Anschluss legacy

Forty-two percent of Austrians believe that “not everything was bad under Hitler,” according to a poll conducted by the Viennese newspaper Der Standard. That’s very telling, especially this week when Austria marks the 75th anniversary of the Anschluss – its merger with Nazi Germany.

In the postwar years, Vienna sought to shirk all responsibility for the Holocaust by pretending that it was merely another conquered and victimized European country, whose citizenry was forced against its will to endure German occupation. But not all truth can be conveniently rewritten.

The indisputable fact is that the homeland of both Adolf Hitler and Adolf Eichmann enthusiastically cheered what was later expediently portrayed as a hostile takeover. Hitler’s so-called annexation was cause for rapturous celebration and no one – not even the Germans – matched the Austrian alacrity to rob the Jews, persecute them, humiliate and brutalize them. In many ways Berlin learned pernicious lessons from Vienna.

Given all that, the anniversary-eve poll exposes an old mindset that, much as it was once assiduously denied, appears to survive vibrantly among significant portions of the population.

Besides nostalgia for the Hitler era, other findings attest to lack of contrition. Thus 54% of respondents thought that neo-Nazi groups might succeed in Austrian elections, had they not been barred by law from running. In other words, over half the Austrians believe it probable that Nazis could today be elected if only allowed to campaign.

As far as 61% were concerned, Austria had already adequately dealt with its Nazi record. Presumably Austrians can put it all behind them and quite well out of mind.

But perhaps most disturbing was the finding that 61% of Austrian adults want to see their government headed by a “strong man.” This relates not to perceptions of the past but to the here and now.

This is scary because it pertains to more than Austria, which anyhow is not anywhere near the power it was a hundred years ago. But Austria is still quintessential Europe and its moods reflect sentiments elsewhere on the continent, both east and west.

Austrian public opinion, which on par with other European countries has never spared Israel its stinging disapproval of our self-defense or national revival, can be regarded as a touchstone. It indicates just how fragile European democracy is, despite copious political correctness and seductive lip service to human rights.

Beneath the ostensibly civil and progressive surface, other passions seethe. Foremost, the yearning for a “strong man” at the helm is not a throwback peculiarity exclusive to Third World states. In many democracies, despite all their undoubted advantages, there lurks a wish that an omniscient and dominant leader would take things firmly and decisively in hand.

This predisposition becomes all the more dangerous in times of economic crisis, as the German-Austrian experience taught us all too traumatically. There is no denying that the world is again in the grips of recession and unpredictability that can unleash the worst in apparently very cultured nations.

True, historical analogies are never absolute. There are no breadlines lines in front of soup kitchens and no runaway inflation of the sort that provided such propaganda fodder for Hitler and assorted European fascists.

The world has changed a great deal since the 1930s.

For one thing, Europe has lost its crucial clout and is not threatened by homegrown tyrants who wait in the offing for their opportunity. But there is too much socio-political alienation and superficiality to afford us smug comfort.

Demagogues and hate-mongers are getting elected to European parliaments. Even if they do not threaten the status quo, they indicate deep disaffection.

Anti-Semitism among Europeans – to say nothing of Muslim immigrants – is on the rise as never before in the postwar era. Even if today’s Judeophobia seems subtler, it is no longer concealed. It is furthermore especially treacherous, given its persistent and duplicitous pretexts of opposition to Zionism (the Jews’ national liberation movement) or to the policies of Israel (the Jewish state).

Three-quarters of a century after the Anschluss, too much of its noxious legacy lingers.

13 thoughts on “Anschluss legacy

  1. 42 % of Austrians declare themselves, to be Nazis !
    Of course that figure is FAR too low…!
    Hitler was an Austrian and is still LOVED and ADMIRED by a VERY large proportion of his fellow country men…
    When a few years ago, Jörg Haider a successful politician and a true mini-Hitler, was laid to rest after his fatal car accident, the whole country was mourning and in a state of shock.
    The Austrians would embrace a new Hitler at ANY time !
    That country is a sinkhole…I KNOW THE AUSTRIANS !

  2. Sarah, you are a very sweet person, FAR too sweet with those Austrians, who deserve TOTAL condemnation !
    Austria: A beautiful landscape and Nazis everywhere…it should be made known as far and wide as possible, to aspiring tourists, WHO these “nice” people really are !

  3. I dunno… Not everything revolves around Jews.

    Hitler made Germans (and Austrians) masters of Europe. They conquered and robbed other countries, had cheap slave labor, and were busy dividing Russian land among themselves. For them life was good.

    It is human nature. Let’s not overfocus on the big H.

  4. “There are no breadlines lines in front of soup kitchens and no runaway inflation of the sort that provided such propaganda fodder for Hitler and assorted European fascists.” – There may be, and sooner than one thinks. Europe’s elites have been busy destroying her, in various, sometimes seemingly opposite ways, since WWI. I foresee only two outcomes of the current economic and political crises: the bloodiest of civil wars or quiet resistless demise. A pity, but there’s nothing we can do.

  5. Asking 500 people from a population of 8Million is not fair and not a correct survey. I am Jewish and a Zionist and live in Vienna and feel very at home and safe here. I travel all over the country for my job and have never met one single person who said anything negative about Jews or Israel. And I sell products from Israeli companies and not once has there been a single word against my Israeli products. No-one has turned them down or not bought them because of where they come from. So please get things in perspective. The Jewish community is flourishing here.

  6. The Austrian Apologies

    Certain texts of former Austrian leaders, such as Prime Ministers Franz Vranitzky and Victor Klima as well as President Thomas Klestil, reveal perhaps the paradigmatic sequence of contemporary apologies for prewar, wartime, and postwar failures: relating the facts, explaining who failed, taking responsibility for the failures, apologizing and stating that these apologies are belated, analyzing what risks the past derelictions pose for today, and finally suggesting what these apologies mean concerning steps to take for the future.

    Klima said at the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust in January 2000:

    In the awareness of both historical truths-that Austrians were victims and that they were perpetrators-and in view of our responsibility for the future, there must be no doubt about the continuation of the critical confrontation with the Nazi past…. Only if we can explain to the coming generations what happened and how it could happen, can we develop in them the ability to resist any form of inhuman ideologies…. We need symbolic acts of common remembrance and collective warning never again to stray from the path of democracy and freedom.

    Stressing the truth once again in 2006, Austrian president Heinz Fischer said in an interview that his country’s 1955 Declaration of Independence falsely represented Austria as a victim of the Nazis rather than as a co-perpetrator of crimes. He also referred to the Moscow Declaration of 1943, in which the Allied leaders asserted that Austria was the first victim of National Socialism. This, he noted, led to a situation where the perpetrator role of many Austrians was set aside for a long time.

  7. Allow me to explain an interesting side issue. “Austrian economics” is a school of free market economics, focusing on intuition and deduction from self-evident principles. Many of it’s professors are cultural Jews, like Mises and Rand. Milton Friedman subscribes to another free market school, called “monetarism”, that focuses more on numbers. Milton once observed that Mises was scholarly and interesting, but not a real economist. Austrians reply that econometrics has limited utility, due to the unpredictability of the political factor (I’m simplifying). However the lack of scientific rigor has left Austrian economics vulnerable to quacks, despite it’s many good insights.

    I studied Austrian economics while a graduate student at Armstrong Business College in Berkeley. The building is now a Jewish museum, and the school went out of business after moving to Oakland. My former professor was the late Joe Fuerig. He died of a heart attack a few years ago (I try to avoid thinking he might have heard of my writings and was upset by them).

    Many professors of Austrian economics fancy themselves qualified to ponitificate on foreign policy, invariably from an “anti-interventionist” (really anti-American and anti-Israel) viewpoint. For example, Thomas Woods is an economist not a historian, but has written an unscholarly critique of Lincoln, while favoring the Confederate cause. My stinging criticism of him (and others) contributed to the dissolution of the Lib-Profs discussion group (also many of the professors have their own blogs). I was included even though I’m not a professional professor, due to my teaching/organizing of liberty studies summer seminars in the former Soviet Union.

    The most extreme example of Austrian economics as a fig-leaf for Judeophobia, is the notorious Justin Raimondo, president of Justin is a former male prostitute, who tried but failed to get employment in the Bush Sr. administration. Scorned, he now opposes US foreign policy in all cases, and for the wrong reasons. I posted a juicy paean of his to Haidar, but can’t find it easily now;

    How libertarianism got mixed up with anti-interventionism is a complex story.
    Suffice to say, “intervention” simply means a third party intervenes between two other parties who are in conflict. For example, party “c” intervenes against aggressor “b” to protect victim “a”. C’s intervention does not initiate force because “b” has already initiated force, albeit against “a” and not “c”. Victims have a right to ask for help with protection, otherwise lone individuals and weak nations would be picked off one at a time, by aggressors who organize into gangs.

  8. Dear Sarah, I grew up in post-war Europe, and must admit I never experienced anti-semitism on a personal level.
    However, had I been a young man now, in the times we are living, I would certainly have emigrated to Israel.
    The coalition between the anti-semitic extreme right, the politically correct left, and the oppresive and massive presence of North African Arabs in practically all of Europe is reminiscent of the early thirties and is making life for Jews increasingly unpleasant.
    The only safe place for Jews to prosper in is Israel and I’m convinced things will get worse in Europe.
    Sadly yours,

  9. Germany and Austria can reunite but no anti-semitism and racism. It is very wrong to confuse Austria Germany unification= Nazism just like Russia is not= communism.

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