When Austrian President Franz Jonas visited the Vatican in 1971, Pope Paul VI named Austria “the Island of the Blessed.” He did so to emphasize Austria’s steep recovery. Only twenty-five years had passed since the end of the Second World War, and Austria was already one of the most prosperous European countries.
One might argue that Austria was always a rich country, and during the times of its Habsburg rulers, it certainly was. But after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria was lost between two worlds—its German heritage and its multi-ethnic nation. As such, it was easy for Nazi Germany to hijack Austria, integrate it in its anti-Semitic scheme, and make it defy the whole Western world. Austria was deeply involved in the atrocities of World War II, but somehow, it managed to rise above it quicker than anyone would expect.
Since its beginning as the Eastern March, through the rise of its ruling Habsburg dynasty, and through many ideological and ethnic wars, Austria managed to maintain its unique personality, although it never really had a strictly defined identity. It is no wonder many scholars like to describe the history of Austria as one without a nation.
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