10 Failed 20th-Century Coups

8. The July Putsch Austria, 1934

Years before Adolf Hitler rose to infamy as one of history’s most malevolent and murderous dictators, he was appointed Germany’s reich chancellor in January 1933. The relationship between Hitler’s Germany and Austria was a strained one, as Austria’s federal chancellor, Engelbert Dollfuss, refused to bow to Germany’s intimidation and demands, which sought dominance and control over Austria. Austrian Nazis responded with bombings of government offices and officials, which led to the Austrian Nazi Party being outlawed. The revolution that Germany hoped would bring both countries together under Germany’s control was becoming less of a reality, and action had to be taken.

After Hitler implemented a boycott on Austrian trade and systematically interrupted the country’s tourism via inflation of exit visas for Germans into Austria, the country’s economy took a heavy blow. Nevertheless, when Dollfuss thwarted a three-day revolt in February 1934, the strength of Austria was realized, and a putsch (or coup) was set in motion.

The office of the chancellor was forcefully taken by 150 members of SS Regiment 89 on July 25, 1934. Dollfuss was shot and killed. His murder sparked a number of Nazi uprisings throughout Austria, which were hastily suppressed by the Austrian Army. The coup had failed.

Hitler denied involvement in the coup attempt. Many years later, however, the journal of Joseph Goebbels suggested otherwise. In an entry dated July, 22, 1934, Goebbels, Hitler’s friend and minister of propaganda, wrote, “Sunday: at the Fuehrer’s . . . Austrian question. Whether it will work? I’m very skeptical.” Goebbels was right.

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