Appendix I: Introduction to post-WWI Austria

After the war was over / After the break of morn;
After the victors left us / After the stars were gone;
Many a heart was aching / If you could read them all;
Many the hopes that vanished / After the war.

(With apologies to Charles K. Harris)

This historical and political (or maybe political and historical) introduction is intended to explain the conventional understanding, not to right or rewrite ancient wrongs.


Before and after?
WWI ends
German-Austria is born
President Wilson's 14 Points
Post-war territorial changes
The Austrian Republic
The 1920 Constitution
Inflation in post-WWI Austria
1927: civil unrest and disorder
Dollfuss and the Ständestaat
1938: the Anschluß

What happened before and after the First Republic?

A summary history of Austria from the arrival of the Romans up to joining the European Union is here.

WWI ends

In contrast to the events at the end of the Second World War, the end of the 1914-18 war and the disintegration of the Empire into independent countries brought no great interruptions in the Austrian postal system. The organisation remained intact, the instructions remained initially unchanged, and the available stamps went on sale again and were cancelled just as before.

Kaiser Franz Joseph died on 21 November 1916, during the First World War, and was succeeded by his great-nephew Karl as Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary.

However, the war on the battlefields steadily went against Kaiser Karl. Hoping for a change of heart amongst his subjects, he issued a Manifesto on 17 October 1918 proposing the division of Austria-Hungary into THREE parts, with the Austrian part becoming a Federation "in accordance with the WIll of its People". Exactly how he had ascertained the Will of the People was undisclosed: there hadn't been a general election since 1911! Hungary would be left as it was, and the Polish territories would be permitted to join the nascent independent Polish state. The general view of the Manifesto, especially in Bohemia, Moravia and similar areas was "too little, too late, and overtaken by events". The Manifesto was published in several newspapers, and went down like the proverbial lead balloon.

On 21 October 1918, the 210 former members of the Abgeordnetenhaus (the Lower House of the old Imperial parliament) who had represented the German-speaking regions and enclaves (see Appendix II) met in Vienna. Some would have by then been citizens of other countries, which doesn't seem to have mattered. The other former members, representing non-German areas, appear not to have been invited. The Assembly proclaimed that they were the new Provisional National Assembly for German-Austria; and that "the German people in Austria are resolved to determine their own future political organization to form an independent German-Austrian state, and to regulate their relations with other nations through free agreements with them". They called on all German-inhabited lands to form their own provisional assemblies.

It's interesting to note that the old and the new governments were both functioning at this time. The first law of the Provisional National Assembly (1918 SGB001) was passed on 30 October 1918 (although not printed until 15 November). It created the independent state of Deutschösterreich, usually translated as German-Austria, which would seek union with Germany. This was an independent state under the direction of a State Council (Staatsrat) composed of the leaders of the three main parties and other elected members; the law listed its duties, responsibilities and departmental arrangements. Revolutionary disturbances in Vienna and the news of the German revolution forced the State Council down the republican path: the Will of the People was now quite clear. Meanwhile, the last law of the Empire (1918 RGB390) was jointly issued by the Ministries of The Interior and of Trade; it concerned typos in a Decree of 1 August about construction Trades Unions, and was published on 12 November!

Negotiations with Italy on an armistice were begun on 29 October 1918, and Italy's conditions reached Schönbrunn late on 1 November. The Emperor summoned his Imperial Government (led by Prof Lammasch) along with representatives of the Provisional National Assembly to meet on 2 November. After much discussion, the latter helpfully declared that they hadn't begun the war so wouldn't share any responsibility for ending it. They were probably anxious that the "new Austria" should not inherit any legal liabilities for the debts, deeds and misdeeds of the Empire. This had Unforeseen Consequences, as the new state didn't inherit membership of the Universal Postal Union!

This left the responsibility solely with the Emperor and his Imperial Government. During that evening the Austro-Hungarian Army's disintegration accelerated (one source suggests the soldiers were hurrying back to their homes to defend them from the Russian Army). The Emperor had no choice but to authorise his Hungarian soldiers to stop fighting at 9pm and the Austrians at 1am next day, 3 November 1918. The Italian conditions were accepted. It then emerged that while the Austrians would cease fire and stay put at 3pm on the 3rd, the Italians would cease 24 hours later. During the intervening day they sent flying columns into all the now-undefended previously-Austrian territory they had coveted. Austria was "that which was left", a quip attributed to several people including Georges Clemenceau in 1918.

Soon after noon on 11 November 1918 the Emperor "withdrew" but did not abdicate, much to the irritation of the new Chancellor Renner! Karl's renunciation document is shown in Appendix III. His carefully-chosen wording was "I renounce all participation in the affairs of state". That afternoon, the Imperial Government formally resigned; Heinrich Lammasch, the outgoing Prime Minister, received the Great Cross of the Order of St Stephen while lesser ministers consoled themselves with lesser awards. Karl's letter to Lammasch as Google-translated concludes, like Karl's reign, with a wonderful banality: "Dear Dr. Lammasch! With selfless willingness to make sacrifices, you have taken over the management of my Austrian ministry in extremely difficult times, following my call. If I now, in compliance with your request, relieve you of the post of my Austrian Prime Minister, I feel compelled to express my sincere gratitude for the tireless work you have done in the interest of initiating international peace and for the excellent service you have rendered to me, with your loyal patriotic devotion special thanks and my fullest appreciation. As a visible sign of my courtesy, I award you the Grand Cross of my Order of St. Stephen, tax-free." [Als sichtbares Zeichen Meiner Gewogenheit verleihe Ich Ihnen taxfrei das Grosskreuz Meines St.Stephanus-Ordens.]

German-Austria is born

On November 12 1918, the day after Karl stepped aside, the National Assembly resolved unanimously that "German-Austria is a democratic republic" and that "German-Austria is a component part of the German republic." (1918 SGB005). Karl Renner, a leading socialist, became head of a coalition government, with Otto Bauer, the acknowledged spokesman of the left wing of the Social Democrats, as foreign secretary.

On November 13 a telegram was sent to the German Government requesting support for German-Austria in its attempt to join Germany. Austria appealed to U.S. President Wilson to allow the union with her sister nation. Conveniently for historians, the National Assembly defined what they meant by "Deutschösterreich" in a law of 22 November, 1918 SGB040. On paper, but not in reality, Deutschösterreich included all the German-speaking areas: today's Austria, plus Sudtirol and substantial parts of Bohemia, Moravia and Carinthia, plus various German-speaking enclaves, but excluding Italian and Yugoslavian enclaves.

Die Länder Österreich unter der Enns einschließlich des Kreises Deutsch-Südmähren und des deutschen Gebeits um Neubistritz, Österreich ob der Enns einschließlich des Kreises Deutsch-Südböhmen, Salzburg, Steiermark und Kärntnen mit Ausschluß der geschlossenen jugoslawischen Siedlungsgebeite, die Grafschaft Tirol mit Ausschluß des geschlossenen italienischen Siedlungsgebeites, Vorarlberg, Deutsch-böhmen und Sudetenland, sowie die deutschen Siedlungsgebeite von Brünn, Iglau und Olmütz.

That is, the provinces of Austria-below-the-Enns (Lower Austria) including the district of German South Moravia and the German area around Neubistritz; Austria-above-the-Enns (Upper Austria) including the district of German South Bohemia; Salzburg; Styria and Carinthia excluding the self-contained Yugoslav settlement areas; the County of Tirol excluding the self-contained Italian settlement areas; Vorarlberg; German Bohemia and Sudetenland; as well as the German settlement areas within Brünn/Brno, Iglau/Jihlava, and Olmütz/Olomouc. These claims soon became untenable, not least because of the opposition of the Allies and of the now-independent states especially Czechoslovakia! See Appendix II for the map of the claimed areas, and details of the then German-speaking areas of what is now the Czech Republic.

In extensive but in reality pointless detail, the National Assembly's next decree, 1918 SGB041 also of 22 November, discusses areas such as industrial Bielitz-Biala and the German-speech-enclaves in Pressburg. Of course, existing countries such as Russia, Italy and France, and newly-emerging countries such as Czechoslovakia and Romania, not to mention President Wilson of the USA, had a different approach to carving up the Austro-Hungarian Empire! Many maps can be found in history books and on Wikipedia claiming to show the distribution of ethnic groups in 1911, ie after the census of 31 December 1910. However they are implausible - eg Vienna with no groups other than Germans. See Appendix V for an extensive discussion of the diversity within the Empire, based partly on the actual census returns.

Elections for the National Assembly were held on 16 February 1919; for the first time women were allowed to vote. So were German citizens living in Austria and Sudeten Germans living in the newly-formed Czechoslovakia, despite objections from the Czechoslovak government. The Social Democratic Workers Party won 72 of the 170 seats with 41% of the votes; the Christian Social Party (supported by farmers and the middle classes) gained 36% of the votes and 69 seats. They formed a coalition government.

The state and its composition were reaffirmed on 12 March 1919 by the newly-elected National Assembly; see 1919 SGB174 and SGB175. The Assembly re-elected Karl Renner as state chancellor, and enacted the Habsburg Law (1919 SGB209) concerning the banishment of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. Nobility and titles were abolished by 1919 SGB211. A Coat-of-Arms for Deutschösterreich was chosen - a single-headed eagle, described in 1919 SGB257 and illustrated on the second page of 1919 SGB264.

These changes had interesting side-effects for Karl’s son Otto. While in his heart Otto remained Emperor and King until his death, he pragmatically renounced his claim to the Austrian throne in 1961, and was finally permitted to cross the border in 1966. Since Article 149(1) of the Austrian Constitution had abolished all titles, he set off as "Franz Joseph Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xavier Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius von Habsburg by the grace of God Emperor of Austria; King of Jerusalem, Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia and Lodomeria; Archduke of Austria; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Würzburg, Franconia, Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola; Grand Duke of Cracow; Grand Prince of Transylvania; Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Sandomir, Mazovia, Lublin, Upper and Lower Silesia, Auschwitz and Zator, Teschen, and Friule; Prince of Berchtesgaden and Mergentheim; Princely Count of Habsburg, Gorizia, and Gradisca and of the Tirol; and Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and in Istria; Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenburg etc.; Lord of Trieste, Kotor and the Windic March, Grand Voivod of the Voivodeship of Serbia etc etc" but on crossing the border changed into "Doktor Otto Habsburg-Lothringen", reversing the process on leaving. (The precise ordering of these titles is flexible!)

France was bitterly opposed to the expansion of Germany, and with the mutiny of the German sailors and civil unrest in Germany it became impossible. Austria was forced to go it alone but with its government facing increased popular demands for an Anschluss. The government of German was uneasy with the Austrian desires for unity whilst remaining an equal partner (becoming a self-governing federal unit). Indeed, the German negotiators felt that Austria wanted to be more than equal, having all the benefits but none of the responsibilities, and the Allied prohibition on Anschluss probably came as a relief! It was mainly the left-wing in Austria who sought Anschluss, as it would unite them with the much larger group of like-minded colleagues in Germany and lead towards Socialism sooner than in a small landlocked country.

President Wilson's 14 Points

The Western forces were officially supposed to occupy the old Empire, but rarely had enough troops to do so effectively. They had to deal with local authorities who had their own agendas. At the peace conference in Paris the diplomats had to reconcile these authorities with the competing demands of the nationalists who had turned to them for help during the war, the strategic or political desires of the Western allies themselves, and other agendas such as a desire to implement the spirit of USA President Wilson's 14 Points. A long but interesting Wikipedia article about the Points is here; most of it discusses Germany rather than Austria-Hungary. For example, in order to live up to the ideal of self-determination laid out in the Fourteen Points, Germans, whether Austrian or German, should be able to decide their own future and government. The French, as mentioned above, disagreed vehemently. Further complicating the situation, delegations such as the Czechs and Slovenians made strong claims on some German-speaking territories.

The result was treaties that compromised many ideals, offended many allies, and set up an entirely new order in the area. Many people hoped that the new nation states would allow for a new era of prosperity and peace in the region, free from the bitter quarrelling between nationalities that had marked the preceding fifty years. This hope proved far too optimistic.

Changes in post-war territorial configuration


As WWI was ending, a provisional state was formed called the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (SHS for short). Its components were (a) territories of the former Austria, encompassing today's Bosnia and Herzegovina plus most of today's Croatia and Slovenia; and (b) territories of the Kingdom of Hungary (parts of Bács-Bodrog, Banat, Baranya, Torontál and Temes Counties). It constituted the first union of the South Slavic people as a sovereign state, following centuries in which the region had been part of the Ottoman Empire and then Austria-Hungary.

Montenegro was an independent kingdom until 1918, allied with Serbia in WWI. A few days before the burgeoning SHS allied with Serbia, the Montenegran Assembly deposed King Nicholas (who was in exile) and agreed to unify with Serbia. The Kingdom of Serbia in 1918 also included most of modern-day Macedonia, which had been annexed to Serbia in 1912 following the first Balkan War.

In 1918, this provisional State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs joined with the independent Kingdom of Serbia to form a Kingdom, officially called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. The term "Yugoslavia" (literally "Land of the South Slavs") was its colloquial name due to its origins; and had the advantage of avoiding disagreement on the ordering of the three nationalities!

The peace delegation of the SHS convened in Paris in early 1919 in order to lobby the Conference of Ambassadors taking place there. Its major opponent was Italy who did not recognise the SHS delegation. By the time the SHS delegation left Paris in July 1920 it had secured international recognition of the SHS and most of the territories it originally claimed. See here for a Yugoslavian perspective on these events.

The official name of the state was changed to "Kingdom of Yugoslavia" by King Alexander I on 3 October 1929.

The Austrian Republic

The Deutschösterreich state lasted until 21 October 1919, when the Austrian National Assembly by passing 1919 SGB484 reluctantly accepted that under the Treaty of St Germain (signed 10 Sept 1919) the name had to be just Republik Österreich. Interestingly, the name of Deutschösterreich remained in use on Austrian stamps until 1922. Efforts to unite with Germany (the Anschluss) were banned under Article 88 of the Treaty: 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.

Other Articles transferred the Sudetenland and German Bohemia to Czechoslovakia, South Tirol to Italy, and southern Carinthia and Styria to what became Yugoslavia. The Treaty of Versailles, dictating the terms of peace for Germany, similarly forbade Germany from uniting with Austria; and the Treaty of Trianon dictated Hungary's boundaries irrespective of the wishes of native Hungarians. The aspirations of the newly-created land-locked First Republic of Austria received equally little attention.

The First Republic, which lasted from 1918 until 1938, was a state nobody really expected to last at all. As a result of the war, Austria had lost much of its heavy industry and raw materials in Bohemia, its food from Hungary (which was itself in turmoil), its access to the Mediterranean, the southern part of Tirol, and for a while its attraction for tourism. To this was added a disproportionately large capital city, a crippling shortage of food and no money to buy more even if a seller could be found, the deadly (so-called Spanish) flu epidemic of 1918-1919, high unemployment, a hopeless political split between the conservative countryside and the socialists in the major towns, black markets, and marauding armed ex-soldiers who started forming paramilitary organisations on the political left and right. Various political parties, ranging from ardent nationalists to social democrats to communists, attempted to set up governments in the names of the different nationalities. In other areas, existing nation states such as Romania expanded into regions that they considered to be rightfully theirs. These moves created de facto governments that complicated life for diplomats, idealists, and the Western allies.

There was rampant inflation (see here) although a continued flow of Charity Stamps appeared, heavily surcharged and now difficult to collect (as Bedarfsbelege**, impossible). In addition, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Italy had imposed a trade blockade and refused to sell food and coal to Austria, which eventually was saved by aid and support from the Western Allies. One side effect of the lack of coal was that generation of electricity in Vienna was severely reduced, and the pneumatic post system's services were disrupted. By 1922 one USA dollar was worth 19,000 kronen and half the population was unemployed. (** Bedarfsbelege are items of mail correctly franked using stamps that were valid and had not been superceded.)

The treaties of Versailles, Saint Germain, and Trianon generally included guarantees of minority rights, but there was no enforcement mechanism. The new states of eastern Europe mostly all had large ethnic minorities, who felt little affiliation to their new state - whose other inhabitants resented their presence. Millions of Germans found themselves in the newly created countries as minorities. More than two million ethnic Hungarians found themselves living outside of Hungary in Czechoslovakia, Romania and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Many of these national minorities found themselves in hostile situations because the modern governments were intent on defining the national character of the countries, often at the expense of the other nationalities. The interwar years were hard for religious minorities in the new states built around ethnic nationalism. The Jews were especially distrusted because of their minority religion and distinct subculture. This was a dramatic come-down from the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; although antisemitism had been widespread during Habsburg rule, Jews faced no official discrimination because they were for the most part ardent supporters of the multi-national state and the monarchy.

The economic disruption of the war and the end of the Austro-Hungarian customs union created great hardship in many areas. Although many states were set up as democracies after the war, one by one, with the exception of Czechoslovakia, they reverted to some form of authoritarian rule. Many quarrelled amongst themselves but were too weak to compete effectively. In the 1930s, when Germany rearmed, the nation states of south-central Europe were unable to resist its attacks, and fell under German domination to a much greater extent than had ever existed in Austria-Hungary.

The 1920 Constitution

On 1 October 1920 a new constitution was enacted - a progressive document, although Christian Social influence, and Social Democratic compromise, were evident. It was written largely by Hans Kelsen, and defined the Austrian Republic as a federal state with the provinces represented in the Bundesrat (Federal Chamber) to partner the Nationalrat (National Chamber), where deputies were elected in national elections in a reasonably sophisticated system of proportional representation. The current official version, with an English translation, is here (scroll down to reach the words!)

Also on 1 October 1920, the Constituent National Assembly passed a motion calling for the Government to hold a plebiscite on the union of Austria and Germany. Germany was apprehensive as it was due to hold negotiations regarding a loan from the League of Nations and feared the Allies might terminate the aid programme. Nevertheless, in April and May the provinces of Tirol and Salzburg each held a plebiscite on the question 'Is union with the German Reich required?'. The result was an overwhelming majority in favour of a union. Although it had no political consequences it showed the feelings of the population. As a result of threats by the Allies, the un-concluded negotiations regarding the border of Burgenland, and the lack of food, it was decided there would be no more referenda. Nevertheless, the idea of a union with Germany never disappeared from the political debate. Despite all the international agreeing, many groups of people in Austria continued to demand union with Germany. Many plebiscites were held in various parts of Austria to resolve border disputes, express political aspirations (especially to unite with Germany), and so on. See Appendix IV.

in post-WWI Austria

The inflation rate, and the traditional periods of Austrian letter-mail inflation, are discussed here.

In December 1921 the Treaty of Lana between Austria and Czechoslovakia was signed in which Austria recognized the new state borders and relinquished claims to represent ethnic Germans living on the territory of the newly created Czechoslovakia. In return Czechoslovakia provided a loan of 500 million Kronen to Austria. Nevertheless, the people of Austria sank into hopeless despair, and especially in Vienna there were hunger riots and looting. Speculators and profiteers flaunted their wealth.

After the collapse of the Monarchy, local armed defence corps, called "Heimwehr" had formed to protect homes and farms from roving bands of demobilised soldiers, hungry refugees and common criminals. By the mid 1920s these were grouped into provincial associations led by right-wing politicians, and frequently influenced and funded by Fascists in Germany, Italy and Hungary. The Christian Socialists, led by Msgr Seipel, a believer in strong government, were convinced that they had to protect the existing social order against a Marxist revolution.

Meanwhile, the Social Democrats had created a centrally-controlled opposing force, also with access to arms, descended from the People's Guard of 1918 and called the "Republikänischer Schutzbund". The Social Democrats felt that their social-reform program was endangered by reactionary elements. The working classes especially in Vienna felt hopeless and despairing, while speculators and profiteers both Austrian and foreign flaunted their wealth. Inflation gripped the country. The Socialists demanded a policy of self-help, windfall taxes on the profits created by inflation, a capital levy on banks and individuals, strict currency control, and a reorientation of the industrial structure.

Seipel's Christian Socialists did not believe that Austria could save herself by her own efforts: the country would not stand for stringent economic controls; nor could the banks be compelled to make sacrifices. Seipel did the rounds of European capitals, exploiting the rivalries and fears among the Allied Powers, and finally delivered a powerful speech to the League of Nations on 6 September 1922. By the Geneva Protocols of October 1922, Austria's independence and territorial integrity were reaffirmed; she would be lent 650 million gold crowns; she would begin a programme of financial reforms; and would extend for 20 years the effective ban on union with Germany (Treaty of St Germain, Article 88). Parliament was to vote the government special powers to impose stringent economies and to balance the budget within two years.

When this was announced, the resulting uproar hardened the political divisions in the country. Almost 85,000 civil servants and employees of public services were dismissed, indirect taxation increased compared with direct taxes, and pensions and similar benefits were not increased when the currency devalued. The number unemployed kept on rising. The Socialists were particularly incensed because they knew that in an independent Austria they were most unlikely to regain political power.

On 15 December 1922, Dr Alfred Rudolph Zimmerman, who had been Burgomaster of Rotterdam since 1906, was appointed Commissioner General by the League of Nations to administer their loan to Austria. It was due to the efforts of Dr Zimmerman and his team that the Kronen currency was stabilised until it was completely replaced in 1925 with the silver Schilling currency (see 1924 BGB461, at the bottom right of the page). This was introduced progressively, so while postage was paid in the new currency from 1 March 1925, the stamps were issued on 1 June. Kronen stamps were invalidated on 1 July 1925 but could be exchanged for new groschen issues until 30 September. Provision was made for the use of Kronen stamps to officially uprate postal stationery, also until 30 September. Dr Zimmerman was decommissioned on 1 July 1926.

By the mid 1920s Austria was split into two roughly equal factions, both with paramilitary organisations. On the right, the Christian Socialists and allies, mostly bourgeois, supporters of austerity and 'small government' - and by and large doing quite well. On the left, the Social Democrats, increasingly resentful of the growing poverty of the workers and unemployed and the growing affluence of the right - and in general doing very badly. Frequent demonstrations and counter-demonstrations were held. Trouble was inevitable.

1927: civil unrest and disorder

In 1927 a demonstration by members of the Republican Schutzbund in Schattendorf (near the Hungarian boundary in Burgenland) was opposed by reactionary forces. Two demonstrators (a member of the Schutzbund and a child) were killed by bullets fired from the first floor of the village inn. The suspects were charged with "public violence": not even manslaughter. They pleaded self-defence and were acquitted by a Vienna court after 11 days. The Social Democrats called for a general strike and a mass protest on the Ringstrasse. Next day, 15 July 1927, Viennese workers clashed with the police, and bitter street-fighting developed. In this "July revolt" 4 policemen were killed and 600 injured; amongst the demonstrators 89 died and 548 were injured. As part of the protest, and also to destroy the police files concerning them, the demonstrators set fire to the Ministry of Justice building, cut the fire hoses, and opened hydrants elsewhere to reduce the water pressure. The building, including the WIEN 21 Post Office, burned out. The Social Democrats then launched a general strike, but it had to be called off since Seipel and Bürgermeister Seitz used the opportunity for a violent assertion of government authority. Terrified, large numbers of the bourgeoisie joined the Heimwehr.

In March 1931 the Austrian Foreign Minister tried to slip in an Austria-Germany customs union. The French considered this to be Anschluss wearing a disguise, and along with the countries of the Little Entente** vetoed it. An indirect result was a run on the Creditanstalt, the largest bank in Austria, in which the major German banks had large investments - so not only did confidence in the Austrian economy evaporate, but the economic recovery of Germany was also badly affected. In May 1931 the Creditanstalt was revealed to be bankrupt. It was "too big to fail". Its deposits were so large that freezing them while bankruptcy was carried through would have destroyed the Austrian economy. The government stepped in to guarantee deposits, with money it didn't have. The resulting expansion of the currency was inconsistent with gold-standard discipline. Savers liquidated their deposits and began to transfer funds out of the country in order to avoid the capital losses that would have been associated with a devaluation. Unemployment doubled, from 10% in 1929 to 21% in 1932; and unemployment benefit was paid for a limited time only after which one fended for ones-self.
**The Little Entente was an alliance formed in 1920 and 1921 by Czechoslovakia, Romania and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes with the purposes of common defense against Hungarian claims against its neighbours; to thwart Italy's attempts to assert dominance over the region; and to prevent any prospect of a Habsburg restoration in Austria or Hungary.

Dollfuss and the Ständestaat

In May 1932, Engelbert Dollfuss became Chancellor, leading a Christian-Social coalition of parties whose main aim was to prevent the Social Democrats on one hand, and the National Socialists on the other, gaining power. Dollfuss negotiated the Lausanne Treaty of July 1932, receiving a large League of Nations loan in exchange for abandoning any thoughts of union with Germany. In Parliament, and on the streets, the unrest continued to grow. On 4 March 1933, the three presidents of Parliament resigned so that they could vote on a crucial motion. Dolfuss siezed his opportunity, revived the Emergency Powers Act of 1917 (unused but still valid), declared Parliament in abeyance, and instituted his "Ständestaat", a corporatist and authoritarian government with no dissent tolerated. He founded the Fatherland Front.

On 21 September 1933, Dollfuss dismissed the chairman of the Christian Social Party, Minister of the Army Carl Vaugoin, from the government and used his departure to carry out a major reshuffle of the cabinet. Emil Fey, who had been Minister of the Interior and leader of the Heimwehr, became Vice-Chancellor; Dollfuss himself took over four additional departments - from now on he was not only Federal Chancellor, but also Minister of the Interior with responsibility for public safety, Minister of Defence, Minister of Security and Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. As Federal Chancellor, he headed the Foreign Ministry. Small in stature, he was a bundle of energy, not exactly a great speaker but a strong persuasive conversationalist. He dared to do almost anything, demanded a lot from those around him and knew how to motivate his employees.

On 23 September, Dollfuss issued a decree (1933 BGB431) that made it legal "to arrest persons who pose a risk to security and confine them in a specific town or place without judicial proceedings". The specific place was in reality a detention camp; and in September 1933 one was opened at Wollersdorf on the site of a former munitions factory (a Feuerwerkanstalt).

The First Republic, surrounded by mostly totalitarian states, finally became a pseudo-fascist state in 1934. Dollfuss' government crushed a Socialist uprising in the February. One of their actions was to have the Army, willingly assisted by the Heimwehr, deploy light artillery to dislodge socialist fighters from the huge Karl-Marx-Hof, a city-owned housing estate in Heiligenstadt, Vienna. Soon Dolfuss abolished all political parties except for his Fatherland Front, issued a resplendently-formatted new Constitution (in 13 chapters), and changed the Austrian Coat-of-Arms to a double-headed eagle with a red-white-red breast-shield (picture on the second page). It was followed in the Bundegesetzblatt by a new Concordat with the Vatican. However, on 25 July 1934 Dollfuss was assassinated by Nazis. Kurt Schuschnigg took over; his right wing and anti-democratic government was quite unpopular, but in retrospect was perhaps unavoidable, since Austria was wedged between the competing and expansionist states of Hitler and Mussolini.

1938: the Anschluß

When on 11 March 1938 German troops occupied Austria, there was negligible effective resistance; what emerged later was viciously repressed. The legalities are documented in the Gesetzblatt für das Land Österreich (GfLÖ). Austria's Jews had their assets expropriated GfLÖ #13 of 23 March 1938, and unless they could escape were deported to concentration camps such as Mauthausen and Auschwitz. From 1938 until 1945, the Austrian state ceased to exist GfLÖ #1 of 13 March 1938, and the stamps and postal materials of the German Reich were used. The philatelic feature of greatest interest relating to the Anschluss was the use for several months of a mixture of Austrian and German stamps, during the several stages of the transition from the Austrian to the German system. See for example GfLÖ #112 issued in Berlin on April 30, 1938 and effective in Land Österreich from May 3; and GfLÖ #259 July 9, 1938 which has 59 sections with details of the new systems and their introduction dates.

© Andy Taylor and the Austrian Philatelic Society. Last updated 17 July 2023