March 25, 1938 – H.W. van Loon Commentary on the German Annexation of Austria – NBC – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
With the latest series of events taking place in Eastern Europe and another land-grab masquerading as a rightful claim to territory, there’s a history – and it goes back to 1938 and the eve of World War 2 and why allowing unreasonable actions over questionable motives don’t end well.
On March 12, 1938, Nazi Germany annexed Austria in what has popularly referred to as Anschluss. The idea of forming a “Greater Germany” by uniting Austria and Germany began immediately after the Unification of Germany in 1871. The unification had excluded German Austrians and Austria from the German Empire. Austria is a sovereign country in Central Europe divided into nine federated states. The land-locked country is bordered by Germany to the north. It is a predominately German-speaking country with the majority of the population communicating informally in several Bavarian dialects.
The idea of Austria joining Germany had become popular and would have occurred through a democratic process had had the Austrian Nazi not begun a terrorist campaign. In early 1938, the Nazi Austrians conspired to forcefully seize the Austrian Government and unite Austria with Nazi Germany. When Kurt Von Schuschnigg (Austrian Chancellor) heard of the conspiracy, he reached out to Hitler with the hope of protecting his country’s independence. Instead, he was forced into naming a cabinet that included Austrian Nazis On March 9, 1938, the chancellor called for a referendum to try and solve the annexation problem. However, the growing pressure from Hitler forced him to resign on March 11, before the vote. The following day (March 12), Hitler led his troops into Austria where he was received by a cheering crowd. He appointed a new Nazi government and proclaimed Anschluss on March 13 and Austria effectively became a federal state of Germany.
While those who warned this action was heading down a slippery slope were largely met with shrugged shoulders and passive head shaking. However, by the time September 1938 rolled around and the same was about to happen to a portion of Czechoslovakia known in Germany as Sudetenland, wary eyes were starting to wonder if this wasn’t leading somewhere where no happy ending would be found. By September the following year, it would be too late.
Not particularly drawing any comparisons between the current situation between Russia and Ukraine to what went on between Nazi Germany and Austria and Czechoslovakia, it does beg the question if what is currently happening isn’t also destined to have the same dire outcome as the others had over 80 years ago.
That thing about not learning from history . . .
Here is a commentary given by Historian and journalist Hendrik Willem van Loon over the Red Network of NBC on March 25, 1938.
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