Staunton, March 18 – This week marks not only the fifth anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea but the 81st of Adolf Hitler’s Anschluss of Austria, a coincidence which provides many instructive lessons but that the Kremlin leader and his supporters will do everything they can to ignore.
But some Russian commentators are paying attention. On the Kasparov portal, Tata Gutmakher draws some disturbing parallels between the two actions not only in how they were carried out but how international reaction to them opened the way, indeed made inevitable, a major war (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5C8E88B7D6194).
On March 13, 1938, “the head of one country joined a neighboring one to it,” she writes. “Adolf Hitler declared the Anschluss to the Third Reich of his native Austria.” Then followed Czechoslovakia and Poland; and because the great powers of the day did not respond to this first act of aggression, “a major war became absolutely inevitable.”
“The western countries ignored ‘the fusion of Austria with Germany – no one recalled the St. Germaine peace treaty of 1919 which guaranteed the sovereignty of Austria.” Instead, they took note of a referendum that Hitler staged on April 10 in which 99.08 percent of Germans and 99.75 percent of Austrians voted for their countries to be combined.
Both peoples celebrated, even though the referendum asked only one question and in one way: “Do you agree with the March 13, 1938, reunification of Austria with Germany and do you vote for our fuehrer Adolf Hitler?” There was a large space to mark “yes” and a much smaller one to say “no.”
But another aspect of this ballot was perhaps even more important. It referred to the joining of the two countries as Wiedervereinigung, as if they were coming back together rather than being joined as a result of an act of aggression. The newly expanded Germany celebrated with medals and manifestations.
“Doesn’t this remind you of something?” Gutmakher asks.