Repression and Compliance

Austria Table of Contents

In comparison with non-German minorities, the political repression suffered by German Austrians was lenient but still effective in preventing significant organized resistance. The left had already been the target of political repression before the Anschluss, but as early as March 1938, conservative political leaders associated with the Dollfuss-Schuschnigg regime were also subject to arrest and detention. Some 20,000 people were arrested in the early days of the Anschluss. Most were quickly released, but some, like Schuschnigg, were held at the Dachau concentration camp throughout the Nazi era. During the entire 1938-45 period, some 100,000 Austrians were arrested on political charges. About 34,000 of these died in prisons or concentration camps, and some 2,700 were executed.

Prior to the Anschluss plebiscite, the Nazis courted and received the support of the Roman Catholic hierarchy for annexation. After the plebiscite, the church desired to maintain loyal cooperation with what was perceived as legitimate state authority, but the Nazis were just as eager to eliminate the church's influence in society on both the institutional and the ideological level. In July 1938, the government declared the 1934 concordat void and closed Catholic education institutions, dissolved some 6,000 church-affiliated associations, and took control of the Catholic press. In August relations between the church hierarchy and the state were broken off. Although it did not see its role as supporting open resistance to the Nazi state, the Catholic Church, as the only legal entity propagating an ideology intrinsically hostile to Nazism, was a focus of opposition to the regime and was closely watched by the state. The persecution of the church over the next several years was designed to gradually wear it down by depriving it of resources and institutional unity. These measures, which evoked popular resentment, were eased in late 1941 because of the need to maintain public support of the regime during the war. Nevertheless, by detaching the church from the state, the policies had the effect of increasing the church's legitimacy and credibility and helped lay the groundwork for a more positive redefinition of the church's role in society after the war.

Custom Search

Source: U.S. Library of Congress