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|Leader||Engelbert Dollfuss (1933-1934)
Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg (1934-1936)
Kurt Schuschnigg (1936-1938)
|Founded||20 May 1933|
|Dissolved||13 March 1938|
|Merger of||Christian Social Party, Landbund, Heimwehr and others|
|Colors||White, Red (national colours)|
|Politics of Austria
The Vaterländische Front (VF, English: "Fatherland's Front" also translated as "Patriotic Front") was an Austrofascist political party. Established on 20 May 1933 by Christian Social Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss as a single-party along the lines of Italian Fascism, it advocated Austrian nationalism and independence from Nazi Germany on the basis of protecting Austria's Catholic religious identity from what they considered a Protestant-dominated German state.
Dollfuss accepted that Austrians were Germans but rejected the idea of Catholic Austrians submitting themselves to be taken over by a Protestant-dominated Germany, and instead claimed that Austria needed to revive itself and recognize the greatness of its history such as its Habsburg dynasty having been the leading part of the German Holy Roman Empire, and that when Austria restored itself, it would found a federal state of Germany that would recognize Germany as a Kulturnation, but would also recognize Austria as having a privileged place within such a federal state.
After World War I and the dissolution of Austria-Hungary sealed by the 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain, three political camps controlled the fate of the Austrian First Republic: the Social Democrats, the Christian Social Party, and the German nationalists, organised in the Greater German People's Party and the Landbund. Since 1921 the Christian Social Party had formed coalition governments along with the German nationalists; Chancellor Ignaz Seipel, a proponent of Catholic social teaching, advocated the idea of a "corporated" state surmounting the parliamentary system, based on the encyclicals Rerum Novarum (1891) by Pope Leo XIII and Quadragesimo Anno (1931) by Pope Pius XI.
On 10 May 1932 the Christian Social politician Engelbert Dollfuss was designated Chancellor of Austria by President Wilhelm Miklas. Dollfuss formed another right-wing government together with the Landbund and the Heimatblock, the political organisation of the paramilitary Heimwehr forces. He began to surpass the slim majority of his government in parliament ruling by emergency decrees, and on 15 March 1933 finally prevented the gathering of the National Council. Two months later the "Fatherland's Front" was founded by Chancellor Dollfuss as a merger of his Christian Social Party, the Heimwehr forces and other right-wing groups, and was intended to collect all "loyal Austrians" under one banner.
On 30 May 1933 the government banned the Republikanischer Schutzbund, the paramilitary troops of the Social Democratic Party, the Communist Party and the Austrian Nazi Party were prohibited shortly afterwards. From 12 February 1934 onwards, the remaining Schutzbund forces revolted against their disbanding, sparking the Austrian Civil War against Heimwehr troops and the Austrian Armed Forces. After the suppression, the Social Democratic Party too was declared dissolved and illegal. Social Democratic officials like the Vienna mayor Karl Seitz were deposed and replaced by VF politicians.
On May 1, the Federal State of Austria was officially declared a single-party state under the authoritarian leadership of the VF. Thereafter, the organisation held a monopolistic position in Austrian politics with both civilian and military divisions. Dollfuss remained its undisputed leader until his assassination during the Nazi July Putsch on 25 July 1934. He was succeeded by Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg, while his VF fellow Justice Minister Kurt Schuschnigg became chancellor.
In 1936 Schuschnigg also took over the leadership of the VF. The Front was officially declared a corporation under public law and the only legal political organisation in Austria. Its symbol was the crutch cross (Kruckenkreuz), and its official greeting was Front heil!.. The party flag was adopted as the second state flag of Austria. Though membership was obligatory for officials, the VF never became a mass movement. By the end of 1937 it had 3 million members (with 6.5 million inhabitants of Austria); it could however never win the support of its political opponents, neither from the circles of the Social Democrats nor from the Austrian Nazis.
Schuschnigg's government had to face the increasing pressure by its powerful neighbour Nazi Germany under Austrian-born Adolf Hitler. The state's fate was sealed, when the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini approached towards the German Nazis. To ease tensions, Schuschnigg on 11 July 1936 concluded an agreement, whereafter several conspirators of the 1934 July Putsch were released from prison. Nazi confidants like Edmund Glaise-Horstenau and Guido Schmidt joined Schuschnigg's cabinet, while Arthur Seyss-Inquart attained the office of a State Councillor, though the Austrian Nazi Party remained illegal.
On 12 February 1938 Hitler summoned Schuschnigg to his Berghof residence, constraining the readmission of the Nazi Party and the replacement of the Austrian chief of staff Alfred Jansa by Franz Böhme to pave the way for a Wehrmacht invasion. Schuschnigg had to appoint Seyss-Inquart Minister of the Interior, encouraging the political activation of the Austrian Nazis. When the chancellor announced a referendum on Austrian independence, he was finally forced to resign on March 11 and succeeded by Seyss-Inquart. The Fatherland's Front was immediately banned after the Anschluss annexation of Austria to Germany two days later.
- Atsuko Ichijō, Willfried Spohn. Entangled identities: nations and Europe. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2005. Pp. 61.
- Discursive Construction of National Identity. P. 52.
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