1938 Austrian Anschluss referendum
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|Politics of Austria|
A referendum on the Anschluss with Germany was held in German-occupied Austria on 10 April 1938, alongside one in Germany. German troops had already occupied Austria one month earlier, on 12 March 1938. The official result was reported as 99.73% in favour, with a 99.71% turnout.
Political enemies (communists, socialists, etc.) and Austrian citizens of Romani or Jewish origin—roughly 360,000 people or 8% of the Austrian population—were not allowed to vote in the plebiscite.
After the end of World War I, the newly founded Austria claimed sovereignty over the majority-German territory of the former Habsburg empire. According to its provisional constitution it declared to be part of the also newly founded German Republic. Later plebiscites in Tyrol and Salzburg in 1921, where majorities of 98.77% and 99.11% voted for a unification with Germany, showed that it was also backed by the population.
In September 1919 Austria had to sign the Treaty of Saint Germain, which did not only mean significant losses of territory but it was also forced to change its name from "German Austria" to "Austria". Furthermore, Article 88 of the treaty stated that "the independence of Austria is inalienable otherwise than with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations", to prevent any attempt to unite with Germany.
During the lead-up to the referendum, Hitler's campaign included anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic posters. Campaign managers reported "no opposition to the referendum". The referendum was supported by the Social Democratic Party of Austria, whose leader Karl Renner endorsed Hitler on 3 April and Cardinal Theodor Innitzer, the highest representative of the Roman Catholic church in Austria, which meant that about two-thirds of Austrians could be counted on to vote for the Anschluss.
The ballots featured a large circle for 'yes' votes and a small one for 'no' votes. This was described as "a 'subtle' hint to the people, to help them understand which way to vote." Several other claims were made that the vote was rigged. The result was "... the outcome of opportunism, ideological conviction, massive pressure, occasional vote rigging and a propaganda machine that Austria's political culture had never before experienced." The massive pressure to which people were exposed came from the fact that many were marking the ballot paper in front of the campaign workers in order not to be suspected of voting against the Anschluss. The secrecy of the ballot was in practice non-existent. However, LIFE in 1938 claimed that the results of the referendum and its German counterpart were "largely honest".
The referendum question was:
Do you agree with the reunification of Austria with the German Reich that was enacted on 13 March 1938 and do you vote for the party of our leader Adolf Hitler?
|Source: Direct Democracy|
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