Austria is marking today 80 years since its annexation by Nazi Germany. As the ceremonies begin, Austria’s President is calling for tolerance and acceptance.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who heads a coalition with one of the country's far-right parties

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who heads a coalition with one of the country’s far-right parties Photo Credit: OSZE 2017 Mauerbach via Wikimedia Commons

Monday marks 80 years since Austria’s annexation by Nazi Germany, known at the time as the “Anschluss,” with Austria’s President warning the country’s youth against the rising tide of neo-fascist and far-right policies, according to AFP. Austrian President Alexander Van Der Bellen, a former environmentalist leader who narrowly beat an anti-immigration candidate in 2016, warned young people not to take the rights of co-determination for granted.

In the wake of rising incidents of intolerance in the country, a Day of Commemoration is being held to mark the historical significance of this day in Austria’s history. Earlier this year, a candidate of the far-right FPOe party, in coalition with Kurz’s government, quit after a scandal that included song lyrics praising the Holocaust.

While the party’s leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, has been keen on maintaining his party’s image, his party maintains that Austria belongs to the wider, “Greater German” identity. But Strache, appearing on television, condemned the crimes of the Nazi regime and argued for the personal responsibility of Austrians to remember the effects of those actions.

Throughout the ceremonies, eyewitnesses to the annexation will share personal experiences and public academic debates will focus on the role of Austrian nationals in perpetuating Nazi crimes. This comes as a new form of “self-examination” practiced by the Austrian government after a policy of hiding Austria’s role in the Third Reich until the 1980s, unlike what Germany experienced. So far, Austria’s President continues to call for tolerance and acceptance as the ceremonies begin.

Around 200,000 German troops invaded Austria, without much struggle, on March 12, 1938, canceling Austrian elections and laying the stage for Austria’s annexation by Nazi Germany.