The annexation of Austria into Greater Germany by the Third Reich took place on March 12, 1938, with the help of many Austrian supporters, who were part of a unionists movement known in German “Heim ins Reich” movement. In German the annexation of Austria is known as the “Anschluss”, which means connection, or link up. The main rationale for the annexation was based on the centuries-old historical and cultural links between the Germany and Austria which dated back from the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which began in the year 962 AD with Otto I. This empire was regarded by the Nazi as the First Reich, which was made up of territories now occupied by Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, and Louxenbourg. From the 15th century on, when the Habsburg dynasty took the throne, the capital of Holy Roman Empire was Vienna. Germany and Austria not only shared a common history, but their people also spoke the same language.
Prior to March 12, 1912, Hitler had provided support for the Austrian Nazi Party in its bid to seize power from Austria’s Austrofascist leadership. The Chancellor of Austria, Kurt Schuschnigg, wanted his country to remain independent and tried to hold a referendum to ask the Austrian people whether they wished to remain independent or merge into Germany. Schuschnigg expected Austria to vote in favour of maintaining autonomy, but a well-planned coup d’état orchestrated by the Austrian Nazi Party took place on March 11, before the referendum was held. Once the Austrian Nazi members had seized power, they quickly transferred it over to Germany. Then, on March 12, 1938, Wehrmacht troops entered Austria to enforce the Anschluss. The Nazis held a plebiscite, asking the Austrian people whether they wanted to be part of Germany. The result of the plebiscite was 99.73% of the vote favored an integration with Germany.