New Photos of the Annexation A Citizen's-Eye View of the Nazis in Austria
There have been thousands of photos published of Adolf Hitler being received by cheering crowds in Austria in March, 1938. But now, a new volume collects dozens of never-before-seen images that have long been hidden in attics and cellars.
Everyone knows the images: Adolf Hitler speaking to crowds of Austrians on March 12, 1938, the day the Germans marched into the country. Tanks, planes and soldiers from the powerful Wehrmacht parading through Vienna. Thousands of Austrians celebrating the arrival of the Führer and shrieking their approval as he moves slowly through the packed streets of Linz. The thousands of right arms outstretched, reaching out in the Nazi greeting.
They are pictures that made front pages around the world. And they are pictures that were reprinted over and over again to feed the gigantic Nazi propaganda machine.
But they weren't the only pictures taken that day. Hundreds of Austrians took to the streets 70 years ago today, some out of curiosity, many out of unadulterated National Socialist zeal. And a number of them were carrying either still or video cameras. Many of the photos taken on that day disappeared into archives, basements, boxes and attics and lay there forgotten.
Now, a new book by Hans Petschar collects a number of those once-lost photos and video frames and presents them to the public for the first time. The parades are there as are the celebrating masses. But so too is an image of excited Viennese boys exploring a German army tank. There is an image of a family in driving snow gathered around their car, which has a small swastika flag dangling from its hood. There is a photo of Hitler giving flowers to braided young girls in Linz. And there is a group picture of all those who work at the "Aryan Cinema" in Vienna.
The pictures presented in the book -- called "Anschluss: 'Ich hole Euch heim' (Annexation: I'll Bring You Home) -- were collected by the Austrian National Library, with many of them only recently having found their way into the library's archive. Petschar, who is director of the library's image archive, painstakingly sifted through the thousands of photos and home movies to come up with the best.
And together, the black-and-white images present a startling image of 1938 Austria. The German soldiers themselves had expected some resistance when they marched into the country 70 years ago. The photos in Petschar's book make it clear why there was none: Hundreds of thousands of Austrians were overjoyed at the Nazi invasion and celebrated Adolf Hitler as their new Führer. Indeed, even though the vote was certainly not free of coercion, over 99 percent of Austrians chose for their country to be "reunited" with Germany in April 1938. Numerous pictures in the new photo volume show Austrians lining up to vote -- even including one old woman being helped out of a polling station by two SA men.
A handful of other images show what came next: The oppression of Austria's Jewish citizens. Young boys are shown helping out in March 1938 as Jewish-owned stores are marked. A crowd of Jews is shown as they wait to get their new identity cards. Many other images show Jews being harassed by SA and SS soldiers.
Mostly, though, the book shows "images that didn't fit into the propaganda of the Nazis." And that is exactly why they are so powerful today.