The "Danube and Alps Gau districts" (Ostmark) during the Third Reich.
Austria 1938-1945: The National Socialists (National Socialism) seized power on the evening of March 3, 1938 and German troops marched into Austria on March 12; the Federal President W. Miklas resigned from office on March 13, 1938 and the national-socialist Federal Government passed a constitutional law stating that "Austria is a province of the German Reich", and a Reich Law (Reichsgesetz) in the same wording was published in Berlin. The implementation was put into the hands of the gauleiter of the Saarland province, J. Bürckel, who was temporary leader of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and became "Reich Commissioner (Reichskommissar) for the Reunification of Austria with the German Reich" following the plebiscite over the Anschluss on April 4, 1938. The government was called "Österreichische Landesregierung" (Austrian Provincial Government) and was headed by A. Seyß-Inquart as Reich Governor (Reichsstatthalter); it remained in power until 1939, when it was forced to hand over its powers and liquidate the hitherto existing Austrian state (First Republic).
J. Bürckel was given far-reaching authorities after April 10, 1938, e.g. the authority to instruct the Reich Governor, but not including Wehrmacht (the German Armed Forces) and economy. The name "Österreich" (Austria) was for the time replaced by "Ostmark".
The replacement of leaders in the public and private sectors led to drastic measures. On April 1, 1938, the first Austrian officials and patriots were deported to the concentration camp in Dachau, other persons were temporarily arrested. Along with Austrian National Socialists, many German nationals took over leading positions, which caused many problems, especially in the economy.
Integration of the Austrian economy into the German system started in March 1938. The Austrian economy was integrated into the 4-year plan and almost all large-scale industry passed into German ownership. On 31 May, 1938, the Nazi Party divided the "Ostmark" into gau districts, Upper Austria and Lower Austria were re-named "Oberdonau" (Upper Danube) and "Niederdonau" (Lower Danube" and the historical borders of the provinces were altered. On 1 October, 1938, administrative structures were altered according to the gau structure: The province of Burgenland was split between Lower Danube and Styria, the Tyrol and Vorarlberg were merged, East Tyrol became part of Carinthia, the court district of Bad Aussee was integrated into Upper Danube, 97 suburban municipalities became part of Vienna, the municipalities of Jungholz and Mittelberg became Bavarian territory. Uniformity, which meant the complete destruction of historic structures, came in the form of the Ostmark Act of 1 May, 1939. 7 Reichsgau districts were created which were identical with the Nazi Party gau districts. They were headed by Reich Governors who were at the same time Nazi Party gauleiter and reported to the minister of the interior. The powers of the Reich Governor of Austria passed over to the Reich Commissioner, whose post expired on 31 March, 1940, and with this date Austria finally lost its legal personality. From August 1942, even use of the terms "Ostmark" or "Ostmark Reichsgau districts" was no longer permitted; the new comprehensive term being "Alps and Danube Reichsgau districts".
The administrative districts were placed under the authority of a sub-prefect (Landrat) and were equipped with self-governing powers, the German Local Government Act took effect on 1 October, 1938, and a number of towns were considerably enlarged through incorporation (Graz, Linz, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Krems, St. Pölten, etc.). Major changes came with the creation of registrar's offices and the implementation of new social and tax laws. When assessing administrative and social measures, it has to be taken into consideration that Austria was forced to adopt German administrative practice and accept National Socialist dictatorship. A strict police regime was introduced in order to consolidate the National Socialist state, the Austrian armed forces were incorporated into the German Wehrmacht, 2 defence district headquarters were established and a 2-year military service was introduced, supplemented by the Reich Labour Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst). Critics of the regime were persecuted, deported into concentration camps or sentenced to death. A concentration camp was built at Mauthausen, which later had a number of satellite camps as well.
The persecution and expulsion of Jews reached a first peak in the November Pogrom of 9/10 November, 1938, followed by almost complete concentration of the remaining Jewish population in Vienna and by their systematic deportation into Concentration Camps and extermination camps. Subject to similar persecution were the Roma and Sinti people, especially in Burgenland. The Roman Catholic Church was subjected to intensive pressure, and this despite the bishops' attempt in 1938 to remain on good terms with Hitler. Efforts to gain absolute control of youth education via the Hitlerjugend organisation led to an assault of the Archbishop's palace in Vienna in October 1938. Following this, numerous monasteries were closed, for example those in Admont, Altenburg, Klosterneuburg, Göttweig, Wilhering, Kremsmünster, St. Florian, Lambach and Stams. The abbey of St. Lambrecht had already been dissolved in May 1938 and was later turned into a satellite camp of the Mauthausen concentration camp. Church schools were also closed. Volksschule primary schools and Hauptschule secondary schools were reduced in number, advanced-level specialised schools (Oberschulen) underwent far-reaching alterations, a number of additional institutions were created. Federal institutes of education (Bundeserziehungsanstalten) were replaced by "Napola" Schools (National Political Institutes of Education). In teacher training, the Austrian institute for teacher training continued to exist, as did the universities. All forms of social and cultural life were subjected to the requirements of the Nazi Party, whose organisation was closely linked with the organisation of the state.
As for the economy, the hitherto persisting high levels of unemployment fell sharply due to war preparation by the National Socialist regime. Road construction (autobahn) took off, as did the foundation of large-scale enterprises, particularly in Upper Austria (Linz, Lenzing, Ranshofen), and restructuring of existing enterprises and the exploitation of raw material resources (iron ore, mineral oil, magnesite and timber) for the armament industry. Numerous military structures (barracks, airfields, camps) and large troop training fields (Döllersheim, Kaisersteinbruch) were built. Foreign currency reserves (ATS 471,490,000 at the end of 1937, plus clearing assets abroad) of the Austrian National Bank (Nationalbank, Oesterreichische, OeNB) were claimed by the Reich Bank, and in addition the Austrian schilling had to be exchanged at the unfavourable rate of 1.5 schillings to 1 Reichsmark.
Foreign policy was particularly disappointing for Tyroleans, since Hitler did not reunify North and South Tyrol. Instead, German-speaking inhabitants of the Italian province of Alto Adige were given the right to move to Germany, and a large number of them were resettled in what used to be Austria. Hitler continued his aggressive expansion policy, bringing Germany to the brink of war in what came to be known as the "Sudeten crisis" of September 1938, the annexation of Southern Moravia and Southern Bohemia which were consequently incorporated into Upper Danube and Lower Danube, respectively. This was followed by the occupation of Czechoslovakia, making Bohemia and Moravia German protectorates, by the foundation of Slovakia and structural changes in the Balkans ("Vienna Arbitration Award"). Finally, the attack on Poland led to the outbreak of the Second World War on 1 September, 1939.
The immediate consequences were a deterioration of the supply situation and conscription. During the occupation of Norway, for example, Germany used almost only Austrian mountain troops. With the campaign against Yugoslavia in April 1941 the war was carried to Austria´s southern border region (headquarters in the tunnel of Tauchen near Mönichkirchen), Upper Carniola was annexed to Carinthia, the eastern part of Slovenia integrated into Styria. The war intensified with the attack on Russia (22 June, 1941), and on 11 December, 1941, Germany declared war on the United States of America. 1943 saw the beginnings of anti-aircraft defence organisation for industrial centres in Austria, in which school-children from the upper grades had to participate as well. To make up for the shortage of male workers, women were trained and war prisoners and forced labourers from Poland and the Ukraine were employed in industry and agriculture.
The liquidation of the Sixth German Army, including many Austrian soldiers, at Stalingrad in January 1943, marked the decisive turning point in the war, and the implications of this were soon to be felt in all areas of daily life. Wiener Neustadt was the first Austrian town to be bombarded, on 13 August, 1943, by American bomber fighters based in Tunisia. Later on, industrial sites, oil fields, transport facilities and housing estates were targeted (Bomb Warfare). All major Austrian towns suffered heavy destruction. From 28. March, 1945, Russian troops coming from Hungary entered Austria and conquered Burgenland, Vienna, the eastern half of Lower Austria and eastern Styria. Western Austria was liberated by American, British and French troops, the south of Carinthia by the Yugoslav army.
The Nazi Party administration and other structures broke down completely as the Second World War drew to a close. On 27. April, 1945, in Vienna, Austria was proclaimed a republic again (Second Republic).
Literature: L. Jedlicka, Verfassungs- und Verwaltungsprobleme 1938-45, in: Die Entwicklung der Verfassung Österreichs vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, 1963; N. Schausberger, Rüstung in Österreich 1938-45, 1970; E. Hanisch and W. Neugebauer, NS-Herrschaft in Österreich 1938-45, 1988; H. Hagspiel, Die Ostmark, 1995.