- (1897–1977)Born in the South Tyrol, Schuschnigg was trained as a lawyer. Active in Christian Social Party politics as a young man, he served in the parliament of the Austrian First Republic from 1927 to 1934. Schuschnigg was a devout Catholic and sympathetic to some form of Habsburg restoration in Austria. In 1930, he founded the Stormtroopers of the Eastern March (Ostmärkische Sturmscharen), in part as a counterweight to the German national and far more secular orientation of the powerful Starhemberg faction within the Heimwehr. The rivalry between Count Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg and Schuschnigg would be intense and color their political relationships throughout the decade.In 1932, Schuschnigg was appointed minister of justice; in 1933–1934 he served as minister of education in the government of Engelbert Dollfuss. Following the assassination of the latter, Schuschnigg became federal chancellor and held that position until the Anschluss in 1938. As chancellor he held the portfolios of defense, education, and foreign affairs. He was the head of the Fatherland Front after the Heimwehr was disbanded in 1936.Schuschnigg continued to govern in the authoritarian style established by his immediate predecessor. Sympathetic to the idea of a Habsburg restoration—he repealed the Habsburg Exclusion Law in 1935—Schuschnigg offended many in German nationalist circles among his countrymen. This split in conservative and right-wing circles seriously compromised his position, both domestically and abroad. He did not denounce Nazism and tightened the Austrian connection with Benito Mussolini.This tie, however, grew increasingly problematic. A close ally of Italy, Austria could not renounce Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. European powers who deplored Mussolini’s strike grew much less sympathetic to Austria’s perpetual financial problems. Schuschnigg was nevertheless firmly committed to maintaining the sovereignty of his country. While agreeing in July 1936 to call his Austria the “second German state,” to loosen restrictions on local Nazi Party activity, and to take some Nazis into his government, Schuschnigg did get Adolf Hitler to recognize Austria’s independence at a meeting of the two in Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s Bavarian hideaway, in February 1938.Nevertheless, rumors of German invasion and a Nazi takeover of Austria continued to circulate, often with documentary evidence. Facing an imminent crisis, Schuschnigg called on 3 March 1938 for an Austrian plebiscite on independence. This was to be held four days later but was preempted when the German army crossed the Austrian border. On 11 March, under intense Nazi pressure, Schuschnigg resigned the chancellorship; he was imprisoned until 1945. After the end of World War II, Schuschnigg went to the United States, where from 1948 until 1967 he taught international law at the University of St. Louis, a Catholic institution. He then returned to the Tyrol.
Historical dictionary of Austria. Paula Sutter Fichtner. 2014.
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