Nationalism: More to Learn

However much they may enjoy watching Captain von Trapp sing “Edelweiss” in The Sound of Music, most Catholic intellectuals nowadays are squeamish about delving too deeply into the production’s historical background.  Such reticence is hardly surprising, for in Von Trapp’s day Catholic Austria was led by Engelbert Dollfuss—a man deeply enthusiastic about his Germanic heritage, Führer of an organization known as the Fatherland Front, and for a time even aligned with the Italian fascists as part of Mussolini’s Stresa Front.  Yet for Chancellor Dollfuss, Austrian nationalism meant just that, and so in addition to battling financiers and communists he also fought tooth and nail to prevent an expansionist Germany from swallowing up his beloved little country.  “Our honor, our liberty, the independence of Austria are things over which there can be no compromise,” Dollfuss admonished German officials, even as he vehemently contrasted the spiritual dimensions of his program with those of his more powerful neighbor.  “Can anybody who is in earnest about the good of his people and the German traditions of Austria,” he demanded in response to subversion and violence directed against his administration by agents of the Reich, “really believe that the German people is going to find the way to prosperity by means of hand-grenades, bombs and ambushes,...

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