On March 12, 1938 Hitler annexed Austria, the country of his birth, to the German Reich. His troops faced no resistance as they crossed the border. Hitler was himself given a warm welcome by most of the native population, who greeted his arrival in the capital Vienna with wild cheers and outstretched arms.
But for Austria’s 200,000 Jews and others of mixed heritage, the annexation or “Anschluss” was the beginning of a nightmare. Overnight, they became second-class citizens or worse. During the initial days, thousands were thrown out of their homes and businesses, forced to scrub sidewalks, or sent off to concentration camp. Those who could escape fled across the border. Many who could not flee committed suicide. Others who remained were removed from their homes, their businesses and their jobs. Jewish children were expelled from schools. Through theft and discriminatory taxation, Jewish property was confiscated and sequestered.
In April 1938, the Nazis announced a four year plan, an “economic death sentence,” to eliminate the Jews of Vienna, the city with the third largest Jewish population in Europe. By 1942, the process was complete. While 135,000 managed to escape, 65,000 Austrian Jews were deported and murdered in the concentration camps.