On this day in 1938, Austria was occupied and annexed into Nazi Germany, which was in direct contrast with the Anschluss movement that sought Austria and Germany united as one country. This had been attempted since 1918 but was forbidden under the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. The Anschluss was among Hitler’s first major steps towards his creation of a Greater German Reich, which he wanted to include all ethnic Germans and all of the lands and territories that Germany had lost after the First World War.
Hitler had stated in his autobiography Mein Kampf that he would create a union between his birth country (Austria) and Germany by any means possible. Originally, Austria desired not to become a union with Germany, but in 1936 Hitler began to grow impatient and publicly declared in a speech that “The German Reich is no longer willing to tolerate the suppression of ten million Germans across its borders.” On the morning of 12 March, the 8th Army of the German Wehrmacht crossed the border into Austria and Hitler was met with great enthusiasm. It later turned out that he received support from 99.7% of the voters, who decided whether to join the German Republic or remain independent.
As a result of the Anschluss, the German-speaking Republic of Austria ceased to exist as a fully independent state. Austria sought to rectify this by the end of the Second World War and in 1945, a Provisional Austrian Government was established, but it wasn’t until 1955 that Austria regained full sovereignty with the Austrian State Treaty and the Austrian Declaration of Neutrality, in part due to the rapid development of the Cold War.