After World War I, Austria was faced with many struggles and challenges; the economy was stagnating, and there was considerable political unrest. On top of these problems, Nazi propaganda within Austria was growing, and within two years of Hitler coming to power in Germany, Nazis took control of the Austrian chancellery. They did not successfully proclaim a government, however they did assassinate the standing chancellor, Engelbert Dollfuss. Since the Nazi group was not able to proclaim a government, Kurt von Schuschnigg was chosen as the new chancellor. He did not have much support or popularity however, due in large part to the amount of political factions present at the time, and the climate of political unrest. Italy allied with Austria, and assisted with Schuschnigg’s regime until Hitler allied with Mussolini. Italy then withdrew its support, leaving Austria completely isolated.
After this abandonment, Schuschnigg decided to push for Austrian independence by attempting to poll all citizens on whether or not they wanted a “free, independent, social, Christian and united Austria.” However, the Nazi regime, which was gaining power in Austria, demanded this be put to an end, so Schuschnigg ended the nationwide poll, and subsequently resigned as chancellor. The next day (March 12th, 1938), German troops invaded Austria, and soon after Austria was incorporated into Germany. This incorporation of Austria into Germany was also known as the Anschluss.
Both Germany and Austria paid no attention to the fact that this union was in direct violation of multiple treaties they were a part of. Article 80 of the Treaty of Versailles (which Germany had been forced to sign) explicitly states:
“Germany acknowledges and will respect the independence of Austria within the frontier which may be fixed in a treaty between that State and the principle Allied and Associated Powers; she agrees that this independence shall be inalienable…”
The Treaty of St. Germain, which Austria signed after World War I included this in Article 88:
“The independence of Austria is inalienable otherwise than with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations. Consequently Austria undertakes in the absence of the consent of the said Council to abstain from any act which might directly or indirectly or by any means whatever compromise her independence, particularly, and until her admission to membership of the League of Nations, by participation in the affairs of another Power.”
Despite the complete disregard for both of these treaties, this union garnered enthusiastic support from the Austrian people, and was retroactively approved through national vote. It looks as though 99% of the citizens of Austria voted in favor of the Anschluss, however Jews and Gypsies were not allowed to vote. Considering so much of the Austrian population was not allowed to vote, it is not surprising that one of the main outcomes of the Anschluss was widespread anti semitism and violent political policies and actions. Political leaders in Austria were arrested, and anybody not compliant with the Nazi regime were subject to public imprisonment or death, particularly Jews, who were often publicly humiliated as well. It was not long until the anti-Jewish legislature present in Germany was extended to Austria.
United States Memorial Holocaust Museum: http://www.ushmm.org/research/research-in-collections/search-the-collections/bibliography/anschluss
Austrian History: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Austria/Anschluss01.html