Kurt Schuschnigg

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Kurt Schuschnigg, 1934.

Kurt Alois Josef Johann Schuschnigg (14 December 1897 – 18 November 1977) was Chancellor of the Federal State of Austria from the 1934 assassination of his predecessor Engelbert Dollfuss until the 1938 Anschluss with Nazi Germany. He was opposed to Hitler's ambitions to absorb Austria into the Third Reich. After Schuschnigg's efforts to keep Austria independent had failed, he resigned his office. After the invasion by Nazi Germany he was arrested, kept in solitary confinement and eventually interned in various concentration camps. He was liberated in 1945 by the advancing United States Army and spent most of the rest of his life in academia in the United States.


  • There is no question of ever accepting Nazi representatives in the Austrian cabinet. An absolute abyss separates Austria from Nazism. We do not like arbitrary power, we want law to rule our freedom. We reject uniformity and centralization. . . . Christendom is anchored in our very soil, and we know but one God: and that is not the State, or the Nation, or that elusive thing, Race. Our children are God’s children, not to be abused by the State. We abhor terror; Austria has always been a humanitarian state. As a people, we are tolerant by predisposition. Any change now, in our "status quo", could only be for the worse.
    • "Morning Telegraph" of London (January 5, 1938), reprinted in "Let the Record Speak", Dorothy Thompson, Boston: MA, Houghton Mifflin Company (1939) p. 135

The Brutal Takeover: The Austrian ex-Chancellor’s account of the Anschluss of Austria by Hitler, 1971


New York: NY, Atheneum (1971)

  • The situation changed visibly when sentimental reasons and long-term political aims gave way to a stern, ruthless nationalist ideology which would brook no compromise. Hitler had categorically demanded the Anschluss in "Mein Kampf". . . . As early as 1923 Hitler had decide that, if necessary, the National-Socialists must take over the government in Austria by force.
    • p. 39
  • Austria had become the second German state in fact, because there German culture, now homeless in its old home, found a new country. The more violent the opposition to German National-Socialism, the more justified became the Austrian claim to be the representatives of the now homeless German culture and of the higher values of Germanism. To all intents and purposes Weimar had been exiled from the Third Reich and had found its home in Vienna.
    • p. 44
    • Socialism was primarily concerned with fair distribution, in other words a redistribution of income; but this did not mean equal shares for all. The hard worker was still entitled to a larger slice of the national cake than the indolent; the idler should bet nothing at all.
    • p. 46
  • People were not all fascists on one side and bolshevists on the other. A contemporary writer says” ‘if there is talk of fascism in Austria, in the interest of historical accuracy and the honour of our people it should be stated that the first Austrian fascists were extreme left-wingers and that they were directly responsible for the emergence and formation of the other brand of fascism.’
    • p. 53
  • As in other European countries there were anti-semitic tendencies in pre-Hitler Austria too. Formerly political forces, together with the official authorities, had been sufficiently strong to prevent any excesses and nip any outburst in the bud apart from some verbal invective. Karl Renner says: … Throughout the Christian Social period in power no harm came to a single Jew in Vienna; in fact the Jewish element made far greater progress in the press, literature, theatre and business worlds than in the previous so-called liberal period. . . It must not be forgotten, however, that Vienna was the entry point for Jews from the East who did not assimilate easily.
    • p. 62
  • In the Vienna of the First Republic a tendency to anti-semtism was particularly marked in the years of economic upheaval, between 1921 and 1923. . . At the time organized anti-semitism was definitely led by the newly-formed National-Socialist movement, which stressed the racial and "völkisch" aspects and linked the problem with the Anschluss movement.
    • p. 63
  • In the turbulent years after 1933, anti-semitic slogans were current among the small shopkeepers of Vienna, as they had been sixty years before; they were directed primarily against the big department stores. In glaring contrast to the racial anti-semitism of the National-Socialists, however, the background to this movement was purely economic. No legal restrictions were placed on the Jews nor were any economic handicaps imposed, . . . There was never any discrimination in the schools, and in the academic profession, the business world and cultural life Jews continued to play their respected, even leading, role.
    • p. 63
  • Neither the free will of the people nor the right of self-determination nor even the consent of a majority of convinced National-Socialists can be cited as justification for the obliteration of Austria after 1938.
    • p. 209-210

Quotes about Schuschnigg

  • The transition in Portugal was similar, though smoother. There, the army seized power in 1926; six years later the finance minister Antonio de Oliveira Salazar became premier, promulgating an authoritarian constitution which established him as dictator the following year. Engelbert Dollfuss tried to pull off the same trick in Austria, governing by decree after March 1933. Though assassinated in July 1934, he was able to bequeath a functioning authoritarian system to his successor Kurt Schuschnigg.
    • Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006), p. 230
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