- Die dunklen Jahre: Politik und Alltag im nationalsozialistischen Österreich 1938 bis 1945 by Kurt Bauer
Kurt Bauer's well-written book should have wide appeal to educated readers, particularly to Austrians seeking to comprehend the attitudes and behavior of their parents and grandparents during the Anschluss era. Drawing upon a mastery of secondary literature as well as unpublished diaries and memoirs, Bauer divides his work into five chapters, attempting to address puzzling and contentious issues such as the euphoric reception and popular support of the Nazi regime, the extent of Austrian participation in the Holocaust, the modernization of society, the role of Austrian soldiers in the Wehrmacht, the use of terror, the motives of those who chose to resist, and so forth.
In his first chapter Bauer covers well-trodden ground in recounting Hitler's aggressive aims as well as the bitter social, economic, and political divisions within Austria that enabled the German invasion on March 12, 1938. Here the author relies heavily on authoritative studies by Norbert Schausberger, Gerhard Botz, and Ernst Hanisch, but overlooks Radomir Luza's comprehensive Austro-German Relations in the Anschluss Era, published in 1973.1 Bauer also leaves out Luza's exhaustively researched study of the Austrian Resistance, although translated into German, as well as other English language works. Bauer explains in graphic detail that the response to the Anschluss was complex, for example by contrasting the ecstatic approval of a majority of citizens with the arrest and detention of roughly 50,000 putative opponents in March and April alone.
In his second chapter Bauer provides a detailed analysis of developments within incorporated Austria between the Anschluss and the outbreak of Hitler's war in September 1939. Much of the account is familiar. Bauer discusses the power struggles within the indigenous NSDAP, the establishment of new Reichsgaue (districts) under autochthonous party members, and Josef Bürckel's ham-fisted role as Reich Commissioner for the Unification of Austria with the German Reich. Relying on personal accounts by individuals, Bauer also reveals how the new regime eliminated unemployment, provided educational and job opportunities, offered social benefits, and generated a general sense of well-being. A good example was a 50 percent rise in marriages within a year. For the Jews of Vienna, however, the Anschluss came as a catastrophe. The details of the violence [End Page 114] directed against Jews and the theft of their personal assets is well known. Nevertheless, Bauer makes a point of stressing that thousands of otherwise innocent or at least passive Austrians profited enormously, for example through the confiscation and redistribution of apartments, private homes, and other assets. In his account of Reichskristallnacht Bauer corrects the estimates of Herbert Rosenkranz on the number of victims of the November pogrom. In Vienna the total of dead reached twenty to thirty individuals. In addition, there were forty-one suicides, not 680 as previously thought. All in all, 6,547 Jews were arrested in Vienna, 1,250 elsewhere in the "Ostmark." Of these, 3,000 Viennese were dispatched to Dachau, and 750 from Linz, Graz, and other localities. Bauer concludes this chapter by recounting the fate of half a dozen Jewish youngsters who fled to the "Altreich," where they were either initially welcomed or left alone.
Bauer's three chapters on the war years constitute the crux of his study. As others have noted, the vast majority of Austrians and Germans did not welcome the outbreak of World War II but nevertheless supported the Nazi war effort until the bitter end. Bauer provides multiple explanations for this paradox, but in the case of the Austrians stresses their emotional loyalty to Hitler, a quasi-religious bond that persisted long after the collapse of the Greater German Reich. To what extent did the 1.3 million Austrians serving in the Wehrmacht consider themselves comrades-inarms with their Reich German brethren? The historian Thomas R. Grischany contends that after initial cultural clashes, Austrian soldiers not only gained acceptance as equals but fought as...