March 13, 1938: The Anschluss is declared.
The Anschluss (Anschluß) was the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany, in which Austria ceased to be an independent state and was incorporated into the Greater German Reich as Ostmark - Eastern march, a name meant to enforce pan-Germanism by suggesting that Austria was merely the eastern portion of a new German empire. This action was explicitly forbidden by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, and the Austrian government in power between 1934 and 1938 was opposed to union with Germany; however, in February of 1938, Adolf Hitler met with Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg at Berchtesgaden, where the two settled a mostly one-sided agreement to ease the tensions between the two nations. Schuschnigg agreed to end his government’s opposition to National Socialists in Austria. Shortly afterward, Schuschnigg made Arthur Seyss-Inquart, an Austrian National Socialist, Austria’s new Minister of the Interior (he also served as chancellor during the brief period between Schuschnigg’s resignation and the beginning of the Anschluss). Schuschnigg’s efforts to preserve Austria’s independence continued, however, and he called for a plebiscite on the issue of unification with Germany to be conducted on March 13; Hitler, fearing that a plebiscite might affirm Austrian independence by popular vote, ordered German troops into Austria on March 12 on the grounds that the people had requested German military aid.
No fighting took place, and German forces were greeted with flowers and cheering - which is why the annexation of Austria is sometimes called the “war of flowers” (Blumenkrieg). One day later, a law regarding the union of the two nations was promulgated, although the new plebiscite. which could now be safely conducted under the supervision of the Nazis, was not held until April 10 - it declared that 99.7% of Austrian voters desired union with Germany. Meanwhile, former chancellor Schuschnigg was placed under house arrest, and Adolf Hitler entered his native country as, in his own words, a “liberator”. Although many Austrians still opposed the Anschluss, many of these dissidents were also thankful that the takeover had occurred so quickly and bloodlessly. Austrian Jews were, of course, not welcomed with open arms and integrated smoothly into the Greater German Reich - shortly after the Anschluss, even before the April 10 plebiscite, the Nazis began to institute anti-Jewish policies in Austria, subjecting Austrian Jews to the same treatment they would have been made to endure in Germany.