EDIT: also, as I have mentioned before (like a year ago now, oof) Germany will have a civil war and many fascists of the FDAS and the DSNVP will flee to Austria so a few diehard OTL Nazis could go to Austria to help supplement the officer corps a bit. Down for suggestions.
Maybe Paul Hausser could be a good shout as he was a rarity in the Waffen-SS of someone who was a fairly high-ranking officer before joining the SS, for starters?
 
So is this TL Axis power made up of Austria, Germany, Poland and Hungary?

And Is Slovenia gonna be the catalyst that starts ww2 like Poland was in OTL?
Cannot confirm the full roster, but Italy, Austria and Poland have been confirmed previously.
If I had to guess, it would also include the Czechoslovaks, whose arms industry would be necessary to really stand up to the Soviet Union.
Czechoslovakia will be a major target of the Austrian State, either through annexation, alliance or subjugation.
Maybe Paul Hausser could be a good shout as he was a rarity in the Waffen-SS of someone who was a fairly high-ranking officer before joining the SS, for starters?
I’ll keep him in mind, thank you.
 
I’ll keep him in mind, thank you.
No problem, and on that note, Felix Steiner would be another guy to keep an eye on as he was a Reichswehr Major before joining the Waffen-SS and if the FDAS and DSNVP are strong enough to do a civil war, there would probably have been quite a few defectors from the regular military when they rose up.
 

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Chapter Forty-Two
Chapter Forty-Two
Frankfurt, Germany
German Reich
May 1931
Sturmführer Horst Wessel shivered as he left the hostel’s heated confines for the crisp cool morning air. Accompanying him outside were several other men ranging from gangly teenagers to gruff veterans of the Great War, all proudly dressed in the brown uniforms of the Sturmabteilung. Each man carried knives, bludgeons or pistols on their persons for the SA had learned long ago that violence was typically the first and greatest answer to opposition.

The men were quiet this morning, abnormally so. They were leaving behind in the hostel’s warm bunks their girlfriends or wives who accompanied them to Frankfurt, though that was not the main reason for the poor morale. There was some grumbling at the early hour, the sun not having even graced the horizon just yet, but there was work to do.
A sense of finality laid heavy upon them, an invisible weight burdening upon their shoulders.

Satisfied all were accounted for, the Sturmführer barked orders at his men to make way to Waldstadion. The men complied, marching in a two rank line to the stadium. Today was the third and final day of the Fourth Frankfurt Rally, the annual get-together of the Free German Workers’ Defense League, uniting the northern and southern branches of the party in solidarity. It was here that for the past three years key members of the Party Congress debated on aspects of the party platform, declared various successes fascism had accrued in their respective regions of Germany, and denigrated the Weimar government, capitalism, and Judeo-Bolshevism.

At the end of the Congress, Party Chairman Gregor Strasser would give a speech dictating the party’s agenda for the upcoming year, surrounded by leaders of the various FDAS factions, all to the adoring crowds who sat on the edge of their seat, ready to spring upwards and shout Sieg Heil with unbridled enthusiasm.

Yet this year it felt different. It was different.

Wessel knew that there had been tensions between the northern and southern halves of the party for years now but that tension had reached a boiling point as of late.

The northern FDAS was directly under Chairman Strasser’s control and operated under the ideals of revolutionary nationalism, anti-capitalism, and economic antisemitism. The Strasser brothers advocated for trade unions to be empowered following a thorough purge of communist elements as well as a flirtation with other socialist ideals that sit poorly with the more conservative Bavarians.

The southern FDAS, led by the upstart Rudolf Hess, were proponents of national revanchism, eastern lebensraum, with a more aggressive stance of racial antisemitism as they called for complete disenfranchisement of all Jews within the Reich and eventual deportation of ‘undesirables.’

To an outsider the differences may have appeared trivial, but to those within the party those minute differences were the reason the FDAS was tearing itself apart at the seams. Strasser and Hess had despised one another for years, ever since the latter’s rapid rise through the ranks of the Frei Deutsche Arbeiter Schutzbund, eventually leading to Hess seizing the position of Parteileiter of Bavaria. What had begun as doctrinal differences had evolved into a personal hatred. Strasser, though nominal leader of the FDAS, did not have the political clout nor support to oust Hess without causing mass division in the southern FDAS that threatened to undermine all the party had accomplished. The seats won in the Reichstag, the influence and control of various local and state governments, and the swaying of certain elements of the police and military to support their vision for the Fatherland. All would be at risk if the front of unity proved hollow.

Yet as Wessel and his SA troop arrived at the stadium, having walked the few blocks from the hostel largely in silence, he seemed to notice a difference in the air. The hundreds of SA men who were arriving from a dozen nearby hostels, were now dividing themselves up between northern and southern factions, casting dark looks at one another. Comrades were becoming rivals, friends to foe. The Brownshirts were to be a force of protection for the party, its militant right hand, and to project strength and discipline at rallies, yet now… now it projected a facade. One that seemed unable to continue. Wessel noted that southern SA wore two armbands, one on each arm. One was the party’s hammer and sword, black on white, while the other was of blue and white stripes, mimicking the Bavarian flag.

The day proceeded once the SA ensured the stadium was secure with party comrades arriving in the thousands, using their membership cards as identification. Wessel checked card after card, waving people through with his wooden cudgel. A handful of Frankfurt policemen watched on, wary as they stood aside to watch as neutral onlookers. In the north a significant number of policemen supported the DNVP, seeing the SA as rabble rousers. Here so close to Bavaria the German Social Nationalists had considerable influence amongst law enforcement. Fellow fascists though they might be, Wessel did not trust the DSNVP, especially with how cozy the Sozinats and the Bavarian FDAS were becoming as of late.

The weather warmed as noon neared. Wessel and nearly two thousand SA men lined up in ranks and performed marches then led the singing of Deutschland über alles. The boys and girls of the Defense Youth were showcased, many of the boys who would one day join the SA in the inevitable fight against the Reichswehr when the national revolution began.

Several more hours passed before the SA was formed on either side of the field’s center, taking formation near a large stage that had been assembled days before. Riddled with speakers and cables attached to several microphones, Wessel waited for the speeches to begin. The back-patting, the promises of national revolution, the calls of unity and the party platform going forward.

Near the end, after close to an hour of thunderous speeches from men like Ernst Röhm and Jakob Sprenger, the third-ranking member of the party stood to address the faithful.

Rudolf Hess, standing there only because of his position, looked out over the crowd. From the corner of his eye Wessel could see the two Strasser brothers seated behind Hess, alongside a score of other members of the party’s leadership. Gregor Strasser appeared ill or uncomfortable, perhaps both. Did he suspect what his chief rival would say?

“Comrades, brothers and sisters of the revolution, I come before you not to offer false promises or to preach a hollow ideology. I came here today to present the Deutsches Volkes with a simple message.”

Gregor Strasser leaned forward, brow furrowed in worry. Wessel’s mouth went dry as he could guess what was to come. Some on the stage rose to stop Hess but others shouted or waved them down. It seemed Hess had more support than Wessel had guessed.

“My German comrades, Gregor Strasser has done good things for Germany, he has fought for the farmer, the laborer and the common citizen. He is a good man. However,” many in the stands and in the chairs on the field looked bewildered or angry, while still many others shook their heads in disgruntled agreement. “He has failed to deliver on his bold promises. The economy still feels the crushing blows delivered upon us by Jewish capitalists while communism infects our nation like a parasite. Our nation is weak, our government weaker and riddled with backstabbers and undesirables. Strasser calls for national revolution yet in truth he is far more concerned with parliamentary processes and covering the crimes and vices of his compatriots. The German people do not want middling change but rather great and total change!”

Hess looked out over the crowd, thick eyebrows furrowed as he neared the apex of his speech.

“I followed along for years, I played my part. I was a good soldier to the party, yet enough is enough is enough. The Volk is tired of false promises, the Volk is tired of half-measures, and the Volk is tired by the inability of this party to seize power for their benefit! The Volk is tired and so am I!”

Hess straightened and exhaled noisily in the microphone. Reaching to his left arm he pulled off the party armband and threw it on the ground to the dismay of thousands who gasped in shock. The Bavarian fascist replaced it with another armband he pulled from his pocket. It was half blue and half white, the same as what Wessel had seen on some southern SA men throughout the day.

“I hereby renounce my membership in the Frei Deutsche Arbeiter Schutzbund. I cannot stand to be a part of such mediocrity, of a party rank with socialism and homosexuality, of a movement which is so focused inwardly it does not have the ambition or courage to look outwards.”

Strasser stood, as did Röhm but both were stopped by Adolf Wagner and a few Bavarian SA men.

“I announce to all here and to those listening across Germany. The Free German Workers’ Defense League is dead. From its ashes rises a new political party, cleansed of socialist and deviant influence, one that advocated racial purity and nationalist thought. The National Democratic Union will be its name and it is open to all who are here today. The FDAS are the past while the NDU will be Germany’s future! Together we will-”

A shot rang out, shattering the moment.

Wessel crouched, hand reaching for his revolver as the stadium began to be filled with screams and panic. Glancing at the stage he noticed Hess was clutching his shoulder, blood leaking between the fingers. SA men of the Bavarian faction, easily identified by their new armbands, quickly escorted Hess away while others looked dumbly at one another. Arguments and accusations soon began breaking out. Frankfurt party chief Sprenger stood between the two factions, hands extended to calm them. It might even have worked if given time.

But then another shot rang out.

Then another.

And then another.

Soon enough what little hesitance remained dissolved and violence became the only instinctive response. As chaos asserted itself in Waldstadion, Wessel knew what he had to do. Turning to his troop, half of whom were still entrapped by the shock at how quickly everything had progressed, he barked orders.

“To the stage. Now!” The Great War veterans immediately followed orders. It might have been twelve and a half years since the war but the instinct to follow orders had been drilled into them for a lifetime. The teenagers hesitated, unsure, until a stray bullet hit on them in the neck. The boy, no more than seventeen, fell to the floor and bled profusely as he choked on his blood. This galvanized the others into action, pulling out their weapons.

As one the troop moved to the stage, bullets flying all about as northerners and southerners across the stadium began to fight, sometimes with guns, sometimes with knives or even fist. Thousands ran, heading towards the exits in a mad dash for safety, which simultaneously delayed the policemen who attempted to wade inside to put an end to the chaos.

Wessel’s troop maneuvered through the crowd. Civilians scattered while the various SA seemed unsure, with many standing about as they waited for a command. Two SA men stood at the base of the stage. They turned to look at Wessel, giving him a direct line of sight to the blue-and-white armbands they wore. Without hesitation Wessel raised his revolver and shot both before they could draw their own pistols.

The stage was a madhouse. Gregor Strasser crouched over the body of a suited man. Wessel and his men ran to the chairman, noting the unmoving body that Strasser shook so vehemently to wake up was in fact the chairman’s brother. Otto Strasser stared up into the sky with unblinking eyes, blood pooling beneath him. A gunshot near the heart was what killed him. At least it was quick.

Herr Vorsitzender, we need to go!”

“Otto, my dear Otto, I’m sorry-”

“Sir!” Wessel grabbed Strasser’s arm and hefted him up. He looked for Röhm, Sprenger or another high ranking party member but it seems they had fled in panic.

“Form up!”

The troop placed Strasser in the middle, putting bodies as an ad-hoc human shield wall.

“Move out!”

The next half-hour turned into a blur as Wessel and his men escorted the leader of the FDAS out of the stadium, heading back to the hostel. Cars drove by, horns blaring as police sirens echoed through the city.

Running, a pale Strasser heaving as he ran out breath, the troop neared safety when they heard a car coming from behind. Wessel turned, seeing a SA man with Bavarian colors aiming an MP18 at them.

“Get the chairman down!” he yelled, raising his pistol and firing. Several other of his SA men also fired. The car, peppered by gunfire, responded in kind as it drove by, emptying the submachine gun's magazine in just a couple of seconds. Two SA men went down, several holes covering them. Wessel sighed with relief when he saw Strasser pop his head up from the pile of bodyguards who covered him. That relief faded though he felt something run down his leg.

Looking down he saw two bullet holes, both bleeding crimson.

Scheisse,” he muttered as he fell to the pavement, suddenly cold. As his men hovered over him, trying to clamp the wounds and stem the bleeding, Horst Wessel watched as the world grew dark and then he never felt anything again.​


Vienna, Austria
Republic of Austria
May 1931
Simon Golmayer woke up in the middle of the night with a sudden start. His hand immediately, almost unconsciously, went to the night stand where a loaded revolver rested. Quickly he grabbed and pulled the gun onto the bed. Simon laid there, his wife Judith gently snoring beside him, and scanned the room. What woke him? What did he hear? He craned his ears for what he could have possibly heard, for what woke him from a deep sleep.

Just as he was beginning to believe that he had imagined the whole affair, another sound, like clinking glass, came from the kitchen. Eying his wife, Simon carefully shuffled out of bed. Armed with his revolver, Simon moved carefully to the living room.

Moving through the house in the middle of the night was an eerie feeling, he heard and felt every creak his footsteps made on the wooden floor. As he neared the kitchen he heard another clink of glass, light spilling from the room. Heart beating fast, palms sweaty with nerves, Simon swallowed his fear and turned the corner, pistol raised, finger near the trigger.

Hannah Golmayer froze, glass of milk in hand. On the dining room table, lit by a nearby lamp, was a box of Vanillekipferl cookies. Simon looked over the scene in front of him before eliciting a single, nervous bark of laughter that he tried to stifle.

Abba?” his daughter said, stunned, looking at the revolver pistol as if it were a venomous snake.

Feeling foolish, Simon lowered the gun and wiped his brow with his freehand. It came away damp with sweat. “It’s ok, Hannah. Thought I heard a noise and assumed the worst.”

“Sorry, abba, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“It’s ok. I’d rather it be you getting a midnight snack rather than someone breaking in.”

Hannah’s face paled, Simon could see it due to the lamplight. “Why would someone break in? We live in a respectable neighborhood.”

Simon sighed. He missed the naïveté of youth. Looking at his daughter, he noticed her height, her childish features were fading as age sharpened them, and the intellect that burned behind those hazel eyes reminded him that his youngest child was to turn fourteen next month. Still a child, but one who needed to know the dangers of the world.

“Hannah, sit down. I think it’s time we discussed how things are developing in the country. The dangers that are everywhere.”

Hannah sat, munching on cookies and sipping milk from the glass, eyes wide as Simon grabbed a bottle of Märzen from the icebox. He rarely drank outside of a beer or two at dinner, and never so late. Herr Rothschild was very strict about employees arriving at the bank hungover or tipsy. In his long career at Creditanstalt, both before and after the Great War, he had seen men and women under the influence of alcohol escorted and thrown out of the building, their contract of employment terminated. Glancing at the clock hanging on the wall, he knew he had another five hours before he had to be at work. One beer would be fine.

Simon sat down, running his hand through thinning hair. The revolver he placed on the table, safety on with barrel facing away from them.

“Hannah, what do you know about what’s happening? Out there,” Simon gestured to the front door.

Hannah frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Do you know what is happening in the world?”

“Do you mean the Great Depression?”

Simon nodded, popping open the beer and taking a sip.

“The world,” he began, “Is not in a great spot at the moment. In fact, it's swaddled in chaos and uncertainty. The American’s Wall Street Crash has sent the world’s economy staggering. Many countries are experiencing political upheaval and widespread violence, similar to what happened in Frankfurt a few days ago. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

“Even here?” his daughter asked.

Perhaps,” Simon said after a moment.

“Is your bank going to fail?”

“No, absolutely not,” he lied, “Creditanstalt might have some short-term pains but that is to be expected with what is happening across the world. People can access their money and we will remain solvent.” It sickened him to lie to his daughter but he couldn’t dare risk the truth of the matter spilling out. It might make what was to come worse, especially to his own employment.

“But why did you get worried we had a burglar?”

“Because, my dear, people are getting desperate. The relative prosperity of the past few years has slowed considerably. Unemployment is beginning to rise once more, wage raises are slowing and inflation is leering its destructive head again. People are struggling to put food on the table, and in that struggle they will do anything to survive.” Simon’s eyes flicked to the revolver resting on the table.

“Anything. Especially against people they despise, none more so for us. You and I are both Austrians first but to many out there we are nothing but Jews and they detest our mere existence. You need to be careful out there, Hannah. Be aware of your surroundings, be careful who you associate with, shield your identity-”

“You want me to hide that I’m Jewish?” She sounded shocked, aghast even.

“Yes. If that is what it takes for you to be safe then yes, absolutely yes. Throughout history whenever something bad happens, a minority group is blamed. We’ve been Europe’s punching bag for two thousand years. Even in this day of modernity, some see us as nothing but trespassers, parasites even. If things get worse, those desperate people will turn savage and we would likely be a victim. Some groups, like the Sozinats, want us gone. Discrimination is but the first step towards expulsion. England did it in 1290 and Spain did it in 1492, to name a few.”

“But we are Austrian first…” Hannah took on a stressed look.

“I know that, you know that, but to those who hate us for what we are we are nothing but 'Christ-killers,' to use their term.”

Hannah chewed on another vanilla crescent, eyes staring forward as if looking into the distance though it was the kitchen counter. Silence laid heavy between them, almost an awkwardness but it was quickly dispelled as his only daughter looked at him, eyes sad with realization.

“Life won’t be easy, will it, abba?”

“No, it won’t. Maybe one day, but now… no.”

She nodded slowly, processing it all.

Simon offered a weak smile. “Finish up here then go to bed. You and Felix have school in the morning.”

Yes, abba.” She looked at him in a searching way. “Things will get better, yes?”

Simon’s smile took on a sad look. “Of course. One day. After all, it’s always darkest before dawn.”

Hannah nodded, seemingly relieved. “One day.”

Simon grabbed the revolver and returned to the bedroom, stomach sick at the lies he spewed. He had tried to shelter his family as best as he could but he feared that the time of innocence was coming to an end. Fanaticism and hatred were on the rise.

As he laid back down in the bed, his wife half-mumbling as he shifted, Simon only hoped they could weather the storm to come.​

+ + +

Six hours later Simon sat in the largest conference room in Creditanstalt. The room was heavy with apprehension and cigarette smoke. Fritz Hanke sat there beside him, foot nervously tapping the floor. Simon couldn’t blame him. The meeting they had dreaded for the past year was finally happening.

Simon looked out over the department managers, shift supervisors, and executive accountants, feeling sweat bead on his forehead. The stuffy atmosphere was made worse when the doors opened and Louis Nathaniel de Rothschild walked in, followed by the board of directors.

Simon’s stomach sank as he saw how the men before him appeared. Some looked disheveled as if they had not slept in days or their suits were wrinkled and haggard. Herr Rothschild himself appeared like a ghost, eyes hollow, face gaunt. He looked as if someone dear to him had died before his very eyes. Having an insight into what Herr Rotchschild was about to say to everyone, Simon understood. It was like seeing a family member murdered in front of you.

As the board of directors sat down Herr Rothschild remained standing, gripping the back of the chair as if needing it for support.

“Gentlemen, many of you know why we are here or at the very least suspect it. I will get straight to the point. Due to the recent bank acquisitions over the past few years in conjunction with the worsening economic climate across the globe, we have lost roughly half our capital. Our finances are in freefall. They are in fact so disastrous we dare not even publish the bank’s financial statements for the last fiscal year. I will be announcing this to the press, albeit with more optimistic wording, within an hour. The jig is up, gentlemen. The bank has all but failed.”

The room became as silent as a tomb. There was no shouting, no exclamations. Only silence. For what else was there to do but delve into the enormity of what had been said? The largest bank in the country? Failed? It was a catastrophe. After Herr Rothschild and the board of directors left, hushed, hurried whispers filled the room, giving it a manic feel.

“This is terrible, Simon, just terrible. What if we lose our savings? Our jobs? How will I feed my kids?” Fritz muttered nervously, rubbing his temples as his mind went through terrible scenario after terrible scenario, each less hopeful than the last.

Simon only half-heard his friend. His own mind was rife with the dark possibilities that were soon to follow. Would other Austrian banks collapse in the coming days, weeks and months? Likely. Creditanstalt alone controlled over a quarter of the country’s financial assets that constituted almost a fifth of the republic’s Gross Domestic Product. The bank had been considered by many to be too large to fail and now it was stumbling into ruin. No Austrian bank would be able to buy them out and Herr Rothschild would be adamant that at least the bank’s Austrian-assets remain in-country and not sold to a foreign bank. That left a bailout, however with the SDAPÖ, that bailout would likely be nationalization, something Rothschild and the board would be extremely hesitant to accept.

To Simon it all seemed to be dominoes. Creditantstalt was but the first yet it would not be the last. And when one falls, it smacks into another. Soon enough, he reckoned, the whole world would feel the fear everyone in that room felt.

It seemed the Great Depression’s reach would grow as its ruinous fangs continued to bite deeply into the world’s fiscal health.

God above, help us.


Vienna, Austria
Republic of Austria
May 1931
Franz Olbrecht sat in his chair in the Austrian Parliament Building and had to suppress a chuckle at the chaos erupting all around him. From one wing of the chamber to the other, shouting filled the air. Social Democrats berated Christian Social, Landbund yelled at Heimatblock, and the Communists screamed at everyone like rabid hyenas.

Only two political parties remained silent in the chamber, the two members of the Unity Bloc. The Fatherland Front and Social Nationalists sat near one another and remained apathetic to the chaos engulfing the joint session of the Federal Assembly. Joint sessions were incredibly rare, in fact this was but the third session Olbrecht had attended since being elected to the National Council seven and-a-half years ago. The first he had been a National Liberal, the last two he had attended as a Social Nationalist. Despite being part of the so-called 'lower house’ the National Council was in fact far more powerful with the Federal Council, the ‘upper house,’ being little more than a minor and inconvenient roadblock rather than a true equal half it was originally designed to be.

Yet as the economic crisis gripped the nation, President Wilhelm Miklas and Chancellor Karl Seitz underwent the radical step of calling forth the Federal Assembly to convene in its entirety to debate upcoming legislation to ease the fiscal stress on the banks and the nation as a whole. A Christian Social president and a Social Democrat chancellor, walking effectively hand-in-hand, presenting a united front. Yet when they had raised the issues to the floor and presented said legislation the room had erupted into chaos.

It was almost beautiful, Olbrecht thought, to see the weaknesses of democracy presented so thoroughly. He turned to look up at the observation gallery, seeing reporters from two score newspapers scribbling away on their notepads. Some were friends, some were foe, but their columns would largely echo the same: Parliament was too divided, too dysfunctional. The republic could not operate effectively against the crisis besetting it.

Those papers, embellished for good or worse by their editors to attract readers, would put on stark display the inability of the Austrian government to govern. It would send a panic through the already collapsing bank system. Investors, especially foreign ones, would pull out their remaining capital which would further worsen the situation, all the while the Austrian people would go to the banks and demand their money withdrawn. It would be a run on the bank to rival the months immediately following the Great War. Some would get their money, most would leave dejected and empty-handed.

Destitution devolves into desperation, desperation spawns chaos, and chaos breeds radicalism.

Olbrecht cared not the path to power, only that the end result was what the Führer desired. Olbrecht had been a career soldier before being discharged following the war. He knew how to execute the plans of his superior. He knew how to follow orders.

First President of the National Council Matthias Eldersch, the de facto chairman for this fiasco of an Assembly, looked pale as he gaveled the chamber into silence. Though appearing deathly ill, Eldersch still commanded a booming voice.

‘Will the Councilors of the Republic take their seats and cease this juvenile verbal brawl!”

Though some cat-called and jeered, the majority began to sit down, their arguments becoming whispers and then, after a moment, a tense silence.

Eldersch nodded from his chair and gestured to Rudolf Ramek to speak. The Second President of the National Council stood, papers in hand to read. Clearing his throat, Ramek began to read.

“By order of President Miklas, with the concurrence of Chancellor Seitz, the Federal Council and National Council have been summoned in a joint assembly to debate and come to an agreement upon legislation that will alleviate the fiscal difficulties currently facing this nation and its banking system.”

Johann Koplenig, leader of the National Council Communists, stood and shouted at the top of his lungs. “This government has failed Austria! The banks have failed Austria! Capitalism has failed Austria!” The other parliamentary members of the KPÖ stood in solidarity, with all five chanting, “Capitalism has failed the people! Capitalism has failed the people!”

Olbrecht eyed them with distaste and annoyance. It pleased him to no end that the ÖSNVP outnumbered the seats held by the communists, sixteen to five, but he wished it had been more. Pfrimer’s little coup in Graz had stained Social Nationalism for over a year. Thankfully, due to the expertly wielded propaganda campaign Hitler had orchestrated over the summer and autumn of 1930, the parliamentary election of November 1930 proved to be a somewhat moderate success, rising from seven seats in the National Council to sixteen. As for the Federal Council, Social Nationalists held only three seats, two in Lower Austria and one in Tyrol. The Party used to have two in Styria, but both were lost following Pfrimer’s idiotic rebellion. While nice to have some influence in Parliament’s upper chamber, it was the National Council that was more important as it was there that legislation was enacted. The Federal Council’s weak veto was merely a delaying tactic, effectively toothless in practice.

The Party was not weak, but nor was it strong either. It needed allies, hence its association with the Fatherland Front. Olbrecht glanced over to the Fatherland Front councilors sitting close to them, numbering almost thirty. When Engelbert Dollfuss created the Fatherland Front in the summer of 1929 his defection from the Christian Socials had drawn many away from it, weakening Austria’s principal conservative movement. Though the two political parties had some minor differences, the partnership between the VF and the ÖSNVP was a stable one that had endured for the past year and a half. Between the two of them the Einheitzblock fielded forty-four councilors, over a quarter of the National Council.

Democracy was weakening. Fascism was on the rise.

And that brought a smile to his face.

“Order!” Ramek yelled, slamming a gavel with intensity. “Order, I say!”

Eventually the Sverdlovist bootlickers clamored down and a weary calm returned.

“This body recognizes the Honorable Gentleman Heinrich Friedman from Vienna.”

The councilor, a Social Democrat, stood and began his speech, calling for cooperation and multi-partisanship. And so it began all again. Shouts, speeches, interruptions, calls for action and more took place over the next hour. It was increasingly becoming mind-numbing, tiresome. After the ninth person stood to speak, having been recognized by Ramek, Olbrecht stood, surprising the Second President.

Ramek sputtered for a moment, having been about to call upon a Christian Social yet he could not outright ignore the highest-ranking Social Nationalist in Parliament.

“This body recognizes the Honorable Gentleman Franz Olbrecht from Linz.”

Olbrecht stood. All eyes turned to him, politician, bureaucrat, reporter. When he spoke, his voice boomed across the chamber, reminding everyone of his military days.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this Assembly is a sham.”

Several barked a rebuttal but most simply sat there, waiting for what was to follow.

“We come together to solve the catastrophe facing our nation, a catastrophe worsened by infighting and disastrous leadership, and yet we cannot come to simple and agreeable terms. Compromise, it appears, is dead.”

Olbrecht shrugged.

“For weeks we have debated back and forth to no avail. The Social Democrats and Communists want nationalization, while the Christian Socials and their allies desire a cost-sharing program that forgives the Rothschilds and endangers the stability of the Österreichische Nationalbank. The Unity Bloc has suggested a middle ground that treads a more fiscally sound path that will calm the markets, hold Jewish bankers accountable, and prevent further economic downturn. Yet I see now that compromise is dead.

“It has been a year and a half since the last election, and in that time the two halves of this Federal Assembly have done nothing but blather, argue and impede the progress of the Austrian Volk. I am tired of this, we are tired of this, the Austrian Volk are tired of this. We want results, and our constituents demand them. I came here to work with others, to pass meaningful and responsible legislation to better this nation. Despite the influence of Moscow amongst so many here, I had hoped we could work together. But compromise is dead.” Those words were spoken with solemn finality.

Olbrecht took a deep breath.

“If this chamber cannot function, then why partake in this illusion of governance.”

At the last word scores of men stood. Those who called themselves Social Nationalist or Fatherland Front had tired of this charade, their numbers enlarged by much of the Heimatblock and Landbund standing too, either with forewarning from allies or on the spur of the moment. and filed their way out, surprised gasps and jeers following them but Olbrecht ignored them all. Instead he watched the reporters who were scribbling haphazardly away on their notepads. The several photographers in attendance raised their cameras, the flashing bulbs blinding Olbrecht, the other Social Nationalist legislators, their VF allies, and those who secretly pledged their support to Dollfuss and Hitler in the previous days. Seitz would be apoplectic, terrified to know the Landbund had tired of playing second-fiddle to the Social Democrats and had switched their allegiance. If Seitz could not win them back, then his government would fall.

As the flashes ramped up in frequency as they exited the chamber, Olbrecht had to hide the satisfaction he felt.

All according to plan.​


Texingtal, Austria
Republic of Austria
June 1931
Adolf Hitler and Engelbert Dollfuss, allies by ideology and circumstance but far from friends, remained sitting as Austria’s chancellor walked through the door of the small country cottage outside the town of Texingtal. In fact this cottage stood less than five kilometers from where Dollfuss had been born. It irked Hitler to be here, feeling as if he were playing second-fiddle to the fatherland front leader. Yet he swallowed his pride and put on the face of the dutiful soldier, the supportive political partner.

His time would come.

As the chancellor entered, followed by two bodyguards in plain clothes who quickly swept the cottage, Hitler could not help but notice Seitz’s worsening physique. Karl Seitz was a man laden with burdens and wore them openly. Seitz had visibly aged during his tenure as chancellor, as well as lost a significant amount of weight since Creditanstalt's bankruptcy was announced. The man was pale, sickly-looking even. A figure that represented not strength nor inspiration but rather pitiful mediocrity.

Hitler knew if he ever appeared in such a ghastly state he would rather kill himself than fall to such a state. Much of the aura that Hitler knew surrounded him was his vitality, charisma and fiery rhetoric. Seitz had none of those factors. Rather, the chancellor appeared to be a grandpa exhausted after a long shift at a corporate headquarters.
The bodyguards, satisfied there were no assassins in the small house, withdrew outside to allow the three giants of Austrian politics some form of privacy. Hitler’s own Sturmwache and Dollfuss’ Sturmkorps were outside the cottage as well, eying the chancellor's entourage with equal amounts of distrust and disgust, yet not antagonizing. Both fascist parties had broken up dozens of Social Democrat rallies in years past, sending many members to the hospital while others went into an early grave yet today fielded restraint imposed by slavish adherence to party discipline.

Seitz sat down, unperturbed by Hitler’s and Dollfuss’ lack of respect. For a moment the two fascists eyed the Social Democrat before Seitz cleared his throat uncomfortably.

“What do you want?” the chancellor asked tiredly.

The two fascist leaders eyed one another, a silent communication, before Dollfuss looked back at Seitz and answered.

“We refuse total nationalization of the banks. A compromised partial-nationalization of some assets and a bailout of the rest would work best on the caveat that the nationalized assets are returned to private ownership in no less than three years after this crisis is over. The bank's board, including Rothschild, needs to be replaced. It is up to you how to make that happen."

Seitz nodded, expecting it. Hitler knew that Seitz would damn near agree to anything they asked. Following the walkout of VF and ÖSNVP councilors from Parliament plus dozens from other political parties, it had grinded the National Council to a screeching halt, including legislative issues to salve the effects the Great Depression was having on the country.

“What else?”

Hitler leaned forward. “A lift of all bans and restrictions placed upon the Sturmwache and Sturmkorps across the country. We have close to three hundred members of those organizations in prison. They need to be released or their sentences heavily reduced.”

“And Pfrimer diehards? There are still-“

“Let them rot.”

Seitz raised an eyebrow at that before turning to Dollfuss. “What else?”

“Two Cabinet positions to be given to us, one for each party.”

“Absolutely not,” Seitz said gruffly.

Ah, Hitler thought, the first sign of a spine.

“Having the Landbund was bad enough,” Seitz started, “Especially now that most of them have defected, but if I were to nominate someone from either of your parties into my government then there would be riots in the streets. The government would fall. Austria would be consumed in chaos.”

“Your government, not ours.” Hitler frowned. “A third of the National Council did not walk out on a whim but rather to protest your inability to govern and deal with the crisis at hand. Allowing Jews to continue control the banking system was beyond stupid.”

“Now wait just a moment-“

“No,” Dollfuss interrupted. “I don’t think we will.” The small man snorted loudly in protest. “You are up against a wall, Karl. Nowhere left to go. No negotiating trick, no unholy government coalition. Your friends are few and far between. Only us remain.”

“What do you expect to happen here, Engelbert? The Unity Bloc adding their support to the government? Sozinat, Fatherland and Social Democrat all together.” Seitz laughed. “You’d be insane.”

Dollfuss gave a small, predatory smile.

“Your government won’t outlast the year if things continue without a major coalition shakeup. You bring us in, Landbund will come crawling back. We can even convince most of the Heimatblock to joins us too. You’ll have your majority.”

Seitz worked his mouth in thought before looking both of them in the eye.

“No.”

“Shame. Then our work here is done, Herr Kanzler,” Dollfuss said without warmth. Seitz gave a tired nod, rose and left unceremoniously, shoulders hunched with further burdens.

Hitler waited to speak until the car Seitz had arrived in clandestinely started and pulled away.

“Disappointing, but expected.”

“Indeed.” Dollfuss stood, his comical height for a man paling to the ambition and power he wielded. “On Monday we proceed with the next step. Seitz’s government will end.”

“And ours will ascend.”

At last.​

+ + +

It is said that Austrian democracy died that warm summer day in June 1931, in a small hamlet outside the town of Texingtal. Birthplace of Engelbert Dollfuss, it would become the grave of the First Republic.

Chancellor Seitz, crippled by parliamentary gridlock for months and unable to properly deal with the spiraling economy caused by the bankruptcy of Creditanstalt, made a bold move to appease the Unity Bloc. It is known Seitz hoped to loosen their iron grip on Parliament so as to allow much-needed legislation to pass. With the economy spiraling, the chancellor knew he needed to try and alleviate some of the financial fears many Austrians were feeling.

A bold and admirable move, albeit disastrous. It would spell the downfall of the Seitz Government in the coming days.

Some historians argue that Seitz was a fool or perhaps overly optimistic, blinded to the political situation and weary to the economical climate. Yet it was possible that the chancellor simply did not see another path forward. Allying more openly with the Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ) would have alienated the Christian Socials and the handful of
Landbund councilors that still worked with the government. In the vain attempt to salvage some sort of compromise Seitz approached some of his harshest critics and foes amidst the far-right.

What would have been seen as calculated
realpolitik to some was instead viewed by the majority of the Austrian people as weakness. To the left and center he was viewed as a traitor to socialist and democratic ideals while to the right he was seen as a man whose grip on power was slipping and only needed a little push to collapse.

Seitz’s attempts to sway Adolf Hitler and Engelbert Dollfuss to his side failed and in the process gave the Unity Bloc enough support to issue a motion of no confidence against the beleaguered chancellor the following Monday on June 22nd, 1931. Over two-thirds of the National Council voted in favor of the motion, ousting Karl Seitz as chancellor.

Surprisingly, many of those who voted against Seitz were Social Democrats unhappy with their leader’s inability to govern and overconfident in their support amongst their constituents. These councilors believed if they showed a hesitant electorate that they were of action rather than inaction it would spur the people to vote for them rather than to defect to other, more radical movements. In hindsight these defected legislators made a gross miscalculation but no one could have predicted in the summer of 1931 the horrors that would grip the nation in the years to come due to their short-sighted actions.

Karl Seitz would retire from public office in shame and humiliation, ousted by friend and foe alike. The former chancellor would go on to live a private life in the countryside, away from politics and the halls of power. This did not save him, however, as he was arrested by the
Staatschutz years later during Hitler’s purge of political rivals following the official creation of the Austrian State.

Vice-Chancellor Franz Winkler of the
Landbund would be elevated to Acting Chancellor over a caretaker government which ruled ineffectively over a nation on the precipice. New elections were called to take place during mid-December.

Months of campaigning followed, with the verbal and physical attacks escalating to new heights. Clashes between the various paramilitaries against one another and against police and military forces rose exponentially.

It would be in this chaotic state of political gridlock, violence and partisanship that the Austrian people went to the voting booths on December 17th, 1931. Every polling place across the country had detachments of police and
Bundesheer soldiers for protection though the effectiveness of this has been debated due to many in the military and police supporting far-right parties. By the end of the month, after several recounts, judicial court reviews and accusations of widespread voter fraud and intimidation, the parliamentary picture became clear by the year's end.

The Unity Bloc came out of the election as the greatest winners, with the Fatherland Front securing forty-eight seats while the Sozinats secured thirty-one seats, the most either party had ever received. Despite these impressive gains the Unity Bloc was four seats short of a working majority. Yet Dollfuss and Hitler had planned for this scenario, with the leadership of the
Heimatblock and Landbund coming out in support as they set aside their differences. The two rival parties would join the VF and ÖSNVP to form a government coalition. President Miklas, dismayed at the election's results and by the steep decline in power his own Christian Socials had experienced, was nonetheless forced to ask Dollfuss to form a government lest his refusal threw the country into chaos once more. A chaos that would likely be bloodier and more widespread than even the Pfrimer Coup.

On January 4th, 1932 the new government of the Republic of Austria took shape. Engelbert Dollfuss had become Chancellor while Adolf Hitler became Vice-Chancellor and, more importantly, the Minister of the Army. The powerful Cabinet offices were given to the Fatherland Front and Social Nationalists, barring a few minor ministerial slots to the
Landbund and Heimatblock. To further solve any future animosity at bearing relatively little power and to ensure the Heimatblock and Landbund did not renege on the coalition, the two smaller parties were given a dozen deputy and assistant minister spots across the government.

After years of ascending the ranks to the seat of ultimate power, Hitler had at last received a Cabinet post and in turn became the de facto second most powerful man in the republic. Yet this was not the end goal for the former
Stabsfeldwebel, far from it. Hitler’s ambition knew no bounds, further cemented when in a mere two years he would become the undisputed dictator of Austria and set the nation down the path towards the Second World War and the Holocaust.
 
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As always I appreciate the patience and support from y'all.

Next chapter is merely going to be detailing the elections Austria has gone through ITTL as well as Dollfuss' Cabinet.

Please let me know your thoughts, constructive critiques etc.

Enjoy!
 
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