Hitler und der Heldenplatz

Certain foreign newspapers have said that we fell on Austria with brutal methods. I can only say: even in death they cannot stop lying. I have in the course of my political struggle won much love from my people, but when I crossed the former frontier (into Austria) there met me such a stream of love as I have never experienced. Not as tyrants have we come, but as liberators.

– Adolf Hitler commenting on the Anschluss

The Heldenplatz (German: Heroes’ Square) is a public space in front of Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria. It was the principal palace of the Habsburg dynasty, the imperial rulers of Austria until 1918. Today it is the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria.

The platz contains equestrian statues of two Austrian heroes: The Archduke Charles of Austria and Prince Eugene of Savoy³ (pronounced: Prince “oy-gen”, with a hard ‘g’). Historically it was as parade ground for marshalling troops, and a location for right-wing rallies, as well as speeches by Austrian’s own fascist dictator Engelbert Dollfuss, but is now closely associated with only one man, Adolf Hitler.

On March 15, 1938, after the completion of the Anschluss (the forced annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany), Adolf Hitler announced to some 200,000 cheering Austrians gathered around the Heldenplatz, “The oldest eastern province of the German people shall be, from this point on, the newest bastion of the German Reich”, this was his “greatest accomplishment” and “As leader and chancellor of the German nation and Reich I announce to German history now the entry of my homeland into the German Reich.”

After concluding his speech, Hitler exited the Heldenplatz through the Outer Castle Gate¹ to attend a military parade.

Hitler exiting the Heldenpltaz, March 15, 1938
Me exiting the Heldenplatz, March 18, 2018²

Endnotes: I wanted to provide some very specific details which while vaguely interesting did not contribute to the overall narrative. Perhaps just wait until the end to read.

¹ The Outer Castle Gate on the southside of the platz was erected in 1824 and inaugurated by Emperor Francis I of Austria in the honor of the veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, it was rebuilt as a war memorial in 1933/34 and now houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

² When I reviewed my photographs and log while researching this post, I was surprised to realize that I exited the Heldenplatz exactly 80 years and three days after Der Führer had. I visited Vienna from March 14-24, 2018 and had heard no mention of the Anschluss’ 80 year anniversary. If had known, I certainly would have advanced my inspection of the Heldenplatz by three days.

³ Prince Eugene Francis of Savoy–Carignano was a field marshal in the army of the Holy Roman Empire and of the Austrian Habsburg dynasty during the 17th and 18th centuries. He was one of the most successful military commanders of his time, whose fame was secured at the Battle of Zenta (1697) which ended Ottoman dominance in Europe. He was the namesake of a warship in both the Royal Navy and the Kriegsmarine.

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