The Spread of Hitlerism
M. W. Fodor
The peacemakers of Versailles, however, did not realize the importance of this motley group of nationalities called Austria-Hungary, and they broke it up into small units. Severed from its natural markets, Austria, small and desolate, attempted a union with Germany in November, 1918, in order to find an existence in the economic life of a great empire which, even if defeated and derelict for the moment, was bound one day to rise from its ashes. The desire of these Germans in Austria and Czecho-Slovakia for union with the German fatherland after the war was genuine and strong. Plebiscites in the Tyrol and Salzburg in the postwar years yielded enormous majorities in favor of Anschluss But the peace treaties stood in the way.
A change came with the swift growth of National Socialism in Germany. The idea of union was strong before, but Adolf Hitler's movement breathed new life into it. No race has suffered so much from an inferiority complex as has the German. National Socialism was a kind of Coué method of converting the inferiority complex, at least temporarily, into a feeling of superiority. Hitler wrote in his Mein Kampf: "The German Reich as a state shall include all Germans, with the function not only of collecting and preserving for this people the useful remains of ancient racial elements, but also of leading them, slowly but surely, to a dominating position." Herr Schmidt in Reichenberg, Czecho-Slovakia, and Herr Schimmelpfennig in Sao Paolo, Brazil, read this sentence and became conscious of the greatness of their nationality.
In carrying out his ideas Hitler used the efficient propaganda machinery set up by Goebbels and Rosenberg. The chief results are the still uncertain situation in Austria, the victory of Conrad Henlein in the last Czecho-Slovak elections, the unrest among the Germans in Hungary, the : considerable increase of Nazi strength among the Swabians in Yugoslavia, and the rapid rise of an illegal Nazi movement in Rumania. The brunt of this propaganda since Hitler's rise to power has been directed against "independent" Austria. Although the greater part of the Austrian population had previously desired to join Germany, after the establishment of the rule of Hitler this feeling was modified: the Social Democrats, after observing the fate of their comrades in the Reich, turned away from the pan-German idea. Had Austria possessed a great statesman in those days of severe pressure, he would have attempted to unite the ranks of the Catholics with those of the Social Democrats, both groups being anxious to escape the fate of their brothers in Nazi Germany. The late Dr. Dollfuss, however, failed to grasp the situation. In his hatred of the Socialists he followed the advice of Mussolini to fight a battle on two fronts, and was able to defeat, first, a Socialist rising, and then a Nazi Putsch. The second event, however, caused his own death. The defeated Socialists have an irreconcilable hatred for the Schuschnigg government, and if they are not yet open allies of the Nazis against the present regime, the danger exists that in case of a new revolt the Socialists, probably to their ultimate destruction, would offer a helping hand to the followers of Hitler.
The National Socialist Putsch of July, 1934, afforded a good opportunity to the Austrian government to break up the Nazi organizations. The Storm Troops were not only dissolved, but the Storm Troopers were thrown into jail or were sent to concentration camps. The secret party organization was dissolved, and every new attempt to reorganize the party has been frustrated by the vigilance of the authorities. Yet the Nazi movement in Austria, despite this persecution, appears to be invincible. One of the reasons is the weakness of the government, which is unable to inspire the youth of the country. The younger generation of Austrians know little of their country's splendid past, but they all know that Mussolini said, "What is Austria, who is she?" and then compared their country with a spittoon. And the young people also know--thanks to the ubiquitous German propaganda--that the Nazis won an enormous majority at the plebiscite in the Saar; that the camouflaged Nazis had an overwhelming victory in Czecho-Slovakia; that Hitler's Germany repudiated the military clauses of the Versailles treaty and no French troops marched in to punish the offenders; that England made a naval pact with Germany which is regarded by the Nazi youth as England's complete swing to their side; that the war in Abyssinia has weakened Italy's watch on the Brenner frontier.
Czecho-Slovakia is the largest of Germany's small-nation neighbors. It has a large, excellently equipped army. Moreover, it is an ally of France and has recently concluded a treaty of mutual assistance with Soviet Russia. But two other neighbors, Poland and Hungary, are only awaiting the day when an armed conflict shall arise between Germany and Czecho-Slovakia. Near the German border in Czecho-Slovakia are 3,500,000 Germans--out of a population of 14,000,000 who in the event of an armed conflict would be a potential danger to Czecho-Slovakia. This German population has always been German nationalist in sympathy.
After a short period of oppression the Czechs gave fair treatment to the German minority after the war--undoubtedly better treatment than the Germans experienced in any other country. Later the Czechs gained the cooperation of three of the minor German parties in the Czech Parliament. But other groups, especially the German National Socialist Party of Czecho-Slovakia and the German National Party, followed an opposition policy for which they received plenty of encouragement from across the frontier. When the Nazis in Czecho-Slovakia over a year ago tried to use high-handed and violent methods, the government ordered their dissolution. But soon after the dissolution of the Nazi Party and the suppression of the German National Party German gymnastic teacher, Conrad Henlein, started an organization intended to unite all the "nationally oriented" Germans in Czecho-Slovakia. Gymnastic groups have always played an important role in the Bohemian district. In the days of the old Austrian empire the gymnastic organizations, the "Sokols," were important nuclei of nationalist revival among the Czechs. Henlein, pretending to stand for fidelity to the republic, succeeded with great energy in reorganizing not only a gymnastic movement but a political formation which he called the "Sudetendeutsche Front." Although Henlein pretends to be standing for the status quo, there is no doubt that he is the precursor of Hitler in Czecho-Slovakia.
No National Socialist Party exists in Hungary. Yet a visit to the villages in western Hungary or in the Swabian settlements round Budapest suffices to convince one that the atmosphere in these German villages is National Socialist. The Germans in Berlin complained bitterly about the persecution of the German voters at the recent elections in Hungary. General Gšmbšs's government is undoubtedly in a dilemma. While on the one hand, for sentimental and economic reasons, Gšmbšs wants friendly relations with Hitler, whose internal political methods he admires and whose revisionist foreign policy he hails, Hungary is sincerely frightened by the pan-German aspirations of Nazi Germany. The Berlin propaganda is highly effective in the German parts of Hungary. Propagandists come in the disguise of beggars, wanderers, tourists, and what not. They are eventually put over the frontier on one pretext or another, but hardly is one ousted when another arrives.
Equally difficult is the situation in Rumania with 600,000 Germans. These live mostly in large towns in the Banat or in Transylvania. During the last few years they have been subjected to intense National Socialist propaganda directed from Berlin, and in many municipalities the Nazis have succeeded in capturing the majority of the offices. Three years ago the German National Socialist Party of Rumania was dissolved, but this did not mean the end of the propaganda. The Rumanian press recently remarked with alarm the renewed growth of Nazi propaganda and the constant increase of Nazism in the cities of Transylvania. The youth wear, despite prohibition, the illegal brown shirts or black storm-troop uniforms. The Rumanian Henlein is a certain Herr Fabrizius, who is acting as "leader" and who is trying to do away once for all with the democratic groups among the Germans in the Banat and Transylvania.
The Yugoslav Germans are on good terms with the government. Nevertheless, a strong Nazi movement is noticeable not only in Maribor (Marburg) and Celje (Cilli) but also among the Germans of the Yugoslav Banat, in Pancevo, Beckerek, and other towns.
The penetration of Nazism among the Germans in Central and Southeastern Europe is magnificently organized. Before an astonished world has time to recover from the shock, one country after the other, it seems probable, will fall before this cleverly launched attack. If Austria goes, Czecho-Slovakia will not be able to survive, and subsequently the Germans of Hungary will be incorporated into Greater Germany. The speed of the progress depends on the various conflicts in Europe and on developments within Germany itself.