Visual History of the World




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Visual History of the World
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Dictionary of Art and Artists


The World Wars and Interwar Period 



The first half of the 20th century saw the world entangled in two global wars, conducted with an unprecedented brutality. The First World War developed from a purely European affair into a conflict involving the colonies and the United States. It altered Europe's political landscape and shifted the power balance worldwide. In World War II, the nations of Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa were drawn into the conflict through the aggressive policies of an ambitious Nazi Germany. The war was conducted with the most up-to-date weapons technology and cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of the European Jews, represented an unparalleled moral catastrophe for modern civilization.


Pablo Picasso "Weeping Woman", 1937




Austria: From Habsburg Empire to German "Ostmark"  



The multinational state of Austria-Hungary crumbled after the end of World War I, losing three-quarters of its previous territory. The existence of the newly founded Republic of Austria, a small country, was threatened from the beginning by economic problems and political radicalism. The establishment of a partially fascist regime in 1933 could not prevent the Nazi German Reich from absorbing Austria shortly afterward.


The Fall of the Habsburg Monarchy

After the disintegration of the Habsburg Empire in 1918, the German-speaking heartland reconstituted itself as the "Republic of Austria," but the Allies prohibited the merging of this truncated state with the German Reich.


World War I, which developed out of Austria's retaliatory strike against 5 Serbia for the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, brought the downfall of the Habsburg dual monarchy.

5 Anti-Serbian violence in Sarajevo, after the assassination on June 28, 1914

6 Militarily Austria-Hungary had taken on too much and was dependent on the German troops. When the Austrian fronts collapsed in the spring and summer of 1918, the disintegration of the empire was inevitable.

6 Battle against Italy, postcard

Supply blockages led to civil revolt, mutinies took place in the army and navy, and the various nationalities in the empire fought for their independence.

As early as 1917 the Poles, Czechs, and Slavs had formed governments in exile, and in October 1918 Hungary declared itself independent of Austria.

The last Habsburg emperor 2 Charles I refused to participate in the new government.

He was deposed in 1918. In 1919, the Austrian national assembly officially repealed the Habsburg right to rule and confiscated their fortune.

On November 12,1918, the 4 "German-Austria" Republic was proclaimed; its chancellor was the Social Democrat 3 Karl Renner.

The state also declared itself part of the German republic, but the Allies prohibited this annexation of Austria to Germany in the Treaty of St. Germain in 1919. The treaty also forced Austria to cede further territories: South Tirol was given to Italy and the German Sudeten territories to Czechoslovakia. From the beginning, the much smaller Austrian state had to struggle with severe economic problems. In 1922, the League of Nations granted the republic a large credit to revitalize the state finances— under the condition that it would irrevocably refrain from a union with the German Reich. The republic slowly began to be consolidated with the introduction of the schilling as currency in 1924.

2 Emperor Charles I

4 Proclamation of the republic
of Austria

3 Dr. Karl Renner



Austria's Anschluss with the German Reich

Internal political radicalization led to the establishment of an authoritarian government in Austria in 1933. The Austro-Fascists, however, were only able to delay Austria's eventual assimilation into the Nazi German Reich.


The ideological polarization between the national political parties of the Austrian republic, the Christian Socialists, and the Social Democrats, intensified after 1927. At the same time, clashes between fascist and socialist factions shook the nation.

As the government had shown itself incapable of dealing with the continuing economic crisis and social unrest, Chancellor 7 Engelbert Dollfuss, in a coup-like move, suspended parliament in 1933 and by emergency decree established a dictatorship—"Austro-Fascism"—modeled on that of Fascist Italy.

He gave the Home Guard police authority, founded the nonpartisan 8 Fatherland Front while banning all other political parties, reintroduced the death penalty, and set up detention camps to incarcerate regime opponents.

A putsch by the Social Democrats in February 1934 was brutally crushed.

Dollfuss was killed during a coup attempt by Austrian National Socialists in July 1934.

7 Engelbert Dollfuss

8 Federal Chancellor Dollfuss approves
a parade by the Fatherland Front


His successor, 9 Kurt von Schuschnigg, dedicated himself particularly to the struggle to maintain Austria's independence now that the Anschluss (union) with Germany, desired by some Austrians since the late 1920s, had become a threat with Hitler's accession to power in 1933.

It was clear that if this were to occur, Austria would have to subordinate itself to the German Nazi party. Schuschnigg put his hopes in close relations with Italy, which had proclaimed itself a guarantor of Austrian sovereignty and had also dispatched troops to the Brenner Pass on the Austrian border during an attempted Nazi takeover in 1934. Schuschnigg, however, was pressured by Hitler in 1936 to accept the "July Agreement" that obligated Austria to adopt a "more German" foreign policy and to release all Nazis held in custody.

Two years later, he was forced to appoint a leading Austrian Nazi, 10 Arthur Seyss-Inquart, as minister of the interior.

Schuschnigg's last attempt to prevent assimilation by the German Reich was to call for a 12 plebiscite on Austrian independence.

9 Kurt von Schuschnigg (left) pays Mussolini
(middle) a visit, 1934

10 Arthur Seyss-lnquart with Adolf Hitler, 1938

12 Poster with Schuschnigg's appeal
to vote for the independence of Austria,
in March 1938

1 The vote was set for March 13,1938, but on March 12, 13 German troops marched into Austria, and two days later Hitler delivered a speech on the Heldenplatz in Vienna in front of cheering masses.

The Anschluss was approved by an overwhelming majority in the plebiscite. Even the socialist leader Karl Renner publicly voted for it, and churches were festooned with swastika banners. Austria was then renamed German "Ostmark."

In April, the first concentration camp was erected in 11 Mauthausen.

1 The German Armed Forces cross the
Austrian border, 1938


13 Parade of the German Armed Forces
in Vienna on March 15, 1938 after their
invasion of Vienna on March 12

11 Detaoees liberated from Mauthausen, 1945



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