The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter IX
Aggression Against Austria
(Part 11 of 19)

D. Pressure and Threats Resulting in Further Concessions: Berchtesgaden, 12 February 1938.

Chancellor Schuschnigg states in an affidavit (2995-PS) that in 1938 von Papen suggested to him that he should meet Hitler at Berchtesgaden. After several discussions Schuschnigg agreed to go, provided three conditions were met:

(1) He must be invited by Hitler.

(2) He must be previously informed of the precise agenda and assured that the agreement of 11 July 1936 would be maintained.

:(3) There was to be an agreement in advance that the communique to be published at the end of the meeting would affirm the 11 July 1936 agreement.

Von Papen brought back word from Hitler inviting Schuschnigg and agreeing with these conditions, particularly the maintenance of the July 1936 treaty. (2995-PS)

The official German communique of this conference between Hitler and Schuschnigg at Obersalzberg on 12 February 1938 was calm (2461-PS). The communique stated that the unofficial meeting was caused by the mutual desire to clarify by personal conversations the questions relating to the relationship between

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the German Reich and Austria. The communique listed, as among those present, Schuschnigg and his Foreign Minister Schmidt, Hitler and his Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, and von Papen. The communique concluded: "Both statesmen are convinced that the measures taken by them constitute at the same time an effective contribution toward the peaceful development of the European situation." (2461-PS). A similar communique was issued by the Austrian Government.

In fact, as a result of the conference great concessions were obtained by the German Government from Austria. The principal concessions are contained in the official Austrian communique dated 16 February 1938 (2464-PS). The communique announced a reorganization of the Austrian Cabinet, including the appointment of Seyss-Inquart to the position of Minister of Security and Interior. In addition, announcement was made of a general political amnesty to Nazis convicted of crimes. (2464-PS)

Two days later, on 18 February 1938, another concession was divulged in the official German and Austrian communique concerning the equal rights of Austrian National Socialists in Austria (2469-PS). The communique announced that pursuant to the Berchtesgaden conference, the Austrian National Socialists would be taken into the Fatherland Front, the single legal political party of Austria.

Schuschnigg's affidavit on his Berchtesgaden visit on 12 February 1938 (2995-PS) points out that considerable pressure was brought to bear on him at the Berghof. Several Generals Keitel, Sperrle, and Reichenau, names which were omitted from the formal communique later issuedwere present on his arrival. The conference started with a two-hour conference between Schuschnigg and Hitler alone. Hitler made no precise demands but attacked Schuschnigg violently. In the words of the affidavit:

"I furthermore state and affirm that, immediately after arriving at the Berghof, I commenced a conference with Hitler. Hitler and I were alone for two hours. Hitler attacked in a violent manner the politics of Austria, both of the past and present. He furthermore informed me that he, Hitler, had 'decided to bring the Austrian question to a solution so-or-so, even if he had to immediately use military force.' At no time during the first two hours of our conversation did Hitler ever make any precise demands or requests of me, but spent the whole of the two hours accusing me and menacing me as a traitor to Austrian politics. Especially he informed me that, according to his knowledge, Austria could no longer reckon

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with any assistance from other European Powers, and that Austria now stood alone in the world. He furthermore added 'Schuschnigg, you now have the chance to put your name alongside the names of other famous German leaders, such as Goering, Hess, Frick, Epp, Goebbels, and others.' ***". (2995-PS)

After Hitler's violent threats, Schuschnigg had discussions of a calmer nature with von Ribbentrop and von Papen. They talked soothinglY and comfortingly to Schuschnigg but reached the same conclusion, that he should yield to German demands, which in practical effect meant Nazi control of the Government of Austria.

"I furthermore state and affirm that I was next called before Joachim von Ribbentrop with my Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Guido Schmidt, and, in the presence of Franz von Papen, Ribbentrop exhibited to me a typewritten draft containing the conditions and demands made by Hitler upon me and Austria. He furthermore added that Hitler has informed me, Ribbentrop, 'that these demands that I now offer to you are the final demands of the Fuehrer and that he, Hitler, is not prepared to further discuss them'. He further stated that, 'you must accept the whole of these demands herein contained'. Ribbentrop then advised me to accept the demands at once. I protested, and referred him to my previous agreements with von Papen, made prior to coming to Berchtesgaden, and made it clear to Ribbentrop that I was not prepared to be confronted with such unreasonable demands as he had then and there placed before me. Von Papen, still present, apologized and informed me that he, von Papen, was entirely surprised and not at all informed about the aims of the Fuehrer as here laid down. He further stated, and informed me, that he, von Papen, could only offer his advice and that he should now accede to, and sign, these demands. He furthermore informed me that I could be assured that Hitler would take care that, if I signed these demands and acceded to them, that from that time on Germany would remain loyal to this Agreement and that there would be no further difficulties for Austria." (2995-PS)

Finally, after obtaining some minor concessions from Ribbentrop, Schuschnigg met with Hitler again. This time Hitler not only put pressure upon Schuschnigg, but also, upon learning that the approval of President Miklas of Austria as necessary, indicated clearly to Schuschnigg that military action would follow if Miklas did not approve the agreement. In the words of Schuschnigg's affidavit:

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" I further state and say, that I then went before Hitler again. Hitler was very excited and informed me that he would make a final test with Austria, and stated further: that you must fulfill the conditions of the demands made by me on you within three days, or else I will order the march into Austria." I replied: "I am not able to take over the obligation to fulfill your demands, for I am only the Chancellor of Austria, and that obligation you attempt to place upon me is the duty only of the Federal President, Miklas; I am only able to sign the draft, and, when I arrive in Vienna, to present it to the Federal President. Hitler then flung open the door and yelled Keitel. At the same time, Hitler asked me to wait outside. Keitel then came in to Hitler. After twenty minutes or more I was again called before Hitler and, when before him, he, Hitler, informed me as follows: "For the first time in my life, I have changed my mind. You must sign the demands that I have made upon you, then report them to the Federal President, Miklas, and within three days from now Austria must fulfill the Agreement, otherwise things will take their natural course. I then agreed to sign the demands and, while waiting in Hitlers private room, he, Hitler, in an entirely changed mood, said to Franz von Papen, who was also present, "herr von Papen, through your assistance I was appointed Chancellor of Germany and thus the Reich was saved from the abyss of communism. I will never forget that. Papen replied: Ja, wohl, Mein Fuehrer.

"I furthermore say and affirm that I, in the presence of Ribbentrop, Guido Schmidt, von Papen, and Hitler, signed the demands, and retained a copy for the Austrian Government.

"I further state and affirm that, on the way back to Vienna from Berchtesgaden, Franz von Papen informed me as follows: Now you have your own impression of how excited the Fuehrer can get, but that happens very seldom, and I am convinced that the next time you meet him, you will have an amicable conversation with him." (2995-PS)

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

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