The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 16—4:47 p.m.]
249. The Austrian Minister has just read to me a telegram which he received this morning from Schuschnigg. It indicated that Schuschnigg has by no means given up hope of maintaining Austrian independence.
Schuschnigg had confidence that Seyss-Inquart, although a pan-German, would not work in an underhand manner for the introduction of Nazis into the regime.27
Amnesty would be extended at once not only to Nazis but also to Social Democrats. This amnesty would, however, not include those who had emigrated from Austria thus excluding from the country all those Austrian Nazis who are now in Germany.
The right to conduct political propaganda would be extended not only to the Nazis but also to the Monarchists and Social Democrats. Those Nazis who had been excluded from office and pensions because of their political opinions would have their pensions restored but would not be given their former offices.
The position of Schuschnigg was, I gathered, the following: that he would continue to struggle for Austrian independence; that he believed this independence could be maintained in the long run only if there should be reconciliation between England, France, and Italy; that he considered recognition of Ethiopia essential for any such reconciliation since the Italians were genuinely convinced that the British at some future date would attempt to drive the Italians out of Ethiopia which would mean the collapse of the Fascist regime in Italy.
Schuschnigg felt that the actions which he was about to take would produce a temporary breathing period but in the end would prove to be just as unsatisfactory to Hitler as his actions which followed the accord of July 1936. He expected therefore that at some future date Germany would attempt again to repeat the Berchtesgaden coup and [Page 398] would mobilize if necessary on the Austrian frontier. He would make no further concessions. He could not attempt to fight Germany alone and if faced by German mobilization would have to resign.
The question of Austrian existence as an independent state therefore depended on the possibility that before Hitler again should become sufficiently irritated to mobilize on the Austrian frontier there might be reconciliation between England, France and Italy and an agreement between those states to support Austrian independence.
The Austrian Minister added that he believed the extension of amnesty to the Social Democrats would add greatly to the strength of Schuschnigg’s regime as the Social Democrats would be the strongest opponents of a gradual nazification of Austria.
In contradiction of the opinions expressed above with regard to Seyss-Inquart I was told this morning by a gentleman who says he knows Seyss-Inquart intimately that the latter is a hundred percent Nazi by conviction although a devout Catholic and that he will insert Nazis gradually into all vital posts and strike for a decision in a few months.
- Seyss-Inquart was Inducted into office as Minister of the Interior on February 16 and departed for Berlin.↩