(Vide: Runciman Report No. 7, 1938.)
The rise of the Austrian people in rebellion against Schuschnigg in a few hours, the fall of Schuschnigg from power, the telegram from Dr. Seyss-Inquart, the head of the new government, to Hitler to send troops to preserve order, the triumphant march of the soldiers of the Reich into Austria, received with acclamations of joy by the Austrian people, and the progress of Hitler through the country received with such scenes of enthusiastic welcome as are unparalleled in history, took the people of this country completely by surprise. They had been carefully educated in the belief that the "independence" of Austria, that is their separation from Germany, was the wish of the Austrian people. The facts that the Austrian Parliament in 1918-19 passed a unanimous vote in favour of union with the Reich, and that Dollfuss, finding that if he held an election the vote would be in favour of the Anschluss, had abolished parliament and made himself a dictator, that Schuschnigg his successor had never dared to hold an election, that 40,000 Austrians were in exile across the frontier and thousands in prison without trial, and that Schuschnigg only held power by an armed police with the forces of the allies behind him, made no impression on the people of this country, deceived by a skilful propaganda. Many still believe that Hitler has seized Austria by force of
In order to get a correct understanding of the real attitude of the great mass of Austrian people, it is necessary to go back to what happened when the war was ended. The quarrel between Austria and Germany which ended in the battle of Sadowa in 1866, was really a quarrel between the two dynasties, the Hohenzollerns and the Habsburgs for supreme power over the German speaking peoples. By the defeat of Austria the Hohenzollerns became supreme, and in 1879 an alliance was formed between the two countries by Bismarck, which led to Germany supporting Austria in her quarrel with Serbia in 1914. During four years Germans of the Reich and Austrian Germans had fought side by side. The long struggle against almost the world whole and the humiliation of defeat which they both suffered welded them together into one people.
On the fall of the Habsburg dynasty, the German Austrians formed a Council of State, and on the 9th of November 1918, this Council of State sent a message to Chancellor Max von Baden of the German Reich: "In this hour of great historical crisis the German-Austrian Council of State sends to the German people its fraternal greetings and the warmest wishes for its future. The German-Austrian Council of State expresses the hope that the German people in Austria will have a part in the election of representatives of the Constitutive National Assembly which is to decide the future political order of the German nation."
On November 30th 1918, the Reich government passed the following decree: "If the German National Assembly resolves that Austria in accordance with her wish is to be admitted to the German Reich, then the German-Austrian deputies shall join the Assembly as members with equal rights."
On February 4th 1919, President Dr. Dinghofer addressed the German-Austrian National Assembly as follows:
"Most honourable National Assembly. The day after tomorrow on February 6th, the newly elected Constitutive National Assembly of the German Republic in Weimar meets for the first time. The conditions whereby we participate in the same as rightful members have not yet been reached and indeed not yet created. Nevertheless we cannot ignore this great and significant event. The idea of Greater Germany is not dead for us Germans in these provinces, and never, never was it dead. Like a star glowing out of the darkness the joyous hope of the realization of our longing dream beckons us: in all the sorrow and all the care that now surround us there glows the hope of lasting reunion with our old Motherland. With the greatest enthusiasm we therefore greet our brothers yonder in the Reich. We acclaim them with joy. The German people inseparably united in its entirety, no longer separated by boundary-posts, no longer separated by the jealousy of rulers, shall and must become our homeland again."
In his opening speech at the first session of the German National Assembly at Weimar on February 6th 1919, the people's deputy, Friedrich Ebert, spoke as follows: "...We also cannot forego the union of the whole German nation in one Reich. Our German Austrian brothers have already declared themselves part of the Greater-German Republic at their National Assembly on November 12th. Now the German Austrian National Assembly has once again amid the greatest enthusiasm sent its greetings and expressed the hope that our National Assembly and theirs will succeed in re-establishing the link that was broken by force in 1866. German Austria must, they say, be united with the motherland for all time."
At Weimar on 21st February 1919, the following motion was made by the deputies Löbe, Grober, Haase (Berlin), Von Payer, Dr. Count von Posadowsky-Wehner and Dr. Stresemann: "May the National Assembly resolve: The National Assembly notes with lively satisfaction the resolutions by which the representatives of German Austria have declared their membership of the German people as a whole. It affirms to its German Austrian brothers that the Germans of the Reich and of Austria constitute an indivisible unit, transcending former state boundaries, and expresses the confident hope that through the negotiations to be entered upon by the governments this inner unity will soon find in settled political forms an expression that will be recognized by all the Powers of the World." This motion was supported by all parties in the Assembly.
This movement for union between the Germans of Austria and the Germans of the Reich put the three democracies of Great Britain, France and the United States in a somewhat embarrassing position. They had promised self determination to the peoples of Europe, and both Germany and Austria had elected democratic governments and these democratic governments had unanimously decided to unite. On the other hand, the allies had decided that for strategic reasons this union between Germany and Austria must be prevented, and an "Independent" Austria created. Accordingly on the 29th of December 1918, the French foreign minister M. Pichon made the following statement:
"There remains the question of German-Austria. It is serious but it should not alarm us. We have means of solving it so that it will not bring our enemies the compensations and resources that they hope from it. In settling the new status of Germany and of the ruins of Austria it will be contingent on the Allied Powers to take measures which will decisively reduce the power of Germany to fit proportions and thus deprive her of the chance of indemnifying herself with the Austrian races remaining outside Czecho-Slovakia, Poland and Yugo-Slavia, for what she will irrevocably have lost in any case by sanctioning our victory. This victory must therefore in the first place be transformed into all its just consequences and into the application of the rights which it gives us over the vanquished, to remove the possibility of these again endangering the security and freedom of the world."
Article 80 of the Treaty of Versailles was as follows: "Germany acknowledges and will respect strictly the independence of Austria, within the frontiers which may be fixed in a treaty between that State and the Principal Allied and Associated Powers; she agrees that this independence shall be inalienable, except with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations", which meant referring it to the Greek Kalends.
The German delegates signed this clause, but made the following protest: "In Article 80 is demanded the permanent recognition of Austrian independence within the boundaries laid down by the Peace Treaty of the Allied and Associated Governments with Germany. Germany never has had, and never will have the intention of altering the German-Austrian frontier by force. But should the population of Austria, whose history and culture have been closely linked with its kindred German country for thousands of years, wish to re-establish with Germany the connection that was only dissolved recently by a military decision, then Germany cannot pledge herself to oppose the wish of her German brothers in Austria, since the right of self-determination of peoples must apply generally and not solely to the detriment of Germany. Any other procedure would be in contradiction to the principles laid down in the Congress speech of President Wilson on February 11th, 1918."
In drawing up the constitution of the German Reich, another attempt was made to keep the door open for union with Austria. The following two clauses were introduced: Article 2. "The territory of the Reich consists of the territories of the German countries. Other territories can be admitted to the Reich by law if their population desires it in accordance with the right of self-determination."
Article 61, par. 2. "After union with the German Reich, German Austria shall receive the right of participating in the Reich Council with the number of votes corresponding with her population. Until such time the representatives of German Austria shall have an advisory vote."
On September 2nd 1919, the following note was sent by President Clemenceau to the President of the German Reich.
It is a double violation:
1. Article 61, in stipulating the admission of Austria to the Reichsrat, likens this Republic to the German provinces which constitute the German Empire; this is incompatible with the observance of Austria's independence.
2. In allowing and regulating the participation of Austria in the Reichsrat, Article 61 creates a political bond and a common political action between Germany and Austria, in complete contradiction to the independence of the latter.
The Allied and Associated Powers therefore, having reminded the German Government that Article 178 of the German Constitution declares that the 'conditions of the Treaty of Versailles cannot be affected by the constitution', summon the German Government to take the proper steps to annul this violation forthwith, by declaring Article 61, paragraph 2, void.
With the reservation as to further measures in the event of refusal, and indeed on the basis of the Treaty (namely, Article 429), the Allied and Associated Powers inform the German Government that this violation of its obligations in an essential point will oblige the Powers to extend their occupation immediately on the right bank of the Rhine, if their just demand be not complied with within 14 days of the date of this note."
Since then the agitation for the Anschluss has never ceased, and has grown in intensity as Germany under Hitler once more became a free nation.
After the abortive rising and the deplorable assassination of Dollfuss, the movement in favour of the Anschluss was savagely suppressed.
Staying in Salzburg at the time, we saw young peasants from the hills being marched in as prisoners. The Castle was full of prisoners and several were shot without trial although they had not been near Vienna and could have had nothing to do with the assassination.
When Schuschnigg broke all his promises to Hitler, and announced his travesty of a plebiscite, the Austrian pot boiled over. There was no register of voters, no arrangements to protect the secrecy of the ballot, and only one voting card with "Independent Austria, Heil Schuschnigg, Ja" printed on it. Anyone wishing to vote No, had to cut out a card of the same size, write on it No and hand it openly to Schuschnigg officials who were the only people allowed at the polling stations, with the probability of arrest and imprisonment.
On the 11th of March the following telegram was sent by Dr. Seyss-Inquart to Hitler: "The provisional Government of Austria which, after the resignation of the Schuschnigg government, consider it their duty to restore calm and order in Austria, direct to the German Government the urgent request to support them in their duty and to help them in preventing bloodshed. To this end they ask the German Government to send German troops as soon as possible."
After the receipt of this telegram, German troops marched in and the Anschluss was accomplished without the loss of a single life.
The Sudeten Germans
At the time when I am finishing this book, the governments of Europe have solved the vexed problems of the Sudeten Germans, and the Hungarians forcibly included in Czecho-Slovakia - another inheritance from the peace treaties.
Czecho-Slovakia contains Germans, Slovaks, Hungarians, Poles, Rumanians, Ruthenians and Czechs, and over all these alien people bundled together by the framers of the peace treaties into one nation, the Czechs have a small majority which has enabled them under the outward form of democracy to keep supreme power in their own hands. Lord Balfour declared when the State of Czecho-Slovakia was brought into existence, that these new European States were built up on the principle of little nations on the victorious side seizing the territories of a country that was defeated, and holding them on a cut-throat basis which cannot be defended. None of these various races love one another, but all are agreed on a hatred of Czech domination, and both the Germans and the Slovaks have petitioned the League for freedom and independence.
There can be no question that the Sudeten Germans have suffered cruelly under Czech rule. The glass industry has been allowed to fall into decay, they are denied equality of political rights, they have great difficulty in getting employment, and a large number are slowly dying of starvation. The statistics as to disease from malnutrition among the German children are appalling. Until recently thousands have been imprisoned without trial.
Their terrible condition has naturally excited the greatest indignation among their German brothers in the Reich, and Hitler's task has been to prevent any rash act on either side of the frontier which might lead to war.
The reason why all Europe was so interested in Czecho-Slovakia is because Bohemia, now part of Czecho-Slovakia, surrounded by mountains, is the natural citadel of central Europe. It is for this reason that the treaty between the Czechs and the Soviet was so dangerous. If Bohemia were in possession of the Soviet army, they could accomplish that Asiatic conquest of Europe which has so nearly happened more than once in the past. The treaty has now been denounced and the door for an inroad into Europe of Asiatic hordes under the flag of the hammer and the sickle, bolted and barred.
When the Sudeten German question came to a head, and the pot long simmering boiled over, Hitler had to deal with a very complex situation. The German people were difficult to restrain, the Sudeten Germans were in rebellion and the Communist party in Czecho-Slovakia hoped to use the trouble to promote a European war, while it was impossible to trust Benes who had made so many promises he had never kept in the past.
While a party in Czecho-Slovakia wished to provoke an armed intervention by France, Hitler was doing his best to avoid the necessity. He had only to send an armed force from Austria into Slovakia, and promise independence to all the minorities and home rule to the Slovaks, for Czecho-Slovakia to fall to pieces, a result which the Communists were prepared to face if only France could be persuaded to intervene, - an intervention which Hitler had to do everything he could to prevent.
The Runciman report in favour of the cession of the Sudeten German area to Germany without delay, cleared the air, and when Hitler proposed this solution to Chamberlain at their first meeting, Chamberlain was able to persuade his Cabinet, Daladier and Benes to accept this solution.
Between Chamberlain's first and second visit to see Hitler, certain incidents had taken place in Czecho-Slovakia which were not reported by our Press, but were witnessed by a friend of mine who was on the spot at the time. My friend entered Prague on September 20th, and found the Czechs very depressed at the thought of giving up the Sudeten German territory. That evening a wireless message was sent out by the Prague station, that Churchill had overthrown Chamberlain, become Prime Minister, and flown to Paris to arrange for war with Germany. Next day Prague was seething with excitement, and bills were posted in the town comparing the military strength of Germany with the military strength of Great Britain, France, the USSR. and the USA: The Prime Minister resigned and M. Hodza became Prime Minister.
In the meantime my friend had motored on to Eger. He arrived on the Wednesday afternoon, and found that the handing over of the Sudeten German area having been agreed to, the Czech government had allowed the Germans to take over the management of the town which was decorated everywhere with the German flag, and the people rejoicing in the streets. The Czech police were arranging to leave the town in the most peaceable manner.
On the Thursday morning M. Hodza became Prime Minister, and on the Thursday afternoon, a telegram was received from the new government that the Czechs were again going to take over the town. There was a hasty hiding away of flags and decorations, and in the evening the Czech troops marched into a silent town with deserted streets, everyone hiding behind closed doors.
My friend motored on the frontier, and found bridges being blown up and machine gun emplacements being erected. It was evident that Benes had made up his mind for one last gamble for war, and that the message sent out by the new government that they adhered to the handing over of the Sudeten German area, was merely intended to put off time.
All these facts were of course known to Hitler, and caused him to draw up his ultimatum for immediate entry.
His proposal that Czech troops should retire and the German troops advance into the area was the only plan to prevent bloodshed between the Czech and German population. Runciman had already stated that it was necessary to act quickly to prevent civil war, and it is difficult to understand why Chamberlain rejected a plan which was unanimously adopted by the four powers a week later.
The ultimatum drawn up by Hitler might have been written in a more conciliatory manner, but the map accompanying it agreed closely with the map already prepared, and with the territory ultimately given up, and no difficulty was found in adhering to the time table he had originally drawn up. The flight of some of the Czechs from the Sudeten German area was quite unnecessary, as was proved by the quiet occupation of the area by the German troops without any disturbance of the existing population. The fact is that the Continental peasant from long and bitter experience over many centuries, whenever he hears of the approach of an army packs up his household goods and bolts.
During the interview with Chamberlain, Hitler for the first time threatened to use force and enter the Sudeten area even though opposed by Czech troops if it was not ceded at once. It seems to me inconceivable that we would have plunged Europe into war because Hitler insisted on an immediate occupation of territory which had already been ceded to him, millions of lives being sacrificed over a dispute about a time table.
Hitler had pledged himself in his speech on March 7th 1936, that all adjustments
It is significant of the condition to which the German population had been reduced, that Hitler said that on his entry he had seen for the first time people weeping for joy and that the first thing the German troops had to do was to bring in large quantities of bread for the starving people.
Extract from a Czech Schoolbook
"Who loves the Czechs - Hail to him! Long life to him!"
"Who loves the Russians - Hail to him! Long life to him!"
"Who loves the Serbs - Hail to him! Long life to him!"
"Who loves the Slovenes - Hail to him! Long life to him!"
"Who loves the Hungarians - Strike him down!"
"Who loves the Germans - Strike him down!"