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The Nazi Years

In 2018, WU commemorates the 80th anniversary of Austria’s Anschluss to Nazi Germany. The 1938 Anschluss brought comprehensive changes to the University of World Trade (Hochschule für Welthandel), as WU was known at the time. Austria was under the law of the German Reich, with brutal consequences for Jewish students. As part of the Commemorative Year 1938/2018, WU is organizing a number of events to commemorate what happened in the years of Nazi rule.

The following table gives an overview of key historical events that marked the period between 1938 and 1945.

Key events of the Nazi years (1938-1945)

January 30, 1933The Nazi party (NSDAP) takes power in Germany. Adolf Hitler becomes German chancellor and initiates the persecution of Jewish citizens and other groups and persons rejected by the Nazis because of their political convictions, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
March 11/12, 1938With the Anschluss, Austria becomes a part of Nazi Germany. The Nazi party, which had been illegal in Austria since June 19, 1933 and staged a failed coup on July 25, 1934, assumes power in the country. A highly manipulative referendum that excludes Jewish citizens is held on April 10, 1938, resulting in a vote of almost 100% in favor of the Anschluss. Within a year, Austria (then dubbed “Ostmark,” and later “Alpine and Danube Gaue”) is integrated into Nazi Germany and the Austrian provinces are replaced with new administrative divisions, called gaue. Once the German Wehrmacht troops march into Austria and the process of Nazification begins, the persecution of groups and people considered unwanted by the Nazi regime starts immediately, with the Jewish population being hit especially hard. After a short transition phase, Austria’s universities are placed under the control of the Reich Ministry of Science, Education and Culture in Berlin and subjected to German university legislation.
August 8, 1938Opening of the Mauthausen concentration camp
November 9/10, 1938With the major pogrom that came to be known as the “Reichs¬po-grom¬nacht,” the persecution of the Jewish population reaches a new level of radicalization.
September 1, 1939Following the annexation of the Sude¬ten¬land region (October 1938) and the occupation of the remainder of Czechoslovakia (March 1939), the German Wehrmacht invades Poland, which leads to the outbreak of World War II.
June 22, 1941The Nazi Reich and its allies have occupied large parts of the European continent, and Germany proceeds to attack the Soviet Union.
February 1943The surrender of German troops at Stalingrad marks a military turning point in World War II, with the allied powers now gradually gaining the upper hand.
October 30/ November 1, 1943In the Moscow Declaration, the foreign ministers of the US, the Soviet Union, and the UK declare Austria’s 1938 Anschluss null and void and express their intention to re-establish Austria as an independent state after the defeat of the Nazi Reich. They call upon the Austrian population to stand up against the Nazi regime – a call that goes largely unheeded.
Spring 1945Gradually, Austria is occupied by Allied troops and is placed under the control of their military administration (UK, USA, Soviet Union, France).
April 13, 1945Liberation of Vienna
April 27, 1945Austria’s Socialist Party (SPÖ), People’s Party (ÖVP), and Communist Party (KPÖ) sign the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Austria. A provisional government is formed, headed by Karl Renner.
May 8/9, 1945General surrender of the German armed forces. This marks the end of World War II in Europe. In the Pacific Arena, however, the war between the Allied powers and Japan continues until August 1945. In total, around 50 to 60 million people lost their lives during the war. Six million Jews were killed during the Shoah, an unfathomable number of people were injured or displaced, and incalculable material damage was caused. The military developments accompanying the liberation from Nazi rule contribute to the division of the world into East and West, which would then characterize the world order for decades during the era of the Cold War (starting in 1947). It takes ten years for Austria to regain its full independence with the signing of the Austrian State Treaty.