The World at War


Engelbert Dollfuß

Chancellor of Austria 1932-1934.

     Dollfuß was born on October 4th, 1892 at Texing in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and died July 25th, 1934 at Vienna. He was a man of very short stature as was known to wags in Vienna as "Millimetternich" after the famous conservative statesman of the preceding century.

     After studying law and economics in Vienna and Berlin, Dollfuß became secretary to the Lower Austrian Peasant Federation and, in 1927, director of the Lower Austrian chamber of agriculture. He was a member of the conservative and clerically oriented Christian Social Party, the core of whose constituency came from Austria's conservative peasantry. Dollfuß rose rapidly in Austrian politics, serving as president of the federal railways in 1930 and as minister of agriculture from 1931. In May 1932 he became chancellor, heading a conservative coalition led by the Christian Social Party.
     When Dollfuß entered office he found Austria faced with a severe economic crises caused by the Great Depression. Although many Austrians want to join Germany in a customs union, Dollfuß decided against it, in part due to a $9 million League of Nations loan and fear of Allied countermeasures. He was severly criticized by the left (Social Democrats) and the right (Nationalists) for this and he responded by drifting toward as increasingly authoritarian regime. Benito Mussolini increasingly became his only ally. Italy guaranteed Austrian independence at Riccione (August 1933), but in return Austria had to abolish all political parties and reform its constitution on the Fascist model. Dollfuß' attacks on Parliament, begun in March 1933, culminated that September in the permanent abolition of the legislature and the formation of a corporate state based on his Vaterländische Front ("Fatherland Front"), with which he expected to replace Austria's political parties. In foreign affairs he steered a course that converted Austria virtually into an Italian satellite state. Hoping therewith to prevent Austria's incorporation into Nazi Germany, he fought his domestic political opponents along fascist-authoritarian lines. In February 1934 paramilitary formations loyal to the chancellor crushed Austria's Social Democrats in bloody encounters in and around Vienna known as the Austrian Civil War. With a new constitution of May 1934, his regime became completely dictatorial. In June, however, Germany incited the Austrian Nazis to open revolt. Dollfuß was assassinated by the Nazis in a raid on the chancellery.

UP - Biography Index - Homepage