- Though National Socialism had been outlawed in Austria since 1933, an Austrian National Socialist (DNSAP) overthrow of the government of Engelbert Dollfuss and the installation of a Nazi regime had been discussed since the late winter of 1934. With the leadership of the movement under the Austrian Theo Habicht (1898–1944) operating out of Munich, the planning was known to the German Nazi leadership. Adolf Hitler, however, had reservations about the timing.In June, conferring with Benito Mussolini in Spa, the German dictator announced that although he did not want to annex Austria, he would welcome the replacement of Dollfuss with an Austrian Nazi regime. But according to one source close to the plot, Rudolf Weydenhammer, Hitler told Habicht that he wanted no “small putsch.” Rather, he asked for a large uprising. Accompanying these machinations were discussions among Austrian Nazis about moving ahead with such a strike. Their chief concern was whether what was left of their movement in Austria, particularly the paramilitary Austrian Sturmabteilung (SA), could function reliably and effectively. Rumors of the conspiracy, indeed information about it, reached Austrian official circles, so when the uprising began on 25 July, it was hardly a surprise. Some 154 members of the Vienna SA dressed as soldiers and policemen broke into Dollfuss’s apparently ill-guarded office. The conspirators planned to arrest him and his government and install a Nazi regime under the leadership of Anton Rintelen, once a Christian Social politician and governor of Styria. At least this is what they announced from the Austrian broadcasting station, which they also captured. A general uprising was called for on the air.Dollfuss’s ministers had been alerted and left the building, though the chancellor himself was still there. Dollfuss was shot; he died from his wounds about two hours later. The chancellorship was passed to the minister of justice, Kurt Schuschnigg. Armed skirmishing between the Austrian army, which along with the Heimwehr remained loyal to the government, and Nazi cells took place over the next few days in parts of Upper Austria, Styria, and Carinthia. Minor disturbances broke out in Salzburg as well. In the actual fighting, 107 died defending the Austrian government, while 140 Nazi supporters were killed. But local authorities contained the uprisings relatively quickly; 13 of the putschists were executed and around 4,000 of their followers were interned. Around 1,000 fled to Yugoslavia, where they were once again interned; upon release, they went to Germany.The putsch was a real, though temporary, setback for the Austrian Nazi movement. Hitler himself was sufficiently cautioned by the general show of Austrian loyalty to their government to curb the activity of Habicht and his followers sharply. Habicht was removed from his position, the Austrian party center in Munich was dissolved, and what remained of the party in Austria itself was told to limit its activities.
Historical dictionary of Austria. Paula Sutter Fichtner. 2014.
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