Eighty years ago Austria joins the Reich, Leon Blum attempts the impossible (again) and Spanish Republicans demonstrate their particular version of solidarity

Hitler’s response to the decision by the Austrian government to hold a referendum on its policy of maintain Austrian independence. He threatened military invasion and the Austrians crumbled. Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg was replaced by Seyss-Inquart, the Nazi nominee. Schuschnigg was imprisoned and President Miklas detained for having hesitated to appoint Seyss-Inquart. Hitler drove to Vienna, receiving a rapturous welcome from what appears to have been the majority of Austrians. Austria was immediately integrated into the German Reich: the Anschluß. Germany’s anti-Jewish legislation was applied in the new province and the local population gave Jews an unofficial foretaste of their new destiny in spontaneous acts of criminal violence. The union of Germany and Austria had been forbidden by the Versailles treaty but so many of its clauses had been broken by Hitler with impunity that there was no appetite internationally to protest in any serious fashion.

What faint prospect there might ever have been of intervention was negated by the ongoing political crisis in France. Just months after the failure of his Front Populaire government Leon Blum set out again to attempt to square the circle of funding rearmament. His Radical predecessor had abandoned the effort in a huff after barely three months. In order to finance rearmament he needed a solid parliamentary majority, but the right-wing parties were not willing. The only alterantive was quasi autarky and currency control.

Franco’s Nationalists swiftly followed up the failure of the ill-begotten Republican offensive with a large-scale counter-attack in Aragon. Material superiority and better generalship led to an almost immediate collapse in the Republican defence. The two main Republican leaders, Andre Marty and Enrique Lister, displayed a dismaying lack of solidarity, either Communist or Republican, and proved to be far more adept at blaming the other for treasonous failure than organizing any kind of military defence. Wholesale executions of Republican troops for supposed desertion or cowardice did not improve morale.


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