When Hitler Took Austria: a memoir of faith and survival

When Hitler Took Austria: A Memoir of Heroic Faith by the Chancellor's Son. Kurt von Schuschnigg & Janet von Schuschnigg. Ignatius Press. 2012. 339 pages.

In March 12, 1938, German troops marched into Austria as Adolf Hitler effected the ‘Anschluss’ annexation of the country. Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg (1934-38), who had opposed the Nazi take-over of his homeland, was placed under house arrest and subsequently sent with his wife to Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
When Hitler Took Austria is the junior von Schuschnigg’s memoir of his coming of age during the horrors of the Second World War. Ignatius Press, which publishes books penned by Pope Benedict, speaks of the memoir as “a tribute to the faith, hope and perseverance of his family and the many people who took great risks in order to help them survive Nazi rule and the Second World War.”

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who wrote a forward to the book, said of the memoir, that Chancellor von Schuschnigg and members of his family, "had to pay a high price for his resistance to the evil of tyranny. . . . I am profoundly grateful to Janet von Schuschnigg for this contribution to an American understanding of Austria's history during this period."

The book recounts the junior von Schuschnigg's boyhood and his father's efforts to maintain Austrian independence during the rise of National Socialism Germany, Fascism in Italy, and political unrest in Austria. After the Anschluss, von Schuschnigg's son was allowed to finish his education in Germany, where in order to avoid being drafted into the German army, he went to the naval academy. He ended up on a warship of the Third Reich, serving the regime that held his family captive.

Von Schuschnigg recounts his many harrowing escapes, first as a young naval officer and later as a deserter on the run. At every turn, he is helped not only by his own wits but also by the mysterious working of Providence, which sometimes manifests itself in surprising acts of goodness by others.  The book contains period photos that illustrate the memoir.

The author, Kurt von Schuschnigg, was born in Innsbruck in 1926. He emigrated after the war to the United States, where he worked as an arts dealer. Janet von Schuschnigg grew up as one of seven children in Georgia, and later married Kurt.

Historian James Hitchcock of Saint Louis University reviewed the book, saying "This is a graphic and dramatic first-person account of a crucial period in modern history. It is both riveting and inspiring." Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute wrote “When Hitler Took Austria is a crackling good story. I love stories that recreate the world of 1938 and 1939, when all of Europe began to learn how cruel and murderous the Gestapo could be… And it is even better when it is a story of a hero for faith and human honor such as the son of the Austrian chancellor. If you want to understand how our present world came to be, don't miss this book."


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