Germany, Relations with


Germany, Relations with
   It is not until its unification in 1871–1872 that Germany became a “foreign” state to the Habsburg rulers of Austria. The dynasty supplied the kings and emperors of “Germany” from the middle of the 15th century until 1806. Even though individual German principalities were free to establish their own foreign policies after the end of the Thirty Years’ War, there were restrictions on participating in wars against their emperor. Habsburg interest in Germany remained strong. By the second half of the 17th century, Habsburg emperors had to keep a close watch on territorial princes, who had ambitions of their own and sometimes looked abroad for help in realizing them. The dynasty’s preeminence in the area depended more and more on military strength and advantageous alliances, both with foreign powers and with rulers of some German states. In a sharp reversal of traditional antagonisms, the Habsburgs turned to the king of France for an alliance in 1756 to curb the aggressive Frederick II of Prussia. Austro–Prussian relations henceforth were not always hostile. The two states cooperated after 1805 in rolling back the conquests of Napoleon Bonaparte. Habsburgs still presided over the German Confederation. Prussia, however, took up the mission of unifying Germany, particularly after its king, William I (1797–1888), made Otto von Bismarck his prime minister in 1862. In 1866, Prussia lured Emperor Franz Joseph into the Seven Weeks’ War, which ended with the creation of a Second German Empire that excluded the Habsburg lands. With these hostilities behind them, however, the new German state and the Habsburg monarchy quickly discovered that they needed one another. The Dual Alliance of 1879 committed them to mutual defense. They were not at the outset worried about the same enemy; Russia was Austria’s major problem, particularly in the Balkans, whereas Bismarck’s great fear was the French revanchism that followed upon the Franco–Prussian War (1870–1871). Heavily dependent on German military support on the eastern front in World War I, Austria–Hungary remained tightly committed to the Dual Alliance almost to the end.
   Relations between Weimar Germany and the freshly created Austrian republic were not completely under the control of either country. The Treaty of St. Germain prohibited Anschluss with Germany, a step widely supported in Austria after 1918. German capital was shoring up Austrian banks long before 1938; Germans accounted largely for the profits of the Austrian tourism industry as well. Enthusiasm for incorporation into Germany cooled somewhat in Austria after Adolf Hitler became German chancellor in 1933. Governments in the First Republic turned to the League of Nations and other countries for support of Austrian independence. In 1933, Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, Great Britain, France, and Italy declared that Nazi subversion in Austria violated Article 80 of the Treaty of Versailles with Germany and Article 11 of the League’s charter. They repeated their statement the following year. As chancellor, Kurt Schuschnigg continued trying to arrange some kind of collective security pact with Great Britain, France, and Italy from 1934 to 1936, even as he tried to persuade Hitler’s regime that Austria was not anti-German. Failing miserably, he turned to working out some modus vivendi with Nazi Germany that would not threaten Austrian sovereignty. The two countries did come to an agreement in 1936 that recognized Austria’s independence on the condition that Vienna grant amnesty to 17, 000 illegal National Socialists then in the country. Austria was allowed to treat its Nazis as it saw fit, but Schuschnigg agreed to bring a number of people into his government who were “nationally inclined.” The compact also left room for some form of German intervention.
   With the end of World War II in 1945, Austria set itself to negotiating the most favorable treatment possible from the countries that sponsored the occupation. Russia, Great Britain, the United States, and France were inclined to treat the country as just another part of the German question. Perhaps the most serious, if misleading, achievement of Austria’s spokesmen was to convince the Allies by 1948 that their country was a victim of Nazi aggression. But almost up to the signing of the Austrian State Treaty of 1955, Austrian politicians feared that the Allies would divide their land as they had Germany.
   The State Treaty did formally make Austria a sovereign state, but it was the neutrality provision of the document that sealed Austria’s independence in West Germany’s political thinking. For the Austrians, neutral status gave them a unique standing in a Europe divided by an Iron Curtain. West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who was eager to bring the Federal German Republic into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), called neutrality “immoral.” Normalization of trade relations between the two lands was underway by 1948, and Austria was soon well tied into the West German economy. In 1984, German-owned industries in Austria employed over 100,000 Austrians, a figure that approached the number of Austrians who held jobs in nationalized Austrian enterprises. But Austria’s first governments remained bent on differentiating their countrymen from the Anschluss regime and Germans as a national group, sometimes quite ruthlessly. Compensation for Austrian expropriation and expulsion of resident German citizens after 1945 was not fully settled upon by Vienna and the German Federal Republic until 1958. As sovereign countries, Germany and Austria resumed full ambassadorial relations in 1955.
   Formal relations were thereafter formally correct between Austria and the West German state, though a certain amount of cultural tension existed between them as well. Many in the German Federal Republic complained, not altogether wrongly, that Austrians were never forced, as were the Germans, to acknowledge and study their instrumental role in the Holocaust. In the opinion of Germans, where foreign governments and the public media quickly took note of the slightest incident of anti-Semitism in Germany, the same behavior in Austria escaped notice. Austrian provincialism encouraged a kind of xenophobia and right-wing rhetoric that Germans had learned to deplore. For their part, Austrians from all levels of society were painfully aware that Germany had arisen from the ashes of World War II to outstrip its southern neighbor both in industrial might and living standards. Any signs of German self-congratulatory arrogance were relentlessly parodied and criticized in the Austrian press and among the citizenry at large. Well into the 1980s, the currency relations between the German mark and the Austrian schilling favored the former. Germans, among them Helmut Kohl, the West German federal chancellor who presided over the reunification of his country, bought vacation real estate in Austria in great quantities. To some Austrians, it was a sign that their whole country was up for sale. Though former chancellor Bruno Kreisky welcomed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, his successor, Franz Vranitzky, was by no means as supportive, in part because he resented the sovereign manner in which Kohl conducted his summer household in the Austrian Salzkammergut. A staple of summer journalism in Austria is always a story or two about how German as spoken in the Federal Republic to the north is destroying distinctively Austrian language usages. Nevertheless, Austria actively cooperated in the unification of Germany by assisting East German citizens to get across Hungarian and Czech borders in 1989. Vranitzky’s foreign minister, Alois Mock, was especially eloquent in his call for German reunification, telling British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had deep reservations about an enlarged Germany, that she should be grateful that such an event took place so peacefully. Helmut Kohl vigorously supported Austrian membership in the European Union (EU). Partners in the EU after 1995, Germans and Austrians have had contentious moments. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, spearheaded a movement to impose sanctions on Austria’s coalition government in 2000 that included Jörg Haider’s Freedom Party of Austria. But this contretemps subsided quickly. In 2004, Austria joined with Germany and the Czech Republic in a common effort to combat terrorism. In 2007 and 2008, as gasoline prices drove many Germans into once again taking their holidays in the land of their near neighbor, Austrian hoteliers and restaurant personnel welcomed their return as tourists. The two countries, ambiguous feelings and all, remain firmly linked to one another, culturally, economically, and politically. German and Austrian performing artists, theatrical directors, filmmakers, and musicians go back and forth across one another’s borders continually. Germany remains for Austria its chief international trading partner, both for imports and exports. Germany was buying a little over 30 percent of Austria’s exports in 2003; about 40 percent of Austria’s imports were coming from the Federal Republic. In 2007, these figures were virtually the same.
   See also Foreign Policy.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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