Instituted on May 1, 1938, the medal commemorated the annexation of Austria to the German Reich, the so called Anschluss. The move was the first in Hitler's quest for Lebensraum, and it strengthened German flanks while weakening those of Czechoslovakia. German troops crossed the border on March 12, 1938, without meeting any resistance. The stage had been set by a series of "incidents" provoked by members of the Nazi Party in Austria, and diplomatic pressure and ultimatums set forth by the German government. This first action, while perhaps raising suspicions, did not cause general alarm in the world community, as it seemed to be done by choice of the Austrian people who spoke German. The medal was awarded to all those Austrians who contributed to or participated in the annexation as well as the members of the Austrian National Socialism movement. It was also awarded to German State officials and members of the German Wehrmacht and SS who marched into Austria. It was awarded until December 13, 1940. In all 318,689 medals were awarded.