The famous photo below was taken in March 1938 when Hitler united his native country of Austria with Germany in what was called the Anschluss.
The Jews in Germany had been persecuted from the time that Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, but why were the Austrian Jews humiliated in this fashion when Hitler took over Austria? This photo has been reproduced a million times, but never with a caption to explain why the Nazis were picking on the Jews in Vienna.
If you look closely at the photo, you will see that the Jews are using a lot of soap as they scrub. This was not some symbolic humiliation, designed to taunt the Jews. The Jews were forced to scrub Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg’s Fatherland Front slogans off the sidewalks of Vienna.
After World War II ended, Dr. Kurt von Schuschnigg, the Chancellor of Austria from 1934 until the Anschluss, moved to America and wrote a book about the Anschluss entitled The Brutal Takeover. In his book, Dr. Schuschnigg wrote that he was forced to resign as Chancellor after the Austrian president was given an ultimatum by Hitler on March 11, 1938; the ultimatum demanded that Dr. Schuschnigg step down as Chancellor and that President Wilhelm Miklas appoint Dr. Artur Seyss-Inquart as the new Chancellor of Austria.
Dr. Schuschnigg wrote that he had agreed on March 10th to another ultimatum in which Hitler had demanded that he cancel the plebiscite which he (Schuschnigg) had ordered on March 9th. The plebiscite had been scheduled to be held on March 13th.
In his book, Dr. Schuschnigg wrote: “German military intervention and the resulting take-over of Austria by force had been occasioned by the decision to hold a plebiscite.”
A plebiscite is a democratic vote on a Yes or No question. A Yes vote in this election would have meant that the voter did not want Austria to lose its independence and become part of Germany.
According to Robert E. Conot, author of Justice at Nuremberg, Schuschnigg was planning to use the plebiscite to prevent the Anschluss which an estimated 80% of the people of Austria wanted. Conot wrote, regarding the plebiscite: “Various devices were to be employed to stack the vote against the Nazis.”
Klaus P. Fischer, author of the book entitled Nazi Germany, confirmed this when he wrote that “Schuschnigg bent every effort to rig the election in order to produce a favorable result.” According to Fischer, no list of eligible voters had been compiled for 8 years in Austria, so it would have been easy to fake the vote.
Fischer quoted the wording of the plebiscite, which was very confusing:
With Schuschnigg for Austria, we want a free and a German Austria, an independent and a social Austria, a Christian and a united Austria.
A “Yes” vote on the above wording would have meant that the voter supported Schuschnigg who did not want Austria to join Germany.
On the evening of March 9th, the Austrian Nazi leaders appealed to Hitler and Göring, according to Conot’s book. Conot wrote that, to the Austrian Nazis, the proposed plebiscite was “a call to arms.” According to Conot, “Göring took the initiative. A courier was put on a plane to Vienna with instructions that Schuschnigg was to be forced to resign.”
After the overwhelming reception that he received when he entered his native country on March 12th, Hitler decided to reschedule the plebiscite for April 10, 1938. In the interim, the Nazis would flood Austria with propaganda to encourage them to vote for the Anschluss, which had already been accomplished by threats and blackmail, according to Schuschnigg.
When the plebiscite was held, the Austrian people voted 99.7% in favor of unification with Germany. Only 12,000 people dared to vote against it. Austria’s population was 4% Jewish in 1938, but neither Jews nor Gypsies were allowed to vote in the plebiscite because their Austrian citizenship had been taken away from them by the Nazis.
In 1932, Austria had become a dictatorship under Dr. Englebert Dollfuss and the Nazi party had been banned; Austrian Nazis such as Ernst Kaltenbrunner had been put into prison camps and forced to work at hard labor.
Dr. Kurt von Schuschnigg was the leader of an Austrian anti-Nazi organization called the Fatherland Front. Dr. Schuschnigg succeeded Dr. Dollfuss as Federal Chancellor in 1934 after Dollfuss was assassinated by the Austrian Nazis, whom Dollfuss had tried to suppress, and the anti-Nazi dictatorship of Austria continued under Schuschnigg.
In his book, entitled The Brutal Takeover, Dr. Schuschnigg wrote the following:
About the same time (as the ultimatum) the German radio announced that a bloody communist rising had broken out in Austria; there were hundreds of dead; the Austrian government was no longer in control of the situation. This was pure invention. Nothing had happened which could conceivably justify armed intervention in the eyes of international law.
Hitler’s excuse for taking over the independent nation of Austria and incorporating it into a Greater German Reich was that he was “protecting” the Austrian people from a Communist uprising. Dr. Schuschnigg wanted to let the world know that this was a lie so he broadcast the following message over the radio, which I have quoted from his book:
The German government today handed to President Miklas an ultimatum with a time limit attached, ordering him to nominate as Chancellor a person to be designated by the German government and to appoint members of a cabinet on the orders of the German government; otherwise German troops would invade Austria. I declare before the world that the reports issued about Austria concerning disorders created by workers and the shedding of streams of blood, and the allegation that the situation has got out of control of the government were lies from A to Z. President Miklas asks me to tell the people of Austria that we have yielded to force…
According to Dr. Schuschnigg, the German News Agency broadcast over the radio the next day that there had been no ultimatum and no threat, but instead there had been a spontaneous popular uprising of the Austrian people. When the German troops arrived in Austria on March 12, 1938, they found the streets lined with cheering crowds of jubilant Austrians who greeted them with the Nazi salute, showered them with confetti and threw flowers at their feet. The conquest of Austria was accomplished without firing a shot.
Starting in 1921, when Hitler became the first chairman of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi) political party, and continuing until he was appointed Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, Hitler had campaigned for years on the 25 points of the party platform; as party Chairman, he had participated in writing the 25 points. Point number one was the abrogation of the Treaty of Versailles and the unification of his native Austria with Germany.
So it was known for years that the Nazis might some day attempt an Anschluss with Austria. That day finally came on March 12, 1938 when Hitler’s Mercedes automobile drove across a bridge over the Inn river into the little town of Braunau am Inn, his birthplace on the border between Austria and Germany, to the cheers of the ecstatic Austrians who gave him and his troops an overwhelming welcome.
But why did the Nazis scapegoat the Jews and blame them for the slogans of the Fatherland Front on the sidewalks of Vienna? It was because Dr. Schusschnigg’s government was considered to be Communistic and Hitler equated Communism with the Jews; Hitler’s term for Communism was “Judeo-Bolshevism.”
After the Anschluss, Dr. Schuschnigg was imprisoned by the Nazis from March 1938 until early May 1945. He spent some time in the VIP section of Sachsenhausen concentration camp before he was transferred to Dachau in the last days of the war.
When World War II ended, Dr. Schuschnigg was detained by the American military until 1947 when he was finally allowed to emigrate to America. Dr. Schuschnigg was not exactly a hero to the Americans since he had capitulated to Hitler so quickly.
In 1948, Dr. Schuschnigg became a Professor of International Law and Contemporary Diplomatic History at St. Louis University in St. Louis, MO.
There is a blog post which you can read here, in which an Orthodox Jewish visitor to Vienna wrote: …”elderly Jews after the Anschluss were made to scrub the sidewalks with toothbrushes while laughing crowds stood by.”
Take another look at the photo at the top of this post. The Jews who are crouching down do not seem to be elderly and they are not using toothbrushes; a crowd of Nazis is standing by, but they are not laughing. This perfectly innocent photo is used to demonize the Nazis and gather sympathy for the Jews.
For example, there is another blog post which tells about Holocaust survivor Alexander Eisen who was born in Vienna, but his family fled to Hungary in 1938 when the Nazis took over.
Eisen told this to an audience of school children in America:
“I was nine years old, and it was the beginning of the idea of murdering all the Jews, but first it was all about the dehumanizing,” he said. “I remember the Jews were made to lick the cobblestones in Vienna. They also took men and women and made them scrub the cobblestones and made them pick up the horse manure with their hands.”
The photo of the Jews scrubbing the anti-Nazi slogans off the streets of Vienna has taken on a life of its own, and the facts get more and more twisted while the truth is forgotten.