Outbreak of the war
End of the war

"Greater German", "Smaller German" or "German National"?

The national camp and its movements – terminology

The German National camp was made up of different competing groups and parties that referred to themselves, depending on ideological position, as "Greater German", "Pan-German", "Smaller German", "Nationalist", "German Nationalist", "German-Austrian" etc.



The groups in the national camp followed the tradition of the German liberals. Like these, they drew their members from activist organisations and associations, and primarily espoused the causes of the higher middle-class, the civil service, the intelligentsia, university graduates and students.

The "German question", the hotly discussed issue after the 1848 Revolution of the future form of Germany and its relationship to the Habsburg Empire, met with varying answers amongst the German National groups in Austria.

The Greater German movement, whose objective was the Greater German solution, supported the continued existence of the Habsburg Monarchy with extremely close links to the German Reich. It struggled with the insoluble problem of how the inclusion of the German-speaking provinces of the Austrian Empire could be made compatible with the (continued) existence of the Habsburg Empire. The dramatist Friedrich Hebbel commented on the dilemma of the Greater Germans: "The beloved Austrians think about how they can be united with Germany without being united with Germany. It would be difficult to do, just as difficult as it for two people who are to kiss to turn their backs to each other."

Unlike the Greater German movement, the German Nationals hoped for the fall of the Habsburg Monarchy and the unification of the German-speaking provinces within a liberal Germany. Supported by the national fraternities, the German gymnastics and school associations and the liberal intelligentsia, it followed the tradition of the Viennese students of 1848 and their national, liberal and democratic principles, rejecting the dynasty and Catholicism. Their demands found fertile soil above all in the German-speaking border regions of Carinthia and Styria as well as in Lower Austria, whose inhabitants felt threatened by the Slav population.

The Smaller German movement around Georg Ritter von Schönerer was to be found on the extreme margin of the German National movement. It supported the unification of Germany under the leadership of Prussia, and, following the hoped-for break-up of the Habsburg Monarchy, the union of the German-speaking provinces with the German Reich created in 1871. Its principles were democratic, anti-conservative and anti-dynastic, but at the same time its supporters were enthralled by the 'Prussian conservatism' of Otto von Bismarck.


Translation: David Wright


Berchtold, Klaus: Österreichische Parteiprogramme 1868-1966, Wien 1967

Kriechbaumer, Robert: Die großen Erzählungen der Politik. Politische Kultur und Parteien in Österreich von der Jahrhundertwende bis 1945, Wien/Köln/Weimar 2001

Rumpler, Helmut: Österreichische Geschichte 1804-1914. Eine Chance für Mitteleuropa. Bürgerliche Emanzipation und Staatsverfall in der Habsburgermonarchie, Wien 1997

Vocelka, Karl: Karikaturen und Karikaturen zum Zeitalter Kaiser Franz Josephs, Wien 1986

Vocelka, Karl: Geschichte Österreichs. Kultur – Gesellschaft – Politik, 3. Auflage, Graz/Wien/Köln 2002

Wandruszka, Adam: Österreichs politische Struktur. Die Entwicklung der Parteien und politischen Bewegungen, in: Benedikt, Heinrich (Hrsg.): Geschichte der Republik Österreich, Wien 1977, 289-486



"The beloved Austrians ...": Friedrich Hebbel, quoted from: Kriechbaumer, Robert: Die großen Erzählungen der Politik. Politische Kultur und Parteien in Österreich von der Jahrhundertwende bis 1945, Wien/Köln/Weimar 2001, 425 (Translation)

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    On the eve of war

    The last decade of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth were a time of modernisation, mechanisation and speed. In 1910, Vienna, capital of the Habsburg empire, had 2.1 million inhabitants and had grown to become an international metropolis. New technologies changed working life and leisure. Railways increased mobility, as did the bicycle, motor vehicle and aeroplane. How did this development manifest itself and what other trends emerged in the last years before the outbreak of the First World War?

Persons, Objects & Events

  • Event

    Revolution 1848

    Students demanded freedom of the press and education. Workers protested against the intolerable conditions. There was a series of uprising against the Metternich regime with numerous fatalities.


  • Development

    Nation-building – national programmes and positions

    Nation-building was part of the emancipation by large sections of the population from feudal dependence. In line with the ideals of the Enlightenment and French Revolution, the nation – understood as a community of free citizens – was to become the sovereign in place of feudal potentates.