This Sunday, filmmaker Fredrick Baker and historian Heidemarie Uhl launch the multimedia project Zeituhr 1938 reenacting the annexation of Austria to the Third Reich.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Anschluss – the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany that ended the First Republic and crushed any political autonomy until the end of World War II. To help current generations better understand what happened on the fatal night of March 11-12, 1938, filmmaker and media artist Frederick Baker and historian Heidemarie Uhl have created Zeituhr 1938.
The large-scale 24-hour documentary recounts the events in real time on multiple digital platforms. The giant digital clock charting the unfolding drama starts ticking at 18:00 this Sunday – as Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg was forced to step down and Hitler’s troops marched into Austria 80 years ago. The clock stops 24 hours later, following the arrest of politician Robert Danneberg the following evening.
The story will be told through news clippings, diary entries, snippets of historical film and TV footage and interviews with witnesses, unfolding in chronological order. By highlighting the political changes hour by hour, the Zeituhr documents the far-reaching impact of the Anschluss in Austria and its profound repercussions abroad.
“The basic idea was to reach the internet generation – to translate a historical event into a contemporary media language,” said Uhl, a member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
The project was announced Wednesday morning, March 7, in the cabaret theatre of the Café Prückel at Stubentor. Journalists listened, fascinated, as one of the witnesses interviewed in the documentary, Stella Kadmon described the events of that night, when she and her family had arrived at the theatre, just where reporters were now gathered:
“We were sitting in the cellar [of Café Prückel] at Der liebe Augustin, shaking and crying. We were devastated,” she remembered. “There wasn’t a large audience. People were too scared to go out on the streets.”
Another witness, Friederika Richter, now 87, had come to the press conference in person. She had been 7 years old at the time and remembered hearing that the Führer was coming to Vienna. What would he be like? “Like a king or a prince,” she had been told by a relative. So with great excitement she and her friends from school awaited Hitler’s arrival. Then she caught sight of him: “There was no prince. Only men on motorcycles dressed in black,” she said. ”And then I saw a man dressed in a shabby raincoat, standing in a car. I let my flag sink and told my friend, ‘Forget about him’.”
With the Zeituhr, Baker hopes to illustrate the complex events, making them both more comprehensible and more immediate: “The polyphony of the Zeituhr 1938 creates a clear image of political and private events happening simultaneously,” he said.
For Sunday’s premiere on Ballhausplatz, the Zeituhr will be projected onto the Bundeskanzleramt’s façade. Additionally, attendees will be given commemorative postcards containing a chip and a QR-code, created by the companies Sensotix and Erdgeschoss, which will allow the audience to view the footage on their smartphones. The projection ends on March 12 at 3:00 in the morning – the moment Chancellor Schuschnigg, from his office in the Bundeskanzleramt resigned his last authority in hopes of avoiding war, as Austria became part of the Third Reich.