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Kurt von Schuschnigg

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Signed postcard photograph of the Austrian Chancellor who opposed Hitler

Kurt Alois Josef Johnann von Schuschnigg, 1897–1977.  Chancellor of Austria, 1934–1938.  Deckle-edged postcard photograph signed Schuschnigg.   

von Schuschnigg was the Austrian chancellor who opposed Adolf Hitlerʼs ambition to absorb Austria into the Third Reich.  His unsuccessful efforts, culminating in the Anschluss, the German annexation of Austria, led to his arrest and imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps through World War II.

A member of the right-wing Christian Social Party, von Schuschnigg became chancellor in 1934 following the assassination of Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss.  Dollfuss, under whom von Schuschnigg had served as the Ministers of Education and Justice, had banned the Austrian Nazi Party and established a one-party dictatorship under the Christian Social Party along the lines of Italian fascism under Benito Mussolini, who had guaranteed Austrian independence.  On July 25, 1934, Dollfuss was killed in an attempted coup dʼétat by Austrian Nazi agents in what became known as the July Putsch.  Four days later, von Schuschnigg assumed the chancellorship from Dollfussʼs deputy, Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg.

von Schuschnigg sought to preserve Austrian independence in the face of pressure from Nazi Germany.  In 1936, he entered into the "July Agreement" by which Austria defined itself as a German—not Austrian—state.  He agreed to include several Nazis in his cabinet and to release several thousand Nazi prisoners.  But the next year, Mussolini undercut von Schuschniggʼs efforts by withdrawing his support for Austrian independence in light of the new Berlin–Rome axis.  On February 12, 1938, Hitler, himself an Austrian native, summoned von Schuschnigg to his home above Berchtesgaden and browbeat him into accepting an ultimatim that included the appointment of Nazi Arthur Seyss-Inquart as his Minister of the Interior, with control of the countryʼs police force. 

von Schuschnigg made one last attempt to avoid a Nazi takeover.  On March 9, 1938, he called for a plebiscite, to be held March 13, asking the Austrian people to vote in favor of an Austria that was "free and German, independent and social, Christian and united."  But with Nazi troops massed on the Austrian border, von Schuschnigg called off the plebiscite and, at Hitlerʼs insistence, resigned on March 11, to be replaced by Seyss-Inquart.  Following the Anschluss, von Schuschnigg was arrested, temporarily held, and kept under Gestapo surveillance.  He was arrested again in 1941 and interned at the Nazi concentration camps at Sachsenhausen and, later, Dachau.  He was transferred to the South Tirol in Austria near the end of World War II, where SS guards released him to officers of the German Wehrmacht, who released him to American troops.

von Schuschnigg ultimately relocated to the United States.  He was a professor of political science at St. Louis University from 1948 to 1967 and became a naturalized American citizen in 1956.  He returned to Austria and died near Innsbruck in 1977.

This appears to be a scarce signed photograph.  We have found only four other signed photographs of von Schuschnigg in auction results since 1975.

This photograph is in fine condition.  von Schuschnigg has signed in black fountain pen.  The photographerʼs blind-embossed stamp is at the lower right corner of the image.  The photograph has a small crease near the bottom of the left side of image, but it does not touch the signature.



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