Nazi Germany strove to annex Austria not out of nationalistic motives but out of expansionist considerations – Austria was the bridgehead for the conquest of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.
In 1934 Hitler thought it opportune to distance himself from the armed uprising of the Austrian Nazis since he feared at the time disputes in foreign relations with England, France, and Italy. Henceforth, Austria was to be infiltrated »from within« in the political, cultural, and economic spheres. By 1938 the international situation had developed in his favor and Hitler felt he could »settle« the »Austrian Question.«
Within the Austrian population the Nazi activists had not found majority support up to March 1938, but the »Anschluss« found wide acceptance. The reasons were manifold. On the one hand, the authoritarian corporate state, despite its emphasis on the sovereignty of Austria, had capitulated to Hitler and, thus, undermined the growth of Austrian patriotism; on the other hand, the 1934–38 regime had deprived itself of its most important ally in the struggle against Nazism by brutally suppressing the labor movement.
Because of the serious political and economic problems, many Austrians were lacking faith in their country's viability as an independent state, made them reject pluralist parliamentary democracy, and receptive for ideologies promising anti-modernist doctrines of salvation and »strong leadership.« Nazi propaganda not only held out the prospect of the eradication of unemployment and an improvement in living standards, but also disseminated doctrines reduced to slogans. As these were relatively vague, they could satisfy a wide range of longings (e. g., Pan-Germanism), expectations, and antipathies (e. g., racism, anti-Semitism).