For years we have witnessed the fate of our fellow Germans in Austria with deep distress.
An eternal historical bond, severed only by the events of the year 1866 but forged anew in the World War, has from time immemorial destined Austria to take its place in the German national community and share its fate.
The suffering which was imposed on this country, first from outside and then from within, we experienced as our own, and we know that the misfortunes of the Reich caused millions of German Austrians similar anxiety and concern!
When the German nation regained the proud self-confidence of a great People, thanks to the triumph of the ideals of National Socialism, in Austria a new period of suffering and most bitter adversity began. A regime with no legal mandate was attempting by means of the most brutal terror and physical mistreatment as well as punitive and destructive economic measures, to maintain an existence which was rejected by the vast majority of the Austrian People. Thus we as a great People saw how a numerically small minority, which had simply been able to seize the necessary instruments of power, was suppressing more than six million people with whom we share a common origin. Their political disenfranchisement and the deprivation of their freedom was accompanied by an economic decline which was a shocking contrast to the blossoming of new life in Germany.
Who could blame these unfortunate fellow Germans if they looked toward the Reich with longing eyes? To that Germany with which their forefathers had been united for so many centuries, with which they had once fought shoulder to shoulder in the most terrible of all wars, whose culture was their culture and to which they themselves had contributed their most cherished values in so many areas. To suppress these longings was to condemn hundreds of thousands of people to the most profound spiritual distress. Whereas years ago this suffering was still borne patiently, as the prestige of the Reich steadily increased, the determination to end this oppression became stronger and stronger.
Germans! In recent years I have tried to warn the former rulers in Austria not to continue on this path. Only a maniac could believe that suppression and terror can deprive human beings of their love of their own People. European history proves that this causes nothing but more intense fanaticism. This fanaticism then forces the suppressor to employ ever more cruel and violent methods, which in turn only increase the revulsion and hatred felt by the victims of this violence.
I also tried to convince those in power that in the long run it is impossible, because it is unworthy, for a great nation to be forced constantly to watch as a People of the same nationality are persecuted and incarcerated merely because of their origin, or their allegiance to a People, or their dedication to an idea. Germany alone has had to accept more than 40,000 refugees, 10,000 others have been in jails, prison cells and holding camps in this small land. Hundreds of thousands have been made beggars, reduced to misery and poverty. In the long run no nation in the world could tolerate such conditions on its borders without itself deserving same disrespect.
In 1936 I tried to find some way which could offer the prospect of alleviating the tragic fate of this German brother nation, and in this way perhaps achieve genuine reconciliation. The Agreement of July 11 was signed only to be breached a moment later. The vast majority remained deprived of their rights. Their humiliating position as a pariah in this state was in no way changed. Anyone who openly supported the ideal of one German nation continued to be persecuted, no matter whether he was a National Socialist street labourer or an old meritorious army commander who had fought in the World War.
I tried a second time to reach an understanding. I attempted to explain to the representative of this regime, who without any legitimate mandate of his own stood before me in my capacity as the elected leader of the German People, I tried to explain to him that in the long run this situation would become intolerable, since the growing outrage of the Austrian People could not be suppressed forever by the increasing use of force, and that from a certain point in time the Reich would find it impossible to continue to stand idly by and silently observe such outrageous treatment.
Today, when even the solution to colonial problems must take into consideration the right of inferior nations to self-determination, it is intolerable that six and a half million members of an old and great civilized People are in practical terms deprived of these rights by the nature of the governing regime. Hence in a new agreement I wanted all Germans in this country to be granted the same rights and be subject to the same obligations. This agreement was to fulfill the terms of the Treaty of July 11 1936.
A few weeks later it unfortunately became obvious that the men of the Austrian government in power at that time had no intention of complying with the terms of this agreement. However, in order to acquire an alibi for their continued failure to grant equal rights to the Austrian Germans, a plebiscite was devised which was intended to finally deprive the majority in this country of its rights! The modalities of this procedure were to be unique. A country which has not had an election for many years, which lacks all the documentation required to compile voters' lists, announces a vote which is to take place within just three and a half days.
There are no electoral lists. There are no voters' cards. There is no scrutiny of the eligibility to vote. There is no obligation to preserve secret ballot. There is no guarantee that the voting will be conducted with impartiality. There is no method of ensuring fair counting of the votes, and so on. If these are the methods to give a regime legality, then we National Socialists in the German Reich were utter fools for 15 years! We went through a hundred election campaigns and took great pains to gain the approval of the German People!
When the late Reichspräsident finally called upon me to form the government, I was the leader of the party which had by far the strongest support in the Reich. Since then I have repeatedly sought to have the legality of my existence and my actions confirmed by the German People, and it was confirmed. If the methods Herr Schuschnigg wanted to use were the right ones, then the plebiscite we once held in the Saar can only have been a device to harass a People whose return to the Reich we wanted to make more difficult. We, however, do not subscribe to that view. I believe we can all be proud that it was in this very plebiscite in the Saar that we received such an indisputable vote of confidence from the German People.
The German People of Austria themselves finally rose up in protest against this unprecedented attempt at election fraud. If, however, it was again the intention of the regime to simply crush the protest movement with brute force, the result could only be a new civil war. The German Reich will, however, henceforth not permit Germans to be persecuted in this territory because of their membership in our nation or because they profess certain views. It wants peace and order.
I have therefore decided to offer the millions of Germans in Austria the assistance of the Reich. Since this morning soldiers of the German armed forces have been crossing all of the German-Austrian borders. Armored units, infantry divisions and SS units on the ground and the German Luftwaffe in the skies, summoned by the new National Socialist Government in Vienna, will ensure that the Austrian People are within the very near future finally given the opportunity to determine for themselves their future, and thus their fate, through a genuine plebiscite. And these units are supported by the will and determination of the entire German nation.
I myself, as Führer and Chancellor of the German People, will be happy once again to be able to enter the country which is also my homeland as a German and a free citizen. The world, however, shall see for itself that for the German People in Austria these days are filled with hours of blissful joy and deep emotion. They regard their brothers who have come to their aid as saviors who have rescued them from great distress!
Long live the National Socialist German Reich! Long live National Socialist German Austria!
Berlin, March 12, 1938