Outbreak of the war
End of the war

Myths and Narratives: ‘The Rest is Austria!’ … or something like that

„L’Autriche c’est qu’il reste“, „L’Autriche se que reste“, „L’Autriche, c’est qui reste“, „L’Autriche c’est que reste“, „L’Autriche est ce qui reste“

These different forms of the famous saying by the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau can be found in various publications on the treaty of Saint Germain-en-Laye, in which Austria’s frontiers were laid down. All these versions have one thing in common: they are not correct linguistically – and hence could hardly have been uttered by a French foreign minister with a command of French. How is it possible, the historian Manfred Zollinger asks, that there is such a variety of false citations, and that in connection with a key utterance which even today still exerts a great influence on the discourse relating to the treaty negotiations and the status of Austria? It seems likely that what is involved here is a translation back from a German sentence. By making him simply turn Austria into a small state, Clemenceau was to be represented as the one who caused the subsequent catastrophe. And who did so, as various commentaries, including those by contemporary historians, put it in flowery way, in a manner that was ‘sneering’, cynical’, ‘derisive’, ‘disdainful’ or ‘contemptuous’.

To date it has not been possible to find any evidence that Clemenceau actually made such a remark – in any form whatsoever, either in sources from the time before the peace negotiations or in later reminiscences published in newspapers. A first ‘preliminary form’ of the supposed quote can be found in a text written in 1930 by Hermann Neubacher, later promoted by the Nazis to the position of mayor of Vienna: ‘[T]he rest is Austria’ – without, however, any reference to it having possibly been uttered by Clemenceau. Seven years later Neubacher’s phrase reappears in the writings of the historian Viktor Bibl: ‘ “The rest is Austria!” – this is the cynical phrase of Clemenceau’s which tore to shreds the document on national self-determination for German-Austria.’ Finally in 1938 the quote and the author can be found in the Handbuch für den Deutschunterricht (Handbook for the Teaching of German) in the formulation which became usual after 1945: ‘ “Le reste c’est l’Autriche,” as Clemenceau put it, “The rest is Austria.” ’

That this supposed abusive remark served as the ideological basis for claiming the legitimacy of union with Germany is obvious. It is consistent with a series of (self-coined) descriptions of the First Republic, which made Austria ‘merely a blood-stained rag, a construction at the mercy of the favour or disfavour of the victors’, a ‘cripple’, a ‘torso’, a ‘freak’ or the ‘appendix of Europe’. Some of these phrases were again used in the political discourse of the Second Republic in different contexts as a conscious or unconscious appeal against the ‘dismemberment’ of Austria: ‘The rest is Austria’ became a permanent but never really challenged component of both scholarly and popular history books dealing with the beginnings of the First Republic.

Translation: Leigh Bailey


Zollinger, Manfred: „L’Autriche, c’est moi“? Georges Clemenceau, das neue Österreich und das Werden eines Mythos, in: Karner, Stefan (Hrsg.): Österreich – 90 Jahre Republik. Beitragsband der Ausstellung im Parlament. Innsbruck/Wien u.a. 2008, 621-632



all quotes from: Zollinger, Manfred: „L’Autriche, c’est moi“? Georges Clemenceau, das neue Österreich und das Werden eines Mythos, in: Karner, Stefan (Hrsg.): Österreich – 90 Jahre Republik. Beitragsband der Ausstellung im Parlament. Innsbruck/Wien u.a. 2008, 621-632 (Translation)

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    After the war

    The First World War marked the end of the “long nineteenth century”. The monarchic empires were replaced by new political players. The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy disintegrated into separate nation states. The Republic of German Austria was proclaimed in November 1918, and Austria was established as a federal state in October 1920. The years after the war were highly agitated ­– in a conflicting atmosphere of revolution and defeat, and political, economic, social and cultural achievements and setbacks.


Persons, Objects & Events

  • Person

    Georges Clemenceau

    The French journalist and politician determined France's policy during the First World War. In November 1917, he assumed the office of French Prime Minister


  • Development

    The First Republic in the historical memory

    The Republic of German Austria was proclaimed on 12 November 1918. The name also marked the direction of the new state, which strove for annexation with Germany, a development that was explicitly forbidden by the victorious powers. In the historical memory, it is seen as the “remnant” of the Monarch, the “state no one wanted” or the “reluctant state”. However, this image was created after 1945 as a negative foil to the successful Second Republic. It says nothing of the hopes and opportunities after the Monarchy and the war that many people saw in this republic.