In his 1925 book Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote about Austria, his country of birth:
German-Austria must return to the great German motherland, and not because of economic considerations of any sort. No, no: even if from the economic point of view this union were unimportant, indeed, if it were harmful, it ought nevertheless to be brought about. Common blood belongs in a common Reich. As long as the German nation is unable even to band together its own children in one common State, it has no moral right to think of colonization as one of its political aims. Only when the boundaries of the Reich include even the last German, only when it is no longer possible to assure him of daily bread inside them, does there arise, out of the distress of the nation, the moral right to acquire foreign soil and territory.
In July of 1934, a pro-Nazi group tried to overthrow the Austrian government. The coup was planned in Germany, with Hitler’s approval and assistance from German officials. But although the group assassinated Austria’s chancellor, the attempt failed when Austrian military leaders did not support the coup as the Nazis hoped.
Then, despite his previous words and actions, Hitler said in a May 21, 1935, speech to the Reichstag: “Germany neither intends nor wishes to interfere in the internal affairs of Austria, to annex Austria, or to conclude an Anschluss [union with Austria].”
But on February 12, 1938, Hitler changed course again. He arranged a meeting with the new Austrian chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg, who was appointed after his predecessor’s assassination. Hitler demanded that von Schuschnigg appoint members of Austria’s Nazi Party to his cabinet and give full political rights to the party or face an invasion by the German army. Fearful that Hitler intended to take over Austria, von Schuschnigg called for a national plebiscite, or vote, to take place on Sunday, March 13, so that Austrians could decide for themselves whether they wished their nation to remain independent or become part of the Third Reich. When Hitler heard this news, he decided to invade Austria immediately to prevent the vote. By Friday morning, March 11, von Schuschnigg was aware of the coming invasion. That afternoon, he canceled the plebiscite and offered to resign to avoid bloodshed. Hitler immediately demanded that the president of Austria, Wilhelm Miklas, appoint an Austrian member of the Nazi Party as the nation’s next chancellor. When the president refused to do so, Hitler ordered that the invasion begin at dawn the next day.