The Dolfuss government, reworked (11 July) to concentrate the major powers in the hands of the head of the government, prepared to defend itself by instituting the death penalty against terrorists and holders of explosives. The Nazis responded with more threats and with the preparation of a real coup that should have led to the simultaneous arrest of all ministers and the proclamation of a Nazi government or a transitional government that was the prelude to a Nazi government and of the de facto union of Austria with Germany. On July 25, a group of rioters seized a Viennese radio station and spread the news that the Dollfuss government had resigned; another group entered the chancellery, made prisoners the few ministers who were present there – not all as had been hoped: Chancellor Dollfuss was killed with a revolver. The non-prisoner ministers organized the repression of the movement which at the time seemed to be localized in Vienna; but it soon became clear that the Viennese action was to be only the signal of an insurrection in the provinces. At this very serious moment of international complications, the Italian government mobilized some divisions and placed them on the borders of the Brenner and Carinthia. The Austrian government, whose direction was assumed by the former education minister Schuschnigg, was able to organize the repression. The regular troops and the Heimwehren, at the cost of bloody sacrifices, got the better of the rioters and after a few days the revolt, which had had its most heated outbreaks in Carinthia and Syria, went out.
Shortly thereafter, Mussolini and Laval, in their January 1935 meeting in Rome, planned a pact of non-interference of the neighboring states. On February 2, an Italian-Austrian cultural agreement was signed in Rome and in the last days of the same month the Chancellor obtained further guarantees of support in Paris and London. After the attempt by British Minister Simon in Berlin to get Germany to accept the Danubian pact of non-interference alongside a whole series of other pacts, on 11 April a conference was held in Stresa in which Italy, France and Great Britain reconfirmed the need to maintain the independence and integrity of Austria.
The so-called “Stresa front”, however, had to fall apart at the time of the Ethiopian enterprise. It was replaced by a closer agreement between Austria, Hungary and Italy. Austria, which refused to join the sanctions, signed on March 23, 1936, with Italy and Hungary, three additional protocols to the Rome protocols, which stipulated the establishment of a permanent body for mutual consultation and the commitment not to enter into negotiations with third parties relating to the Danube question, without prior contacts between the signatories. On 1 April 1936, Austria resumed compulsory military service. The German government, which in turn had not adhered to the sanctions, concluded with Austria – which was in this fully in agreement with the Italian government – the agreement of the
The measures taken by the government against unemployment, the opening of new major roads (see above), the electrification of the railways, the construction works in the capital, the development of tourism, and a series of commercial treaties, were reviving. the economic conditions of the country. However, Chancellor Schuschnigg’s mention of the possibility of a monarchical restoration raised lively protests from the German side and threatened to jeopardize the agreement: the Italian government (February 25, 1937) declared the problem of restoration out of date and dangerous. Furthermore, in the meeting between Mussolini and Schuschnigg in Venice, on April 22, it was explicitly recognized that the solution of the Danubian problem could not be achieved without the participation of Germany.
Meanwhile, the Austrian internal situation was evolving rapidly. Despite the Austro-German agreement of 11 July 1936, relations between Vienna and Berlin became increasingly difficult until reaching a state of crisis in the first months of 1938, at the basis of which was the contrast between the attitude that the population Austrian was assuming towards the National Socialist Reich and the Anschluss, and the action of the Government aimed at opposing this movement. A clarification of the situation was attempted and for this purpose a Hitler-Schuschnigg meeting was decided. The Italian Government had prior knowledge of this meeting. The Austrian Chancellor went to Berchtesgaden on February 12, 1938, at the invitation of the Führer; and there the two statesmen, to try to eliminate the difficulties that arose in application of the agreement of 11 July 1936, and noting their decision to “abide by the principles of the agreement” itself; they decided on the “immediate application of measures aimed at ensuring close and friendly reciprocal relations between the two states”. As a result, the Schuschnigg cabinet was profoundly remodeled, entrusting the Ministry of the Interior to Dr. Seyss-Inquart, representative of the Nazis; a political amnesty was granted in Austria, with the immediate release of all political prisoners; recognized the right of the Austrian Nazis to carry out legal activity, within the framework of the Patriotic Front and other Austrian institutions, and within the federal constitution. On the German side,
But on March 9, Chancellor Schuschnigg suddenly announced a plebiscite for the 13 of the same month, on the basis of the formula “Austria free and German, independent and social, Christian and united”. The Nazis reacted, and on 11 March an ultimatim was presented asking Schuschnigg to update the plebiscite, and Federal President Miklas to replace the Schuschnigg Cabinet with a Seyss-Inquart Cabinet. In the evening Chancellor Schuschnigg resigned; Seyss-Inquart was first charged with running the government, and then assumed the chancellorship, and, at his request, German troops crossed the border at dawn on 12 March. On the evening of the same day Hitler went to Linz; and on the 14th he entered Vienna. On 13 March evening an Austrian constitutional law proclaimed the union of Austria to the German Reich, a union that was solemnly confirmed by the plebiscite of 10 April. Independent Austria thus ceased to exist.
In Italy the Austrian events were followed with deep interest but with right understanding. On 11 March Hitler sent the Duce – through the Prince of Hesse – a letter in which he set out the reasons that had forced him to intervene in the Austrian question. In the letter, about the new Italian-German border, it is said: “I have drawn a clear German border towards France and I am now drawing an equally clear one towards Italy. It is the Brenner Pass. This decision will never be put into effect. doubtful nor affected “.
The Grand Council of Fascism in the session of 12 March, taking note of the Führer’s letter, recognized that the Austrian events were the result of a pre-existing state of affairs and the open expression of the feelings and will of the Austrian people. On March 13, Hitler sent the historic telegram “Mussolini, I will never forget him” to the Duce, summarizing Germany’s feelings of gratitude for the understanding shown by Italy. The Duce replied: “My attitude is determined by the friendship of our two countries consecrated by the axis”.
In a historic speech delivered on March 16, the Duce illustrated the continuity and logic of the Italian action, and gave the world a complete and exact picture of the various phases of the Austrian question from the peace treaties onwards.