The March Toward War: The <em>March of Time</em> as Document and Propaganda
Introduction The Time Empire MOT as Document Marching into War Voice of Conscience Timeline/Index
The Shadow of War
Germany's Rising Power
The World Prepares for War
America Prepares for War
American Neutrality
Failure of the League
Failure of Versailles
England's Failures
Ambiguous Russia
Plight of the Jews
Humanizing Dictators
Americans All
War Zones
Italy Seizes Ethiopia
Japanese Conquests
Chinese Resistance
Spain's Civil War
The Mediterranean
Pearl Harbor
 Hitler Enters Vienna


May 15, 1936: Two Rival Dictators Play audio
Dollfuss, above, from the March 28, 1938 Life magazine issue (page 15)
Schuschnigg from the same issue and page.

In Vienna, the 1934 assassination of Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss left Austria with two rival dictators—Prince Ernst Rudiger von Starhemberg, "boot-licking hero worshipper of Benito Mussolini"; and Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg, "cautious counterpart to the late Chancellor Dollfuss, friend of Mussolini because he was forced to choose between Mussolini and Hitler." Vice-Chancellor von Starhemberg congratulates Mussolini over Ethiopia, in a telegram that is an "ill-timed flouting of the League." The Austrian leaders argue over the incident. Schuschnigg resigns, and will form a new government. Von Starhemberg also resigns, but "tomorrow I leave for Rome. There I will talk to Mussolini. Tomorrow, who knows who will be master in Austria." Von Starhemberg orders commanders of the military only to take orders from him. Schuschnigg wires "friendly assurances" to Mussolini. Will Mussolini back the fascist army of Von Starhemberg against Schuschnigg? "No one can predict," the Voice of Time explains. The threat is clear that Italy could seek to acquire Austria

February 17, 1938: Hitler SETS THE STAGE FOR HIS Coup Play audio

In taking Austria through a bloodless coup, Hitler fulfills another step in his program outlined in Mein Kampf, and more is still to come, The March of Timesuggests.

In the opening dramatization, Austrian chancellor Schuschnigg meets with Hitler. Four hours later, they are shouting angrily in a closed room. Hitler says, "from midnight, I give you 48 hours." Schuschnigg has two days to yield key positions in the Austrian government to the Nazis. A German commander orders soldiers to the Austrian border for "special maneuvers." [Dramatic music plays as the military moves into place; including the trumpet call resembling "Over There," the famous World War I song.] Austrian radio broadcasts report that Austria has not made its decision. Thirty minutes before the deadline expires, in the chancellory "a tired man sits at a telephone." After hanging up the phone, he reports, "Italy has abandoned us"—they must give the Nazis the Ministry of the Interior, Justice, Lieber, seven positions in the cabinet, and Austrians will retain nominal control. It may be necessary "to avoid bloodshed, invasion, for the present good of Austria." The Chancellor responds, "for the good of Austria, I pray God it may be so Herr Doctor."

The Voice of Time recalls that 14 years ago in a Lansberg prison, Hitler set forth his program in Mein Kampf—since he came to power, Hitler has rearmed Germany, fortified the Rhineland, and all but nullified the Treaty of Versailles. The Voice of Time notes: "And this week but three major points remain on the program of Adolf Hitler: conquest of the Polish corridor, of Czechloslovakia, and invasion of the wheat fields of the Russian Ukraine. Time marches on!"

March 17, 1938: HITLER TAKES Austria—IS CZECHOSLOVAKIA NEXT? Play audio

The coup of Austria fills the entire half hour on the night of March 17, 1938, as the show explores the blow-by-blow story of Hitler's bloodless coup in its historical context and analyzes what it will mean for the future. At no point does the show suggest that the coup will have positive results in the end; Hitler is a dangerous tyrant, plain and simple. The narrator explains that this week, "hour after hour over burning cables the news piled up from Europe. The world shaking, almost unbelievable news that set Great Britain's foreign secretary wringing his hands." Headlines show the "whole world going mad." In an advertisement following this introduction, another voice reassures that Life will continue to bring the news alive each month.

The Voice of Time begins his story with the river Danube, where Rome establishes an outpost—what would become Vienna. Caesar's description of the Germans is read in Latin, with an English translation on top: "The Germans were a rude race, strong and cruel, but in war excelling all other barbarians." Germans remain outside the Roman empire, the Voice of Time explains, as he begins a brief history of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Vienna was always Europe's independent capital.

Hitler is born in 1889, and in 1914 another crown prince of Austria is murdered and the Hapsburgs' hold on the empire ends with the division of lands by the Treaty of Versailles. Army Corporal Adolf Hitler is imprisoned for political revolt. An actor playing Hitler reads a line from Mein Kampf: "German Austria must return to the great German motherland!" On March 11, 1938, marching feet drum the ground as troops mobilize. An Austrian radio station reports at 1:30 on Friday that advance units are on the Austrian border. The scene cuts to British Prime Minister Chamberlain as he receives dispatches. He is having dinner with officials, including a German ambassador. It is bad timing, Chamberlain says—he had hoped to resolve the problems dividing England and Germany. The German official responds, "Your excellency the Fuhrer sees no reason to start negotiations with England until German purposes elsewhere are achieved." [The marching motif repeats again at 3:30 Friday afternoon.] An Austrian official calls France, but they can do nothing: "Our hands are tied Herr Schmidt. France can do nothing alone...but tell Herr Schuschnigg, we are very sorry." At 7 pm the Chancellor of Austria speaks in a radio address: President Nicolas has asked him to tell Austrians that he has "yielded only to force." [Marching sound again.] Hitler rolls in with his Mercedes. What will happen to the Catholic Church? a man asks a church official (Hitler is anti-Catholic). The church leader responds, "We will do what we must [even ring the Bells of St. Stephens]... Let the church extend its hand. If it is rejected, well, my son...ring the bells. I pray god change for Austria can remain bloodless."

At 11 pm, Hitler stands in Vienna's Heroes Square. "This is the moment of the greatest accomplishment of my life," he says. "The German Reich, as it stands today, can never be broken by anyone again." The Germans send decrees out over the radio, and create an Austrian secret police. The professions of law and medicine and sports associations are now closed to Jews; Jews are prohibited from wearing the swastika. Austria's former high officials are held for high treason. A re-enactment stages the tragic end of Major Emeril Pi, "bitterest Austrian foe of Nazism." "Are you Austrian or German?" he asks his wife and son. He shoots them ["God protect Austria!"], then shoots himself. The Voice of Time lists others who killed themselves and some their families. There have been 30 suicides a day.

Mein Kampf's text suggests Hitler will now turn to Czechloslovakia, home to 3.5 million Germans, to further expand the motherlands, the narrator says. A German minority leader in Czechoslovakia says his country "cannot deny" them—they want Hitler and self-rule. Support for the nation comes in the form of two notes to the Czech President that are read to Parliament. "France renews her promise to fight to defend us if we are attacked," and if the country is invaded, Russia "stands ready to defend Czechloslovakia, even if the Soviet army has to drive a path across Poland."

Il Duce speaks to the Italian legislative chamber, explaining that in Austria, "what has happened was slated fatally to happen." Some had hoped Italy and Germany would war if Hitler took Austria. "It was a childish hope. Now the world knows that the Rome-Berlin Axis has shown itself in this momentous hour valid." The scene cuts to the reaction of Prime Minister Chamberlain, who calls the Austrian coup "a profound shock to European peace." He adds that it could not have been prevented unless they had used force to prevent it. The British obligations toward Czechoslovakia are the same as every member of the League of Nations assumes. Some respond: that's no guarantee at all. Other hecklers exclaim that Britain knows Italy agreed to betray Austria in exchange for German arms in Spain. Chamberlain replies that England is best served by staying out of Spain.

The situation in Spain has worsened, as word comes that 30,000 German troops have arrived in support of rebels. The Spanish government may collapse within a week without help. Spain asks France for more munitions, but it would mean scrapping the non-intervention pact. [War of 1812 music plays.] The Army of France moves to the Spanish frontier; 70,000 troops mass on the border. Italian bombers attack Barcelona in what is the "most devastating bombardment in history." U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull warns Europe against a return to barbarism, and urges a billion-dollar naval expansion. Four ministers of the British cabinet threaten to resign over the lack of British intervention. [Ominous music.] "But at week's end, no nation intervenes in central Europe. The peaceful invasion is complete," the Voice of Time says. "With new impact the world sees this week one man reforming an empire. Italy now his subordinate ally, his troops in Spain, his ambitions insatiable and unpredictable, one man who this week says, 'I did not make the decision to take Austria. It came to me. On Friday night I was not even thinking of Austria. Then suddenly, I knew that the deed and the hour was predetermined in history. I did not consult anyone. I decided, and gave the orders.'"

The narrator questions, "And what orders will he give tomorrow?...[what orders in Spain, or Czechoslovakia, or Hungary?] What colonial demands will he make upon England and France? What decisions will come to Hitler in the night or day tomorrow, and what orders will he give? No man can tell. [This paints him as dangerous and unstable.] But one thing is certain: that the crisis of this week's news is not the end but the beginning of one of the most tempestuous news-packed eras any age has ever known...It will be an era that will be seen as no era has ever been seen before. For week after eventful week, Life's pages of news pictures will make the 18 million men, women and children who read Life each week eyewitnesses of the news of the world and the ways of the world's people. In Life they will see history in the making, as though it were happening right outside their own window. And having seen, their knowledge of the world will be enriched and their understanding deepened. The new issue of Life, jam-packed with news, with art, with sports, with all things you are interested in, will be on sale tomorrow, Friday morning. Get your copy early. Life! The newsmagazine with pictures!"

The Voice of Time's concluding words begin as an analysis of Hitler's motives, but ultimately proves itself to be an advertisement for the show and Life magazine. Listeners can only have those questions answered by continuing to listen to the show or reading Life magazine. Even in dire times, the commercial comes first.

March 24, 1938: HITLER IN AUSTRIA (AD) Play audio

In this advertisement for the latest Life magazine, the narrator notes that Hitler has made every map of Europe obsolete. An actor playing Hitler exclaims, "On Friday night I was not even thinking of Austria...I did not make the decision, it came to me. I did not consult anyone. I gave the orders." Hitler is the "greatest single menace to peace in the world." Life magazine has a complete profile of Hitler, from his younger days to his latest exploits. "This week's issue of Life will bring Europe's great crisis alive, for you to watch with your own eyes....Be sure to get your copy of this week's copy of Life tomorrow, Friday morning, early."

See Life and Advertising Tie-ins to view the articles the ad discusses.

March 24, 1938: Nazis in Austria Play audio

The clip opens in Spain, where an exiled Austrian general is helping to defend the government from Franco's rebels, and segues to Austria, where Jews are persecuted as Nazis take over Austria. As the segment begins, the general receives word that his wife has been arrested (or worse) and his mother, like many Austrians, committed suicide when she heard Nazis had taken over her country. The scene changes to Austria, where Hitler gives a speech to rally his men: his home country "rushed to meet me without a shot being fired." The Nazis break into the song "Horst Wessel," which includes the lyrics, "make way, make way, here comes the Brown battalions...upon the swastika millions look with longing." Between each following scene the boisterous rallying song is used as a solemn narrative transition when contrasted with the quiet stories of how Nazism has violated Austrian life. The story cuts to a segment in which a teacher is re-teaching schoolchildren that Jews murdered Austria's chancellors (Nazis did). When children interrupt to say it's not true, the teacher, frightened, snaps back that this is how they must learn it now. When the lesson shifts to reading a book, the reading includes a passage claiming "a Jew may be identified with shifty eyes." An upset Jewish child in the classroom asks to be excused. In the next scene Nazi soldiers look through Dr. Sigmund Freud's house for money and passports. Freud has "corrupted the pure German mind" with pschoanalysis. The clip also includes an emotional story about the Vienna Philharmonic that cannot play together with the same members because some, including the conductor, are Jewish. The concertmaster declares that the Viennese way of making music is the comradeship they have with each other, and it has "made our music come from the heart." They play Jewish composer Schubert's "Rosamunde" one final time—they "do not need the parts."

In this difficult segment, the Germans are portrayed as bullying belligerants at best, and the portrait of the conquered Austrians is sympathetic. There are no Austrians in the story who are happy about Hitler's conquest, and the revealed results of his campaign are tragic at every turn.

"Nazi Conquest—No. 1," April 15, 1938 Play movie

 Nazi Conquest-No. 1
(1) The title shot suggests this is the first in a long line of conquests while (2) Americans begin showing interest in "a world strained by conflict," as evidenced by this shot of newsreel footage of the Panay
Newsreel of U.S.S. Panay
Hitler's Next Goal?
(3) News coverage of Hitler increases as Americans begin to question what Hitler has in mind (3-4). (5) A little cross-marketing never hurt: this is an image from the March 28 Life issue
Destroy! article
Life magazine photo
Hitler speaks
(6) Hitler speaks, the angle showing him larger than life on a big screen while (7) text overlaid on an image of Mein Kampf brings Hitler's goals home to viewers.
Mein Kampf
Read Review

This issue of March of Time suggests that Americans are finally taking note of Hitler's exploits abroad after his bloodless coup of Austria, and with good reason, filmmakers seem to argue. As suggested by the title of the film (1), this may be the first conquest rather than the last. U.S. citizens who are "fully determined today that their nation must not become involved, are taking an ever-increasing interest in world affairs, particularly those which may threaten their peace." News outlets are on a 24-hour-a-day watch to "try to spot big news before it happens." A 1938 bulletin brings news of the resignation of the Austrian Chancellor, and cheers for Hitler as he enter Austria. Intertitle: "Though the swiftness of Austria's seizure takes radio listeners and the world by surprise, Austrians well know it for a superbly staged climax to a 14-year-old plan." Mein Kampf's first chapter has a "grim prophecy": Austria's destruction is necessary for the security of the German race.

The Treaty of Versailles was supposed to end the war to end all wars, "But the world now knows that the treaties that left Germany demoralized and Austria dismembered set the stage for Adolf Hitler." When Austria's chancellor, "little Engelbert Dollfuss," moved to restore the Hapsburgs' monarchy, "Hitler waited no longer." [Shows an image of Dollfuss dead.] Hitler realized that killing Dollfuss failed to yield him Austria. There was still talk that Otto Hapsburg could be the new leader of Austria, but "monarchists' hopes are no match for a mighty war machine."

Intertitle: "Overnight, Austria learns the price of Nazi conquest—not only the loss of its land, but the surrender of its oldest and most cherished traditions," the Voice of Time mourns. The next morning, Vienna is a "new outpost in the ruthless Nazi realm....As the old Hapsburg capital, which was happy and tolerant (9) [my bold] only yesterday, takes on a strange new face, thousands already know that for them the dread day has come (11)." A newsman is shown reporting that many prominent Austrians have killed themselves—more than 200 in the last 48 hours (12). The "gay days of old Vienna..are gone forever." Intertitle: "Today, a news-minded U.S. public watches more closely than ever the man whom exultant Nazis hail as a new Caesar—his 'Mein Kampf' as inspired prophecy." And well they should, filmmakers suggest, considering his record of violating rights Americans value. "For the Austrian-born dictator who overnight destroyed the liberal culture and seized for bankrupt Germany the territory of his homeland, there is a hero's welcome.

"But outside the German fatherland, there is no rejoicing." Mein Kampf foretells more conquests to come. The Voice of Time rattles off a series of pronouncements from the book: "God has made Germans a race of super-men.... Only those who are strong enough to hold their lands are entitled to have them. When we talk of new lands for Germany, we think first of Russia and her border states. Europe is not large enough for two major powers. The might of our deadly enemy France must be destroyed. Democracy is a monstrosity born of filth and fire. Germany will be the world power or nothing. Almighty god, bless our battle." As these final words are spoken, filmmakers show a peaceful rural scene, but upon closer inspection, the farmer is picking up a shell (14). This likely reminds viewers of World War I, from whence the shell came, suggesting history may be repeating itself. Germany is again hungry for conquest and is again in opposition to democratic forces.

Hitler's face looks at Vienna (8) In this dramatic shot, Hitler's face (on a poster) seems to be looking over the Austrians he has conquered. He is all-knowing here, and much larger proportionally than the small people he watches.
Soldiers harass a man Selling pictures of Hitler

(9) This footage shows German soldiers harassing a man seemingly for loitering; (10) Viennese culture now includes street peddlars hawking Hitler's photo. This, like the poster in (8), gives the feeling that he is everywhere, omniscient.

Austrian suicides Newsman announces suicides (11) A staged shot of an Austrian who has killed himself and (12) a staged shot of an NBC newsman delivering a report on the mass of suicides.
farmer walks past WWI hat Farmer picks up shell (13) A farmer walks by a small memorial to a World War I soldier, revealed by the helmet (14) In a rural scene, a farmer picks up a WWI shell from his field, a reminder of the last great war.